The San Jose Mercury News is a newspaper well off most beaten paths in sports journalism, and famous mostly for being where Skip Bayless plied his trade before jumping to ESPN to become the network's troll-in-chief. But Mercury News college football writer Jon Wilner has been making a name for himself among college football fans for one of the worst reasons: Almost indefensible AP Top 25 ballots.
Wilner has "won" rankings watchdog website's Pollspeak's public vote for Bad Voter of the Week for four straight weeks, apparently "record territory," and has consistently kept Florida State and Baylor well away from the top 10. His Week 8 ballot may be the least reality-based — and funniest — yet.
- Wilner's top three is Alabama, Oregon, and Clemson, but he has UCLA No. 4, and is the most bullish voter on the Bruins for the third straight week. I think UCLA's pretty good, too — but UCLA (best win: at Nebraska, or at Utah, or vs. Cal) has to be better than a lot of undefeated teams to get the No. 4 slot.
- Wilner has LSU at No. 5, the Tigers' highest ranking, which is defensible if you think a home win over Florida is a huge win. (I don't, though I'd like to.)
- Because he's bucking logic to get UCLA and LSU elevated, Wilner penalizes Ohio State, which falls to No. 6 despite being idle. This is defensible, but skepticism for Ohio State (best win: at Northwestern, at Cal, or vs. Wisconsin) when there isn't much for UCLA?
- Wilner has Missouri at No. 7, which would be consistent with not penalizing LSU for losing at Georgia. But given that Missouri beat Georgia at Sanford Stadium, and LSU didn't, why not rank Mizzou ahead of LSU? Especially if a win over Georgia was enough to vault Missouri to No. 7 with Wilner after he didn't rank the Tigers last week?
- After moving Washington up to No. 10 after their loss to Stanford — controversial and close, sure, but a loss — Wilner leaves the Huskies at No. 10 after their loss to Oregon by three touchdowns at home. He's the only voter with Washington as high as No. 10.
- Also, if losing to Oregon by three touchdowns at home is no big deal, why isn't Oregon Wilner's No. 1 team?
- Yes, this means Wilner has four Pac-12 teams in his top 10, including two-loss Washington. No, I can't defend that — and I think Washington's a top-15 team, easily.
- Wilner does manage to get the easy transitive property problems — Stanford ahead of Washington, Georgia ahead of South Carolina — right from No. 9 to No. 12, before it all goes haywire. This shows that he's paying some attention.
- Wilner's next four teams, in order: Miami, Louisville, Florida State, Florida. All but one voter has Louisville higher, no one has Florida State as low, and all but one voter has Florida lower. Those four teams being together also suggests to me that Wilner either has no idea what to do with them — likely, given that they have played many of their games at noon, or 9 a.m. local time for Wilner — or is basing his estimation of those four teams on 2012. Either way, iffy.
- Oh, and the only change Wilner made in that four-team stretch from last week was swapping Miami and Louisville.
- Next up: Nebraska at No. 17 (all but one voter has the Huskers lower) and Northern Illinois at No. 18 (all but four have the Huskies lower; more fuel for the "...is this based on 2012?" theory, too). I get liking Nebraska if you think UCLA is really good, though the Huskers aren't ranked, but I couldn't justify ranking Northern Illinois (which does have four road wins) if I tried.
- Finally, at No. 19, Wilner gets to Texas Tech, putting the undefeated Red Raiders lower than 51 other voters did. And yet he keeps Kliff Kingsbury's defense-reliant team ahead of Baylor's offense-buoyed squad, ranking the Bears No. 20 — which is actually progress, because he had Baylor unranked two weeks ago, and at No. 22 last week. No one else has Baylor lower than 15th, for what it's worth.
- After thrashing Northwestern, Wisconsin gets onto Wilner's ballot at No. 21. And Wilner was impressed with Northwestern: He had the Wildcats No. 18 last week, having moved them up after losing at home to Ohio State. So why did Wilner drop Ohio State, which beat both of these teams, again?
- Auburn at No. 23, ahead of Fresno State at No. 24. Why not? Clearly, Wilner's just guessing at this point, and his West Coast bias doesn't extend down to Fresno.
- ...wait, Rutgers at No. 25? What? Why? You have Louisville at No. 14, Jon. You don't like Louisville. You dropped Louisville a spot for struggling with Rutgers. Rutgers is 4-2 with no wins by more than four points — though the losses did come to teams you had ranked, and on the road. Why not rank Utah, 4-2 with a win over your No. 9 team and a loss to your No. 4 team? No one else ranked Rutgers. MAKE THIS MAKE SENSE TO ME.
- And, finally, Wilner doesn't have Oklahoma ranked after Texas routed the Sooners in the Red River Rivalry. Oklahoma, which has wins over Notre Dame and TCU (the same TCU that LSU can claim is its second-best win), didn't play well in that game, but Wilner had the Sooners No. 11 last week. Was that an embarrasment for Oklahoma, or a good win by a good team in a semi-home game? Why can Florida not move at all after losing to LSU and Oklahoma plummet after losing to Texas on the same ballot?
Anyway, this has nothing to do with anything other than the idea that Jon Wilner should probably either not have an AP Poll vote or be forced to write columns explaining his lunacy. (Update: He wrote one.) I guess I should write "Jeff Driskel is better/worse/taller/faster than Tyler Murphy" here?