By this point you really should know the drill. Every Monday I compile my college football rankings based on resume, ignoring the eye test altogether. Is there value to the eye test? Yes, very much so. I just don’t think the playoffs should come down to that, because if you honestly want the 4 best teams in the country, they’ll all potentially reside in the SEC, with FSU, Oregon, and Oklahoma perhaps the only other contenders. I would prefer the regular season still mean something, and the playoffs not be just a rehashing of games we’ve already seen. That’s why I do this the way I do it – it makes the regular season more meaningful and the playoffs more refreshing.
This week I am not writing something on every single team. That was a one week experiment that I’m not sure is worth repeating. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
Playoff Team No. 1: Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-0)
Last week: 17-10 win over Arkansas
MSU has looked vulnerable in these last two weeks against weak competition, but they’ve survived. They remain the only team to beat a very good Auburn team, one of two to beat LSU, and have handed losses to South Alabama and Texas A&M as well. With 2776 yards on 354 plays for a 7.84 average as a passer, rusher, and receiver, Dak Prescott (27 TD) seems to be the Heisman frontrunner.
Next up: UT-Martin at home
Playoff Team No. 2: Florida State Seminoles (8-0)
Last week: 42-31 win over Louisville
FSU didn’t get much early love from my rankings, which of course fired up the ‘biased!’ machine and all that comes with it. All along I promised that with better play and better opponents, things would improve. They have, and the Noles are comfortably in the top 4 now. Yes, they still look vulnerable, moreso than Mississippi State (but without quite as scary a schedule). Jameis Winston, for once, wasn’t really the reason his team won. His 52.1% completion rate was the lowest of his career. His 3 INTs were also a career high. Yes, he passed for over 400, but on a career high number of attempts (by a significant margin). Sometimes bad decisions can lead to good outcomes, and that is unquestionably what happened here:
With Winston at arguably his worst, FSU needed someone to step up. Freshman RB Dalvin Cook answered the call – 13 touches for 150 yards and 2 TD, Louisville’s D went into 3rd-and-Grantham mode like UGA fans recognize all too well, and FSU put the Cards away, avoiding the weird kind of upset that seems to thrive in weeknight primetime.
FSU is the only team to beat Notre Dame, one of two to beat Clemson, and now one of three to beat Louisville.
Next up: Virginia at home
Playoff Team No. 3: TCU Horned Frogs (8-1)
Last week: 31-30 win over West Virginia
TCU’s only loss is on the road at Baylor, and this weekend’s trip to Morgantown nearly held the same result. However, Trevone Boykin continued to build his Heisman case, upping his totals to 2895 yards on 410 plays (7.06 ypp) for 26 TD and just 4 INT. The 31 points kept TCU’s streak of 30 point games alive at 10 in a row. They’re one of two teams to beat each of Oklahoma and Minnesota, and one of three to beat West Virginia. No other 1-loss team can match TCU in quality of wins and combined closeness and quality of losses. This weekend provides their final remaining hurdle as they face Kansas State in what could wind up being the de facto Big XII championship game.
Next up: Kansas State at home
Playoff Team No. 4: Marshall Thundering Herd (8-0)
Last week: Bye
Nothing much has changed here. I’ve tweaked my formula just a bit to not evenly reward wins over lower conferences as much as upper conferences, but Marshall’s style of winning still trumps the lack of substance on their schedule. It’s true Marshall hasn’t really played a particularly good team – every opponent has at least 4 losses – but I still re-iterate Marshall’s dominance in the games they’ve played. They’re doing to that schedule what you would expect Mississippi State or FSU to do to the schedule – winning big and winning them all. In a year with many undefeated teams, Marshall would surely be left out, but this isn’t one of those years. This is why we have the playoff to begin with – to find out what teams like Marshall can do against the big boys. Don’t screw this up, committee members.
Next up: @ Southern Miss
The Rest of the Top 25
5: Auburn Tigers (7-1)
Last week: 35-31 win over Ole Miss
Auburn has enough wins – Kansas State, Ole Miss, LSU, even Louisiana Tech – but unlike TCU, they just couldn’t keep their road loss competitive. The close nature of the South Carolina game didn’t really help either. Still, Auburn is firmly in the playoff hunt, and if they win out, could very well wind up #1 on the list – thanks to late games against Georgia and Alabama.
Next up: Texas A&M at home
6: Oregon Ducks (8-1)
Last week: 45-16 win over Stanford
If Marcus Mariota isn’t atop your Heisman ballot, he probably should be. 2977 yards on 320 plays (9.30 ypp) for 34 TD and 2 INT is incredible. Oregon got the Stanford monkey off their back in a big way and are now set to cruise to the North title. Their trip to Utah this Saturday should be their last real test of the schedule until the title game. They’re the only team to beat Michigan State, one of two to beat UCLA (and they may get a chance to do so again), and one of three to beat Washington. As always, they’re good.
Next up: @ Utah
7: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1)
Last week: 49-39 win over Navy
Navy briefly scared the Irish on Saturday but Everett Golson shone through with a nice performance. I suppose Golson is in the Heisman race as well (2586 yards, 29 TD, 7 INT), but he’s a bit of a longshot at this point, averaging less than 7 yards per play. The Irish are just a good all-around team, and I believe the best offensive player might be TB Tarean Fortson. He’s very good and has a future at the next level, I think. ND has a tough remaining schedule, traveling to Arizona State and USC and getting Northwestern and Louisville at home, and if they survive it all, I think they have a very good chance of being in the playoffs.
Next up: @ Arizona State
8: Kansas State Wildcats (7-1)
Last week: 48-14 win over Oklahoma State
A friend remarked to me this weekend that when you watch Kansas State, they just don’t look like that good of a team. He’s right, at least on offense. K-State IS a good team, but they just don’t look like good offensive teams typically look. ï¿½Here’s a look at my top 8 teams ranked by plays of at least 10 yards this year:
#6 Oregon – 174
#3 TCU – 153
#4 Marshall – 148
#5 Auburn – 146
#1 MSU – 145
#2 FSU – 140
#7 ND – 131
#8 KSU – 118
They just don’t have that kind of offense that moves the ball as far as quickly. They’re a boring, grind-it-out, team on both sides of the ball. They average 1.2 YPP more than they give up (6.1-4.9), though, and that’s a recipe for success on par with most ahead of them on this list. The Wildcats are annoyingly good, a trait which they probably relish, and they’ll get the chance to annoy TCU this weekend.
Next up: @ TCU
9: Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1)
Last week: Bye
Alabama is really good, obviously, but how do we really know? What’s the evidence? Bama is always good, so that’s how we know, but based on 2014 alone, it’s not as cut and dry as it seems. They beat West Virginia, which two other good teams have done. They beat Florida – again, two other teams have managed that. A&M – same thing. Those 3 wins – specifically the 59-o thumping of the Aggies – is the crux of their ranking. Alabama is up here largely on the same basis that Marshall is – winning big against weak competition. When people go on and on about how Marshall hasn’t beaten anyone, remember that Alabama’s best game might be one in which they needed help from referees just to stay within 6 points of a 2-loss Ole Miss team. Bama, you just haven’t really done anything yet this year. This weekend you can.
Next up: @ LSU
10: Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-1)
Last week: 35-14 win over Purdue
Similar to Alabama, Nebraska is in the top 10 thanks to beating the hell out of a pretty weak schedule. Their loss was a close one to a very good Michigan State team, and if that game were on neutral ground, I think Nebraska wins. Miami is their best win, but they’re making up for the schedule like Marshall and Alabama have. Nebraska doesn’t have an easy finish to the year – at Wisconsin, vs Minnesota, at Iowa – but it’s not hard to see the Huskers winning all three and reaching the B1G title game at 11-1.
11: Ole Miss Rebels (7-2)
Last week: 35-31 loss to Auburn
Pretty tough to play defense when the opponent gets more players onto the field than you do:
Ole Miss is the only team to beat Alabama, one of two to beat Boise, and came a hair away from beating Auburn (and an idiotic throw away from beating LSU). They’re definitely better than the 12th best team in the country this year, but two game-wrecking turnovers inside the 5 yard line mean they don’t have anything better than the nation’s 12th best resume at this point.
Next up: Presbyterian at home
12: Michigan State Spartans (7-1)
Last week: Bye
They beat Nebraska but are ranked behind them with the same record? The win wasn’t particularly a convincing one, coming at home by 5 points, MSU lost their game by 19 points, and they just haven’t had the opportunity to beat anyone that’s really any good (other than Nebraska). That all changes this weekend. We’ll reserve further MSU commentary for next week.
Next up: Ohio State at home
13: Oklahoma Sooners (6-2)
Last week: 59-14 win over Iowa State
With TCU’s and Kansas State’s wins this weekend, Oklahoma is pretty much eliminated from the Big XII race. They’d need some Kansas or Texas or Iowa State wins down the stretch, and that’s just probably not going to happen. It’s a shame that November can’t be more exciting in the Big XII. Oklahoma has been really good this year, losing their two games by a combined 5 points, but their best win is West Virginia. They can change that Saturday against Baylor.
Next up: Baylor at home
14: LSU Tigers (7-2)
Last week: Bye
Thanks a lot, Auburn. ï¿½LSU had one of the biggest wins of the year, but then Auburn just went out and replicated the thing a week later. LSU’s next best win is Florida, and they needed a frantic comeback just to lose by 5 to Mississippi State. The glaring score on the schedule, however, is the 41-7 loss to Auburn. ï¿½It was ugly, and you just never see really great teams lose by such margins.
Next up: Alabama at home
15: Baylor Bears (7-1)
Last week: 60-14 win over Kansas
The loss was by 14 to a team that has now lost three games, which hurts Baylor compared to most others. TCU is clearly the jewel in the crown so far, but after that what is there? Baylor’s second best win is Texas. Seriously.
Next up: @ Oklahoma
16: Arizona State Sun Devils (7-1)
Last week: 19-16 win over Utah
It’s been a while since ASU won a game scoring less than 20 points – before 2009 at least. After yielding 96 points in two weeks to UCLA and USC, the Devil D has given up 10, 10, and now 16 points. That’s a nice turnaround, and it’s a big reason Arizona State is in control of the Pac-12 South.
Next up: Notre Dame at home
17: Clemson Tigers (6-2)
Last week: 16-6 win over Syracuse
At this point, Clemson is all resume, because with Cole Stoudt at QB, the offense is just anemic. Three times this year Deshaun Watson got at least 10 pass attempts. Clemson scored 108 points in those games, beating UNC and NC State and taking FSU to overtime. In their other 4 games against FBS competition, Clemson has scored 77 points. It has been a struggle with Stoudt, and they need Watson back as soon as possible. Clemson still doesn’t have any wins to really brag about, although Louisville and Boston College are decent teams.
Next up: @ Wake Forest (Thursday)
18: Duke Blue Devils (7-1)
Last week: 51-48 OT win over Pittsburgh
Duke is here mostly thanks to the schedule, a schedule that has forced them to play only a pair of teams with 3 or fewer losses – and they went 1-1 in those games, losing to Miami and beating Georgia Tech. The continued contention of Duke despite not having much talent is a testament to the coaching ability of David Cutcliffe. There’s a good case to be made that Cutcliffe is the best coach in the ACC.
Next up: @ Syracuse
19: UCLA Bruins (7-2)
Last week: 17-7 win over Arizona
UCLA is the only team to beat Arizona State. They didn’t just beat them; they pummeled the Sun Devils, 62-27. Bizarrely, just as no other team has been able to handle the Sun Devils as easily, UCLA hasn’t been able to rediscover that kind of in-game dominance. They’re winning, sure, but the Pac-12 South favorites should be winning by more. Their margin of victory in the other 6 wins: 8, 7, 3, 2, 3, and 10 – this week’s win over Arizona was only the second of the year by more than a score. Everything about UCLA remains slightly disappointing, and they seem vulnerable every single week, only to manage to escape more often than not.
Next up: @ Washington
20: Ohio State Buckeyes (7-1)
Last week: 55-14 win over Illinois
Ohio State has more 50 point games than any other team in the country this year, and they’ve posted an impressive 5 blowouts. ï¿½So why so low? ï¿½Cincinnati and Maryland, sadly, are their best wins, and their loss was by two scores to a team that has lost 5 games. Losing to Virginia Tech is the rarest event Ohio State has managed to pull off this year. They finally have to play someone in November, with back to back road games starting off the month that could bolster their standing.
Next up: @ Michigan State
21: Wisconsin Badgers (6-2)
Last week: 37-0 win over Rutgers
Wisconsin similarly lacks quality wins. They’re here mostly because they haven’t been beaten decisively (10 points combined) and all 6 wins have been by more than a single score. They finish strong with Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota serving as their final three games.
Next up: @ Purdue
22: USC Trojans (6-3)
Last week: 44-17 win over Washington State
The Trojans’ 3 losses have come by a combined 13 points, with two on the road (one on the East Coast) and the other to the very good Arizona State. They’ve done a nice job taking care of business elsewhere, with close wins over Arizona and Stanford and blowouts everywhere else. Cody Kessler has 27 TD to 2 INT, making him perhaps the greatest USC QB ever that probably won’t get a single Heisman vote.
Next up: Bye
23: Georgia Southern Eagles (7-2)
Last week: 42-10 win over Troy
Oh, come on, it’s fun.
Next up: @ Texas State
24: Colorado State Rams (8-1)
Last week: 38-31 win over San Jose State
The wins haven’t all been easy, but a few have been against decent teams – Boston College, Nevada, and Utah State come to mind – and the Rams should be 10-1 when they head to Air Force the day after Thanksgiving.
Next up: Hawaii at home
25: Utah Utes (6-2)
Last week: 19-16 loss to Arizona State
I’ve actually got the Utes tied with Arizona for this spot, but I gave Utah the edge because their losses were by a combined 4 points, and they hung close with a very good Sun Devils team this week. The pass rush is still great – Nate Orchard and Hunter Dimick are the nation’s only pair of defensive linemen with 20 combined sacks on the same team.
Next up: Oregon at home
26: Arizona Wildcats (6-2)
27: Nevada Wolf Pack (6-3)
28: Georgia Bulldogs (6-2) – I don’t want to talk about it.
29: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-2)
30: Missouri Tigers (7-2)
31: West Virginia Mountaineers (6-3)
32: Iowa Hawkeyes (6-2)
33: Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-2)
34: Louisville Cardinals (6-3) – Last week I made quite a big deal about Louisville’s defense. I thought it might be premature, and it definitely was. The meltdown against FSU oddly opened my eyes about Cole Stoudt of Clemson more than anything. The Louisville fans should get used to the phrase 3rd-and-Grantham. It’s not going anywhere. Grantham’s schemes are pretty sound, but they’re far too complicated for the college game. Get used to players not knowing where to line up, and more thinking going on on the field than reacting. It can get frustrating.
35: Boise State Broncos (6-2) – Should finish 10-2; same old Boise?
36: Memphis Tigers (5-3)
37: Florida Gators (4-3) – Seriously, I don’t want to talk about it.
38: Boston College Eagles (6-3)
39: Texas A&M Aggies (6-3)
40: Utah State Aggies (6-3)
41: Air Force Falcons (6-2)
42: Maryland Terrapins (6-3)
43: Miami Hurricanes (6-3) – The Canes are picking up steam and could be ripe for an upset later this month.
44: Washington Huskies (6-3)
45: Stanford Cardinal (5-4)
46: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (6-3)
47: East Carolina Pirates (6-2) – Suffered perhaps the most damaging loss of the weekend among pseudo-contenders.
48: Arkansas Razorbacks (4-5)
49: Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-4)
50: UCF Knights (5-3) – UCF, perhaps the AAC’s best team, lost to Connecticut, perhaps the AAC’s worst team (non-SMU division). This, along with several other factors led me to re-classify the AAC as a second-tier conference in my ranking process. I had tried to give the old Big East the benefit of the doubt, but these kinds of upsets happen in the MAC and CUSA more than they happen in upper conferences, and there’s a reason for that.
51: California Golden Bears (5-4)
52: Northern Illinois Huskies (6-2)
53: Rice Owls (5-3) – If you asked regular college football fans to name the 10 teams that have active winning streaks of at least 5 games, I bet they’d do pretty well. I also bet they’d omit Rice:
24 – Florida State
11 – Mississippi State
9 – Marshall
7 – Colorado State
6 – Georgia Southern
6 – Michigan State
6 – Ohio State
5 – Clemson
5 – Kansas State
5 – Rice
54: Houston Cougars (5-3)
55: Kentucky Wildcats (5-4)
56: South Alabama Jaguars (5-3)
57: Cincinnati Bearcats (5-3)
58: Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (5-3)
59: Penn State Nittany Lions (4-4)
60: Virginia Tech Hokies (4-5)
61: UTEP Miners (5-3)
62: Northwestern Wildcats (3-5)
63: Virginia Cavaliers (4-5)
64: South Carolina Gamecocks (4-5) – So, this happened, and it was awesome:
65: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-4)
66: Toledo Rockets (5-3)
67: Temple Owls (5-3)
68: Western Michigan Broncos (6-3)
69: Texas Longhorns (4-5)
70: NC State Wolfpack (5-4)
71: Tennessee Volunteers (4-5)
72: Arkansas State Red Wolves (5-3)
73: BYU Cougars (5-4)
74: Texas State Bobcats (5-3)
75: Oregon State Beavers (4-4)
76: Bowling Green Falcons (5-3)
77: Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5)
78: Michigan Wolverines (4-5)
79: Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (5-4)
80: Akron Zips (4-4)
81: Indiana Hoosiers (3-5)
82: Ball State Cardinals (3-5)
83: WKU Hilltoppers (3-5)
84: San Jose State Spartans (3-5)
85: ULM Warhawks (3-5)
86: North Carolina Tar Heels (4-5)
87: Illinois Fighting Illini (4-5)
88: Iowa State Cyclones (2-6)
89: UAB Blazers (5-4)
90: Navy Midshipmen (4-5)
91: Buffalo Bulls (3-5)
92: San Diego State (4-4)
93: Syracuse Orange (3-6)
94: Central Michigan Chippewas (6-4)
95: Purdue Boilermakers (3-6)
96: New Mexico Lobos (3-5)
97: Appalachian State Mountaineers (3-5)
98: Wyoming Cowboys (4-5)
99: Florida Atlantic Owls (3-6)
100: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-6)
101: Colorado Buffaloes (2-7)
102: Tulane Green Wave (2-6)
103: FIU Golden Panthers (3-6)
104: Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-6) – Giving up over 30 to Texas might be more embarrassing than giving up 82 to TCU.
105: Washington State Cougars (2-7)
106: Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (3-6)
107: Ohio Bobcats (4-5)
108: UTSA Roadrunners (2-6)
109: Kansas Jayhawks (2-6)
110: Fresno State Bulldogs (3-6)
111: USF Bulls (3-6)
112: Vanderbilt Commodores (3-6) – Outta the way, UMass, Old Dominion is now the signature win for the boys from Nashville!
113: Massachusetts Minutemen (2-7)
114: Army Black Knights (2-6)
115: Old Dominion Monarchs (3-6)
116: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (2-7)
117: Connecticut Huskies (2-6)
118: Kent State Golden Flashes (1-7)
119: Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-7)
120: Miami (OH) Redhawks (2-8)
121: New Mexico State Aggies (2-7)
122: SMU Mustangs (0-7) – This is 100% schedule strength. ï¿½SMU would lose to the 11 people that might read this…
123: Idaho Vandals (1-7)
124: North Texas Mean Green (2-6)
125: Georgia State Panthers (1-8)
126: UNLV Rebels (2-7)
127: Troy Trojans (1-8)
128: Eastern Michigan Eagles: (2-7)