Mandel’s Top 10: With Utah out at No. 1, who takes over?

While I’m taking my share of mockery now for having ranked Utah No. 1 the past several weeks, the fact is the Utes had earned it to that point. Now, following their blowout loss to USC, there is no team out there with an obviously-deserving-of-No. 1 resume. I went back and forth between LSU and Clemson.

Meanwhile, I tossed TCU out altogether on a bye week. It’s not the Frogs’ fault, but I can no longer justify including them when the two teams they escaped against in road shootouts, Texas Tech and Kansas State, are now a combined 2-7 in Big 12 play, and their best win is over a 3-4 Texas team.

Everyone on here either has a better resume, has looked more complete throughout the season or both.

1. LSU (7-0). While RB Leonard Fournette continues to shine, QB Brandon Harris has thrown for seven touchdowns with no INTs over his past three games. The defense on Saturday held Western Kentucky to 20 points, less than half its 44.0 PPG average.

2. Clemson (7-0). Since struggling in the Tigers’ Oct. 3 win over Notre Dame, Deshaun Watson has completed 70 percent of his passes over three straight blowout ACC wins, including Saturday’s 58-0 clinic at Miami.


3. Ohio State (8-0). Ohio State finally looks like Ohio State, and it’s no coincidence that J.T. Barrett is running the offense. Barrett threw for 223 yards, ran for 101 and accounted for five TDs in a 49-7 rout at Rutgers.

4. Baylor (7-0). QB Seth Russell’s neck injury is a big concern going forward, but this ranking is based on the Bears’ performance to date. Coach Art Briles called Saturdays’ 45-27 outing against Iowa State “a tough win.”

5. Michigan State (8-0). The Spartans finally put away an opponent Saturday, outscoring Indiana 24-0 in the fourth quarter. QB Connor Cook had arguably his best game of the season, throwing for 398 yards.

6. Stanford (6-1). The Cardinal offense continues to shine, with Christian McCaffrey hitting 300 all-purpose yards for the second straight week against Washington. Stanford, 5-0, is now the lone unbeaten in Pac-12 play.

7. Alabama (7-1). The Tide were underwhelming in their 19-14 win over Tennessee. But ’Bama has wins over three foes with at least five wins (Wisconsin, Georgia and Texas A&M) and lost to a 6-2 team (Ole Miss).

8. Utah (6-1). The Utes, formerly my No. 1 team, met a perfect storm against sleeping giant USC, with QB Travis Wilson throwing four INTs. They still deserve credit for their 6-0 start against Sagarin’s No. 6-rated schedule.

9. Florida (6-1). Everyone wrote off the Gators after losing QB Will Grier, but even without him they took LSU to the wire on the road. And their blowout win over Ole Miss looks a little better after the Rebels’ rout of Texas A&M.

10. Iowa (7-0). The Hawkeyes’ resume is better than most assume, with wins over 6-1 Pittsburgh, 6-2 Wisconsin and, most recently, a 40-10 blowout at 6-2 Northwestern, whose defense still ranks among the top 20 nationally.

Stewart Mandel is a senior college sports columnist for He covered college football and basketball for 15 years at Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter @slmandel and Facebook. Send emails and Mailbag questions to