We are now a month into the year. We now know much more about who actually are the best teams in college football than we did coming into the season. This is also about the time the first college football rankings should come out. This way it allows for a perception of what the team is now and not carry over opinions of how good they were last year. So this week I will completely scrap all rankings I have done to this point and start over. Shake it like an Etch-a-Sketch and base the rankings on fact of this season. The rankings are based on this season’s resumes so far and even undefeated teams like Houston and Boise will fall as other team’s schedules get tougher.
1. Alabama (4-0) – Perhaps the toughest schedule of any unbeaten so far with Virginia Tech and Arkansas. They finished strong against V-Tech scoring 18 in the final quarter. Alabama has shown the best defense in college football thus far as they held the Hokies to 155 yards of offense only giving up points on a kickoff return and short fields (the longest touchdown was 51 yards). The Tide allow just over 200 yards on defense per game and have only allowed one fourth-quarter touchdown. They have won by at least 26 points since the 10-point win over V-Tech.
2. Florida (4-0) – The Gators have dominated all comers except Tennessee, who was jacked for the game and several Gators may have been sick. Still, Florida has done what it’s had to do thus far with little letdown. Tim Tebow’s injury comes at a convenient time before a bye week. Then the meat of the schedule begins. Florida avoids Alabama until the SEC Championship. They have about the same schedule strength of Texas at this point and have had bigger wins.
3. Texas (4-0) – Winning by an average score over 49-15 in four games so far. There is a serious lack of competition and Texas started out slow against both Wyoming and Texas Tech. Tech is their only quality win. Meetings against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will improve their stock.
4. Boise State (4-0) – Boise has flat dominated ever opponent like no other team so far this season. They frustrated a good Oregon team to the point of boiling over and have thrashed Miami (OH), Fresno and Bowling Green since. Question is, where does their strength of schedule and dominance rank in relation to say, Houston? The answer is another question … who would win if the two played? I say Boise, so they get the nod.
5. Houston (3-0) - With two wins over upper-echelon Big XII opponents should not be overlooked. They came from behind to beat Texas Tech but make no mistake, they controlled Oklahoma State. Nobody as good remains on the schedule, so they will fall but right now this is where they are.
6. Virginia Tech (3-1) – Give Virginia Tech a ton of credit for their opening four games. Three ranked teams (Alabama, Nebraska and Miami) and no I-AA schools give V-Tech legitimacy. Sure Nebraska dominated them, but they found a way. This is a really good team with the girth of it’s schedule behind it. A BCS game is almost a given this year.
7. Ohio State (3-1) – I’ll give Ohio Stat some leeway for the Navy game because they were looking to USC and Navy is hard to scheme against. Two shutouts against Toledo and Illinois, who supposedly had good offenses, is very impressive. I actually do think Ohio State is better than USC, they just have this Trojan cloud over them. They will bounce back and probably win the Big 10.
8. TCU – (3-0) It was a good challenge for TCU to go to Clemson and get that win. It was also the only game to lend any credence to TCU’s schedule at this point. It’s pretty weak overall and they have offense issues.
9. Cincinnati (4-0) – Respectable opponents thus far in Rutgers, Fresno State and going to Oregon State. They aren’t blowing people out (except for SE Missouri State) but they just keep winning, 14 of their last 15 regular season games in fact.
10. USC – (3-1) This team is just so young. They aren’t mature enough to know who they are. Perennially good defensively, but the offense is lost at best. They will get better as the season goes, but expect another loss.
11. Oklahoma State (3-1) – This is still a very good Cowboy team and will compete for the Big XII South title. Holding Georgia to 10 points has proven more impressive as the year goes on. However they aren’t good enough to look past teams like Houston. The round robin between Texas, Oklahoma and the Cowboys will determine the Big XII representative in the BCS and perhaps the title.
12. Iowa (4-0) - A really shaky start against a very good I-AA Northern Iowa team was a bad sign. But the Hawkeyes have responded with a thumping of rival Iowa State, a sound win over a good Arizona team and a clutch last quarter domination of Penn State. They get Michigan at home October 10.
13. Oklahoma (2-1) – Tremendous defensive team with a great barometer game coming up this week against Miami. I think Oklahoma is a better team than Miami and we shall see. This game is very important to the pecking order of this ranking.
14. Nebraska (3-1) – The Huskers have whacked a trio of Sun Belt teams by a total margin of 142-12. They had the game won against Virginia Tech and couldn’t close. That may be a result of a head coach with less than two years under his belt. Say Nebraska wins they game they are a Top-10 team. As it is, they aren’t mature enough yet. The test at Missouri will say a lot about it the Huskers can win on the road. I do, however expect them to win by two scores.
15. Michigan (4-0) – Michigan has found itself in several too-close-for-comfort games already. They should have lost to Notre Dame, they should have lost to Indiana, but they didn’t. This team has grown up a lot since last year.
16. South Florida (4-0) – Very under the radar unbeaten team and especially since their win over Florida State wasn’t on national television, but trust that South Florida dominated that game. They held a Florida State team that hung 54 on BYU to just seven points. October 15 will tell us who the better team is, the Bulls or Cincinnati. There were a couple I-AA teams on the early schedule but South Florida suffers from Boise State syndrome. Nobody will play them because they are afraid of getting beat.
17. Georgia (3-1) – Likely the most grueling first five games of anyone, all BCS opponents, two of which were ranked in the Top 5. I think Georgia fans will take 3-1 after playing Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Arizona State and South Carolina. No cupcakes here. And it’s for that reason I believe the Bulldogs will beat LSU this week. Don’t believe me? Vegas does, they have Georgia by 3 in the early line.
18. LSU (4-0) – I am not impresses with LSU thus far. Credit their defense for one of the strongest goal line stands to beat Miss. State, but they should never have been in that position. They also struggled with a very average Washington team and have yet to score more than 31 points in any game. Two losses at Georgia and against Florida are coming.
19. Auburn (4-0) – I think Auburn is very under rated so far this year. They have won every game by double digits winning by an average of 21 points, which includes a win over West Virginia. Their lowest team total so far is 37 points. Defense is a big question and historically a lack of defense spells bad news in the SEC. But they blew out the Miss. State team that nearly beat LSU last week. Auburn has yet to play on the road.
20. Wisconsin (4-0) – The Badgers have only one double-digit win against Wofford. Thin wins over Northern Ill., Fresno and Michigan State don’t mean much. It does mean this team knows how to hold on to victory. Ohio State will be a true barometer.
21. Oregon (3-1) - The Ducks have bounced back as well as a team could have after the debacle at Boise State. They have gotten progressively better after fighting off Purdue, they ended off the nation’s longest losing streak in beating Utah and then they turned around a laid waste to Cal. The Ducks are on the rise, but how high?
22. Miami (2-1) – Over-hyped Miami failed badly last week against Virginia Tech. Still their schedule has had all ranked opponents thus far and Oklahoma looms. The really only impressive win was over Georgia Tech. If they beat Oklahoma, they skyrocket. If not they may fall out completely.
23. BYU (3-1) – A real let down against Florida State. I haven’t seen anyone be able to explain that loss. This is another team I can’t really tell how good they are. They beat Oklahoma, and lose to the Seminoles. Looks like the only way we’ll find out is when they play TCU on Oct. 24.
24. Kansas (4-0) – Congrats on going unbeaten against Northern Colorado, UTEP, Duke and Southern Miss. I’m pretty sure over half the country could do that. When you play someone worth mentioning I’ll give some respect.
25. Cal (3-1) – This is what happens when you open with Maryland, Eastern Washington and Minnesota. When you face a real foe who is already battle-tested, you get smacked in the mouth. We’re the Bears looking ahead to USC? It doesn’t matter now their national title hopes are likely dashed.
Teams on the Cusp:
Notre Dame (3-1) – Three-point wins over Michigan State and Purdue aren’t going to give Charlie Weis any job security. And a loss a year ahead of schedule against Michigan wasn’t good. So what makes Notre Dame even a Top 25 consideration, a 35-0 point win over Nevada? Hey, better than Missouri did.
South Carolina (3-1) – South Carolina has won two close battles with NC State and Ole Miss, and lost one close game at Georgia. South Carolina maybe under rated. Their barometer games are later in the year with Alabama on Oct. 17 and Florida in November.
Missouri (4-0) – Quite possibly the messiest track to undefeated in the country. They are 4-0 over Division I teams that are a combined 2-8 and a I-AA team. Not only that but they had to rally to beat Bowling Green and were losing 13-12 to winless Nevada in the third quarter.
Georgia Tech (3-1) – Georgia Tech doesn’t know how good it is, and therefore neither do we. They look sort of inconsistent with a close game against Clemson, a blow-out loss to Miami and a very solid win over over-rated North Carolina. I still don’t know what the Jackets are. Next three against Mississippi State, Florida State and Virginia Tech and we’ll find out.
Penn State (3-1) – Another bad, bad loss to Iowa. Penn State could not close, they could not score and I do not understand what about this team has impressed anyone so far. What, were they looking ahead to Illinois? They can’t score more than 31 against Temple and Akron? Look at it by raw numbers and forget their preseason ranking. What about this team says Top 25?
Ole Miss (2-1) – When Mississippi beat Florida last year they got a ton of national love. Why? Upsets happen all the time (see Washington). They lost four games last year. FOUR! Now they lose to South Carolina and they haven’t beaten anyone. In all honesty, this is not a Top 25 team right now. Watch Alabama beat them by 20 in two weeks.
Utah (3-1) – Has not beaten good teams and have not won by more than 18 and that was against Utah State. Their only test they lost against Oregon.
UCLA (3-0) – The only team in the Pac-10 without a loss. Who would have thought that? Only three games with the most notable win at Tennessee. They struggled more than they should have against Kansas State and the Bruins are only scoring 25 points per game against weak competition.
Stanford (3-1) – Their only loss is on the road at Wake Forest and their most recent win was convincing against a trendy Washington team. If the Cardinal knocks of undefeated UCLA this week, even the national pollsters can’t ignore them.
North Carolina State (3-1) – A 7-3 opening day loss to South Carolina is their only blemish. One dropped pass is the difference between 3-1 and 4-0 and likely a ranking. NC State scored the last three touchdowns in a come-from-behind win over previously unbeaten Pitt.
Arizona (3-1) – Easy wins over lesser foes and a tight conference win over Oregon State last week. Their only loss is to unbeaten Iowa.
Texas A & M (3-0) – Surprise! The Aggies are unbeaten three games into the year. But you should be starting the season with New Mexico, Utah State and UAB, a combined 2-9. Call me if you beat Oklahoma State on Oct. 10.
Southern Miss (3-1) – I don’t think they belong here but they are worth mentioning because they came into the Kansas game on the nation’s second longest win streak at eight games, and they will likely be 7-1 when they face Houston on Halloween.
Just when we thought we had new blood in the national championship race we have weeks like this. Ole Miss is not for real and beating Florida last year looks more and more like a fluke. Cal being totally unprepared for Oregon, Penn State losing again to Iowa, and how can you forget Florida State laying an egg.
*Sounds crazy but Colorado State at 3-1 could enter the Top 25 if they get by a 3-1 Idaho team followed by Utah and TCU. A 6-1 record and wins over Utah and TCU would at least put them into the conversation.
*Fresno State may be the best 1-3 team ever. Fresno hung with Boise State for three quarters, had an overtime loss to unbeaten Wisconsin at Wisconsin and they gave unbeaten Cincinnati their only test of the year, failing on a late game-tying drive. They are the only team in college football to play three undefeated teams, keeping alive Pat Hill’s philosophy to take on all comers.
*Four SEC Teams and four Big XII teams are undefeated. The only undefeated team in the Pac 10 is UCLA. Every MAC team except Central Michigan already has at least two losses. The ACC has no undefeated teams left. Middle Tennessee is the only Sun Belt team with a winning record at 3-1. The rest of the conference is 8-21. Clearly the Sun Belt and the MAC are the early season whipping boys of the BCS schools.
High Team Score: Baylor at 68 points over Northwestern State wins this week. Honorable mention to Texas with a 64-7 win over UTEP. In all the Big XII outscored opponents 473-140 this week and went 9-1 on the week. Thanks Texas Tech!
Upset picks: We hit the South Carolina and Stanford wins last week and both Texas Tech and Clemson came achingly close to making me 4-0 in upsets. This week I like Indiana over Ohio State, Georgia over LSU, Cal over USC and Miami over Oklahoma.
Locks: Ok, so Texas Tech – Houston didn’t go over, not even close. Kansas didn’t cover and Miami lost outright. Another good week.
This week take the Toledo v. Ball State over, Syracuse to cover at home against South Florida, Michigan State to cover, maybe beat Michigan.