College Football's Ranked Undefeateds: Buy or Sell?

Dani CaplanCorrespondent ISeptember 22, 2010

College Football's Ranked Undefeateds: Buy or Sell?

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    Mark Ingram was masterful for No. 1 Alabama, gaining 151 yards on just nine carries in just one half's work.Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

    The 2010 college football season is three weeks young, and the drama meter is in full throttle.

    There have been six FCS victories over FBS schools, and there have also been some nail-biters (see: Michigan St.-Notre Dame).

    With all of the usual craziness in college football, there are still lots of undefeated teams left in the country. Which undefeated teams are legitimate, and which ones are pretenders?

    Looking at each ranked undefeated school, I will either buy that team's ranking or sell it.

No. 25 Michigan State: Buy

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    I'm loving this Spartan squad, partly because of that gutsy fake field goal. But this team really does have talent.

    Their running game is very explosive, as they have two 300-yard backs in just Week 3.  Kirk Cousins is becoming a solid QB.

    Also, the defense is stout, despite allowing the Irish to put up 28 points in regulation.

    At 25, I'm buying this team for sure.

No. 22 West Virginia: Buy

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    Geno Smith has solidified himself as the top QB in the Big EastDoug Benc/Getty Images

    The Big East has been through a tough early stretch this season. West Virginia has been the lone bright spot in the conference.

    Geno Smith has been spot-on. He led WVU on key late drives to take down Marshall and sliced through the Maryland defense this past week. For the season, Smith has a good 7-to-1 TD-INT ratio.

    Noel Devine is also playing well, gaining 440 yards from scrimmage in three games.

    The defense also looks good, especially after shutting out the Maryland offense for over a half.

    At 22, I'm buying the Mountaineers.

No. 21 Michigan: Buy

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    This Michigan offense can flat-out score—or should I say this Denard Robinson offense can flat-out score.

    I'm not sure I've seen a player do so much in so many different ways. Robinson runs like a return man but can also throw the ball efficiently.

    My concern for this squad comes on defense. Against FCS school UMass, the Wolves allowed a healthy 37 points. Luckily for Michigan, Robinson was once again immortal.

    If the Wolves can put up 30-plus points each game, they will always have a chance to win. So, at 21, I'm buying Michigan.

No. 20 USC: Sell

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    Lane Kiffin has lead USC to a 3-0 start, but I'll sell the Trojans while they're still rankedJamie Squire/Getty Images

    USC couldn't have had a better record up to this point. The problem is that they have played three subpar opponents and haven't won convincingly in any of those games.

    To open the season, USC took down Hawaii but yielded 36 points to the lousy Warriors squad.

    In Week 2 against Virginia (who went 3-9 last year), the defense looked a lot better, giving up just one touchdown until a meaningless score with seven seconds left in the game. But the offense stagnated, scoring just 17 points, which allowed the Cavaliers to stay within striking distance the whole game.

    This past week, the Trojans faced a Minnesota team that just came off a loss to FCS school South Dakota. The Trojans led narrowly by a score of 19-14 after three quarters. Although they did end up pulling away and winning, the victory was hardly impressive.

    The game that will be very telling is at Stanford in three weeks. I'm selling this USC squad at 20 while they're still ranked.

No. 17 Auburn: Sell

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    Cam Newton is a good QB, but his team must get a lot tougher as the SEC schedule is comingKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    This Auburn squad is talented, especially with Cameron Newton running the show.

    But with their uber-tough SEC schedule, which includes South Carolina, LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas, the Tigers will need to be a whole lot more impressive to remain ranked in the Top 20.

    Against Mississippi State, a perennial bottom-dweller in the SEC, Auburn escaped by a close margin of 17-14. If the Tigers are grinding it out against MSU, then how will they fare when they face the big boys?

    This weekend's matchup against South Carolina will be a major indicator of the 2010 Auburn season. For now, I'm selling these Tigers at 17.

No. 16 Stanford: Buy

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    Andrew Luck and the Cardinal have put up lots of pointsEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    Stanford has looked very impressive thus far. They have posted scores of 52, 35, and 68. The latter two of these scores were against BCS schools.

    Andrew Luck is living up to all of his hype and will need to continue to do so, as the schedule gets tough over the next three weeks. If the Cardinal goes 4-1 over the next five games (with their only loss being to Oregon), they could be a Top 10 squad come November.

    The sky is the limit for Stanford, so I'm buying them at 16.

No. 15 LSU: Sell

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    Jordan Jefferson has been unimpressive three weeks into the seasonKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    This was a close call with LSU. They do have some explosive players and are very dangerous. Patrick Peterson is as good a cornerback as you'll find and is also electric in the return game.

    But LSU is missing a key component to a great team: a good quarterback.

    Jordan Jefferson must step up once LSU plays the elite SEC schools. Up to this point, I have no reason to believe that he will do so. Their defense is good, but against UNC, they allowed T.J. Yates to have a field day.

    With neither the offense or defense standing out as great, I'm selling the Tigers at 15.

No. 14 Arizona: Buy

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    Nick Foles lead Arizona to a huge win over 9th ranked IowaChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    There is so much hype surrounding Arizona after their win over ninth-ranked Iowa, and I'm also on the bandwagon.

    In the first half, the Wildcats made a good Hawkeye defense look pedestrian, if not plain bad. Although Arizona let Iowa tie the game after leading by 20, Nick Foles did show resilience with a late, game-winning touchdown drive.

    Speaking of Foles, he is a top-notch QB in the country (his completion percentage is nearly 80).

    Arizona has a favorable schedule for a few weeks, so it will climb in the rankings. Therefore, I'm buying them at 14.

No. 13 Utah: Buy

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    Jordan Wynn might be out, but the Utes have not missed a beat without himRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    Utah has put up lots of points against bad competition (UNLV and New Mexico). But what impressed me most about Utah was its victory over Pitt.

    Pitt, in my estimation, is a Top 15 team, so this win is better than some might think.

    After the Pitt game, Jordan Wynn has not played due to injury, and they still have been lighting up the scoreboard. With Wynn coming back soon, this team can be even more dangerous than Weeks two and three might have indicated. 

    I'm buying the Utes at 13 because they will move up in the rankings after a weak stretch over the next four weeks.

No. 12 South Carolina: Buy

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    Marcus Lattimore has been sensatonal for a True Freshman Running BackMike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    South Carolina is 3-0 with a nice win over then-ranked Georgia, and we haven't even seen the best of these Gamecocks.

    Marcus Lattimore has been great, but Stephen Garcia has not. I think the latter will change.

    Garcia was very solid last year and proved to be a good game manager. He also has physically gifted receiver Alshon Jeffery, whom he will find more as the season progresses.

    I think 12 is as high as the Gamecocks will go, but I think they'll stay in that vicinity, so I'm buying them.

No. 11 Wisconsin: Sell

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    John Clay helped the Sconnies narrowly beat Arizona StateJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    I am a big John Clay fan, but I'm not in love with anyone else on this Wisconsin team.

    If not for a blocked extra point or a kickoff return stop at the one to end the half, Wisconsin might not have even beaten lowly Arizona State. This near loss makes me hesitant to call this Sconnie squad 11th in the nation.

    In my opinion, this ranking will not last another month, as they go to Michigan State in two weeks. The Spartans will take care of business at home and Wisconsin will not see the Top 20 rank after the Big Ten schedule is in full swing.

    I'm selling overrated Wisconsin at 11.

No. 10 Arkansas: Buy

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    Ryan Mallet can leap to the top of the Heisman race with a win over #1 AlabamaAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Unlike Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett has embraced his high praise from NFL scouts. He picked up right where he left off last year.

    Three weeks into the season, Mallett has already accumulated 1,081 yards and has nine touchdowns to just two INTs. It doesn't hurt Mallett that he has perhaps the best receiving corps in the country.

    If the inexperienced secondary of Alabama can be exploited by the Razorback pass attack (that sounds awesome), there may be a new top dog in the polls on Monday.

    I'm buying this team at 10 because they have as dangerous a passing game as you'll find in the country.

No. 9 Florida: Sell

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    John Brantley and the Gator offense has been lackluster to this pointGrant Halverson/Getty Images

    To be the ninth-ranked team in college football, you have to be really, really good. I don't think Florida is that good to be in the Top 10. 

    The post-Tim Tebow offense has been sluggish, to say the least. John Brantley has not eclipsed 200 yards passing in any of the first three games, in which the Gators played Miami of Ohio, South Florida, and Tennessee—not what I would call the stiffest defenses in the country.

    Speaking of Tennessee, the Volunteers almost beat Florida after losing by 35 to Oregon.  Anyway, I don't see this underachieving Gator squad beating the nation's elite with such a young, unproven team.

    I'm selling Florida at nine.

No. 8 Oklahoma: Buy

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    Landry Jones leads a highpowered Sooner offenseRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    I know. I know. Oklahoma let Utah State and Air Force stick around when they played them.

    But I just love the super trio of Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles, and DeMarco Murray. You saw what this offense did to a good Florida State team (if you didn't see, they put up 47 points on the Seminoles).

    I see this Sooner squad beating overrated Texas in the Red River Rivalry and going undefeated with that semi-soft Big 12 schedule.

    Are they the best team in the country or even a Top Five squad? I don't think so. But I'm buying them at eight because their schedule favors that ever-elusive undefeated season.

No. 7 Texas: Sell

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    Garret Gilbert must step up if the Longhorns want to beat OklahomaBob Levey/Getty Images

    Garrett Gilbert can't blame his poor play on jitters anymore. When he entered the National Championship Game as a true freshman, he was entitled to nerves. But now, there are no more excuses.

    Gilbert has not shown that he is capable of leading a national title contender. For example, Wyoming held the Gilbert-led offense to no touchdowns until the 3:33 mark in the second quarter.

    One week later, Boise State scored 31 points within the first 19 minutes against the same Wyoming squad.

    Until the Longhorn offense improves vastly, I'm selling Texas at seven.

No. 6 Nebraska: Buy

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    Taylor Martinez ran Nebraska to a 3-0 startOtto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    This Nebraska team might be even better than last year, when they had Ndamukong Suh.

    With Taylor Martinez leading that option offense, the Cornhuskers are now a threat from both sides of the ball.

    Don't let Martinez's lack of passing numbers fool you. He is one of the most accurate passers that I've seen this year. But there's simply no need to pass when Martinez can run like a running back.

    With that offense working to perfection and the secondary making Jake Locker look like an FCS quarterback (he was 4-of-20 with two INTs against Nebraska), I'm buying the Cornhuskers at six.

No. 5: Oregon: Buy

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    LaMichael James has been unconcious since returning from his one-game suspensionSteve Dykes/Getty Images

    There's not much need to back this Oregon squad as a Top Five team. They've put up over 60 points per game. There's not a team in the country that can touch that stat.

    Their three-headed monster in the backfield of LaMichael James, Remene Alston, and Kenjon Barner has been incredibly productive for the Ducks.

    Any question at QB has been answered by Darron Thomas' stellar play under center. It just seems like it's all coming together for Oregon.

    The numbers that this Ducks offense has been putting up has me buying them at five.

No. 4 TCU: Buy

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    Andy Dalton leads the BCS-hungry Horned FrogsRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    This TCU team is back for more BCS busting. The defense is great once again. They shut down Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State and Robert Griffin of Baylor.

    On the offensive side of the ball, Andy Dalton has been playing some good football while the rushing attack has been very productive.

    My concern is that TCU has not been on the road yet this season, so we might have seen the Horned Frogs at their best. Regardless, TCU has looked good, and I'm buying them at four.

No. 3 Boise State: Buy

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    Kellen Moore leads the talented and experienced Bronco squadGeoff Burke/Getty Images

    I have loved this team since Kellen Moore has been in Boise. He is, in my opinion, the most efficient passer in college football.

    With Moore taking the snaps and Titus Young and Austin Pettis catching his passes, the Broncos' offense looks as good as ever.

    The experienced defense is also spectacular. In the first game against Virginia Tech, the Bronco defense held Ryan Williams to 44 yards rushing on 21 carries.

    Although the same Virginia Tech team that Boise State barely beat lost to James Madison, I am buying this Bronco squad completely.

No. 2 Ohio State: Buy

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    Terrelle Pryor has propelled the high-powered Buckeye offenseJamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The Terrelle Pryor-led Buckeye offense has been explosive. Pryor is finally playing like the highly-touted star he has been expected to be.

    Whether it be through the air or on the ground, Pryor has powered this offense nicely.

    On defense, the Buckeyes have gotten a good pass rush and also forced a lot of turnovers (see Jacory Harris' four INTs vs. Ohio State).

    The schedule is soft in the first half of the season, so I'm buying the Buckeyes staying at two for a while, though at the end of the season Ohio State could drop a game or two, which would take them out of the Top Five.

No. 1 Alabama: Buy

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    Mark Ingram returned seamslessly to the Alabama backfieldBrian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

    Alabama is the clear No. 1 after three weeks. They have two future NFL starting running backs in Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram.

    Greg McElroy keeps getting better. Julio Jones is once again one of the top receivers in the country.

    The defense has been dominant despite the losses of many starters from last year's team.

    Just to give you an idea of how good this team is, look at how Ingram played just one half and carried the ball only nine times but still accumulated 151 yards. That caliber of talent is the reason why I am 100 percent buying the Crimson Tide as the top team in college football.

Your Thoughts?

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    Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

    So, is there anyone who I wrongfully bought or sold? I'll let you be the judge. Feel free to comment what you think.