This week starts what I hope to be a weekly feature here at The Thrill of Victory, and that’s my personal ranking of the top 25 teams in college football. No, I don’t have a vote in either the AP or the USA Today polls, but if I did, these would be my rankings for this week.
1. Alabama (6-0): Yes, the Crimson Tide have some issues on the offensive line, and they don’t have the dominant running game they once had. They’ve still out-scored opponents 233-68, and that includes wins against two teams (Virginia Tech, Texas A&M) that are undefeated outside of playing the Crimson Tide. ‘Bama now rides an 11-game winning streak.
2. Oregon (6-0): Ducks hasn’t been held under 55 all year until Saturday, when an excellent Washington defense “held” OU to 45. Oregon may have a legit argument that it’s better than ‘Bama, but I’ll defer to the defending national champs until (and if) that becomes obvious.
3. Florida State (5-0): Seminoles really haven’t been challenged yet, but out-scoring your opponents by nearly 42 a game is quite impressive.
4. Clemson (6-0): One could easily argue that the Tigers deserve the No. 3 spot over FSU. Since they play this weekend, that’ll be settled soon.
5. LSU (5-1): The only thing standing between the Tigers and a perfect season was a narrow loss at Georgia, back when Georgia was Georgia.
6. UCLA (5-0): Few teams have two better road wins than the Bruins, which won at Nebraska and Utah.
7. Ohio State (6-0): I’m still not sold on the Buckeyes as an elite team, though wins against Wisconsin and at Northwestern the last two weeks have helped.
8. South Carolina (5-1): Gamecocks haven’t played up to their potential much of the season, but the offense is now rolling and Jadeveon Clowney is getting healthy. ‘Tis better to have played the Gamecocks before now rather than after.
9. Texas A&M (5-1): I hesitate to rank a team without even a semblance of a defense this high, but man, Johnny Manziel is proving he can win games by himself.
10. Stanford (5-1): There are cracks in the Cardinal’s armor — Stanford is out-gaining teams by just 25 yards per game — but I’m giving coach David Shaw some benefit of the doubt based on wins over Arizona State and Washington, as well as the team’s recent history.
11. Baylor (5-0): I don’t like putting a team with a garbage schedule this high, especially when the Bears haven’t played anybody that even got a Top 25 vote this week. Still, look at how Baylor has dominated so far: an incredible 45.4 points and 370 more yards than opponents, on average.
12. Louisville (6-0): Cards are the flip side of Baylor: a team that hasn’t played anybody, but has dominated with defense (7.3 ppg).
13. Miami, Fla. (5-0): ‘Canes are rolling with a much-improved defense and some nice wins over Florida and Georgia Tech.
14. Missouri (6-0): Still not sure exactly how big the upside is — and it’s too bad we won’t find out, since quarterback James Franklin is done for the regular season — but the Tigers still have a very impressive collection of skill players at receiver and running back to go with some play-making defensive ends.
15. Georgia (4-2): Bulldogs are a top-five team if healthy, but may not be a Top 25 team in their current state of mass-woundedness.
16. Washington (4-2): I realize that the Huskies have two losses; so would nearly anyone else that’s played Oregon and gone to Stanford.
17. Wisconsin (4-2): If officials hadn’t botched that game against Arizona State in Week 2, there’s a better-than-average chance that the Badgers would be in the top 10.
18. Oklahoma (5-1): Sooners have made it happen on defense this year, but with defensive tackle Jordan Phillips done, Texas lit up OU last weekend. Now that he’s done for the year, Oklahoma may have trouble staying this high.
19. Virginia Tech (6-1): Hokies are the Sooners, with less offense and an even better defense.
20. Texas Tech (6-0): No super-impressive wins here, but Tech is getting it done on offense (as usual) and has found a respectable defense, too.
21. Florida (4-2): Gators tentatively staying in the Top 25 because of what may be the best defense in the country (13 ppg, 235 ypg against a tough schedule), but losing the team’s starting quarterback and now its best running back from an already limited offense could leave a mark.
22. Michigan State (5-1): The Spartans are essentially Florida North, though the offense is finally coming alive a bit now that coach Mark Dantonio has settled on Connor Cook at quarterback.
23. Auburn (5-1): The Tigers don’t have a real signature win, but they’ve been consistent week-in and week-out against a slew of decent opponents.
24. Utah (4-2): The Utes scored a huge upset against Stanford after playing UCLA to within a touchdown the week before.
25. Arizona St. (4-2): True, ASU is one very favorable call from being a .500 football team, but it’s played well across the board against a tough schedule thus far.
Also considered: Oklahoma State
Don’t even think about: Fresno State, Northern Illinois and Houston as ranked teams. Yes, I know that Fresno is in the top 20 of both polls, that the NIU is 23rd in both, and that Houston is also undefeated. All three teams have a strength of schedule of over 100 according to Jeff Sagarin, NIU has just a 48-yard advantage of total offense on average, Fresno is giving up 33.4 points and 425 yards per game and has two one-point wins (neither to Top 25 teams), and Houston’s toughest game was Rice, which it beat by five whole points.