As soon as the AP poll and coaches poll came out Sunday, I knew I was going to take a hit this week. And when the Badgers ended up at No. 15 in the BCS Standings, I knew I was going to take an even bigger hit.
Why? Because I still believe Wisconsin is the eighth best team in the country and yes, I still believe they are better than Michigan State. Much better, in fact.
Here's my ballot with my somewhat controversial explanation below:
Not surprisingly, after not appearing on SB Nation's "biased list" all season, I rank No. 2 now. If you've been following my ballot all season, you know I was hesitant to give the Badgers credit until they wiped out Nebraska. I've preached all season the importance of evaluating these teams based on results that are deeper than just the final score.
That's why I never bought into West Virginia and Georgia Tech. That's why I still have Kansas State No. 16. And that's why I didn't boost Wisconsin high in my rankings until they executed to a tee against a team like Nebraska. It's also why I'm not going to overreact to a loss on a fluky Hail Mary on the road against a team now in the top 10.
I try to evaluate these teams based on this criteria: How much talent is actually on the field? How many mental errors is this team making? Are the mental errors the rule or the exception?
These aren't standings, folks, they are rankings.
OK, let's go back to Saturday. The Badgers lost on a fluky Hail Mary. If they win, they likely gain votes in every single poll. Instead, they lost and they fall eight spots? Doesn't make sense. (Sidenote: The BCS computers dropped Wisconsin to No. 24. They have a formula for a ball bouncing off someone's facemask and straight into the arms of a different receiver? I'm impressed!)
Back to my criteria... The Badgers clearly had more talent on the field than Michigan State. They allowed a safety, a blocked field goal and blocked punt for a touchdown and it still came down to a Hail Mary despite the Spartans playing a phenomenal game. Now, did the Badgers make a ton of mental errors in their first true road game that should be factored into how good of a team they really are? Yes, which is why I dropped them to No. 8. But were those errors an exception to what we have seen the majority of this season? Yes. Michigan State deserves credit for blocking a field goal and a punt, but on both plays there were fundamental breakdowns by the Badgers we haven't seen before. They can easily be corrected. And poor tackling resulted in at least of two of MSU's offensive touchdowns. Film showed those tackles were a result of poor angles, not poor talent.
The bottom line: Despite losing, the Badgers showed they were still the more talented team, which is why I have them ranked No. 8 and Michigan State No. 9.
Now, what if all those mistakes occur again this weekend in Columbus? Well, then those mental errors start becoming the norm instead of the exception and the Badgers will have to be dropped even further. For now, it's just one game, and based on what we have seen the majority of the season, the Badgers should have things corrected this Saturday.
But that just explains why I have Wisconsin ranked ahead of Michigan State. What about Kansas State, Arkansas and Oklahoma, all of which are ranked ahead of Wisconsin in this week's BlogPoll Top 25?
Honestly, I don't even think I need to explain this one and I can't believe that many people dropped Wisconsin as low as they did. Watch a single Kansas State game and try to tell me the WIldcats are better overall than Wisconsin. They aren't. Same goes for Arkansas, which nearly lost to a 2-5 Ole Miss team Saturday. Almost losing to Ole Miss is worse than losing to Michigan State on the road on a Hail Mary. Now, I'll listen to an argument that Oklahoma is better than Wisconsin, but they lost to Texas Tech in pathetic fashion at home. The Badgers at least lost on the road against a team that is now in the top 10.
I believe Wisconsin is still the eighth best team in the country. It's fine for that to fluctuate a spot or two, but anyone who ranked the Badgers lower than No. 10 isn't paying attention.