Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Tom Murphy's top 25 ballot explained
Louisiana-Lafayette linebacker Tyler Guidry (33) and teammate Ja'len Johnson (28) celebrate as they run off the field after an NCAA college football game against Iowa State, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Ames, Iowa. Louisiana-Lafayette won 31-14. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Well, having just completed my Week 2 ballot for the Associated Press Top 25, I can say that was probably the strangest rankings compiling exercise I’ll ever conduct.
For starters, the 62 voters were asked to drop all the schools who are not playing football right now, so that wiped out nine teams from my preseason ballot due to inactivity. General incompetency jettisoned another team (Iowa State, a 31-14 loser to Louisiana-Lafayette) so 10 teams had to be replaced.
Then there’s the covid-19 factor. Memphis halted football activities late last week due to “significant” numbers of players in quarantine due to contact tracing protocols, as well as an unspecified number of positive tests. BYU and Virginia Tech have also been impacted, as well as other schools. Oklahoma reportedly had a large number of regulars out of action for its 48-0 win over Missouri State.
The SEC, which elected to give its campuses a few weeks to adjust to the influx of returning students before kicking off, will resume in two weeks. Certainly many SEC rosters would have been dotted with coronavirus-related absences had those schools opened their seasons this weekend.
The Big 12 might be wishing it hadn’t gone with the conference games plus one non-conference format after Iowa State, Kansas State and Kansas went down in order against scrappy Sun Belt clubs Louisiana-Lafayette (it isn’t “Louisiana” folks), Arkansas State and Coastal Carolina.
Bottom line, there were more ranking opportunities for the good folks at the Sun Belt and other Group of 5 conferences than ever before this week, and I gave some of those teams votes.
The biggest riser for me was Pittsburgh, which leapt from unranked to No. 13 after smashing Austin Peay 55-0.
The SEC holds eight spots on my ballot, including six in the top 10.
Clemson is No. 1 and the other non-SEC teams in my top 10 are No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 8 Texas, which I jumped over Auburn after the Longhorns’ 59-3 wipeout of UTEP.
I inserted UL-Lafayette at No. 21 after the Ragin’ Cajuns relied on special teams and big plays to tame the Cyclones. According to the Washington Post, the Cajuns’ streak of 1,109 consecutive polls without being ranked was the longest drought for a team that had previously been ranked. That streak ended Sunday.
I considered ranking Arkansas State after the Red Wolves’ thrilling 35-31 win at Kansas State, sparked by receiver Jonathan Adams Jr. and an effective quarterback rotation of Logan Bonner and Layne Hatcher. You’ve got to give Blake Anderson credit for staying with that rotation, even under weird circumstances, as the backup Hatcher led the game-winning drive. The Red Wolves got their second win over a Power 5 opponent since joining the FBS in 1992, adding to an 18-14 victory over Texas A&M in 2008.
However, my final few spots were taken by Louisville, West Virginia and Kentucky, as the Red Wolves are 1-1.
1 - Clemson
2 - Alabama
3 - Oklahoma
4 - Georgia
5 - Florida
6 - LSU
7 - Notre Dame
8 - Texas
9 - Auburn
10 - Texas A&M
11 - Oklahoma State
12 - North Carolina
13 - Pittsburgh
14 - Cincinnati
15 - UCF
16 - BYU
17 - Memphis
18 - Tennessee
19 - Army
20 - Miami
21 - Louisiana-Lafayette
22 - Appalachian State
23 - Louisville
24 - West Virginia
25 - Kentucky
Dropped out: Iowa State, Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West
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