It was advertised as must-see, the first meaningful—and potentially impactful—week of the youthful college football season. Oftentimes these instances provide more sizzle than steak, Week 6 was a glaring, glorious exception. It was madness. It was historic.
Take that AP Top 25 Poll from last week and toss it in the nearest wastebasket or fireplace. It will do you no good now. After 11 ranked teams (that's almost half) fell in one weekend, we'll have to go back to the drawing board.
It began with No. 2 Oregon on Thursday night. The Ducks, even as more than a three-touchdown favorite coming off a bye and playing at home, were unable to hold off Rich Rodriguez and the Arizona Wildcats.
Texas A&M, the nation’s No. 6 team heading into Week 6, fell to Mississippi State in Starkville, albeit as a slight underdog. And to ensure that the entire state of Mississippi had something to celebrate, Ole Miss took out Alabama—the No. 3 team—prompting a field takeover for the ages.
Just as the chaos of Oxford was setting in, TCU took out No. 4 Oklahoma following a blitz of touchdowns and turnovers. And, to cap off a day of carnage, Utah took down No. 8 UCLA on a missed last-second field goal.
The result is pure, unaltered chaos and the first major shakeup of a season that still has so much more to give. Given the scenario, it also makes the search for the nation’s No. 1 team a taxing task.
As for the unbeaten contenders worthy of consideration, let’s explore the options.
Until further notice, this is the No. 1 team. Florida State has acquired that label, and it didn't change on Saturday. Now, despite the label, the Seminoles haven’t looked the part of the nation’s top team for much of this season, although one of the alternatives to winning ugly is losing outright. (See: Above.)
Florida State started slow once again against Wake Forest—one of the country's most anemic offenses—but quickly pulled away after some initial struggles. The defense played its best game, albeit against a unit it should look good against, and the offense eventually picked up the pace.
But Jameis Winston, at least by the absurd standards he set last year, has struggled. The offensive line has had issues. The defense, at times, has looked vulnerable.
And yet, Florida State still has more overall talent than just about any other team. It simply comes down to putting it together. More importantly, it comes down to staying unbeaten, and the Seminoles have managed to do just that.
Until that changes, regardless of the style points attached, Florida State isn’t going anywhere.
It’s no longer just a really fast, talented offense. The Auburn defense has taken enormous strides in 2014, something that was evident in an ugly win against Kansas State earlier this year and on Saturday in a blowout win against LSU.
The Tigers, having put it in cruise control for much of the season, showed off their next level against Les Miles’ youth-infused group on Saturday night.
Quarterback Nick Marshall showed the full range of skills that make him (and this team) dangerous. With multiple touchdowns passing and rushing on Saturday, Marshall showcased his advanced versatility that will continue to keep defenses honest. He also has a lovely buffet of weapons around him.
If Marshall’s defense can come close to matching the production it has delivered early on, this team will be incredibly difficult to beat.
With many meaningful conference games on the horizon—including an enormous tussle against Mississippi State next week—Auburn will have ample opportunities to validate its inclusion in this discussion.
It’s time to start viewing Mississippi State as more than just a good story. And really, this conversation should have started before Week 6.
Following its dominating 48-31 victory over Texas A&M—and it wasn’t even that close—the Bulldogs have thrown their name in the ring when it comes to consideration for the top team in the country.
We don’t hand out October Heismans, thankfully, but you could make the argument that quarterback Dak Prescott would be your winner if the award was handed out Saturday. That’s a fancy way of highlighting his incredible production, and his five-touchdown game against A&M was an extension of what he’s done all season.
Add in running back Josh Robinson—maybe the nation’s most underrated back—and offensively this group has been sensational. With the defense playing the way it is, particularly up front, it’s hard to find any glaring holes with this roster.
With Auburn on deck, the celebration will be short. The Bulldogs, no longer content with a “nice” season, are on the verge of something far greater.
When you beat Alabama, you get noticed. That’s not the only reason why Ole Miss warrants your consideration as the nation’s top team, although it’s a fabulous place to start.
The Rebels’ 23-17 victory over the Crimson Tide was a good synopsis of what they’ve done all year. The defense might be the best in the country or, at the very least, one of the most athletic.
The offense, led by quarterback Bo Wallace, hasn’t been embraced quite the same way. After Wallace threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes on Saturday, however, that might change. Still, the reputation surrounding his inconsistent play will continue, even if he’s tired of hearing it, a sentiment echoed in his comments, courtesy of The Clarion-Ledger's Riley Blevins:
Like its in-state rival, Ole Miss won’t have to wait long to back up this talk. Hugh Freeze’s team will visit a hungry Texas A&M next week, as the SEC West gauntlet continues.
We’ve been waiting for Freeze’s recruiting success to develop into something more. With no ceiling in sight yet, it would appear that this time is now.
Other Teams to Consider
Baylor: The Bears offense was stagnant for much of the first half against the Texas Longhorns, although the defense stepped up and has been better than anticipated. With Oklahoma’s loss, Baylor is suddenly the favorite in the Big 12. There’s plenty of work to be done—including a road game against the Sooners along with a lively and alive TCU squad—although the Bears have done more than simply survive.
Notre Dame: At this point, perhaps it’s a stretch to anoint the Irish as the nation’s top team. And yet, Notre Dame’s victory against the Stanford Cardinal in brutal conditions highlighted the various ways this team can win. It’s so much more than quarterback Everett Golson; this defense has played fabulously thus far.
An Array of One-Loss Teams: We’re breaking the rules here, but it’s important we do so. Look at your calendar. It is early October. So much can and will happen over the next few months, which is something this sport has taught you time and time again.
A loss isn’t the end of the world, especially with the debut of a four-team playoff. While it can be an enormous, telling setback, the beauty of it all is the finish line is still nowhere in sight.
Given the limited sample size that suddenly seems exponentially larger, give me Auburn as the nation’s No. 1 team after six weeks of college football.
The programs listed above—as well as others not mentioned—could all make strong cases as the top team in the country. With Auburn becoming more balanced each week, however, I’ll give the Tigers a slight edge at the moment.
But, as chaos looms, we’ll see how long this lasts.