While still early in the season, the NCAA college football picture has come a little more into focus now that Week 4 has passed.
A few previously unbeaten teams suffered their first losses, while a few ranked teams squared off in head-to-head games that have reshaped the picture of both the AP and Coaches' polls of the top 25 teams in the land.
Which teams are currently being artificially inflated by their rankings?
Here you'll find 10 teams that are carrying around a loftier ranking than they deserve heading into Week 5.
Oregon has climbed up the national rankings all the way to the top five, but they have gone largely untested. Oregon's non-conference schedule featured only one challenge, a rebuilding Tennessee program which is not expected to compete for much this year.
Oregon had racked up obscene averages by running the ball in their first three wins, but the Ducks turned in their sloppiest game of the season against their first Pac-10 opponent, Arizona State, in Week 4. ASU held Oregon's previously dominant running game to only 145 yards. If not for Arizona State's seven back-breaking turnovers the Ducks could have found themselves upset by an unranked ASU squad. Oregon will go into a key conference showdown with Stanford coming off their worst game, and it seems as though their ranking should be a bit lower as a result.
Th Miami Hurricanes' ranking is undoubtedly helped by the fact that their one loss came against a top-two team, Ohio State. Still, they have yet to enter conference play, and the inconsistency of their offensive engine, quarterback Jacory Harris, leads me to believe they are ranked higher than they belong (and higher than they may ultimately end up).
Miami should be the favorite to win the ACC, and its dominance over non-conference opponents, Florida A&M and Pittsburgh, shows it's capable of punishing lesser teams. The play of Harris, however, has to be concerning and is the reason I believe the 'Canes are ranked better than the 20-25 range where they belong. Harris' turnovers cost them a chance to upset Ohio State, and even against Pitt he was inconsistent, though he ultimately led the team to victory. I see Miami falling back to the bottom of the polls once ACC play picks up.
Like Oregon, Wisconsin is another team that recently squeaked by Arizona State and still finds itself ranked highly in both national polls after Week 4. It put on a convincing display thumping Austin Peay, but they seem like a team that won't be able to keep up with the other powers of the Big Ten this season.
Senior quarterback Scott Tolzien has put up extremely efficient numbers early on, but the Wisconsin passing game seems a notch below those of Ohio State, Michigan, and perhaps even Iowa. The Badgers won't be able to rely solely on the running game once they're going toe-to-toe with conference rivals. Falling behind means putting games in Tolzien's hands which may not be enough.
As a reuslt I think they belong a few notches lower in the rankings.
Yes, Penn State's only loss came at the hands of the defending national champions, Alabama, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Nor should it be particularly crippling to a team's ranking.
However, the Nittany Lions have not looked good even in their softer non-conference games, which was particularly true this past week against Temple in Happy Valley. Simply put, Penn State is not a great offensive team. Their offensive averages are all on the low side in terms of passing and rushing yards and points per game.
That, compounded with the banged-up and inexperienced nature of their offensive line, leads me to think they belong outside of the top 25 at this point in the season. Reputation goes a long way, but it will be tough-sledding for Penn State as they begin playing in the Big Ten.
The Gators had a banner day devouring Kentucky in Week 4. However, in their sole SEC game thus far they had a weak showing against a Tennessee squad which is far inferior talent-wise. Their offense is too good to look as bad as it has all season, but I find their placement ahead of Auburn in particular a bit surpising.
Auburn survived a major test against South Carolina, a tougher SEC opponent, yet Florida was seemingly rewarded for rolling over an inferior opponent. The Gators' chances of defeating Alabama on the road next week seem long, but their ranking will be sure to fluctuate significantly pending the outcome of that game.
Stanford made quite a leap in the AP poll, going from No.16 to No. 9 in the rankings after their victory in South Bend over Brian Kelly's Notre Dame squad. While they racked up 400-plus total yards against Notre Dame, their offense often stagnated, and they settled for five field goals against a Notre Dame defense that has struggled throughout the early part of the season.
The Coaches' Poll seems more in line with where Stanford belongs in the rankings, outside of the Top 10 but inside the Top 20. They will for sure be tested starting in Week 5 when they take on Oregon on the road, and I think their ranking will ultimately slide back down into the 20s once their Pac-10 schedule takes hold.
Michigan State seems like a just-outside the Top 25 team, but it finds itself ranked in both polls ahead of tough upcoming opponents, Wisconsin and Michigan. They rolled over Northern Colorado in Week 4, but barely snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Notre Dame at home. They also allowed Florida Atlantic to hang around in what was supposed to be a road game, though it was played in Detroit, a huge advantage for MSU.
Their win over Notre Dame seems to have boosted their ranking too much. They will face true tests of their legitimacy starting next weekend.
Missouri has played unranked Illinois, McNeese State, San Diego State, and Miami (OH), and it has done its job in winning all four games.
However, I don't see how this pushes the Tigers into the top 25, even if only towards the bottom of the Coaches' Poll. They also received 51 votes for the AP list. They head into a bye week with, in my opinion, an inflated ranking.
After the bye they'll begin playing Big 12 opponents, and I think their ranking will slip back down out of the top 25 as a result.
The Texas Longhorns were upset by a UCLA team that opened its season with a stunning loss to Kansas State followed by a beating at the hands of Stanford. The Bruins ran the ball all over Texas, and the Longhorns looked overmatched defensively.
My quibble with the ranking is the fact that both polls don't have Texas in the 20s, where the Longhorns seemingly belong after such a poor effort at home against UCLA. That type of loss shows that their Week 3 ranking of No. 7 was definitely inflated, and I still think they should be a little lower in the polls.
Arizona seemed destined to slide a bit following a lackluster effort against California, in which they needed a winning touchdown from Nick Foles in the last two minutes to pull out a 10-9 victory. Arizona remained at No. 14 in both polls though, presumably on the strength of their previous week's victory over Iowa.
They have a strong chance to move even higher in the rankings with Pac-10 games against four unranked conference foes coming up, but for this week they seemed a safe bet to fall a few slots. Still, the Pac-10 continues to boast a solid number of top-20 teams.