Last week boasted some headliner matchups, and this week features none. Still, playoff contenders Clemson, Utah, and Texas A&M all face teams this week with the talent to potentially knock them out of the discussion.
25. Pitt (5-1)—Can I really put the Panthers here? A 17-point win against hapless Akron remains their only victory decided by double digits. Still, they are 5-1, their lone loss is a three pointer to Iowa, and no one else has really earned this spot.
24. Ole Miss (5-2)—After Ole Miss beat Alabama, many, including myself, forgot it was a Mississippi school. Like last season where both the Rebels and the Bulldogs ascended only to crash, 2015 has shown a ceiling over teams playing football in MS. Hugh Freeze may want to look for other employment before it creates a large lump on the top of his head.
23. Duke (5-1)—David Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils relevant once again.
22. Oklahoma (6-1)—The Sooners routed Kansas State, but that can’t quite make me forget the loss to Texas. A brutal last three games could bring the season to a rough or glorious conclusion.
21. Cal (5-1)—UCLA is wounded, and the Bears look to take advantage when they head to LA led by gunslinger Jared Goff.
20. Toledo (6-0)—The Rockets carry the torch for the MAC as one of four undefeated non-Power 5 teams making some noise in the top 25.
19. Houston (6-0)—Enjoy it while it lasts, Cougars! Houston looks awfully good in Year 1 of Tom Hermann, but will there be a Year 2?
18. Temple (6-0)—A gap exists, in my view, between #18 and #17. But the fact is that people have to pay attention to the Owls. A Halloween matchup against Notre Dame and a November 21 game against Memphis shape up as very high-profile contests.
17. Texas A&M (5-1)—It was a tough loss against Alabama for the Aggies, but, if chaos is the name of the game in the last few weeks, they could find themselves in the playoff discussion if they win out.
16. Michigan (5-2)—If a routine play doesn’t take a bizarre twist, the Wolverines would be ranked #7 right now and poised for a playoff shot upon beating OSU. It’s a cruel world, but Jim Harbaugh still gets kudos for a strong early start.
15. Memphis (6-0)—Give credit where it’s due. A 13-point win against a team that handled Alabama just a few weeks earlier is very impressive. While Houston and Temple remain on the schedule, one has to be amazed by the job Justin Fuente is doing.
14. Florida (6-1)—Alabama, Notre Dame, and Stanford all possess better cases as one loss teams for now, but given the Gators’ positioning to make it to the SEC title game where they could prove themselves in a rematch or against Alabama (and the fact that FSU is also on the schedule), Florida is very much in the playoff picture.
13. Oklahoma State (6-0)—I don’t think Oklahoma State is the 13th-best team in the country. So far, they just haven’t looked that good. However, they remain undefeated and I have every reason to think they will be 8-0 when they face TCU for the right to remain in the playoff hunt.
12. Notre Dame (6-1)—Who would’ve thought a game against Temple would be one of the season’s biggest? Pitt is also shaping up to be a solid opponent, and the season finale against Stanford could be for a playoff spot.
11. Iowa (7-0)—Kirk Ferentz coaches one of the surprise programs of the year, and he must love where his team sits. Indiana and Minnesota, at 4-3, are the only remaining teams on the schedule with winning records and there is one conference win between them.
10. Stanford (5-1)—The top nine are consensus top nine so the Cardinal are my top team outside of that group. Very much still in playoff contention, Stanford is playing better as the year goes along.
9. Florida State (6-0)—The Seminoles should easily dispatch of the reeling Yellow Jackets, but the reason FSU is the second lowest ranked Power 5 undefeated team is that they rarely make it look easy.
8. Alabama (6-1)—I’m inclined to bump the Tide higher after a strong win over the Aggies. Still, turnovers helped make that margin, and this is a one-loss team. Even if Alabama wins out, there’s a scenario where it could be locked out with one of Baylor-TCU, one of Ohio State-Michigan State-Iowa, one of Clemson-FSU, and Utah filling the top four.
7. Utah (6-0)—The Utes are everyone’s darling, and, with the PAC 12 a mess and Stanford not on the regular-season schedule, reason remains to think they will keep winning. Still, USC and UCLA are talented teams and I’m not confident Utah runs the table.
6. Clemson (6-0)—Sure, I drop Clemson a hair due to others beating high-quality opponents, but, if the Tigers get by FSU it will take a major upset to knock them off from being undefeated and in the playoffs.
5. Michigan State (7-0)—Wow! What a finish for the Spartans! Mark Dantonio’s club reminds us that it is not how you win, it is that you win, and Michigan State now looks ahead with pretty smooth sailing until they meet the Buckeyes.
4. LSU (6-0)—I give the Bayou Bengals a big jump after handling Florida. Malachi Dupre is a very good receiver who gave the team just enough of a passing game to make them dangerous. Now officially in the driver’s seat in the SEC, circle your calendars for the November 7 showdown in Tuscaloosa.
3. TCU (7-0)—The Horned Frogs get a bye in advance of what should be an easy Thursday night game against West Virginia. Still, TCU has been played close before, and they will want to avoid an upset ahead of a big game against Oklahoma State.
2. Ohio State (7-0)—Barrett should lead the underwhelming Buckeyes better, but Urban Meyer could probably suit up at quarterback and Ohio State would still have the talent to overwhelm their next three opponents. The last two weeks of the season could prove problematic unless this team steps up.
1. Baylor (6-0)—I’m keeping Baylor in the top spot this week though Ohio State may begin to click more with Barrett as the starter. The Bears are the only team consistently playing above their competition and not to the level of their competition.