It’s been a busy day here for us at Outfield Fly Rule, what with a pretty big baseball trade to process and wrap our heads around. Fear not – I haven’t forgotten our Monday tradition of providing complete college football rankings in terms of what teams have accomplished this season. Let’s delve right in. Might as well start with some controversy.
1. Marshall Thundering Herd (10-0)
Last week: defeated Rice 41-14
The blowout win over Rice was Marshall’s 8th of the year, and the story remains the same. In a year with any elite team from a Power 5 conference, I don’t think Marshall would so easily fit into this top 4. However, this is essentially 2007 redux, and there are no “deserving” teams pushed out of a spot here. Every team is flawed in a way we’ve seen come to fruition. Every team, that is, except Marshall. Marshall’s closest game was a 15 point win. They are the only team in the country to have run roughshod over everyone they faced this season. Yes, the schedule is atrocious, but my formula has built-in measures to make it difficult for a CUSA team with a bad schedule to rise to this #1 spot. For that to happen, you need uneven results from other contenders in a big way, and you need that CUSA team to play out of its mind. Check, and check. Marshall being at #1 isn’t really a commentary on Marshall. It’s a commentary on the parity and lack of elite teams in the Power 5 conferences. And finally, why have a playoff if it’s not open to teams that, you know, win their games and outplay everyone else? Teams like Marshall are why the discussion for the playoff began. It is patently absurd to exclude them now that it’s here simply by muttering about the schedule, a roster of opponents who would fare no worse if they were playing Alabama, Mississippi State, Oregon, Ohio State, TCU, Baylor, or any other committee-approved contender. The committee, stacked with AD’s and decision makers with ties to Power 5 conference schools, have decided Marshall doesn’t count. However, as long as they’re going to call it an FBS playoff, all FBS teams are going to eligible in my rankings. If only in this small space, Marshall counts.
Next up: at UAB
2. Florida State Seminoles (10-0)
Last week: defeated Miami 30-26
Same old thing both off the field and on for the Noles last week. Don’t confuse the Miami game with the NC State or Louisville games just because of the early deficit and comeback; Miami is a good team, and FSU’s comeback on Saturday was perhaps their most impressive of the year. Still, that magic eventually runs out, FSU. You should know better than anyone – you saw it happen firsthand to Auburn in January. At this point, though, it’d be a major shock if that runs out in the regular season. The Noles seem like a shoo-in for 12-0, even moreso than Marshall.
Next up: vs. Boston College
3. TCU Horned Frogs (9-1)
Last week: defeated Kansas 34-30
TCU seemed primed to tumble in the rankings a bit, what with Minnesota’s loss to Ohio State and the close nature of the Frogs’ win over the Jayhawks. And technically speaking, on the metric side of the ledger, they did. But Alabama’s schedule took a nosedive, as did FSU’s, and the Pac-12 continued to beat each other up. So here we are, with TCU surviving in every sense of the word. They needed a comeback against a vastly inferior team, but in a year like this, that just means they’re on par with any other Power 5 team. Trevone Boykin remains brilliant, with 3237 yards, 30 TD, and only 4 INT. I predicted smooth sailing for TCU to the end, but Texas is playing much better, and after the struggle in Lawrence, I’m not sure that’s the cinch bet it once was.
Next up: BYE
4. Oregon Ducks (9-1)
Last week: BYE
With wins over Michigan State, UCLA, and Utah, and their only loss a close one to a good Arizona team, Oregon’s imperfect record is pretty close to perfect. They have 5 blowouts and only one other game played within a single score. Marcus Mariota has as many interceptions in the last 2 years as a certain Heisman-contending QB from Starkville had in his last two games. The Ducks have already locked up the Pac-12 North, so at this point the playoffs have already begun. Let’s see how they do.
Next up: vs. Colorado
The Rest of the Top 25
5. Alabama Crimson Tide (9-1)
Last week: defeated Mississippi State 25-20
I suppose the questions here won’t be about what makes Alabama so good – and remember, a top 5 ranking says they’re really good, but rather what prevents them from being good enough. Aside from chants of S-E-C!, S-E-C!, S-E-C!, there’s really not a ton to go on here in terms of resume. Their best win is their most recent, and most committee members will love their win over Mississippi State and shove them right into the top 4, I’m guessing. However, that’s kind of it with Alabama. Where’s the other quality win? The SEC West was hyped out of its mind, but the results just aren’t there. Alabama did beat 4-loss West Virginia 33-23. West Virginia lost to Texas 33-16. The Tide beat 4-loss Florida by a sizable margin, just like Missouri did. The Tide beat 4-loss Texas A&M by a staggering 59 points, which is notable. However, with rumors about Aggie QB Kenny Hill’s extra-curricular activities coming to light after that game, should we consider that result a good indicator for either team? The Tide beat 4-loss LSU, but only after they required a big drive down the field to tie the game in the final minutes just to send it to overtime. Arkansas shut out LSU in regulation. Alabama needed 5 quarters to do it. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not fond of Alabama’s season. They’re probably the best football team in the country, and I’d probably take Bama to win against any of the 4 teams listed above. But they just haven’t earned it. They don’t have the quality wins that Oregon, TCU, or even FSU does, and they don’t have the consistent dominance of Marshall. That may all change to their favor when I start rewarding wins over 4-loss teams (I plan to at the end of the regular season), but for now, Alabama’s schedule is holding them back. The SEC West is still the country’s best conference, but mostly because of 1-7 depth rather than elite teams at the top.
Next up: vs. Western Carolina
6. Mississippi State Bulldogs (9-1)
Last week: lost to Alabama 25-20
This feels right. If Alabama is better than MSU – and they were 5 points better at Bryant-Denny Stadium, a venue Phil Steele considers to carry a 5.5 point home field advantage – they aren’t really better by a LOT. The problem with MSU is the same – they’re let down by the fact that A&M and Auburn weren’t able to carry on their dominance against the SEC East. Dak Prescott probably isn’t a Heisman candidate anymore, which is good. It’s not good for Prescott, but rather for the voting process – there’s nothing lazier than just handing the Heisman to the best player on an undefeated team. Now voters will be pressured to think about the best player rather than the best team.
Next up: vs. Vanderbilt
7. Baylor Bears (8-1)
Last week: BYE
Baylor plays two mediocre teams – Oklahoma State and Texas Tech – and they need to dominate both, putting them at 10-1 heading into their final game with Kansas State. With a win in that one, Baylor could potentially re-enter the discussion for the top 4. They’ve got the H2H win over TCU, and a blowout of 3-loss Oklahoma, but that’s largely it. Losing by 2 TD to West Virginia is holding them back, as it should, and their non-conference schedule was worse than Marshall’s. Seriously.
Next up: vs. Oklahoma State
8. Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1)
Last week: defeated Minnesota 31-24
A funny thing happened on the way to disappointment: the Buckeyes refused to stay the course. Rather than folding after losing one of the best offensive players in the country, QB JT Barrett filled in so admirably some have wondered if Ohio State is better off with the freshman behind center. I don’t know about better, but they’ve been fine. They’ve topped 50 points 5 times this year and fell only one point shy against Michigan State. Over the last two weeks they’ve added quality wins, finally, to their resume, and while they won’t be able to add more until the conference title game, at least they’re back in play. The loss to a 5-loss VT hurts, but it seems like every team has a blemish or two like that on the page somewhere.
Next up: vs. Indiana
9. Michigan State Spartans (8-2)
Last week: defeated Maryland 37-15
The Spartans are decidedly second-tier. They’ve faced two top tier teams and couldn’t stay within a score of either. They’ve beaten another second-tier team, Nebraska, by a close margin at home, and they’ve generally whipped everyone else they’ve come into contact with. For the Spartans to make a move toward the playoffs, they’d need to reach the B1G title game. For that to happen, they need Ohio State to lose to both Indiana and Michigan. In summation, Michigan State isn’t going to the playoffs. But they are a very good football team probably headed for a decent bowl, so that’s nice.
Next up: vs. Rutgers
10. Ole Miss Rebels (8-2)
Last week: BYE
It feels like the Rebels haven’t really played at all since that deflating loss to Auburn, and they really haven’t – Presbyterian amounts to less competition than a mid-week practice, and that was followed by an open date. Believe it or not, with wins at Arkansas and in the Egg Bowl, and an Auburn win in the Iron Bowl, the Rebels will finally get to play in the SEC Championship Game. With such a win over MSU, and the potential for a win over Georgia or Missouri, Ole Miss isn’t out of this playoff race just yet. But boy, it seems like they’ve been absent for a while.
Next up: at Arkansas
11. Kansas State Wildcats (7-2)
Last week: BYE
The 41-20 loss at TCU was a real blow to their playoff chances, but K-State could still make a play for the conference co-title with a win over Baylor. They have to get through West Virginia and upstart Kansas first, but the season isn’t lost for the Wildcats.
Next up: at West Virginia
12. Colorado State Rams (9-1)
Last week: BYE
I’m surprised to see them here, but it’s largely a function of being 9-1 in a dominant division, the Mountain half of the MW. Colorado State has no real playoff chances, so they’re likely to sit at this spot while other teams bounce in front of and behind them, but they should be 10-1 when they head to Colorado Springs for a final game the day after Thanksgiving against Air Force.
Next up: vs. New Mexico
13. UCLA Bruins (8-2)
Last week: BYE
UCLA is coming off a bye, which means for once they couldn’t frustrate anyone with a way-too-close-for-comfort game against an inferior squad. They get to resume such practices over the final two games, although both USC and Stanford are capable of doing more than competing.
Next up: vs. USC
14. Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-2)
Last week: lost to Wisconsin 59-24
Is Nebraska better than Wisconsin? No, but the schedule has been a little kinder, and not losing to Northwestern is pretty important. For weeks I suspected Nebraska’s undoing could be the onslaught of better teams in November, and Saturday was a good example of that. It could very well continue with Minnesota and Iowa over the final two games.
Next up: vs. Minnesota
15. Oklahoma Sooners (7-3)
Last week: defeated Texas Tech 42-30
The Big XII is a top-heavy conference, but the top 4 teams – Baylor, TCU, Kansas State, and Oklahoma – are all really good. Unfortunately Oklahoma happened to be the 4th best of the 4 this year. They should finish 9-3.
Next up: vs. Kansas
16. Arizona Wildcats (8-2)
Last week: defeated Washington 27-26
If UCLA’s schedule has been a roller coaster of emotion, Arizona’s has been a cocaine-addled skydive. Six of their ten games have been decided by a total of 24 points. They just keep surviving, and they’ve got a bigger scalp than almost anyone – Oregon.
Next up: at Utah
17. Georgia Bulldogs (8-2)
Last week: defeated Auburn 34-7
To hell with analysis. I just love beating Auburn.
Next up: vs. Charleston Southern
18. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9-2)
Last week: defeated Clemson 28-6
Tech is getting hot at exactly the right time. While I think Georgia’s defense is a good fit for what Tech does – there’s one thing UGA can do, and that’s run in space – Tech might be primed for an ACC title game upset of FSU. If they’re able to jump out to the lead on the Noles like many have been able to do, Tech is the team that can keep it.
Next up: BYE
19. Boise State Broncos (8-2)
Last week: defeated San Diego State 38-29
My formula likes the Mountain division a lot this year. One reason is because it has indeed been very good. Another is that many top matchups have yet to take place: Colorado State still has to play Air Force, Air Force still plays San Diego State, and Boise still has to face Utah State. Those matchups will add some losses to some of these ledgers that lack them. For now, though, Boise seems like the same old off-year Boise, which is to say they’ll go 10-2 and give hell to their bowl opponent. Like I said, it’s an off year.
Next up: at Wyoming
20. Arizona State Sun Devils (8-2)
Last week: lost to Oregon State 35-27
The Sun Devils were in a great spot to at least make a push for the playoffs, but after their loss in Corvallis late Saturday night, they’re relegated to hoping to spoil Oregon’s season, if they can get that far. They still have a trip to Tucson at the end of the year, so don’t pencil them in for a December trip to Eugene just yet.
Next up: vs. Washington State
21. Wisconsin Badgers (8-2)
Last week: defeated Nebraska 59-24
Watching Melvin Gordon break the FBS single game rushing record was one of the joys of my year in sports-watching. It was almost enough to make you think Wisconsin was a top 10 team. But then you look at the schedule and see a loss to 4-loss LSU and then the killer – that loss to Northwestern. Losing to Northwestern is (and should be) Kryptonite to your playoff hopes. That said, Wisconsin has been great on a per-play basis this year, averaging more than 2 yards more on offense than what they allow defensively. That’s a recipe for success. Here are all teams at +2 or better:
Ohio State: +2.1
It’s elite company. The B1G West is still open for debate, although the win over Nebraska certainly gave Wisconsin the edge, an edge I expect them to hold. But damn, don’t lose to Northwestern.
Next up: at Iowa
22. Clemson Tigers (7-3)
Last week: lost to Georgia Tech 28-6
At this point it’s not really about anything Clemson has really done. They’ve managed to not lose to anyone particularly bad, I guess (hear that, Wisconsin?). Clemson is here because no three losses are as respectable at this point as Clemson’s trio of losses to Florida State, Georgia, and Georgia Tech.
Next up: vs. Georgia State
23. Auburn Tigers (7-3)
Last week: lost to Georgia 34-7
Have I mentioned how much I love beating Auburn? As much as the Georgia loss put their playoff hopes out of commission, it was really the A&M loss that sealed Auburn’s fate. Thanks to Samford, Auburn may only lose 3 of their last 4.
Next up: vs. Samford
24. USC Trojans (7-3)
Last week: defeated California 38-30
USC keeps hanging around, and they might still have a shot at the conference title. The Trojans need a win at UCLA and an Arizona win against ASU to win the South, if my tabulations are correct. They’re a team no one is really paying attention to right now, and I feel like that’s often when USC is at their best, at least in recent years.
Next up: at UCLA
25. Duke Blue Devils (8-2)
Last week: lost to Virginia Tech 17-16
Just when Duke had me all jazzed up for a Duke-to-the-playoffs run, Duke does what Duke does and lets me down in November. Ugh. Never again, Duke, will you beguile me with your September and October ways. Until next year, I guess.
Next up: vs. North Carolina
26. Missouri Tigers (8-2)
27. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-3)
28. Louisville Cardinals (7-3)
29. Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-3)
30. Memphis Tigers (7-3)
31. Miami Hurricanes (6-4)
32. Nevada Wolf Pack (6-4)
33. Air Force Falcons (8-2)
34. Utah Utes (7-3)
35. Texas A&M Aggies (7-4)
36. Utah State Aggies (8-3)
37. LSU Tigers (7-4)
38. Northern Illinois Huskies (8-2)
39. Georgia Southern Eagles (8-3)
40. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (7-3)
41. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (7-3)
42. West Virginia Mountaineers (6-4)
43. Cincinnati Bearcats (6-3)
44. Maryland Terrapins (6-4)
45. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-4)
46. Florida Gators (5-4)
47. Arkansas Razorbacks (5-5)
48. UCF Knights (6-3)
49. Iowa Hawkeyes (7-3)
50. East Carolina Pirates (6-3)
51. Stanford Cardinal (5-5)
52. Boston College Eagles (6-4)
53. Bowling Green Falcons (7-3)
54. Texas Longhorns (6-5)
55. Rice Owls (6-4)
56. Tennessee Volunteers (5-5)
57. Western Michigan Broncos (7-3)
58. BYU Cougars (6-4)
59. Penn State Nittany Lions (6-4)
60. Washington Huskies (6-5)
61. California Golden Bears (5-5)
62. Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-5)
63. Toledo Rockets (6-4)
64. Virginia Tech Hokies (5-5)
65. Virginia Cavaliers (4-6)
66. NC State Wolfpack (6-5)
67. South Alabama Jaguars (6-4)
68. UTEP Miners (6-4)
69. Michigan Wolverines (5-5)
70. South Carolina Gamecocks (5-5)
71. Arkansas State Red Wolves (6-4)
72. Houston Cougars (5-4)
73. Northwestern Wildcats (4-6)
74. Temple Owls (5-4)
75. North Carolina Tar Heels (5-5)
76. Kentucky Wildcats (5-6)
77. Oregon State Beavers (5-5)
78. Ohio Bobcats (5-5)
79. Texas State Bobcats (5-5)
80. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (5-5)
81. WKU Hilltoppers (5-5)
82. Central Michigan Chippewas (7-4)
83. Pittsburgh Panthers (4-6)
84. Syracuse Orange (3-7)
85. San Diego State Aztecs (5-5)
86. Illinois Fighting Illini (4-6)
87. Purdue Boilermakers (3-7)
88. Appalachian State Mountaineers (5-5)
89. UAB Blazers (5-5)
90. USF Bulls (4-6)
91. Washington State Cougars (3-7)
92. Indiana Hoosiers (3-7)
93. Wyoming Cowboys (4-6)
94. Kansas Jayhawks (3-7)
95. Fresno State Bulldogs (4-6)
96. Iowa State Cyclones (2-7)
97. Buffalo Bulls (4-6)
98. Akron Zips (4-6)
99. New Mexico Lobos (3-7)
100. Old Dominion Monarchs (4-6)
101. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-7)
102. Navy Midshipmen (5-5)
103. Tulane Green Wave (3-6)
104. Colorado Buffaloes (2-8)
105. Ball State Cardinals (3-7)
106. FIU Golden Panthers (3-7)
107. ULM Warhawks (3-6)
108. Vanderbilt Commodores (3-7)
109. Florida Atlantic Owls (3-7)
110. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (3-8)
111. Massachusetts Minutemen (3-7)
112. San Jose State Spartans (3-7)
113. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-8)
114. UTSA Roadrunners (3-7)
115. Army Black Knights (3-7)
116. Miami (OH) Redhawks (2-9)
117. Connecticut Huskies (2-7)
118. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (3-8)
119. Troy Trojans (3-8)
120. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (2-8)
121. North Texas Mean Green (3-7)
122. Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-8)
123. SMU Mustangs (0-9)
124. Kent State Golden Flashes (1-9)
125. New Mexico State Aggies (2-8)
126. UNLV Rebels (2-9)
127. Georgia State Panthers (1-9)
128. Idaho Vandals (1-9)