NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Latest Polls, Underrated Teams Poised to Climb

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2015

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh leads his players out of the Michigan Stadium tunnel to run on the field before an NCAA college football game against BYU in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
Tony Ding/Associated Press

Week 4 of the college football season didn’t look like much on paper. There were obvious mismatches, a dearth of games between ranked teams outside of the Pac-12 and plenty of last-minute cupcakes before conference season was in full swing.

Naturally, college football shattered expectations.

TCU needed a tipped-pass miracle to escape Texas Tech with a 55-52 victory, Ole Miss was challenged by hapless Vanderbilt, Kentucky stunned defending SEC East champion Missouri and the Pac-12 delivered three landscape-altering blowouts in the conference race.

USC eviscerated Arizona State, UCLA ran all over Arizona and Utah essentially ended Oregon’s College Football Playoff hopes with a 62-20 beatdown that left many wondering if the Ducks’ magic from the past few years had officially run out.

As a result, there were a number of changes in the Associated Press and Amway Coaches Poll. Here is a look at the complete rankings, as well as a couple of underrated teams that will climb in the coming weeks.

Latest Associated Press, Amway College Football Rankings
AP RankTeamAmway RankTeam
1Ohio State1Ohio State
2Michigan State2Michigan State
3Ole Miss3TCU
5Baylor5Ole Miss
6Notre Dame6Georgia
7UCLA7Notre Dame
9LSU9Florida State
11Florida State11Clemson
14Texas A&M14Oklahoma
15Oklahoma15Texas A&M
19Wisconsin19Oklahoma State
20Oklahoma State20Stanford
21Mississippi State21West Virginia
22Michigan22Mississippi State
23West Virginia23Florida
AP.org, USAToday.com

Teams Poised to Climb in Polls

Utah Utes (No. 10 in Associated Press, No. 12 in Coaches)

Most of the attention focused on the Ducks after their 62-20 loss at the hands of Utah. That made sense considering Oregon played in the national title game last season and looked thoroughly outclassed on its home field Saturday, but don’t overlook Utah’s role in that blowout.

The contest was never in doubt, and the Utes never let Oregon’s dynamic offense score more than seven points in an individual quarter. Utah’s defense avoided the onslaught of game-breaking plays that the Ducks so often use to demoralize opponents and forced three turnovers in the process.

Quarterback Travis Wilson threw four touchdowns and added 100 rushing yards and another score on the ground. Devontae Booker tallied 98 rushing yards, and Utah simply imposed its will on both sides of the ball. It mixed in trick plays, timely turnovers and game-breaking special teams swings and had the Oregon fans heading for the exits well before the final whistle.

Utah has already beaten Michigan as well, which looks much better now after the Wolverines destroyed Oregon State and BYU.

The combination of a strong defense and a star running back in Booker, who ran for 1,512 yards last year, will carry the Utes all season. There were some quarterback questions heading into Saturday’s game, but Wilson dictated the tempo and was the star, even with a shoulder injury.

Clay Travis of Fox Sports believes Utah should be ranked higher than the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans in the Associated Press Poll following Saturday’s action:

I'm not going to focus on the coaches poll, because it's always a joke, but let's just use the AP Poll. Here's the most glaring flaw: Michigan State is presently ranked second in the country, and Utah is tenth. Michigan State owes its high ranking to the fact that it beat Oregon at home by three points. Utah just beat Oregon by 42 on the road. Oh, and Utah also beat Michigan, a team that is now ranked 22nd in the country. Michigan State has beaten Western Michigan, Air Force and Central Michigan, none of those teams in a dominant fashion.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports had Utah as the No. 1 squad in his four playoff picks and said “no team has a more impressive resume than the Utes.”

If the Utes perform like they did against Oregon in the coming games, they will shoot up the rankings. They get an undefeated California team at home next week and then an Arizona State squad that was exposed as overrated for the second time this year during its loss on Saturday. 

Ryan Kang/Associated Press

Then comes the Oct. 24 date at USC. The Trojans looked like world-beaters Saturday against Arizona State, but they were also already physically beat up by Stanford this season and will be coming off a showdown with Notre Dame the week before the Utah contest. 

The Utes’ physicality could be enough to clinch the critical victory and climb into the playoff discussion for good.

Michigan Wolverines (No. 22 in Associated Press, Unranked in Coaches)

Perhaps the Big Ten isn’t just Ohio State and Michigan State after all.

The return of Jim Harbaugh brought plenty of buzz to Ann Arbor and for good reason. Michigan was a dormant college football super power in need of energy and a boost, and the former quarterback and NFC champion coach was just the man to provide it. Now, Derek Jeter is on the sidelines, the Jordan Brand is sponsoring the Wolverines, and there is a legitimate future in place.

The Wolverines beat BYU Saturday to the tune of 31-0, which pairs nicely with their earlier 35-7 victory over Oregon State.

A stifling defense held BYU to 105 total yards and dominated the point of attack, and the running game racked up 254 yards, 125 of which came from De’Veon Smith, who now has 331 on the season.

Michigan's lone loss to Utah certainly looks a lot better after the Utes destroyed Oregon. In fact, Michigan only lost by seven points on the road against a Utes team that could be the best in the Pac-12 by season’s end (if they aren’t already).

There is clear excitement in Ann Arbor, although senior defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow put things in perspective, per Brian Bennett of ESPN.com: “I think we’re close. But you can’t think you've made it, because we haven’t. This is just one performance. We can’t think that just because we beat a ranked team that we’re one of the best teams in the Big Ten yet. We still have to work at it.”

That work will come against Maryland in the next contest that figures to be an easy win considering the Terrapins just lost 45-6 to West Virginia and dropped an earlier game to Bowling Green.

The Wolverines then get a home contest against nationally ranked Northwestern before their home showdown with bitter rivals Michigan State. Harbaugh’s team may be a year away from truly challenging the Spartans, but two wins in the games leading up to that will put the Wolverines in top-15 range.

That would put Michigan firmly back in the national spotlight for its clash with Michigan State.


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