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)

Twitter Picks for College Football Week Two

Game of the Week
#5 Oklahoma (1-0) at #2 Ohio State (1-0)
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC
Betting Favorite:  Ohio State by 7
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Oklahoma- 6th, Ohio State- 2nd

 

Big Game Guarantee
#14 Stanford (1-0) at #6 USC (1-0)
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX
Betting Favorite:  USC by 6
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Stanford- 15th, USC- 4th

 

Upset of the Week
#13 Auburn (1-0) at #3 Clemson (1-0)
Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Betting Favorite:  Clemson by 5
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Auburn- 8th, Clemson- 9th

 

Closer Than the Experts Think
Pittsburgh (1-0) at #4 Penn State (1-0)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Betting Favorite:  Penn State by 22
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Pittsburgh- unranked, Penn State- 3rd

 

Not Closer Than the Experts Think
Indiana (0-1) at Virginia (1-0)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Betting Favorite:  Indiana by 3
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Bad Spread Game
#15 Georgia (1-0) at #24 Notre Dame (1-0)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Betting Favorite:  Notre Dame by 5
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Georgia- 13th, Notre Dame- unranked

 

Group of Five Game of the Week
Western Michigan (0-1) at Michigan State (1-0)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
Betting Favorite:  Michigan State by 7
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Is This Futbol?
Wake Forest (1-0) at Boston College (1-0)
Saturday, 1:00 p.m. ET, ACCN
Betting Favorite:  Boston College by 1
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Is This Basketball?
South Carolina (1-0) at Missouri (1-0)
Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Betting Favorite:  Missouri by 2
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Toilet Bowl
Minnesota (1-0) at Oregon State (1-1)
Saturday, 10:00 p.m. ET, FS1
Betting Favorite:  Oregon State by 2
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Miscellaneous:  The Holy War
Utah (1-0) at BYU (0-1)
Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Betting Favorite:  Utah by 3
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Utah- 20th, BYU- unranked

 

NFL Game of the Week
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Betting Favorite:  Dallas by 4

 

 

For what it’s worth…

Overall Record: 5-6
College Overall Record: 5-6
NFL Game of the Week: 0-0

Game of the Week: 1-0
Big Game Guarantee: 0-1
Upset of the Week: 0-1
Closer Than the Experts Think: 0-1
Not Closer Than the Experts Think: 0-1
Overhyped/Bad Spread Game: 1-0
Group of Five Game of the Week: 1-0
Is This Futbol?: 1-0
Is This Basketball?: 1-0
Toilet Bowl: 0-1
Miscellaneous: 0-1

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

 

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)

 

 

2017 College Football Preview

After the offseason, the “talking season” (as Steve Spurrier calls it), and about a month of practice, the college football season begins tonight (with the exception of the couple of games last weekend).

Everyone thinks they know what is going to happen this season, and I’ll take my own stab at it here, but there’s a reason they play the games–you know, to prove all the pundits wrong.

So yeah, don’t take these picks to the casino.  And if you need any further proof of that, here’s last year’s preseason rankings, from which two of the top 10 have had coaches fired since.

That said, here is my best guess on the 25 best teams entering the season, plus 25 games that will go a long way towards determining who ultimately makes the College Football Playoff and wins the national title, and my predicted order of finish in each conference.

25 Teams to Watch

(AP rank in parentheses)

1. Alabama (1st)
Last Year:  (14-1, 8-0 SEC, lost national championship game)
As well as Nick Saban churns out talent year after year, even after losing several players to graduation or the draft, it’s become wise to rank Alabama #1 at this time of year until someone else proves otherwise.  That said, the Crimson Tide have actually not won a championship under Saban in any year they’ve been ranked #1 in the preseason, something they’ll try to do this year.

2. USC (4th)
Last Year:  (10-3, 7-2 Pac-12, Rose Bowl champions)
The Trojans finished last season as one of the hottest teams in the nation, winning nine straight including a Rose Bowl thriller over Penn State.  Now, with one of the nation’s best players in QB Sam Darnold, they’ll try to avoid their recent preseason rankings curse:  the last three times the Trojans have started the season ranked in the top 10 (including 2012 as preseason #1), they have finished unranked twice and #22 in 2014.

3. Florida State (3rd)
Last Year:  (10-3, 5-3 ACC)
Last year’s Seminoles team was picked fourth by both myself and the AP Poll, but lost three times including two close games.  This year’s team returns 15 starters, and has the talent to contend for a national title.  But it won’t be easy; the ‘Noles open with Alabama in Atlanta, and meet both Clemson and Florida on the road.

4. Ohio State (2nd)
Last Year:  (11-2, 8-1 Big Ten, College Football Playoff semifinalist)
The last two times an Urban Meyer-coached team lost a bowl game, they won the national title the following season.  Guess what?  The Buckeyes lost their bowl game (31-0 to Clemson in a Playoff semifinal), and they have a team capable of repeating that history.  Senior QB J.T. Barrett has as much experience as any team leader in college football, although the first task is leading the team to a division title in a Big Ten East that includes Penn State and Michigan.

5. Penn State (6th)
Last Year:  (11-3, 8-1 Big Ten, Big Ten champions)
2016’s biggest surprise may have been Penn State’s run to the Big Ten title, narrowly missing the College Football Playoff.  With both QB Trace McSorley and RB Saquon Barkley returning, complimented by a strong defense, the Nittany Lions are capable of repeating their conference title, though the biggest roadblock is an October 28 trip to Ohio State.

6. Oklahoma State (10th)
Last Year:  (10-3, 7-2 Big 12)
The Cowboys came within one win of a Big 12 title last year, and their fans will remind you they should 11-2 last season (an officiating error–later admitted by the Big 12–cost them a win against Central Michigan).  The 12 starters that return include QB Mason Rudolph and several other of their strongest players from last year, and their biggest game–“Bedlam” against Oklahoma–is at home, serving as a potential preview of the reborn Big 12 Championship Game.

7. Oklahoma (7th)
Last Year:  (11-2, 9-0 Big 12, Big 12 champions)
After winning their final 10 games last year, the Sooners have some momentum, but also a new head coach in Lincoln Riley after Bob Stoops’ abrupt departure.  QB Baker Mayfield is one of the nation’s best, and the team’s depth and talent won’t be a problem–but road games at Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Kansas State may be.

8. Auburn (12th)
Last Year:  (8-5, 5-3 SEC)
The Tigers got as high as ninth in these rankings last year, and two of their losses were to national finalists Alabama and Clemson.  Now they’re the most experienced team in the SEC and add Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham at QB, the best passer Gus Malzahn has had since Cam Newton.  They’ll be tested early, at Clemson on September 9, and late, against Alabama at home on November 25.

9. Clemson (5th)
Last Year:  (14-1, 7-1 ACC, national champions)
The Tigers won their first title since 1981 last season, but the key this year will be how quickly the Tigers rebound from losing key players, especially offensively, including QB Deshaun Watson, RB Wayne Gallman and three of their top four receivers.  Adapting will be easier with their toughest two games, Auburn and Florida State, at Death Valley, but don’t underestimate an early trip to Virginia Tech.

10. Florida (17th)
Last Year:  (9-4, 6-2 SEC, SEC East champions)
The recurring theme in Gainesville has been a strong defense with a struggling offense, first under Will Muschamp and now Jim McElwain, but the offense should be better this year, with strong units at RB and WR and choices at QB.  The Gators will be tested early, meeting Michigan this weekend in Arlington, Tex. with 10 players suspended, but the overall schedule is favorable for the Gators to win the SEC East for a third straight year.

11. Wisconsin (AP Rank: 9th; Last Year:  11-3, 7-2 Big Ten, Big Ten West champions)
12. Washington (8th; 12-2, 8-1 Pac-12, College Football Playoff semifinalist)
13. Michigan (11th; 10-3, 7-2 Big Ten)
14. Georgia (15th; 8-5, 4-4 SEC)
15. Miami (18th; 9-4, 5-3 ACC)

16. Stanford (14th; 10-3, 6-3 Pac-12)
17. LSU (13th; 8-4, 5-3 SEC)
18. Kansas State (20th; 9-4, 6-3 Big 12)
19. South Florida (19th; 11-2, 7-2 American)
20. Louisville (16th; 9-4, 7-1 ACC, Heisman winner Lamar Jackson returns)

21. Utah (unranked; 9-4, 5-4 Pac-12)
22. Virginia Tech (21st; 10-4, 6-2 ACC, ACC Coastal champions)
23. Northwestern (unranked; 7-6, 5-4 Big Ten)
24. Tennessee (25th; 9-4, 4-4 SEC)
25. West Virginia (22nd; 10-3, 7-2 Big 12)

Also considered:  NC State, Texas A&M, UCLA, Minnesota, Colorado, Iowa, Oregon, Texas, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, TCU, BYU, Appalachian State, Washington State, Pittsburgh

Also ranked in AP Poll:  Texas (23rd), Washington State (24th)

25 Games to Watch

September 2
Florida vs. Michigan (Arlington, Tex.), 3:30 p.m., ABC
Alabama vs. Florida State (Atlanta), 8:00 p.m., ABC

September 9
Auburn at Clemson, 7:00 p.m., ESPN
Oklahoma at Ohio State, 7:30 p.m., ABC
Stanford at USC, 8:30 p.m., FOX

September 16
Clemson at Louisville, 3:30 p.m., ABC or ESPN
Miami at Florida State, 8:00 p.m., ABC

September 30
Northwestern at Wisconsin
Clemson at Virginia Tech

October 14
Utah at USC

October 21
Michigan at Penn State
Oklahoma at Kansas State
Louisville at Florida State

October 28
Penn State at Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., FOX
Florida vs. Georgia (Jacksonville, Fla.), 3:30 p.m., CBS

November 4
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
LSU at Alabama
Virginia Tech at Miami

November 10
Washington at Stanford, 10:30 p.m., FS1

November 11
Florida State at Clemson
Georgia State at Auburn

November 18
Michigan at Wisconsin

November 25
Ohio State at Michigan, 12:00 p.m., FOX
Florida State at Florida
Alabama at Auburn

Conference Predictions

ACC

Atlantic Division

At the top, the ACC Atlantic is as good as any division in football, putting a team in the College Football Playoff in its first three years of existence and the BCS Championship Game the year before that.

That streak could very well continue, with Florida State and Clemson’s November 11th meeting looming large.  Louisville returns Heisman winning QB Lamar Jackson, and NC State is a sleeper as one of the most experienced teams in the country.

1. Florida State
2. Clemson
3. Louisville
4. NC State
5. Wake Forest
6. Boston College
7. Syracuse

 

Coastal Division

The Coastal is typically one of the hardest divisions to pick, but this year it’s easier with a clear top two ahead of the pack.

Miami’s 15 returning starters in Mark Richt’s second season give them a slight edge over Virginia Tech, as big interdivision games–Miami at Florida State, Clemson at Virginia Tech–could play a role in who wins the Coastal, in addition to Miami and Virginia Tech’s game against each other on November 4.

1. Miami
2. Virginia
3. Pittsburgh
4. North Carolina
5. Georgia Tech
6. Duke
7. Virginia

Championship Game:  Florida State over Miami

 

Big Ten

East Division

The Big Ten East ranks among the best divisions in football, with three teams that contended for the College Football Playoff last year.

Those three are the three favorites again in for the division title, with the general consensus picking Ohio State by a nose over Penn State, with Michigan third.

With three contenders comes three defining games:  Michigan at Penn State on October 21, Penn State at Ohio State on October 28 and Ohio State at Michigan on November 25.  Two East teams play the primetime opener tonight, as Ohio State travels to Indiana.

1. Ohio State
2. Penn State
3. Michigan
4. Indiana
5. Michigan State
6. Maryland
7. Rutgers

 

West Division

While the West is overshadowed by their league’s other division, it could also have quite a race.  Wisconsin is the clear favorite, but five teams have a realistic chance.

Northwestern has 16 returning starters, Minnesota will be motivated with vocal new head coach P.J. Fleck, and Iowa and Nebraska can stay with anyone in their rugged Midwestern style of football.

Northwestern avoids the big three from the East, while Wisconsin and Minnesota only meet one of the three, and Iowa and Nebraska play two of them.

1. Wisconsin
2. Northwestern
3. Minnesota
4. Iowa
5. Nebraska
6. Purdue
7. Illinois

Championship Game:  Ohio State over Wisconsin

 

Big 12

The Big 12 discontinued its championship game in 2010 after the conference retracted from 12 teams to 10, but this year the title game returns, as the top two in the regular season standings will qualify for the December 2nd game in Arlington, Tex.

Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are the two favorites to reach that game, with the most talented teams and the most big-game experience in the league.

However, Kansas State and West Virginia may have something to say, and Texas has the talent to contend, depending on if Tom Herman’s turnaround can happen overnight.

1. Oklahoma State
2. Oklahoma
3. Kansas State
4. West Virginia
5. Texas
6. TCU
7. Baylor
8. Texas Tech
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas

Championship Game:  Oklahoma State over Oklahoma

 

Pac-12

South Division

National contender USC is the clear favorite in the Pac-12 South, and may be the best of any team in the division at each position on the field.

That said, UCLA should be a solid team if QB Josh Rosen can stay healthy (he didn’t last year), although they have a brutal schedule, while Utah is young but is promising on defense.  Colorado won this division last year, but lost a ton of experience from that team.

1. USC
2. UCLA
3. Utah
4. Colorado
5. Arizona State
6. Arizona

 

North Division

Washington made the College Football Playoff last year as the Pac-12 champion, and returns solid experience from that team while avoiding USC from the South on their conference schedule.

Their game against Stanford may decide the division (November 10) as the Cardinal, who are one of the most consistent teams this decade, have lost key skill players but are experienced elsewhere and could threaten to take the Huskies’ crown.

Offensive juggernauts Oregon, with new coach Willie Taggart, and Washington State are both sleepers here.

1. Washington
2. Stanford
3. Oregon
4. Washington State
5. Oregon State
6. California

Championship Game:  USC over Washington

 

SEC

West Division

With Alabama as the favorite to win it all, they’re naturally the favorites in the SEC West, although that won’t be a cakewalk.

Auburn boasts the league’s most experienced team and the best QB they’ve had in a while in transfer Jarrett Stidham, and while LSU isn’t as strong on the experience front they are talented, as always.  Beneath the top three chances lessen, although Mississippi State is a potential surprise contender.  Ole Miss is in dysfunction after Hugh Freeze’s ouster, and that is likely to show on the field this year.

1. Alabama
2. Auburn
3. LSU
4. Texas A&M
5. Mississippi State
6. Arkansas
7. Ole Miss

 

East Division

While Florida and Georgia are the relatively easy top two picks in the SEC East, there are actually six teams with a realistic shot at winning it if the top two falter.

Tennessee can match Florida and Georgia on a talent level, and perhaps will surprise this year after being picked by everyone to win the East last year and falling short.  Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt would all need a best-case-scenario-type season and maybe some help, but all three are trending upward.

1. Florida
2. Georgia
3. Tennessee
4. Kentucky
5. South Carolina
6. Vanderbilt
7. Missouri

Championship Game:  Alabama over Florida

 

Best Teams From the “Group of Five” Conferences

The highest-ranked team among conference champions from the Group of Five conferences (the five FBS conferences that are not “Power Five” leagues) qualifies for a New Year’s Six bowl.

The leading candidate for this spot is South Florida, who is the favorite in the American Athletic Conference, the best league among the Group of Five.  The Bulls, led by former Texas coach Charlie Strong in his first season, are experienced and strong–no pun intended–at many positions, including Heisman dark horse QB Quinton Flowers.

Houston, who should be able to overcome a coaching change since Major Applewhite was promoted from within, is the biggest threat to South Florida in the American, while Appalachian State, who has won 27 of their last 32 games and opens the season at Georgia, may be the biggest threat to the Bulls regarding New Year’s Six status.

1. South Florida (American)
2. Appalachian State (Sun Belt)
3. Houston (American)
4. San Diego State (Mountain West)
5. Colorado State (Mountain West)

Group of Five Championship Games:

American:  South Florida over Houston
Conference-USA:  Western Kentucky over Louisiana Tech
Mid-American:  Toledo over Ohio
Mountain West:  San Diego State over Colorado State
Sun Belt:  Appalachian State wins regular season title over Arkansas State (no title game)

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

College Football: Week Five Power Rankings and Week Six Twitter Picks

Power Rankings for Week Five

1. Alabama (5-0, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 1st)
Alabama cruised 34-6 over Kentucky, but now they enter the gauntlet of the next four games (at Arkansas, at Tennessee, Texas A&M, at LSU).

2. Clemson (5-0, 3rd, 3rd)
The Tigers beat Louisville 42-36, and will now be favored in every game through a potential ACC title game as they try to reach the College Football Playoff again.

3. Michigan (5-0, 4th, 4th)
In a defensive slugfest, the Wolverines beat Wisconsin, 14-7.  They do not faced another currently ranked team until a showdown with Ohio State on Nov. 26.

4. Ohio State (4-0, 5th, 2nd)
The Buckeyes destroyed Rutgers, 58-0, and are heavy favorites again against Indiana this week, before traveling to Wisconsin next week.

5. Washington (5-0, 12th, 5th)
Chris Petersen’s team got a program-defining win last Friday, beating Stanford, 44-6, to take control of the Pac-12 North.  Oregon, whose coach may be on the hot seat, comes to Seattle this week in a border war game.

6. Louisville (4-1, 2nd, 7th)
The Cardinals played well enough to win at Clemson, coming just a few yards short on their final drive.  With such a close loss on the road against a top five team, if the Cardinals win out they should still contend for the Playoff.  Louisville is idle this week, before hosting Duke next Friday.

7. Houston (5-0, 7th, 6th)
Houston beat UConn, 42-14, to continue their hot start.  The Cougars have no margin for error if they want to make a case for the Playoff, and travel to Navy this week.

8. Tennessee (5-0, 9th, 9th)
Tennessee, after falling behind on a Hail Mary with 0:10 remaining, pulled off a successful Hail Mary of their own as time expired to beat Georgia, 34-31, and remain undefeated.  It won’t be easy to stay that way this week, as they travel to Texas A&M, ahead of next week’s home showdown with Alabama.

9. Wisconsin (4-1, 6th, 11th)
The Badgers played well enough defensively to win at Michigan, but could only muster seven points against the Wolverines defense in a 14-7 loss at the Big House.  This week the Badgers are idle, before facing their third straight top 10 opponent next week against Ohio State.

10. Nebraska (5-0, 13th, 12th)
Nebraska survived a tight game entering the fourth, pulling away from Illinois to win 31-16, and gets this weekend off.  The Cornhuskers travel to Indiana, who just upset Michigan State, next week.

11. Baylor (5-0, 11th, 13th)
12. North Carolina (4-1, 18th, 17th)
13. Miami (4-0, 14th, 10th)
14. Texas A&M (5-0, 16th, 8th)
15. Ole Miss (3-2, 15th, 14th)

16. Stanford (3-1, 8th, 15th)
17. Florida State (3-2, 10th, 23rd)
18. Oklahoma (2-2, 19th, 20th)
19. Boise State (4-0, 20th, 19th)
20. Virginia Tech (3-1, 25th, 25th)

21. Arkansas (4-1, unranked, 16th)
22. Florida (4-1, unranked, 18th)
23. Colorado (4-1, unranked, 21st)
24. West Virginia (4-0, unranked, 22nd)
25. Western Michigan (5-0, unranked, unranked)

Fell from Rankings:  Michigan State (2-2. Last Week: 17th), Iowa (3-2, 21st), Utah (4-1, 22nd) San Diego State (3-1, 23rd), TCU (3-2, 24th)

Also ranked in AP Poll:  Utah (4-1, 24th)

 

Twitter Picks for Week Six

Game of the Week

#9 Tennessee (5-0) at #8 Texas A&M (5-0)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, CBS
Favorite:  Texas A&M by 7
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Tennessee- 8th, Texas A&M- 14th

 

Big Game Guarantee

#25 Virginia Tech (3-1) at #17 North Carolina (4-1)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, ABC/ESPN2
Favorite:  North Carolina by 2
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Virginia Tech- 20th, North Carolina- 12th

 

Upset of the Week

#23 Florida State (3-2) at #10 Miami (4-0)
Saturday, 8:00 pm ET, ABC
Favorite:  Miami by 3
Stiles on Sports Ranking: Florida State- 17th, Miami- 13th

 

Closer Than the Experts Think

Indiana (3-1) at #2 Ohio State (4-0)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, ESPN
Favorite:  Ohio State by 28
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Indiana- unranked, Ohio State- 4th

 

Not Closer Than the Experts Think

#1 Alabama (5-0) at #16 Arkansas (4-1)
Saturday, 7:00 pm ET, ESPN
Favorite:  Alabama by 14
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Alabama- 1st, Arkansas- 21st

 

Overhyped Game

Texas (2-2) at #21 Oklahoma (2-2)
Saturday, 12:00 pm ET, FS1
at Dallas, Tex. (Cotton Bowl)
Favorite:  Oklahoma by 13
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Texas- unranked, Oklahoma- 18th

 

Group of Five Game of the Week

#6 Houston (5-0) at Navy (3-1)
Saturday, 3:00 pm ET, CBSSN
Favorite:  Houston by 17
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Houston- 7th, Navy- unranked

 

Is This Futbol?

Army (3-1) at Duke (2-3)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, RSN
Favorite:  Duke by 6
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Is This Basketball?

Texas Tech (3-1) at Kansas State (2-2)
Saturday, 7:00 pm ET, ESPNU
Favorite:  Kansas State by 10
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Toilet Bowl

Purdue (2-2) at Illinois (1-3)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, BTN
Favorite:  Illinois by 10
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Miscellaneous:  Worst Spread of the Week

#21 Colorado (4-1) at USC (2-3)
Saturday, 4:00 pm ET, PACN
Favorite:  USC by 6
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Colorado- 23nd, USC- unranked

 

NFL Game of the Week

Atlanta Falcons (3-1) at Denver Broncos (4-0)
Sunday, 4:05 pm ET, FOX
Favorite:  Broncos by 5

 

 

For what it’s worth…

Overall Record:  29-30
Last Week:  6-6
College Overall Record: 27-28
NFL Game of the Week: 2-2

Game of the Week:  2-3
Big Game Guarantee:  2-3
Upset of the Week:  0-5
Closer Than the Experts Think:  1-4
Not Closer Than the Experts Think:  4-1
Overhyped Game:  2-3
Group of Five Game of the Week:  5-0
Is This Futbol?:  3-2
Is This Basketball?:  4-1
Toilet Bowl:  2-3
Miscellaneous:  2-3

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