College Football Rankings 2012: Notre Dame and Most Impressive Teams so Far

Ben StepanskyCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2012

Quarterback Tommy Rees helped lead the Irish to victory
Quarterback Tommy Rees helped lead the Irish to victoryJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After four weeks of college football, we are a third of the way through the season, which gives us enough evidence to determine the productivity of each team.

Alabama is rolling at 4-0, of course. Penn State would like to be better than 2-2, but after everything this offseason, let's say they should be content where they are. And new Division I arrival UMass is flat-out overmatched (outscored 172-35).

Here's a look at four teams that have impressed so far.


Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0)

Notre Dame, who through four games last season was 2-2 and finished 8-5, recently announced the program's move to the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports but football. Frankly, if they did not honor their football independence so highly, the team could thrive in the ACC.

The Irish have no easy schedule in 2012, facing five currently ranked opponents. They knocked off No. 10-ranked Michigan State in Week 3 in convincing fashion, 20-3, and defeated No. 18-ranked Michigan 13-6 yesterday.

Later this year they face No. 8 Stanford at home and travel to play No. 16 Oklahoma and No. 13 USC. A Week 11 game against ACC force Wake Forest (3-1) will be no walk in the park.

Quarterback Tommy Rees replaced Everett Golson in the second half against Michigan. If Notre Dame can settle the quarterback situation, they could be the real deal for the remainder of the season.


Oregon State Beavers (2-0)

After their Week 1 game was postponed, Oregon State opened their season against No. 13-ranked Wisconsin and beat them 10-7.

They then traveled to Los Angeles to play No. 19-ranked UCLA. Guess what? They beat them too, 27-20.

For a team that went 3-9 in 2011, the Beavers are beginning to turn heads in the college football world, especially after knocking off Pac-12 mate UCLA. 

Quarterback Sean Mannion has passed for 655 yards and three touchdowns in two games, including 379 yards and two TDs against UCLA.

They face Arizona next week, who is coming off a disheartening loss to Oregon. Is another victory for the Beavers in sight?


Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-0)

Rutgers is off to its first 4-0 start since the 2006 season, and it's all under first-year head coach Kyle Flood. They hopped into the Top 25 this weekend, ranking at No. 23. 

The Scarlet Knights beat the disappointing Arkansas Razorbacks 35-26 on Saturday for their fourth straight win.

Quarterback Gary Nova threw for a career-best 397 yards and five touchdowns.

The Rutgers defense forced two interceptions and held the Arkansas offense to 18 percent on third down (2-for-11).

They are making a statement about being the best team in the Big East. A final-week matchup against the Louisville Cardinals will likely determine that title.


Oregon Ducks (4-0)

I tried to resist putting a Top Five team into this list, but I couldn't. 

What is it going to take for the Oregon Ducks to be given a shot at the BCS Championship?

They have beaten their opponents in the first three weeks by 23, 17 and 49 points respectively. In Week 4, they knocked Arizona out of the Top 25 by defeating them 49-0. 

A close win by LSU against Auburn allowed the Ducks to climb into the No. 2 spot in the college rankings.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota has thrown for 934 yards and 10 touchdowns. Running back Kenjon Barner is averaging 5.4 yards per rush and has six touchdowns on the year.

The 2012 Oregon Ducks could be the first real threat in years to the SEC's dominance.