The Southeastern and PAC-12 Conferences are easily the nation’s two toughest leagues this season, and once again, they dominate my top 25 rankings. Here’s a look at how I break everyone down this week, through games of Wednesday night. A team’s record, followed by its rank last week, are in parenthesis.
1. Alabama (9-0, 1): Just when there some doubt over who’s the best, the Crimson Tide go out and smash a good LSU team by 21 points.
2. Florida State (9-0, 2): Boston College (lost by 14) remains the only team to come within 26 points of the Seminoles.
3. Baylor (8-0, 4): Last week’s 29-point pounding of Oklahoma seems to suggest that yes, Baylor is this good.
4. Stanford (8-1, 5): According to Jeff Sagarin’s strength of schedule rankings, the Cardinal (No. 2) is the only team in my top 10 to play a top-35 schedule.
5. Ohio State (9-0, 6): Buckeyes are almost a cinch to finish undefeated going into the Big Ten title game, with a seven-point win over Wisconsin being their only victory over a ranked team.
6. Oregon (8-1, 3): Ducks got exposed by Stanford in a game that wasn’t as close at the score, but at least quarterback Marcus Mariota says he’s feeling healthier now.
7. Missouri (9-1, 7): Tigers, owners of the second-toughest schedule in my top 10, have a week to get quarterback James Franklin healthier before two tough final games vs. Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
8. Auburn (9-1, 10): As Tennessee can vouch, there’s probably not a rushing offense you’d less-rather face that Auburn’s right now.
9. Wisconsin (7-2, 11): Badgers get one of college football’s best wins last weekend with a solid defeat of BYU; UW now out-scoring opponents by nearly 22 a game.
10. Clemson (8-1, 9): Tigers getting past the post-FSU hangover with tough games looming vs. Georgia Tech and at South Carolina
11. South Carolina (7-2, 13): Carolina has the lowest scoring margin (plus-1o per game) of any team in my top 20, but also the second-toughest schedule (16).
12. Texas A&M (8-2, 14): Aggies’ 30.9 ppg given up is the worst of any team in my top 50, but none of them have Johnny Manziel, either.
13. Arizona State (7-2, 16): Speaking of tough schedules, the Sun Devils (7) own the toughest of any of my Top 25 teams.
14. LSU (7-3, 8): This is a few spots higher than the pollsters have the Tigers, but again, I remind you, these guys beat Auburn and a healthier version of Florida, and lost by field goals to the healthy version of Georgia and Ole Miss.
15. Oklahoma State (8-1, 15): Now that Texas Tech has collapsed, the Cowboys don’t own a Top 25 win.
16. Michigan State (8-1, 17): Neither do the Spartans, but when you give up 11.2 points and 210 yards a game, that gets my attention.
17. UCLA (7-2, 17): Bruins have now won on the road at Nebraska, Utah and Arizona.
18. Washington (6-3, 22): After three-straight losses to teams now in my top 13, the Huskies’ resume looks a lot better after 24- and 52-point poundings of PAC-12 bottom-feeders Cal and Colorado. Funny how that works…
19. Central Florida (7-1, 19): I don’t expect any of Temple, Rutgers, South Florida or SMU to give the Golden Knights and issue, and if that holds, UCF will roll into the BCS (remember, the AAC doesn’t have a title game) with an 11-1 mark.
20. Louisville (8-1, 20): Meanwhile, the Cardinals will lament that BCS spot wasn’t theirs thanks to blowing a huge lead to UCF a few weeks back.
21. Ole Miss (6-3, 21): Surprise, surprise, the Rebels too, are starting to climb into the rankings conversation all because they’re beating bad teams. (Of course, they’ve been ranked here for weeks.)
22. Georgia (6-3, 23): Bulldogs quietly sneak back into the major polls after pounding a bad Appalachian State team, but Auburn and Georgia Tech are just around the corner.
23. Southern Cal (7-3, 28): If Ed Orgeron can take a middlingTrojans team into the Top 25 — remember, he was 14-26 as a head coach at Ole Miss — then how bad a coach was Lane Kiffin?
24. BYU (6-3, 24): How did BYU lose at Wisconsin, and yet gain a spot in my rankings? A) losing by 10 to the Badgers on the road isn’t a bad thing, and; B) it was a poor week for a lot of the teams previously in this vicinity of the rankings.
25. Virginia Tech (7-3, 33): It’s hard to believe I’m putting the Hokies back in the rankings not too far removed from back-to-back losses to Boston College and Duke, but an 18-point win at Miami (plus a defense that’s giving up 17.6 points and 263 yards per game) makes the Hokies deserving.
The next 25:
26. Texas (7-2)
27. Miami (7-2)
28. Oklahoma (7-2) (In hindsight, having the Sooners at No. 12 last week was too high)
29. Georgia Tech (6-3)
30. Arizona (6-3)
31. Kansas State (5-4)
32. Northern Illinois (10-0)
33. Notre Dame (7-3)
34. Fresno State (9-0)
35. Texas Tech (7-3)
36. Vanderbilt (5-4)
37. Houston (7-2)
38. Iowa (6-4)
39. Oregon State (6-3)
40. Utah (4-5)
41. Duke (7-2)
42. Minnesota (8-2)
43. Nebraska (7-2)
44. Boise State (6-3)
45. Utah State (6-4)
46. East Carolina (7-2)
47. Florida (4-5)
48. Pitt (5-4)
49. Michigan (6-3)
50. North Texas (7-3)