Undefeated Ball State takes place in AP poll for first time

NEW YORK -- David Letterman is going to love this: At No. 25 in the AP 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 media poll only underwent 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 an off 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 time since 2004.

No. 6 Penn State and No. 7 Texas Tech held their spots. No. 8 Southern California and No. 9 BYU flip-flopped after USC's easy 44-10 victory against Oregon.

Georgia moved up a spot to No. 10.

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 night, 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 Sunday. "You have to evaluate the season at the end. We've got a lot of big games ahead of us."

It's already been an emotional season for Hoke's team. On Sept. 20, star 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 BCS-conference school was marred by Love's injury.

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

"He's a big part of this team," Hoke said. "He will always be a big part of this program. When something like that happens, your heart sinks and you feel for him as a guy who loves to play the game and has a passion for it."

The team vowed to use Love as an inspiration and so far it has not missed a beat without him.

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

Led by Nate Davis, the latest in a long line of talented MAC quarterbacks, and running back MiQuale Lewis, the Cardinals are 11th in the country in total offense at 472 yards per 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 per 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.

The Cardinals are one of three teams ranked this week for the first time this season, joining No. 22 North Carolina and No. 23 Michigan State.

The Tar Heels (4-1) beat Connecticut 38-12 to move into the rankings for the first time since Oct. 28, 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 night in Tampa.

Dropping out of the poll after losses were Fresno State, Oregon, Connecticut and Wisconsin, which dropped its second straight game, 20-17 at home to Ohio State.

The second 10 starts with No. 11 Florida, followed by Ohio State, and Vanderbilt moved up six spots to No. 13, it's best ranking since being 13th in 1956.

No. 14 Utah and Boise State round out the first 15.

No. 16 Kansas, is followed by Big 12 rival Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, South Florida and Auburn.

The Big 12 and Southeastern Conference each have six teams in the poll.

No. 21 is Wake Forest, followed by the four newcomers.