Blowing up Eastern Michigan is hardly a cause for celebration, but Ohio
State is humming on all cylinders and has been nearly flawless so far.
If you want put the Crimson Tide No. 1, no argument here … it’s a coin flip.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes 4-0
Last week: W Eastern Michigan 73-20 Next up: at Illinois Why Ohio State Is No. 1: Regardless of the opponent, it’s hard not to be a little impressed by the numbers Ohio State slapped on Eastern Michigan. The Buckeyes punted once, racking up six touchdown passes and well over 600 yards. Right now, it’s a coin flip between the Buckeyes and the Crimson Tide, and while the special teams are still a bit of a question mark, everything else is working at the highest of levels for OSU. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Ohio State is one of the only teams left in the country that hasn’t played a road game. Unlike the teams surrounding them, the Buckeyes have yet to play a tough game outside the Shoe.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide 4-0
Last week: W Arkansas 24-20 Next up: Florida Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: Consider the Tide No. 1A … yeah, this really might be the best team in the country, and there’s no real argument against it. Its 17-game winning streak on the line, ‘Bama performed like a champion in Fayetteville, rallying from 20-7 down to survive. When the Tide had to step up, it did, scoring the last 17 points and making two huge picks of Ryan Mallett. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: QB Greg McElroy will have to play much better if Alabama is going to stay in this spot. He struggled noticeably against the Hogs with two key interceptions, playing his worst game of the year.
3. Boise State Broncos 3-0
Last week: W Oregon State 37-24 Next up: at New Mexico State Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: For the second time in the first three games, the Broncos have defeated an opponent from an AQ league. Even on an imperfect night, they wound up more than doubling the offensive production of Oregon State. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Boise State may have held serve at home, but, boy, was it sloppy. The Broncos made too many penalties and had enough gaffes on special teams to allow the Beavers to remain competitive until the final quarter.
4. Oregon Ducks 4-0
Last week: W Arizona State 42-31 Next up: Stanford Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: Okay, so the Ducks wobbled in the desert. When it was over, however, they survived, much like they did in Knoxville, creating seven turnovers and scoring four unanswered touchdowns in the middle of the game. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Was that top ranking on defense a mirage or what? Oregon got badly exposed for almost 600 yards and generally was careless with its tackling and overall execution.
5. Nebraska Cornhuskers 4-0
Last week: W South Dakota State 17-3 Next up: at Kansas State (Oct. 7) Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The Cornhusker defense keeps showing why it ranks among the best in the country, holding the Jackrabbits to just a field goal. Two more picks gives them 10 on the year to just three touchdown passes allowed. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: It was impossible to get up for an FCS visitor, but shouldn’t Nebraska have rolled a lot easier on talent alone? If it plays this poorly versus Big 12 opponents, the outcome could be painfully different. QB Taylor Martinez looked human.
6. Florida Gators 4-0
Last week: W Kentucky 48-14 Next up: at Alabama Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: At last, the Gators have started to locate their mojo on offense. It took a while, but Florida finally scored in the first quarter, as part of a potent six-touchdown outburst led by do-everything rookie Trey Burton. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: If Saturday’s performance was the beginning of a new trend, there’s not a lot to complain about right now in Gainesville. Still, it’s just a single game, unlike the first three, in which the offense was a mess.
7. Stanford Cardinal 4-0
Last week: W Notre Dame 37-14 Next up: at Oregon Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: For the second consecutive week, the Cardinal mauled an opponent, Notre Dame in South Bend. The offense has been terrific, but so has the D, keeping the Irish out of the end zone for the first 54 minutes. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: If WR Ryan Whalen is slow to return from an elbow injury, it’s going to impact the passing game against better defenses. This unit was a little more ordinary that normal without its sure-handed senior.
8. TCU Horned Frogs 4-0
Last week: W SMU 41-24 Next up: at Colorado State Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The offense continues to be efficient and effective for the Horned Frogs. Not only were their 375 total yards almost perfectly balanced, but all five of their red zone trips ended with touchdowns. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: If TCU was looking for style points, it didn’t get any in Dallas. The Frogs never completely shook free from SMU, which produced an uncharacteristic 192 yards on the ground and 6.6 yards a carry.
9. Wisconsin Badgers 4-0
Last week: W Austin Peay 70-3 Next up: at Michigan State Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: So much for the Badgers playing down to their competition. In a record-setting afternoon, they produced more than 600 yards, getting 100 on the ground from John Clay and James White, and quality snaps for a slew of backups. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Although it wasn’t going to show against the Governors, Wisconsin is not quite a finished product in the secondary. The pass rush has been spotty and the D allowed two touchdown passes in each of the first two games. The defense has to prove it can produce without LB Chris Borland.
10. Arkansas Razorbacks 3-1
Last week: L Alabama 24-20 Next up: at Texas A&M (Oct. 9) Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The Hogs went toe-to-toe with the Crimson Tide, outplaying the defending champs for more than three quarters. The defense, while not air-tight, is noticeably stingier than a year ago. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: If Arkansas is going to pick up more than just moral victories against SEC heavyweights, it has to get better consistency from star QB Ryan Mallett. His two picks down the stretch put ‘Bama in a position to complete its comeback.
11. Oklahoma Sooners 4-0
Last week: W Cincinnati 31-29 Next up: Texas Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The Sooners have learned a skill inherent to all championship caliber teams: winning close games and coming through late. For the third time in a month, and first time outside Norman, they won a game by seven points or less. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Too close for comfort against a Cincinnati team that had been abused by Fresno State and N.C. State in September. The Sooner D continues to be unimpressive, getting lit up by Bearcat QB Zach Collaros and RB Isaiah Pead.
12. LSU Tigers 4-0
Last week: W West Virginia 20-14 Next up: Tennessee Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The combination of the Tiger defense and special teams is terrific. Patrick Peterson returned a punt back for a touchdown, and the D has given up only 24 points over the last three games. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: The LSU offense, particularly the passing game, is moribund, failing to reach the end zone over the final three quarters of the West Virginia win. The Tigers have now gone more than 14 quarters without throwing a touchdown pass.
13. Arizona Wildcats 4-0
Last week: W Cal 10-9 Next up: Oregon State (Oct. 9) Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: Arizona chalked up another character-building win, using a last-minute drive to nip Cal on a night it should have lost. The D came up big for a second straight week, keeping the Bears out of the end zone and RB Shane Vereen in check. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: A win’s a win, but it was still a pretty sorry effort over Cal, which couldn’t stop Nevada last Friday. It took nearly the entire game before Nick Foles finally got the Wildcats into the end zone.
14. Miami (FL) Hurricanes 2-1
Last week: W Pittsburgh 31-3 Next up: at Clemson Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The ‘Canes delivered the perfect rebound effort coming off the Ohio State loss, dismantling Pitt on the road. The defense was especially dominant, collecting five sacks, allowing 232 yards, and keeping the Panthers out of the end zone. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: The offense still needs some fine-tuning. Jacory Harris threw two more interceptions, giving him six in the last two games, and the running game produced just 100 yards on 35 carries.
15. Auburn Tigers 4-0
Last week: W South Carolina 35-27 Next up: La.-Monroe Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: Auburn completed its back-to-back sweep of the two South Carolina schools, roaring back from a 20-7 deficit to win another thriller. The Tigers have now played in three straight tough and physical games, winning them all. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Until Steve Spurrier inexplicably switched to rookie QB Connor Shaw, Auburn was having problems containing the Stephen Garcia-to-Alshon Jeffery connection. The pair hooked up eight times for 191 yards and two scores.
16. Iowa Hawkeyes 3-1
Last week: W 45-0 Ball State Next up: Penn State Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The Hawkeyes avoided the letdown following last Saturday’s emotional loss in Tucson. The defense got back on track, yielding just eight first downs and a little more than 100 total yards. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Ball State wasn’t able to attack the Iowa offensive line the way the Wildcats did a week ago. The rest of the Big Ten will, beginning with this Saturday’s visit from Penn State.
17. South Carolina Gamecocks 3-1
Last week: L at Auburn 35-27 Next up: Alabama (Oct. 9) Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: South Carolina went stride-for-stride with Auburn on the road, but were done in by turnovers. Before getting benched for a pair of fumbles, Stephen Garcia was on target through the air, throwing for three scores without a pick. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: What happened to that salty Gamecock defense? The legs went out on the unit over the second half of the game, allowing QB Cam Newton to take over and finish with five touchdowns and well over 300 yards of total offense.
18. Michigan Wolverines 4-0
Last week: W Bowling Green 65-21 Next up: at Indiana Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: Now that’s how you handle an inferior opponent. Not only did the Wolverines dispose of Bowling Green with ease, but Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner showed that there’s life on offense even if Denard Robinson is injured. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Smoking the Falcons doesn’t answer Michigan’s question marks on defense. This remains a team that’s going to be vulnerable against the better offenses left on the schedule.
19. Michigan State Spartans 4-0
Last week: W Northern Colorado 45-7 Next up: Wisconsin Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: In a week filled with distractions, the Spartans avoided the letdown and quietly took care of business. The running game keeps getting better, averaging almost six yards behind Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Routing an FCS opponent shouldn’t give a false sense of security about the Michigan State pass defense. It remains a weak link that Big Ten opponents will attack beginning next week.
20. Utah Utes 4-0
Last week: W San Jose State 56-3 Next up: at Iowa State (Oct. 9) Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The Utes are taking no prisoners against lesser competition, scoring 56 in each of the last two games. They started slowly, but with Jordan Wynn back under center, went on a second quarter tear that put the game out of reach. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: It’ll be easier to get a handle on Utah when the schedule picks up, which really doesn’t happen until November. None of their four victims has a winning record, and none of the next four opponents is ranked.
21. North Carolina State Wolfpack 4-0
Last week: W at Georgia Tech 45-28 Next up: Virginia Tech Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: This might be the ACC team that everyone thought Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and other big names were going to be. The offense has been fantastic with Russell Wilson playing at an ACC Player of the Year level, while the defense has been terrific at getting into the backfield. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: The pass defense has been mediocre, even though Western Carolina, UCF, and Georgia Tech were on the slate. The offensive line has been struggling a bit and it getting Wilson hit way too much.
22. UCLA Bruins 2-2
Last week: W at Texas 34-12 Next up: Washington State Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The Bruins have fully recovered from their 0-2 start with back-to-back wins over Houston and Texas. The defense is now mauling opponents, holding the Cougars and Longhorns to nine points in the first three quarters before the prevent was employed. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: The offense remains on life support. The backs had big games, but the passing attack is among the worst in the country and the line is struggling in pass protection.
23. Texas Longhorns 3-1
Last week: L UCLA 34-12 Next up: Oklahoma Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The ‘Horns are still home to one of the country’s best defensive backfields, featuring multiple all-star candidates and holding the Bruins to 27 passing yards on nine attempts. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Mediocrity finally caught up with the Longhorns in the worst performance by a highly ranked team in all of September. Texas got embarrassed by an average UCLA team, missing the end zone until the game was out of reach.
24. Missouri Tigers 4-0
Last week: W Miami (OH) 51-13 Next up: Colorado (Oct. 9) Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: For the second time in the last three games, Mizzou scored 50 points. The running game looks capable of complementing QB Blaine Gabbert, averaging almost eight yards a carry on Saturday. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: Though the RedHawks couldn’t repeat it, San Diego State RB Ronnie Hillman ran for 228 yards on 23 carries only two weeks ago. Film of that game won’t be lost on Big 12 opponents, which will look to exploit the Tiger run D.
25. Florida State Seminoles 3-1
Last week: W Wake Forest 31-0 Next up: at Virginia Why The Ranking Should Be Higher: The Seminoles continue to regroup from the loss to Oklahoma two weeks ago, winning going away for the second straight week. The defense has allowed just 10 points in those games, putting Wake in a 60-minute vice grip. Why The Ranking Should Be Lower: The offense is still having issues, especially in the early going. Against BYU, the ‘Noles produced just 13 first-half points, and vs. Wake Forest they had only 10. This group needs to get out of the blocks quicker.