After the weekend’s college football action, a huge shakeup occurred in my rankings, given the fact that number 3, 6, 7, 8, and 9 in last week’s rankings all lost, and number 10 was a few fingertips away from losing. Let’s look at the new rankings.
1. Alabama (7-0). The Tide rolled over Arkansas, 52-0, in what seemed to be the only “normal” SEC game on Saturday. After the shutout, the Tide now lead the nation in defense. This week the Tide will play Tennessee, a team they should beat easily although the Vols did just upset South Carolina, before a bye week and a date with LSU. A matchup at Auburn on November 30 is probably the biggest test left for the Tide, after Auburn showed their strength upsetting Texas A&M, the only team so far to threaten the Tide. The SEC West will probably not be decided until that day.
2. Oregon (7-0). Oregon had previously been very close to being ranked 1st in this ranking, as for a while they were statistically better than Alabama. While the Oregon offense continues to impress, their defense has yet to statistically improve from one week to the next, allowing 3, 10, 14, 16, 16, 24, and 38 in their games. While the competition has been tougher as of late, that last game where they gave up 38 was against a Washington State team that is about average. The Ducks two biggest games are their next two games, first hosting UCLA this Saturday, before a bye and a trip to Stanford on a nationally televised Thursday night game that will be quite a showdown.
3. Florida State (6-0). The Seminoles left no doubt who the best team in the ACC is on Saturday night, winning their much-hyped game with Clemson 51-14. Freshman QB Jameis Winston shined on a national stage, and may now be the leading contender for the Heisman (but there’s a lot of football left). Not only did the offense shine in the blowout, but also the defense, who held Clemson to 7 points for the first 59 and a half minutes, before Clemson’s second-string offense scored in the closing seconds on FSU’s second-string defense. In the inaugural BCS rankings, the Seminoles are 2nd, helped by a strong computer ranking and their 3rd place standing in both major polls. Now the Seminoles have a potential revenge game at home against NC State, the team that spoiled their title chances a year ago, with a big game with fellow undefeated Miami, the ‘Noles biggest rival, lurking on November 2. I have FSU at 3rd, but they could easily have been 2nd and are even threatening for 1st.
4. Ohio State (7-0). Ohio State has the nation’s longest winning streak, 19 games, and Urban Meyer hasn’t lost as coach of the Buckeyes. So why are the Buckeyes struggling to keep up with the top 3? The Big Ten is down, and the Buckeyes haven’t played too tough of a schedule. Their best win had been a come-from-behind win at Northwestern, but that win has lost its status because Northwestern hasn’t won since that game on October 5. Now their biggest win is against Wisconsin, a 31-24 win on Sept. 28 in Columbus, but while Wisconsin is ranked in the 20s in both major polls, they are unranked in the BCS. The Buckeyes need a statement game, but their schedule doesn’t provide one. They host Penn State on Saturday, and they play at Michigan on November 30 in their toughest two games remaining. They will need some help from the opponents of the top 3 teams if they want to play for a national championship.
5. Missouri (7-0). The Tigers make their first appearance in this ranking this year, and it comes after a remarkable start to the season and a remarkable turnaround. Last year, in Missouri’s first season as a member of the SEC, they went 5-7 and failed to reach a bowl game. After 5 games this year, they were undefeated, but their best win was over Vanderbilt. That changed when the Tigers traveled to Georgia on October 12 and beat the Bulldogs 41-26. Gary Pinkel’s squad now had the attention of everyone in the SEC, and most everyone around the country. Some thought that surely they couldn’t keep it up against Florida, particularly with starting QB James Franklin out with an injury, but they beat the Gators 36-17. Now South Carolina comes to Columbia (that means the Gamecocks will travel to Columbia, MO from Columbia, SC) in a game that could, in all likelihood, clinch the SEC East for Missouri (they would still have to win two more games, but their schedule is favorable). This will be one of the bigger games in program history, as the Tigers try to continue their magical season. If Missouri wins on Saturday, circle the date: Texas A&M will be in Columbia on November 30.
6. Baylor (6-0). Baylor has impressed in their early games, winning all 6 and averaging 64.6 points per game, best in the country. Their game against Iowa State was my “Closer Than The Experts Think” pick last week, as I felt Iowa State would make the game closer than the 33-point spread. Instead, Baylor won 71-7, and now they make their first appearance in my rankings. While it can be said that their schedule has been weak, that will change quickly. After what should be an easy win against Kansas this week, and a bye next week, they will play Oklahoma at home and Texas Tech at a neutral site in back-to-back games. These two games will be the Bears’ big test, and will be followed by another test at Oklahoma State. Those 3 teams have just 2 losses between them.
7. Stanford (6-1). The Cardinal responded to their loss to Utah with a convincing 24-10 defeat of in-state rival UCLA, who was ranked in the top 10 of both polls and in this ranking. This week they will play Oregon State, who has cracked the rankings at #25, making them the 3rd ranked opponent in 4 weeks and the 4th in 6 weeks for the Stanford Cardinal. After the game with the Beavers, it won’t get any easier. On November 7, the Cardinal will have a highly anticipated showdown with Oregon, a game that may decide the Pac-12 North division title. David Shaw’s squad has been through a rough schedule, but they will be rewarded after the Oregon game with games they should win against USC, Cal, and Notre Dame.
8. Miami (FL) (6-0). The Hurricanes somehow survived a trip to Chapel Hill last Thursday night and remained unbeaten after Quinshad Davis dropped what would have been the game-winning pass for North Carolina in the end zone on the final play of the game. Miami hasn’t played as tough a schedule as some of the higher-ranked unbeaten teams, and the haven’t been blowing everybody out, but they are winning (and as Herm Edwards once said, “You play to win the game”). This week the Hurricanes will host Wake Forest in what should be an easy win, although if they look ahead too much they might struggle. That’s because their next game after the Deacons visit will be in Tallahassee against Florida State, a game that should have as much hype (if not even more) than last week’s FSU-Clemson game. That would be the biggest game in the classic FSU-Miami series since they met in the 2004 Orange Bowl (before Miami was a member of the ACC).
9. Clemson (6-1). Let’s face it; Clemson didn’t look very good in their game against Florida State on Saturday night. However, that game was against a very good football team, and they were dismantled by a young QB who is already one of the nation’s 3 or 4 best. That, in addition to the fact that all four of teams ranked 6-9 in this ranking lost, kept Clemson in the top 10, both in this ranking and in both polls, as well as the season’s inaugural BCS standings. With what’s left on the schedule, the Tigers could finish 11-1 if they take care of business. This week’s game at Maryland and next week’s game at Virginia could be potential trap games, but I expect the Tigers to come out motivated after being embarrassed by the Seminoles. After that, Clemson hosts Georgia Tech on a Thursday night, followed by The Citadel before their big rivalry game with South Carolina on November 30.
10. Texas Tech (7-0). The Red Raiders make their first appearance in these rankings, as they are off to an impressive start under Kliff Kingsbury, who was Texas Tech’s quarterback from 1999-2002, before becoming the head coach this year after a short pro career as a player and a few jobs as an assistant for Houston and Texas A&M. The Red Raiders biggest win, so far, came back on September 12, when they beat then 24th-ranked TCU 20-10. While they don’t necessarily have any other wins that jump off the page, their offense has been impressive, and they haven’t ever been in too much danger of losing. That might change on Saturday, as Texas Tech visits Oklahoma in a game nationally televised on FOX. After playing the Sooners, they will then play Oklahoma State and Kansas State at home, before playing Baylor at AT&T Stadium in Dallas on November 16, in what could be a huge game if both teams can remain unbeaten until then.
Also considered: Auburn (6-1), UCLA (5-1), Texas A&M (5-2), LSU (6-2), Fresno State (6-0), Northern Illinois (7-0), UCF (5-1), Louisville (6-1).
Fell From Rankings: LSU (6-2, lost to Ole Miss 27-24), Texas A&M (5-2, lost to Auburn 45-41), Louisville (6-1, lost to UCF 38-35), UCLA (5-1, lost to Stanford 24-10).
What were the odds at the end of last season that by the end of the 8th week of this season that Missouri, Baylor, Miami, and Texas Tech would be in the top 10, and Auburn (who was 3-9 last year!) would be just outside the top 10? This is turning in to one of the craziest (and best) college football seasons in quite a while.