No, OFR’s college football rankings don’t look exactly right yet, but they’re starting to, so I should probably start writing about them. A quick explanation of what these college football rankings are, and more importantly, what they aren’t, and then we’ll get right to it.
What this ranking is: A ranking of team resumes so far. It’s a combination of many things – avoiding losses is paramount to anything else, as winning is the name of the game. Unique wins are a good thing, too – being the only team to beat another carries a lot of weight. Being one of two to beat another carries weight, but less. If the losses come to undefeated teams, that matters. And if they didn’t, how many losses the teams that beat you have piled up matter. Also, to a lesser extent, how you won and lost matters – blowouts, close wins, close losses – there are adjustments for all these. But it’s a look at what you’ve done in a vacuum separate from perceptions we hold about CFB teams. This isn’t in awe of Ohio State because of what Ohio State did last year, who coaches the Buckeyes, or the collection of talent on the roster. This is 100% score-based.
What this ranking is not: It’s not a measure of the best teams in the country. Try ESPN’s FPI or Football Outsiders’ F/+ rankings for really good measures of the best teams. This ranking is also not predictive – again, try those. A higher ranked team in this list isn’t suggested to be capable of beating a lower ranked team. That is not what this is. There’s an instinct people have to change all rankings into what they want rankings to be, and that’s an easy trap to fall into with OFR’s. “Man, ain’t no way [team ranked #15] is better than [team ranked #30]!” “[Team ranked #20] would destroy [team ranked #10]!” If you have either reaction, or anything similar, you need to re-read this section of the post. It’s just a look at resume, because at the end of the year, that’s what matters most. FSU wasn’t one of the 4 best teams in the country in 2014, but the Seminoles had one of the 4 best resumes, so they made the playoffs.
Let’s turn it around this year and count it down…
The Bottom 4th (#’s 128-97)
128: Wyoming (0-5) – Craig Bohl is 4-13 since coming here from North Dakota State, where he was 104-32. Ouch.
127: UCF (0-5) – 642 days ago, UCF won the Fiesta Bowl.
126: Idaho (1-4)
125: North Texas (0-4)
124: Eastern Michigan (1-4)
123: Fresno State (1-4)
122: UTEP (2-3)
121: Miami OH (1-4)
120: Florida International (2-3)
119: Charlotte (2-3)
118: Kansas (0-4) – The worst Power 5 team, Kansas showed some life last year under interim HC Clint Bowen. That life is gone under David Beaty so far.
117: New Mexico State (0-4)
116: Old Dominion (2-3)
115: UL-Lafayette (1-3) – Is the Mark Hudspeth window closing? What happened to this team?
114: San Jose State (2-3)
113: UTSA (1-4)
112: Purdue (1-4) – Gave Michigan State quite a scare this weekend, but that said more about the Spartans than the Boilermakers.
111: UL-Monroe (1-3) – While I don’t expect them to make mincemeat of the rest of their schedule, the losses are to Georgia, Alabama, and Georgia Southern.
110: Maryland (2-3)
109: Rice (2-3)
108: Florida Atlantic (1-3)
107: Virginia (1-3) – Virginia is the first “oh, they’re better than this” team on the list, but they’re not better than their schedule. It’s gonna be a tough year.
106: Connecticut (2-3)
105: SMU (1-4) – SMU’s 4 losses came to undefeated Baylor, undefeated TCU, undefeated James Madison (granted, FCS), and 2-loss East Carolina. That’s a tough schedule.
104: Georgia State (1-3) – I predict this is their high mark of the season.
103: Army West Point (1-4)
102: Troy (1-3)
101: Colorado State (2-3) – FIRE BOBO! (j/k)
100: UNLV (2-3) – Highest scoring performance of the year, anybody? No, not Ole Miss. No, not Baylor. It’s UNLV, who broke the 80 point barrier in an 80-8 win over Idaho State. Then they won on the road at Nevada! Hiring a HS coach maybe wasn’t as crazy as we thought.
99: Nevada (2-3)
98: Vanderbilt (2-3)
97: Buffalo (2-3)
Not Good (#’s 96-65)
96: Hawaii (2-3) – Is there a sadder situation in FBS than this? Hawaii has no hiring power, so they’re stuck with Norm Chow, who ten years ago would’ve been the last person I ever expected might average 0.0 points per game in his 3 losses.
95: New Mexico (3-2) – The worst winning record in the country, thanks to Mississippi Valley State, Wyoming, and New Mexico State!
94: Arkansas State (2-3)
93: Kent State (2-3)
92: Northern Illinois (2-3)
91: Western Michigan (1-3)
90: Massachusetts (1-3)
89: Texas State (1-3)
88: South Alabama (3-2)
87: San Diego State (2-3)
86: Tulane (2-2)
85: Middle Tennessee State (2-3)
84: South Florida (1-3) – Willie Taggart’s 3rd team is playing better than his first two, but the results are still mostly the same. I like Taggart as a coach, and I think he’s a good fit for Tampa, so I hope he survives any itchy fingers that might be getting frustrated.
83: Akron (2-3)
82: Oregon State (2-2)
81: Utah State (2-2)
80: Southern Mississippi (3-2)
79: Colorado (3-2)
78: Wake Forest (2-3)
77: Georgia Tech (2-3) – Very surprising start for this team. My gut tells me this is still a top 40 team in quality, but man, it’s just not going well.
76: Ball State (2-3) – A member of the Outfield Fly Rule Facebook group told me to expect big things from Ball State this year. I don’t think this is what he had in mind, but the season is going better than Georgia Tech’s! Each of Ball State’s losses has come to an undefeated team, leaving the infinitesimal possibility that the Cardinals are the 4th best team in the country.
75: Texas (1-4) – Notre Dame, Cal, Oklahoma State, and TCU have just 1 loss between them. Like Ball State, Texas is doing their struggling against really good teams, and they handily beat the only bad team on the schedule.
74: Arizona (3-2)
73: Virginia Tech (2-3)
72: Central Michigan (2-3)
71: Rutgers (2-2)
70: Auburn (3-2)
69: South Carolina (2-3) – Last year, South Carolina’s early win over Georgia worked heavily for the Gamecocks and against the Bulldogs in my rankings all year. The same could be true of their opening win against North Carolina this year.
68: Air Force (2-2)
67: Nebraska (2-3)
66: Tulsa (2-2)
65: Arkansas (2-3)
Not Great (#’s 64-26)
64: Bowling Green (3-2)
63: Boston College (3-2)
62: East Carolina (3-2)
61: Miami (3-1)
60: Marshall (4-1)
59: Louisiana Tech (3-2)
58: Tennessee (2-3) – TENNESSEE’S BACK, BABY!
57: Iowa State (2-2) – ISU, make sure you get the contact info for all the other teams in this group this week so you can stay in touch after your inevitable plummet.
56: BYU (3-2)
55: Illinois (4-1)
54: Wisconsin (3-2)
53: Georgia Southern (4-1)
52: Washington (2-2)
51: Washington State (2-2)
50: Appalachian State (3-1)
49: Minnesota (3-2)
48: Missouri (4-1)
47: Syracuse (3-1)
46: Texas Tech (3-2)
45: Louisville (2-3)
44: Ohio (4-1)
43: Penn State (4-1)
42: NC State (4-1)
41: Pittsburgh (3-1) – They’re 3-1 without James Conner, their best player. Impressive.
40: Arizona State (3-2)
39: Boise State (4-1)
38: Georgia (4-1) – Some will think this is an overreaction to Saturday, but I think Georgia is still very much a top 25 team. They just haven’t accomplished anything noteworthy yet beyond loss avoidance.
37: Oregon (3-2)
36: Mississippi State (3-2)
35: USC (3-1)
34: Western Kentucky (4-1)
33: Kansas State (3-1)
32: Cincinnati (3-2) – The Bearcats’ placement here is a schedule quirk. They’re the only team to beat the Hurricanes (so far), and their two conference losses are to undefeated Temple and undefeated Memphis. They’ll drop.
31: Indiana (4-1)
30: West Virginia (3-1)
29: Memphis (5-0) – The last 3 wins have been by single scores, but Memphis winning at all is still really unusual and cool. Justin Fuente is making himself a lot of down-the-road money.
28: UCLA (4-1)
27: North Carolina (4-1)
26: Duke (4-1)
Not In The Top 4, But Still Really Good (#’s 25-5)
25: Houston (4-0)
Signature win(s): Louisville, Tulsa
How about QB Greg Ward Jr. so far? 8.1 yards per attempt, an 8:1 TD:INT ratio, and a 69.7% completion mark. Plus, 58 carries for 512 yards and 7 TD on the ground? He’s doing better running last year’s national title offense (HC Tom Herman was the OC for the 2014 Buckeyes) than any of the much heralded guys in Columbus. In fact, according to ESPN, no QB in the country has accumulated more Expected Points Added on the ground than Houston’s Ward (+23.8 epa rushing). The defense is getting by, led by pass rushing LB Steven Taylor (8 TFL/sacks) and CB William Jackson III (INT, 6 pbu). The Cougars are getting lots of turnover luck – Ward and RB Kenneth Farrow have a combined 5 fumbles without losing any – so some regression may be in store. It’s a team that’s been all over the board so far, looking kind of average early before really looking good after their bye week.
This week: vs. SMU
24: Notre Dame (4-1)
Signature win(s): Georgia Tech, Virginia
In September, Notre Dame looked like a full-blown national contender. They may still be one, but injuries have really taken their toll, and the Irish played their worst game of the year in a loss to Clemson. The next 4 games – Navy, USC, at Temple, and at Pitt – would be navigable with a healthy roster, I think, but it’s looking like a minefield now. The Irish are capable of it, as I think Brian Kelly is a good coach with a good overall roster, but 4-0 over that stretch is a lot to ask of the current Irish lineup. I don’t think people think of the running game as a strength in a Brian Kelly offense, and whether or not that is typically the case, it’s been a strength this year. C.J. Prosise has had some ball security issues (30.3 carries per fumble), but he has 6 TDs and a healthy 7.4 ypc. QB Deshone Kizer has played really well upon stepping into Malik Zaire‘s starting spot. He’s a little too prone to sacks, and he might just be merely good instead of the Heisman contender we thought Zaire would be, but the Irish probably aren’t going to lose because of Kizer. WR Will Fuller looks like an All-American – every 4th catch is a TD, he’s pulling over 20 yards per catch, somehow also catching over 60% of his targets, and averaging over 10 yards per target.
This week: vs. Navy
23: Kentucky (4-1)
Signature win(s): Missouri
They’re the only team to beat Missouri, and only undefeated Florida has beaten the Wildcats. But they’re still not very good. Early wins over UL-Lafayette and South Carolina don’t look nearly as impressive as they did at the time, and Kentucky’s effort against FCS Eastern Kentucky was abysmal, and would’ve been a loss versus most FBS opponents. It’s a 2-3 team trapped in a very manageable schedule. The Wildcats probably won’t be in this section of the rankings for long. While they are, we should mention senior MLB Josh Forrest, who only leads the team in tackles (35.5, 10.5 more than any teammate), sacks (2.5), passes broken up (5), and fumbles forced (1).
This week: BYE
22: Navy (4-0)
Signature win(s): East Carolina, Air Force
No team has played Navy within a score yet, with a 10 point road win at UConn their closest game. East Carolina, who beat Virginia Tech and played Florida closely, fell by 24 points to the Midshipmen. They’ve been really good so far. There’s nothing unusual – if you’ve seen the triple option before, you know how Navy’s getting it done, and their defense is good enough to keep them in games, even if it’s not quite good enough to outright win them.
This week: at Notre Dame
21: Ole Miss (4-1)
Signature win(s): Alabama
What. A. Dud. Watching Ole Miss play Alabama, I realized this team certainly had the capacity for egg-laying, but I didn’t expect what we saw in the Swamp on Saturday night. The final score might have even been, dare I say, flattering for Ole Miss. That’s how bad they were. This is three straight weeks the Rebels have performed worse than the week before, but they’ve really got nowhere to go but up at this point. QB Chad Kelly has 8.6 ypp, 11:4, and 1478 yards in a prolific offensive system, but with 4 interceptions and 4 fumbles, the term “gunslinger” carries all its connotations. Laquon Treadwell gets all the attention, but on less than half as many targets, fellow WR Cody Core has nearly as many yards (330), three times as many TDs (3), more ypc (20.9), and a better catch rate (76.2%), making Core the real weapon driving Ole Miss’ passing game so far. For all the hype over the defense, the offense is really carrying the day. LB Denzel Nkemdiche and brother Robert have combined for 9.5 TFL/sacks and 1 PBU, while CB Trae Elston has 3 interceptions, so while the defense may not be living up to its hype as an overall unit, they’re creating havoc with some big playmakers.
This week: vs. New Mexico State
20: Toledo (4-0)
Signature win(s): Iowa State
When I say signature win, I guess that’s not always accurate, because when we think of 2015 Toledo, we think of the team that stunned Arkansas. I’m just listing whichever opponent has the fewest losses, more or less, with some adjustment for Power 5 teams. That’s ISU, for now. Don’t get hung up on that bad result from a good process. While the Zips played really well against both the Cyclones and Razorbacks, they have looked even better the last two weeks against MAC (and MAC-equivalent) competition. ESPN’s FPI gives Toledo a 1 in 5 chance of winning every game the rest of the way, and I think they’re a near consensus favorite to be the Group of 5 representative in a major bowl game. Interestingly, and unlike many MAC contenders on the national stage in recent memory, Toledo is carried by its defense, allowing just 13.0 ppg. It’s hard to pick a single star on that side of the ball. DT Orion Jones gives them an excellent inside rusher, leading the team with 6.5 TFL/sacks. DE Allen Covington has 4.0 TFL/sacks. WLB Jaylen Coleman leads the team in tackles and has forced two turnovers. DBs Dejuan Rogers and Cheatham Norrils have combined for 1 INT, 1 FF (both Rodgers), and 12 passes defended.
This week: vs. Kent State
19: Baylor (4-0)
Signature win(s): Texas Tech
I sure got used to typing this last year – Baylor’s schedule sucks. They’re clearly ok with it, because it gets them wins. But if others are winning just as much, Baylor has to sit and watch. They’ve done what they’ve always done – 56-21, 66-31, 70-17, 63-35. The offense leads the country in rushing success rate, at 65.7%. Baylor RBs have gotten at least 5 yards on 57% of their carries, also #1 in the country. Leading the way is the wonderfully named Shock Linwood, with 9.4 yards per carry (!), 584 total yards, and 6 TDs. While the running game has been the most successful in the country, the passing attack has been… the most successful in the country, with a success rate of 58.1%. Seth Russell has 12.3 yards per attempt, 19 touchdowns, and only one sack taken. Baylor always seems to have the country’s deepest receiving corps, and this year is no exception. If you’re following what Julio Jones is doing to the NFL so far this year, then you know what Corey Coleman is doing for Baylor. He has 24 catches for 570 yards and ELEVEN touchdowns. Coleman and fellow WRs Jay Lee and K.D. Cannon are all averaging over 20 yards per catch and 10 yards per target. It’s a really dangerous offense, unsurprisingly. Monster DE Shawn Oakman (6’9″, 275) is a disruptive force for an adequate but not strong defense.
This week: at Kansas
18: Michigan State (5-0)
Signature win(s): Oregon
This is the dumb nature of polls. We put Michigan State into the top 1 or 2 spots based on the fact that, OMG, they beat Oregon!!!! (at home, by 3) Then, when Oregon gets whipped by Utah, we correctly adjust our thoughts on Oregon. But we don’t adjust what we thought we knew about Michigan State, for some reason. We leave them where they were, based on a quick reaction we now know to have been an overreaction. It’s silly. MSU struggled for much of the game with a bad Western Michigan team, and this weekend nearly lost to a bad Purdue team. Michigan State isn’t bad, but the resume doesn’t presently scream “playoffs!” to me.
This week: at Rutgers
17: Florida State (4-0)
Signature win(s): Boston College
24-16 over Wake Forest? Don’t you start this shit again, Florida State. Actually, FSU played pretty well, but just shot itself in the foot repeatedly with penalties, 10 for 100 yards. Still, it’s a bit of a concern after the several quarters of dullness against USF and the 14-0 final in Beantown. Heisman candidate Dalvin Cook is living up to the hype, with 8.6 ypc, 570 yards, and 6 TD, although averaging a fumble every 33 carries is a bit of a concern. When Everett Golson gets rid of the ball, he’s efficient but unexplosive: he has a 7:0 ratio and 64% completions, but just 6.0 yards per attempt, which when considered with his 10 sacks taken, suggest he’s playing a little too hesitantly.
This week: vs. Miami
16: California (5-0)
Signature win(s): Washington, Washington State
Aw, this is fun. I know California’s not that good (I mean, they nearly lost to Texas), but it’s a lot of fun to see them win. They won’t be the darling of my system, what with 3 close wins already, but let’s not worry about that right now. They’re undefeated, thanks largely to QB Jared Goff (8.1 ypp, 15:4, 70.2%, 1630 yds), and it’s fun to watch.
This week: at Utah
15: TCU (5-0)
Signature win(s): Minnesota, Texas Tech
The complaint with TCU so far is that they had not yet looked like a playoff contender. They ostensibly were a playoff contender, by virtue of preseason laurels, but they hadn’t really had that kind of game that makes you take notice. They sleepwalked through the Minnesota game, played pretty well because that’s all that was required against SFA and SMU, and gave us exciting but not particularly championesque football against Texas Tech. Hosting the Texas Longhorns on Saturday, TCU looked like TCU was supposed to look. QB Trevone Boykin continues to be a statistical marvel (9.3 ypp, 19:3, 63.3%, 1802 yds, 5th nationally w/ 42.6 expected points added), and in a year where many running backs could split votes, in specific regions, Boykin might be the Heisman favorite. WR Josh Doctson, with a 75% catch rate, 12.9 yards per target, 722 yards, and 8 TD, might be the better player. TCU finally resembled the 2014 version that was so dominant, and now the trick is repeating it over and over again.
This week: at Kansas State
14: Oklahoma State (5-0)
Signature win(s): Kansas State
I don’t see the Cowboys as real contenders, as they just haven’t maintained that level of great play so far, really only looking great against UTSA. The pass-catch combo of Mason Rudolph (8.6 ypp, 9:4, 65.9%) and David Glidden (12.3 yards per target, 69.7% catch rate, 3 TD) has been impressive, but in the early weeks the defensive playmakers are what really catch your eye. DE Emmanuel Ogbah has 9.5 TFL/sacks already. DE Jimmy Bean has 7, DT Vincent Taylor has 6, LB Seth Jacobs has 5.5, and LB/STAR Jordan Burton has 5.0. Glenn Spencer’s front 7 has really been unleashing hell on opposing, undermatched, offenses.
This week: at West Virginia
13: Temple (4-0)
Signature win(s): Penn State, Cincinnati
The Owls are the only team to beat Penn State, and did so by 17 points. They’re one of two to beat Cincinnati, doing so in the Queen City. They had a scare against UMass, and dominated Charlotte. Temple will have trouble rising, as they really don’t have a strong schedule outside of a Notre Dame game on Halloween, but they’re consistently playing like a team that needs to be taken seriously. A key ingredient in the Temple recipe is field position – they have the nation’s best starting field position and the nation’s 10th best opponent’s starting field position. The result? A whopping 13.0 yard advantage over their opponents. They get a free first down and 30% of another before they even take the field. It’s easier to win when that’s the case. P Alex Starzyk has played a pivotal role in this – of his 24 punts, 16 have either been fair caught or downed inside the 20 yard line. Senior WLB Tyler Matakevich leads the team in… nearly everything: Tackles (29.0), TFL/sacks (4.5), interceptions (2), and PBU (4).
This week: vs. Tulane
12: Alabama (4-1)
Signature win(s): Georgia, Wisconsin
Hey, you knew they weren’t going anywhere for long. There’s a very good chance the Tide is the best team in the country. They had an off-game against Ole Miss that wasn’t even that bad, at least by most teams’ standards. Sure, they suffered 5 turnovers, but they still played well enough to only lose by 6 to a very good opponent. Bama’s performance against Ole Miss was better than, say, Ole Miss’ against Florida or Georgia’s own performance against Alabama. The wins have all been solid, with the opportunity to add several more solid wins to the resume down the road. Bama ain’t going anywhere, guys.
This week: vs. Arkansas
11: Ohio State (5-0)
Signature win(s): Indiana
Well, the really impressive opening week win over Virginia Tech is considerably less impressive now, considering VT has lost to East Carolina and Pitt since. The shutout of Hawaii was merely a trendsetter, as the Rainbow Warriors haven’t scored in two other games. Being taken down to the wire by Northern Illinois was disconcerting, but hey, NIU is a premium Group of Five team, right? In previous years, yes, but the Huskies just lost to Central Michigan, their 3rd L of the season. Struggling with Indiana might indeed be forgivable, but I think we all kind of know that it probably won’t be. As much fun as Indiana’s start was, that’s still a team that is counting wins for bowl eligibility. So at this point, the Buckeyes just don’t have much to work with other than the Hoosier win. Two of their next three games are against Maryland and Rutgers, so they’re going to need to follow the FSU plan for postseason eligibility – loss avoidance against a bad schedule. It picks up a bit in November, finishing with the two Michigan schools, but there’s just not a lot of room to impress people between now and then.
This week: vs. Maryland
10: Michigan (4-1)
Signature win(s): Oregon State, BYU
Quick – what’s the only team in the country with 4 straight wins over FBS competition by at least 21 points? Baylor played Lamar, so they only have 3. It’s Michigan, whose dominant defense has led the way to a 35-7 win over Oregon State, a 28-7 win over UNLV, a 31-0 win over BYU, and a 28-0 win over Maryland. Aside from UNLV, who scored only 3 points against UCLA, every team on Michigan’s schedule had their worst point-scoring day of the season against Michigan. It’s still early, but that’s a hell of a trend. That Utah loss doesn’t look nearly as bad as it did the night it happened, and I think everyone expected this team to play its worst ball at the start of the year. That’s pretty scary. Speaking of scary, DE bookends Mario Ojemudia and Chris Wormley have combined for 13 TFL/sacks, and CB Jourdan Lewis has an INT and 7 PBU. The last time anyone scored on Michigan, Scott Walker was still a candidate for President.
This week: vs. Northwestern
9: Oklahoma (4-0)
Signature win(s): West Virginia, Tulsa
Oklahoma nearly lost to Tennessee, and while that wasn’t seen as a big issue at the time, Tennessee’s a 2-3 ballclub, so maybe it’s not quite as forgivable now. Still, OU has looked like a real contender in the other 3 games. They did what they’re supposed to do against Akron (41-3) and Tulsa (52-38), and other than mild rally in the second half, dispatched West Virginia (44-24) without much issue. The Sooners are the Sooners this year, it seems. QB Baker Mayfield (9.3 ypp, 13:3, 65.2%) has been excellent, but it’s hard not to be with his receiving corps – no less than 6 pass catchers are averaging over 10 yards per target this year. The defense has its stars too. In just 4 games, LB’s Dominique Alexander and Eric Striker each have 5.0 TFL/sacks, and CB Jordan Thomas has picked off two passes. Baylor and TCU get all the votes and the attention, but so far, Oklahoma is the Big XII team with the strongest playoff resume.
This week: vs. Texas
8: Texas A&M (5-0)
Signature win(s): Arizona State, Mississippi State
While I think the Ags may be a tad too inconsistent to win out and do really big things this year, they’ve checked all the right boxes so far. They’re both explosive and efficient, thanks to an overpowering offensive attack led by QB Kyle Allen (8.1 ypp, 13:2, 64.0% / 6.6 ypc, 2 RuTD). Defensively, they have some issues, as A&M defenses often do, but John Chavis’ first unit in College Station is definitely causing problems for opponents behind the line of scrimmage. DL Myles Garrett has 9.5 TFL/sacks and 3 FF and looks like a serious contender for postseason awards. Fellow end Daeshon Hall has 6.5 TFL/sacks and 2 FF of his own. S Donovan Wilson has been a playmaker all over the field – 3.5 TFL/sacks, 2 INT, 3 FF. I count 42 TFL/sacks already for this defense, a ridiculous 8.4 behind-the-line stops per game. A high-flying offense and a boom-or-bust defense that spends its Saturday afternoons in backfields? That’s the recipe for not only a really good team, but a decidedly watchable one. You can’t watch the Aggies this weekend, but next Saturday they host Alabama. It should be worth the wait.
This week: BYE
7: Clemson (4-0)
Signature win(s): Notre Dame, Appalachian State
I don’t think Clemson is as consistently good as you want a playoff contender to be, but with their schedule, they may not need to be. We saw what Florida State did a year ago, coasting through the ACC’s Atlantic Division en route to January football. As long as Clemson has their best stuff for the FSU game, they should be in pretty good shape. The defense is the story in Clemson while the offense does its best. The running game isn’t bad, but it isn’t gonna carry them to victory any time soon. There’s not much explosiveness in the passing game as of yet, so the Tigers are just relying on Deshaun Watson methodically moving chains, which he’s doing really well, as Clemson ranks 11th in passing success rate. Watson is averaging a mere 6.9 yards per pass, which isn’t bad, but if you’ve seen the other YPP totals I’ve listed, it’s not in an elite ballpark. Watson’s 69% completion rate is the biggest component in that success rate. Like Texas A&M, Clemson causes a lot of issues up front for opposing offenses thanks to an explosive defensive line. DE Shaq Lawson is the most explosive of all, with 8.5 TFL/sacks in just 4 games. Fellow DE Kevin Dodd (6.0 TFL/sacks, FF) has been nearly equally fearsome. S TJ Green is even getting in on the action, leading the team in tackles (24), with 4.5 taking place in the backfield. 6 different players have intercepted a pass, 4 have forced fumbles, and 8 have broken up passes. It’s a really good defense.
This week: vs. Georgia Tech
6: Stanford (4-1)
Signature win(s): USC, Oregon State, Arizona
They looked like such a disappointment in that opening 16-6 loss to Northwestern, but since leaving Chicago, the Cardinal have played like an elite team. I still think David Shaw finds offense and defense to be necessary annoyances standing in the way of a good punt, but the offense and defense is working. QB Kevin Hogan (8.8 ypp, 9:2, 67.5%) is a star. They’ve played a really tough schedule so far, and a 4-1 record has them deservedly on the fringe of playoff consideration.
This week: BYE
5: Utah (4-0)
Signature win(s): Michigan, Oregon, Utah State
Either Michigan or Oregon isn’t Utah’s biggest win of the year so far. As far as mid-October resumes go, that’s extremely good. They looked good before the Oregon game and looked great in it. The jury’s still out on where they settle, but Kyle Whittingham’s team is an easy one to root for in the Pac-12 South.
This week: vs. California
4: Iowa (5-0)
Signature win(s): Pitt, Iowa State, Wisconsin
Iowa, I hate you so much for this. Really. Please lose. Luckily, Iowa State will slowly melt off the “quality win” board as the season goes on. I think Pitt potentially has staying power in the ACC, however, and Wisconsin should still be pretty good in the Big Ten, so those may not be going anywhere. If Iowa keeps winning, they’ll soon have other key wins to hang their hat on. I don’t like it one bit. Nobody who writes about college football wants to write about Iowa, but so far, thanks to a pretty solid schedule, Iowa has had quite the start to the season. There is one player worth writing about – CB Desmond King, who has 4 PBU and a whopping FIVE interceptions. In the words of Verne Lundquist, “Wow!”
This week: vs. Illinois (gooooo Illini!)
3: LSU (4-0)
Signature win(s): Syracuse, Auburn, Mississippi State
Person guarding the playoffs: “Sir, may I see your invitation, please?”
LSU: “Sure. Here is my invitation:
Leonard Fournette is good.
This week: at South Carolina
2: Florida (5-0)
Signature win(s): Ole Miss, Kentucky, East Carolina
I’m still not sold on Florida’s staying power, but this defense can take them FAR. Jonathan Bullard (9.5 TFL/sacks), Jarrad Davis (6.5), Antonio Morrison (6.5), Alex McCalister (6.5), Vernon Hargreaves III (3 INT), Marcus Maye (3 FF). Too… many… playmakers… And the offense is starting to get competent all of a sudden? Oh, I don’t like this. I don’t like this one bit.
This week: at Missouri
1: Northwestern (5-0)
Signature win(s): Stanford, Duke, Minnesota
Wildcats, you’re the opposite of Iowa. I don’t want you to go anywhere, but I’m constantly afraid you will. No one has a better resume so far, with a multi-score win over the Pac-12’s best team, a multi-score win over a pretty good ACC team, and a blowout shutout of the Big Ten team TCU beat by 6. They’ve given up fewer points than Michigan! LB Anthony Walker, owner of 8.5 TFL/sacks and 2 recovered fumbles, is the only player I even found to talk about. They’re not even THAT good. But man, the wins. You travel to Ann Arbor this weekend, so I fear our first moment here in the top 4 might be our last, but Northwestern, I want you to know I loved every minute of it. You may be but a distant memory in November, but you owned the first five weeks. You owned ’em.
This week: at Michigan