A thrilling week featuring three top-ten matchups gives us a clearer picture.
Washington has emerged as the clear frontrunner in the PAC 12, but the rest of the conference is a mess. The Big 12 standard bearer, Baylor, survived, though barely. Alternating games between Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas A&M will determine a pecking order in that conference. Clemson now has the lead in the ACC, but Louisville won’t go away. Meanwhile, the OSU-Michigan rivalry looms even larger in the Big 10. Houston, also, sits pretty outside of the Power 5. Still, any number of upsets could drastically change the whole picture. There’s still a lot of great college football to be played with Virginia Tech at UNC, Tennessee at Texas A&M, and Alabama at Arkansas being the top contests this week.
Receiving consideration: Auburn, Florida State, North Dakota State, UCLA, Air Force, Georgia, LSU, Arizona State, Indiana, and Maryland.
25. Utah 4-1 [Lost to Cal, Last Week #17]—Cal has quickly emerged as one of the more inconsistent yet potentially potent teams in the nation. The Utes learned that the hard way and need a bounce back win over Arizona.
24. Virginia Tech 3-1 [Bye, Last Week NR]—If the Hokies can win at UNC, they could be poised for big things in Justin Fuente’s first year.
23. Colorado 4-1 [Defeated Oregon State, Last Week NR]—It has been a while since the Buffaloes were relevant. A game at USC will help determine how long they stay that way.
22. West Virginia 4-0 [Defeated Kansas State, Last Week NR]—The Mountaineers have not looked strong, but they find themselves in the strong position of being undefeated in a weak conference.
21. Western Michigan 5-0 [Defeated Central Michigan, Last Week NR]—Coach PJ Fleck is one of my favorite up and comers, and his team looks ready to dominate in the MAC.
20. North Carolina 4-1 [Defeated Florida state, Last Week NR]—It is tough to evaluate the Tar Heels as they have struggled in games and the loss to UGA to start the season looks worse. Still, they have found their stride offensively, and games against Virginia Tech and at Miami these next two weeks could decide the division.
19. Boise State 4-0 [Defeated Utah State, Last Week #24]—With the SDSU losing, I now see the Broncos as perhaps the team most likely to go undefeated.
18. Florida 4-1 [Defeated Vanderbilt, Last Week #18]—The Gators were rooting for Georgia over UT, and had to be disappointed by the result. Still, they need to look inward after struggling against Vandy.
17. Arkansas 4-1 [Defeated Alcorn State, Last Week #22]—It will be a tough stretch ahead for the Hogs who host Alabama, Ole Miss, and visit Auburn. Bret Bielema could have his team in a strong position or find himself on a mildly warm seat at the end of this stretch.
16. Oklahoma 2-2 [Defeated TCU, Last Week #21]—A nice bounce back win for the Sooners could set the tone for the rest of the season. The Big 12 is ripe for the taking.
15. Stanford 3-1 [Lost to Washington, Last Week #7]—It was a humiliating evening for the Cardinal who likely said goodbye to their playoff hopes.
14. Nebraska 5-0 [Defeated Illinois, Last Week #16]—The Cornhuskers should have handled Illinois with greater ease, but I still see this as a team that should enter a visit to Wisconsin 7-0.
13. Ole Miss 3-2 [Defeated Memphis, Last Week #15]—The Rebels got revenge against Memphis, and they now have a bye before a tough stretch that sees them visit Arkansas and LSU before hosting Auburn at home.
12. Baylor 5-0 [Defeated Iowa State, Last Week #14]—It took a late rally, but the Bears beat the lowly Cyclones. They get a week off to regroup, but they still look like the class of a weak Big 12.
11. Miami 4-0 [Defeated Georgia Tech, Last Week #12]—Frankly, we know very little about this Hurricane team. I like Richt, and there is talent on this roster. However, we will learn about the quality of this squad after matchups against Florida State and UNC followed by a short week trip to Blacksburg.
10. Wisconsin 4-1 [Lost to Michigan, Last Week #9]—I hate to only “punish” a losing team by dropping them one spot, but you simply cannot make the argument based on this young season that the Badgers are not a top ten team. Wisconsin has two weeks to prepare for Ohio State.
9. Tennessee 5-0 [Defeated Georgia, Last Week #11]—Does this team have any miraculous comebacks left? Firmly in the SEC East driver’s seat, the Vols play at Texas A&M and get Alabama at home in consecutive weeks. Winning one of those games will keep this team in the playoff picture.
8. Texas A&M 5-0 [Defeated South Carolina, Last Week #8]—Sumlin’s team struggled against a weak South Carolina squad, and that is cause for concern. Still, this team could rapidly rise with wins over Tennessee at home and then at Alabama, a crucial game to be played after an Aggie bye week.
7. Louisville 4-1 [Lost to Clemson, Last Week #2]—The Cardinals fought back on the road against a Clemson team that pushed for the title a year ago. Smart money is on this team, if they win out, to be in the playoff.
6. Washington 5-0 [Defeated Stanford, Last Week #10]—The Huskies put any doubts about their legitimacy to rest with a rout of Stanford. Chris Petersen has his program in the driver’s seat in the PAC 12.
5. Michigan 5-0 [Defeated Wisconsin, Last Week #6]—The potent Wolverines offense came to a screeching halt against Wisconsin, but this team managed to beat a really tough Badgers squad.
4. Houston 5-0 [Defeated UCONN, Last Week #4]—Many will begin waffling on the Cougars, but, if they win out with a schedule that still includes Louisville, they will be in the playoff.
3. Clemson 5-0 [Defeated Louisville, Last Week #5]—Deshaun Watson and company have yet to regain their late-season form from a year ago, but they managed to defeat a very good Louisville team. The Tigers play at Florida State on October 29 following a bye. That game, no longer particularly daunting, may be the toughest left on the schedule.
2. Ohio State 4-0 [Defeated Rutgers, Last Week #3]—Rutgers is no powerhouse, but Ohio State defeating a Power 5 team 58-0 sends a statement. The Buckeyes look strong.
1. Alabama 5-0 [Defeated Kentucky, Last Week: #1]—After coasting for the last two weeks, Alabama heads into the toughest stretch of its schedule with games at Arkansas, at Tennessee, and against Texas A&M. I still see no reason not to expect the Tide to run the table.