1. Alabama (1-0). Not a big sample size but we know from experience this is the best team in the country. Depth plays a big role. What we have seen is the Tide making a team coached by Frank Beamer look bad (that’s hard to do). Big game vs. Texas A&M Saturday, on the road, possibly thinking about payback. Nick Saban will have his team ready.
2. Oregon (2-0). The Ducks lost coach Chip Kelly to the NFL, but picked up right where he left off. Forget the Nicholls State game, this team beat Virginia, a BCS opponent, 59-10, on the road. There shouldn’t be too much trouble at home against the Vols this week, but they are playing an SEC opponent, so you never know.
3. Clemson (2-0). Their win over Georgia looks even better now that the Bulldogs beat South Carolina. They’ve beaten Bulldogs twice in a row (SC State this past week), but will have to battle Wolfpack in Raleigh next Thursday after resting this weekend. It’s really early, but ESPN has QB Tajh Boyd as the Heisman frontrunner.
4. Ohio State (2-0). The Buckeyes might be higher if Braxton Miller’s status wasn’t up in the air. Even if he plays Saturday against Cal, he likely won’t be 100 percent. Backup Kenny Guiton led OSU to Saturday’s 42-7 win over San Diego State, playing most of the game. Can he perform against a tougher opponent if Miller is a no-go?
5. Texas A&M (2-0). Even given all the controversy off the field, Johnny Manziel has played very good football on it (497 yds, 6 TDs passing, 55 yds, 1 TD rushing). Those opponents were Rice and Sam Houston State, however, so we’ll see this week if Manziel is truly a contender for another Heisman when the Aggies host Alabama, who they beat last year in Tuscaloosa.
6. Georgia (1-1). I was reluctant to put a one-loss team this high up, this early in the season, but they’re loss was to my #3 team, Clemson, and they looked really good on both sides of the ball against South Carolina, particularly offensively. They have a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way, with the toughest game being at home against LSU next week, after a bout with North Texas on Saturday. If Georgia survives LSU, they should win the SEC East easily.
7. Stanford (1-0). Like Alabama, only one game for the Cardinal. They beat San Jose State 34-13 on Saturday. David Shaw has a solid team, particularly defensively, without a superstar. I’m curious to see how they play throughout a schedule throughout a schedule that includes 4 ranked opponents including Oregon on the ESPN Thursday night stand-alone game on November 7.
8. Louisville (2-0). Louisville has looked very impressive in their first two games, albeit against light competition. The problem for the Cardinals is that they do not have any games scheduled against a team that is currently ranked. Unless the Cardinals are upset, they will be unbeaten at the end of the regular season. How will the pollsters react in the event of an unbeaten team with such a light schedule?
9. Michigan (2-0). The Wolverines looked very good Saturday night in the Big House against Notre Dame, winning 41-30. They also beat Central Michigan (who is an FBS team) 59-9 in their first game. They could very easily be unbeaten going in to a very tough November, when they play Nebraska, Northwestern, and Ohio State in a four-week stretch. QB Devin Gardner declared his Heisman candidacy Saturday night, although it is early.
10. LSU (2-0). The Tigers are off to a good start, including a win over TCU. But the big issue in Baton Rouge is their remaining schedule. They will play 5 ranked teams the rest of the way, with three of those games on the road. Three of the ranked teams they will have to play are in the top 9, and are ahead of them in these rankings as well (Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia). Look for Zach Mettenberger to struggle when the Tigers play at Georgia and at Alabama in these hostile SEC environments.