Huskers Creep Into Coaches’ Poll, Left Out of AP
Nebraska's win over Georgia in the Gator Bowl appeared to be just enough to push them into the top 25 of the Coaches' Poll. NU was essentially 26th in the Associated Press poll as the top vote-getter among "others receiving votes". Let's examine the wisdom of the voters.
It's hard to quibble with the AP for pushing Washington ahead of the Huskers at 25th in their poll. The Huskies performed better against UCLA in Pasadena and didn't have NU's home field advantage in beating Illinois. Boise State was the highest ranked team (at the time) that either team beat. All of the teams that beat Washington ended up ranked whereas Iowa and Minnesota wound up unranked. All of NU's defeats were by at least two scores where Washington was within 3 points at Stanford. All of the U-Dub wins were by at least two scores and NU needed a Hail Mary against Northwestern and overtime to beat Penn State. Only a bad loss at Arizona State by the Huskies could tip the scales toward Nebraska.
Vanderbilt a Fraud
Vanderbilt is clearly a less worthy team ahead of NU (in both polls?!). They beat Georgia by one fewer point than Nebraska and they got to play the Bulldogs in Nashville. Other than Georgia, their wins came against only losing teams in the SEC. Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky would be considered mediocre to bad teams in any conference this year and the nonconference schedule for the Commodores was a joke. It featured Austin Peay, Massachussetts, Alabama-Birmingham, and Wake Forest. Vandy only managed to beat that 4-8 Demon Deacon team by two points and that was at home in the regular season finale.
What About the Smaller Conferences?
Before getting too irate about Vandy though, NU fans should realize their own benefit from playing in a BCS conference. Northern Illinois won 12 games including a victory at Iowa but were left unranked. Fresno State went 11-2 and won at Wyoming 48-10. That's the same Cowboy team that came to Lincoln and made things far too interesting at 37-34. While the transitive property doesn't always hold in sports (A beats B, B beats C, therefore A would beat C), it seems fair to apply in rankings, particularly when there's little to no overlap in scheduling.
In the end, Nebraska's probably no more than a spot or two away from where they belong based on their season. At least creeping into one major poll can help NU in the recruiting game. Coaches, players and fans alike don't view a 24th or 25th ranking as the goal anyway. Hopefully, it's nothing more than a stepping stone to bigger and better things.