More of the data that makes up the BCS rankings is becoming available as we get ready for the first official release on October 14.
Anderson-Hester released their initial rankings of the season on Wednesday (they are always that late the first time). Like the Colley, Massey and Wolfe ratings, A-H has no preseason bias. It starts everyone at zero each year and works from there. The benefit is obvioius...teams are judged on this season only. The problem is that when you don't have much data, and you aren't allowed to use margin of victory, you get some counter-intuitive results. All of the rankings without preseason bias that have been released so far (Wolfe has not) have Oregon State at the top. The Beavers are off to a really good start, but I don't think you'd find too many people who think they are the No. 1 team in the country.
Sagarin starts everyone out based on how they have done recently, and then weeds out the preseason bias as the season goes on. That bias is gone completely about halfway through. It's stlil there as of last week, but I expect it will be gone after this week's games. Billingsley starts everyone where they left off last season, and never truly gets rid of his last-season bias. Sagarin has LSU at the top, while Alabama is No. 1 in Billingsley.
I have been using the AP poll as a replacement for the Harris poll in the BCS data this season, but the Harris poll should make its debut this week. Don't expect significant differences when that happens. There is a lot of group-think among poll voters.
Time for this week's picks. There are some big games already that could shape conference races. I'm 24-15 overall and 15-24 against the spread. I'm 0-5 on the upset of the week picks, but I'm due.
LSU (-2.5) at Florida -- The Tigers struggled at Auburn and took last week off against Towson. They will need to turn it on against the Gators, who have been one of the more pleasant surprises this season.
Georgia at South Carolina (-1, cover) -- This game may decide the East division title, although Florida may have a say in that and the Bulldogs' cross-division schedule is much easier. I think Georgia is the better team, but not so much better that they beat the Gamecocks on the road.
Michigan (-3, cover) at Purdue -- None other than Kirk Herbstreit says Purdue not only wins this game, they win the Big Ten. I've been hearing that kind of thing a lot lately. I'm not buying it. Purdue may win the division, but not the league, and probably not this game.
Northwestern (+2) at Penn State -- The Wildcats are the last eligible, undefeated Big Ten team, so it won't surprise you that this will be their toughest test so far. The Nittany Lions kicking game is a disaster. It's tough to beat good teams when that's the case.
Nebraska (+3.5) at Ohio State -- The Buckeyes have been the best team in the league so far, but it's still a young squad that performs inconsistently, especially on defense. That said, if the Cornhuskers don't beat them, maybe nobody does.
Miami vs Notre Dame (-14) -- A contrast of styles. Miami lights up the scoreboard...for both teams. Notre Dame shuts it down...for both teams. Hard to like the Irish as a 14-point favorite when they barely score 14, but they should still win comfortably.
Upset of the Week: West Virginia (+6.5) at Texas -- There might be only one thing that can stop the Mountaineer offense...me picking them as the upset of the week winner. West Virginia has scored 69 or more points three of the last five games, and Vegas wants to give them another 6.5? I like that. Texas' defense may be the best WVU has faced so far, but they gave up 36 to Oklahoma State last week. On the other hand, the Mountaineer D? Well, let's just say it's a good thing the offense is so good.
This could be the biggest stumbling block between the Mountaineers and a 12-0 season. It is easily their toughest road game.