Matt Stevens Top 25 Ballot: Where Head-To-Head Still Matters 

IlliniGuys.com football beat writer/analyst Matt Stevens does not have an Associated Press Top 25 ballot this season but if he did, this is how he'd fill it out.

October 25, 2021

(Photo courtesy Oregon Live)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The college football season is a six-month journey where teams improve and decline over those many weekends in between the moments of preseason camp starting and the crowning of a new national championship.

So, yes, while a team is likely to not look anything like they present to the public in the opening week or month but when you’re trying to separate the strengths of teams, there still (in my humble opinion) never been a better litmus test than head-to-head competition. You take two teams and put them in the same field and see who wins.

It is this theory that leads me to how I voted in my imaginary Top 25 poll this week. In the latest Associated Press poll, Oregon is ranked No. 7 and that’s two spots behind Ohio State. And this makes sense because clearly over the month of October, Ohio State is playing its best football of this 2021 season and rolling through its last four opponents by a combined score of 231-44. While Oregon has struggled to two straight wins over California and UCLA and picked up its first loss of the season at Stanford. However I can’t seem to forget that, on Sept. 11, Oregon and Ohio State met in Columbus, Ohio and the Ducks walked away with a 35-28 victory. That has to mean something and that is why I have the Ducks ranked No. 5. Personally I cide with my friends and Illinois natives Nathan Baird (Cleveland.com) and Scott Richey (Champaign News-Gazette) who both have the same way of thinking with Oregon at No. 5 and right behind them is the Buckeyes at No. 6.

This head-to-head theory allows Iowa State to go from unranked last week to No. 14 this week because they need to be one spot higher than the team they knocked from the group of unbeaten last weekend (Oklahoma State). Finally, head-to-head is why Penn State is still at No. 21 in my poll because I feel Auburn should be ranked and Penn State defeated them in September in State College, Penn.

Do I think Cincinnati can beat Alabama or Georgia on a neutral field? No. However, I feel they have earned the right to be ranked second in the nation and honestly if chalk rains supreme throughout the rest of the 2021 season (Cincinnati wins out, Oklahoma wins out) then the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in Atlanta will determine the top two spots in the poll for me but until then Alabama will slot in nicely at No. 4.

 

Without further ado, here are my rankings for Oct. 25….

 

  1. Georgia
  2. Cincinnati
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Alabama
  5. Oregon
  6. Ohio State
  7. Michigan
  8. Michigan State
  9. Kentucky
  10. Ole Miss
  11. Iowa
  12. Notre Dame
  13. Texas A&M
  14. Iowa State
  15. Oklahoma State
  16. Pittsburgh
  17. SMU
  18. Wake Forest
  19. Baylor
  20. San Diego State
  21. Penn State
  22. Auburn
  23. UTSA
  24. UCLA
  25. BYU

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