There isn’t much change among the top 10 in these rankings this week, but there is plenty of change in college football. Since Saturday’s slate of games, USC fired Steve Sarkisian and Maryland fired Randy Edsall, while South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier resigned (according to him, this isn’t a retirement but a resignation). In addition, one of the top 10 teams in these rankings lost their starting quarterback for an unusual reason (see below). In general, there’s been plenty of change in these rankings overall this year, as three of my current top 10 and 14 of my current top 25 began the season unranked (including every team from 16th down on this list). With every team among this top 25, along with other worthy contenders just barely on the outside, all having one loss or less, the race the to College Football Playoff should be exceptional, as we near the season’s halfway mark.
1. TCU (6-0, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 3rd)
The Horned Frogs survived a trip to “The Little Apple”, but it wasn’t easy, as they overcame a 42-31 deficit with 12:21 to play to come back to beat a solid Kansas State (3-2) team, 52-45. In the team’s six games, quarterback Trevone Boykin has thrown for 2103 yards and 21 touchdowns, placing him right in the thick of the still-too-early Heisman race, although he did throw two interceptions against the Wildcats. TCU travels to Iowa State (2-3) this week.
2. Ohio State (6-0, LW: 2nd, AP: 1st)
After Maryland (2-4) and Ohio State were tied in the third, the Buckeyes scored four straight touchdowns to take a 49-21 lead on the Terrapins, before winning 49-28, shortly before Maryland fired Randy Edsall. Cardale Jones threw for 291 yards and two touchdowns in the win, as the Buckeyes totaled 499 yards of offense. While the Buckeyes stay in the top spot in the AP Poll, and second here, they will need to improve their performance after a set of closer-than-expected wins, and that can start with a primetime game this week at home against Penn State (5-1).
3. Clemson (5-0, LW: 4th, AP: 5th)
The Tigers doubled up Georgia Tech (2-4) in first downs (24-12) and more than doubled the Yellow Jackets in total yards (538-230), on their way to a dominant 43-24 win that wasn’t even as remotely close as that sounds. While quarterback Deshaun Watson has been as good as expected this season, Clemson’s breakout star has been running back Wayne Gallman, who broke the 100-yard mark again Saturday, doing so for the third straight game. The Tigers play Boston College (3-3) this week, a game that, because of the Tigers undefeated record and high ranking, coach Dabo Swinney says is the biggest game of the year, as he has with each game so far.
4. Michigan State (6-0, LW: 3rd, AP: 7th)
Sparty drops a spot in these rankings, after playing a too close for comfort-type of game against Rutgers (2-3), winning 31-24 when the Scarlet Knights spiked the ball on a fourth down play in the closing seconds, sealing the Spartans’ win. The AP Poll voters weren’t as kind, dropping them four spots from third to seventh. Michigan State’s biggest game so far is this week, when they travel to Ann Arbor as 7-point underdogs to take on rival Michigan (5-1), who is ranked 12th after shutting out three straight opponents.
5. Baylor (5-0, LW: 5th, AP: 2nd)
The AP Poll moved the Bears up a spot from third to second after a 66-7 thrashing of Kansas (0-5). While the score and the stats were impressive (Baylor outgained the Jayhawks 644-227), Kansas is a winless team who will be heavy underdogs in every game the rest of the way and could go 0-12. I don’t agree that that was enough for them to pass TCU, who showed the perseverance to come back from 11 behind in the fourth quarter to beat a decent Kansas State club, on the road. West Virginia (3-2), who just fell out of the rankings after back-to-back losses to ranked teams Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, visits Waco this week.
6. Alabama (5-1, LW: 6th, AP: 10th)
Arkansas (2-4) played a good game against the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, but the Hogs ran out of steam in the fourth quarter, as Alabama turned a 10-7 third quarter lead into a 27-14 victory. Running back Derrick Henry ran for 95 yards and a touchdown, although in the team’s previous two SEC games, he had run for 127 and 148 yards, almost making a solid day against Arkansas seem sub-par. This week, the Tide play their fourth game out of seven so far against a ranked opponent, as they travel to ninth-ranked Texas A&M (5-0).
7. LSU (5-0, LW: 7th, AP: 6th)
The Tigers got a de facto home game, albeit in front of a half-empty stadium, in Baton Rouge after flooding forced South Carolina (2-4) to move their home game away from Columbia, and the Tigers won 45-24, in what turned out to be Steve Spurrier’s final game with the Gamecocks. The Tigers outgained the Gamecocks 612-283, while running back Leonard Fournette continued his superb season, rushing for 158 yards and a touchdown, passing the 1,000 yard mark for the season in just the fifth game (1,022 yards, 12 touchdowns). While the Tigers have faced two ranked opponents this year, both of them have since fallen out. However, they face a much tougher ranked opponent this week, when eighth ranked Florida (6-0) visits Death Valley.
8. Utah (5-0, LW: 9th, AP: 4th)
Utah got a chance to show its strengths in a primetime game against California (5-1), and gave the Bears their first loss, 30-24, as Cal quarterback Jared Goff threw five interceptions. Utes running back Devontae Booker was their offensive star, rushing for 222 yards and two touchdowns. Utah is now the favorite to win the Pac-12 South, something they’ve never done, although they just joined the league in 2011. The Utes get another primetime home game this week, hosting an underachieving Arizona State (3-2) team.
9. Texas A&M (5-0, LW: 8th, AP: 9th)
Coming off their 30-17 win over Mississippi State, the Aggies had an open weekend. Therefore, the Aggies, led by quarterback Kyle Allen (1,274 yards, 12 touchdowns, 2 interceptions), had an extra week to prepare for a big test, as this week they host 10th-ranked Alabama (5-1).
10. Florida (6-0, LW: 13th, AP: 8th)
I didn’t even have the Gators going to a bowl game before the season, but they’ve already locked a bowl bid up, winning their sixth game Saturday over Missouri, 21-3. They’ve completely exceeded my expectations of a team who has struggled in recent years and has a new coaching staff, but in my mind Jim McElwain is one of the top candidates for coach of the year. However, quarterback Will Grier (1,204 yards, 10 touchdowns, 3 interceptions) was suspended Monday for use of performance enhancing drugs, after he says he took an over-the-counter supplement before checking with Florida’s training staff to see if it was okay. Florida will appeal, but Grier is ineligible until the appeal is heard. That makes the Gators climb tougher, particularly with the timing of the suspension, as the Gators travel to sixth-ranked LSU (5-0) this week.
11. Florida State (5-0, LW: 12th, AP: 11th)
12. Michigan (5-1, LW: 20th, AP: 12th)
13. Ole Miss (5-1, LW: 14th, AP: 13th)
14. Notre Dame (5-1, LW: 16th, AP: 14th)
15. UCLA (4-1, LW: 15th, AP: 18th)
16. Stanford (4-1, LW: 17th, AP: 15th)
17. Oklahoma State (6-0, LW: 21st, AP: 16th)
18. Iowa (6-0, LW: 23rd, AP: 17th)
19. Oklahoma (4-1, LW: 11th, AP: 19th)
20. Toledo (5-0, LW: 25th, AP: 22nd)
21. Temple (5-0, LW: unranked, AP: unranked)
22. Memphis (5-0, LW: unranked, AP: unranked)
23. Houston (5-0, LW: unranked, AP: 24th)
24. Northwestern (5-1, LW: 19th, AP: 20th)
25. California (5-1, LW: 22nd, AP: 23rd)
Also ranked in AP Poll: Boise State (5-1, 21st), Duke (5-1, 24th)
Fell from rankings: USC (3-2, LW: 10th), Georgia (4-2, LW: 18th), West Virginia (3-2, LW: 24th)