‘Tis a heady thing, this Top 25. As Lewis and Clark might have said, it’s a big country. Filled with darkness and dread. Wildcats and Gators. Red Tide and roaring Tigers.
To shove your way into the Top 25, even at this early date, is one small step for State, one giant leap for Bulldog Nation.
So, lads. Take a bow.
But don’t linger, lest the blood rush to your head and blind you to the dangers that await in the sweaty and suffocating SEC jungle.
Three up and three down is sweetness itself, the nectar of the football gods. But before we get carried away — if, indeed, we haven’t already — let us stare reality in the face.
First downs: 30. Total yards: 572. It’s enough to make a full-grown middle linebacker weep.
Saturday night was a whisker from disaster, from bursting the air out of the Auburn bubble, from splashing Dear Ol’ State into the soul-sucking morass of the mediocre.
I’ve got socks older than Troy’s tenure in the FBS. So how does one wiggle his way into the Top 25 by giving up nearly 600 yards to a team nobody west of Vicksburg ever heard of?
It’s easy. I used to have a vote in the AP poll. Ignorance, especially this early in the season, is as commonplace as sore shoulders among hard-hitting safeties. Let us count the ways:
1) You might think that having so many games available on DirecTV would shrink the geography of the sporting world into a more manageable state. But the people who vote in polls tend either to be covering a game or coaching a game. While Oregon plays, New Jersey sleeps. After I got out of sports writing, Rick used to get me to help him fill out his All-America ballot. Why? I’d seen the left guard at Oklahoma on TV while Rick was trying to avoid strangling on a deadline in a press box up the road. He could tell you all about Mississippi State. Boise State, maybe not so much.
2) Going into the Troy game, the Bulldogs weren’t in the Top 25 and the game was being streamed online by ESPN but it was not broadcast on TV. So the score wasn’t on the Top 25 crawl during the night games. There were no highlights — or lowlights — aired. There was what passes these days as an information vacuum.
3) Votes have to go in late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. Everybody’s tired. The voter in Nevada’s not going to look to see how State’s defense played at Troy.
4) SEC-itis. Everybody’s got it, whether you love the conference or despise it. Say, you’re a voter in Rhode Island who spends most of his time covering Brown and the Ivy League. You wake up Sunday, turn on ESPN for highlights and log on to your laptop. OK. Alabama killed Arkansas. No. 1 then. USC got beat. Move LSU up to second. Step by step, place by place, the process takes on a more expressionist tint, the information less clear, the choices fuzzier around the edges. You get to the 20s. Almost, thankfully, done. Mississippi State won last night. 3-0 record. An SEC team. Let’s fit ‘em in at 23. And go get a double espresso.
So, here we are, the Bulldogs are into the Top 25, maybe on a pass. The following weeks will give truth to what right now may be myth. Once you get into the Top 25, though, you’re good. You keep winning, the guy who covers Brown will keep voting.
And one of these days that ranking will be carved — not in granite — but in reality.