College Football Rankings 2011: My Top 25 Heading into Week 3
You're probably thinking to yourself, "Why on earth do you need to look at another version of college football's Top 25 rankings?"
That's a fair question, but I have three answers for you.
First, my rankings are based on what has actually happened on the field and are not as heavily influenced by how good teams were supposed to be before the season started. This way you get a better feel for which teams are actually playing the best right now.
Second, my rankings are better than most because instead of just listing 25 teams, I will also give you an explanation of why those teams are ranked where they are.
Last but not least, like me, you are a college football junkie and will do anything to get your fix until those Thursday night games usher in another weekend of college football madness.
So sit back and enjoy my Top 25 teams in college football.
1. Oklahoma Sooners
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The big test for Landry Jones and his Oklahoma Sooners comes this weekend in Tallahassee.
We will know much more about whether this is really the best team in the country after the showdown with the Florida State Seminoles.
As the Sooners have only played one game so far this season, there is not a ton to go on as far as how they have looked this year.
However, I believe they dominated the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in an impressive enough manner that the Sooners deserve to be ranked No. 1.
Depending on how Oklahoma looks on Saturday, they could either find themselves cemented as my top team or tumbling down the rankings.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
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Alabama is a very good football team, but I believe mediocrity at the quarterback position will keep them from staying this high in the rankings all season long.
Still, after the first two weeks of the season, Alabama has done exactly what they have needed to—and looked good doing it.
The reason the Crimson Tide earned this spot at No. 2 is because the teams that I considered putting ahead of them do not have a quality win on their resume yet. Alabama does, after beating Penn State.
While I get the feeling that their victory over the Nittany Lions will not look as impressive by the end of the year (translation: I think Penn State is bad), they still get credit for it until further notice.
One thing to keep an eye on is Trent Richardson's production. While he has already found the end zone five times this year, he is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry.
If the Crimson Tide are going to remain one of the top teams in the country, they will have to get more out of Richardson.
3. Wisconsin Badgers
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Listen—I understand that Wisconsin's first two opponents (UNLV and Oregon State) are atrocious football teams.
I am not giving them much credit for who they have beaten up on until this point in the season.
What I am giving them credit for is looking like an unbelievably good football team in the process of racking up a couple of blowouts.
The addition of Russell Wilson to the Badgers offense is starting to appear as though it has taken Wisconsin from a pretty good football team to a scary good football team.
Opposing defenses can no longer stack eight men in the box and just focus on Wisconsin's running game.
Maybe the Badgers won't look as good when they start to face stiffer competition, but so far, they look like one of the best teams in the country.
4. Stanford Cardinal
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Simply put, Stanford will go as far as Andrew Luck takes them—and right now it looks like Luck can take them wherever he wants to.
Through two games, Luck has enjoyed leading his team to the end zone, as he has thrown for six touchdowns already and rushed for one more.
The Cardinal are scheduled to play just one team that is currently ranked in the AP Poll (Oregon) the entire season.
If Stanford reaches the Pac-12 title game, that will likely add one more ranked team for them to face, but that is still a very favorable schedule.
It is entirely possible that Stanford will stay this high in the rankings all season long by riding an easy schedule and the golden arm of Andrew Luck.
5. LSU Tigers
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For some reason, I never find myself very impressed with the LSU Tigers.
Maybe it is their style of play—which, quite frankly, bores me to death.
Maybe it is the fact that I think their head coach, Les Miles, could be out-coached by a mailbox.
Maybe I'm just an LSU hater and I didn't even realize it.
That being said, I do not see a Top Five football team when I watch the Tigers play, and I certainly don't see a team worthy of receiving first place votes in both the AP and USA Today Polls. However, they do have the best victory to date of any team in the country so far—a victory over Oregon.
I have to give LSU credit for taking down the Ducks, so here they are at No. 5.
But I'm not happy about it.
6. Florida State Seminoles
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I believe the Florida State Seminoles are on the verge of becoming a very good football program once again.
If Jimbo Fisher can lead his team to a win this weekend against No. 1 Oklahoma, the 'Noles will take a major step in reclaiming their place among college football's elite.
That being said, this game is pretty much the entire season for Florida State.
The Seminoles should be able to pretty much sleep-walk through a weak ACC conference and will not have to really bring their A-game again until they face Florida at the end of the year before a possible ACC title game appearance.
If junior quarterback E.J. Manuel can lead the troops to a win on Saturday, Florida State could be headed for a possible shot at a national championship.
If the Seminoles fall to the Sooners, it could lead to another disappointing season in Tallahassee.
7. Boise State Broncos
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Boise State looked good in defeating the Georgia Bulldogs in their only game so far this season, but I don't have the Broncos higher because I am not convinced that Georgia is a very good football team.
I have no doubt that Boise State will roll to another 11- or 12-win season and probably finish the year as a Top Five team, but as of right now I just don't have enough evidence to put them higher than No. 7.
Unfortunately, because of the Broncos' weak schedule, they likely have a ceiling as to how far they will be able to climb in the polls.
I am a big fan of the job head coach Chris Petersen has done at Boise State, and the fact that I consider them a perennial Top 10 program reflects that.
8. Arkansas Razorbacks
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One of the bigger differences between my rankings and the traditional polls is how I view the Arkansas Razorbacks.
While Arkansas has not faced a very difficult schedule thus far, they have outscored their first two opponents by a combined score of 103-10.
I believe there is something to be said for teams that go out and take care of business, and Arkansas has done exactly that.
When you are supposed to go out and beat a team by more than 40 points and then you actually do it, that earns you some points in my book.
If Arkansas is a legitimate Top 10 team, they will prove it during their conference schedule—if they're not, then they will plummet in the rankings.
Right now, they look like the No. 8 team in the country.
9. Texas A&M Aggies
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Texas A&M earns their spot in the Top 10 on the strength of a victory over an SMU team which I believe is going to have a pretty good season and, at the very least, make a bowl game.
The Aggies looked very impressive, putting away the Mustangs in a game that looked early like it was going to be close.
Heading into the Aggies opener against SMU, it was thought that this was an opportunity for the Mustangs to start their climb back into the national conversation in college football.
Instead, Texas A&M used it as an opportunity to prove they belonged as a Top 10-ranked team.
10. Oklahoma State Cowboys
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There are two reasons that I do not have Oklahoma State any higher than this.
First, they gave up 34 points to Louisiana-Lafayette.
I understand that it was still a dominant victory for the Cowboys, but if they don't have the ability to keep a team like the Ragin' Cajuns under 30, that is a problem.
Second, while OSU looked very impressive in their victory over the Arizona Wildcats, Arizona hasn't beaten an FBS opponent since October 30 of last year. That is a six game losing streak, for those of you keeping track at home.
Even though the Wildcats are a BCS school, it just isn't that big of a win for Oklahoma State.
11. Nebraska Cornhuskers
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If you have watched Nebraska play over the course of the last couple seasons, you will not find it surprising that the offense has continued to shoot itself in the foot on a fairly regular basis.
What should be surprising is that against Fresno State, it was the Cornhuskers defense that really failed them.
The Huskers looked good in their opening-game rout of Tennessee-Chattanooga, although the victory left Big Red fans unsatisfied with a supposedly overhauled offense.
However, the real problem came last week when Nebraska was in real danger of losing to Fresno State.
In order to have a shot at winning the Big Ten or making a BCS game, which seem to be the goals for Nebraska this year, they will have to right the ship in a hurry.
12. Florida Gators
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Under new head coach Will Muschamp, the Florida Gators have lined up and knocked down two dominant victories.
While Florida Atlantic and Alabama Birmingham are not the most elite competition, the Gators are off to a very good start in life after Urban Meyer.
We will find out how good Florida really is during the month of October, when they face Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia in consecutive weeks.
If the Gators can make it through that gauntlet with a 3-1 record, they may have a shot at the SEC title.
13. Oregon Ducks
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Oregon got off to a rough start this year with a loss to a depleted LSU team.
The worst part was that the Ducks did not even really look like the Oregon team that turned every football game into a track meet in 2010.
The Ducks got back on track in hanging 69 points on Nevada, but I don't want to get too excited about that game, as I get the feeling Nevada is going to be terrible this year without Colin Kaepernick.
While Oregon should have a shot at the Pac-12 championship, their receivers are going to have to step up to fill the void left by Jeff Maehl if the Ducks are going to run the table from this point on.
14. Michigan State Spartans
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Michigan State got off to a less-than-stellar start to the 2011 season when they struggled against FCS foe Youngstown State.
The Spartans appeared to get things going, though, last week against Florida Atlantic.
I understand that neither or these two games are what you would consider trademark victories, but they have allowed only six points the entire season and have not been in jeopardy of losing at any point.
I expect Sparty to rack up another win against Notre Dame this weekend.
15. Virginia Tech Hokies
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First of all, let me say congratulations to Virginia Tech for earning a victory over an FCS school this year—a feat they were unable to accomplish in 2010.
After that, I don't have that many positive things to say about the Hokies.
Don't get me wrong—East Carolina is a tough team, but if you consider yourself an elite BCS-type team, you have to be able to score more than 17 points and win by more than a touchdown against the Pirates.
If Virginia Tech had been able to put away East Carolina the way they should have, they would probably be in my Top 10.
16. South Carolina Gamecocks
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I am not really sure what to make of South Carolina.
I feel like they are always supposed to be better than they really are.
What I do know is that their defense this year has had more holes than a golf course, as they are giving up pretty much 40 points a game.
Meanwhile, the offense is averaging 50 points per game through their first two, despite predictably shaky quarterback play.
If Stephen Garcia can get his head on straight (that is a big "if"), then South Carolina might be able to continue to outscore teams while their defense searches for answers.
If Garcia can't do that, things won't go well for the Gamecocks.
17. Arizona State Sun Devils
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I made it past Oregon and Boise State without saying anything about uniforms, but I'm going to have to take the bait with Arizona State.
I love the Sun Devils' new uniforms, especially the trident on the helmet.
That thing blows the old logo (that strange cartoon devil) out of the water. Also, the all black is a good look for them.
Alright, back to football.
ASU took care of business in their opening week tune-up before holding on to an overtime victory over Missouri. By the end of the year, that victory should still look about as good as it does now, which is a good sign for the Devils.
If they can make it past the next two weeks (at Illinois and versus USC) then Arizona State could be on their way to a very good year.
18. Baylor Bears
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I am going to be honest with you—I am drinking the Kool-Aid on Robert Griffin III and the Baylor Bears.
Secretly, I have been singing Griffin's praises for a couple years now, but after Baylor's upset victory over TCU, I am shouting "RG3 for Heisman!" from the rooftops.
The Bears are ranked here based solely on their victory over the Horned Frogs. However, looking forward, things could shape up nicely for Baylor.
They very well could be undefeated before heading into a huge game against Texas A&M on October 15.
19. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
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Georgia Tech's vaunted rushing attack is back and as good as ever, averaging almost 340 yards on the ground per game.
But watch out, because the Yellow Jackets are throwing the ball, too (almost 290 yards per game).
The Yellow Jackets have been dominant on offense, scoring 63 and 49 points in their first two games of the season, albeit against lackluster opposition.
Let's be honest, though—the ACC is filled with mediocrity, so Georgia Tech might be in good shape.
If the Yellow Jackets can continue to achieve the balance they've showed on offense (even at a lower rate than they are currently averaging), Georgia Tech could be a force to reckon with for the rest of the year.
20. Central Florida Knights
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Central Florida beat the same Charleston Southern team that Florida State just played by a better margin than the Seminoles did (62-0 and 62-10 respectively).
When you put that in combination with a 30-3 drubbing of Boston College, I believe Central Florida is a team that deserves to be ranked.
Without a ranked team on the schedule, the Knights of Central Florida could continue to rack up impressive victories and have an outside shot at running the table.
There isn't a game on the schedule that they won't have a very good chance of winning.
21. Ohio State Buckeyes
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I came into the season convinced that Ohio State is going to have a rough year, and nothing has happened to change my mind about that.
If anything, I believe the Buckeyes' close-call against Toledo only serves to prove my point.
While Ohio State is still considered a contender for the Big Ten championship, I think they should be happy if they can just manage to make a bowl game.
That isn't a knock on the Buckeyes—I just think that after everything they've been through, to make a bowl would be a real accomplishment.
22. West Virginia Mountaineers
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I am a big fan of West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, so I would have liked to rank the Mountaineers higher, but I just couldn't do it.
West Virginia was legitimately struggling with Norfolk State into the second half of the game.
Between that game and a not-terribly-impressive opening-week victory over Marshall, I was tempted not to rank the Mountaineers in my Top 25 at all.
West Virginia has a big game against Maryland this week, and we should know a lot more about the Mountaineers after it is over.
23. Houston Cougars
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The Houston Cougars have made their way into my Top 25 based on their victory over a BCS conference team (UCLA) and taking care of business at North Texas.
While those are not the two best teams in the world, Houston looked good in defeating both of them, as the Cougars lead the country in passing.
As the season continues, Houston will benefit from an easy Conference USA schedule and should be able to rack up an impressive amount of victories with their high-powered offense.
24. Michigan Wolverines
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One thing I learned after watching Michigan take down Notre Dame is that when Denard Robinson is on the field, just about anything is possible.
Need to make a comeback from being down 17 points? Not a problem.
Need to march 80 yards in 30 seconds? Consider it done.
Michigan will certainly have their growing pains under first-year head coach Brady Hoke, but I believe they will be better for it, and the Wolverines have already shown they possess the resolve to win in even the most adverse of circumstances.
25. South Florida Bulls
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Neither of South Florida's wins on the season strike me as terribly impressive, because Ball State is awful, and I don't give them as much credit for beating Notre Dame as the traditional polls seem to.
That being said, I do think the Bulls are headed in the right direction under Skip Holtz.
It will be difficult for South Florida to prove their worth, as they do not play a ranked team until the last game of the season against West Virginia.
Because of that, I do not see the Bulls climbing much higher than this in the rankings in 2011.
Teams Left out of the Rankings
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There are four teams that are in the traditional polls that didn't make it into my Top 25. Here they are, with my reasons for leaving them out.
The Tigers should have lost to Utah State, and almost lost to Mississippi State. They don't look like a Top 25 team, and their luck has to run out eventually.
The Longhorns have turmoil at quarterback and barely squeezed by BYU after not looking very good against Rice.
The Horned Frogs lost to Baylor, which is not a bad loss, but they followed it up with a mediocre performance against Air Force. With a loss on your record, you have to do more than that to crack the Top 25.
I like the Bulldogs, but this is the penalty for losing to an Auburn team that I am convinced is not that good.