In my college college football preview, Alabama, Stanford, and Texas A&M were my top three teams. And that remains the same entering week three after Stanford became the last FBS team to play when they kicked off their season at 8PM PDT (11PM EDT) against a potent San Jose State team and offense that finished 11-2 last season, 24th in the BCS standings, and returned a quarterback that had the best completion percentage of all quarterbacks last season in David Fales.
But the first two weeks of the season have essentially been foreplay for this weekend’s college football “game of the year” to date, as Alabama and Texas A&M will battle in College Station to determine who will be the top team in the land.
1. Alabama — If they beat Texas A&M this weekend, they may remain in this spot until next September, when there will be question marks surrounding what quarterback will replace A.J. McCarron to manage three NFL-caliber running backs (T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry, Altee Tenpenny), first-round pick wide receiver Amari Cooper, and an offensive line–and defensive front seven–that will obviously be better and seasoned in the first year of the college football playoff era. In the meantime, Nick Saban is good in “revenge” games–having gone 7-1 during his Alabama tenure–and Alabama may have the power up front to wear down Texas A&M and the offensive arsenal to overwhelm the Aggies if the game becomes a shootout. Unlike last year, though, Alabama will not go into a game battered and emotionally spent after a thrilling come-from-behind win over LSU the week before, a hangover from which Alabama took a quarter to recover during last year’s showdown in Tuscaloosa.
2. Stanford — With a more experienced Kevin Hogan at quarterback, running back Tyler Gaffney making up for lost time, an offensive line that is nasty and wears down defenses, and a defensive unit that has at least 7 starters who will be playing on Sundays, the team is better than they were last year and have more options on offense. The Cardinal opened play late last weekend will will rise early this weekend, as they play a noon EDT (9AM PDT) game at Army. Many a west coast team has struggled traveling cross country to play in the early game. Stanford must watch out for their circadian rhythms in addition to Army’s notorious cut-blocking schemes.
3. Texas A&M – If they beat Alabama on Saturday, they will be the top-ranked team in the nation and in the early driver’s seat to make it to the BCS national title game. The spotlight on Johnny Manziel will intensify even more as he plays the dual heel/babyface role to perfection if the Aggies win.
4. Oregon – The Ducks look like they will not take a step back. But they will be tested against Tennessee on Saturday that looks to be on the rebound.
5. Clemson — No letdown after their dramatic win against Georgia, but Clemson has to be careful not to live up to their reputation of throwing away games they should have won. The Tigers play at North Carolina State on Thursday.
6. Louisville — Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater seems like he will put up video game numbers, and their win over Florida last year in the Sugar Bowl may actually be important this year, as voters have a frame of reference about what the Cardinals can do against an SEC defense on one of the biggest stages.
7. LSU — The Tigers, though they have one of the toughest schedules coming up, were underrated and have proven me correct in putting them in the Top 10 in my initial Power 10. They seem to be on the annual collision course with Alabama. In their wins over TCU and UAB, quarterback Zach Mettenberger looked more comfortable in Cam Cameron’s offense. LSU’s linebackers seem to have more big-play potential that last year’s stellar class. This is a dangerous team that may only be distracted by reports out of Stillwater that may implicate Les Miles when he was at Oklahoma State in some recruiting shenanigans. They should steamroll Kent State on Saturday as they tune up for what will be a brutal SEC schedule that sees them play Georgia, Florida, and Florida in addition to the brutal SEC west schedule that includes Alabama, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss.
8. Ohio State – A less-than-fully-healthy Braxton Miller, or a less fleet-footed one, will cause an offensive that heavily relies on him obvious problems. Danger potentially awaits them at Berkeley on Saturday
9. Florida State – Redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston will try to prove he was not a one-game wonder–and all indications are that he will not be–when the Seminoles host Nevada on Saturday.
10. Georgia – The Bulldogs had perhaps the most impressive win of the week last week at home against South Carolina after a heartbreaking loss at Clemson the week before, which was made more impressive because they were without star wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, whom they lost for the year after he hurt himself celebrating in the Clemson game. Mark Richt has often been undeservedly on the hot seat in many a year and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has also been unfairly criticized for not being clutch, and both ensured that chatter would not ramp up during the their much-deserved bye week. A showdown with LSU looms on September 28.
On the cusp: Michigan, UCLA, Miami, South Carolina, Washington, Oklahoma