NCAA Football Rankings: Complete Week 7 Polls and Teams to Watch

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistOctober 13, 2015

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan gets set to pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Stanford, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Los Angeles. Stanford won 41-31. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The college football world is anxiously awaiting the release of the initial College Football Playoff rankings scheduled for Nov. 3, but the Week 7 polls give a snapshot into the postseason picture.

Undefeated power conference teams are in the driver’s seat for playoff positioning, and championship contenders are gradually emerging. There are also a couple of unheralded schools lurking near the bottom of the Top 25 ready to snag a New Year’s Six bowl spot with a late-season charge.

With that in mind, here is a look at the complete Week 7 polls and some teams to watch moving forward.

Teams to Watch

Houston (No. 24 in Associated Press Poll)

Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

Get used to the Houston Cougars because they aren’t going anywhere this season now that they've cracked the Top 25.

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Houston is a perfect 5-0 and counts a victory on the road over the ACC’s Louisville on its resume. Every other win has been in blowout fashion, with the closest margin being 14 points.

Head coach Tom Herman deserves plenty of credit for the unblemished start. He served as the offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and play-caller for Ohio State the past three years and worked wonders with signal-callers Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones.

In fact, Miller won the Big Ten Player of the Year twice under Herman’s tutelage, Barrett was a Heisman Trophy contender last season until he broke his ankle and Jones led the Buckeyes to the national title with breakthrough performances against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon. As a result, Herman took home the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach and was offered the Houston position.

Now he has quarterback Greg Ward Jr. leading the Cougars into the national discussion.

Ward Jr. has been a magician in the early season with 1,302 passing yards and eight touchdown tosses to only one interception. Despite the impressive passing totals, he has proven just as dangerous with his legs behind 554 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Ward Jr. is third in the nation behind only Leonard Fournette and Jeremy McNichols in rushing touchdowns. 

Bryan Fischer and Ben Axelrod of Bleacher Report discussed Herman’s impact on Ward Jr. this season:

Bryan Fischer @BryanDFischer

The Tom Herman effect: Greg Ward is 2nd in the country in completion percentage, up over 5% from last year and has upped ypa significantly

Ben Axelrod @BenAxelrod

Urban Meyer and Tom Herman might be having a reunion in New York this December thanks to Ezekiel Elliott and Greg Ward Jr.

Houston is sixth in the nation in points per game at 46.4 and should keep lighting up the scoreboard on the way to potential consideration for a New Year’s Six bowl game.

At first glance, Houston’s schedule doesn’t look particularly daunting, but there are still games against Vanderbilt, Cincinnati and Memphis that will prove difficult. The Commodores are an SEC team that held Ole Miss’ explosive offense to 27 points and three-of-13 on third-down conversions. If the Cougars put up crooked numbers against that Vanderbilt defense, it will make a national statement. 

Winning contests like that is how non-power conference teams climb the polls.

Stanford (No. 15 in Associated Press Poll, No. 16 in Coaches Poll)

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 03:  Kevin Hogan #8 of the Stanford Cardinal scrambles with the ball for a first down against the Arizona Wildcats in the first quarter of a NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Palo Alto, California.  (Phot
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Stanford lost a stunner in its season opener to Northwestern to the tune of 16-6. Many wrote the Cardinal off because the Wildcats are not exactly in Ohio State’s or Alabama’s echelon in terms of the historic college football pecking order.

However, Northwestern finds itself ranked as well with only one loss to a dangerous Michigan team, so that early defeat doesn’t look as bad in hindsight.

All Stanford has done since is rack up four straight wins, including a 41-31 victory over USC and a 55-17 destruction of Arizona.

The ability to win with offense was on full display in those two games, which was encouraging for the Cardinal after they only scored six points in the Northwestern contest. The defense also did its part against Arizona and held the Wildcats to 314 yards and 17 points, seven of which came late in the third quarter well after the game was in hand.

Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan discussed his team’s ascension after the USC win, per ESPN.com: "I think a lot of people underestimated us as a team. We gave them that ability after our loss in Week 1, but we're going to get better every week. We're already talking about next week."

Hogan has been brilliant since his struggles against Northwestern, which is one reason Stanford is back in the national discussion. He had nine touchdown passes and only one interception in his last four outings and carried the offense against the Trojans with 279 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Contests against UCLA, Washington, California and Notre Dame all figure to challenge Stanford, but all four games are also at home. An upcoming Oregon showdown is at home as well, and the Ducks have looked completely lost on the way to a 3-3 start.

With Oregon’s struggles and a number of home contests remaining, Stanford appears to be the leading candidate to represent the Pac-12 North in the conference title game. The Pac-12 champion is likely to contend for a College Football Playoff spot as well thanks to the conference’s top-to-bottom strength. 

By then, Stanford’s initial loss to Northwestern will be ancient history.

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