I led you astray. This is because I'm reluctant to change the title of a weekly column that is 17 years old now, so I will refrain from doing so. The problem is understandable though. When I summarize the best 10 teams in the country every week, I do so because I want to calculate who has the best shot of winning the national title and the BCS bowls at the end of the season. Sometimes I feel like 10 isn't enough, and I would be better suited to include about 15 teams, but the name remains the same and so does the list. You can get away with the occasional #11, or the dark horse, or squeezing two teams into one ranking, but anything more and it's a strike against the principles of the column.
I'm sure my father has felt the same way over the years. If I could just tell you what I think of these 15 teams, of these 20 teams who could all be good, but alas, it is, in fact, the top ten. It's more difficult at the beginning of the season. Generally, about 30-35 teams have a shot at making a BCS bowl at the beginning of each year, so it is a shot in the dark to rank the best third of them. I do my best, and this year I attempted to cover every team I could who would possibly later show up in the column. However, teams have come and gone. In just the first 8 weeks I had gone from:
10-13. Florida, Arkansas, West Virginia, Texas (see, I snuck in 13)
5. Notre Dame
10. Mississippi State
Well, week 9 is easy. Never did it cross my mind who the best ten teams in the country were because I didn't care. I didn't care who the best ten were, or the best 15, or the best 25, or the best 50. Neither should you. Because I knew. Because we know. Because it all became so simple in 5 games on one Saturday in October. So let's recap, shall we?
2:00 CT- Oregon scores 56 points in the first half yet still manages to both pull their starters in the 2nd quarter and shut out the Buffs until after the Ducks have taken a nap in the victory-laboratory while watching tape of Alabama.
2:30 CT- K-State plays a tight game with a good Texas Tech team. Until they don't. 55-24 'Cats. Meanwhile, Georgia upsets a Gator team that was too big for its britches in front of a raucous Bulldog crowd (perhaps more so than usual). It's alright, SEC, Florida is about to be really good and they could still win the conference this year. You know what are fun? Divisional ties at the end of the season. Good thing LSU beat South Carolina, or the 2 left-outs would be pondering the current state of equal treatment in the FBS (it's about two degrees worse than what women's rights were in the 17th century, in case you were wondering) with Texas and Texas Tech.
7:00 CT- Notre Dame goes on the road, defiles Landry Jones' draft stock, embarrasses Bob Stoops, laughs as the Thunder trade away James Harden on the same day, and then laughs some more when Texas fans remind the Irish that OKC's best player is a Longhorn. Then Oklahoma fans laugh when they remember that they beat Texas 63-21, but stop when they begin to wonder why they have had so many good-not-great teams since 2001. If Longhorns want Mack gone, then the same logic should apply to Stoops, but it doesn't, because they are both great coaches.
7:30 CT- Alabama smashes an undefeated Mississippi State team who had, regrettably for Bama's computer rankings, played even a weaker schedule than the Tide.
So here, for the first time in 17 years, is the Jones Top Four:
1. (BCS says 1) Alabama- Could the Tide lose to LSU? Sure. Whatever. I guess so. If they do the SEC could ironically get hosed out of the tile game. However, I'm tired of doubting this team. They handle business every week and make a mockery of the competition, I see no reason to think the Tigers will win.
1. (BCS says 2) K-State- Only gets a break on a brutal schedule because they avoid themselves. The Wildcats are 8-0 through that schedule, and if you asked me how much I would bet that they will finish 12-0 I would withdraw everything I had. The other good news for the 4 teams remaining? K-State has only gotten better.
1. (BCS says 3) Notre Dame- USC is in for a nightmare. These teams are not comparable, starting with the fact that the best defense Matt Barkley has faced is... Stanford? 'Zona? Washington? He has lost to 2 of those teams and all 3 would improve if Manti Te'o could replace their two worst defensive starters and run a 10 man set.
1. (BCS says 4) Oregon- The Ducks have played roughly the same schedule as Alabama, and because this next stat continues to amaze me I will continue to type it: If you are playing Oregon in the first 30 minutes of a football game, that pace, adjusted to 60 minutes per game, is yielding an average victory of 73-14. Through eight games. Humor me. Check the math. If you actually believe me then please reread, look at their schedule, reason that they have actually played some decent teams, and then check my math. I will spare you the time however, of letting you know that it's right, and proving that it isn't a typo by typing it 5 times again: 73-14, 73-14, 73-14, 73-14, 73-14. And you know what? I wouldn't be surprised if they did it to the Trojans, too.
We need a four team playoff. Now. Winner of Bama/Oregon against winner of K-State/Notre Dame. Not at the end of the season, now. Who needs 12 games? 8 accomplished the task just fine.