After a couple of decent weeks of college football, the competition got more dramatic on Saturday. Three of the top 10 teams in last week’s rankings lost, and other teams won but didn’t look very impressive, leading to some big shift’s in this week’s rankings.
1. Ohio State (3-0, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 1st)
The Buckeyes won at home Saturday over Northern Illinois, but were not impressive, winning 20-13 over a non-Power Five opponent. The defense was impressive, holding the Huskies to 190 total yards, but their offense, hyped as one of the nation’s best, simply couldn’t put the Huskies away. These struggles almost landed Ohio State lower than the top spot in this week’s rankings, but this is, after all, the defending national champion, returning a majority of its players from last year, and they did struggle early a year ago en route to the title. They can stay #1 for now, ahead of a game with Western Michigan on Saturday.
2. Ole Miss (3-0, LW: 11th, AP: tie for 3rd)
For the second straight year, Ole Miss defeated Alabama, marking the first back-to-back wins over the Crimson Tide in program history, and the first win in Tuscaloosa since 1988. The Rebels make a big jump in these rankings, but it could have been even bigger. I considered putting the Rebels in the top spot, something 11 of the 61 AP Poll voters did on their ballots, but they didn’t exactly put Alabama away. The Rebels led 30-10, before the Tide made it 30-24, and then led 43-24, before the Tide got back within 43-37. Alabama also outgained Ole Miss 503-433 in the game, although Ole Miss forced five Alabama turnovers. I’m not trying to devalue Ole Miss’s win, which was the most impressive by anyone so far this season, but they’re not quite the #1 team in my opinion. The Rebels host Vanderbilt on Saturday.
3. TCU (3-0, LW: 3rd, AP: tie for 3rd)
TCU could have jumped higher in the conversation this week, with Ohio State’s struggles and Alabama’s loss, but they had struggles of their own, allowing 508 yards in a 56-37 win against SMU. The Mustangs were within a 42-37 margin midway through the fourth before TCU scored two touchdowns to put them away. It’s widely known the strength of this team is its offense, but the defense allowing 37 to a team that averaged just 11.3 points per game last year, even if they do have an improved offense this year under new coach Chad Morris, is cause for concern. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin threw for 454 yards and five touchdowns on the game, the Horned Frogs’ last contest before beginning conference play this week at Texas Tech.
4. Michigan State (3-0, LW: 4th, AP: 2nd)
The Spartans are another team that could have moved up some in the updated rankings, if not for a game against Air Force that looked easier on the surface than it really was. Sparty beat Air Force, 35-21, on the strength of 247 passing yards and four touchdowns from Connor Cook. However, the Falcons outgained Michigan State 428-324 for the contest, with the Spartans being held to 77 rushing yards, and the outcome may have been different had Air Force not had three turnovers. Despite all this, the Spartans jumped to 2nd in the AP Poll, giving the Big Ten each of the top two spots for the first time since 2006. This week the Spartans play Central Michigan in their final non-conference game.
5. Georgia (3-0, LW: 7th, AP: 7th)
The Bulldogs dominated South Carolina on Saturday, with Nick Chubb running for 159 yards and two touchdowns, and Grayson Lambert throwing for 330 yards and three touchdowns. Lambert was 24-for-25, completing 96% of his passes to set an NCAA single-game record (minimum 20 completions). Some will say the domination of the Gamecocks wasn’t as impressive because it was against a South Carolina team who is struggling, but after Georgia struggled themselves in a 31-14 win over Vanderbilt that was closer than the score sounds, this win showed Georgia’s potential for dominance in the SEC East. FCS opponent Southern comes to Sanford Stadium on Saturday, which is a nice tune-up game for Georgia as they prepare to host Alabama next week.
6. Clemson (3-0, LW: 5th, AP: 11th)
On a night when Clemson’s offense wasn’t its usual stellar self, its defense made the plays necessary to escape Louisville with a 20-17 road win. The Tigers held the Cardinals to 19 rushing yards, and 272 total yards, while quarterback Deshaun Watson was held to 199 yards and threw two interceptions. Running back Wayne Gallman did not score in the game, but his 139 rushing yards were a big contribution to the success Clemson’s offense did have. Now, while Clemson’s win wasn’t necessarily dominant, them dropping in these rankings has more to do with Georgia’s overwhelming dominance. Clemson has a bye this weekend to prepare for Notre Dame at home next week.
7. Baylor (2-0, LW: 6th, AP: 5th)
The Bears had a bye week, resting before their final non-conference game this Saturday against Rice, and the start of conference play next week at a neutral site against Texas Tech. Quarterback Seth Russell has filled Bryce Petty’s shoes well through two games, as although his completion percentage is low at 59.4% and he has thrown four interceptions, he has thrown for 718 yards and nine touchdowns. Like Clemson, the main reason for the Bears one-spot drop is that they were passed by Georgia after the Bulldogs’ impressive win.
8. LSU (2-0, LW: 12th, AP: 8th)
A skeptic would say LSU only had 74 passing yards in their 45-21 win over Auburn on Saturday. However, anyone who watched the game knows they didn’t have to throw the ball, because they could just hand it off to Leonard Fournette. The sophomore running back rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns, part of a 411 yard rushing performance by the LSU offense. Overall, LSU outgained Auburn 485-260 in their dominant win, as they led 24-0 after a quarter, and 38-7 late in the first half. The Tigers travel to Syracuse this week, as part of a two-week break from SEC play.
9. Notre Dame (3-0, LW: 13th, AP: 6th)
The Irish were impressive in a 30-22 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday, in a game which they led 30-7 midway through the fourth before the Yellow Jackets staged a late rally to make the score close. DeShone Kizer, the quarterback making his first start after an injury to starter Malik Zaire, was 21-for-30 for 242 yards and a touchdown, filling in more nicely than some, including me, expected against an opponent as strong as the Yellow Jackets. CJ Prosise ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns in the win. The Irish seem to have a very solid team through a quarter of the regular season, and this week they host Massachusetts, a week before a potentially season-defining game at Clemson.
10. Oregon (2-1, LW: 10th, AP: 13th)
Oregon rode a 33-7 first half advantage to a 61-28 win over Georgia State on Saturday. The Ducks rushed for 311 yards in the game, while holding the Panthers to 113 yards on the ground. Jeff Lockie, filling in at quarterback for the injured Vernon Adams, was 23-for-31 for 228 and a touchdown. While Georgia State, who is playing their third season in the FBS and has only won a single game, was an easy test for a program of Oregon’s caliber, the Ducks will face a more difficult test this week, as they begin conference play when Utah comes to Eugene,
11. Alabama (2-1, LW: 2nd, AP: 12th)
12. UCLA (3-0, LW: 16th, AP: 9th)
13. Georgia Tech (2-1, LW: 8th, AP: 20th)
14. Florida State (3-0, LW: 15th, AP: 10th)
15. Arizona (3-0, LW: 14th, AP: 16th)
16. Texas A&M (3-0, LW: 17th, AP: 14th)
17. USC (2-1, LW: 9th, AP: 19th)
18. Oklahoma (3-0, LW: 20th, AP: 15th)
19. Wisconsin (2-1, LW :22nd, AP: tie for 22nd)
20, Missouri (3-0, LW: 19th, AP: 25th)
21. West Virginia (2-0, LW: 21st, AP: unranked)
22. Stanford (2-1, LW: unranked, AP: 21st)
23. Northwestern (3-0, LW: 24th, AP: 17th)
24. BYU (2-1, LW: 18th, AP: tie for 22nd)
25. Utah (3-0, LW: 25th, AP: 18th)
Fell from rankings: Auburn (2-1, LW: 23rd, AP: unranked)
Also ranked in AP Poll: Oklahoma State (3-0, 24th)