College Football Power Rankings for Week Five

1. Clemson (5-0, Last Week: 3rd, AP Poll: 2nd)
After the Tigers’ 31-17 win at Virginia Tech, they clearly have the best resume of anyone. Clemson has three wins against the current AP Top 25 (Virginia Tech, Louisville, Auburn)–no one else has more than one–with two on the road. They are playing better than anyone, including Alabama, and have only been kept from the top spot because the Tide, who were the top-ranked team in the preseason, hasn’t struggled with anyone (more on that below). It’s the Tigers, not the Tide, with the best resume right now.

2. Alabama (5-0, LW: 1st, AP: 1st)
Pushing Alabama down to the second spot is in no way a knock to their early-season success. In fact, it’s almost unfair to knock the Tide down a spot, given their 125-3 advantage over the last two weeks, and a majority of the AP Poll voters decided not to punish Alabama for Clemson’s success, which is out of the Tide’s control. But while Alabama has simply been dominant, they don’t have the resume to match Clemson, at least not right now.

3. Oklahoma (4-0, LW: 2nd, AP: 3rd)
The Sooners are coming off a bye week, and face Iowa State on Saturday. As is the case with Alabama, Oklahoma dropping a spot is not a slight to them, but is simply because Clemson has earned the right to move up.

4. Penn State (5-0, LW: 4th, AP: 4th)
Penn State’s game against Indiana had the narrative of Nittany Lion domination from the opening kickoff, which was returned for a touchdown by Saquon Barkley, as they went on to beat Indiana 45-14, led by DaeSean Hamilton’s three receiving touchdowns. The Nittany Lions travel to Northwestern on Saturday before a bye next week, but have back-to-back games against Michigan and Ohio State lurking on Oct. 21 and Oct. 28.

5. Georgia (5-0, LW: 8th, AP: 5th)
A year after losing to Tennessee in a heartbreaking last-second Hail Mary, the Bulldogs found revenge and then some with a 41-0 drubbing in Knoxville, giving the Volunteers their worst home loss since 1905. While the Dawgs lack the resume of some of the teams above them–their best win is at Notre Dame–they have nonetheless looked more and more impressive each week.

6. Michigan (4-0, LW: 6th, AP: 7th)
The Wolverines are coming off a bye week as they face in-state rival Michigan State on Saturday night. While Michigan clearly has the better team on paper, history shows you should throw out the records and the stats as bragging rights are on the line in the Great Lake State.

7. Washington (5-0, LW: 7th, AP: 6th)
After leading by just seven at halftime, the Huskies scored 35 in the second half to pull away from Oregon State, 42-7. The Huskies schedule gets progressively tougher leading to a huge November against Oregon, Stanford, Utah and Washington State.

8. Wisconsin (4-0, LW: 9th, AP: 9th)
The Badgers held Northwestern to 25 rushing yards in a 33-24 win over the Wildcats, coming off a bye the previous week. Wisconsin will travel to Nebraska this week before back-to-back Big Ten home games with Purdue and Maryland.

9. Washington State (5-0, LW: 20th, AP: 11th)
While Washington gets a lot of the attention in the Pac-12 after reaching the College Football Playoff last year, the Cougars made their own statement on Friday night with a 30-27 win over USC. The win was the Cougars’ first over a top five opponent since 1992, and their first over USC since 2002, giving them a 5-0 record for the first time since 2001. Staying perfect won’t be easy, though, as the Cougs travel to Oregon on Saturday.

10. TCU (4-0, LW: 10th, AP: 8th)
The Horned Frogs enjoyed a bye, fresh off their big 44-31 win over Oklahoma State. TCU enters Saturday’s game against West Virginia with a 17-0 record at home as a top 10-ranked team under coach Gary Patterson.

Worth a Mention: Troy (4-1)
In 2008, Troy led LSU 31-3 before the Tigers pulled off their largest-ever comeback in a 40-31 win. Saturday, Troy was able to finish off the upset, winning 24-21 in Baton Rouge to hand the Tigers their first home non-conference loss since 2000, ending a 49-game streak. The Trojans, who were paid $985,000 to come play LSU, are now 4-1, and have steadily progressed since their season-opening loss to Boise State.

11. Ohio State (4-1, LW: 11th, AP: 10th)
12. Auburn (4-1, LW: 14th, AP: 12th)
13. Miami (3-0, LW: 13th, AP: 13th)
14. USC (4-1, LW: 5th, AP: 14th)
15. Oklahoma State (4-1, LW: 15th, AP: 15th)

16. Florida (3-1, LW: 16th, AP: 21st)
17. Virginia Tech (4-1, LW: 12th, AP: 16th)
18. Utah (4-0, LW: 17th, AP: 20th)
19. South Florida (5-0, LW: 19th, AP: 19th)
20. San Diego State (5-0, LW: 19th, AP: 19th)

21. Louisville (4-1, LW: 21st, AP: 17th)
22. UCF (3-0, LW: unranked, AP: 25th)
23. NC State (4-1, LW: 24th, AP: 24th)
24. Florida State (1-2, LW: 25th, AP: unranked)
25. West Virginia (3-1, LW: unranked, AP: 23rd)

Also ranked in AP Poll: Notre Dame (3-1, 21st)

Fell from rankings: Mississippi State (3-2, LW: 22nd), LSU (3-2, LW: 23rd)


College Football Power Rankings for Week Four

1. Alabama (4-0, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 1st)
In arguably Vanderbilt’s biggest home game in years–the Commodores entered undefeated–the Tide destroyed them, 59-0. Now they face old nemesis Ole Miss, although the Rebels are nowhere close to the team that beat the Tide in 2014-15.


2. Oklahoma (4-0, LW: 2nd, AP: 3rd)
The Sooners trailed winless Baylor 31-28 late in the third, but responded with a strong fourth quarter to survive. The Sooners enter a bye week with the  nation’s longest road winning streak at 13 games, and have also matched longest conference win streak in school history at 17.


3. Clemson (4-0, LW: 3rd, AP: 2nd)
After the Tigers, as five-touchdown favorites, entered the final quarter tied against Boston College, they outgained the Eagles 213-37 in the fourth on their way to 27 unanswered points and a 34-7 win. Now the Tigers will face a tough road test against Virginia Tech, though they aced the last such test at Louisville two weeks ago.


4. Penn State (4-0, LW: 4th, AP: 4th)
Night games in Iowa City tend to be dangerous for highly-ranked teams, and it took until the last play for the Nittany Lions to avoid such doom, scoring on a 7-yard pass from Trace McSorley to Juwan Johnson as time expired. The Lions now host Indiana, with a Happy Valley showdown against Michigan looming.


5. USC (4-0, LW: 6th, AP: 5th)
Following the theme among several highly-ranked teams, USC’s win at Cal wasn’t convincing–they were tied 13-13 going to the fourth quarter–but it was enough, with a 17-point fourth leading to a 30-20 win, although they did force six turnovers in the game. The Trojans will be tested this week as they head to Washington State.


6. Michigan (4-0, LW: 7th, AP: 8th)
After trailing 10-7 at half, the Wolverines shut out Purdue in the second half, holding the Boilermakers to just 10 yards of offense in the second half on their way to a 28-10 win. Now the Wolverines get an off week to figure out the health of quarterback Wilton Speight, who left Saturday’s game in the first quarter and was relieved by John O’Korn, who helped lead the team’s second-half surge.


7. Washington (4-0, LW: 8th, AP: 6th)
In last year’s Pac-12 Championship Game, Washington beat Colorado 41-10; Saturday, they put on an encore performance, winning 37-10 on the road in Boulder. Myles Gaskin rushed for 202 yards in the win for the Huskies, who will travel to Oregon State this weekend, where they will likely be 30-plus point favorites.


8. Georgia (4-0, LW: 12th, AP: 7th)
A week after Mississippi State’s impressive blowout of LSU, it was the Bulldogs from Athens–not the ones from Starkville–that impressed on Saturday in a 31-3 rout. Running back Nick Chubb scored twice, giving him six touchdowns for the year, as the Dawgs collectively rushed for 203 yards. Georgia faces back-to-back SEC East road games at Tennessee and Vanderbilt, but then won’t play a true road game again until November 11.


9. Wisconsin (3-0, LW: 9th, AP: 10th)
Coming off a 40-6 road thrashing of BYU, the Badgers enjoyed a bye week Saturday and return to action this week as they host Northwestern. The Badgers have the easiest schedule of the top ten, as they won’t face a currently-ranked team until November 18 (Michigan).


10. TCU (4-0, LW: 20th, AP: 9th)
The Horned Frogs picked up one of the most impressive wins of anyone so far this season when they beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater, 44-31, leading my as many as 20 early in the fourth. Darius Anderson ran for a career-high 160 yards and three touchdowns, and the Horned Frogs forced four Cowboy turnovers in the game. TCU now has a bye ahead of next week’s home game against #23 West Virginia.


Worth a Mention: UCF (2-0)
After missing two games due to Hurricane Irma, the Knights of UCF showed some serious meddle–and no rust whatsoever–when they went to previously unbeaten Maryland and won 38-10. The Knights should contend in the American Athletic Conference, and may threaten to be the “Group of Five” representative in the New Years Six bowl games.


11. Ohio State (3-1, LW: 11th, AP: 11th)
12. Virginia Tech (4-0, LW: 13th, AP: 12th)
13. Miami (2-0, LW: 14th, AP: 14th)
14. Auburn (3-1, LW: 15th, AP: 13th)
15. Oklahoma State (3-1, LW: 5th, AP: 15th)


16. Florida (2-1, LW: 16th, AP: 21st)
17. Utah (4-0, LW: 18th, AP: 20th)
18. South Florida (4-0, LW: 19th, AP: 18th)
19. San Diego State (4-0, LW: 21st, AP: 19th)
20. Washington State (4-0, LW: 22nd, AP: 16th)


21. Louisville (3-1, LW: 25th, AP: 17th)
22. Mississippi State (3-1, LW: 17th, AP: 24th)
23. LSU (3-1, LW: 24th, AP: 25th)
24. NC State (3-1, LW: unranked, AP: unranked)
25. Florida State (0-2, LW: 10th, AP: unranked)


Also ranked in AP Poll: Notre Dame (3-1, 22nd), West Virginia (3-1, 23rd)


Fell from rankings: Colorado (3-1, LW: 23rd)

College Football Fast Five and Power Rankings: Week Two

Fast Five:  Week Two Storylines

Mayfield, Oklahoma top Ohio State

A year after Ohio State beat Oklahoma in Norman, the Sooners returned the favor in Columbus with a 31-16 victory over the Buckeyes.

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield led the Sooners to 28 second-half points, going 27-35 for the game with three touchdowns.  His Ohio State counterpart J.T. Barrett completed just 19 of his 35 attempts with an interception.  Mayfield outpassed Barrett 386 yards to 183.

The Sooners also controlled the ball well, possessing it for 35:17.  The result, despite a 3-3 halftime tie and a 17-13 game through three quarters, was a convincing Oklahoma win that moved them to second in the AP Poll.

Clemson defense stifles Auburn

In a battle of Tigers, Clemson’s offense totaled just 284 yards, but that was enough to beat Auburn 14-6 after an incredible defensive effort by the Tigers in orange and purple.

Clemson held Auburn to 117 total yards, including just 38 rushing yards in 42 attempts.  While Clemson’s own offense didn’t have their best night (284 yards), and while Clemson had two turnovers against none by Auburn, Clemson made enough plays to win–they were 9-for-16 on third down, and got two rushing touchdowns from QB Kelly Bryant, while Auburn’s failure to get touchdowns on two first-half red zone trips came back to haunt them.

Auburn was unable to return the favor for a 2011 loss at Clemson–their first as defending national champions–and their 2016 loss to Clemson in Auburn; Clemson passed their first big test in their title defense.

USC races past Stanford

USC dominated Stanford in every statistical category–the Trojans outgained the Cardinal 623-342, outpassed them 316-172, outrushed them 307-170, and had 28 first downs to Stanford’s 16–on their way to a 42-24 win.

Several Trojans had huge nights:  QB Sam Darnold was 21-26 for 316 yards and four touchdowns, with nine of those receptions for 121 yards on connections with Deontay Burnett, who scored twice, while Stephen Carr rushed for 119 yards on just 11 carries and Ronald Jones II ran for 116 with two touchdowns on 23 attempts.

If not for two pro-Cardinal factors, Stanford may have lost by more than 18.  Darnold did throw two interceptions–the only knock on an otherwise excellent game by the early-season Heisman candidate–and Bryce Love ran for 160 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

A week after struggling to top Western Michigan, the Trojans reasserted themselves as Pac-12 favorites by this commanding win over Stanford, who was coming off a 62-7 win over Rice in their opener.

Late turnover dooms Irish in slugfest

Neither team was particularly awe-inspiring in the first regular-season meeting between traditional powers Georgia and Notre Dame, but a late fumble recovery by the Bulldogs sealed a 20-19 win in South Bend.

It was a sloppy game by all accounts–the teams were a combined 7-35 on third down, totaled 20 penalties for 189 yards, and committed two turnovers each.  Irish QB Brandon Wimbush was 19-39 for 211 yards and rushed for the team’s only touchdown, as the Irish rushed for just 55 while settling for four field goals.  Georgia managed just 141 yards in the air, but 185 rushing yards helped lead them to the win.

After a back-and-forth game, Georgia took the lead with 3:39 left on a go-ahead field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship, a former walk-on who was just placed on scholarship this past week, before the fumble with 1:27 to play clinched the Georgia victory.

Hurricane Irma alters schedule

While the sports impact is a minor detail of Hurricane Irma, given its sheer magnitude and its impact on Florida and the southeast, the storm has affected college football’s schedule for both Week Two and Week Three.

Games in the state of Florida that were cancelled over the weekend include Memphis at Central Florida, Louisiana-Monroe at Florida State and Northern Colorado at Florida.  Miami’s game at Arkansas State and South Florida’s game at Connecticut were also cancelled due to travel concerns.  None of these games are expected to be made up (all are non-conference games except South Florida-Connecticut).

The Miami at Florida State game scheduled for this weekend has been postponed to Oct. 7, which was originally an open week for both teams.  As a result, Miami’s game against Georgia Tech that was originally scheduled for the following Thursday (Oct. 12) has been moved to Oct. 14.

Week Two Power Rankings

1. Alabama (2-0, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 1st)
After QB Jalen Hurts rushed for 154 yards in a 41-10 win over Fresno State, the Tide will face Colorado State; the Rams should be one of the best non-Power Five teams this season, but don’t expect them to be competitive in Tuscaloosa.

2. Oklahoma (2-0, LW: 6th, AP: 2nd)
The Sooners have the most impressive win so far after their convincing win at Ohio State.  They begin a stretch of three ranked opponents in four games on October 21, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t enter that stretch at 6-0.

3. USC (2-0, LW: 4th, AP: 4th)
The win over Stanford was a defensive improvement for the Trojans, who had looked sluggish against Western Michigan.  While they’ll be heavy favorites in the coming weeks, the next three teams they face can each score a lot of points if that defense doesn’t continue improving.

4. Penn State (2-0, LW: 3rd, AP: 5th)
The Nittany Lions avenged last year’s loss to Pittsburgh with a 33-14 win.  Looking ahead, their two biggest games (and the only two they won’t be favored in) are back-to-back, against Michigan and Ohio State the last two weekends in October.

5. Oklahoma State (2-0, LW: 5th, AP: 9th)
A 44-7 win at South Alabama isn’t impressive on paper, but give the Cowboys credit for agreeing to play the Jaguars, who were hosting their biggest home game ever, on the road.  This week they travel to Pittsburgh, who they beat last year in a 45-38 track meet.

6. Clemson (2-0, LW: 9th, AP: 3rd)
I still have questions about Clemson’s offense, but they answered a lot of questions about their defense in holding Auburn to 117 yards.  That said, the defense isn’t out of the woods–this week the Tigers travel to Louisville and face defending Heisman winner Lamar Jackson.

7. Michigan (2-0, LW: 7th, AP: 7th)
On one hand, the Wolverines looked unconvincing at times against Cincinnati, even in a 36-14 win.  On the other hand, they have two games they should win easily and a bye week before facing Michigan State on Oct. 7.

8. Washington (2-0, LW: 12th, AP: 6th)
The Huskies have been quietly solid, outscoring their first two opponents 93-21, although their toughest opponent so far was Rutgers.  This week they finish their non-conference slate with Fresno State, before a Pac-12 Championship Game rematch with Colorado to open league play.

9. Wisconsin (2-0, LW: 11th, AP: 10th)
The Badgers, who beat Florida Atlantic 31-14 over the weekend and travel to BYU this weekend, have the easiest schedule of any top 10 team–they will face one team that is currently ranked the entire season (Nov. 18 vs. Michigan).

10. Florida State (0-1, LW: 10th, AP: 11th)
Hurricane Irma has compromised the Seminoles’ schedule; they will resume play Sep. 23 against N.C. State after a 21-day layoff.

Worth a Mention:  Duke (2-0)
Northwestern was ranked 23rd in these rankings last week, reason being that they were an experienced team from a Power Five league that I thought could be a sleeper in the Big Ten West.  Then they met Duke:  the Blue Devils outgained the Wildcats a staggering 538-191, held the Wildcats to 22 rushing yards, and gained 34 first downs to Northwestern’s 15 while possessing the ball for 41:18.  I don’t have the Blue Devils ranked, but I’m surprised they didn’t get any AP Poll votes (they did get three votes in the Coaches’ Poll).

11. Ohio State (1-1, LW: 2nd, AP: 8th)
12. Georgia (2-0, LW: 13th, AP: 13th)
13. Auburn (1-1, LW: 8th, AP: 15th)
14. Miami (1-0, LW: 14th, AP: 17th)
15. LSU (2-0, LW: 16th, AP: 12th)

16. Kansas State (2-0, LW: 17th, AP: 18th)
17. Virginia Tech (2-0, LW: 18th, AP: 16th)
18. Utah (2-0, LW: 20th, AP: unranked)
19. Florida (0-1, LW: 19th, AP: 24th)
20. Stanford (1-1, LW: 15th, AP: 19th)

21. Louisville (2-0, LW: 21st, AP: 14th)
22. South Florida (2-0, LW: 22nd, AP: 22nd)
23. Tennessee (2-0, LW: 24th, AP: 23rd)
24. UCLA (2-0, LW: 25th, AP: 25th)
25. TCU (2-0, LW: unranked, AP: 20th)

Also Ranked in AP Poll:  Washington State (2-0, AP: 21st)

Fell from Rankings:  Northwestern (1-1, LW: 23rd)

College Football Fast Five and Power Rankings: Week One

Fast Five:  Week One Storylines

Alabama beats Florida State convincingly

The #1 vs #3 showdown to start the season on Saturday–possibly the biggest opening weekend game ever–ended with Alabama winning convincingly, 24-7.  The overall stats were, for the most part, fairly even for the game, except for turnovers.

The Crimson Tide, who didn’t turn the ball over in the game, intercepted Deondre Francois twice, blocked a field goal and a punt and recovered a fumble on a kickoff.  That, coupled with Florida State being held to 40 rushing yards, left Alabama to dominate the ‘Noles, winning comfortably even though the Tide themselves had just 269 yards of offense.

Florida State loses a game… and a quarterback

The Seminoles loss naturally hurts their Playoff chances, as they now they likely have to win out to qualify.  But their season took an additional unfortunate turn when QB Deondre Francois went down in the fourth quarter with a season-ending patella injury.

Francois hadn’t played his best game–he was 19-for-33 for XX yards with a touchdown and two interceptions–but the sophomore quarterback would have been a big key for the ‘Noles the rest of the way.  Now the offense is in the hands of true freshman James Blackman, who did not throw a pass Saturday after coming in for Francois late in the game.

Moderate struggles for Ohio State and USC

Ohio State won 49-21 Thursday night at Indiana, but didn’t score a touchdown until the 5:17 mark of the first half and trailed 21-20 with 4:56 left in the third.  After a sluggish start for the Buckeyes, they finished with 29 unanswered points, led by J.K. Dobbins’ 181 rushing yards, an Ohio State freshman record.

Western Michigan led 21-14 at USC for most of the third quarter, then after USC took a 28-21 lead tied the game at 28-28 with 7:54 to go before the floodgates opened for the USC offense and the Trojans won 49-31.  The USC defense allowed 263 rushing yards to the Broncos, and the Trojans were saved by 521 total yards of their own and 28 fourth-quarter points.

Both highly-ranked clubs had moderately inauspicious starts, and both can’t afford to repeat those performances this weekend.  Ohio State hosts #5 Oklahoma, while USC hosts #14 Stanford in their Pac-12 opener.

Michigan muscles past Florida

Florida was shorthanded, especially on offense, after the suspension of 10 players for the Gators’ game against Michigan.  The lack of depth showed, as the Gators were held scoreless in the second half and Michigan turned a 17-13 halftime deficit into a 33-17 win.

The Gators were outgained 433-192 and held to just 11 rushing yards, while the Wolverines had a very balanced attack, passing for 218 yards and rushing for 215.  Michigan’s Ty Isaac rushed for 114 yards on just 11 carries.

UCLA’s comeback

When UCLA scored with 2:06 left in the third against Texas A&M it seemed insignificant, as it only pulled the Bruins to within a 44-17 deficit.  But, as it would turn out, the second-largest comeback in FBS history had just begun.

The Bruins scored four more unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter–the first two on Darren Andrews runs and the last two on Josh Rosen passes–to stun the Aggies, 45-44.  Now, after his team seemed to stop paying attention with over a quarter to go, A&M’s Kevin Sumlin is on the hot seat more than ever, and I agree that firing him may be in the school’s best interests this coming offseason.


Week One Power Rankings

1. Alabama (1-0, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 1st)
After maybe the biggest opening-weekend game ever, the Crimson Tide don’t play another ranked team until October 21, and don’t leave Tuscaloosa until September 23.

2. Ohio State (1-0, LW: 4th, AP: 2nd)
The Buckeyes didn’t play their best 60 minutes against Indiana, but they will if they want to beat Oklahoma on Saturday.

3. Penn State (1-0, LW: 5th, AP: 4th)
Penn State quietly had no trouble whatsoever with Akron (52-0 win), and now will try to avenge last year’s loss to Pittsburgh that kept them out of the Playoff.

4. USC (1-0, LW: 2nd, AP: 6th)
If the Trojans play Stanford like they played in the fourth quarter against Western Michigan, they’ll be fine.  If they don’t, they may be in for a long night.  Stanford won their opener against Rice, 62-7 in Australia.

5. Oklahoma State (1-0, LW: 6th, AP: 11th)
The Cowboys had no problem with Tulsa and shouldn’t with South Alabama this week, but the schedule will get tougher after that (at Pittsburgh, TCU).

6. Oklahoma (1-0, LW: 7th, AP: 5th)
Oklahoma will have revenge on their mind against Ohio State after last year’s loss, but will be in a tough environment at The Horseshoe in Columbus.  The Sooners beat UTEP in their opener, 56-7.

7. Michigan (1-0, LW: 13th, AP: 8th)
The Wolverines may have had the most impressive non-Alabama win of the weekend; that inexperience that many pundits (myself included) were concerned about wasn’t a factor on the big stage against Florida.

8. Auburn (1-0, LW: 8th, AP: 13th)
After Auburn’s 2010 national title, their first loss the following season came at Clemson.  Can Auburn now return the favor?  The Tigers are coming off a 41-7 win over Georgia Southern.

9. Clemson (1-0, LW: 9th, AP: 3rd)
Clemson beat Kent State, 56-3, in the first game without many of their championship stars.  We’ll know soon how good some of their replacements are–Auburn comes to town Saturday night.

10. Florida State (0-1, LW: 3rd, AP: 10th)
I’m not sure which is worse for the Seminoles long-term:  the loss to an Alabama team that looked darn-near unbeatable, or the loss of QB Deondre Francois for the year.  The ‘Noles get Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, but can’t rest on their laurels with Miami looming next week.

Worth a Mention:  Howard (1-0)
The Bison of Howard, coming of a 2-9 campaign in the MEAC, became the biggest point-spread underdogs to ever win a game when they beat UNLV on Saturday in Las Vegas, 43-40, as 45-point underdogs.  Howard QB Caylin Newton, the brother of former NFL MVP Cam Newton, rushed for 190 yards and two touchdowns, also passing for 140 yards and a touchdown.  While the Runnin’ Rebels were 4-8 in 2016, beating them is still a high mark for Howard, in their first season under former Virginia coach Mike London.

11. Wisconsin (1-0, LW: 11th, AP: 9th)
12. Washington (1-0, LW: 12th, AP: 7th)
13. Georgia (1-0, LW: 14th, AP: 15th)
14. Miami (1-0, LW: 15th, AP: 16th)
15. Stanford (1-0, LW: 16th, AP: 14th)

16. LSU (1-0, LW: 17th, AP: 12th)
17. Kansas State (1-0, LW: 18th, AP: 19th)
18. Virginia Tech (1-0, LW: 22nd, AP: 18th)
19. Florida (0-1, LW: 10th, AP: 22nd)
20. Utah (1-0, LW: 21st, AP: unranked)

21. Louisville (1-0, LW: 20th, AP: 17th)
22. South Florida (2-0, LW: 19th, AP: 21st)
23. Northwestern (1-0, LW: 23rd, AP: unranked)
24. Tennessee (1-0, LW: 24th, AP: 25th)
25. UCLA (1-0, LW: unranked, AP: unranked)

Fell from Rankings:  West Virginia (0-1, LW: 25th)

Also Ranked in AP Poll:  Washington State (1-0, 20th), TCU (1-0, 23rd), Notre Dame (1-0, 24th)



Twitter Picks for College Football Week One

Game of the Week
#1 Alabama vs. #3 Florida State
at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga.
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC
Betting Favorite:  Alabama by 7
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Alabama- 1st, Florida State- 3rd


Big Game Guarantee
#22 West Virginia vs. #21 Virginia Tech
at FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Betting Favorite:  Virginia Tech by 4
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  West Virginia- 25th, Virginia Tech- 22nd


Upset of the Week
Wyoming at Iowa
Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, BTN
Betting Favorite:  Iowa by 12
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

Correction:  Wyoming’s mascot is the Cowboys, not the Coyotes as listed in the above tweet.


Closer Than the Experts Think
Appalachian State at #15 Georgia
Saturday, 6:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Betting Favorite:  Georgia by 14
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Appalachian State- unranked, Georgia- 14th


Not Closer Than the Experts Think
#25 Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech
at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga.
Monday, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Betting Favorite:  Tennessee by 3
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Tennessee- 24th, Georgia Tech- unranked


Overhyped Game
#2 Ohio State at Indiana
Thursday, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Betting Favorite:  Ohio State by 21
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Ohio State- 4th, Indiana- unranked


Group of Five Game of the Week
BYU vs. #13 LSU
at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La. (relocated from Houston, Tex.)
Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Betting Favorite:  LSU by 15
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  BYU- unranked, LSU- 17th


Is This Futbol?
#11 Michigan vs. #17 Florida
at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Tex.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Betting Favorite:  Michigan by 5
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Michigan- 13th, Florida- 10th


Is This Basketball?
Texas A&M at UCLA
Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX
Betting Favorite:  UCLA by 4
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked


Toilet Bowl
California at North Carolina
Saturday, 12:20 p.m. ET, ACC Network
Betting Favorite:  North Carolina by 12
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked


Miscellaneous:  A Border War In My Neck of the Woods
South Carolina vs. NC State
at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Betting Favorite:  NC State by 5
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked



For what it’s worth… here’s last year’s Twitter Picks results:

Overall Record: 80-54-1
College Overall Record: 67-48
NFL Game of the Week: 13-6-1

Game of the Week: 10-5
Big Game Guarantee: 3-7
Upset of the Week: 4-6
Closer Than the Experts Think: 4-6
Not Closer Than the Experts Think: 7-3
Overhyped/Bad Spread Game: 5-5
Group of Five Game of the Week: 7-3
Is This Futbol?: 8-2
Is This Basketball?: 8-2
Toilet Bowl: 6-4
Miscellaneous: 5-5

For an explanation of the categories for Twitter Picks, click here.

Fast Five: Sentimental Favorites in the Sweet 16

As the NCAA Tournament enters its second weekend, certain teams always seem to capture the hearts of fans, many of whom are looking for another rooting interest after their own team has been eliminated.

This year there are not necessarily any “Cinderella” teams, but there are still a fair share of teams who can be sentimental favorites as the Sweet 16 begins tonight.

Honorable Mention:  Arizona (32-4, 2-seed, West Region)
Sweet 16:  Tonight vs. #11 Xavier, 10:09 pm ET, TBS

It’s odd to include a traditional power like Arizona on this list (that’s why they’re an honorable mention), but a potential Wildcats run to the title has its share of storylines, considering the Final Four is in Phoenix, and Arizona is celebrating the 20th anniversary of their last national title in 1997.

Honorable Mention:  Whoever is playing UCLA
Sweet 16:  Friday vs. #2 Kentucky, 9:39 pm ET, CBS

The sports social media world keeps buzzing over the crazy things Lavar Ball, the father of Bruins point guard Lonzo Ball, has said.  I’m all for parents being involved in their kids’ lives and athletic careers, but Lavar Ball is completely over the top, considering at this point he’s making headlines on almost a daily basis.  If UCLA loses, maybe he’ll shut up–at least until his other two sons are playing college basketball in the near future.

5.  Gonzaga (34-1, 1-seed, West Region)
Sweet 16:  Tonight vs. #4 West Virginia, 7:39 pm ET, TBS

It’s strange to put a team on this list who is a 1-seed, and has participated in every NCAA Tournament since 1999.  However, the Bulldogs are still the little brother to fellow 1-seeds North Carolina and Kansas, and many aren’t even favoring the Zags to win the regional, since they may face Arizona in the regional final.  To even get there, they face a tough matchup with 4-seed West Virginia in tonight’s regional semifinal.

Gonzaga reaching the Final Four would be a feel-good story because they have come close but fallen short in their previous tournament runs.  Mark Few has led the Bulldogs to eight Sweet 16 appearances and two Elite Eights (1999, 2015), but have yet to reach the Final Four, despite having one of the most consistent programs in the nation.

The Zags play in the West Regional in San Jose, and the Final Four is in Phoenix, should they reach it; both locations should allow their fans to join them.

4.  Butler (25-8, 4-seed, South Region)
Sweet 16:  Friday vs. #1 North Carolina, 7:09 pm ET, CBS

The Bulldogs have been the sentimental favorite before–they were back-to-back national runners-up in 2010-11, losing national finals to Duke and UConn–and now they return to the list seeded higher than either of those years (Butler was a 5-seed in 2010 and an 8-seed in 2011), as they make their first Sweet 16 appearance since the 2011 run.

But despite their recent success, the Bulldogs are still far and away the least accomplished team in the South Regional, which also includes North Carolina, who Butler meets Friday night, as well as Kentucky and UCLA.  Those three schools have combined for 24 national championships and 54 Final Four appearances.

Few expect Butler to make any noise in Memphis, but the Bulldogs program has been in this situation before.

3.  Xavier (23-13, 11-seed, West Region)
Sweet 16:  Tonight vs. #2 Arizona, 7:39 pm ET, TBS

The Musketeers are on this list at the lowest-remaining seed.  Xavier has reached the Elite Eight twice, in 2004 and 2008, but has lost in the Sweet 16 four times since that 2008 appearance.

Xavier, who has been a near-perennial NCAA Tournament team for the last two decades, has had tough luck losing good coaches to jobs at bigger programs:  Skip Prosser (Wake Forest), Thad Matta (Ohio State) and Sean Miller (Arizona).

Now current Xavier coach Chris Mack will face former coach Miller in the Sweet 16.  Miller, who was coach the last time Xavier reached the Elite Eight, left in 2009 to succeed Hall of Famer Lute Olson at Arizona.

This will be a tough test for Xavier; the Wildcats are one of the favorites to win it all, and the game is in San Jose, which should give Arizona a crowd advantage.  Even if Xavier wins tonight, the Gonzaga-West Virginia winner would be no easier of an opponent on Saturday.

2.  Michigan (26-11, 7-seed, Midwest Region)
Sweet 16:  Tonight vs. #3 Oregon, 7:09 pm ET, CBS

On Wednesday, March 8, as the Wolverines were departing Ann Arbor to head to Washington D.C. for the Big Ten Tournament, their team plane (with the team, coaches, family members, band and cheerleaders aboard) skidded off the end of the runway due to high winds.  Miraculously, no one was injured in the accident.

Michigan flew to Washington early the next morning to play their noon opener in the Big Ten Tournament, where they wore practice uniforms since their game jerseys were on the crashed plane.  The Wolverines beat Illinois comfortably that Thursday, before beating Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin to remarkably win the conference title.

After starting their NCAA Tournament with a 92-91 win over Oklahoma State, the Wolverines upset 2-seed Louisville on Sunday (and became a further sentimental favorite by knocking the scandalous Louisville athletic department out of the field), advancing to their third Sweet 16 in five years.

Since the accident, the Wolverines have seemed to play more loosely, and have no doubt played better than before.  Tonight, they face an Oregon team that lost its best player, forward Chris Boucher, in the Pac-12 Tournament.  Should the Wolverines advance to the Elite Eight, they would either encounter a Big Ten title game rematch against Purdue or a rematch of their classic 2013 comeback win over Kansas in the Sweet 16.

Sure, the Michigan program has had tremendous success in the past–the Wolverines have reached five Final Fours, including 2013, and won the 1989 national title–but the story of this team in their run to the Sweet 16 has been incredible.  Now, as they face an uphill climb as the lowest seed in the Midwest Regional, the Wolverines will try to continue to play out this movie-like scenario and write their Hollywood ending.

1.  South Carolina (24-10, 7-seed, East Region)
Sweet 16:  Friday vs. #3 Baylor, 7:29 pm ET, TBS

Sure, the Gamecocks happen to be a team I pull for, but that’s not why they are at the top of this list.

The Gamecocks are a sentimental favorite because of their program’s history (or, really, a lack thereof).  This tournament marks just the ninth appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the program, and the first since 2004, after the Gamecocks were snubbed from the field last year.  Before last year’s NIT bid, the program had just one winning season since 2006.

After a first round win over Marquette–their first NCAA Tournament win in 44 years–the Gamecocks shocked the world and beat Duke 88-81, eliminating one of the biggest favorites to win the national title.

Beating Duke is enough by itself to make the Gamecocks a sentimental favorite for some, but especially when the win got South Carolina to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1973.  Now, the Gamecocks face Baylor (you know, that school that turned a blind eye to sexual assaults committed by student-athletes) as they try to reach their first Elite Eight in program history.

The East Region, at Madison Square Garden in New York, is wide open:  3-seed Baylor is the top remaining seed, and 4-seed Florida meets 8-seed Wisconsin (who beat 1-seed Villanova) in the other regional semifinal.  South Carolina, led by SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell (21.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.9 APG), have arguably the best player on any team in the East Region.

South Carolina is trying to complete a unique trifecta for its state:  Coastal Carolina won the baseball national championship in June and Clemson won the football title in January.  Schools from one state have not held all three titles simultaneously since 1975.



Sweet 16 Schedule (all times ET)

Midwest Region (Thursday, Kansas City)
#3 Oregon vs. #7 Michigan, 7:09 p.m., CBS
#1 Kansas vs. #4 Purdue, appr. 9:39 p.m., CBS

West Region (Thursday, San Jose)
#1 Gonzaga vs. #4 West Virginia, 7:39 p.m., TBS
#2 Arizona vs. #11 Xavier, appr. 10:09 p.m., TBS

South Regional (Friday, Memphis)
#1 North Carolina vs. #4 Butler, 7:09 p.m., CBS
#2 Kentucky vs. #3 UCLA, appr. 9:39 p.m., CBS

East Regional (Friday, New York)
#3 Baylor vs. #7 South Carolina, 7:29 p.m., TBS
#4 Florida vs. #8 Wisconsin, appr. 9:59 p.m., TBS

College Football Power Rankings for Week 13

With college football season in the home stretch, there are still a lot of questions to be answered.

Going into championship weekend, Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Washington are in the desired top four spots in the College Football Playoff rankings, and should likely be in the four-team Playoff with a win this weekend (Ohio State doesn’t play this weekend, but more on that later).

But if one or more of those teams don’t win on Saturday, chaos could ensue, something that we’ve already seen on multiple Saturdays this season.

Could a two-loss team get in the Playoff?  Does a team that didn’t even win their division, like Ohio State or Michigan, deserve a playoff bid?  Could the Big Ten get more than one team in the four-team field?  Could a Pac-12-champion Colorado team or the Big Ten champion get in?

In short:  yes, and it is actually guaranteed to happen if either Clemson or Washington lose;  yes, because the best four teams should get the four spots;  yes, with some help, and there is even a long-shot, chaos-driven, doomsday scenario with three Big Ten teams getting in;  maybe, although even a win and some help doesn’t guarantee them anything.

Each team’s best chance to reach the playoff is listed below, with still a variety of possible scenarios–perhaps the most entering championship weekend in the three years of the College Football Playoff format.

The last few weeks, I have not had the time to write a rankings post, but have posted my top 25 on Twitter.  (See rankings for Week 10 here, and Week 11 here).  I ranked the teams after Week 12 last week, but never posted them to Twitter; however, those rankings are reflected below, listed as each team’s “last week” ranking.


The Current Top Four

1. Alabama (12-0, Last Week: 1st, CFP Ranking: 1st)
Last Week:  def. #13 Auburn, 30-12
This Week:  SEC Championship Game vs. #15 Florida
The Crimson Tide are the only Power Five conference team who is undefeated, with 10 “convincing” wins that include triumphs over USC and Auburn, as well as a 10-0 road win over LSU.  Even if the Tide are upset by Florida in the SEC Championship Game, their resume would still be good enough to be one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff.

2. Ohio State  (11-1, 2nd, 2nd)
Last Week:  def. #3 Michigan, 30-27 (2ot)
In the first two years of the Playoff format, all eight teams to make the four-team field have been conference champions.  Ohio State will not be a conference champion, as their lone loss to Penn State cost them the Big Ten East Division title, but the Buckeyes have played four of the top nine teams in the CFP’s current rankings, and beat three of them, including Wisconsin and Oklahoma on the road, and Michigan in last week’s double-overtime instant classic.  Yes, the committee infamously dropped TCU from third to sixth after a win in the final week of the 2014 season, but I see no way they would drop the Buckeyes three spots and out of the playoff field.

3. Clemson (11-1, 3rd, 3rd)
Last Week:  def. South Carolina, 56-7
This Week:  ACC Championship Game vs. #23 Virginia Tech
Clemson’s loss is to Pittsburgh, who is now a top 25 team, appears to have been a wake-up call for the Tigers, as all they’ve done in the two games since is outscore their competition 91-20, including a 56-7 win over rival South Carolina, the largest win in the series since 1900.  Clemson is one of the teams that could make things interesting–even chaotic–with a loss, but if the Tigers beat Virginia Tech in the ACC title tilt, the 2015 runners-up will be back in the Playoff for the second straight year.

4. Washington (11-1, 5th, 4th)
Last Week:  def. #23 Washington State, 45-17
This Week:  Pac-12 Championship Game vs. #8 Colorado (Friday)
The Huskies dominated rival Washington State, clinching the Pac-12 North Division.  Washington has the least impressive resume of the one-loss teams, which is why they’re fourth and not higher, and has a loss to the highest ranked team they’ve played, USC.  CFP committee chairman Kirby Hocutt even said the margin between Washington and Michigan is “extremely small.”  However, past precedent shows the committee values conference championships, and if the Huskies win they would not only have a conference trophy but also a new signature win over an 8th-ranked opponent (Colorado), which should be enough to seal their spot.  If they lose, since their game is Friday night, if could make Saturday’s action even better as the teams below the top four would have added hope knowing a spot is already potentially open.

Other Contenders

5. Michigan (10-2, 4th, 5th)
Last Week:  lost at #2 Ohio State, 30-27 (2ot)
The Wolverines, like Ohio State, did not win the Big Ten East, although unlike Ohio State, Michigan did beat Penn State head-to-head.  After Hocutt’s comments on the small difference between Washington and Michigan, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit inferred that, should one or both of Clemson and Washington falter, the Wolverines would be the next team on a hypothetical Playoff depth chart.  Two three-game stretches are the key to Michigan’s resume:  back-to-back-to-back wins over Colorado, Penn State, and Wisconsin could, in the end, be what gets the Wolverines in the Playoff, but losing two out of three to end the season–even with the losses by just one on the road to Iowa and to Ohio State only after a controversial fourth-down spot to keep the Buckeyes’ eventual game-winning drive alive (it was very close, but yes, it was a first down)–could be what keeps them out of the four-team field.

6. Wisconsin (10-2, 6th, 6th)
Last Week:  def. Minnesota, 31-17
This Week:  Big Ten Championship Game vs. #7 Penn State
On one hand, Wisconsin’s biggest win came way back on Sept. 3 over LSU (who has changed coaches since), although they have also beaten Iowa and Nebraska.  The Badgers two losses are in tough games they played well in–a 7-point loss at Michigan and an overtime loss to Ohio State.  If Wisconsin wins the Big Ten on Saturday, they will have a new signature win over Penn State, but they need some help to have any Playoff shot, especially since one of the teams they would have to jump is a Michigan team they’ve lost to.

7. Oklahoma (9-2, 7th, 9th)
Last Week:  idle
This Week:  vs. #10 Oklahoma State
With the Big 12 lacking a conference championship game, the league has regular season games this weekend.  However, as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State play their “Bedlam” rivalry game, it will double as a de facto league title game, with the victor winning the Big 12.  The Sooners have won nine straight after early-season losses to Houston and Ohio State, although they only have one win over a team that is currently ranked, West Virginia.  The CFP committee did not rank the Sooners as high as I have, which means they face a very uphill battle to have any Playoff shot–it would likely take a huge blowout of the Cowboys and losses by both Clemson and Washington, and even then that probably would still not be enough, as the Sooners are would have to jump two teams out of Michigan, the eventual Big Ten champion, and Colorado (who would be the team to potentially beat Washington).

8. Penn State (10-2, 8th, 7th)
Last Week:  def. Michigan State, 45-12
This Week:  Big Ten Championship Game vs. #6 Wisconsin
The Nittany Lions are one of the nation’s best stories of the season, winning 10 games and the Big Ten East after two straight 7-6 seasons, and just three years removed from postseason ban that followed the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  To some, Penn State have a better case than a couple of the teams directly above them, given their eight game winning streak that includes wins over Ohio State and Iowa.  The Nittany Lions also won a division most consider the toughest division in college football this year, preventing Ohio State and Michigan from doing so.  Two September losses to Michigan and Pittsburgh are what hurts the Nittany Lions chances, especially considering the Michigan loss was by 39 points.  Still, Penn State may have a shot at the top four, albeit a small one, with a win Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship Game and some help from a couple of the teams ranked above them.

9. Colorado (10-2, 9th, 8th)
Last Week:  def. #22 Utah 27-22
This Week:  Pac-12 Championship Game vs. #4 Washington (Friday)
The Buffaloes may have an even better story than Penn State.  They are in playoff contention after clinching their first bowl appearance since 2007 and their first winning season since 2005, and had won just 11 conference games in the last eight years entering this season, finishing last (tie or outright) all five seasons in the Pac-12.  Now, they are the champions of the Pac-12 South, with their only losses coming to Michigan and USC, although they lack a true signature win (#20 Utah is their best).  At the very least, they can play the role of spoiler in Friday’s title bout against #4 Washington.  It would take a dominant performance and a lot of help, but if chaos occurs, the Buffaloes could still have an outside shot at the four-team field.  Regardless, Mike McIntyre is easily the national coach of the year.

10. Oklahoma State (9-2, 10th, 10th)
Last Week:  idle
This Week:  at #9 Oklahoma
Mike Gundy’s Cowboys have quietly put together another solid season, and are one win away from the Big 12 title, facing Oklahoma in the “Bedlam” game on Saturday.  While the Cowboys have wins over West Virginia and Pittsburgh, although they also have losses to Baylor and Central Michigan.  The latter is the worst loss among any of the Playoff contenders, although the game was only lost after the officials made a procedural error at the end of the game that allowed Central Michigan an untimed down, on which they scored, an error the Big 12 later admitted to.  The Cowboys resume doesn’t have the punch that the nine teams above them do, and with the two Big 12 contenders ranked 9th and 10th they are likely out of Playoff contention, even in the most unusual circumstances, although if the Pokes blow out Oklahoma and have a lot of help, they may have a sliver of hope.

Great Team, But No Playoff Case

11. USC (9-3, 14th, 11th)
Last Week:  def. Notre Dame, 45-27
USC may be the hottest team in the country, with eight straight wins, including victories over both Pac-12 division winners (the only conference loss for both teams), leaving a few of the more radical pundits clamoring for the Trojans to be considered for the Playoff.  But the Trojans lost three games in September, and only one of them was close.  This is a hot team, and one which I would not want to play as an opposing player or coach, but three losses is simply too much for a team to be even considered for the Playoff.

12. Western Michigan (12-0, 13th, 17th)
Last Week:  def. Toledo, 55-35
This Week:  MAC Championship Game vs. Ohio (Friday)
The Broncos are one of two undefeated teams in FBS, alongside Alabama, but with their MAC schedule I agree with the committee that they aren’t a Playoff team (although I do have them five spots higher than the committee does).  It’s not that they haven’t been dominant–the Broncos have scored 34 or more in 11 games and allowed 21 or less in eight games–but looking over their schedule there are no truly quality wins.  I can’t even identify who their “best win” is.  Western Michigan plays Ohio for the MAC title on Friday night, and currently holds a two-spot edge over Navy to be the highest ranked “Group of Five” champion, a distinction that earns an automatic “New Year’s Six” bowl bid (this year, the Cotton Bowl).

The Best of the Rest

13. Florida State (9-3, 15th, 12th)
14. Florida (8-3, 12th, 15th)
15. LSU (7-4, 23rd, 21st)

16. West Virginia (9-2, 21st, 16th)
17. Louisville (9-3, 11th, 13th)
18. Auburn (8-4, 16th, 14th)
19. Iowa (8-4, unranked, unranked)
20. Virginia Tech (9-3, unranked, 23rd)

21. Stanford (9-3, unranked, 18th)
22. Pittsburgh (8-4, unranked, 25th)
23. Navy (9-2, unranked, 19th)
24. Nebraska (9-3, 17th, unranked)
25. Utah (8-4, 22nd, 20th)

Also ranked in CFP Rankings:  Tennessee (8-4, CFP: 22nd), Houston (9-3, 24th)

Fell from Rankings:  Tennessee (8-4, Last Week: 18th), Houston (9-3, 19th), Boise State (10-2, 20th), Texas A&M (8-4, 24th), Washington State (8-4, 25th)



Note:  the tweets with my power rankings from previous weeks can be seen here:
Week 10
Week 11