OFR College Football Rankings, 10/19/15

Previous College Football Rankings:
10/5/15

10/12/15

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.

The Bottom Fourth (#s 128-97)

(Photo: Ron Chenoy / USA Today Sports)
(Photo: Ron Chenoy / USA Today Sports)

128. Wyoming (1-6)
127. UCF (0-7)
126. North Texas (0-6)
125. Eastern Michigan (1-6)
124. Miami OH (1-6)
123. New Mexico State (0-6)
122. Fresno State (2-5)
120t. UTEP (2-4)
120t. UT-San Antonio (1-6)
119. UL-Monroe (1-5)
118. Kansas (0-6)
116t. Ball State (2-5)
116t. Purdue (1-6)
115. Idaho (2-4)
114. Florida Atlantic (1-5)
112t. Florida International (3-4)
112t. San Jose State (3-4)
111. Hawaii (2-5)
109t. Charlotte (2-4)
109t. UNLV (2-5)
108. Troy (1-5)
107. Massachusetts (1-5)
106. Georgia State (2-4)
101t. Army (2-5)
101t. Buffalo (2-4)
101t. Colorado State (3-4)
101t. Nevada (3-4)
101t. New Mexico (4-3)
99t. Connecticut (3-4)
99t. Tulane (2-4)
98. Colorado (3-4)
96t. Oregon State (2-4)

 

Not Good (#s 96-65)

Tulsa's Zack Langer has 11 rushing TDs in just 6 games. (Photo: Tom Gilbert/Tulsa World)
Tulsa’s Zack Langer has 11 rushing TDs in just 6 games. (Photo: Tom Gilbert/Tulsa World)

96t. Vanderbilt (2-4)
95. South Alabama (3-3)
93t. Maryland (2-4)
93t. SMU (1-5)
92. Texas State (1-4)
90t. Middle Tennessee (3-4)
90t. Old Dominion (3-3)
88t. Akron (3-4)
88t. Kent State (3-4)
87. UL-Lafayette (2-3)
86. Virginia (2-4)
85. Tulsa (3-3)
84. Air Force (3-3)
83. Rice (3-3)
81t. Southern Mississippi (4-3)
81t. Wake Forest (3-4)
80. Georgia Tech (2-5)
79. Syracuse (3-3)
76t. Arkansas State (3-3)
76t. Northern Illinois (4-3)
76t. San Diego State (4-3)
75. Boston College (3-4)
73t. Arkansas (2-4)
73t. Central Michigan (3-4)
71t. East Carolina (4-3)
71t. Minnesota (4-3)
69t. Iowa State (2-4)
69t. Louisiana Tech (4-3)
67t. South Carolina (3-4)
67t. Virginia Tech (3-4)
65t. Missouri (4-3)
65t. Nebraska (3-4)

 

Not Great (#s 64-26)

64. Western Michigan (3-3)
63. USC (3-3)
62. USF (3-3)
61. NC State (4-2)
59t. Boise State (5-2)
59t. Indiana (4-3)
57t. Arizona State (4-3)
57t. Ohio (5-2)
55t. Rutgers (3-3)
55t. Washington (3-3)
53t. Arizona (5-2)
53t. Utah State (4-2)
52. Illinois (5-2)
49t. Auburn (4-2)
49t. Cincinnati (3-3)
49t. Miami (4-2)

Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs (Photo: Wade Payne/AP)
Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs (Photo: Wade Payne/AP)

44t. Bowling Green (5-2)
44t. BYU (5-2)
44t. Kentucky (4-2)
44t. Louisville (2-4)
44t. Tennessee (3-3)
43. Kansas State (3-3)
40t. Georgia (5-2)
40t. Marshall (6-1)
40t. Texas (2-4)
39. Oregon (4-3)
38. Georgia Southern (5-1)
34t. Duke (5-1)
34t. UCLA (4-2)
34t. West Virginia (3-3)
34t. Wisconsin (5-2)
33. Penn State (5-2)
31t. Ole Miss (5-2)
31t. Washington State (4-2)
30. Navy (4-1)
28t. Pittsburgh (5-1)
28t. Western Kentucky (6-1)
26t. Appalachian State (5-1)
26t. Mississippi State (5-2)

 

Really Good (#s 25-5)

Texas A&M's Myles Garrett might be the nation's best pass rusher. (Photo: Kirby Clarke, TexAgs)
Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett might be the nation’s best pass rusher. (Photo: Kirby Clarke, TexAgs)

25. Texas Tech (5-2)
Signature Wins: none
Change: +6
The Red Raiders had one of their worst games over the weekend, but luckily it was against Kansas, so they still won by multiple scores. They scratch the top 25 thanks to both losses coming at the hands of undefeated teams – Baylor and TCU. Everything about the offense is great, from the combination of QB Patrick Mahomes (8.2 ypp, 26:6, 64.0%) and tiny WR Jakeem Grant (10.9 yards per target, 4 TD), to the running attack led by DeAndre Washington (7.0 ypp, 7 TD). The defense isn’t great, but it has a couple of notable playmakers – LB Pete Robertson (8.5 TFL/sacks, 1 PBU, 1 FF) and DB J.J. Gaines (4 int). Texas Tech starts a pretty rough stretch in the schedule at this point – at Oklahoma, vs Oklahoma State, and at West Virginia over the next 3 weeks – so I wouldn’t expect them to be long for the top 25.
This weekend: at Oklahoma

24. North Carolina (5-1)
Signature Wins: Illinois
Change: +12
UNC makes a big jump after a 50-14 win against Wake Forest. Among one loss teams, they’re really held back because of that loss to South Carolina, a team that 4 other opponents have already bested. No one knows what to expect from a pretty even Coastal division, so UNC could have as many as 6 wins left on the schedule or 5 losses. They should win at home against Virginia this weekend, but beyond that, everything seems to be more or less a toss-up. I figure they’ll drop two more along the way somewhere, but I don’t know which games to expect.
This weekend: vs. Virginia

23. Oklahoma (5-1)
Signature Wins: none
Change: +2
Volatility, thy name is Oklahoma. A week after playing like a Conference USA team against Texas, Oklahoma puts together their most complete game of the year, a 55-0 pasting of Kansas State. If the Sooners of October 10 show up again, they’ll lose to anyone not named Kansas. If the Sooners of Saturday show up, they can beat TCU and Baylor. We’re halfway through the season and Samaje Perine has fewer rushing yards (420) than he did in one game against the Jayhawks last year (427). QB Baker Mayfield (8.5 ypp, 19:3,67.4%) is happily carrying the load, though his 19 sacks are too many for comfort. Mayfield has a bevy of receiving options – 5 different ball catchers have been targeted at least 10 times and are averaging over 10 yards per target. Playmakers are everywhere, including on the defense. LB Eric Striker (10 TFL/sacks) is a force behind the LOS, and corners Zack Sanchez (3 INT, 3 PBU) and Jordan Thomas (3 INT, 4 PBU) are game changers downfield. With Oklahoma, you never really know, but the talent is there to make a push down the stretch and rise up the rankings.
This weekend: vs. Texas Tech

22. Texas A&M (5-1)
Signature Wins: Mississippi State
Change: -13
The Bama game went as Bama games tend to go (in Bama’s favor), and the Aggies dropped. The offense is still solid, but it’s still the defense that merits attention. DE Myles Garrett gets mentioned here every week, and at 11.5 TFL/sacks, 2 PBU, and 3 FF, why shouldn’t he? Freshman DL Daylon Mack (6 TFL/sacks) excels against the run, and DL Daeshon Hall (7 TFL/sacks) chases down the few QBs Garrett can’t get to. Looking at the rest of the schedule, I see 4 almost certain wins, against SC, Auburn, Western Carolina, and Vanderbilt. The second half of A&M’s season is bookended by a trip to Ole Miss (a rough assignment after a loss to Bama, facing a ticked off Rebel squadron), and game 12 in Death Valley Thanksgiving weekend. At least a 9-3 finish is in the cards, I think, with the potential for more.
This weekend: at Ole Miss

21. Toledo (6-0)
Signature Wins: none
Change: none
Get used to seeing Toledo in your top 25, because they’re going to be favored in each of the final 6 games, and should be a cinch to win 4. The two games that could define Toledo’s season – they get Northern Illinois at home and take a November 17 trip to Bowling Green. Win those, and the Rockets should win those, and Toledo is potentially crashing a big bowl party, assuming they can get past the MAC East champ (Bowling Green again, most likely) at 13-0. The Rocket offense is solid, but I’m still loving Toledo’s defense, led by the fantastically named DT Orion Jones (9 TFL/sacks), DE Trent Voss (7 TFL/sacks), and CB Cheatham Norrils (8 PBU). This year, Toledo has given up 32 total points when the score was close (8 point or fewer differential). The other 47 points allowed all came when Toledo was up by at least 9 points.
This weekend: at Massachusetts

20. Houston (6-0)
Signature Wins: none
Change: +2
Everybody’s talking about Houston, which is good. Tom Herman has done a fantastic job, and Ohio State fans were missing their former OC quite a bit in the early going. How likely is 13-0? Well, there are 3 landmines: On November 14, they get Memphis at home, finish the year with a home game against Navy, and if Houston wins both those, would likely face Temple in the AAC title game. If Temple stays undefeated and winds up facing Houston, it’ll be interesting to see where each is ranked in the College Football Playoff rankings, because the higher ranked team would host the game, giving them a significant advantage to going 13-0 and reaching a major bowl. All year I’ve been talking about how good Greg Ward Jr.is, so this time let me focus on OLB Steven Taylor, whose 13 TFL/sacks are a major source of havoc for the defense. Also, CB William Jackson III has 1 interception and an impressive 12 PBU so far.
This weekend: at UCF

19. Oklahoma State (6-0)
Signature Wins: none
Change: -5
The Cowboys drop a bit despite winning, and here’s why: their game was close, Kansas State got drilled, and Oklahoma State really hasn’t played anybody else. They’ll get their chance next month, facing the big 3 of the Big 12 in a 4 week span. Unlike the bigger names of the Big 12, OSU is driven by their defense, an all-around really good unit. Edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah (11.0 TFL/sacks, 2 FF) and all-around DE Jimmy Bean (10.5 TFL/sacks) get most of the attention, but DT Vincent Taylor and LB Seth Jacobs are proving to be weapons against the run as well. This defense doesn’t get enough love. If it can survive November without getting shredded, it won’t have to worry about it. I still think, overall, the Cowboys are more good than great, and despite the 6-0 start, a 9-3 or 8-4 finish may be in the cards. But for now, they’ve had one of the 20 best seasons in 2015.
This weekend: vs. Kansas

LB Tyler Matakevich is the heart and soul of the Temple defense. (Photo: Matthew O'Haren/USA Today Sports)
LB Tyler Matakevich is the heart and soul of the Temple defense. (Photo: Matthew O’Haren/USA Today Sports)

18. Temple (6-0)
Signature Wins: Penn State
Change: -8
It was bound to happen. The feather in Temple’s cap was a 27-10 win over Penn State, making the Owls the only team so far to beat the Nittany Lions. That was, until PSU played Ohio State. OSU manhandling Penn State put a dent into Temple’s resume, which really doesn’t have much else to go on at this point. Cincinnati isn’t terrible, but they’re probably not a top 64 team, even. Everyone else on the schedule so far has been really bad. The Owls have a few shots at redemption, particularly with a Halloween home game against Notre Dame (which they should lose), but the chances are there. There are two games that make or break Temple’s season at this point: Notre Dame, and a home game against Memphis 3 weeks later. Win both those games and Temple will be hosting the AAC title game against either Houston or Memphis, and if they win that at home, they’ll be in a major bowl. Lose either, and they’ll likely be on the road for the AAC title. I think home field advantage would mean more to Temple in December than Memphis or Houston, but either way, the endgame drastically hinges on those two very tough draws. RB Jahad Thomas is averaging 5.2 ypc and has 10 TD already, and his 33.2 yard average on kickoff returns, including 1 TD, has helped Temple average the best starting field position in the FBS this season, starting the average drive at the 38 yard line. LB Tyler Matakevich does everything, accounting for 13% of Temple’s tackles and leading the team with 6.0 TFL and 3 interceptions. DL Nate D. Smith (6 TFL/sacks) has emerged as a pass rushing weapon, and DB Sean Chandler (2 interceptions, 5 PBU) has done a nice job in coverage. Houston and Memphis are getting all the attention in the AAC, but don’t sleep on Temple, the likely champions of the deeper Eastern division.
This weekend: at East Carolina

17. California (5-1)
Signature Wins: Washington State
Change: -1
The only good team the Bears played, Utah, beat them, so as the schedule becomes more harsh in the second half, so too might their ranking. The offense is still the story with Cal. RB Khalfani Muhammad is 5-9, 170, and a highlight waiting to happen each time he touches the ball – Muhammad is averaging 8.7 ypc, and 51% of his carries have gone at least 5 yards. QB Jared Goff (7.7 ypp, 17:9, 66.7%) is one of the more productive QBs in the country. The defense isn’t anything to write home about, but the pass rushing work of Kyle Kragen (6.0 TFL/sacks, 1 PBU, 1 FF) has been strong. I like what Sonny Dykes is doing in Berkeley, so here’s hoping I get to make my “RELEASE THE KRAGEN” pun a few more times this year.
This weekend: at UCLA

16. Stanford (5-1)
Signature Wins: Arizona, UCLA
Change: +4
Stanford is playing at an even higher level than this. They look really good. So why the low rank? The loss, by multiple scores to a now 2-loss Northwestern, isn’t looking any better, USC dropped another game, as did UCLA, leaving Stanford without a really great win. Arizona and UCLA are 2-loss teams, so it’s something, but Stanford’s going to need to keep winning, because I’m not sure the Pac-12’s parity will do them many favors this year, and unfortunately they won’t get a shot at Utah. RB Christian McCaffrey has 844 yards, 5 rushing TDs, and 6.5 ypc, thanks in part to a huge game against the Bruins over the weekend. QB Kevin Hogan (8.8 ypp, 12:3, 65.9%) is having a great Senior season, and the nice balance has the Cardinal winning with offense more than defense, which hasn’t typically been the case. CB Ronnie Harris (9 PBU) has been good in coverage, but beyond that, the defense has lacked the playmakers to make a difference. Stanford’s really good, and I think they could be favored in every remaining game, at least until the Pac-12 championship. I expect them to rise in the rankings, but then again, this team scored 6 points against Northwestern, so volatility of performance is always lurking in the shadows.
This weekend: vs. Washington

15. Memphis (6-0)
Signature Wins: Ole Miss, Bowling Green
Change: +9
I feel like I’ve written about Memphis a ton this season, and now everyone’s pretty aware of why. I didn’t expect them to beat Ole Miss, but at least now the Tigers and HC Justin Fuente are on everyone’s radar. Memphis is talented and well coached, but they also have had some severe defensive lapses this season. They’re my highest ranked AAC team currently, thanks to the quality of their non-conference wins, but in my opinion, they’re the least likely to finish the year undefeated.
This weekend: at Tulsa

14. Northwestern (5-2)
Signature Wins: Stanford, Duke
Change: -7
The Wildcats are losing badly lately, but they’re hanging around thanks to two things: 1 – they are still the only team to have beaten Stanford or Duke, and 2 – their losses, to Michigan and Iowa, have come against some really good opponents. Stanford may not drop another game, but Duke probably will, and Northwestern will fall in the rankings when they do.
This weekend: at Nebraska

13. Notre Dame (6-1)
Signature Wins: Navy
Change: +5
I am not confident in this, but I am currently thinking Notre Dame is really, really good this year. Their only loss was by 2 points, on the road, to Clemson, who might be the best team in the country. They whipped a Texas team that went on to beat Oklahoma. The Irish are the only team to beat Navy, and they won by multiple scores against USC. Despite the inconsistency that may or may not be linked to HC Steve Sarkisian‘s personal issues, USC was still capable of playing like an elite team. There’s a hell of a final game against Stanford, and some games to keep an eye on like Temple, Pitt, and Boston College, but Notre Dame has a not terrible shot at 11-1. RB C.J. Prosise (941 yards, 7.2 ypc, 11 TD) has been a revelation. WR Will Fuller (13.5 yards per target, 61.5% catch rate, 8 TD) is playing like an All-American. DL Sheldon Day (8 TFL/sacks) has been a force. There’s a lot to like here.
This weekend: BYE

Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise (20) runs past Georgia Tech defensive back Jamal Golden (4) for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. Notre Dame defeated Georgia Tech 30-22. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise (20) runs past Georgia Tech defensive back Jamal Golden (4) for a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. Notre Dame defeated Georgia Tech 30-22. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

12. Michigan State (7-0)
Signature Wins: Michigan
Change: +7
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. MSU continued to look like a fringe top 25 team rather than a playoff contender, but their record continues to prop up the illusion. QB Connor Cook (7.7 ypp, 13:2, 57.4%) is very good, and DE Shilique Colquhoun (9.5 TFL/sacks) has emerged as a big time pass rushing threat. I wish I could talk about all the good things that make Michigan State a good ballclub. But they’re overrated and everyone’s darling for a playoff spot, and until they’ve earned that, I’m gonna keep beating that drum.
This weekend: vs. Indiana

11. Florida State (6-0)
Signature Wins: Miami
Change: +1
Here’s a team that knows a thing or two about riding luck all the way to the playoffs. That said, this year’s FSU is starting to look like a pretty good team. I really don’t think they’re a potential champion, but they have a lot of potential as spoiler to Clemson for the ACC title. The Noles, led by Heisman candidate RB Dalvin Cook (8.7 ypc, 10 TD), may not be elite this year, but they’ve been consistently good. We haven’t seen a bad game from FSU yet, and I’m not sure we will, although Clemson and Florida have had a habit of making opponents uncomfortable. The Noles have also avoided a trap loss for several years, and that’s a hard streak to keep up. A trip to Georgia Tech this weekend is the kind of game where nothing can really go right. If you win, Tech is 2-6; if you lose, it’s the loss everyone has expected and waited for for two years. The two big games loom large, but don’t sleep on NC State, either.
This weekend: at Georgia Tech

10. TCU (7-0)
Signature Wins: Texas Tech
Change: -2
TCU is carrying the same traits Florida State did a year ago, playing close games and escaping with wins. I’m sure there’s something to be said for the gumption it takes to win down to the wire games over and over again, but that gumption got rolled over in last year’s playoffs by teams that were there to annihilate their opposition. TCU, on the right day, can beat anyone in the country, but I’m still not a big believer in their championship chances. Inconsistency and close calls typically eventually leads to a loss or two. If it doesn’t, Trevone Boykin (30 TDs, 5 turnovers, 9.9 ypp) could steal the Heisman from Leonard Fournette if other RBs split the votes in the South. As usual, the Josh Doctson watch remains a necessary component of the TCU write-up: 60 catches, 1067 yards, 12 TD, 13.9 yards per target, and a 77.9% catch rate. Boykin is targeting Doctson on 30% of his catches (that’s a LOT), and he’s still catching them more than 3/4 of the time? That’s a Biletnikoff frontrunner if I’ve ever seen one.
This weekend: BYE

Baylor's Coleman is a likely All-American. (Photo: Getty Images)
Baylor’s Coleman is a likely All-American. (Photo: Getty Images)

9. Baylor (6-0)
Signature Wins: Texas Tech
Change: +6

Like last year, Baylor will make its charge up the standings late in the season, because the first half offered plenty of room for blowouts (Baylor’s closest game so far has been a 24 point win over West Virginia), but not really any for wins over an impressive opponent. The Bears should coast to 8-0, beating Iowa State and surviving a road trip to Kansas State, and we’ll find out if all the early blowouts helped Baylor fine-tune everything or softened them up in November, when the big games arrive. QB Seth Russell isn’t getting a ton of award talk, but at 11.4 yards per attempt, 32 touchdowns, and only 6 turnovers, maybe he should. Then again, with WR Corey Coleman doing what he’s doing – 41 catches, 877 yards, 16 TD, 15.4 yards per target, 71.9% catch rate – maybe it’s not Russell that needs the attention from voters. Coleman’s 16 touchdowns are already a Baylor single season record, and they’re exactly halfway done with the schedule. Oh my.
This weekend: vs. Iowa State

8. Florida (6-1)
Signature Wins: Kentucky, Ole Miss
Change: -7
The only loss is to an undefeated team, and it wasn’t by a lot, so Florida hangs in the top 10. In fact, Kentucky and Ole Miss each losing probably hurt Florida more than their own loss did. As for the team, there’s really not much new to say. Let’s see how Treon Harris looks when he’s playing a defense worse than LSU’s. Guess we’ll find out next weekend in Jacksonville.
This weekend: BYE

7. Ohio State (7-0)
Signature Wins: Penn State
Change: +4
The Buckeyes needed that Penn State game badly. The Nittany Lions were the best opponent Ohio State had faced all year, and there was no continuation of the sluggish Buckeye offense that had bored us so often this season. They looked like defending champions and contenders for the ’15 crown for the first time since early September. Finally. RB Ezekiel Elliott (6.7 ypc, 11 TD) could factor heavily into the Heisman race. The QB situation is still pretty undecided. Cardale Jones is productive (7.7 ypp) through the air but sluggish on the run (4.3 ypc) and turnover-prone (10 fumbles+interceptions). JT Barrett protects the ball and runs it well (7.9 ypc), but he just isn’t connecting through the air (5.7 ypp). At least the defense is what we expected. Up front, DL Tyquan Lewis (9.0 TFL/sacks) and DE Joey Bosa (9.0 TFL/sacks, 3 PBU) are making big plays behind the line of scrimmage, with Lewis doing more damage against quarterbacks. S Vonn Bell (1 INT, 8 PBU) remains a playmaking centerfielder. This happened last year, too. Ohio State hit their stride in the second half, and they could very well do the same in 2015.

This weekend: at Rutgers

6. Michigan (5-2)
Signature Wins: BYU, Northwestern
Change: -3
Michigan finally looked like something other than a national title contender, but they didn’t look bad. Why is a two-loss team still ranked so highly? Well, both losses were to currently undefeated teams, and our rankings don’t punish teams drastically for playing the best. Michigan has beaten two pretty good teams in BYU and Northwestern. And finally, Michigan has blown out numerous opponents while both losses were very close. If the punter catches the ball on Saturday, no one would question that Michigan is one of the best teams in the country. One player dropping one football doesn’t change that. I think Michigan will slowly drop in these rankings, however, because BYU and Northwestern could drop some upcoming games, and Michigan won’t really have another quality opponent until they face Penn State and Ohio State in late November. They need blowouts to hang around this high.
This weekend: BYE

5. Clemson (6-0)
Signature Wins: Notre Dame, Appalachian State
Change: +1
Is Clemson the best team in the country? Maybe. I think it’s either Clemson, Alabama, or Baylor. Clemson, as you can see, is on the cusp of being deserving of a playoff spot, but they’re not quite there, even if they are the best. I don’t think they’ll have to wait long, however. First off, they’ll get some quality win opportunities very soon. The Tigers could deal Miami and NC State each their 3rd losses, and then they get a shot at Florida State at home in Clemson. Notre Dame and Appalachian State should both finish strong, giving Clemson plenty of quality on its schedule if they keep winning. DE Shaq Lawson (10.5 TFL/sacks) and DE Kevin Dodd (8.0 TFL/sacks, 1 FF) are excellent bookends to an excellent line. Clemson’s defense is one of the country’s best, and there’s a lot to like about this team.
This weekend: at Miami

 

The Four

Alabama is hitting its stride at the right time. (Photo: Eric Gay/AP)
Alabama is hitting its stride at the right time. (Photo: Eric Gay/AP)

4. Alabama (6-1)
Signature Wins: Texas A&M, Georgia, Wisconsin
Change: +9

Bama looks like Bama again. We knew this would happen. RB Derrick Henry (901 yds, 5.9 ypc, 12 TD) is a Heisman contender. DL Jonathan Allen (7 TFL/sacks, 4 PBU, 1 FF) is a force to be reckoned with.  DB Eddie Jackson has 5 interceptions already. The entire secondary is suddenly playing much, much better than when the season began. Alabama leads the country in passes defended as a % of incompletions – 45% of opponent incomplete passes were defended by Alabama players. They have a very good chance of winning out, as they get LSU at home and no other team poses a significant threat.
This weekend: vs. Tennessee

3. Utah (6-0)
Signature Wins: California, Michigan, Utah State
Change: -1

That crazy bobbled punt didn’t just hurt Michigan. It hurt Utah’s resume as well, as it takes a bit of shine off the Michigan win. For now, it’s fine. It’d be nice if California could keep winning, and Utah State’s demolition of Boise State suddenly means that’s a win to take more seriously for the Utes. Beating Arizona State by multiple scores is no small task, especially when you’re wearing the target for the first time, well, ever. Twice in their last three games Utah has looked like a serious contender. With road trips to USC, Washington, and Arizona, and a home game against UCLA still on the schedule, the second half won’t be an easy one for Utah, but until they lose, they’re just going to keep adding signature wins to their already impressive collection.
This weekend: at USC

2. LSU (6-0)
Signature Wins: Florida, Mississippi State, Auburn
Change: +3

For an SEC team, things have started rather gently for LSU. Out of conference games against Eastern Michigan and Syracuse have been a breeze. Of their 4 SEC games, only one has come against a top dog, last week’s 35-28 win over Florida. Another, a 21-19 win against Mississippi State, was against a competent SEC squad, and the other two were against Auburn and South Carolina, two teams mired in the bottom half of the league so far this season. When the schedule starts that gently, you know it’s going to finish with a tempest. At Alabama. Arkansas. At Ole Miss. Texas A&M. And before any of that, they face 1-loss Western Kentucky. Now, I don’t think all of these are probable losses, but the point is LSU isn’t facing South Carolina anymore. Even outside the SEC, Western Kentucky ain’t Eastern Michigan. Every remaining opponent is a top 40 team, and LSU’s perfect record is going to get the best shot from each. It’ll be tough. RB Leonard Fournette (7.9 ypc, 1204 yds, 14 TD) is averaging over 200 yards per game, but LSU is handing him the ball over 25 times per game out of necessity. The passing game isn’t bad, but they’re relying on Fournette against the good opponents. Against Mississippi State and Florida, Fournette carried the ball 59 times for 339 yards – good numbers, but well below his seasonal averages. This should provide a preview for the next 6 games. Against numerous good defenses, will Fournette wear down as LSU leans on him more and more? If he pushes 30 carries a game, he’ll be getting into Kevin Smith territory (32 carries/game), and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Smith’s 450-carry junior season at UCF was his last productive one.
This weekend: vs. Western Kentucky

Iowa CB Desmond King returns an interception against Pitt. (Photo: Bryon Houlgrave, The Register)
Iowa CB Desmond King returns an interception against Pitt. (Photo: Bryon Houlgrave, The Register)

1. Iowa (7-0)
Signature Wins: Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Illinois, Northwestern
Change: +3

A few weeks ago, in my first iteration of the rankings, I wished for Northwestern to vacate the top spot. This was not what I had in mind. But we have to acknowledge them. They sit at 7-0, a step closer to perfection than most other undefeateds in the ranking. They have a better collection of wins than anyone else, having beaten 4 power 5 schools with 2 or fewer losses. They’re not even winning the games in typical Iowa fashion – only two have been decided by a single score. Over the weekend, their best player, Jordan Canzeri, was lost to a sprained ankle. His backup, a fella by the name of Akrum Wadley, ran for 204 yards and 4 TDs against the defense that held Stanford to 6 points. Is this real life? Nothing about this team fits into what we expected 2015 to be. Their leader in TD receptions, with 3 (on a whopping 8 targets), is George Kittle, who, despite his name, is actually a football-playing tight end rather than a painter of New England landscapes. CB Desmond King is even putting up old school statistics, with 6 interceptions, as if he were from an age when QBs didn’t know what the hell they were doing (read: the 1970’s). C.J. Beathard is a game managing, unexciting QB. Of course he is. He didn’t go to Iowa by accident. He went to Iowa to throw passes to Germanic receivers. Where else but Iowa would guys named Matt VandeBerg and Henry Krieger Coble receive 42% of the team’s targets?

The #1 song in the US right now is “The Hills” by The Weeknd. It replaced “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd. The #1 song before that, a Justin Bieber song, replaced “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd. Prior to that, OMI’s “Cheerleader” replaced… “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd. Which itself had replaced OMI’s “Cheerleader”. Of the top 10 movies at the US box office in 2015, 8 were films in movie series, remakes, or reboots. The other 2 were cartoons. The Nielsen ratings indicate our most watched TV shows are NCIS, The Big Bang Theory, The Voice, and Dancing with the Stars. The point here is that we are not a nation that really enjoys originality. We like formulaic television that doesn’t make us think too hard or break the mold. We like the same songs by the same singers, quite literally. We like new movies that are just like the old movies. Iowa is boring. Iowa is repetitive. Iowa is a living, breathing stereotype of every thought you’ve ever had about the Big Ten. It’s the NCIS of college football. And like NCIS, Iowa, for now, is king.

Iowa may not be the #1 that America wants, but it’s the #1 America deserves. Long live the king.

This weekend: vs. Maryland

About Brent Blackwell 172 Articles
Brent Blackwell also writes for College Football By The Numbers at www.cfbtn.com.

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