2011 College Football National Top 25, Week 4: LSU Continues Its Dominance
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If there was much question whether LSU deserved the top spot in the national rankings, they certainly strengthened their case with a tremendous road win over West Virginia this past week. Read through the slideshow to see how the rest of the teams stack up.
NOTE: These rankings were compiled prior to Thursday night’s games, in which 10h-ranked South Florida and 21st-ranked Houston played. Unfortunately, the business of college life has rendered me unable to finish the article before this time.
Teams Listed With: Rank. School Name (Record) - Last Week's Result - Change from Last Week's Rankings
The Top 5
Alabama dominated Arkansas to move up to the #2 spot in the rankings.
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1. LSU (4-0) - Win at West Virginia, 47-21 - Same
LSU has now held the top spot in the rankings for three consecutive weeks, as they have made a very strong case now that they are the best team in the nation. For the second straight week, the Tigers won a tough game on the road, this time pulling away from West Virginia in the second half for a big victory on the strength of huge games from their cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu, who had both an interception and a forced fumble, and Morris Claiborne, who had a 99-yard kickoff return touchdown. LSU has developed a rhythm on offense, defense and special teams, and have made it clear they are a national championship contender.
2. Alabama (4-0) - Win vs Arkansas, 38-14 - Up 2
The SEC West looks like it is going to be just as strong as it was last year, and after a dominant victory over Arkansas on Saturday, Alabama has now joined LSU to give the SEC West a 1-2 punch at the top of the national rankings. The Crimson Tide showed just how good they can be on Saturday.
The offense was very good, putting up 38 points, but they get help from their defense, which contributed a touchdown on a DeQuan Menzie interception return, and which held the usually-potent Arkansas offense to just 17 rushing yards, and also from special teams, on which Marquis Maze returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown. By winning their first big game in the Southeastern Conference, it has become clear that Alabama can do big things this season.
3. Oklahoma (3-0) - Win vs Missouri, 38-28 - Down 1
Last season, the Oklahoma Sooners saw their championship hopes crushed in Columbia, when they were upset by the Missouri Tigers, 36-27, in what was a battle of unbeaten teams at the time. This year, with Missouri already having one loss, and the Sooners playing at home, Oklahoma was victorious, highlighted by the strength of Ryan Broyles’s 13 receptions, 154 yards and three touchdowns.
Due to Florida State’s second straight loss which slightly diminished the Sooners’ win from the prior week, as well as Alabama’s huge win over Arkansas, the Sooners dropped one spot in the rankings, but they remain a major contender.
4. Boise State (4-0) - Win vs Tulsa, 41-21 - Down 1
For the third consecutive week, the Boise State Broncos drop a spot in the rankings by no fault of their own, but simply by being jumped by another team on the strength of their victory. This week, that team was Alabama, but Boise State had an impressive performance of its own, with a complete dominance of Tulsa.
The final score does not reflect how dominant Boise State was; the Broncos held a 34-0 lead into the third quarter, and held the usually-prolific G.J. Kinne to just 123 passing yards and forced him to throw four interceptions.
5. Oklahoma State (4-0) - Win at Texas A&M, 30-29 - Up 2
The biggest matchup of Week 4 came between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas A&M, and the game certainly lived up to the hype. The Aggies held a 20-3 lead at the half, but in the second half, the Cowboys’ prolific offense caught fire, as the Cowboys scored 27 unanswered, led as always by Brandon Weeden, who threw for 438 yards on 47 completions, while receivers Josh Cooper and Justin Blackmon each caught 11 passes for 123 and 121 yards respectively.
The Aggies were able to bounce back to make it a one-point game, but that was not enough, and with a major victory over a team that had been ranked in the top 10, the Aggies earn a spot in the Top 5.
Wisconsin was dominant yet again, on both sides of the ball, against South Dakota.
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6. Stanford (3-0) - Idle - Down 1
The Stanford Cardinal have been dominant thus far this season, but did not play this past week, and dropped only because they do not have a victory of the same caliber as the teams ranked in the top five. But with Andrew Luck leading the way, they could be back there very soon.
7. Wisconsin (4-0) - Win vs South Dakota, 59-10 - Down 1
For the fourth straight week, the Wisconsin Badgers completely dominated a far inferior opponent, with South Dakota being this week’s victim. Through four weeks, the Badgers have a combined winning score of 194 to 34, an absolutely staggering margin of victory (40 points per game).
The only problem is, the Badgers have yet to be tested by an opponent of any caliber, but if they can keep it rolling with a victory in their next game against Nebraska, the Badgers should move up into the Top 5.
8. Florida (4-0) - Win at Kentucky, 48-10 - Up 1
In a loaded-as-always Southeastern Conference, the Florida Gators are a team not to sleep on. The Gators continued their terrific start to the season by completely dominating Kentucky in a 48-10 victory last week. The Gators put up a whopping 405 rushing yards on Kentucky’s defense, led by Jeff Demps’s 157 yards.
John Brantley has continued to be unspectacular thus far, and the Gators will need to get more out of him if they are to win against Alabama on Saturday. However, the Gators have looked good both offensively and defensively through the first four games of the Muschamp-Weis era in Gainesville, and have earned a high spot in the rankings for now.
9. South Carolina (4-0) - Win vs Vanderbilt, 21-3 - Up 1
Stephen Garcia had another poor performance throwing the ball with four interceptions, but the Gamecocks’ defense was absolutely dominant in this game. They held the Vanderbilt Commodores offense to just 77 total yards, including only four rushing yards! If the Gamecocks’ defense can continue to play that way, the Gamecocks will remain a top SEC contender.
10. South Florida (4-0) - Win vs UTEP, 52-24 - Up 1
To this point, the South Florida Bulls had been dominant. The Bulls put up 52 points and 373 rushing yards, and while UTEP may not be a tough opponent, those numbers are impressive against any team. With a consistently strong start over the first four weeks, the Bulls earned a place in the Top 10. (Note: This was written prior to the Bulls’ loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday night. Changes will be reflected in next week’s rankings.)
Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill, a huge factor in their win over North Carolina, in the midst of his 59-yard touchdown.
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11. Clemson (4-0) - Win vs Florida State, 35-30 - Up 9
Last week, the Clemson Tigers moved into the Top 25 on the strength of a major momentum-building victory as they handed the defending champion Auburn Tigers their first loss of the season. This week, the Tigers made a big leap up the rankings again, as they built off of their momentum and got a major win at home over Florida State.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd led the way with 344 yards and three touchdowns, of which 141 yards and two touchdowns were completed to Sammy Watkins. Following that big win, the Tigers now stand as the team to beat in the ACC.
12. Nebraska (4-0) - Win at Wyoming, 38-14 - Up 1
The Nebraska Cornhuskers won with ease at Wyoming, as they should have. The Cornhuskers have maintained an undefeated record thus far this season, but they have not exactly done so in impressive fashion. The Cornhuskers move up one spot off a solid victory in this ranking, but are going to have to step up their play to keep their undefeated season going in their upcoming game against Wisconsin.
13. Virginia Tech (4-0) - Win at Marshall, 30-10 - Up 1
Like Nebraska, Virginia Tech is another highly touted team who has gotten off to a 4-0 start, but are docked in the rankings because they have not looked overly impressive in getting to that start. But the Hokies took care of business against Marshall as they should have by holding the Thundering Herd rushing offense to only 6 yards, and if the Hokies can beat Clemson in their upcoming game, they can become the team to beat in the ACC once again.
14. Baylor (3-0) - Win vs Rice, 56-31 - Up 1
Robert Griffin tore up another opposing defense against Rice, completing an extraordinary 29 of his 33 passes for 338 yards and five touchdowns. After that performance, Griffin now has more touchdown passes than incompletions, an absolutely extraordinary statistic.
Griffin’s tremendous performance, which also included 51 rushing yards and another touchdown on the ground, led the way for a 56-point, 673-yard offensive day. If Griffin continues to perform at this level, the Bears will have a chance against any team.
15. Georgia Tech (4-0) - Win vs North Carolina, 35-28 - Up 4
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets had something to prove to the critics, that their touted triple option offense could continue to be productive as they got into tougher competition. The Yellow Jackets proved just that against North Carolina. The Tar Heels defense could have as many as three first-round picks in the 2012 NFL draft, but the Yellow Jackets’ running game still thrived, gaining 312 yards.
Additionally, the Yellow Jackets have a new dimension that they did not have last year: a passing offense. Stephen Hill has been tremendous this season, and he was superb in this game, with his highlights including a spectacular one-handed catch that topped SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays, along with a 59-yard touchdown. In a jumbled Atlantic Coast Conference, the Yellow Jackets are another team to watch out for.
On a 288-yard rushing night, Oregon running back LaMichael James was consistently running away from the Arizona defense.
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16. Texas A&M (2-1) - Loss vs Oklahoma State, 29-30 - Down 8
It is a tough eight-spot fall for the Texas A&M Aggies this week, after losing to a very good Oklahoma State team by only one point. However, while the Aggies are still one of the top teams in the Big 12, giving up 27 unanswered points in the second half is never a good sign for a football team, and that is what happened to the Aggies in this game.
The Aggies have another tough game upcoming against another top one-loss team, the Arkansas Razorbacks, so the Aggies will have to avoid a similar letdown or they will lose another game.
17. Oregon (3-1) - Win at Arizona, 56-31 - Down 1
It is seemingly unfair for the Oregon Ducks to drop a spot in this week’s rankings. Led by a tremendous 288-yard rushing performance from superstar back LaMichael James, the Ducks took care of business against Arizona, and are arguably the nation’s best one-loss team.
However, with two ACC teams in Clemson and Georgia Tech coming up with big enough wins to jump the Ducks as undefeated teams, the Ducks drop one spot. However, if their offense continues to perform at such a high level, the Ducks will be making a steady rise back up the rankings.
18. Arkansas (3-1) - Loss at Alabama, 14-38 - Down 6
Last week, I questioned how good Arkansas actually was, given that they had yet to play a legitimate opponent. Then the Razorbacks played Alabama, one of the nation’s elite teams, and got blown out. Because Alabama is so good, the Razorbacks can still prove themselves as a very good team if they can come back with a victory over Texas A&M this upcoming game.
However, there was little positive to take away from this past game; the Razorbacks only managed 17 rushing yards, and gave up both defensive and special teams touchdowns. They could be a step behind the sharp curve of the SEC, but they remain in the top 20 of the rankings for now.
19. Michigan (4-0) - Win vs San Diego State, 28-7 - Into Top 25
I had been reluctant to give gun-slinging Denard Robinson and the Michigan Wolverines much credit (I may be slightly biased in this regard as an Ohio State student), but they went a long way in proving themselves as a team with a dominant victory over San Diego State this past week.
Some may laugh at this assertion, but SDSU is not a team to be taken lightly: Ryan Lindley is one of the nation’s top quarterback prospect, Ronnie Hillman is a very good running back and the Aztecs have a talented team.
Thanks to Denard shredding their defense with 200 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, he was able to make up for only passing for 93 yards and throwing two interceptions, and the Wolverines took care of business. This was enough for the Wolverines to jump up into not only the Top 25 for the first time this year, but into the top 20 spots of the rankings.
20. Texas (3-0) - Idle - Up 3
Texas did not play this past week, but this worked out very kindly toward their ranking, due to four teams ranked ahead of them last week dropping below them or out of the rankings altogether after tough losses. The Longhorns get back to work in a tough road test at Iowa State this week, which will go a long way in stating how good Texas can actually be this year.
A win over Miami kept the Kansas State Wildcats undefeated, and earned them a spot in this week's Top 25.
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21. Houston (4-0) - Win at Georgia State, 56-0 - Up 3
Georgia State is a very new program that stood no chance against Case Keenum and the Houston offense, but even so, there is nothing to complain about when it comes to Houston’s performance in that game. The defense shut out the opposition, while the offense accounted for 732 yards, including 561 passing yards, 415 which came from the record-chasing arm of Keenum.
22. West Virginia (3-1) - Loss vs LSU, 21-47 - Down 5
It is hard to find much fault in West Virginia’s loss to LSU this past week. LSU has emerged as the best team in college football, and although the game was in Morgantown, beating the Tigers would have been a very tough task.
That being said, the Mountaineers did cut LSU’s lead to six points late in the third quarter, before LSU took away any momentum they had by responding with a kickoff return touchdown.The Mountaineers did give up way too many points to the Tigers, allowing 47, but this is a loss that will not look too bad on WVU’s resume if they perform well from here on out.
23. Illinois (4-0) - Win vs Western Michigan, 23-20 - Into Top 25
Illinois has done nothing to stand out to this point, and had a hard time putting away Western Michigan, but the Illini are undefeated, and have a win over Arizona State on their resume, so they are worthy of holding down one of the final spots in the Top 25.
24. Iowa State (3-0) - Idle - Up 1
The Iowa State Cyclones did not play this past week, and have been defined by winning games late in close situations in all of their first three games of the season. However, the Cyclones have a chance to make a really big statement if they can upset Texas in their upcoming matchup.
25. Kansas State (3-0) - Win at Miami, 28-24 - Into Top 25
After the Miami Hurricanes disgraced Ohio State the week before, the Kansas State Wildcats went into the same stadium where the Buckeyes fell and came away with a victory. John Hubert led the way by rushing for 166 yards. The Wildcats may not be a standout team, but this was certainly a massive victory to go to Miami and get the W.
Out of Top 25
Pushed into starting duty with E.J. Manuel injured, Florida State QB Clint Trickett was unable to lead the Seminoles to victory over Clemson.
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Florida State (Last Week - No. 18) - Loss at Clemson, 30-35
One week after going up against one of the nation’s top teams in Oklahoma, things did not get much easier this past week for Florida State. They had the tough task of playing a road game at “Death Valley” in Clemson, which was made even tougher by the fact that starting quarterback E.J. Manuel was unable to play due to a shoulder injury. That said, the Seminoles are currently 2-2, with their wins coming against Charleston Southern and Louisiana-Monroe, which leaves them far from being a Top 25 team.
USC (Last Week - No. 21) - Loss at Arizona State, 22-43
The USC Trojans had not been all too impressive in going undefeated their first three weeks, so it came as no major surprise when they suffered their first loss this past week at Arizona State. What made this loss even tougher was that the Trojans came back from a 21-6 deficit to take a 22-21 lead, but then proceeded to blow the game again by giving up three unanswered touchdowns.
Admittedly, quarterback Matt Barkley was not very impressive, throwing for two touchdowns. (For those who do not know, I have consistently raved for years about how good Barkley is going to be, but he has yet to show it at USC)
North Carolina (Last Week - No. 22) - Loss at Georgia Tech, 28-35
The Tar Heels were another team that had hovered in and out of the Top 25 over the first few weeks with unimpressive wins, but were knocked out after suffering their first loss of the season to Georgia Tech, their touted defense being unable to slow down Georgia Tech’s triple option running game.