College football is the greatest sport on Earth. It’s the only sport where every regular-season game actually matters. People complain about how there are too many bowl games and that most of them are meaningless exhibitions. At the same time, how much does a mid-January NBA game mean? In the NFL, 7-9 teams sometimes make the playoffs and, if they win their division, even get to host a home game.
In college football, even late-season meetings between 5-6 teams has a bowl trip on the line and usually affects the strength of schedule of the teams that will make the playoffs (or fall just short). Let’s argue all day about the polls, the teams, the strength of schedule and who deserves to be ranked high. The only way a team can be sure to make the playoffs is to win them all (unless you are UCF, of course, then you get shut out). Every game counts–and it makes everything even more exciting.
I take a vastly different approach to ranking teams than your average pollster. I am looking at only two criteria: who did you beat and who did you lose to? This means there are great fluctuations in the rankings over the course of the season, especially at the start. Some readers may find that jarring. Good. It’s time we stop moving teams up a spot because the team ahead of them lost. Pollsters that do this are just being lazy. The AP poll relies on writers assigned to a specific team so they spend all Saturday working on their team’s game, catching glimpses and highlights of other teams. In the coaches poll, the athletic directors or sports information directors are in the same boat. On any given Saturday, I watch from noon until after midnight on two televisions, trying to catch as much of every important or competitive game as possible. I’m not afraid to be wrong and willing to adjust on the fly. A win over a team in week 1 may look completely different in week 12 and that is OK with me.
Some of the teams you will see in the Top 25 are not great. That’s OK. The season will rectify that as time goes on. Mike, don’t you know anything? Clearly Oklahoma and UCF are two of the better teams in the country and yet they are near the bottom of your poll. Again–it comes down to who have you beaten and who did you lose to? Oklahoma and UCF have beaten no one. Get back to me next week when UCF has a game against Stanford–and then we will know if they are any good and, if things go well for the Knights, will be much more deserving of a higher rank.
1. Clemson (2-0) Texas A&M scoring on the last play doesn’t erase the butt whipping Clemson put on what should be one of the best teams in the country. Clemson also waxed a conference opponent in week 1.
2. LSU (2-0) Fascinating to see LSU push for the last score against Texas instead of trying to run out the clock. It’s the best overall win on the table to date.
3. Auburn (2-0) It took a late rally to beat Oregon but that is still a big early-season win.
4. North Carolina (2-0) Will they be here at the end? No, but show me two better wins from the teams below.
5. Ohio State (2-0) Blanking Cincinnati 42-0 is a quality win. Many thought the Bearcats would contend for the Cotton Bowl and the American Athletic Championship.
6. Maryland (2-0) Just pasted Syracuse which many thought was going to be the second-best team in the ACC.
7. Alabama (2-0) Not sure what to make of easy wins over Duke and New Mexico State. They normally schedule a tougher opener.
8. Utah (2-0) Dominated a BYU team that won at Tennessee (for whatever that is worth).
9. Wisconsin (2-0) It’s not the teams they’ve beaten. It’s how badly they’ve beaten USF and Central Michigan. Shutouts in both as well.
10. Georgia (2-0) Blasted a conference opponent on the road. Still a good win even though that was only Vanderbilt.
11. Florida (2-0) Neutral field win over Miami looks good now. We’ll see if it’s any good by the end of the year.
12. Colorado (2-0) Same as above with their home win over Nebraska. Huge comeback to win it in overtime.
13. Notre Dame (1-0) Louisville fought them hard, but Notre Dame’s talent shined through.
14. California (2-0) Won a wild one over a Washington team that is a Pac 12 North favorite.
15. Boston College (2-0) Hard-nosed team pushed around Virginia Tech.
16. Southern Cal (2-0) Struggled with Fresno but rebounded nicely against Stanford and their backup QB.
17. Boise State (2-0) Not sure how good a win at Florida State will be later this season.
18. Wyoming (2-0) Impressed with their win over Missouri.
19. Virginia (2-0) Went to Pitt and got a key division win early.
20. Hawaii (2-0) Undefeated versus Pac 12 (Arizona, Oregon St).
21. Memphis (2-0) In on strength of beating Ole Miss but that won’t be a strong win for long.
22. Georgia State (1-0) I’d rather reward them for winning at Tennessee instead of honoring Penn State for waxing Idaho and Buffalo. Same goes for Kansas State, Washington State, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan State, Baylor or TCU.
23. Oklahoma (2-0) Jalen Hurts for Heisman?
24. UCF (2-0) Get back to me on this team next week.
25. Michigan (2-0) Did you see them versus Army? This team is in trouble.
Reach Mike Synan at firstname.lastname@example.org.