The college football rankings are a fickle feature, especially early in the season, wherein those teams which were expected to play well are rewarded heavily.
What happens when a less prominent program excels? It inches slowly up the ladder while excuses are made by skeptics as to why those teams still have something to prove. Meanwhile, programs with a strong schedule are rewarded for playing good teams, often times outweighing the raw performance of those squads, regardless of its opponents.
Following Week 4 of the college football season, it is evident that some teams are not getting the attention they deserve, while perennial powerhouses are.
TCU, No. 15/14
The Horned Frogs have not faced a strong schedule in their first three games, but have been utterly dominant.
Following a 56-0 romp of Grambling State, TCU beat up on Kansas and Virginia to the tune of 47-13.
Those numbers rank the Horned Frogs at No. 1 in points allowed (4.3).
A two-headed running attack in Waymon James and Matthew Tucker that has combined for 320 yards (6.27 yards per carry) on the short season displays efficiency in the most important component to a flourishing offense. Then, there is Casey Pachall under center, who has a 209.9 quaterback rating, throwing eight touchdowns and a lone interception while completing over 76 percent of his passes.
Given that its only home game was played against the Jayhawks, it is understandable that TCU stands in the middle of the Top 25 pack in both polls. Yet, it should get more respect for having stifled the opponents it has faced than to be positioned lower than, say, USC, which botched its only game against a truly competitive foe in then-No. 21 Stanford.
The Horned Frogs are now winners of 11 consecutive games with no signs of stopping, so they should rank higher.
USC, No. 13
Three wins against teams they have no business losing to and one loss to the only team that has really tested the Trojans this season does not warrant a No. 13 ranking. This is indicative of an inherent flaw in the ranking system, which is the value put on the preseason college polls.
USC entered this season as the sexy pick to win a BSC National Championship, evidenced by its No. 1 ranking. Therefore, when it lost to the No. 21 Cardinals in Week 3, it was interpreted as a good loss, if there is such a thing. A loss which, perhaps, says that Stanford was underrated more than that the Trojans were overrated.
Don’t buy into the theory that USC deserves its ranking.
Sure, it shored up its defense on Saturday, holding the Golden Bears to 250 yards of total offense, including 77 yards rushing. Compared to allowing 202 yards on the ground against Stanford, that is a great improvement. But the Trojans still made too many mistakes on offense to be placed as high as they are in the polls.
The crown jewel of this year’s USC program, Matt Barkley, threw two interceptions on 34 pass attempts in a lackluster performance. The Trojans turned the ball over a total of three times. They were penalized eight times for 65 yards.
Currently, they do not rank in the top 30 in the nation in any major statistical category. Ultimately, they haven’t shown anything in their play which suggests that they won’t crumble when facing teams like Oregon and Notre Dame. They haven’t assured anyone that they will be able to run through the rest of their Pac-12 schedule unscathed.
If it weren’t for the wise elders of college football picking USC as the favorites to begin the season, this team might not be ranked in the Top 25.
Clemson, No. 17/16
At the risk of becoming contradictory, it’s important to give credit where it is due for playing valiantly against teams that have proven to be the best in the country.
The Tigers put their potent offensive attack into motion against the top-ranked defense in the nation going into their game against No. 4 Florida State.
Holding a 34-14 lead at halftime, Clemson gave up 35 points in a 20 minute span. Is that the sign of a top ten college football team? Maybe not. Unless you consider that it was their first test of the season against a legitimate championship contender.
Let’s face it, the Tigers play in a perennially weak Atlantic Coast Conference, so its not every week they face a top-tier team. The fact they were able to accrue 426 total yards against FSU says much about its staying power in the AP Top 25.
Offense won’t get them far if they continue to allow upwards towards 700 yards in a given game, but credit a much improved EJ Manuel with outplaying the Tigers’ secondary.
If this outcome happened against, say, Boston College, it would justify a lower ranking than the one bestowed upon them. However, they should be getting a little more love from the college football rankings this week.