Sunday, September 26, 2010

Poll Watch: Why NU will not be ranked at 6-0

The newest AP and USA Today Coaches' Polls just came out this morning, and I was not too surprised at our standings right now. There was very little movement in the Big Ten, as the conference's schedule was, well, lousy. Here's the breakdown of where our Wildcats stand right now:

Associated Press Poll:

Last week's ranking: T-38th, with 3 points.
This week's ranking: 35th, with 4 points.
Who we passed: California (L-Arizona), Arizona State (L-Oregon), James Madison (W-Liberty), Georgia Tech (L-NC State), Fresno State (L-Ole Miss), Pittsburgh (L-Miami FL)

Who passed us: UCLA (W-Texas)

As you can tell, the main theme here was "addition by subtraction". Since we didn't play anyone of high-caliber this week, we advanced up the rankings by simply not losing.

USA Today Coaches Poll:

Last week's ranking: T-32nd, with 15 points.
This week's ranking: 30th, with 21 points.

Who we passed: Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Clemson (off this weekend)
Who passed us: Air Force (W-Wyoming)

The Coaches Poll seems a lot more fickle this week. I say that mostly because Air Force broke last week's tie with us by winning... against Wyoming. I think -- no, know -- we had stiffer competition, but that's just my opinion. But as I mentioned, more of the same.

That's what bothers me about our schedule, now. Two weeks ago it looked like we would have a fair chance of hitting the Top 25 in either poll in the event that we managed to get to 6-0 to start the season. I don't think that's so much the case anymore, because addition by subtraction isn't going to cut it. As we get into conference play in the next two weeks, there will be more AQ-Conference teams trying to pass us. All of this, because Minnesota and Purdue lost to inferior opponents last night. To put it in perspective, Purdue is now ranked 96th in Sagarin after dropping a home game to Toledo, while Minnesota is 102nd in Sagarin after losing, yes, a home game to Northern Illinois. That really, really hurts our strength of schedule.

If you were to put it in a gambler's perspective on straight-up games, his odds are probably quite favorable that Northwestern would win the next two. Unfortunately, those easier odds make it harder for us to climb the ladder and into the polls.

That said, how about we actually go out and win our next two games before we actually start griping about rankings?

(To see the rankings together, you can find them here at ESPN.)

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