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….
IlliniMinute - 11.29.23 presented by HX Home SolutionsListen
Post Game Analysis – Illini 45-43 Loss to Northwestern #300Listen
Instant Take – Illini 45-43 Loss to Northwestern #299Listen
Illini Defeat Western IL 84-52 #298Listen
Nov 24 Weekend (S3,Ep15)Listen
Northwestern at Illinois Preview #297Listen
Illini Defeat Southern U 88-60 #296Listen
Post Game Analysis - Illini Lose to Iowa 15-13 #295Listen
Instant Take - Illini lose to Iowa 15-13 #294Listen
Illini Big 2nd Half Dooms Valpo 87-64 #293Listen
Nov 17 Weekend (S3,Ep14)Listen
Marquette 71-64 Over the Illini #292Listen
Illinois at Iowa Preview #291Listen
Sturdy for 30 - College Hoops Week 1Listen
Post Game Analysis - Illini 48-45 OT Thriller #290Listen