Around the Nation

Snap judgments: Taking a new look at the poll positioning

Wheaton's defense was strong all day, but it took the offense until the fourth quarter to come around vs. UW-Eau Claire on Saturday.
Wheaton athletics photo by
Michael Hudson Photography 

In my experience, the perception seems to be that at about Week 3, most Top 25 voters do major teardowns and rebuilding of their ballots.

While I don’t subscribe to such a “guideline” when I fill out my weekly ballot, this past Saturday’s games offer a pretty good indication as to why this is a good week for voters to break out the hammer and nails and to make sure that they are working with fresh materials and not just the ones they unearthed in the preseason.

For example, a couple of final scores from Saturday can be deceiving. Sure, Wheaton shut out UW-Eau Claire and ultimately turned in a fine 17-point margin of victory, but did you catch the fact that the score was only 3-0 going into the fourth quarter. Or that Thiel, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2005, was beating Thomas More 27-21 at halftime before the Saints really turned up the juices both offensively and defensively for a 66-27 win.

For the latter, we all have to ask ourselves what that says about a team: Is Thomas More as vulnerable as the first half suggests or is the team one that wins because of second-half adjustments, proving that the game 60 minutes long, and not a second less.

Not to be overlooked, of course, are the lopsided matchups between Top 25 teams, where John Carroll handed a crusher to OAC rival Heidelberg and where North Central left UW-Platteville in its dust early. (As a side note: Whitewater excluded, the WIAC hasn’t founds its swagger yet this year, something that will come up when Around the Nation revisits the preseason conference rankings a couple of weeks from now.) Heidelberg’s and Platteville’s stock should be dropping considerably after this weekend, because while it’s one thing to lose to someone higher ranked than you, it’s another when the teams on the field seem so far apart in terms of skill.

The other side of that coin, however, is how much higher to slot the victors. Going into the weekend, North Central was No. 5 on my ballot, and JCU was No. 10. While the Blue Streaks are certainly going to leap over my then-No. 9 Platteville (my ballot this week isn’t done yet as of this writing), there’s only so much I can raise them up because the Top 10 is so dense with talent. However, games like what we saw on Saturday are burned into my memory, and going forward, as a voter, I’ll be looking for opportunities to reward these teams in the poll.

Not to be forgotten is Illinois Wesleyan, which overcame concerns over experience early in the season with a win over Franklin but now stumbled against undefeated Simpson. With the Titans going into the weekend ranked at No. 21, it’s unlikely we will see too many people hanging onto them with so many other teams across the nation still...

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Ryan Tipps

Ryan is'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 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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