One of the many great things about the new College Football Playoff is that with more teams having a shot at playing for the national championship, more teams are willing to schedule tough games early in the season. While that means the entertainment factors obviously increase, it also means there are plenty of chances for pundits (like me!) to look super dumb.
After week one of 2016, the biggest way in which we all look dumb is the annual showering of praise upon the SEC. Long regarded as far and away the top to bottom best conference in the land, the AP Top 25 contained six SEC teams among its roster. But even the teams not ranked are regularly lauded as tough outs — good teams playing in a conference that’s head and shoulders above most others.
LSU deserves credit for opening on the road against a strong team, but the issues of last year don’t appear to have been solved in the offseason. Until LSU has a QB capable of scaring teams out of stacking the box, the Tigers aren’t going to be competing for the conference, let alone the National Championship. They’re one of the big losers (out of the Power Rankings entirely) after Week 1. But they’ll have plenty of opportunities to prove us wrong over the next few weeks and climb back into our good graces.
While opening week saw a few of the media’s SEC darlings wilt under the spotlight against previously unranked opponents, the standard bearer of the conference reasserted its dominance with as comprehensive a victory against a Top 20 team as you’ll ever see. All hail Alabama, these are the POWER RANKINGS!
1. Alabama (1-0)
Last game: Beat USC, 52-6
Next up: Saturday vs. Western Kentucky
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Alabama started the season as the AP’s top-ranked team and after the Tide’s absolute demolishing of USC, they’re going to be the top team on our list as well. Derrick Henry may have departed to the NFL and the Crimson Tide may have lost several pieces on defense, but Saban is one of the best recruiters in the land. And games like this prove it. The pond is re-stocked and ‘Bama looks ready to defend their title the entire year. It didn’t hurt that Lane Kiffin was clearly a motivated coach against the Trojans.
Stay cold, Kiffin. Stay cold forever.
2. Clemson (1-0)
Last game: Beat Auburn, 19-13
Next up: Saturday vs. Troy
Alabama’s opponent in last year’s National Championship game is similarly re-stocked and took on Auburn on the road to open their season. Now Auburn’s one of those unranked but highly regarded SEC teams, and they did their reputation proud, taking Clemson to the wire. But with DeShaun Watson in the fold, it could also be said that now that first game jitters are out of the way the Clemson Tigers are ready to unload.
3. Florida State (1-0)
Last game: Beat Ole Miss, 45-34
Next up: Saturday vs. Charleston Southern
Like the SEC this year, the ACC is top-heavy. While Louisville looks good this year too, the fact remains that this is a two-team conference right now. The only thing separating the two after week one is their performance against an SEC foe. Clemson gets the nod for their solid, consistent win against Auburn. While the Seminoles’ win against a ranked Ole Miss sounds better on paper, it was a tale of two wildly different halves. Hard to say which team is the real Florida State right now.
But at least this guy managed to go home happy.
4. Ohio State (1-0)
Last game: Beat Bowling Green, 77-10
Next up: Saturday vs. Tulsa
Since getting the reins at a blue chip school in Florida just over a decade ago, Urban Meyer has known the way to make the National Championship is to go undefeated. Play your conference, play any rivalry games you have to, but beyond that schedule as many wins as you can. That hasn’t changed much at Ohio State, at least to start the season. We’ll know more about the Buckeyes after their Week 3 visit to Oklahoma.
5. Michigan (1-0)
Last game: Beat Hawaii, 63-3
Next up: Saturday vs. UCF
Harbaugh. Jumpman. Michigan’s back, y’all. If it were any other coach, I’d say UCF has the chance to put a scare in ’em next week, but nobody sneaks up on Harbaugh. Good try, Hawaii. At least you get to fly home to this:
6. Stanford (1-0)
Last game: Beat Kansas State, 26-13
Next up: Sept. 17 vs. USC
[To the Flintstones theme]
Christian. Chris McCaffrey. He’s the fastest player in the laaaaand.
He also had this ridiculous almost 100-yard punt return touchdown, but it was called back thanks to a totally unnecessary block in the back. THERE’S NEVER ANY NEED TO EVEN BLOCK THE FRONT STANFORD, JUST GET OUT OF HIS WAY. Also, English-language announcers other than Gus Johnson? You should take some notes from this Spanish broadcast. Man, Spanish announces know how to announce excitement.
7. Houston (1-0)
Last game: Beat Oklahoma, 33-23
Next up: Saturday vs. Lamar
And heeeeere we go. From here on out, let’s all admit we’re swimming in a vast sea of comparable teams. Sure, Houston’s in the lightly regarded American conference, but after the Cougars’ handling of FSU in the 2015 Peach Bowl and their ease of dispatch against a previously No. 3-ranked Oklahoma squad many had picked for the title game, we’re not selling them short. They also move ahead of the pack for the most exciting play of the weekend: the kick six!
8. TCU (1-0)
Last game: Beat South Dakota State, 59-41
Next up: Saturday vs Arkansas
TCU gets a pass this week. Sure, you handled yourselves against South Dakota State, but on the other hand, South Dakota State put up 41 points on you. Consider yourselves on watch.
9. Georgia (1-0)
Last game: Beat North Carolina, 33-24
Next up: Saturday vs Nicholls State
Amidst all the talk this year of Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb quietly returned to Georgia and put up 222 yards with two TDs to help the Bulldogs beat a UNC squad that was hoped to be one of the stronger representatives of the ACC this season.
10. Michigan State (1-0)
Last game: Beat Furman, 28-13
Next up: Sept. 17 at Notre Dame
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Good way to get first game jitters out, but we didn’t learn anything new. Count yourself lucky to have started with such a strong ranking. With an early bye, we’ll find a lot more out about Mark Dantonio’s team when they travel to South Bend in two weeks.
11. Tennessee (1-0)
Last game: Beat Appalachian State, 20-13 (OT)
Next up: Saturday vs. Virginia Tech (at Bristol Motor Speedway)
Listen: there’s no shame in taking Appalachian State to OT. Anyone that thinks they ain’t giant killers hasn’t watched a lick of football over the past decade. The real test will come against a pesky Virginia Tech team with a new coach at a dang NASCAR track.
12. Washington (1-0)
Last game: Beat Rutgers, 48-13
Next up: Saturday vs. Idaho
Chris Petersen has quietly built up these Huskies into a true Pac-12 contender. If you don’t believe us now, well … you won’t be convinced after they trounce Idaho next week either. But let’s chat later on in the season.
13. Louisville (1-0)
Last game: Beat Charlotte, 70-14
Next up: Friday at Syracuse
Yes, we know C-USA team Charlotte isn’t exactly a challenge for someone who’s aiming to reach the top of the ACC, but quarterback Lamar Jackson’s eight touchdowns in the first half aren’t something you can just ignore. Louisville might quietly climb into a Top 10 team and then we’ll see how real they are.
14. Oklahoma (0-1)
Last game: Lost to Houston, 33-23
Next up: Saturday vs Tulsa
Ok, here’s where we’ll start including some of this weekend’s losers. We know Oklahoma isn’t as bad as they looked against Houston. But this is the risk you take when you schedule an early season game against a tough opponent. Luckily for the Sooners there’s a whole season to go, and the Big 12 is still theirs for the taking.
15. Oklahoma State (1-0)
Last game: Beat Southeastern Louisiana, 61-7
Next up: Saturday vs. Central Michigan
Listen, try as we might, we can’t watch every game. Consider this your freebie, Cowboys. You apparently didn’t struggle against an FCS school. So sure, we’ll consider you a legit top-20 team for now.
16. Ole Miss (0-1)
Last game: Lost to Florida State, 45-34
Next up: Saturday vs. Wofford
This is an interesting example in the “Was the SEC overrated?” thesis. On the one hand, the Rebels opened up a 28-6 lead against the ‘Noles, but on the other hand, they collapsed in the second half. I think this game will look a lot different for both teams in the light of December. Did Florida State escape first-game yips en route to playing the rest of the season like they did during the second half? Or will we look back at this as the first sign of the Seminoles being much more vulnerable than anticipated?
17. Wisconsin (1-0)
Last game: Beat LSU, 16-14
Next up: Saturday vs. Akron
Well done, Badgers. Sure, everyone’s going to say that LSU clearly lacks for a QB they can depend on. Leonard Fournette also still got his 138 yards rushing too, but no scores. And maybe everyone was way off about LSU’s preseason No. 5 ranking. But you managed to beat one of the storied programs in the SEC, and you deserve to be ranked. Let’s see how long you can keep it going.
18. Texas A&M (1-0)
Last game: Beat UCLA, 31-24 (OT)
Next up: Saturday vs. Prairie View
Uhh, good win, Aggies. No complaints here, no sir. We’re certainly not going to give any criticism to someone willing to do this:
19. Oregon (1-0)
Last game: Beat UC Davis, 53-28
Next up: Saturday vs. Virginia
Like Oklahoma State, consider this a nice perk of being ranked in the preseason. Oregon didn’t look too impressive, but didn’t really need to either. Virginia shouldn’t provide much of a challenge either, so we’ll see where the Ducks are in a few weeks. At least you looked good as always:
20. South Carolina
Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 13-10
Next up: Saturday at Mississippi State
Here’s your chance, Gamecocks. After all the ways top SEC teams disappointed us this week, let’s see how you do now that you’re in the rankings. At the very least give yourselves a pat on the back for winning a conference game already.
21. Nebraska (1-0)
Last game: Beat Fresno State, 43-10
Next up: Saturday vs Wyoming
Good win for a program that had a rough off-season and chose to honor the loss of former punter Sam Foltz. Kudos on Fresno State to respect the call. Not to get too sentimental guys, but moments like these are why we love the heart of college football as opposed to the cold professionalism of the NFL.
Then, of course, at the other end of the spectrum? The jerks who robbed Foltz’s family while they were at the game honoring him. What a bunch of jerks, man.
22. Texas (1-0)
Last game: Beat Notre Dame, 50-47 (OT)
Next up: Saturday vs. UTEP
In what turned out to be the game of the weekend, the Longhorns came out on top. Notre Dame might have been incorrectly ranked, but more likely Charlie Strong just straight out-coached Brian Kelly. In a battle of two coaches using two QBs throughout the game, Strong’s Longhorns look like they have a better idea of what each brings to the table. Texas might just have something to say about the Big 12 championship this season after all. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of Coach McConaughey either.
23. Notre Dame (0-1)
Last game: Lost to Texas, 50-47 (OT)
Next up: Saturday vs. Nevada
Consider this just a result of our refusal to rank somebody above the team that beat them no matter where they started. But don’t expect to see the Irish this far back for long. If coach Brian Kelly was watching the same game we saw, then he’s figured out who to start at QB moving forward. Here’s a hint: his name rhymes with Scheisse!!!
24. North Carolina (0-1)
Last game: Lost to Georgia, 33-24
Next up: Saturday at Illinois
No shame in losing to a solid if not flashy Georgia team. With a wide-open ACC Coastal division, the Tar Heels have bigger prizes to focus on this season, and they should recover from this opening loss no problem.
25. BYU (1-0)
Last game: Beat Arizona, 18-16
Next up: Saturday at Utah
The close score doesn’t really tell the full tale, as BYU was in control of their game on the road against Arizona until a late flurry by the Wildcats. Consider it a lesson learned for the Cougars that they need to play the full 60 or better teams will steal the game away.
Next Five: LSU, Florida, Penn State, Colorado, and the U.S. Men’s National Team (6-0 World Cup Qualifier win Friday against St. Vincent & The Grenadines)
Finally, with most teams playing cupcakes next week, the biggest game figuratively and literally looks to be Tennessee taking on Virginia Tech in the cavernous confines of Bristol Motor Speedway. With that in mind, take us away from the first Power Rankings of the season, Dolly. We’ll see you next week.