Every Monday I publish my own college football rankings for all 128 FBS teams. The rankings are based purely on what has been achieved so far, rather than any perception of team strength or likelihood to win future games.
While it was a fun rivalry weekend, it wasn’t a particularly eventful one. Ole Miss won the Egg Bowl, Georgia Tech beat Georgia, and Marshall lost. Those results were the big surprises, and even those weren’t that surprising. Still, there’s a lot of shuffling in the top 5 as Marshall drops out and Baylor moves in.
1. TCU Horned Frogs (10-1)
Last week: defeated Texas 48-10
Texas Christian has had the best year to date of any team in the mix here. Their only loss came to a 1-loss Baylor team, on the road, by 3 points. If home field advantage is worth anything (and Vegas suggests it is worth at least 3 points), the takeaway from that game is that TCU and Baylor were even that night. For the other 10 games, however, TCU has been superior to Baylor and everyone else, for that matter. Here’s a look at TCU’s schedule, and listed next to each team are two results – their score against TCU, and that game’s rank in terms of worst deficit of the year:
Samford: 48-14 L / #1
Minnesota: 30-7 L / #1
SMU: 56-0 L / #1
Oklahoma: 37-33 L / #2
Baylor: 61-58 W / #3
Oklahoma State: 42-9 L / #2
Texas Tech: 82-27 L / #1
West Virginia: 31-30 L / #5
Kansas State: 41-20 L / #1
Kansas: 34-30 L / #9
Texas: 48-10 L / #1
Over half their opponents had their worst game of the year when facing TCU, and another 3 had one of their 3 worst. TCU is playing at a very high level. Last week I said I didn’t really believe in week-to-week momentum, something many feared TCU had lost with their close win over Kansas and subsequent bye week. The Frogs didn’t believe in it either, and dealt Texas its worst loss since 2012.
Next up: vs. Iowa State, ABC, 12 PM ET
2. Oregon Ducks (11-1)
Last week: defeated Oregon State 47-19
Stanford’s upset of UCLA hurt Oregon, as it robbed Oregon of what was previously the most impressive pair of wins in college football (they were the only FBS school with wins over two Power 5 teams with 2 losses or less). And while this wasn’t reflected in the rankings, Oregon can’t be too pleased about having to face Arizona, a team that has beaten Oregon twice by a collective score of 73-40 over their last two matchups, instead of UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship Game. This Saturday just got much more interesting than had Oregon gone for their 7th straight win against the Bruins. This championship game demands your attention, and it’s a nice enough matchup to vault Oregon back into the #1 spot for the playoffs.
Next up: PAC-12 Championship Game vs. Arizona, Friday, FOX – 9 PM ET
3. Florida State Seminoles (12-0)
Last week: defeated Florida 24-19
How important is simply not losing? It’s really important! Another week gone by, and Florida State still has the same positives and the same negatives. Positives? They don’t lose. Negatives? Well, everything else – but they don’t lose. Perhaps I’ve given up on FSU ever looking like an elite team this year. I think they would have by now if they could. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be champions. In a year with no elite teams, it’s anybody’s game. FSU has earned their shot as of now.
Next up: ACC Championship Game vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday, ABC – 8 PM
4. Baylor Bears (10-1)
Last week: defeated Texas Tech 48-46
Baylor curiously cracks the top 4 after arguably their worst game of the season. Why, after barely escaping against a bad Texas Tech team, is Baylor finally moving on up in the world? Well, the best reason is simple SEC parity. Ole Miss’ Egg Bowl win gave Mississippi State their second loss, and “they beat 1-loss MSU!” was the crux of the argument for Bama’s top 4 status. Baylor benefited from that. They also benefit from plenty of dominance on their own. While the quality of opponent may not be very great, the quality of wins have been – Baylor has 8 wins of over 21 points, tied for the most in the nation. The Bears are the only team to defeat TCU and one of three to defeat a very good Oklahoma team. The Big XII arguably has the best top 4 teams of any conference in the country, and Baylor has a chance to go 3-0 against the others in that conversation.
Next up: vs. Kansas State, Saturday, 6:45 PM, ESPN
The Rest of the top 25
5. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)
Last week: defeated Auburn 55-44
Alabama has wins over just 3 teams with 4 losses or less, and only one team with 3 or less (10-2 MSU). They haven’t been decisive winners in several games, allowing LSU to take them to overtime, MSU to stay within 5 points, and Auburn to even make the game much closer than it probably should have been. Arkansas lost by a single point, and Alabama was decisively out played by Ole Miss in their loss. This is a good Alabama team, and they’ve beaten some good teams, but don’t mistake them for the elite we see other years. The SEC wound up a conference deep with good but flawed teams, and Alabama was merely the best of them. That shouldn’t equate to automatic entry into the playoffs. They get a shot at a quality win on Saturday, which should help some, but so will the teams in front of them (except TCU). Of course, none of this matters in the real world. Alabama could probably go 10-2 playing like FSU and still waltz into the playoffs because SEC. Never underestimate sportswriters’ love of crutches, and there might not be a bigger crutch right now than the SEC.
Next up: SEC Championship vs. Missouri, Saturday, 4 PM, CBS
6. Michigan State Spartans (10-2)
Last week: defeated Penn State 34-10
Well, this is just cruel and unusual punishment. Credit the committee for not letting Michigan State get so close as to think they have a shot when they most likely do not. Sure, some wild things could happen, I suppose, and MSU could slide in, but it’s almost certainly not happening. Regardless, Michigan State had a really good team this year who had the misfortune of traveling cross-country to face a better Oregon team. Well, maybe not misfortune, considering they scheduled it, and a win in Eugene would certainly have MSU in the playoff conversation now, but such a win never materialized and neither did MSU’s national title hopes.
Next up: TBA
7. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)
Last week: defeated Michigan 42-28
Yes, they’re better than Michigan State. But they do (and should) still feel the sting of losing to 6-6 Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes have a shot at a nice quality win on Saturday, and if they get it, they’re guaranteed to jump Michigan State in my rankings. So with that in mind, don’t get too hung up on OSU trialing the Spartans. It probably won’t last long.
Next up: Big Ten Championship, Saturday, 8:17 PM, FOX
8. Marshall Thundering Herd (11-1)
Last week: lost to WKU 67-66
Western Kentucky and Marshall, the longterm reputation of the committee thanks you. They’re still a pretty good also-ran, and one that would be in that 10-15 range in most years, but they get a slight bump in the standings this year due to nobody really being all that much more deserving of high rankings. It’s a great year for college football possibly because it’s a weak year for dominant teams, and that’s a recipe for a CUSA top 10 team.
Next up: Conference USA Championship, Saturday, Noon, ESPN/ESPN2
9. Arizona Wildcats (10-2)
Last week: defeated Arizona State 42-35
As champions of the wild (and wildly deep) Pac-12 South and as the team with a 2 game winning streak against the Ducks, Arizona represents Oregon’s worst case scenario for the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Arizona defense, led by sophomore LB Scooby Wright, might not be the most effective D on a play-by-play basis, but they specialize in big plays. Arizona ranks in the top 25 nationally in defensive touchdowns and sacks, and that ability to quickly change the script during an opponent’s possession has given Arizona some defensive answers to their offensive outputs.
The big story behind Arizona’s resurgence, of course, is the offense. Anu Solomon is a highly productive signal-caller who excels at little things – no QB has derived more value from forcing opposing penalties this year. RB Nick Wilson has 1353 yards and 16 TD. At nearly 37 points per game, they’re humming along nicely, and there’s not really an area of offense in which they’re struggling.
The two game winning streak against Oregon is no fluke. They haven’t been over-reliant on fat guy touchdowns or special teams touchdowns. They’re a legitimately very good football team that knows what it takes to take down Oregon. Friday’s Pac-12 Championship is the weekend’s best game mostly for these reasons. It features not only a great playoff contender in the Ducks, but a viable upset candidate hungry for a title (with some playoff aspirations of their own, even). They’ve beaten Oregon in Tucson and they’ve beaten Oregon in Eugene. Why should Santa Clara be any different?
Next up: Pac-12 Championship vs. Oregon, Friday, 9 PM, FOX
10. Kansas State Wildcats (9-2)
Last week: defeated Kansas 51-13
Baylor & TCU. TCU & Baylor. They’re the only two Big XII teams getting press in a major way, but they’re not the only two Big XII teams still in contention for a conference title – with a win on Saturday, Kansas State will force a 3-way tie for the Big XII title, and with an admittedly unlikely TCU loss to Iowa State, KSU would win the whole thing. With that domino falling and perhaps a few others, one could clearly justify giving the Wildcats a playoff berth. Bill Snyder’s team has, aside from a non-conference loss to Auburn, been pretty identical to TCU and Baylor. Like TCU over Oklahoma and Baylor over TCU, the Cats have a close win over a good conference rival, beating Oklahoma 31-30. Like TCU against Kansas and Baylor against Texas Tech, they have an embarrassingly close win over a bad conference rival, beating Iowa State 32-28. There’s still some potential here for advancement. They lost by a lot to TCU, so they need not be ranked with the other two, but don’t underestimate their ability to pull off an upset. They’re a good, disciplined football team, and if Baylor is distracted by playoff talk or hampered by Bryce Petty’s concussion, Kansas State can win this game.
Next up: at Baylor, Saturday, 6:45, ESPN
11. Mississippi State Bulldogs (10-2)
Last week: lost to Ole Miss 31-17
Win your bowl game and it’s the most successful season in school history, MSU. I know it doesn’t feel that way now, but it’s still something. Writing this paragraph feels a bit like that awkward moment where you have to give your condolences to someone after a death, so I’m just gonna give Mississippi State a hug, tell them to let me know if they need anything, and just be on my way.
Next up: TBA
12. Oklahoma Sooners (8-3)
Last week: Bye
3 losses to 3 teams who collectively have been beaten 4 times. That’s why my ranking system loves Oklahoma so much. Well, that and dominance when they aren’t playing the Big XII’s big three. The Big XII isn’t the best conference in the nation this year, but it has the best upper echelon of teams of any conference. Oklahoma’s the best 4th place team in the country, the best 3-loss team, etc.
Next up: Bedlam vs. Oklahoma State
13. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-2)
Last week: defeated Georgia 30-24
Tech is the fringiest of fringe playoff candidates right now. Honestly, even with a win over FSU in the ACC title, I’m not sure they should jump the Noles. The losses to Duke & UNC are just too great to overcome for Tech at this point, I think. Still, there’s always a chance, and they could be helped by good ol’ SEC bias – the win over a Georgia team that wasn’t much better than most 2-loss Power 5 teams, but seemed so because of its conference. Tech deserves its accolades if it can get any – Justin Thomas is a drastically underrated steward of a ruthlessly efficient offense. He is the most productive ACC QB that will play this weekend. Yes, you read that right.
Next up: ACC Championship vs. Florida State, Saturday, 8 PM, ABC
14. Clemson Tigers (9-3)
Last week: defeated South Carolina 35-17
Clemson’s Jekyll & Hyde act continues. There’s no secret as to what the magic elixir is, however. It’s DeShaun Watson. Or, considering Watson’s role in this metaphor is as Jekyll, the good guy, perhaps the magic potion is Cole Stoudt. When Watson injures his knee and has to leave the game, Stoudt’s Mr. Hyde takes over, and the Clemson offense is crippled. The Tigers finish with arguably the nation’s best defense, but it was all for naught due to the paucity of options at RB and the inability for QB1 to stay healthy.
Next up: TBA
15. Boise State Broncos (10-2)
Last week: defeated Utah State 50-19
Boise won the Mountain division with an emphatic 50-19 drilling of Utah State, and they’re in good shape to get a top bowl bid thanks to the committee’s continued ignorance of Marshall. Boise of October and November resemble Boise of old, which means this might be a team to really keep an eye on for 2015. There’s still work to do this year, however. Boise State has a chance to capture their first unshared Mountain West title. I expect them to do just that against 6-6 Fresno State, the worst Championship Game competitor this weekend.
Next up: Mountain West Championship vs. Fresno State, Saturday, 10 PM, CBS
16. Ole Miss Rebels (9-3)
Last week: defeated Mississippi State 31-17
They’re two plays away from being 11-1. If you consider how close Laquon Treadwell came to scoring that final TD against Auburn before he fumbled, they’re one play and one foot away from 11-1. As sorry as you might feel for Mississippi State’s 10-2, history will look back at that Bulldogs team, a squad that struggled with LSU, Arkansas, and hell, even UAB a little bit, and know they weren’t really a championship-caliber squad. People will look back at this Rebel team, on the other hand, and think of what really could have been. It was there for the taking. At least they’ve got the Egg Bowl, but even that feels a little hollow this year.
Next up: TBA
17. Wisconsin Badgers (10-2)
Last week: defeated Minnesota 34-24
He’s had an excellent year, but I think Amari Cooper’s last few weeks have really hurt Melvin Gordon’s Heisman campaign. He’s no longer the slam-dunk non-QB if voters are looking for a non-QB (this year they shouldn’t be). I know I bring up Gordon every time I write about Wisconsin, but really, what else is there to really talk about? Take a look at their statistical leaders sometime, and you’ll realize one player can carry an offense. Normally I wouldn’t have expected Wisconsin to hang with Ohio State, but with JT Barrett done for the year and Ohio State starting their pre-season 3rd string QB in the Big Ten title, the Badgers have a real shot to win the Big Ten. Keep an eye on that game.
Next up: Big Ten Championship vs. Ohio State, Saturday, 8:17 PM, FOX
18. Colorado State Rams (10-2)
Last week: lost to Air Force 27-24
The Rams won’t be winning the Mountain West this year, but they still had an excellent season. Jim McElwain is likely to be considered for some big-time jobs, and as a former national championship-winning playcaller at Alabama, such hype is justified. He has turned CSU into a formidable opponent, and I’m not sure of the last time we could really say that. It’s more than a decade at least. With CSU joining Boise State, Air Force, Utah State, and even more-respectable-than-normal Wyoming and New Mexico all in the Mountain Division, perhaps the MW should look into realignment.
Next up: TBA
19. Georgia Bulldogs (9-3)
Last week: lost to Georgia Tech 30-24
We spoke of Clemson’s Jekyll and Hyde act, but at least Clemson has discernible reason behind it. Georgia looked great most of the time it played this year. My rankings don’t really adjust for volatility, and I’m not sure how you’d even adjust. Is volatility a good or a bad thing as far as a team is concerned? I really don’t know. Nor am I going to spend words trying to figure it out about this team. Another year, another year feeling like this (courtesy of UGA fan NateR):
Next up: TBA (but it’ll involve the state of Florida and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, just because… speaking of)
20. Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3)
Last week: defeated Iowa 27-24
I don’t know if any coach was or is more disliked by his own bosses than Bo Pelini was at Nebraska, at least since Mike Leach swung his sword in Lubbock. Pelini’s last Nebraska team wasn’t a bad one, nor was it even a disappointment – Phil Steele pegged them for 4th in the Big Ten West. One could argue that Nebraska even overachieved a little this year. For those reasons, I think Pelini’s firing had little to do with results, or lack thereof. Sure, they can cite the lack of championships as any non-champion can do, but if Pelini had some goodwill in the administration, he’d still be there. He’s gone because, and I hate to be crass but it’s the truth: he was an asshole. If you’re an asshole who wins, people put up with it. If you’re an asshole who loses 4 games a year, they tend not to.
Next up: TBA (but it’ll involve the state of Florida and the Georgia Bulldogs, just because…)
21. UCLA Bruins (9-3)
Last week: lost to Stanford 31-10.
It was a weird year. Expectations were high, but then UCLA struggled to get past Virginia, Memphis, and Texas. Then expectations were tempered. THEN UCLA destroyed Arizona State 62-27. Expectations were back! Then UCLA lost two in a row to Utah and Oregon. Expectations lowered again. Then they barely got past Cal and Colorado, but then they beat Arizona. And then they beat Washington. And then they whipped USC. Expectations back! Then they lost to Stanford. Enough of this. There’s no team I’m happier to stop trying to figure out (well, except Georgia).
Next up: TBA
22. Missouri Tigers (10-2)
Last week: defeated Arkansas 21-14
They’re the FSU-lite of the SEC. They don’t look particularly good, nor do they beat their opponents by an amount of points to convince viewers that they’re truly better, but they just come away with wins, enough to land them in the SEC Championship. Granted, they haven’t beaten an SEC team all year with a winning record, so there’s hardly a sense that they’ve earned their title game bid as much as the sense that others just managed to lose it. But let’s say this – they finally have a chance to earn some respect on Saturday. If you want people to stop talking about Indiana (and as of yet there’s no good reason to stop talking about Indiana), beat Alabama.
Next up: SEC Championship vs. Alabama, Saturday, 4:00 PM, CBS
23. Louisville Cardinals (9-3)
Last week: defeated Kentucky 44-40
Much was made of the ACC going 4-0 against the SEC on Saturday. It’s true, but it’s not something ACC fans should really want people to look too closely to. After all, what were the matchups?
ACC #1 vs. SEC #9
ACC #2 vs. SEC #4
ACC #3 vs. SEC #11
ACC #4/5 vs. SEC #13
And the cumulative score advantage by which the ACC won? 33 points, with over half coming in the #3-#11 matchup. So basically, the very best of the SEC managed to play evenly with a bunch of SEC disappointments (and one pretty good SEC team, Georgia). Maybe it wasn’t the banner day for the ACC many thought it was. Louisville was a big culprit, playing a bad Kentucky team much closer than they should have. However, it capped a pretty good season for the Cardinals. Year one of Bobby Petrino transitions are often filled with growing pains (much like the year he leaves a note in the locker room to say goodbye or hurls his mistress off his motorcyle), so 9-3 is an encouraging sign. For all the preseason talk that Todd Grantham didn’t get along with his new boss, Louisville’s defense was pretty stellar overall. They’re not quite on FSU’s level yet, nor do I think they can win as consistently as Clemson, but they seem to have survived Charlie Strong’s departure, and that’s really all this year was about.
Next up: TBA
24. Memphis Tigers (9-3)
Last week: defeated Connecticut 41-10
Congratulations to Memphis, one of two teams to have already clinched conference championships. The Tigers went 7-1 in American games, and while UCF could still earn a share of that title, Memphis deserves the headlines here because it was just so unexpected. In 2012, Justin Fuente left his job as offensive coordinator at TCU to become head coach at Memphis, a program that had gone a combined 5-31 in the three years prior to his arrival. He immediately went to work building things from the ground up, a process which takes a while – Memphis went 7-17 over his first two years on the job. In year three, 2014, the program turned a corner, and Memphis is having its best year in ages. Justin Fuente seems bound to get a better job in the near future. He’s under 50 and well-rounded; he’s a former coordinator of a dynamic, explosive TCU offense, but his team is winning with defense. Memphis has allowed 21 points or less in 9 games this year, and Memphis happens to be 9-0 in those games. An offensive mind with a dedication to building a good defense? This is who the Florida Gators should be calling. As a Georgia fan, I’m glad they’re not.
Next up: TBA
25. Arizona State Sun Devils (9-3)
Last week: lost to Arizona 42-35
Three weeks ago, Arizona State seemed destined for a Pac-12 title game bid. They had crushed Notre Dame, beaten USC and Utah, and UCLA had fallen behind in the race. However, losses at Corvallis and Tucson ended that with a thud. Such was the nature of the Pac-12 South, a division where dreams seemed to form, die, re-form, die, and then re-form again. No team outside of Boulder ever seemed truly out of the race. It was fun to watch. Arizona State will either match 2013’s win total (10) or loss total (4).
Next up: TBA
26. Auburn Tigers (8-4)
27. Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4)
28. Georgia Southern Eagles (9-3) – A moment of congratulations to Georgia Southern, champions of the Sun Belt conference in their first year as a FBS member school. I for one didn’t expect them to do this well out of the gate, but if 2014 is any indication, GSU’s future at this level is a bright one.
29. USC Trojans (8-4)
30. LSU Tigers (8-4)
31. Northern Illinois Huskies (10-2) – MAC Championship vs. Bowling Green, Friday, 7 PM, ESPN 2
32. Cincinnati Bearcats (8-3)
33. West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5)
34. Florida Gators (6-5)
35. East Carolina Pirates (8-3)
36. UCF Knights (8-3)
37. Boston College Eagles (7-5)
38. Utah State Aggies (9-4)
39. Texas A&M Aggies (7-5)
40. Utah Utes (8-4)
41. Duke Blue Devils (9-3)
42. Navy Midshipmen (6-5)
43. Stanford Cardinal (7-5)
44. Arkansas Razorbacks (6-6)
45. Washington Huskies (7-5)
46. BYU Cougars (8-4)
47. Nevada Wolf Pack (7-5)
48. Air Force Falcons (9-3)
49. NC State Wolfpack (7-5)
50. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-5)
51. Toledo Rockets (8-4)
52. Texas Longhorns (6-6)
53. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-4) – CUSA Championship vs. Marshall, Saturday, Noon, ESPN/ESPN2
54. Maryland Terrapins (7-5)
55. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-5)
56. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4)
57. Tennessee Volunteers (6-6)
58. Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-6)
59. Houston Cougars (7-4)
60. Western Michigan Broncos (8-4)
61. Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5)
62. Miami Hurricanes (6-6)
63. Rice Owls (7-5)
64. Virginia Cavaliers (5-7)
65. Virginia Tech Hokies (6-6)
66. Texas State Bobcats (7-5)
67. South Carolina Gamecocks (6-6)
68. Temple Owls (5-6)
69. UTEP Miners (7-5)
70. WKU Hilltoppers (7-5)
71. California Golden Bears (5-7)
72. Bowling Green Falcons (7-5) – MAC Championship vs. Northern Illinois, Friday, 7 PM, ESPN 2
73. Penn State Nittany Lions (6-6)
74. Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5)
75. San Diego State Aztecs (7-5)
76. Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6)
77. Kentucky Wildcats (5-7)
78. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6)
79. Michigan Wolverines (5-7)
80. Illinois Fightin’ Illini (6-6)
81. Appalachian State Mountaineers (7-5)
82. South Alabama Jaguars (6-6)
83. Ohio Bobcats (6-6)
84. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (6-6)
85. Northwestern Wildcats (5-7)
86. UAB Blazers (6-6)
87. Central Michigan Chippewas (7-5)
88. Buffalo Bulls (6-6)
89. Fresno State Bulldogs (6-6) – Mountain West Championship vs. Boise State, Saturday, 10 PM, CBS
90. Old Dominion Monarchs (6-6)
91. Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-8)
92. Oregon State Beavers (5-7)
93. Indiana Hoosiers (4-8)
94. New Mexico Lobos (4-8)
95. Ball State Cardinals (5-7)
96. Tulane Green Wave (4-8)
97. ULM Warhawks (4-8)
98. USF Bulls (4-8)
99. Syracuse Orange (3-9)
100. Kansas Jayhawks (3-9)
101. Washington State Cougars (3-9)
102. Army Black Knights (4-7)
103. FIU Golden Panthers (4-8)
104. Akron Zips (5-7)
105. Colorado Buffaloes (2-10)
106. Wyoming Cowboys (4-8)
107. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-9)
108. Purdue Boilermakers (3-9)
109. Iowa State Cyclones (3-9)
110. Vanderbilt Commodores (3-9)
111. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (3-9)
112. UTSA Roadrunners (4-8)
113. Florida Atlantic Owls (3-9)
114. Troy Trojans (3-9)
115. Miami (OH) Redhawks (2-10)
116. San Jose State Spartans (3-9)
117. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (4-9)
118. Connecticut Huskies (2-9)
119. Kent State Golden Flashes (2-9)
120. North Texas Mean Green (4-8)
121. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (2-10)
122. Massachusetts Minutemen (3-9)
123. SMU Mustangs (0-11)
124. Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-10)
125. Idaho Vandals (1-10)
126. New Mexico State Aggies (2-10)
127. Georgia State Panthers (1-11)
128. UNLV Rebels (1-11)