While one would think that more college football games would make it easier to rank teams, the vast disparity in competition–most teams don’t get to the meat of their schedules for another week–seems to do nothing but confuse the picture. It’s especially a crapshoot at the top, where there doesn’t appear to be a really dominant team. The good news for college football fans is that this should make for a thrilling next 3 1/2 months of action. Here’s my best guess at a Top 25 after those three Thursday night games.
1. Alabama (4-0): With quarterback Blake Sims coming on (having the nation’s best wide receiver in Amari Cooper helps), a great running game and an improving defense, the Crimson Tide look like the best team right now.
2. Auburn (3-0): That opening-day win over Arkansas looks better each week.
3. Oregon (3-0): Ducks were my No. 1 team last week, but I’m getting concerned about a defense that’s giving up 444 yards per game.
4. Oklahoma (4-0): Sooners went to West Virginia and picked up a nice win, though perhaps it was closer than coach Bob Stoops would have preferred.
5. Florida St. (3-0): Yes, Jameis Winston was out, but it seems that the Seminoles may not be the dominant team (plus-12.3 points, plus-66 yards per game) they were last year.
6. Baylor (3-0): Bears lead the country in scoring (50.2 ppg) and yardage margins (433), but they’ve also probably played the worst schedule of any Power Five team.
7. Texas A&M (4-0): The Aggies, also having played a weak schedule the last three weeks, get a great litmus test vs. an Arkansas team that can really run the ball, something A&M couldn’t stop last year.
8. Georgia (3-1): Bulldogs are missing a bunch of good receivers due to injury; the bad news for opponents is that just means they’ll see more of superstar running back Todd Gurley.
9. UCLA (3-0): Those September struggles against Virginia and Memphis don’t look so bad now the way those teams are playing, and last night’s 37-point pounding of Arizona State suggests that perhaps the Bruins still are good enough to challenge for a playoff spot.
10. Ole Miss (4-0): Everybody talks about that offense, but the Rebel defense is allowing just 10.3 points per game.
11. Michigan St. (3-1): Spartans should be favored in every remaining game.
12. Notre Dame (3-0): Coincidentally, the Fighting Irish are also allowing just 10.3 points per game. The scary thing is that the Irish are still playing without four key players who could potentially return.
13. Mississippi St. (4-0): Bulldogs may have some defensive issues, but virtually nobody goes in to LSU and dominates at night the way MSU did most of last Saturday.
14. USC (3-1): Trojans are another hard team to figure; they beat Stanford despite getting beaten on the stat sheet, and then went and lost at Boston College.
15. Stanford (2-1): Cardinal are allowing a national-best 4.3 points per game.
16. LSU (3-1): Okay, the Tigers got whipped by MSU, but that opening-night win over Wisconsin still counts for something.
17. Wisconsin (3-1): Badgers have dominated Illinois, Bowling Green and Western Illinois since that LSU game, for what it’s worth. Oh, and can anybody stop Melvin Gordon?
18. South Carolina (3-1): Gamecocks have massive defensive issues, but most teams would kill to have wins over Georgia and East Carolina.
19. Kansas St. (3-1): Wildcats will have a 16-day rest (does playing UTEP this weekend count?) before a home game with Texas Tech next weekend.
20. BYU (4-0): Undefeated Cougars may be favored in each remaining game, though for what it’s worth, not a single opponent on the schedule got a vote in AP’s Top 25 this week.
21. East Carolina (3-1): That Pirate offense (43.2 ppg, 582 ypg) against a schedule that’s included Virginia Tech, North Carolina and South Carolina is about as good as anyone’s.
22. Clemson (1-2): Okay, the Tigers are 1-2, but how many teams are going to win at Georgia or Florida State?
23. Oklahoma St. (3-1): Mike Gundy, playing with perhaps the nation’s youngest team as well as without his starting quarterback, continues to show just how good a coach he is.
24. Ohio St. (3-1): No doubt, the Buckeyes still have talent, but without Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes have fallen from the elite.
25. Nebraska (4-0): There’s always reason for caution with the ‘Huskers–coach Bo Pelini’s teams are good for laying an egg or two every season, and the schedule’s not been that impressive so far–but there’s something to be said for an offense that averages 45.5 points and 560 yards a game.
Next 10: Louisville, Missouri, Arkansas, Arizona, West Virginia, Utah, Arizona St., Duke, Penn St., Virginia