COLUMN: Life as an AP Top 25 voter

James Collier, WMUL-FM Sports Director

Two televisions, two computers, a cell phone and a full collection of NCAA football games over a duration of 16 hours. That was how I spent Saturday in hopes of trying to gauge a day in the life of an AP Top 25 voter.

I wanted a complete sample of college football from coast to coast in hopes of gathering as much information with hopes of formulating an educated ballot. After all, this is a national ballot, not “let’s vote for the home team, just because.”

My morning began at 10 a.m. as I planned the games I wanted to view and started doing research on said teams. I wanted to see who they had played, wins and losses, and the validity of each, and the remaining schedule for each.

No. 23 East Carolina and Temple started my afternoon session while following along Duke vs. Pitt and Boston College vs. Virginia Tech. The ECU contest carried local flavor with the Pirates in the driver’s seat for the College Football Access Bowl bid while Duke was nationally ranked and in a shootout with Pitt. Meanwhile, an unranked Virginia Tech—who defeated No. 16 Ohio State Sept. 6—was struggling with mid-of-the-pack Boston College in Blacksburg.

Oh wait, add Univeristy of Central Florida vs. Connecticut to that mix now as the one-win Huskies took a commanding lead into the final stanza against the Knights. Meanwhile, while in a commercial break of the ECU/Temple game, I span the scores of Conference USA for a quick check of scores just before sending out one of several tweets updates from the games I’m following.

What a start to the afternoon session. Temple knocks off No. 23 ECU, No. 24 Duke goes to double-overtime with Pitt before winning 51-48, Boston College, despite giving up 21 points in the fourth quarter, holds on for 33-31 win over VT and UCONN grabs its second win of the season with a 37-29 takedown of the UCF.

My takeaway from the afternoon session: turnovers kill (ECU fumbled five times), Pitt’s place-kicker Chris Blewitt “Blew-It” (I couldn’t make this stuff up) after missing a 26-yard field goal in regulation that would have given the Panthers a 41-38 win, any talk of Virginia Tech being a quality win because of the Ohio State game is now completely irrelevant. Did I mention that one-win UCONN knocked off UCF? Yes, the same UCONN team that was tied with ECU two weeks ago with six minutes left in the contest.

Enough about the afternoon session, it’s time to move on to the early evening games as No. 7 Texas Christian University and No. 20 West Virginia University kicked off while following Florida vs. No. 11 Georgia on the computer and preparing for Colorado State vs. San Jose State followed by the game of the night, No. 3 Auburn vs. No. 4 Ole Miss.

The Big 12 was well represented by TCU and WVU which answered some of the questions I had regarding the quality of both teams. TCU needed five WVU turnovers along with a game-winning field goal as time expired to get past the Mountaineers, but this was a must win for any chance of staying atop the top teams in the nation. Likewise, WVU stood tall and played through the adversity and nearly pulled off the upset. Florida’s upset of Georgia is a devastating loss for the Bulldogs, but when looking at the entire body of work, how important is Todd Gurley in the offense.

Colorado State vs. San Jose State was another local attraction as the Rams are a part of the College Access Bowl discussion with Marshall. The biggest issues for the Rams, they lost to Boise State—who is in the same division in the Mountain West as Colorado State—which could eliminate them from any chances of advancing unless Boise State should falter later this season. At the same time, Colorado State struggled on the road to a three win San Jose State team before clinching a 38-31 win.

As for Auburn and Ole Miss, this was truly a No. 3 vs. No. 4 matchup that lived up to expectations. The loss at home for the Rebels certainly hurts their chances at the playoffs, but the loss of Laquon Treadwell may prove to more devastating than the loss to the Tigers.

Much like a midnight infomercial catch phrase, “But wait, there’s more”, I grabbed a quick bite to eat and settled in for some West Coast games with a mixture of Nevada vs. San Diego State, No. 12 Arizona vs. No. 22 UCLA and No. 14 Arizona State vs. No. 17 Utah.

Yes, there certainly was more with games that did not kickoff until near 11 p.m.

Nevada vs. San Diego State was a must because this vaulted the winner into sole possession of the Mountain West-West Division and would be the team to face either Colorado State or Boise State in the conference championship. No. 22 UCLA has been like a roller-coaster ride this season with the Bruins starting as the preseason AP Top 25 poll as No. 7, but back-to-back losses to Utah and Oregon sent them into a rapid downward spiral. However, pulling out a 17-7 win over Arizona provides the Bruins with much needed style points.

Utah and Arizona State played into the time change in a game that seemed would never end before Sun Devils snagged an overtime field goal and a 19-16 win over the Utes.

By now, I have watched the 1 a.m. hour pass twice (daylight savings time change) before my collection of games concluded.

With a plethora of information from the games, teams and play that occurred during the week, I put pencil to paper in an attempt to create my version of an AP Top 25 ballot before 12 p.m. Actually, it was attempts as my versions of 16-25 changed six total times, and I was still unhappy with having to leave a team out.

So, the next time you look at a poll and ask how someone can vote like that, take a walk in their shoes, much like I did, and I believe it may bring a better understanding to what the voters do every week.

By the way, it’s time to begin a new week with another full slate of games ready to kickoff this weekend.

James Collier can be contacted at [email protected]