2012 College Football: The Poll If There Were No Preseason Poll, Week 2
Think about it. We come up with an order for college football's Top 25 before a single game is played. It makes no sense whatsoever.
Wouldn't it be nice if polls were based solely on performance?
You know, a world where preseason rankings didn't exist and reputations meant little-to-nothing. A place where losing to a really bad team early in the season could actually drop a top-10 team completely out of the polls. A real top 25 that made drastic changes each week. The first few weeks, in particular, would be like musical chairs.
Some teams may creep in that you wouldn't expect. Some others might be omitted. The thought of creating a poll based solely on performance from Week 1 sounds like the fair way to do it. I'd rather it shake out week-to-week than have preseason rankings influence a team's position from the get-go.
Here's a ranking of the top 25 based solely on what we've seen in the first two weeks of college football. Don't get mad at me—I don't play the games. And I can't control if your team looked good or bad.
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Not much to go on, but at least the Horned Frogs took care of business defensively. That's more than I can say for many of these top teams going against suspect opposition in the early going.
If you're going through this top 25 and wondering why some teams are ranked so low, then you should probably look at how many yards that team surrendered against poor offensive football teams.
Defense still wins championships, and some of these offensive juggernauts are just eye candy waiting to be disposed of when they face a real defense later in the season.
Let's go ahead and give the just-missed list while we're at it:
26. Iowa State
28. Virginia Tech
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Arizona looked great in a Week 2 dismantling of Oklahoma State, but the 'Cats struggled in Week 1. At halftime, the score was Toledo 10, Arizona 7.
That wouldn't be such a big deal if it was against last year's Toledo team.
Don't expect Rich Rod's Wildcats to stay here very long.
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Northwestern beat Syracuse in Week 1 and Vanderbilt in Week 2.
Venric Mark is about as explosive a player as you'll find in the country. Time will only tell if his small frame can carry the load for 13 games.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald beat his mirror image in Vanderbilt, and saved the reputation of the Big Ten conference in doing so.
Kain Colter is a dynamic dual-threat quarterback. Braxton Miller and Denard Robinson may get the headlines, but Colter is nearly as dangerous as his high-profile counterparts with his feet.
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Texas looks impressive running the ball, but I won't be sold on the backfield until they face stiffer competition.
The Longhorns are also not as explosive at wide receiver as they have been in recent years.
This team has made baby steps over the last year, but is still only two years removed from a 5-7 season.
The Longhorns should be able to run the ball more effectively than they have the past couple of years, but this team won't be as efficient in the passing game.
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Sorry, if you give up 545 yards to Marshall in your only game, this is where you're ranked.
This is essentially the Oregon of the east. I feel like this team can score with anybody, but would struggle against teams that are elite on both sides of the ball.
Geno Smith is about to break every record that Pat White set, and head coach Dana Holgorsen is an offensive guru with loads of weapons at his disposal.
We'll get a better gauge of the Mountaineers after they enter the meat of their new Big 12 schedule. I like the way their schedule eases them into a new conference, but we just won't get to know how good they are until they face Oklahoma and Texas.
They didn't have to face defenses like those in the Big East. I'm pretty sure that some of the teams on WVU's schedule are more explosive than the Herd on offense.
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The Tigers' defense is perhaps more suspect than West Virginia's, but Clemson is even more explosive on offense.
Tajh Boyd, Andre Ellington and DeAndre Hopkins combine to form the second-most explosive offensive trio in college football (see USC's Silas Redd, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods). Clemson needs to improve along both fronts to move up the list.
19. Mississippi State
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Dan Mullen is yet another coach that has his system running like a top.
The Bulldogs are ranked above the Clemson Tigers because of their more impressive win over Auburn.
The defense looked much better in Week 2 than Week 1.
Mississippi State will move into the AP Top 25, and they'll be there for a while. We'll see if they deserve this spot in Week 7 against Tennessee. The Vols will show if Mullen's defense truly has improved.
MSU also possesses another one of those puzzling SEC schedules. Two FCS teams on the schedule? That shouldn't happen. One is too many.
To put it into perspective, the Bulldogs face as many FCS teams this season as Ohio State has faced in the last three decades.
18. Texas A&M
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Although the Aggies lost to Florida 20-17, they finished the game with a staggering eight sacks.
Johnny Manziel looked like anything but a freshman. Talent-wise, this is definitely a top-20 team, and I'm not going to leave them out because of a 20-17 loss to Florida.
Reduce the number of penalties, and this team might be 1-0 and in the top ten.
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This is the difference between the AP poll and a poll based on performance.
The Ducks defense gave up 59 combined points to Arkansas State and Fresno State. Granted, most of those came against the scrubs. That's just it though—do you think the second-string guys for Ohio State or Alabama would give up that many points to those teams?
I don't think so. This is the same quandary we have with this team every year. How will they match up against an elite defense in a bowl game? Sorry, Wisconsin and Oklahoma State don't count. When is the last time either of those teams fielded a top-5 overall defense?
I get the feeling every year that this team focuses more on offense than defense, and it always seems to come back and bite them in big games.
If the Ducks are going to take the next step, then their backups need to play nearly as well as the starters.
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UTEP gave this defense some trouble early in week . At the end of three quarters, the scoreboard read: Oklahoma 10, UTEP 7.
The Sooners are sitting at No. 16 because of that performance.
Damien Williams is a beast at running back, and the Sooners have two NFL-caliber quarterbacks on the roster.
The defense, thought to be a strong point in the preseason, needs to improve. You don't panic when the Florida A&M Rattlers score 13 points on your third-string players, but you tend to worry a bit when they score 13 on the starting defense.
I still can't believe they were 18-1 to win the National Championship preseason—18-1! I should have laid that bet. Not that they should win it all, but 18-1 is great odds for a talented team with a manageable schedule.
15. South Carolina
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They took a bit of a schedule-strength hit when Northwestern beat Vandy. One could even argue that these three teams looked pretty even on the field to this point.
Dylan Thompson looked good against ECU, but against Vandy it was clear that this is a different team when Connor Shaw is healthy.
Marcus Lattimore now looks like he is nearly back to 100 percent.
I have the same reservations here as I do with Ohio State. The Gamecocks are not going to be a contender until they prove that they can pass the ball effectively. I don't care how much talent they have.
Both teams need to find a way to keep opposing defenses from loading the box. So far, they're not doing it.
14. Ohio State
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The Buckeyes didn't play well, but they still beat an underrated team in UCF.
Braxton Miller is fourth in the FBS in rushing after two weeks with 151 ypg, as Urban Meyer is risking the health of his superstar to cover-up for the injuries at running back. This week OSU will start their third-stringer, freshman Bri'onte Dunn.
This weekend's game against Cal is crucial. The Pac-12 went 3-0 last weekend against the Big Ten, and Ohio State is not firing on all cylinders offensively.
The loss of running back Jordan Hall also makes them much less explosive. This will be a different team in Week 4 when he returns.
For now, the Buckeyes will lean on Miller and a stellar defense. They need Noah Spence or Nathan Williams to start getting to the quarterback.
They'll move up the board if their experienced defensive backfield can step it up a notch against Cal, but they're on upset watch.
The Buckeyes need to get healthy at running back and start getting to the quarterback if they want to break into the top ten.
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Head coach Derek Dooley has done a good job of shifting around new and old personnel.
However, I think he has succumbed to the new trend in college football—putting players in sometimes unconventional spots to try and get the best 11 athletes on the field at the same time.
They controlled the opener against a decent N.C.State team in Week 1.
I saw two things that really impressed me with the Vols. The first was the speed and athleticism of their wide receivers. These are the type of Tennessee wide receivers I remember from my childhood. Cordarrelle Patterson is lightning fast, and Justin Hunter is very consistent with what he does.
The second thing I noticed was Tennessee's defense. It looked better than it has in years.
There is a similar theme here. The Vols have a quarterback and a coach each starting their third season at the helm.
Questions about how much the team has improved will be answered this weekend against Florida. This is a huge game for Derek Dooley and the Vols.
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Jarvis Jones might be the best linebacker in the country, but I'm still not sold that this is the best team in the SEC East.
Much like Ohio State and Florida, the Bulldogs struggled to get going early in Week 1 against an over-matched MAC opponent.
I think this team still lacks depth at tailback, but I like Aaron Murray at QB. Murray has some receivers with good size, too.
The defense was considered one of the best in the country in preseason, but I'm not sure if I believe the Michigan States and Alabamas of the world would surrender 718 total combined yards to Mizzou and Buffalo.
However, The 'Dawgs finally started to match the preseason hype in the second half of Saturday's game against Mizzou.
Georgia's schedule is rather easy for an SEC team. But we've seen what Vanderbilt could do against S.Carolina and Northwestern—so we'll get a good gauge on the strength of Georgia when they face the Commodores on the 22nd.
Expect them to move up if they carry over the momentum from last week's second half.
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A 45-14 whipping of Illinois elevates the Sun Devils to a top-10 spot. ASU also beat Northern Arizona 65-3 in Week 1.
NAU then turned around and beat an FBS team the following week. Granted, it was UNLV. Todd Graham may not be the most popular guy in the media, but his new job offers him a good talent pool, and as much control as he has ever had.
ASU reloaded on offense—the team has a new quarterback, new running backs and new wide receivers, all of which look as good or better than the players who manned those positions last year.
On paper, nothing looks right about having this team in this position, but it is what it is.
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The Trojans' struggles against Syracuse dropped them a bit. You never want to get too transitive with your college football arguments, but USC should've been able to beat Syracuse by a wider margin. After all, Northwestern beat Syracuse in Week 1.
There is little doubt that USC has the backs and receivers to compete for a National Championship spot, but have the offensive and defensive lines made the jump to elite? I don't know about that, and we may not find out until their final four games against Oregon, ASU, UCLA, and Notre Dame.
Silas Redd was a key acquisition, however. How many other teams can boast three potential first-rounders on their offense alone?
A night game at Stanford should be entertaining. USC needs to prove something to me defensively for them to make the next step in the performance poll.
9. Notre Dame
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I told a good friend last week that Purdue might upset Notre Dame. The fact is, Purdue is actually the new favorite in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten.
The Boilermakers' unconventional offense is hard to defend, and their defense has been underrated for the better part of the last decade.
That's why the 20-17 win was actually a good win for Notre Dame.
They destroyed Navy in Week 1, but I'm not giving them too much credit there. All three service academies are rebuilding in 2012. Air Force and Navy may make a bowl because of schedule strength( or lack thereof), but none of the service academies pose any threat to teams in this top 10.
ND would not have made the top 10 if it had only beaten Navy by three touchdowns, but 50-10 gets you a spot.
Mante Te'o is still manning the middle of the defense for the Irish, and head coach Brian Kelly is hoping to improve on the offensive side of the ball.
This weekend will be a huge challenge for the offense. Michigan State is even more stout than Purdue up front. The game will come down to whether or not Notre Dame can force young quarterback Andrew Maxwell into early mistakes.
That said, Notre Dame is coming back. You can see the athletes. Notre Dame has always had athletes, but they're starting to more closely resemble the Notre Dame of the 1980's than the Notre Dame of the last decade.
The Irish's schedule is a little overrated (it's still strong), but winning back-to-back
games against Purdue and Michigan State, and then BYU and Oklahoma later in the season would be a tall order for any team with National Championship aspirations.
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Last weekend's injuries could hurt Florida's chances against Tennessee this weekend, but for now I'm putting them higher than the Vols because of the Gator's performance against A&M.
A&M looked strong, but Florida showed great resilience, and they still have that amazing team speed.
They better shore-up the O-line, however, because the Vols' defensive front has looked good.
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The Bruins got a huge win for the program and for the Pac-12 against Nebraska.
A lot of Pac-12 teams have looked good early, but I'm more impressed with that UCLA win that I am with Oregon State over Wisconsin or Arizona over Oklahoma State.
Wisconsin and Oklahoma State are teams that are weak on one side of the ball this season. It goes to show just how important a steady decision-maker like Russell Wilson can be for an offense.
Nebraska is a different story. If you beat Nebraska this season, you've beaten a really solid team on both sides of the ball.
646 yards against Rice didn't phase me, but 653 against Nebraska? Yeah, they got my attention.
Johnathan Franklin is also leading the nation in rushing yards with 431, and it's not even close.
6. Michigan State
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The 17-13 score against Boise didn't exactly show this teams potential.
Boise hadn't fallen off as much as the numbers suggested. As a matter of fact, The Broncos' interior D-Line looked even better than they did the past two seasons. It was close on the scoreboard, but on paper, MSU out-gained Boise 461 yards to 206. Maxwell's interceptions were the only thing that kept it from being a blowout.
Sparty has a top-5 defense and a 244-pound Heisman candidate in running back Le'Veon Bell .
MSU's only pitfall will be the growing pains of its young quarterback, Andrew Maxwell, and his inexperienced wide receiver corps.
They took care of business in Week 2 against Central Michigan, while many other decent teams have struggled a little bit against the MAC early this season.
The Spartans' defense makes them the best team in the Big Ten. There's only three defenses in the country that might be able to line-up across from Bama's offensive line and hold their own, and this is one of them. LSU and FSU are the other two.
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I watched a lot of college football the last two weekends, and this is one of the teams that really stood out to me.
We've seen Boise Sate take small steps backward in its BCS-busting quest, but BYU is about to make a huge leap forward. Utah and TCU decided to join BCS conferences, but they were already taking a small step back in terms of being National contenders coming into 2012.
BYU is a physically imposing bunch that I believe will upset Utah and Boise over the next two weeks. The ranking will look a little better if it happens, but as for the eye test, this team looks extremely talented.
Utah destroyed BYU last season, but the two teams have gone in different directions of late.
The Cougars have an experienced leader at quarterback in Senior Riley Nelson.
The defense is loaded with freakish athletes. I don't want to draw too much from a beating of Washington State, but BYU looks really good on both front lines. This is not a team you want to see on your schedule in 2012.
A game at Boise State on a short layover will be a test, but BYU should handle Utah this weekend.
BYU could be the last of the late, great BCS-busters before the 2014 playoff changeover. That system could put an end to the phrase (at least until playoff expansion). This isn't who you want to draw in a bowl game this year.
4. Kansas State
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This is where I lose a bunch of readers, and I'm alright with that. Kansas State really shot themselves in the foot a few times against Arkansas in its bowl game last year.
KSU physically matched Arkansas across the board, but made too many mistakes to win that football game.
That leads me to another case of teams going in opposite directions. In all these cases you'll see a good coach and a system with a concrete foothold, and then you'll see the other team (Arkansas, Utah and Miami, Fla.) reeling to replace key components and find themselves as a football team.
Utah needs a system QB and an O-Line. Arkansas needs a different coach and an entirely new defensive backfield. Kirk Herbstreit and ESPN are no longer allowed to use the term "SEC defense" after last Saturday.
I'm tired of "SEC" being used as an adjective anyway. As for Miami, the Hurricanes need to go back seven years to when the rebuilding began, and begin again.
Anyway, back to Kansas State. Statistically, they rank 93rd in passing, but they can throw the ball. The Wildcats have pulled QB Collin Klein early in their first two contests. Look a little closer and you'll see a 173.7 quarterback rating for Klein and a balanced attack.
Klein on offense and Arthur Brown on defense give them experienced and talented signal-callers on both sides of the ball. Both players are also tough as nails.
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Sure, they have the weakest schedule of my top 10, but Florida State took care of business in its first two games by outscoring opponents 124-3. Lightning and torrential rainfall kept it from being around 152-3.
We've seen this coming since mid-October of last year. Since then, the Seminoles are 9-1, giving up a mere 9.5 points per game.
They returned a huge contingent of starters, brought in a stellar recruiting class and appear to be back in the National Championship picture. I think Clemson and Florida are the only threats on the Seminoles' schedule.
This team defense could force the Hokies' inexperienced offense to lay a doughnut this weekend. Don't be surprised if you see the 'Noles and the Tide in the BCS National Championship.
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LSU forgot to join the "lose to the Pac-12 party" this past weekend. They completely annihilated Washington.
Odell Beckham Jr. filled the void left by Tyrann Mathieu when he took a punt return for a 70-yard touchdown in Week 1.
There's three potential NFL-caliber running backs that Les Miles can dial up on any play.
The Tigers are stout on both lines, and there is a plethora of speed in the defensive secondary.
It will be some time before LSU faces the four-game stretch against Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Alabama. I seriously doubt they make it through that brutal stretch unscathed.
At first glance you can look at the schedule (to this point) and balk, but playing at Washington hasn't been easy for anybody over the last three decades. That's one thing that both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams on this list did in the first two weeks: destroy another BCS-conference opponent in a big-time environment.
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I don't think that Bama beat a great team in Michigan in Week 1—Michigan will not win as many games as they did last season.
Regardless, anyone who watched the game saw two teams that were nowhere close in terms of talent. Specifically, Alabama's offensive line dominated in the run game. That same line looked vulnerable in pass protection last week.
T.J. Yeldon stepped up at running back to go along with Eddie Lacy. Yeldon reminds me of a young Adrian Peterson. He's not that physical yet, but his speed and maturing frame scream future NFL superstar.
Bama is No. 1 with or without a preseason poll.
After The Tide destroy Arkansas this weekend (and they WILL), some will try to crown them National Champions already. Be careful in those observations. The Hogs and the Wolverines might soon be leaving the Top 25 for good. You won't see either team on this list either. Based on their performance the last two weeks, neither team deserves it.