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My AP Ballot: Pick your own order on top three; mine unchanged

by | CBSSports.com College Football Insider

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- LSU is No. 1, Alabama is No. 2 and Oklahoma is No. 3.

At least, that's how I see it. I'm sure Alabama and Oklahoma fans disagree, but those are the top three teams on my Associated Press ballot this week.

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There really is little separation between the three, and frankly, any argument you could make to put those three in a different order, I would have a hard time disagreeing with.

But to this point, I still believe LSU is slightly better than Alabama, which is slightly better than Oklahoma.

How close are these teams rated? Last week, Todd Fuhrman, the senior Race and Sports Analyst for Caesars Palace Entertainment, told me he would rate Alabama as a 2½- to 3-point favorite over LSU or Oklahoma on a neutral field. He rated LSU and Oklahoma even.

LSU has defeated four ranked teams (Oregon, Mississippi State, West Virginia and Florida), Alabama three (Penn State, Arkansas and Florida) and Oklahoma two (Florida State, Texas).

While the top three remained the same, I shuffled some other schools up or down a spot or two from last week's ballot. Dropping out of my Top 25 this week are Florida, Florida State and Auburn. Entering my Top 25 are Houston, Notre Dame and Georgia.

My AP ballot for this week (last week's ranking in parenthesis):

1. LSU (1): The Tigers (6-0) have won every game by at least 13 points. In six games, the Tigers have trailed for only 6 minutes, 33 seconds of a possible 360 minutes. Next: at Tennessee, Saturday.

2. Alabama (2): The Crimson Tide (6-0) have allowed 10 or fewer points in 22 their past 39 games. Saturday's 34-0 shutout of Vanderbilt was its fifth in that span. Next: at Ole Miss, Saturday.

3. Oklahoma (3): The Sooners (5-0) have defeated Texas in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2003-04. Next: at Kansas, Saturday.

4. Wisconsin (4): The Badgers (5-0) have, quite simply, badgered the opposition. Wisconsin is the nation's only undefeated team that has won every game by at least 31 points. Next: vs. Indiana, Saturday.

5. Oklahoma State (5): In last year's Big 12 basketball tournament against Kansas, Oklahoma State managed only 62 points. Against Kansas on Saturday, the Cowboys (5-0) had 70, including 56 in the first half. Next: at Texas, Saturday.

6. Stanford (6): The streak continues for Stanford: Dating back to last season, the Cardinal (5-0) have won eight consecutive games by at least 26 points. Next: at Washington State, Saturday.

7. Clemson (7): Clemson (6-0) received a scare when QB Tajh Boyd suffered a strained hip in Saturday's win against Boston College. But X-rays and an MRI were negative. Boyd is questionable for this week. Next: at Maryland, Saturday.

8. Boise State (8): With Friday's blowout of Fresno State, the Broncos (5-0) are averaging 55 points in their past four games against the once-stingy Bulldogs. Next: at Colorado State, Saturday.

9. Oregon (9): Before Oregon's LaMichael James dislocated his elbow against California on Thursday, he had carried 65 times for 731 yards, averaging 11.2 yards per carry in his past three games for the Ducks (4-1). Next: vs. Arizona State, Saturday.

10. Michigan (10): The Wolverines are off to their sixth 6-0 start since 1976. In the previous five seasons Michigan started 6-0 -- 1976, 1977, 1986, 1997 and 2006 -- the Wolverines earned a Rose Bowl berth. Next: at Michigan State, Saturday.

11. Arkansas (14): The Razorbacks (5-1) rolled up some big offensive numbers for a third consecutive year against Auburn. Arkansas scored 38 Saturday, 43 last season and 44 in 2009. Next: at Ole Miss, Oct. 22.

12. Kansas State (15): For the third consecutive week, the Wildcats (5-0) were an underdog but still won. Kansas State is off to its best start since 2000 when it won the Big 12 North title and finished 11-3. Next: at Texas Tech, Saturday.

13. Illinois (12): The Illini (6-0) crushed Indiana and moved one win from matching their 7-0 start in 1951 that resulted in a Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship. The Illini finished 9-0-1 that season. Next: vs. Ohio State, Saturday.

14. Georgia Tech (13): With the victory against Maryland, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson became only the fourth ACC coach to defeat the other 11 ACC members. The Yellow Jackets (6-0) also matched last year's win total. Next: at Virginia, Saturday.

15. Arizona State (16): The Sun Devils (5-1) are best known for 6-foot-8 QB Brock Osweiler, but the overlooked defense is third nationally, allowing its opponents to convert 25 percent of third downs. Next: at Oregon, Saturday.

16. West Virginia (18): Under former coach Bill Stewart, the Mountaineers scored more than 40 points only twice in three seasons. Under new coach Dana Holgorsen, the Mountaineers (5-1) have topped 40 points already three times in six games. Next: at Syracuse, Oct. 21.

17. South Carolina (19): With only one start, QB Connor Shaw already has four touchdown passes. That's the same number thrown by former starter Stephen Garcia in the previous five games for the Gamecocks (5-1). Next: at Mississippi State, Saturday.

18. Nebraska (20): The Cornhuskers (5-1) pulled off their biggest comeback in school history, overcoming a 21-point deficit against Ohio State. The defense, though, has now allowed a total of 75 points in consecutive games, the most points back-to-back since allowing 97 against Oklahoma and Kansas State in 2008. Next: at Minnesota, Oct. 22.

19. Baylor (22): The Bears are off to their second consecutive 4-1 start but hope they finish better than last year's team, which closed 3-5 and finished 7-6. Of Baylor's final seven games, four are against ranked opponents. Next: at Texas A&M, Saturday.

20. Washington (23): In only five games, sophomore QB Keith Price has 17 touchdown passes for the Huskies (4-1). That is tied for the seventh most in a season in the program's 120-year history. Next: vs. Colorado, Saturday.

21. Virginia Tech (24): A week after being held without a touchdown at home for the first time in 16 years, the Hokies (5-1) scored their most points this season against an FBS opponent in their 38-35 victory against Miami. Next: at Wake Forest, Saturday.

22. Texas (11): In winning their first four games, the Longhorns (4-1) had allowed only 59 points. They allowed 55 against Oklahoma on Saturday, which is not a good sign with Oklahoma State's high-powered offense visiting Austin this week. Next: vs. Oklahoma State, Saturday.

23. Houston (NR): Case Keenum moved past former Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell into second-place on the NCAA's all-time passing yardage chart with 15,895 yards. It won't take long for him to become No. 1 as the Cougars (6-0) face three of the nation's 20 worst pass defenses in the second half of the season. Next: vs. Marshall, Oct. 22.

24. Notre Dame (NR): Since opening with two losses, the Fighting Irish (4-2) have reeled off four consecutive victories. All of Notre Dame's opponents currently are .500 or better and have a cumulative win-loss record of 23-9 (71.8 percent). Next: vs. USC, Oct. 22.

25. Georgia (NR): Since opening the season with two losses, the Bulldogs (4-2) have won four consecutive games. In their four-game winning streak, Georgia has allowed an average of 8.7 points. Next: at Vanderbilt, Saturday.


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