Carson: Rethinking the top-10 college football teams
Alex Carson | Monday, September 12, 2016
I do not have a vote in the AP Top 25. Though it would be pretty neat if I did, given I probably put more time and effort into ranking teams in my head than many pollsters actually do.
But despite not having a vote, I’m going to rank the 10 teams that have impressed me more than any other so far this season. When I rank teams, there’s one rule: You have to have played, and beaten, someone half-decent to be there.
No. 1: Alabama
It’s pretty clear cut who the best team in college football is through two weeks of play. After trouncing USC on the opening weekend, the Crimson Tide took care of business this week against Western Kentucky. Most years, I’m against the often-lazy “Alabama at No. 1” vote, but this time, it’s deserved.
No. 2: Houston
I’m going non sequitur from the No. 2 slot here and picking the Cougars, who have college football’s best win this year. It’s not merely the fact that they beat Oklahoma that slots them here, but the nature in which they did it, too, looking like the better team by a decent margin. Houston’s matchup with Louisville on Nov. 17 could be one of the games of the season.
No. 3: Florida State
We have one real data point on the Seminoles, but it’s a good one: their 45-34 come-from-behind win over Mississippi. If Florida State had controlled that game throughout, I’d be inclined to sit the Seminoles at No. 2, like the AP poll actually does. They can change that this week, though, with a win at Louisville.
No. 4: Texas
The Longhorns are here, not just because of their double-overtime win over Notre Dame, but also because of the way in which they did it, going toe-to-toe with a playoff contender from a year ago, while running a new-look offense. Malik Jefferson is going to be the best defensive player in the Big 12, and it’s not like you need defense in that conference, anyway.
No. 5: Wisconsin
We’re quickly running out of great data points here, so I’ll go with the Badgers at No. 5. Truth be told, their opening-weekend win over LSU wasn’t all that shocking, given Wisconsin is the type of team that should be able to pull an upset against a team like the Tigers. Back-to-back-to-back games against Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State will define their season, though.
No. 6: Louisville
I’ve mentioned the Cardinals twice already, but I’ve been extremely impressed with Lamar Jackson, who’s been the best quarterback in college football so far. Beating Syracuse isn’t anything special, but routing the much-improved Orange is noteworthy. The Cardinals can beat one of Florida State, Clemson or Houston. Can they beat them all?
No. 7: Stanford
The Cardinal have the best skill position player in college football, Christian McCaffrey, so we’ll slot them here. A Sept. 30 trip to Seattle — note that’s a Friday night — to face Washington could be the defining game of Stanford’s season.
No. 8: Clemson
Alright, I’m gonna cave and put the Tigers in here. A road win at Auburn, no matter how messy, shouldn’t be scoffed at, but Clemson fans should have some concerns after just squeaking by Troy in Death Valley.
No. 9: Washington
Okay, I’m definitely violating one of my rules by calling Rutgers a “half-decent” team, but I’m doing it anyway because I think Washington is a pretty good football team. Plus, the Huskies’ Pac-12 slate is favorable: they have Stanford at home, while avoiding UCLA in cross-division games.
No. 10: Texas A&M
I’m going to feel pretty terrible about whoever I put here anyway, so let’s make it the team that’s bound to get embarrassed in a 40-point loss when it plays Alabama in October. A&M always starts impressively, then always fades.
But fear not, Ohio State and Michigan: You both finally play a Power Five opponent this week, so I will gladly welcome you here next week. Well, presuming you win.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.