Late Saturday night, as Utah was finishing off a slaughter of Oregon, UCLA was dominating Arizona, and USC was running away from Arizona State, with an excellent performance by Michigan and an excellent comeback by Florida already taking place, Marty Smith of ESPN tweeted “This is one of those Saturdays that define seasons.” He’s right, and there is a lot of movement in this week’s rankings to prove it, as many teams made a definitive statement, and others proved they don’t even belong in the discussion.
1. Ohio State (4-0, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 1st)
The Buckeyes defeated Western Michigan, 38-12, on the strength of a balanced offensive attack that totaled 511 yards. Both Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, the two quarterbacks who have split time after a highly publicized quarterback battle, have a 1-1 touchdown to interception ratio, with the pair combining for six touchdowns and six picks, showing plenty of room for improvement. There is no such controversy at running back, where Ezekiel Elliott has rushed for 455 yards and five touchdowns through the first four games. Ohio State plays fellow undefeated Indiana on the road this week, but is heavily favored, by 21.
2. Ole Miss (4-0, LW: 1st, AP: 3rd)
Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly had his worst game of the young season Saturday, throwing two interceptions, but Ole Miss survived, beating Vanderbilt, 27-16. Kelly’s stat line for the season, however, is still very good, as he has completed 61.7% of his passes for 1,215 yards, 10 touchdowns, and only three interceptions. The Rebels travel to #25 Florida on Saturday, a game which may be tougher than was expected before the season.
3. TCU (4-0, LW: 3rd, AP: 4th)
TCU struggled mightily on defense against Texas Tech’s strong offense, but quarterback Trevone Boykin saved the day, throwing for 485 yards and four touchdowns, including a near-miracle touchdown off a deflection in the final minute, keeping TCU showed some offensive power of their own and kept their perfect record intact. TCU’s offense is gaining 637 yards per game so far, making the Horned Frogs attack an extremely potent weapon. This week, TCU hosts in-state rival Texas.
4. UCLA (4-0, LW: 12th, AP: 7th)
In a game when I thought Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon would be strong, UCLA held him to 55 passing yards before he left with an injury, while it was Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen who shined, as UCLA dominated Arizona on the road, 56-30. The stats were closer than you might expect with that score, but the Bruins forced three Wildcats turnovers, taking a 28-7 lead through a quarter and a 42-14 lead at half. Rosen, who some, including me, expected to be a weak spot as a freshman quarterback on an experienced roster, has been a big part of the Bruins’ success, throwing for 964 yards for a passer rating of 137.3 so far this season. Arizona State visits the Bruins in Pasadena this Saturday.
5. Michigan State (4-0, LW: 4th, AP: 2nd)
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Spartans only led Central Michigan 17-10, but a pair of late rushing touchdowns by Gerald Holmes gave the Spartans a 30-10 victory over the Chippewas. The Spartans were actually outgained in the contest, 340-324, which is very surprising since the offense, and particularly Connor Cook, has been putting up pretty big numbers so far. The Spartans biggest win, against Oregon, doesn’t look as impressive after the Ducks’ 62-20 embarrassment at home against Utah, which coupled with the Spartans’ sluggish performance, causes them to drop a spot, although the AP Poll still ranks them second. Purdue visits East Lansing this week, as the Spartans begin Big Ten play.
6. Georgia (4-0, LW: 5th, AP: 8th)
Georgia falls a spot due to UCLA’s jump, having done nothing at all to deserve the drop. In fact, the Bulldogs were dominant Saturday, albeit against an FCS opponent, in a 48-6 thrashing of Southern. Quarterback Greyson Lambert continued his recent strong form, and in his last two games has now completed 33 of his 35 pass attempts. However, Lambert isn’t the team’s star, as running back Nick Chubb has rushed for 599 yards and six touchdowns through four games. The Bulldogs offense overall has rushed for 1,031 yards, a very impressive mark. The Dawgs face their toughest test yet this week, however, when they host Alabama.
7. Clemson (3-0, LW: 6th, AP: 12th)
The Tigers had a bye over the weekend, giving them a chance to work on the things they struggled with in last week’s win over Louisville. Improvement will likely be necessary, as the Tigers play host to Notre Dame in primetime this weekend.
8. Baylor (3-0, LW: 7th, AP: 5th)
To say Baylor dominated Rice would be an understatement, as the Bears were strides better than the Owls in every facet of the game in a 70-17 win. Six of Seth Russell’s 12 completions were for touchdowns, as he threw for 277 yards, while Shock Linwood and Terence Williams both topped the 100 yard plateau in rushing. Both, in fact, are averaging over 100 per contest, and for any team to have two backs averaging over 100 rushing yards per game is quite a feat. Baylor’s defense, which I questioned earlier in the season, held the Owls to 253 total yards in the contest. The Bears begin conference play this week at a neutral site in Dallas against Texas Tech, who nearly knocked off TCU last week.
9. LSU (3-0, LW: 8th, AP: 9th)
The Tigers traveled to Syracuse, where running back Leonard Fournette did some traveling of his own, rushing for 244 yards and two touchdowns, as LSU defeated the Orange, 34-24. For the season, quarterback Brandon Harris is only averaging 101 yards per game, but that’s only because he hasn’t had to pass much–Fournette has already provided 631 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in the team’s first three contests, with two of those against ranked opponents. While it is very early, the sophomore back is the consensus Heisman front-runner, at least for now. LSU hosts non-conference foe Eastern Michigan this week.
10. Notre Dame (4-0, LW: 9th, AP: 6th)
The Fighting Irish were impressive, particularly after a slow start, against an overmatched UMass team on Saturday, winning 62-27. The Irish only led 21-20 midway through the second, before scoring 41 unanswered points. C.J. Prosise rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns, bringing his season totals to 600 yards and six scores, while Josh Adams added 133 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback DeShone Kizer has been strong in the just over two games since Malik Zaire went down with an injury, throwing for 541 yards and five touchdowns, while completing 67.7% of his passes. The Irish have a potentially season-defining game this week, when they travel to Death Valley to take on Clemson.
11. Alabama (3-1, LW: 11th, AP: 13th)
12. Utah (4-0, LW: 25th, AP: 10th)
13. USC (3-1, LW: 17th, AP: 17th)
14. Florida State (3-0, LW: 14th, AP: 11th)
15. Texas A&M (4-0, LW: 16th, AP: 14th)
16. Oklahoma (3-0, LW: 18th, AP: 15th)
17. West Virginia (3-0, LW: 21st, AP: 23rd)
18. Wisconsin (3-1, LW: 19th, AP: 19th)
19. Stanford (3-1, LW: 22nd, AP: 18th)
20. Michigan (3-1, LW: unranked, AP: 22nd)
21. Oklahoma State (4-0, LW: unranked, AP: 20th)
22. Mississippi State (3-1, LW: unranked, AP: 21st)
23. Northwestern (4-0, LW: 23rd, AP: 16th)
24. Florida (4-0, LW: unranked, AP: 25th)
25. California (4-0, LW: unranked, AP: 24th)
Fell from rankings: Oregon (2-2, LW: 10th), Georgia Tech (2-2, LW: 13th), Arizona (3-1, LW: 15th), Missouri (3-1, LW: 20th), BYU (2-2, LW: 24th)