After week-one turkey shoots, many of the best teams in America step up in competition this weekend.
25. Cal (1-0)—I like teams that boast a stellar quarterback, and the Cal Bears fit the bill. Looking ahead, a nice September schedule turns into a very tough October. With the PAC 12 looking rough this week, that run does not look as daunting, and Jared Goff could position the Bears for a surprise run.
24. Northwestern (1-0)—Pat Fitzgerald is a coach I thought highly of until surprising faltering seasons in recent years. Their win against the Cardinal, however, could make them an early surprise. Duke remains their only tough non-conference opponent remaining. The Wildcats begin a conference schedule in October that does not include either Ohio State or Michigan State.
23. Oklahoma (1-0)—The running game looked lackluster against Akron, but I still think the Sooners and their potent passing game take out the Volunteers this week. Tennessee played as a trendy pick this offseason, but I don’t see it yet. Should be a key game for both squads.
22. Arizona (1-0)—The Wildcats underwhelmed against UTSA, but Rich Rodriguez enjoys plenty of talent on this team. Matchups against Nevada and Northern Arizona should simply be prep work for a big game against UCLA later this month.
21. Miami (1-0)—Like many on this list, not much was learned in the Hurricanes’ opener. With Al Golden on the hot seat, it may take the teams remaining on this list for the coach to keep his job.
20. Boise State (1-0)—The Broncos had to love beating their former coach. Another tough matchup against BYU looms this week, but Boise State has to be considered the favorite in what may be their toughest test of the season.
19. Cincinnati (1-0)—As expected, Gunner Kiel looked good against Alabama A&M, and I’d expect he puts together a stronger performance than Christian Hackenberg against Temple this week. Are the Bearcats the most likely team in the nation to run the table?
18. Mississippi State (1-0)—Are the Bulldogs more than a one-man band? Dak Prescott will clearly be the focus for LSU in the matchup that could bump Dan Mullen’s team from the top 25.
17. Ole Miss (1-0)—The Rebels trounced Tennessee-Martin and should cruise past Fresno State. The 9/19 slate, shaping up to be a great week, will feature a big time matchup in Tuscaloosa between Hugh Freeze’s club and the Tide.
16. Notre Dame (1-0)—It is strange when a dominating performance over Texas does not mean all that much. Still, the Fighting Irish could make a run, and their matchup with Georgia Teach coming up will be must-see football.
15. Georgia Tech (1-0)—You have to love a team with a clear identity. The Yellow Jackets threw the ball a total of five times. Their 476 yards were distributed among 13 people. If I had to pick a potential playoff team no one is talking about, it would be the team from Atlanta.
14. Clemson (1-0)—Starting the season with Wofford and following up with Appalachian State gives Clemson one of the easiest early schedules in the FBS. Watson and company are good, but a game at Louisville in Week 3 should give us a good idea on just how good.
13. Georgia (1-0)—The Dawgs showed, as expected, arguably the nation’s best ground games. That’s good. But how bad will their passing game be? South Carolina on 9/19 might be the first team capable of exposing weak signal callers.
12. LSU (0-0)—Weather made certain that we know nothing new about LSU. Week 1, however, only served as confirmation that the Bayou Bengals face a tough, tough road in the SEC West. It starts this week with MSU.
11. Michigan State (1-0)—An umimpressive win gets excused when you are a program that is this consistent, has an elite quarterback, and has a defining game on the horizon. The Spartans will make a move if they can outlast Oregon.
10. USC (1-0)—One of only a few PAC 12 teams to look decent last week, the Trojans did exactly what they were supposed to do against their Sun Belt opponent. Tre Madden’s big-play ability could continue to pay dividends for the team.
9. Texas A&M (1-0)—Very few, if any, ranked the Aggies this high, but they certainly performed to this top-10 slot with a convincing win over Arizona State (a team which, unlike others, I did not feel deserved a top 25 ranking). Freshman wide receiver Christian Kirk plays as a standout, and the SEC darkhorse team boasts some elite pass rushing talent.
8. Florida State (1-0)—No, a win over Texas State does not impress much, but the Seminoles liked what Everett Golson and their incredibly deep receiving corps did. Another thing to like? An incredibly soft September schedule.
7. Oregon (1-0)—The Ducks have to be concerned about the point total given up to Eastern Washington. Given that the PAC 12 team faces one of the nation’s best QBs in Connor Cook this week, their potent offense will have a hard time keeping up with a similar defensive performance. Still, Vernon Adams looks like everything they hoped he’d be.
6. UCLA (1-0)—When I scouted Josh Rosen coming out of high school, I thought he was the best pure passer I had seen in a while. I was still pleasantly surprised by his opening performance. Though early, the Bruins easily outpaced fellow PAC 12 members.
5. TCU (1-0)—Not reading too much into the first game, but, as of now, I can’t rank the Horned Frogs ahead of the next four. A matchup against Stephen F. Austin should help Trevone Boykin settle back into a groove, but the team may be missing some key defensive pieces for the remainder of the season.
4. Baylor (1-0)—No Bryce Petty? No problem. The Baylor Bears once again make a smooth quarterback transition and looked good after overcoming early struggles against SMU.
3. Auburn (1-0)—Auburn moves back a spot after an abysmal performance from QB Jeremy Johnson. If Johnson, who many pegged as a Heisman contender, rebounds, there is still a lot to like about this team. Overall, it was a solid performance against a Louisville team that seems set to compete in the ACC.
2. Alabama (1-0)—This week, the Tide benefits from other highly-ranked programs looking less lofty than initial rankings. Still, the team performed well against Wisconsin, and Derrick Henry looks like a Heisman contender ready to carry the team.
1. Ohio State (1-0)—And the biggest mystery of the college football season was answered when Cardale Jones trotted onto the field to lead the Buckeyes. Braxton Miller looked outstanding in his new role, and the reigning champs return several standouts next week, including big-time DE Joey Bosa.