The margin between Ohio State and Michigan State for the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press poll is only 85 points. In the Amway poll, it's exactly 100. If the Buckeyes don't start winning in more convincing fashion, the reigning national champions may not be on top for long, even if their undefeated record remains intact.
Of course, part of OSU's problem is a cupcake schedule. Eventually coach Urban Meyer's powerhouse will square off with the Spartans in late November. The key is to avoid the pitfalls and trap games before then.
Now that the Michigan Wolverines are in the Top 25 too, the regular-season finale road trip to Ann Arbor doesn't look like too much fun, either. For all the attention the SEC deservedly gets as the most reputable conference in the nation, be sure to keep an eye on what happens in Big Ten country.
Below is a final NCAA overview of the Week 5 standings. The subsequent analysis outlines more of what's going on in the other power conferences.
|Week 5 AP, Amway Polls|
|AP Rank||Team||Amway Rank||Team|
|1||Ohio State||1||Ohio State|
|2||Michigan State||2||Michigan State|
|21||Mississippi State||21||West Virginia|
|Source: AP.org; USAToday.com|
Week 5 Rankings Analysis and Outlook
Let's just start off by mentioning how much of a beast Leonard Fournette has been for LSU.
Fournette's brilliance has offset the fact that longtime defensive coordinator John Chavis fled Baton Rouge for SEC rival Texas A&M prior to the 2015 campaign. Tigers quarterback Brandon Harris is quite limited as a passer for now—let's cut him some slack, though, as he's 19 years old—yet it doesn't matter. ESPN Stats & Info best illustrates why:
It can't be overstated how valuable Fournette is to the LSU program at present. Fans can rejoice too, because as the current rules stand, he has to return to the team for at least another year before jumping to the NFL.
The pro game may be a considerable distance down the road, but Fournette is ready to play on Sundays today. It's showing as he steamrolls the competition, which will continue when he slices through Eastern Michigan's defense this Saturday.
If he keeps running like he is, don't be surprised to see Fournette will LSU into the College Football Playoff when the dust settles.
But for now, the best team in the SEC is Ole Miss, according to the rankings. On the strength of a prior victory over Alabama, the Rebels continue to roll thanks to a defense led by freakish lineman Robert Nkemdiche and a steady signal-caller in Chad Kelly.
ESPN's Todd McShay applauded Nkemdiche's role in the triumph over the Crimson Tide that's boosted Ole Miss to No. 3 in the AP poll ahead of Saturday's showdown with Florida:
Speaking of Alabama, coach Nick Saban has a tough test on his hands in Athens against the Georgia Bulldogs, who filed their own sensational ball-carrier in Nick Chubb.
"Chubb is very strong, physical, fast, explosive. He's got power. He is a complete back in every sense of the word. ... This guy is by far the best back we've played against all year long," Saban said, per ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough.
Following the likes of top-10 NFL draft pick Todd Gurley in the Bulldogs backfield is no easy task. That's why Chubb has been so impressive to date, racking up a ridiculous 599 yards on only 74 carries and six touchdowns to put Georgia firmly in the CFP picture for the time being.
Alabama's reputable offensive line blocks for a strapping back in Derrick Henry, who's also among the best in the land at what he does. Henry and Co. have their work cut out against a solid Georgia defense, though the Crimson Tide present a great impediment to Chubb, having conceded only 1.97 yards per carry, per NCAA.com.
Another ranked battle in the SEC takes place Saturday when Mississippi State travels to College Station to take on Texas A&M. Chavis shut down many a dual-threat QB in his LSU heyday and will have the task of neutralizing Mississippi State star Dak Prescott—enough to make that a contest worth watching.
To peel off the SEC for a moment, the other highly ranked matchup pits Notre Dame on the road against Clemson. Resilient as the Fighting Irish have been in persevering and winning in spite of numerous injuries, this is their toughest challenge yet as they enter Death Valley.
ESPN CollegeFootball highlighted how something has to give in one key area:
Frankly, it would be a surprise to see Notre Dame emerge victorious against one of the ACC's two main contenders. Yours truly believes the Clemson defense will deny Irish deep threat Will Fuller and force DeShone Kizer into a critical error in a hostile environment.
The other marquee ACC team is Florida State, led by Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson at quarterback. Golson has yet to throw an interception this season and has explosive running back Dalvin Cook to lean on for supple balance on offense. The Seminoles secondary features top NFL prospect Jalen Ramsey as well to stymie the opposition's passing attack.
Running backs have been dismissed by the NFL in recent years, but this could well be a golden age at the position. Cook, Fournette, Chubb, Henry and Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott are the driving forces behind many of college football's best teams.
It will be interesting to see how that crop of elite talent impacts the future of the position in the next few years—and how it will ultimately shape the College Football Playoff in its second iteration.