September 24, 2013

Poll positions: How the voters reacted

Wesley couldn't shake off the UMHB starting defense, and the Wolverines' poll position suffered.
Photo by Andrew Zavoina, d3photography.com 

The strangest reaction of voters after two top-five teams lost on Saturday wasn't the redistribution of St. Thomas's seven first-place votes. It was where the Tommies landed, as compared to then-No. 5 Wesley.

The Wolverines dropped from No. 5 to No. 11 after losing 35-7 on the road to No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor, which went from one No. 1 vote to five after the win. St. Thomas only dropped from No. 2 to No. 6 despite losing at home to then-unranked St. John's. The margin of victory, 20-18, and the fact that the Tommies could have won the game if Paul Graupner's 32-yard field goal attempt at the end hadn't been wide left, probably accounts for St. Thomas's modest fall.

Those were the reasons behind me dropping the Tommies to 10th on my ballot and moving St. John's in at No. 22, going against one of my cardinal rules of early-season voting: Respect the W's. Normally, early in the year when there aren't other results to contradict them, it's usually safe to assume a team that beats another team is the better one. In the case of the Tommies and Johnnies, rivalry game or not, it matters that a made kick would have strongly changed our opinions on both teams. St. John's wouldn't have moved into the top 25, and the Tommies might have held on to their seven No. 1 votes.

On my ballot, Wesley dropped from No. 5 to No. 9, while the Tommies went from No. 2 to No. 10. Given the actual distance in points in the top 25, where No. 9 isn't that far from No. 6, I guess my opinion of the Tommies (or the Johnnies, No. 21 overall) isn't that different from the other 24 voters.

●  The AFCA released its first poll of the year, and given that it's the only other D-III ranking with a sampling of so many plugged-in voters -- 42 in all -- it's worth a peek. It's been well documented over the years that we feel the D3football.com poll is nuanced -- taking into account strength of schedule, circumstances of games and more. The coaches, as coaches are wont to do, just care about wins.

The AFCA ranks four teams with losses -- St. Thomas, Wesley, Franklin (losses to Mount Union and FCS Butler) and Wittenberg (also to Butler). D3football.com ranks five -- No. 24 Widener, which lost to Wesley, but the AFCA has Widener as the first team receiving votes.
Mount Union got 38 first-place votes from the coaches, with UMHB picking up four. Linfield, which got seven of D3football.com's first place votes, had none.

The D3 first-place vote split was 13-7-5 Mount Union-Linfield-UMHB. Last week, it was 11-7-6-1, which means that St. Thomas's seven votes relocated by four to UMHB, two to Mount Union and one to Linfield -- in effect. I know that's not exactly how it happened, because I switched my No. 1 from Linfield to UMHB after Saturday.

●  What to do with the three ranked WIAC teams? We have Oshkosh 8, Platteville 9, Whitewater 12. The coaches have Platteville 6, Whitewater 7 and Oshkosh 9.  In the coaches' poll, Benedictine got 13 votes, Hope got nine, Juniata four. The NESCAC's Wesleyan got eight while Trinity only got two. Adrian, Hartwick, Catholic and Lake Forest all make appearances as well.

●  We learned last week that it isn't just Atomic Football who does predictions. Our old favorite, the Massey Ratings does too. But maybe the most fun sort is Massey's all-divisions-in-one-bucket rating that lists Mount Union at No. 263, one spot behind Yale and three behind Universite de Sherbrooke in Quebec. I don't know how much stock to put in the ranking, which has the NAIA's Carroll two spots ahead of D-II's Grand Valley State, but if you've ever wondered if College of the Desert is better than Middlebury, the answer is yes.

Also, No. 905 Alfred State brings up the rear for D-III in those ratings, 11 spots ahead of last-ranked Itasca CC at No. 916. Berry, although it hasn't scored a point in its history, is already the 801st-best college football program in the country.

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Ryan Tipps

Ryan is D3football.com's Senior Editor and begins as National Columnist in fall 2014. He was the Around the Mid-Atlantic Columnist from 2007 to 2011; has worked on all but one of the preseason Kickoff publications; has done game-day writing and photography and the pregame broadcast at the championship Stagg Bowl in Salem for almost a decade; and has taken photos at the Final Four for D3hoops.com. He's also on the selection staff for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award.

2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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