College Football Rankings, 10/27/14

It’s time for the country to stop ignoring one of its best teams. (AP Photo/Randy Snyder)

Tomorrow, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee will release its initial top 25 rankings.  It will likely look very similar to the AP top 25.  If it doesn’t, then the Committee will have earned something – originality, and with it, some degree of credibility.

I don’t claim more credibility than any other who compiles rankings, but I do have some originality.  As per my new Monday tradition, I’m ranking the FBS teams from #1 to #128.  Let’s get to my college football rankings.

The Top 25

1. Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-0) – Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs just keep winning, and their resume remains the nation’s best. Everyone focuses on the wins over top 10 teams and the SEC slate, but MSU also decisively beat South Alabama, who so far has been one of the better second-division FBS teams. It’s an extra feather in the cap that many have ignored.  The defense leaves a lot to be desired, but thanks to a great offense with one Heisman contender, Dak Prescott, and another emerging star, Josh Robinson, MSU has scored at least 34 points in every game this year.  Robinson leads the SEC in both total rushing and conference rushing, averaging 149 ypg against conference foes.  Prescott, meanwhile, has 313 plays for 2,358 yards, for an excellent 7.53 average.

2. Marshall Thundering Herd (8-0) – Marshall gets no love from voters because of its schedule, which is admittedly very weak.  However, Marshall isn’t getting enough credit for doing what they’re supposed to do against that kind of schedule – destroying it.  Their 35-16 win against Florida Atlantic this weekend felt scarily close, and if you’re a Marshall fan, it was close – the 19 point margin was the 2nd closest game of the year, just behind a 42-27 opening day win over Miami OH.  Casual followers of Marshall know that Marshall is mostly offense – they rank in the top 10 nationally in both yards per passing attempt (9.03) and yards per rushing attempt (7.05).  That surprises no one, but this might: the Herd is 8th in scoring defense, allowing just 16.50 points per game.

3. Florida State Seminoles (7-0) – With a bye week, the Noles couldn’t really do much other than watch their opponents play.  If they did, they saw Oklahoma State get soundly beaten for the second straight week.  They saw Clemson and Syracuse looking not all that good against one another.  They saw what they’ve seen all year – defeated opponents looking worse against future opponents than they did against FSU.  I feel like I pick on FSU’s schedule a lot in these spaces, but it’s really just to illustrate how it’s possible for them to have been jumped by Marshall.  While Marshall is beating the hell out of bad teams, Florida State is having close calls with just-ok teams, and Florida State is beating bad teams by less than Marshall beats bad teams.  Now that that’s explained, let’s talk about what makes FSU so good, and it’s a simple explanation: the offense, namely Jameis Winston, with 313 ypg and 8.9 ypa.  FSU also really excels in the red zones.  Defensively, they allow scores on just 70% of red zone trips – it’s actually the only defensive statistic in which they are ranked top 10 nationally.  Offensively, they score on 97% of red zone trips.  That’s how you win close games, and that’s how you survive being overall much closer to average than you were a year ago.  2013’s FSU was special, routinely beating opponents by 40 or more points.  This year’s team has had to learn how to win without an elite defense and with opponents suddenly capable of hanging with them.  To their credit, they’ve done that.

4. Oregon Ducks (7-1) – 43% of their offensive plays have gone for first downs or touchdowns.  That’s incredible.  Oregon’s defense has performed pretty poorly so far, which means Heisman front-runner Marcus Mariota has been even more important to Oregon than before.  His 24:1 TD:INT ratio is otherworldly.  Oregon ranks tops among the 1-loss teams thanks to a win over Michigan State no one else has achieved, three blowouts, and their loss being close and to a good team.

5. TCU Horned Frogs (6-1) – Before TCU started their 82-point barrage against Texas Tech, an offensive display that exhausted the entire season’s pyrotechnics budget, a blow was dealt to their credentials: Minnesota lost, a result we’ve anticipated for several weeks now.  TCU’s 30-7 win over Minnesota was a big reason for their high ranking, and that win lost a bit of its luster, especially after it was Illinois taking down the Gophers.  Still, you have to marvel at TCU’s offense, arguably the country’s most explosive.  The Frogs are averaging over 50 points a game (#1 nationally) and rank in the top 10 in passing TDs, passing yards, and TD:INT ratio.  Clearly the star here is the QB, Trevone Boykin, whose stats aren’t too far behind Mariota’s (21:3).  Don’t sleep on the defense, either.  Yes, they melted down against Baylor, but they still rank impressively in most metrics.  Their 47% completion rate allowed is 2nd best in the country.  They’re having problems on those 47%, giving up 14.97 yards per reception, but it’s really the only weakness on the team aside from penalties.

6. Ole Miss Rebels (7-1) – Ole Miss’s story, unlike those ranked higher, has been on the prevention of points rather than the scoring of them, and that was on full display Saturday in the loss to LSU.  The defense was its usual, dominant self.  Ole Miss has the nation’s stingiest D, allowing 10.5 points, 0.88 touchdowns, picking off 2.12 passes, and allowing an opponent’s TD:INT ratio of 4:17.  All of those stats lead the country.  The offense isn’t bad when Bo Wallace isn’t under pressure, but we saw on Saturday that it can be downright awful when he is.  Still, the Rebels will see if an elite defense can carry them to the playoffs.  With home games remaining against Auburn and Mississippi State, two offensive juggernauts, it’ll be fun to find out.

7. Auburn Tigers (6-1) – While much attention was given to the Mississippi schools on Saturday, one near-upset slipped through the cracks.  Auburn beat South Carolina 42-35, their first real close call to a truly inferior team this year.  Last year’s Tigers made a habit of such games – if games were 59 minutes long, Auburn would have been 7-5 – and with games against Ole Miss, A&M, Georgia, and Alabama still to come, now isn’t the time to rediscover the habit.  The War Eagles are good on defense and better on offense, led by RB Cameron Artis-Payne and QB Nick Marshall.

8. Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1) – Has any WR ever carried a contender like Amari Cooper is doing right now?  At 141.5 ypg, Cooper is responsible for nearly half of the Tide’s receiving yards on a game-by-game basis.  The Tide didn’t move the needle much against Tennessee, who they didn’t blow out but also didn’t let get too close.

9. Kansas State Wildcats (6-1) – K-State’s only loss is a close one to Auburn, and they just keep rolling through the Big XII.  The one caveat, of course, is that other than Oklahoma, they’ve only had to roll through several of the Big XII’s weakest teams – Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Texas.  They get Oklahoma State next, and then the furious finish awaits: TCU, West Virginia, and Baylor are three of their final four opponents. The Wildcats don’t really stand out in any particular way, but they do so many things well wins are easy to come by, and many are old school tenets: force opponents to throw while they keep the ball on the ground, defend well in the red zone, convert 3rd downs at a high clip, play well on special teams, and avoid penalties.

10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-1) – A bye week allowed Notre Dame to keep dwelling on the end of that game in Tallahassee, which couldn’t be good for their health.  ND is good at pretty much everything without being elite at much.  Everett Golson should feast on Navy’s defense this weekend, and the Irish should be 7-1 heading into the Arizona State game.  It won’t be the opportunity for a signature win that last weekend was, but it’s the next best opportunity from a quickly dwindling schedule (Stanford, USC, and Northwestern have all disappointed).

11. Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-1) – The Huskers keep avoiding really good teams and keep dominating inferior ones.  I don’t think many are really considering them a contender for the playoffs, but with Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa remaining on the schedule, they could conceivably roll into the B1G championship at 11-1.  Nebraska’s propensity for fumbles may get them in trouble at some point, however, which is potentially dangerous for a team carried by its rushing offense.  With 156 ypg and 17 TD, RB Ameer Abdullah looks like a Heisman contender.

12. Georgia Bulldogs (6-1) – The SEC team nobody is really talking about, mostly because they’re the one good team in the East, which has now become what the Big XII North was for a bit – something of an embarrassment to the conference’s better half. The exception is Georgia. The Dawgs really have only one weakness so far – the explosiveness of the passing game, as they average just 10.80 yards per reception. They’re finding the end zone more than most, however, at 43.4 points per game. While the passing game’s explosiveness has been lacking due to the slow return from injury for primary WRs Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley, behind QB Hutson Mason the Dawgs have a 68% completion rate, 6th best in the country. Even without the threat of a deep pass and the loss of Todd Gurley to a suspension, UGA is 8th nationally with 6.14 yards per rushing attempt. That’s a testament to the playcalling of Mike Bobo, perhaps the nation’s most underappreciated offensive coordinator by his own fans. Also, when an offense still clicks despite losses at skill positions, you credit the offensive line, and Georgia’s has looked like one of the nation’s best so far. In September, Jeremy Pruitt’s defense looked a lot like Todd Grantham’s 2013 unit. During October, they looked more confident and more importantly, more competent. The pass rush is excellent, and while the coverage isn’t great, the Bulldogs have a ball-hawking defense. Combine that with the methodical offense and you get the nation’s best turnover margin, at nearly +2 per game. Stay tuned this week to see if Georgia will get the country’s best player back for their trip to Jacksonville.

13. Michigan State Spartans (7-1) – They beat Nebraska, but did so by a narrow margin with home field advantage.  Is MSU really better?  It’s hard to really know from that game.  While the defense, as we’ve come to expect from MSU, is good, they lost by 19 at Oregon and gave up 31 to Purdue, so it’s not what it has been.  They’re making up the difference with an explosive offense.  Ranking in the top 10 in passer efficiency, rushing TDs, total TDs, and yards per pass attempt, MSU has a balanced attack capable of big plays. Connor Cook has 17 TDs to only 5 INTs, while RB Jeremy Langford has over 100 ypg and 10 TD. They get a bye this week before hosting a very big game against Ohio State on November 8.

14. Baylor Bears (6-1) – Baylor has 5 dominant wins, one close win where they were outplayed by TCU, and one loss undone by penalties.  Penalties are a real problem for Baylor – no team in the country commits more, as Baylor has surrendered over 100 yards per game on penalties alone.  Other than that, Baylor is pretty great everywhere.  1st in yards per game, 18th in yards allowed, 8th in completion % allowed, and hell, the list just goes on and on. Bryce Petty has an unusually low completion %, but other than that has been as good as expected.  One issue for Baylor is red zone performance – they’re poor both offensively and defensively inside the 20, which could make a big difference in close games in the future.  After the bye, they get a tune-up against Kansas before heading to Norman on November 8 for a big game.

15. LSU Tigers (7-2) – If there’s a team that could really finish strong, it’s LSU.  They have two bye weeks in the next 4, host Alabama at home, and get Arkansas and A&M to finish the year.  Don’t count LSU out of the SEC West race just yet.  The offense has been so mediocre I’m not sure anyone noticed before Saturday that LSU had one of the country’s best defenses this year, ranking in the top 10 in completion % allowed, 3rd down % allowed, pass efficiency allowed, and total TDs allowed.  LSU has been a little too easy to run on, which could spell some problems when they head to Arkansas.  No matter the issues, given the up and down nature of the offense, LSU has to be thrilled to be 7-2 with a win over Ole Miss as one of the most impressive of the year so far.

16. Oklahoma Sooners (5-2) – Another two loss team!  While LSU has the quality wins, Oklahoma’s losses were closer to being wins, having lost both games by a combined 5 points.  Both losses came to one-loss teams that we’ve already covered, giving Oklahoma an argument for higher placement.  Their win over a 5-loss Texas wasn’t impressive, which hurts.  They’ve got Iowa State next, and then they’ll try to get back in the hunt on November 8 when they host Baylor.

17. Arizona Wildcats (6-1) – Arizona has a bad defense, but the offense has been fantastic, in the top 10 in first downs, yards, passing yards, and turnover rate.  QB Anu Solomon may not be getting a lot of Heisman hype, but his numbers are on par with those that are: 347 ypg, 20 TD, 4 INT.  4 of the 6 wins were by single scores or less, and the loss to USC looks worse with every subsequent Trojan loss.  However, they beat Oregon, and nobody else can claim that at this point.  The Wildcats are living a dangerous life of close games, and they’ll head to UCLA this weekend to meet an opponent with similar cardiac-stressing tendencies.

18. Clemson Tigers (6-2) – 23.8% of Clemson’s opponents’ plays have gone for first downs or touchdowns.  That’s the lowest rate in the entire country.  Clemson’s D got a lot of preseason hype, but that hype evaporated when the Tigers were gashed by Georgia in a 45-21 loss and then lost in OT to FSU two weeks later.  However, the defense wasn’t to blame against the Noles, and it’s actually been pretty impressive in every subsequent game.  Their 23 allowed to FSU is the fewest the Noles have scored since December 2012.  Boston College, NC State, Syracuse, and Louisville ALL had their lowest scoring game of the year to date against Clemson.  The Tigers are achieving this thanks to the country’s best 3rd down defense (23%).  They avoid penalties and turnovers as well as any team.  The unusual issue for Clemson has been offense – specifically an anemic rushing attack which ranks 113th in ypc.  They get a bye and then the ACC’s worst team in Wake Forest before facing Georgia Tech in Atlanta on November 15.

19. Duke Blue Devils (6-1) – Could it be Duke’s defense is actually better than the offense?  It seems that way.  The defense is actually pretty awful against the run, but Duke is so good against the pass it balances things out. Adding to the weirdness in Durham this year is that the passing attack is among the nation’s least productive while the rushing attack carries the load.  Freshman RB Shaun Wilson has a stunning 10.32 ypc on 47 attempts this year.  All 5 remaining teams on the schedule have at least 4 losses already, which means the window is wide open for Duke to really do something special.

20. Arizona State Sun Devils (6-1) – With a decisive road win at Washington on Saturday, the Sun Devils finally got noticed by a lot of fans.  Along with their in-state rivals, they’re in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 South, but I’d be surprised if that were still the case when they meet November 28.  The Pac-12 has such parity, expectations have become meaningless in the shadow of great entertainment.

21. Utah Utes (6-1) – Nobody gets after the QB like Utah, which leads the country with 5 sacks per game, getting to the QB on 13% of all passing attempts.  DE Nate Orchard and DE Hunter Dimick are the ones to watch; Orchard has 24.5 TFL/sacks already, while Dimick has 15.5 with 2 forced fumbles.  Utah is here based on quality of opponent, not quality of wins.  Their last three games have been decided by a single score (and the USC game by a single, illegal score, as Notre Dame fans could tell you).

22. Georgia Southern Eagles (6-2) – GSU leads the FBS in yards per rushing attempt and is 2nd in yards per passing attempt.  The latter isn’t a surprise – they attempt less than 13 passes a game, so passing plays might as well be trick plays when GSU is involved.  What’s remarkable is the 1st place standing in rushing yards per attempt.  Everyone knows GSU will be running, and as a defense, that’s all you’re really trying to stop.  To average 7.4 yards every time you do the thing the defense expects you to do 100% of the time?  It’s really incredible.  Leading the way are RBs Matt Breida (1032 yds, 12 TD, 9.6 ypc) and Ean Days (230 yds, 5 TD, 9.2 ypc) as well as QB Kevin Ellison (770 yds, 8 TD, 6.9 ypc).  It’s a ridiculously efficient attack.  Yes, they lost to NC State (by 1 point!) and Georgia Tech (by 4 points), but those were nearly wins and they might be the only 2 losses of the year for a GSU squad that looks more than ready in its first year as an FBS member.

23. USC Trojans (5-3) – Well, this is going to irritate the Buckeyes out there.  SC has 3 losses, yes, but they’re by a total of 13 points.  They are the only team to beat Arizona, and the teams they’ve lost to have been, for the most part, really good.  QB Cody Kessler (2148 yds, 20 TD, 2 INT, 70.2%) is putting up Heisman numbers.  If referees had been paying attention Saturday, USC might be 6-2 right now, so I’m not really inclined to fret too much over their placement above team #24.

24. Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1) – Ohio State lost by more points in a single game (14) than USC has in their 3 losses (13).  And the one team that beat OSU – Virginia Tech – has nearly as many losses (4) as the 3 teams that beat USC (5).  Ohio State has done a fine job dispatching decent but not great teams like Cincinnati, Maryland, and Rutgers, but a somewhat mediocre Penn State squad managed to take them to OT.  Ohio State’s weakness is their strength, so to speak: the schedule.  The schedule has gotten them to 6-1, but it hasn’t really let them face any opponent of value.  They’ll get to 7-1 with the same story, as Illinois is next, but on November 8 they can finally play a meaningful opponent when they head to East Lansing.

25. Colorado State Rams (7-1) – The Mountain division of the Mountain West is the SEC West of the secondary conferences.  Boise, Utah State, Air Force, and even the bottom dwellers like Wyoming and New Mexico are competitive.  The best of the bunch this year has been Colorado State, who did lose at Boise State, but have taken care of business everywhere else.  QB Garrett Grayson (2456 yds, 21 TD, 5 INT) has been exceptionally productive as the offense has carried a mediocre-to-below average defense.  CSU may not be winning by a large margin, but they’re winning enough to be included in the top 25.


The Good

26. Wisconsin Badgers (5-2) – RB Melvin Gordon (1168 yds, 16 TD) is getting all the attention, but it’s the defense that has been particularly good in Madison this year.  They rank in the top 10 nationally in completion % allowed, 3rd down conversion allowed, sack rate, scoring defense, first downs allowed, and yards allowed.  Part of the stinginess is thanks to the clock control afforded them by Gordon – Wisconsin takes 29.34 seconds per play, 6th most in the country, and they rank 4th in average TOP per game – but the defense has been stellar on its own.

27. Louisville Cardinals (6-2) – For all the preseason talk of new DC Todd Grantham not getting along with his coworkers, it sure has failed to matter on the scoreboard.  Georgia fans probably won’t believe it, but Louisville ranks in the top 10 in the following defensive categories: failed plays forced (turnovers, TFL, sacks), successful plays allowed (1D/TD), interceptions, 3rd and 4th down conversion rate, TD:INT, pass efficiency, passing ypg, rushing ypg, sacks, scoring defense, first downs, TDs, total yards, yards per pass attempt, and yards per rush attempt.  Holy hell.  It’s kind of hilarious to see a Bobby Petrino team’s defense carrying its offense.  Atlanta native DL Lorenzo Mauldin might be the best player on the defense, with 17.5 TFL/sacks, 7 QB hurries, and 1 forced fumble.  Or maybe it’s DE Sheldon Rankins, who has 12.5 TFL/sacks, a fumble recovery, and an interception.  LB James Burgess has 9.5 TFL/sacks, 2 INT, and 6 hurries.  LB Keith Kelsey has 8.5 TFL/sacks.  The best player is probably S Gerod Holliman, who has 1 TFL/sack, 1 forced fumble, and leads the country with 8 (!) interceptions, returned for 122 yards and 1 TD.  You get the picture.  Louisville’s D is really, really good.

28. East Carolina Pirates (6-1) – Yes, Shane Carden (2574 yds, 18 TD, 5 INT) is really good and the passing attack is a big reason the Pirates are where they are today, but I’d like to give a shout out to the ECU defense, which ranks in the top 25 nationally in yards per attempt allowed versus both the rush and the pass.

29. UCLA Bruins (6-2) – UCLA manages to play down to its competition every week and still wind up a winner more often than not. The offense has been very good, thanks to Brett Hundley (2056 yds, 14 TD, 4 INT, 70.8%).  However, the defense has been pretty bad in most areas.  Possibly the country’s most disappointing team this year, UCLA is still 6-2 with a very outside shot at the playoffs still intact.

30. Missouri Tigers (6-2) – Speaking of teams you wouldn’t know were 6-2 by watching them, things have gotten bad for Missouri lately.  Sure, they have a two game winning streak, both against SEC conference foes, but with Maty Mauk getting worse and worse, and the running game not being there to help him out, Missouri is faced with winning games with defense and special teams.  The defense is good enough to do that against weaker competition, ranking in the top 30 nationally in passing and rushing yards per attempt allowed.  They limit successful plays and force negative ones, and are in the black on the turnover ledger.  It’s how they scored over 40 against Florida despite no offensive success to mention.  Missouri is still in the SEC East hunt, and with Georgia still having to face Auburn, it’s very much possible for the Tigers to win if everything comes together.  With the offense stuck in the doldrums, I don’t think it will come together for Missouri, who still has to face Kentucky, Texas A&M and Tennessee on the road, and Arkansas.  The Tigers could easily be 6-6 by December.  My bet is on 8-4.

31. Nevada Wolf Pack (5-3) – A decent offense paired with an indecent defense, Nevada seems to be winning thanks to a nice turnover ratio, good 3rd down and red zone efficiency on offense, and an ability to limit big passing plays on defense.  The defense keeps the ball in front of them and gets a few turnovers, but other that it hasn’t been good.

32. South Alabama Jaguars (5-2) – The Jags are pretty good defensively, with DE Theo Rich (16.5 TFL/sacks) looking like a shoo-in for all-Sun Belt honors.  The offense can run a little, but that’s about all.  The Jaguars are helped by the fact that, unlike many of their 2-loss contemporaries, their losses were to quality teams, Mississippi State and Georgia Southern.

33. West Virginia Mountaineers (6-2) – QB Clint Trickett (2763 yds, 17 TD, 5 INT) is lighting opponents up, and the defense is coming up with enough big moment plays (11th in 3rd down rate), WVU seems to have exorcised the demons behind last year’s 4-8 debacle.  One of the losses was to Alabama, and the other Oklahoma.  We might be underestimating WVU a bit, but I suspect we’ll know for sure after they host TCU this Saturday.

34. Boise State Broncos (6-2) – After a commanding home field win over BYU on Friday, Bryan Harsin’s Broncos are slowly starting to resemble the Broncos of recent years.  No one will confuse them for a dominant team this year, but their only remaining games being played on green grass are against New Mexico and Wyoming, and they control their destiny in the Mountain division, having beaten Colorado State.  There’s a very good chance Boise State is 10-2 headed into the Mountain West title game, and I think the Mountain is beating the West in that one.  Even when Boise isn’t Boise, they’re still very much in the market for 10-12 wins.  So it goes.

35. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-2) – When Georgia Tech scored a last minute TD to beat Georgia Southern 42-38, many jokingly congratulated Tech on the upset victory.  While it wasn’t an upset – the Jackets were definitely favored – it’s starting to look like the joke might have some truth to it.  Tech has since had a narrow win over 4-loss Virginia Tech, a pretty good 11 point win over Miami, back to back losses to Duke (by multiple scores) and 4-loss UNC, and a walloping of Pittsburgh, the nature of which had more to do with Pittsburgh having the worst 5 minutes to ever start a football game at the level (the win was solid, but the 28 point margin of victory was more Pitt’s doing than Tech’s).  I have Georgia Southern ranked higher, and Georgia Tech really isn’t doing anything to make me regret such a ranking.  Like Southern, they’re in the top 7 nationally in both yards per rushing attempt and yards per passing attempt.  Tech’s defense has been so abysmal, on the other hand, that even 3rd downs are still favorable to the offense (52% conversion).

36. Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-2) – It’s nice to look back at the halcyon days of last week, when Minnesota’s only loss was to a very good TCU team and Jerry Kill had this team on the rise.  Then you lost to Illinois.  Losing to Illinois is the cold hard slam back to reality, letting you know you’re not good yet, because by definition, good don’t lose to Illinois.

37. Stanford Cardinal (5-3) – Stanford hasn’t had the same result on consecutive Saturdays since August 17th and 23rd, and only then because they didn’t play.  Since the 23rd of August, here’s how it’s gone: Win, Loss, Win, Bye, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Win.  Next up is a trip to Oregon, so I’d imagine the trend will continue.  Then a bye, then maybe a loss to Utah, a win vs. Cal, and a loss to UCLA to finish things up.  Why not?

38. UCF Knights (5-2) – UCF started 0-2 and everyone took them off the radar (appropriately).  However, they’ve won 5 in a row, and their favorable schedule makes it very likely they’ll be 9-2 when they visit East Carolina on December 4th.  Is Connecticut, Tulsa, SMU, or USF going to beat them in between now and then?  I very much doubt it.

39. Iowa Hawkeyes (5-2) – Iowa has a nice, unheralded defense this year, as is often the case.  Iowa is winning some games they shouldn’t and losing some they shouldn’t, which is also often the case.  Nobody is really paying attention either way, which is also often the case.

40. Memphis Tigers (4-3) – On one hand, half their wins are against Bethune-Cookman and SMU.  On the other, 3 of the 4 wins are blowouts and two of the losses came against much more talented UCLA and Ole Miss teams.  Justin Fuente has his Tigers playing well on both sides of the ball, and while this isn’t going to be the year it all comes together, it’s hard not to view this team as one definitely on the rise in the AAC.

41. Air Force Falcons (5-2) – If you’ve caught one Falcons game in the last decade or so, you know everything you need to know about the offense.  On defense, opposing teams like to pass.  When they pass, one of two things happens.  Either Air Force gets the sack, and they’ve done so 9% of the time, a pretty good rate, or the QB lets go of the ball and it goes really far.  AF is ranked 24th in sack rate and 106th in yards per passing attempt allowed.

42. Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-3) – When OSU was 5-1, with their only loss a close one to FSU, many thought they were a really good football team, myself included.  Turns out the FSU game probably said more about the vulnerability of the Noles than the ability of the Cowboys, who have been outscored 76-19 over the last two weeks by TCU and West Virginia.  They’re the sole occupant of the ‘middle class’ of the Big XII right now, clearly ahead of Iowa State, Texas Tech, Texas, and Kansas, but not on the same competitive level as the good teams already listed.

43. Texas A&M Aggies (5-3) – In the preseason I told friends Texas A&M and South Carolina were my picks to be the 2 most disappointing teams in the SEC this year.  It’s turning out to be right on the money (for the sake of full disclosure, I also picked Florida to be better than people expected).  For both teams, I just wasn’t wild about the talent along the line of scrimmage.  A&M lost several defensive linemen in the preseason, and it really sapped their ability to do much on that side of the ball.  Still, I never saw 59-0 coming.  No one could, really, except Nick Saban.

44. South Carolina Gamecocks (4-4) – Incredibly the Gamecocks will enter November as the only team with wins over TWO 1-loss teams.  Without Georgia and ECU on the schedule, SC would be 2-4!  The only other schools to lose to the Gamecocks are Vanderbilt and Furman.  If this is Steve Spurrier’s final revenge on Georgia – beating them and then ruining any strength of schedule or quality of loss argument the Bulldogs could have – then it’s a legendarily evil Old Boy-style revenge.

45. Kentucky Wildcats (5-3) – We can stop talking about Kentucky as a contender now, thanks to LSU and Mississippi State.  I suppose it’s possible, with a win over Georgia and a Georgia loss to Auburn, but that’s with the assumption Kentucky wins out against Missouri and Tennessee, which isn’t likely.

46. Boston College Eagles (5-3) – Steve Addazio is easily one of the best two active head coaches who was an offensive coordinator for Urban Meyer at Florida.  Easily.

47. Maryland Terrapins (5-3) – Those last two losses have been really bad. Next up is a trip to Penn State, which could wind up making a difference in bowl quality for the Terps.

48. Miami Hurricanes (5-3) – They’re the only team to beat Duke.  It still feels weird typing that, especially as the best thing to say about Miami.

49. Washington Huskies (5-3) – They weren’t going to beat Oregon this year, and they lost a close one to Stanford, but the home loss by 2 TDs to Arizona State really feels like a step back for the better-than-I-expected Huskies.  Luckily they get Colorado next before hosting UCLA on November 8.

50. Virginia Cavaliers (4-4) – The 4 losses were by 8, 8, 7, and 1 point respectively. Virginia seems to me like a great trap game candidate. They play Georgia Tech this weekend, 2 weeks before the Clemson rivalry game looms.  They play Florida State one week before the Noles travel to Miami.  I could see the Cavs giving either team a closer than expected game.  They’re tough to put away, and you better believe they’ll be fighting hard to get to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011.


The Bad

51. Utah State Aggies (5-3) – If Colorado State loses again, the Aggies will control their destiny in the Mountain division.

52. Arkansas Razorbacks (4-4) – Remember when people said Arkansas was ‘back’, and experts picked them to beat Georgia?  That was fun.

53. Florida Gators (3-3) At this point, Florida would take it just to have people think they were ‘back’, even if it meant losing to Georgia.

54. Virginia Tech Hokies (4-4) – We’ll always have Columbus.

55. Penn State Nittany Lions (4-3) – One of my favorite tweets of the weekend read, “Christian Hackenberg is going to make an excellent Chicago Bears quarterback one day.”

56. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-3) – With Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State, and Maryland remaining, getting to bowl eligibility is likely the goal.

57. Northwestern Wildcats (3-4) – No coach loses with as much inspiration as Pat Fitzgerald!

58. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (5-3) – I’m starting to think the problem in Texas wasn’t Manny Diaz as much as it was Texas.

59. Northern Illinois Huskies (6-2) – If this was the NIU of the past, they wouldn’t have been blown out by Arkansas or lost to CMU by 3 scores.

60. Oregon State Beavers (4-3) – Blown out by USC, blown out by Stanford.  Not good.  Maybe the old ‘frightened Beaver’ should be brought back until they’ve earned the newer, fiercer logo.

61. Temple Owls (4-3) – Only Tulane looks like a probably win going forward, meaning Temple’s going to need an upset to get to bowl eligibility.

62. Houston Cougars (4-3) – Houston is another team it’s strange to see win with defense rather than offense.  The former has been fantastic, while the latter has been terrible.

63. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (5-3) – The Blue Raiders host BYU on November 1.  Traveling to Murfreesboro?  BYU, you have really let yourself go.

64. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (4-3) – The Ragin’ Cajuns were the Sun Belt favorites, and not having to face Georgia Southern gives them a reasonable chance.

65. Rice Owls (4-3) – Rice has a 4 game winning streak.  That is two years in a row in which someone could type that without A – referring to their PS3 or B – lying.

66. California Golden Bears (4-4) – This year has been way more fun than year one of the Sonny Dykes era.  Bowl eligibility is still a longshot with trips to Corvallis and LA Coliseum before home games with Stanford and BYU, but I’d love to see it happen.

67. UTEP Miners (4-3) – Worst per-play defense in the country?  They rank 118th in yards per pass attempt and 124th in yards per rush attempt, so maybe!  But we’ll never know, because I’m scared to look at SMU’s numbers.

68. Cincinnati Bearcats (4-3) – Did you know the Bearcats were named after a player?  From wikipedia: “During the second half of that hard-fought football game, UC cheerleader Norman “Pat” Lyon, building on the efforts of fullback Leonard K. “Teddy” Baehr, created the chant: “They may be Wildcats, but we have a Baehr-cat on our side.”  They really should bring back that chant.  If they could add some words to it, even better.

69. Toledo Rockets (5-3) – They travel to Kent State, which should be an easy win, but they only beat UMass by 7 at home, so maybe there’s no such thing. #MACtion

70. WKU Hilltoppers (3-4) – I occasionally see things like  “WKU 66, Old Dominion 51” come across the bottom line and I think ‘Good ol’ Bobby Petrino’, and just assume he’s coaching two schools at once.

71. BYU Cougars (4-4) – Seriously… can’t… stop… laughing… Murfreesboro???

72. Western Michigan Broncos (5-3) – At the beginning of the year, PJ Fleck was the youngest HC in the FBS.  However, WMU lost to Purdue, and as a result he is now 73.

73. San Diego State Aztecs (4-3) – November 8 is shaping up to be a great Saturday for college football, despite the presence of an Idaho-San Diego State game on the schedule.

74. Texas State Bobcats (4-3) – DE Michael Odiari (17.0 TFL/sacks, 5 QB hurries) is a terror for opposing QBs, but will that matter when Georgia Southern comes to San Marcos and attempts 3 passes all game?

75. North Carolina Tar Heels (4-4) – UNC games are actually video games (you don’t know this because you don’t attend or watch their games on TV, because you’re sane).  ‘Larry Fedora’ is just an alias for a kid who just controls whichever team has the ball.  And he’s really good. And he’s playing on Freshman mode.

76. Indiana Hoosiers (4-4) – I’m not a betting man, but if there was one thing I was sure of, it’d be to stay as far away from any betting line involving Indiana.

77. Bowling Green Falcons (5-3) – Bowling Green is coming off a bye and headed for… a second consecutive bye.  Exhilarating.

78. NC State Wolfpack (4-4) – After ending last year on an 8 game losing streak, they started this year with a 4 game winning streak, and followed that with a 4 game losing streak.  If they lose Saturday to Syracuse, it could be a repeat of 2013 all over again.

79. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-4) 

80. Tennessee Volunteers (3-5) – Yep, you’re worse than Pitt.

81. Arkansas State Red Wolves (4-3) – You’re worse than a team that’s worse than Pitt.

82. UAB Blazers (4-4) – UAB games have been wild in recent years, so they’re the one team that could ruin this thing Marshall has going.

83. Navy Midshipmen (4-4) – Notre Dame is next, but Navy/Georgia Southern on the 15th is the matchup we’re all looking forward to.  Paul Johnson is planning to take the day off, despite a scheduled GT-Clemson matchup, just to watch it.  Maybe fry some fish.  It’s gonna be fun.

84. Akron Zips (4-4) – Tater Tot’s teams have been getting better every year.  They should get to 6 wins for the first time since ’05.

85. Texas Longhorns (3-5) – How did they ever win 3?

86. Iowa State Cyclones (2-5) – Oh yeah, that’s how.

87. Michigan Wolverines (3-5) – Still a chance to salvage things, with Indiana, Northwestern, Maryland, and Ohio State coming up.

88. ULM Warhawks  (3-4) – ULM brilliantly scheduled Texas A&M in November rather than September. Actually pretty decent move.

89. San Jose State Spartans (3-4) – San Jose State has allowed just 4.72 passing yards per attempt this year, lowest in the country.    They’ve allowed 5.69 yards per rush, 121st in the country.  If they can keep that up all year, giving up more per rush than per pass, I feel some kind of researched list coming on.

The Ugly

90. FIU Golden Panthers (3-5)  – How bad have things been since Ron Turner replaced Mario Cristobal before the 2013 season?  This year FIU has lost to Bethune-Cookman, been blown out twice, and notched its only big win against vaunted Wagner.  And this year is way better than last year.

91. Ball State Cardinals (3-5) – One of the most baffling starts of the year for me.  Pete Lembo is a really good coach, and I hope he survives this season’s disappointment.

92. Purdue Boilermakers (3-5) – They’re the worst team in the Big Ten, and everything would reflect that had they not beaten…

93. Illinois Fighting Illini (4-4) – lol, you lost to Purdue

94. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (3-5) – A few years ago, when Southern Miss was on the way to a 12-2 year, they lost to a UAB team that went 3-9.  CUSA is wild, meaning we should totally expect USM to beat Marshall on November 8.

95. Syracuse Orange (3-5) – With NC State, Duke, Pitt, and BC remaining, I’ll be surprised if ‘Cuse goes bowling this year.  It’ll be a relief to Syracuse fans that they won’t be bothered during basketball season.

96. Tulane Green Wave (2-5) – On October 11, Tulane played Connecticut and won 12-3.  That is the saddest college football result of the year.

97. Washington State Cougars (2-6) – Thank God for Utah, amirite?

98. New Mexico Lobos (2-5) – Bob Davie is in his 3rd year.  Are UNM fans just accepting this as reality now?

99. Florida Atlantic Owls (3-5) – They played Marshall kinda close, as far as playing Marshall goes.  Moral victory!

100. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-5) – ………………………………………………………………………. <- 82 points

101. Colorado Buffaloes (2-6) – It seems cruel to have not scheduled a Colorado / Washington State conference game this year.

102. Fresno State Bulldogs (3-5) – From Derek Carr to 113th in yards per attempt passing.

103. Appalachian State Mountaineers (2-5) – Probably wish they hadn’t joined the FBS the same year as Georgia Southern.

104. Central Michigan Chippewas (5-4) – How is a 5-4 team so low?  The losses are to Syracuse, Kansas, Toledo, and Ball State, 3 by multiple touchdowns.

105. Old Dominion Monarchs (3-5) – They need 3 of 4 against Vanderbilt, FIU, LaTech, and FAU to reach bowl eligibility.  Doubt it.

106. Wyoming Cowboys (3-5) – They may have some ugly losses, but they’ve played some good teams, and Craig Bohl has this team more competitive than it was.  Perhaps the most underrated offseason hire of all, patience with Bohl will take the Cowboys a long way.

107. USF Bulls (3-5) – Right after my words on Bohl, I’m reminded of another coaching hire I was a huge fan of: Willie Taggart.  He’s from Tampa, he did a fantastic job at WKU, and he’s passionate about football.  His 5-15 start at USF has been hard to watch.  However, it’s not even November and he’s already won more than in 2013, and SMU should give them a 4th in a few weeks.  6 isn’t out of the question, though it would need to start Saturday vs. Houston.

108. Buffalo Bulls (3-5) – Well, at least last year was pretty fun.

109. Ohio Bobcats (4-5) – Any good scheduler knows you need a bye week to prepare for Buffalo and then another to heal up.  Perhaps they misread that game as the Buffalo Bills?

110. Army Black Knights (2-5) – Poor Army.  I wish there was a realistic scenario in which you could be really good again.  That’d be so fun to watch.

111. Kansas Jayhawks (2-5) – Hard to believe the whole Charlie Weis thing didn’t work out.

112. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-6) – I was baffled by Dave Clawson making the move, and this start does nothing to really help clear it up. I’m glad that, even at spot #112, I’m still taking the time to craft carefully thought-out analysis that you just can’t get anywhere else…

113. UTSA Roadrunners (2-6) – Beep, Beep.

114. Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (2-6) – I really really hope they’ve called June Jones, just to see.

115. Idaho Vandals (1-6) – Idaho hasn’t beaten two FBS schools in the same year since 2010.  Seriously.

116. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-6) – Go ahead and pencil in a loss to Memphis, because these guys are looking ahead to the SMU pillowfight on November 8.

117. Miami (OH) Redhawks (2-7) – In 2010, the Redhawks won 10 games.  Since, they’ve won 10 games, and that includes two 4-8 years in 2011 and 2012.

118. Vanderbilt Commodores (2-6) – With thrilling wins over UMass and Charleston Southern by 3 and 1 points, respectively, Derek Mason has done more for the legend of James Franklin than Franklin ever could.

119. Georgia State Panthers (1-7) – The Panthers have a shot at some wins over the next two weeks against App St and Troy. While this is still the case, it’s fun to point this out: there is an FBS school whose fifth most recent victory came against Clark Atlanta.

120. UNLV Rebels (2-6) – If the Mountain division is like the SEC West, then the West is like the SEC East, which means UNLV is the Vanderbilt of the Mountain West.

121. Connecticut Huskies (1-6) – Surprisingly, UConn doesn’t lead the country in attempted field goals in losses.  I guess they couldn’t get into range enough.

122. Massachusetts Minutemen (2-7) – The Minutemen seemed to have turned something of a corner lately.  Inexplicably, they have back to back bye weeks to kill all that momentum.

123. New Mexico State Aggies (2-6) – I really hope New Mexico State and Idaho are enjoying the arrangements in the Sun Belt.  Playing most of their games in Texas, Louisiana, and the rest of the deep south must be fantastic for western schools with limited budgets.

124. Troy Trojans (1-7) – A stat you’ll hear around Troy games is that Larry Blakeney’s 23 year tenure at Troy is longer than all 10 of the other Sun Belt coaches have combined at their current jobs.  Here’s one you won’t: Those coaches have a combined 32 wins this year, which is 31 more than Blakeney.  Is it time?

125. Kent State Golden Flashes (1-7) – Going into the 2012 MAC title game, Kent State needed a win to maybe get a BCS bid, or at least a nice bowl. Since they walked onto the field that day, they are 5-17.

126. Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-6) – A banner year for Eastern Michigan!

127. North Texas Mean Green (2-6) – Most embarrassing has to be giving up 30 points to Texas.

128. SMU Mustangs (0-7, 49 points scored, 336 points allowed)

About Brent Blackwell 172 Articles

Brent Blackwell also writes for College Football By The Numbers at

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