It’s no secret that the Southeastern Conference is the top football league in the land, and once again, that’s reflected in my weekly top 25, which has eight of them again this week.
1. Alabama (10-0): The Crimson Tide aren’t as statistically-impressive as FSU behind them, and didn’t play particularly well against Mississippi State. But if there’s one given for ‘Bama under coach Nick Saban, it’s that the ‘Tide always turn it on when needed most.
2. Florida State (10-0): The big question now in Tallahassee is, can FSU survive if embattled QB Jameis Winston gets suspended? Current backup Sean Maquire is a redshirt freshman with a total of seven career attempts.
3. Baylor (9-0): Bears are winning their average game by a 43.8-point margin, and are the only team in the country to double-up on opponents in total yards.
4. Ohio State (10-0): The Buckeyes have raised their level of play down the stretch, though giving up 35 points to lowly Illinois is concerning.
5. Oregon (9-1): Ducks get back in the win column with a 23-point win over a quality Utah team.
6. Missouri (9-1): The Tigers are in the unfortunate position of needing to beat both Ole Miss and Texas A&M to go to the Southeastern Conference title game, but they’re good enough to do it.
7. Stanford (8-2): In terms of quality wins (Arizona State, Washington, UCLA, Oregon), nobody tops what the Ducks have done so far.
8. Auburn (10-1): Sooner or later, the Tigers have to lose one of these close games. Of course, that’s what we thought in 2010, too.
9. Wisconsin (8-2): Beating Indiana isn’t that impressive, but holding a powerful IU offense that had scored at least 28 in each game to a field goal certainly was.
10. Clemson (9-1): A 24-point win over a solid Georgia Tech team was a nice resume-padder for the Tigers.
11. Arizona State (8-2): There are lots of impressive things about the Sun Devils’ season, but none more than giving up 338 yards per game (and being plus-10 in turnovers) in the offensive-oriented PAC-12.
12. Oklahoma State (9-1): Cowboys’ body of work isn’t tremendous — no Top 25 wins — but OSU takes care of the ball and generally beats the teams it should (West Virginia excepted).
13. LSU (7-3): Flip a coin between the next three SEC teams and I couldn’t much argue; Tigers have the best Jeff Sagarin rating (11) of the three.
14. South Carolina (8-2): Another “meh” effort from Carolina, which had no excuse not to whack a Florida team that’s super-handicapped at QB right now. Instead, it won by five.
15. Texas A&M (8-2): This weekend’s matchup between LSU and A&M should be one of the SEC’s most fun games this season; I’d be surprised if the teams combined for anything less than 75 points.
16. Michigan State (9-1): An NCAA-best 228 yards allowed per game gets the Spartans this high. The fact that no wins come over a Top 25 team keeps them from rising higher.
17. UCLA (8-2): Bruins’ win over Washington last weekend was their fourth over a team in my top 50.
18. Ole Miss (7-3): Pollsters said, “We don’t care if you won at Vandy and Texas, or beat LSU at home, or narrowly lost to A&M and Auburn, you need to prove you belong by smashing worthless opponents.” So, the Rebels went out and destroyed Idaho, Arkansas and Troy by a combined 85 points and snuck into the AP’s rankings this week. Does that not prove how ridiculous the polls can be when it comes to just looking at whether you win or whether you lose, and not what you accomplish against who?
19. Southern Cal (8-3): Ed Orgeron, of all people, has engineered a four-game winning streak that includes an upset over Stanford. What’s next, Vandy going to three-straight bowls?
20. Central Florida (8-1): If not for a borderline-miraculous comeback over 1-8 Temple, the Golden Knights would likely have fallen out of everyone’s Top 25 completely.
21. Louisville (9-1): Cardinals got what was really their first solid win of the season with a seven-point victory over Houston.
22. Washington (6-4): I know, I know, nobody else will have the Huskies anywhere near the Top 25. But all four UW losses were to teams in both top 15s and the Huskies had to play a lot of the UCLA game minus star QB Keith Price. Incidentally, Sagarin has Washington 12th this week.
23. BYU (6-3): This is about where the rankings become a crapshoot. The Cougars, with solid wins over Texas, Utah State, Boise, Georgia Tech and Houston, look like the next-best team to me.
24. Georgia (6-4): I had Georgia behind Vandy in my SEC power rankings due to its head-to-head loss against the Commodores. But I couldn’t well put VU in the Top 25 yet, and with wins over South Carolina and LSU, plus nail-biting losses to Auburn and Clemson, you can’t convince me that other teams behind UGA are really better.
25. Oklahoma (8-2): Sooners are here almost exclusively because of their defense (326 ypg).
26. Notre Dame (7-3): With losses to Michigan and Pitt, but wins over Michigan State, Arizona State and Southern Cal, it’s really hard to know what to do with the Irish.
27. Texas (7-3): I’ve got major reservations about putting the Longhorns, who should have lost to Iowa State for that fourth defeat, this high. But they did beat Oklahoma and lost to three good teams, which is more than you can say for most behind them.
28. Kansas State (5-4)
29. Northern Illinois (10-0)
30. Duke (8-2)
31. Virginia Tech (7-4)
32. Vanderbilt (6-4)
33. Fresno State (9-0)
34. Boise State (7-3)
35. Iowa (6-4)
36. Houston (7-3)
37. Georgia Tech (6-3)
38. Arizona (6-4)
39. Oregon State (6-4)
40. Utah (4-6)
41. Miami (7-3)
42. Texas Tech (7-4)
43. Minnesota (8-2): Seriously pollsters, one win over a top-50 type team in Nebraska is enough to get you ranked? For good measure, opponents are out-gaining the Gophers by 13 yards a game.
44. East Carolina (8-2)
45. Nebraska (7-3)
46. Utah State (6-4)
47. Michigan (7-3)
48. Florida (4-6)
49. Washington State (5-5)
50. Toledo (7-2)