NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 1

Ben Kercheval@@BenKerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterSeptember 2, 2014

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 1

0 of 9

    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    The first Associated Press poll and Amway coaches poll of college football's regular season have been released, and the results are understandably varied. Compared to the respective preseason polls, 19 teams in each Top 25 are in different spots Tuesday.

    (You can also check out Bleacher Report's latest Top 25 to compare.)

    The voters in these polls should be open to change, which begins with acknowledging that some teams were inaccurately ranked in the preseason—for better or worse. For all anyone knows, those teams could still be incorrectly ranked.

    Preseason rankings are guesses and really just meant to be fun talking points. Let's come to terms with the fact that Top 25 lists will be all over the place for the next few weeks as teams build up their resumes.

Hit: Texas A&M Aggies

1 of 9

    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Current Coaches Poll: No. 13

    Current AP Poll: No. 9

    Current B/R Poll: T-No. 11

    Overall Record: 1-0

     

    Laken Litman of USA Today wrote in July that Texas A&M was "the most overrated team" in the preseason coaches poll (ranked No. 20).

    The preseason is a time for bold takes, but there's a reason you play the game. In a 52-28 win over South Carolina Thursday, the Aggies proved they had staying power in the post-Johnny Manziel era.

    Does this mean A&M will go undefeated and contend for a national title? Not necessarily.

    Pass defense is still a question mark the Aggies have to answer. And how will first-year starting quarterback Kenny Hill handle himself when he doesn't have all day to throw to wide-open receivers? Hill was excellent in his debut, throwing for 511 yards—a program record—but that was also an indictment of South Carolina's ability to get pressure and cover.

    Those questions will be answered in due time. A&M looks like a team that could win a lot of games this year, though. Of the two major polls, The Associated Press got it right putting the Aggies in the Top 10.

Miss: Oklahoma State Cowboys

2 of 9

    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Current Coaches Poll: NR

    Current AP Poll: NR

    Current B/R Poll: NR

    Overall Record: 0-1

     

    Yep, I'm sticking my neck out for Oklahoma State, despite the fact that the Pokes aren't ranked in either major poll or the B/R Top 25 (though they received votes in all three).

    That's flat wrong.

    Here's where the selection committee should operate differently from the two major polls. On Saturday, the Cowboys, a 19.5-point underdog according to Odds Shark, gave No. 1 Florida State everything it could handle in a 37-31 loss in Arlington, Texas.

    Traditionally when a team loses, no matter to whom or in what fashion, it falls in the rankings. This is a trend that needs be abolished in the playoff era. One team can lose and still prove to be better than a list of other teams that won that week.

    Preseason rankings are nothing more than guesses anyway. At this early stage, rankings should look dramatically different in some areas from week to week. It's OK to be wrong. Many people were about South Carolina and Texas A&M.

    Oklahoma State did not enter the season ranked because, frankly, it was hard to know what to make of a team that had only nine returning starters. As David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest wrote, it's time to reset the expectations for the Pokes at a higher bar:

    There was no reason to believe Oklahoma State could stay on the same field with Florida State, and yet, moments before quarterback J.W. Walsh got flipped head over heels and dropped the ball on the way down, OSU was 56 yards from taking their first lead of the night in the game's final minutes. 

    Florida State didn't play its best game—that's for sure. But the defending national champs are still one of the most, if not the most, talented teams on paper in the country. Yet Oklahoma State hung right with the Seminoles and oftentimes made them look bad.

    Mike Gundy's team is off to a 0-1 start, but this is a talented group that, for right now, actually deserves to be in the conversation as one of the 25 best teams in the country.

Hit: Georgia Bulldogs

3 of 9

    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Current Coaches Poll: No. 8

    Current AP Poll: No. 6

    Current B/R Poll: No. 6

    Overall Record: 1-0

     

    Besides Texas A&M, no other team had a bigger win in Week 1 than Georgia, which defeated Clemson 45-21. Highlighted by Todd Gurley's 198-yard, career-high rushing performance, which also featured a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown, the Bulldogs flipped the script for the SEC East.

    The Dawgs defense also held the Tigers to one—one—first down in the second half, an encouraging sign for first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

    Georgia and South Carolina meet in two weeks in Columbia. It's an important game for both teams. South Carolina can ill afford to drop two straight conference games, and Georgia can take a firm grip on the divisional race before the first month of the season is over.

    If polls are purely being judged by Week 1 wins and losses, Georgia rightfully shot up the polls into the Top 10. There's a case to be made that, given who other Top 10 teams played and how those teams fared, the Bulldogs deserve to be a Top Five team. At the very least, Georgia should be above Ohio State, which was reflected in the AP poll.

    This will do, though—for now.

Miss: USC Trojans

4 of 9

    Harry How/Getty Images

    Current Coaches Poll: No. 14

    Current AP Poll: No. 14

    Current B/R Poll: No. 14

    Overall Record: 1-0

     

    Few wins were more impressive in Week 1 than USC's 52-13 rout of Fresno State. Yes, it was "just" the Bulldogs, but the Trojans rarely, if ever, looked this efficient in the Lane Kiffin era. Head coach Steve Sarkisian put his offense in hurry-up mode, running more than 100 plays during the game.

    What's more is that this team flattened its opponent in the wake of a pair of off-field "distractions" involving cornerback Josh Shaw and running back Anthony Brown.

    To say that this team isn't better than UCLA, which barely survived a trip to Virginia, is a total miss.

    USC could become the most popular team in the Pac-12 if it beats Stanford in Week 2. At that point, it would have an argument as a Top 10 team.

Miss: UCLA Bruins

5 of 9

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Current Coaches Poll: No. 11

    Current AP Poll: No. 11

    Current B/R Poll: No. 13

    Overall Record: 1-0

     

    UCLA barely escaped its season opener against Virginia, 28-20. UCLA's offensive line played horribly, and quarterback Brett Hundley was on the run all day. Had it not been for three defensive touchdowns, the sexy preseason playoff pick may have left Charlottesville with a loss.

    It was a sobering moment that reminded everyone you still have to play the game.

    Bryan Fischer of NFL.com writes that UCLA's offensive line struggles are correctable since starting tackle Simon Goines and center Jake Brendel are on their way back from injuries that have kept them sidelined.

    "Anyone that watched that game will go, 'My goodness, what are we going to do about the offensive line?'" head coach Jim Mora said (via Fischer). "For those of us that know, we know that we've got a good group. We've got to play better, and I know that we will."

    The Bruins may in fact get better in the trenches—their playoff hopes may depend upon it—but what happened against Virginia was an eye-opener. Right now, there's no way UCLA should be considered near a Top 10 team.

    If one game is all any voter has to work with, overreactions are actually acceptable since preseason polls shouldn't matter going forward. In other words, voters should judge teams based on what they see, not where they were ranked or what their potential is.

    To sell some UCLA stock after Week 1 is fine. It's the Bruins' job to convince voters they can buy in again.

Hit: South Carolina

6 of 9

    Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

    Current Coaches Poll: No. 21

    Current AP Poll: No. 21

    Current B/R Poll: No. 21

    Overall Record: 0-1

     

    As Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports tweets, it's a special time in college football when South Carolina can give up 52 points at home and still be in the coaches' poll Top 25 the following Tuesday. Still, the Gamecocks fell the most spots in the latest coaches poll.

    That much is correct. Whether South Carolina should be ranked at all is another debate.

    The Gamecocks simply have too many questions, namely on the defensive side of the ball. Can this team develop a pass rush or cover anyone? Can quarterback Dylan Thompson be the leader the offense needs? Can this team establish a running game if Mike Davis continues to be hampered by injuries?

    South Carolina could easily climb back up the polls if it beats Georgia in two weeks. It could also show the season-opening loss was either a matter of bad preparation, a matchup problem or a combination of both, and that the ship has been righted.

    For now, the Gamecocks don't look like a Top 25 team even if they have that label.

Miss: Alabama Crimson Tide

7 of 9

    Martin Rose/Getty Images

    Current Coaches Poll: No. 2

    Current AP Poll: No. 2

    Current B/R Poll: No. 7

    Overall Record: 1-0

     

    Put simply, Alabama looked mortal in a 33-23 win over West Virginia. While the Tide may not have their "worst season in years," as Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde predicted, this team nevertheless has some concerns.

    All things considered, first-year starting quarterback Blake Sims was effective, tallying nearly 300 total yards. The defense, however, still has questions against the pass. According to Jeff Culhane of IMG Sports, the 365 passing yards from WVU quarterback Clint Trickett were the second-most allowed by a Nick Saban defense at Alabama.

    Overall, Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen had a solid game plan and attacked Alabama's weaknesses. The outcome came down to a lack of execution on WVU's part.

    Florida State, which remains the No. 1 team in the country, struggled in a 37-31 win over Oklahoma State as well. The difference is that the Cowboys may actually do some damage in the Big 12. West Virginia, while obviously improved, could be further away from reaching the top of the Big 12 standings.

    Alabama is still good, but No. 2 in both polls? That seems like the Tide are still getting the benefit of the doubt.

Hit: Washington Huskies

8 of 9

    USA TODAY Sports

    Current Coaches Poll: NR

    Current AP Poll: NR

    Current B/R Poll: NR

    Overall Record: 1-0

     

    Washington barely sneaked into the preseason Top 25 polls, but after a 17-16 escape over Hawaii, the Huskies are rightfully out of the discussion.

    The Washington offense sputtered (at best) against a Hawaii defense that was one of the worst in the Mountain West a year ago. Quarterback Jeff Lindquist was underwhelming in his first start, going 10-of-26 for 162 yards and a score.

    Cyler Miles, who was suspended for the first game of the season, will get the start in Week 2 against Eastern Washington, according to head coach Chris Petersen.

    Petersen is a great coach and should get Washington back on the national map, but Saturday was without a doubt a rough start. This is not a Top 25 team yet.

Hit: Louisville Cardinals

9 of 9

    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Current Coaches Poll: NR

    Current AP Poll: No. 25

    Current B/R Poll: NR

    Overall Record: 1-0

     

    Louisville kicked off its ACC schedule in style with a 31-13 win over Miami on Monday. Since the Week 1 polls came out Tuesday, the Cardinals got a little love from AP voters with a No. 25 spot.

    (Since the B/R Top 25 was cast Sunday, the Cardinals' game wasn't taken into consideration.)

    Head coach Bobby Petrino still has some work to do on the offense, but quarterback Will Gardner has all the physical tools to be one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC. That Louisville defense, though? It's nasty, especially up front. No matter how many games the Cardinals win, former coach Charlie Strong set that side of the ball up for success.

    It'll be interesting to see how Louisville does in its first season in the ACC. The Cardinals get Clemson on the road (Oct. 11) but Florida State at home (Oct. 30). Splitting those games would almost feel like a victory by itself.

    Nevertheless, it's good to see Louisville, which should be a tough opponent for anyone, crack the Top 25 somewhere.

     

    Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football.