Dropped Out: Oregon State (#21), Brigham Young (#22), TCU (#24).
Thanks to BYU, Boise State, and TCU all losing by double digits to major conference opponents, I could happily fill out my ballot this morning without casting a glance at the non-BCS conferences. Imagine that: the little guys that good had to play difficult road games and now they won't be able to say "we're unbeaten! Hold me back! USC, we want a piece of you! Hold me back!" at the end of the season. Sir Topham Hat would be so proud of me.
Signs you've been watching too much Sprout.
I'm not wild about the Florida through Louisville stretch, as I have major concerns that none of these teams have an above-average defense. Florida seems to be the most likely to have a defense, at least at some point in the year, based on their talent and coaching. West Virginia looked shaky for three quarters against a Marshall team that Miami demolished in week one, although I'm willing to cut WVU a little slack because of the rivalry element at play in the "Friends of Coal Bowl." Louisville's defensive performance against Middle Tennessee State was appalling and Cal gave up 458 yards to Colorado State (although a chunk of those yards came after the Bears took a 34-14 lead). Rutgers looks like a more complete team than either Louisville or West Virginia, but the latter two teams have a style that can force their opponents into a shootout and then anything can happen. South Florida is also in the discussion after their impressive performance at Auburn. Long term, they might be the best team in the Big East, as there is a potential spot for a major power to rise up in Florida with Miami and Florida State both down. Their upside is bigger than that of any other team in the Big East, save for possibly Rutgers if Paterno hangs on for too long and damages Penn State's recruiting (again).
I punished Ohio State and Wisconsin pretty harshly for unimpressive wins against poor opponents, but both teams have good defenses, so closer wins over bad teams could be expected. I have a little more respect for Ohio State as opposed to Wisconsin, which seems practiced in the art of middling wins over the bad teams that overpopulate the Badgers' schedule, definitive losses against the good teams in the Big Ten, and then inexplicable bowl wins. This definitely looks like a bad year for the Big Ten. Penn State is the only team that has looked at all impressive, so barring an unforeseen surge from a team like Iowa or Michigan State, the league is going to send some average teams down to Florida for bowl games. Maybe the Bucks will get to come to Orlando to attempt to bolster their sterling record against SEC teams?
My poll says "hello!" to Alabama for the first time this year. I tried to find a spot for the Tide before the season, but now with teams falling out, they have a spot. The 14-point win over a game Vandy team is impressive to me, despite the fact that John Parker Wilson looked underwhelming. The defense seems to have gotten past the lack of size up front, although this week's game against Arkansas will be the true test. At this stage, I'd give Alabama fairly good odds to beat both Arkansas and Georgia in Tuscaloosa.