Ranking the Teams, 10/20/14

As is becoming my Monday ritual, here’s my ranking of all 128 FBS teams. As usual, I’ll note that this is a ranking of what they’ve accomplished so far, without any regard for who would beat who or how I subjectively value team strength.

While much of the country debates MSU or FSU, a different #1 re-emerges in my rankings. (Source: USA Today Sports Images)

1. Ole Miss Rebels (7-0) – MSU was my previous #1, and they didn’t even play. So how did they lose ground? Well, it was a couple of things. First, Ole Miss whipped Tennessee 34-3. It wasn’t a marquee matchup, but any blowout looks good. The Rebels still haven’t had anyone play them within one score without help from referees, they’re the only team to beat Alabama, and they’re still one of only two to beat Boise. The other factors for the jump we’ll discuss when we get to…

2. Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-0) – With the bye week, MSU didn’t have the opportunity to blow someone out like Ole Miss did. But what really hurt MSU (as much as a #2 can be ‘hurt’) was the hit to their schedule. UAB lost its third game, as did Texas A&M. With the UAB game no longer counting as a minor quality win, and Ole Miss adding its 5th blowout to State’s 2, the rankings swung in Oxford’s favor. MSU gets three weeks of cruise control to pad their stats against Kentucky, Arkansas, and UT-Martin, before a November 15th trip to Tuscaloosa gets serious again.

3. Florida State Seminoles (7-0) – Now that they’ve got the Notre Dame feather in the cap, FSU is one of just 3 teams in the country (along with TCU and Oregon) with wins over three teams with 1 or 2 losses. Still, FSU’s best asset at this point is just avoiding losses. Of last season’s 13 pre-bowl games, 12 were blowouts by at least 21 points. Of the seven games so far this year, two have met that criteria. They beat an Oklahoma State team by 6 that was blown out by TCU. They lucked into an OT win against a Clemson team that was blown out by Georgia. However, the Notre Dame was a big one, exactly what the Noles needed to finally push into the top 3.

4. TCU Horned Frogs (5-1) – They’re still, somehow, the only team to beat Minnesota. Now they’ve beaten both conference foes from Oklahoma, and have the biggest wins over either. There’s a reasonable argument that TCU is better than FSU this year, especially when comparing their one common opponent, the Cowboys. TCU trails due to their loss to Baylor and Baylor’s subsequent loss to West Virginia. If Baylor were still undefeated, the Frogs would probably still be ranked #3. TCU has a really good path to the playoff. No conference title game, and the following schedule: vs Texas Tech, @ West Virginia, vs. Kansas State, @Kansas, @ Texas, and vs. Iowa State. It’s a pretty reasonable finish, and TCU should be favored in all 6 of their remaining games.

5. Marshall Thundering Herd (7-0) – All DJ Khaled does is win. All DJ Doc Holliday does is beat the hell out of anyone that opposes them. The Herd are the only team in the country that hasn’t been held to under 40 points this year, and it would be a huge surprise if they were at any point. Marshall has a great shot at 13-0, but the Conference USA is a typically wild one with strange upsets, so don’t pencil them in just yet. That said, no team in the FBS has a better shot at an undefeated case for the playoffs.

6. Oregon Ducks (6-1) – Just as soon as I start liking Oregon again, I see they have a non-Saturday game on the schedule. Stop it. But until they lose their Friday afternoon neutral site game against Cal (a sequence of words impossible to type without shaking your head), I will extol their virtues. The Ducks are the only team to beat Michigan State, one of two to defeat both UCLA and Washington, and their only loss was a close one against a one-loss team. The Ducks are probably the favorite for the Pac-12 crown at this point, which puts them firmly in the playoff picture.

7. Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1) – After the Arkansas game, the season was going to go in one of two directions, and I think we got an emphatic answer as to what direction that would be. Texas A&M isn’t particularly good this year, but they’re good enough to at least say that it takes a very good team to beat them 59-0. Bama’s schedule has been pretty light so far, with West Virginia the only team they’ve beaten with 2 or fewer losses. Perhaps they receive too much credit for having the refs not calling that facemask penalty against Ole Miss. If that penalty is called, Bama probably drops to 11th or 12th in these rankings. However, Bama getting favorable calls is pretty consistent, so there’s no reason that shouldn’t factor in. While I don’t really believe referees consciously give Bama an edge, I think the edge is there. If it’s there, might as well take advantage of it.

8. Auburn Tigers (5-1) – That Kansas State win looks bigger each week. The drubbing of LSU is still a quality win, and their loss was to an unbeaten. They’ve got a tough second half, facing South Carolina and Texas A&M at home while traveling to Oxford, Athens, and Tuscaloosa. If they run that table, they’re going to be playing for a national title again.

9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-1) – I learned a few things on Saturday, almost all of them were about the Irish. First, Tarean Folston is a really good running back. Second, the Irish are a pretty well rounded team with a lot of good but not great players. Third, Everett Golson is magic in a roughly 15 yard box, and pretty terrible beyond that. I know much of Brian Kelly‘s system is predicated on short throws, so Golson is an excellent fit, but I really do believe that with a QB with decent downfield accuracy, the Irish beat the Noles. Too many times I saw open receivers beating FSU defensive backs only to be overthrown by 5 or more yards by Golson. They had a shot, but endzone officials correctly flagged them for offensive PI, making those officials the first people in Tallahassee to not look the other way in years.

10. Georgia Bulldogs (6-1) – Only 4 teams have scored 34 or more points every game this year. Most people would guess or believe three. Marshall? Of course. Mississippi State? Yeah, they’ve been great. Western Kentucky? Ok, Jeff Brohm runs the Petrino offense, so that makes sense. The 4th is Georgia. Wait, really? The team that replaced its record-setting QB with a noodle-armed 5th year senior, had its Heisman candidate suspended indefinitely, had injuries to its top 2 WRs headed into the season, and has an offensive coordinator a large portion of the fanbase wants fired? Yes, that’s the team. That noodle armed QB, Hutson Mason is defining the role of game-manager QB, averaging just 5.96 yards per play, but with 14 TD to only 3 INT – his 2% INT rate lower than any ever posted by his record-setting predecessor. The Heisman candidate has been missed, but Georgia has been efficient in his stead, with Nick Chubb getting 73 touches for 384 yards in two games. As the receivers have slowly gotten healthier, Mason has slowly gotten better. In games in which Malcolm Mitchell has appeared, Mason is above his average, getting 6.18 ypp with 5 TD and no turnovers. And finally, the offensive coordinator everyone wants fired? He remains in charge of one of the SEC’s most consistently prolific offenses. They’d be closer to the playoff discussion if the team they lost to hadn’t lost 3 other times this year.

11. Kansas State Wildcats (5-1) – Beating Oklahoma gave the Wildcats a quality win, which helps offset the loss to Auburn and the weirdly close game against Iowa State. They really haven’t played anyone else, so it’s a bit early to buy into this team too much, but over the next three weeks they can really prove themselves against Texas, Oklahoma State, and TCU.

12. Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-1) – Picked up their 4th blowout of the year on the road at Northwestern. Their only quality opponent has been Michigan State, who beat them in East Lansing, and they don’t really get another until November 15 when they head to Wisconsin.

13. Michigan State Spartans (6-1) – Why is MSU behind Nebraska, a team they beat? They beat them by 5 with home field advantage, which tells me they’re probably pretty even in terms of strength. Unfortunately, the nature of their loss to Oregon works against them too much, and that’s really the difference. Had they kept the game in Eugene closer, they’d be higher on this list, but instead they lost by 19.

14. Baylor Bears (6-1) – Baylor’s one loss came to Baylor. 18 penalties for 185 yards is significant enough to sufficiently say they beat themselves in their 27-41 loss to West Virginia on Saturday. The rest of the season had gone pretty marvelously. Against 5 mediocre or bad opponents, Baylor had registered 5 blowouts. Against a very good TCU team, Baylor had managed an unlikely comeback for a 3 point win. Things were so good.

15. Arizona Wildcats (5-1) – The only team to beat Oregon and a team whose loss came by 2 points to a USC team that looks better each week. The Wildcats have lived dangerously this year, beating UTSA, Nevada, and Cal by a combined 14 points, but winning ugly is still winning.

16. Oklahoma Sooners (5-2) – The five wins came by 118 points. The two losses were by 5. West Virginia remains a quality win, and the Sooners have scored 30 or more points in every game this season. They get a bye week and then a tune-up against Iowa State before hosting Baylor on November 8th, a game they need in order to re-assert themselves into the Big XII and playoff race.

17. LSU Tigers (6-2) – Wins over Wisconsin and Kentucky are, for now, quality wins, and their losses (MSU and Auburn) have lost a combined one game between them. The Tigers picked up their 4th blowout of the year, and they’re a team that could easily ruin Ole Miss or Alabama’s season, as the Bayou Bengals get both at home over the next 3 weeks, with a bye in between.

18. USC Trojans (5-2) – The Trojans are the only team to beat Arizona, and their losses were close ones (10 total points). However, the Stanford and Oregon State wins don’t look as impressive as they did a week ago, and the Boston College loss looks worse as well. USC is playing better lately, and this Saturday’s trip to Utah should be an interesting one.

19. Ohio State Buckeyes (5-1) – Last week I opined that Ohio State had felt more like a bystander this football season. Yes, they had wins, but they had come against teams nobody really cared about. Now that we’re at the halfway point, Ohio State is slowly creeping back into my consciousness. The Maryland win looks good, and they added an almost identical win (in score and impressiveness) against Rutgers on Saturday. The Buckeyes haven’t exactly faced the gauntlet, but they’ve got 4 straight games over 50 points. If they can survive a trip to Penn State this weekend, they’ll likely be 7-1 when they go to East Lansing on November 8th for what could be the de facto Big Ten East championship game.

20. Utah Utes (5-1) – The loss was only by a single point. Other than that, it’s the worst loss for any one-loss team in football this year, because it came to Washington State, a team that has already racked up 5 L’s. They have quality wins over Oregon State and UCLA, two blowouts over other opponents, and they’ve looked good in 5 of their 6 games. But that Wazzou loss is tough to overcome at this point in the rankings.

21. Arizona State Sun Devils (5-1) – Their win over USC is really the only quality one, and their loss to UCLA was particularly ugly (27-62), but four of the five wins have been by multiple scores.

22. Clemson Tigers (5-2) – They barely beat Boston College on Saturday, which I guess slightly balances out the FSU game on a cosmic scale. Maybe. FSU still hasn’t lost and Georgia still has just one, so Clemson’s losses still remain their strongest argument. Beating Louisville constitutes a quality win, though not a particularly exciting one.

23. Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-2) – Manhandled by TCU on Saturday, it was the first game in which they hadn’t scored at least 27 points, losing 9-42. So what’s the crowning achievement of OSU’s season? Losing by 6 to Florida State? That’s certainly more to get excited about than any kind of wins over Missouri State, UTSA, Texas Tech, Iowa State, or Kansas. TCU was OSU’s first real opponent in 7 weeks, and they looked terrible against them. With the teeth of the schedule coming in the second half, it doesn’t bode well for their future. For now, however, they can enjoy some top 25 status while they still can.

24. Duke Blue Devils (6-1) – It seems like Duke is always in the driver’s seat toward the end of October. Last year through 7 games they were 5-2. In ’12, 5-2. Duke plays their best ball early most of the time. A better way of putting that is that Duke typically has an easier schedule when they have better depth, early in the season. They’re easy to root for, at least in football. David Cutcliffe seems like a good guy who didn’t get a fair shake at Ole Miss. Watching Duke win in football gives you that nice warm feeling, the same feeling you get when you see Duke lose in basketball.

25. Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-1) – With Illinois next, and Iowa at home after that, Minnesota could really be 8-1 when they host Ohio State on November 15. Yes, really. In football.

26. Louisville Cardinals (6-2)
27. East Carolina Pirates (5-1)
28. Colorado State Rams (6-1)
29. Georgia Southern Eagles (5-2) – I would rank Georgia’s #2 football team higher, but I can’t forgive them for that upset loss to Tech.
30. UCLA Bruins (5-2)
31. Virginia Tech Hokies (4-3)
32. Wisconsin Badgers (4-2)
33. Maryland Terrapins (5-2)
34. Nevada Wolf Pack (4-3)
35. Virginia Cavaliers (4-3)
36. Boise State Broncos (5-2)
37. Washington Huskies (5-2)
38. Oregon State Beavers (4-2)
39. West Virginia Mountaineers (5-2) – If this ranking is higher than expected, there’s a legitimate chance WVU fans burn down this website.
40. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-2)
41. South Alabama Jaguars (4-2) – Might be 5-1 had they not scheduled Mississippi State.
42. Stanford Cardinal (4-3)
43. South Carolina Gamecocks (4-3) – There is exactly one team in the country with wins over TWO 1-loss teams. It’s 4-3 South Carolina, who beat Georgia and East Carolina. Nothing makes sense anymore.
44. Memphis Tigers (3-3)
45. Missouri Tigers (5-2)
46. UCF Knights (4-2)
47. Iowa Hawkeyes (5-2)
48. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-2)
49. Temple Owls (4-2)
50. Texas A&M Aggies (5-3)
51. Boston College Eagles (4-3)
52. Penn State Nittany Lions (4-2)
53. Air Force Falcons (5-2)
54. Kentucky Wildcats (5-2)
55. California Golden Bears (4-3) – Over half their games have been decided by 4 points or less. That’s fun.
56. Northwestern Wildcats (3-4)
57. Utah State Aggies (4-3)
58. Akron Zips (4-3)
59. Miami Hurricanes (4-3)
60. Florida Gators (3-3)
61. BYU Cougars (4-3)
62. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-3)
63. Houston Cougars (4-3)
64. Tennessee Volunteers (3-4) – Just as UT slips further and further from the national picture, they might potentially play in one of the most important games of the year.
65. Arkansas State Red Wolves (4-2)
66. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (4-3)
67. Arkansas Razorbacks (3-4)
68. Northern Illinois Huskies (5-2)
69. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (3-3)
70. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (5-3)
71. Rice Owls (3-3)
72. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (2-4)
73. San Jose State Spartans (3-3)
74. Michigan Wolverines (3-4)
75. Texas Longhorns (3-4)
76. UTEP Miners (3-3)
77. UAB Blazers (4-3)
78. Toledo Rockets (4-3)
79. Cincinnati Bearcats (3-3)
80. San Diego State Aztecs (4-3)
81. ULM Warhawks (3-3)
82. Western Michigan Broncos (4-3)
83. North Carolina Tar Heels (3-4) – 1 of Phil Steele’s 9 sets of power rankings called for a 12-0 season for UNC. Take that set of power rankings and kill it with fire.
84. Texas State Bobcats (3-3)
85. Syracuse Orange (3-4) – The 4 losses came to teams with a combined 5 losses.
86. Indiana Hoosiers (3-4)
87. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (3-4)
88. Washington State Cougars (2-5) – Wazzou’s win over Utah might be the year’s biggest upset.
89. Navy Midshipmen (3-4)
90. NC State Wolfpack (4-4) – Remember when they were 4-1 and had just scared the hell out of FSU and FSU fans were telling us how good NC State was this year?
91. Bowling Green Falcons (5-3)
92. Iowa State Cyclones (2-5)
93. Old Dominion Monarchs (3-4)
94. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-4)
95. USF Bulls (3-4)
96. FIU Golden Panthers (3-5)
97. Wyoming Cowboys (3-4)
98. Colorado Buffaloes (2-5)
99. Ohio Bobcats (4-4)
100. Florida Atlantic Owls (3-4)
101. Purdue Boilermakers (3-5)
102. Buffalo Bulls (3-4)
103. UTSA Roadrunners (2-5)
104. Illinois Fighting Illini (3-4)
105. Tulane Green Wave (2-5)
106. Ball State Cardinals (2-5)
107. Fresno State Bulldogs (3-5)
108. Appalachian State Mountaineers (2-5)
109. New Mexico Lobos (2-5)
110. Central Michigan Chippewas (4-4)
111. Vanderbilt Commodores (2-5)
112. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-5)
113. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (2-5)
114. Kansas Jayhawks (2-5)
115. Army Black Knights (2-5)
116. Georgia State Panthers (1-6)
117. Connecticut Huskies (1-5)
118. UNLV Rebels (2-5)
119. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-6)
120. Idaho Vandals (1-6)
121. Troy Trojans (1-6)
122. Massachusetts Minutemen (2-6)
123. Kent State Golden Flashes (1-6)
124. Miami (OH) Redhawks (1-7)
125. North Texas Mean Green (2-5)
126. Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-5)
127. SMU Mustangs (0-6) – In my opinion, SMU is the worst team in the country. They had one 21 point loss, and the next-closest game was a 6-43 loss. Their coach quit and they’re terrible at football. So why are they #127 instead of #128? It comes down to the schedule. SMU’s opponents are actually kind of ok. Baylor, TCU, Texas A&M, East Carolina, and Cincinnati are all .500 or better. Yes, they likely would be losing against any schedule, but they’re playing a better one than most surrounding them here in the basement of the FBS.
128. New Mexico State Aggies (2-6) – They lost by multiple scores to both Idaho and Troy. Ouch.

About Brent Blackwell 137 Articles
Brent Blackwell also writes for College Football By The Numbers at www.cfbtn.com.

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