Stewart Mandel is a writer for SI.com and a voter in the AP football poll. In his new book, excerpted on SI.com, he talks about the 2006 season and talks about the night of Arkansas’ win over Mississippi St., their tenth in a row, and why he ranked Arkansas where he did. It’s a facinating look behind the curtain.
Nov. 18, 2006, 11:12 p.m., Ruby Tuesday’s, Columbus, Ohio: A couple of my fellow writers and I, having just covered the Ohio State-Michigan “Game of the Century,” have gathered for a late-night dinner. Laptop open, I’m putting the finishing touches on my AP ballot, but one issue has me stumped: Who should be No. 2? For weeks, I have resisted in print the notion that, should No. 1 OSU and No. 2 Michigan stage a thriller, the loser should not drop in the polls. The idea of a national-championship rematch seems ridiculous. And yet, with images from the two teams’ 42-39 classic still fresh in my mind, I can’t bring myself to move another team above the 11-1 Wolverines. Arkansas, the team I had third last week, has won 10 straight games, yet I’m no longer comfortable putting them ahead of 9-1 USC, a team that beat the Razorbacks 50-14 the first week of the season. The Trojans appear to be the next-best candidate but they’re only three weeks removed from a bad loss at Oregon State. And Florida, itself 10-1, hasn’t looked good in about a month. I poll the table, and everyone is in agreement that, under the circumstances, you’ve got to keep Michigan No. 2, so I do. It’s a decision I’ll regret two weeks later when Florida wins the SEC title.