Posted by Chip Patterson
Our very own Bryan Fischer has ruthlessly picked through the weekly ballots of Associated Press poll voters all season in the new college football edition of Poll Attacks. But the 59 coaches with votes in the USA Today Top 25 are able to escape the criticism of Mr. Fischer and college football fans everywhere as their ballots are not released to the public. The one exception is the annual release after the final regular season balloting.
USA Today published an infographic that breaks down their final Top 25 poll of the regular season - used as 1/3 of the BCS formula - showing where each coach ranked the 35 teams who received at least one vote on Sunday.
I encourage you to spend some time checking out where each coach ranked the top teams in the nation, but here are a few observations that jumped out - especially considering the way things played out in the BCS.
1. No shocker at the top: LSU is the top team in the nation. The Tigers not only wrapped up their perfect season with an impressive victory over Georgia in the title game, they were a unanimous decision from the coaches for the No. 1 spot. LSU was also a unanimous pick in the Associated Press and Harris Interactive polls in their final balloting.
2. T. Boone Pickens' new enemies: After dismantling Oklahoma for their first Big 12 title in program history, Oklahoma State had the best argument of any non-SEC team for a spot in the National Championship Game. But the coach who hurt the Cowboys the most in the USA Today poll was Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun, ranking Oklahoma State behind Stanford (3) and Arkansas (4). Duke head coach David Cutcliffe and Syracuse's Doug Marrone both ranked Oklahoma State fourth, along with Nick Saban and Stanford head coach David Shaw - though those last two can easily be chalked up to self-interest.
3. About that Sugar Bowl...: When the BCS bowl pairings were released, arguably the biggest surprise came the Sugar Bowl selecting Virginia Tech and Michigan with their two at-large bids. The Hokies and Wolverines finished at No. 11 and No. 12, respectively, and were selected out of an available at-large pool that included Boise State, Kansas State, Baylor, and Oklahoma.
The Hokies were blasted 38-10 by Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. It was their second loss to the Tigers this season by 20 points or more, yet most coaches still ranked the Hokies ahead of the Tigers. Even head coach Frank Beamer put Clemson at No. 10 and his Hokies at No. 13. But enough coaches kept the Hokies high enough to allow them to finish in the top 14 and be eligible for that Sugar Bowl berth.
Michigan did not make the inaugural Big Ten title game after losing the division to Michigan State. Sparty played Wisconsin to a thrilling 42-39 loss in the Championship Game, but many of the voting coaches did feel they belonged near the magic Top 14 status needed to be eligible for a BCS at-large spot. Nineteen of the 59 voters placed Michigan State below No. 14, including three coaches (Baylor's Art Briles, Marshall's Doc Holliday, and Houston's Kevin Sumlin) who ranked the Spartans at No. 21.
4. Agree to Disagree: The one team that votes placing them all over the ballot was no-longer-undefeated Houston. The Cougars fell from their position in the Top 10 after a 49-28 blowout loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA Championship Game. Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes and Califonia's Jeff Tedford both kept Houston in their Top 10, while James Franklin and Mark Hudspeth were among those who dropped the Cougars to the very fringe of the rankings at No. 23.
You can check out the interactive graphic breaking down the coaches' ballots at USAToday.com
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