Synan Says: The Real Top 25 in College Football

It’s clear after three weeks of college football that we simply need to drop the monikers “Power 5” and “Group of 5” conferences.

This week reaffirmed what’s been happening all season. There are simply good programs, mediocre programs and not so good programs regardless of which conference your team plays in.

One example of a good team is UCF. The Knights came into last week almost at the bottom of my poll. I wanted to see them actually play a good team before I gave them credit. After all, this poll measures actual results on the field, not how good I think a team is by some undefined “eye test.”

Newsflash. UCF is good.

The team treated Stanford poorly from the get-go, blasting off to a 28-7 lead and never looking back. It was more than just beating a Pac 12 school. It was the way UCF dominated both the line of scrimmage and had the better athletes on the edge. UCF’s true freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel seems to be the reincarnation of McKenzie Milton. This team is just better than almost any team in the nation yet they will get no respect (15th in the polls and behind teams with losses) from the rest of the media. Why?

UCF is not the only team dispelling this notion of “Power 5” being a cut above the “Group of 5.”

Maryland was fresh off a butt kicking of Syracuse and was ranked nationally–then promptly went out and lost to Temple. There’s a theme when American Athletic Conference teams win big games: the line of scrimmage. Temple shut down the Terps four times in a row inside the 5 yard line when it mattered most.

There were plenty of other examples. Memphis beat Ole Miss from the mighty SEC with their running game. Hawaii beat Arizona and Oregon State. Nevada knocked off Purdue and Eastern Michigan took down Illinois.

What do we make of this? There should be no more distinctions between conferences–only between good teams and bad teams.

Coaching matters, of course, and two Florida teams are seeing dramatically opposite levels of job performance. The Gators escaped Kentucky with a win despite losing starting QB Felipe Franks to a dislocated ankle. Dan Mullen’s offense adjusted as well as could be imagined and UF survived with a missed field goal. The Gators did not make a lot of silly mistakes down the stretch. Their discipline and toughness on the field comes from the coaching staff and helped them get through a tough break. Florida won’t be able to beat the best teams on their schedule with backup Kyle Trask but they should still be a pretty good team.

Exactly the opposite is happening with Willie Taggart at FSU in Tallahassee. I have told my Seminole friends since Day 1 that patience was going to be needed, and that Taggart usually wins big in the third year he is at a program. Taggart may not make it that far. FSU bumbled away another fourth  quarter lead, this time at UVA–and it was a mess. The Seminoles had four personal fouls in the fourth quarter alone.

Did you see the debacle at the end of the game? Driving down the field for the game-tying score, FSU got a first down at the 4 yard line with eight seconds to go with no timeouts. Rather than spike the ball to stop the clock, the Seminoles hurried an ill-advised running play that did not work and the game ended. Poised, well-coached teams know what to do in these situations–and Florida State did not.

There is a big buyout for Willie Taggart and FSU can’t afford to spend–but FSU may have no choice but to bail on the head coach.

This week’s rankings are dramatically different. The reason is that there is more input with more games played.

Goodbye Maryland and North Carolina. Hello Iowa. Again, I am not trying to predict who will be the best at the end of the season. I am judging wins and losses to date.

Top 25 for the Week beginning September 15:

1. Clemson (3-0) Remember when the early season would be tough for the Tigers? They are not playing anywhere near their potential on offense and still throttled Syracuse 40-6.

2. LSU (3-0) Texas win still the second best win out there.

3. Auburn (3-0) Three players ran for 100 yards in romp over Kent State.

4.  Alabama (3-0) Their offense made huge plays at South Carolina.

5. UCF (3-0) I did not think Brandon Wimbush could lead them to an undefeated season. Coach Josh Heupel didn’t either. Dillon Gabriel may.

6. Ohio State (3-0) No one has given them a game yet. Best win was a 42-0 thrashing of Cincinnati.

7. Utah (3-0) BYU win looks even better this week after BYU beat Southern Cal.

8. Kansas State (3-0) Another team that won’t be here in the end but winning at Mississippi State is one of the top wins of the season to date.

9. Georgia (3-0) While at Vandy is their best win, they are stomping all competition.

10. California (3-0) Scraped by North Texas but won at Washington.

11. Arizona State (3-0) Went to Michigan State and won when Sparty missed a last second FG.

12. Florida (3-0) Two kind of good wins (vs Miami, at Kentucky) have them above teams that have played lesser competition.

13. Iowa (3-0) Thrilling win at Iowa State in a game the Cyclones will remember for decades as the one that got away.

14. Virginia (3-0) At Pitt and vs. Florida State may not be good wins at the end of the year–but are now.

15. Wisconsin (2-0) Has not allowed a point this season but at USF is best win.

16. TCU (2-0) Went to Purdue and played Gary Patterson style defense.

17. Wyoming (3-0) Here on the strength of their win over Missouri.

18. Oklahoma (3-0) UCLA is not very good but better than their other competition to date.

19. Notre Dame (2-0) Will learn all about them this week versus Georgia. The winner is Top 5 for sure.

20. Memphis (3-0) I think beating Ole Miss is a better win than at Colorado.

21. Air Force (2-0) Their offense at Colorado was unstoppable. Turnovers were the only thing that kept the Buffs close.

22. Penn State (3-0) Have my reservations but they survived Pitt.

23. Boise State (3-0) Win at FSU does not look as good this week as it did two weeks ago.

24. Temple (2-0) Was not intimidated by ranked Maryland and stuffed the Terps at the line of scrimmage.

25. Michigan (2-0) Poor blocking and poor play by Shea Patterson is why they are here.


Reach Mike Synan at


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