No joke: Ball State in Top 25

David Letterman is going to love this: At No. 25 in the Associated Press college football poll, his alma mater, Ball State.

The Cardinals, who have remained unbeaten while losing one of their best players to a career-ending spine injury, are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time.


After a week with few upsets, the top of the media poll underwent only slight alterations.

Oklahoma was No. 1 with 51 first-place votes and 1,608 points, gaining a few points and top votes in its second week on top of the rankings this season.


No. 2 Alabama has 13 first-place votes and 1,537 points. Missouri moved up one spot to No. 3 after winning, 52-17, at Nebraska.

LSU dropped a spot to No. 4 after a bye week, and Texas remained No. 5. The Longhorns and Sooners meet Saturday in the annual Red River Rivalry in Dallas. It'll be the fourth time since 2001 that Texas and Oklahoma will play with both teams in the top five and first since 2004.

Ball State, located in Muncie, Ind., is probably best known for being the place Letterman went to school. The gapped-toothed host of the Late Show has another reason to boast about Ball State now.

The Cardinals are off to their best start since going 9-0 to begin the 1965 season. They won their sixth straight game Saturday, shutting out Toledo, 31-0, to improve to 3-0 in the Mid-American Conference.

"It's flattering obviously, but there's so much season left to play," sixth-year coach Brady Hoke said in a conference call with reporters yesterday.

It's already been an emotional season for Hoke's team. On Sept. 20, standout wide receiver Dante Love was injured when he took a head-on hit during the Cardinals' 42-20 victory over Indiana. Ball State's first victory against a Bowl Championship Series-conference school was marred by Love's injury.

He underwent surgery and is expected to make a complete recovery, but his football career is over.

The team vowed to use Love as an inspiration.


"Our maturity and the leadership of our football team has been phenomenal," Hoke said.

Led by quarterback Nate Davis and running back MiQuale Lewis, the Cardinals are 11th in the country in total offense at 472 yards a game. Davis is 10th in passer rating (164.6) and has thrown for 1,662 yards and 11 touchdowns. Lewis is eighth in the nation in rushing at 134 yards a game.

The last time a MAC team made the AP Top 25 was 2004, when Bowling Green was No. 25 for a week late in the season.

North Carolina (4-1) beat Connecticut, 38-12, to move into the rankings for the first time since 2001.

Pittsburgh, which started the season ranked and dropped out after losing its opening game, is back in the Top 25. The Panthers are No. 24 after upsetting South Florida, 26-21, on Thursday in Tampa.

Among the teams on the outside of the poll looking in: Notre Dame, which is unranked at 4-1 for the first time. Every other season in which the Fighting Irish were either 4-1 or 3-1-1, they were ranked. The Irish were ranked as high as No. 4 in 1942 and 1965, as low as No. 18 in 1998, and had an average ranking of No. 10 during those seasons.


Irish coach Charlie Weis isn't worried, though. He believes his team, which started last season 0-5, is on the cusp of being ranked. "You're one of the teams that's in the mix in that conversation piece," he said.

Miami: : Linebacker Colin McCarthy will miss the rest of the season because of a shoulder injury. Coach Randy Shannon said that McCarthy, who has had continuing shoulder problems since high school, suffered his latest injury in practice last week. McCarthy did not play in Miami's 41-39 loss to Florida State on Saturday. Also, Shannon said defensive end Eric Moncur's status for the rest of the season is unknown because of a leg injury.

Nebraska:: Coach Bo Pelini said he would try to contact Missouri coach Gary Pinkel to discuss Chase Daniel's comments about the Cornhuskers being a dirty team. Daniel, the Tigers' standout quarterback, said a Nebraska player spat on him before Saturday's game, which Missouri won, 52-17. Daniel said afterward that Nebraska players threw footballs at the Tigers as they were warming up. Pelini said he first heard about Daniel's comments yesterday. Pelini said he watched video of the game and saw nothing out of line, but he said he would investigate further.