NCAA Football Rankings 2016: Hits and Misses from Week 2
College football both promised and delivered the most exciting opening week in the history of the sport, resulting in tumultuous changes in both the USA Today Amway Coaches Poll and the Associated Press Top 25 published Tuesday afternoon.
Most of the movement in those polls was understandable. Florida State, Georgia, Houston and Wisconsin each jumped up following neutral-site victories over previously ranked teams—each of which fell multiple spots for dropping their respective openers. And fans in Texas are no doubt pleased with the voters, as the state is currently responsible for 20 percent of the ranked teams: Houston, Texas, TCU, Texas A&M and Baylor.
But in addition to those hits, there were several misses.
Why did Tennessee drop several spots following a win? How is Alabama not the unanimous No. 1 team in either poll? And what's up with Oklahoma plummeting double-digit spots following what was effectively a road loss to a now-top 10 team?
Read on for the rest of the hits and misses from the first in-season college football polls of 2016.
Hit: LSU Plummets
USA Today Amway Coaches Poll: No. 22 (previously No. 6)
Associated Press Top 25: No. 21 (previously No. 5)
Week 1 Result: 16-14 loss to Wisconsin
Save for USC running into the wood chipper that is Alabama, no team that was ranked in the preseason had a less inspiring Week 1 performance than LSU.
To be fair, Wisconsin is far better than the average unranked foe. The Badgers entered the season at No. 27 in the Coaches Poll and No. 32 in the AP Top 25. And the showdown at Lambeau Field was effectively a road game for the Tigers. Though LSU was favored by a double-digit margin, according to Odds Shark, the loss itself wasn't that surprising.
It was how hopelessly lost LSU looked on offense that necessitated the tumble in both polls.
The light came on for a few minutes in the third quarter, but it disappeared as quickly as it arrived, thanks in large part to the offensive line reverting to looking like Swiss cheese. Just about the only good hit a Tigers lineman got on a defender in the fourth quarter was the one by Josh Boutte that led to his ejection and a one-game suspension.
That hit came after the game-sealing interception on a pass that junior QB Brandon Harris never should have considered throwing. No one other than Fournette should have been attempting to move the ball with only a few yards separating LSU from game-winning field-goal range. Instead, Les Miles put the fate of the game—and quite possibly LSU's spot in the College Football Playoff—in the hands of a QB who ended the day with a 6.9 QBR, according to ESPN.
"Harris' struggles on Saturday go beyond accuracy," wrote Ross Dellenger of The Advocate. "A handful of times, the junior could have audibled at the line of scrimmage if he were to have recognized a blitz and a couple of times he showed little poise in the pocket."
Harris had better figure things out in a hurry during these next two home games against Jacksonville State and Mississippi State or else that road game against Auburn on Sept. 24 will end LSU's season before it had a chance to begin.
Miss: Tennessee Drops Following Win
USA Today Amway Coaches Poll: No. 14 (previously No. 10)
Associated Press Top 25: No. 17 (previously No. 9)
Week 1 Result: 20-13 win over Appalachian State
In terms of poor Week 1 performances, Tennessee wasn't far behind LSU.
Through the first 40 minutes, the Volunteers had committed nearly as many turnovers (two) as points scored (three). Senior QB Joshua Dobbs entered the fourth quarter with just 102 passing yards while Tennessee's total yards from scrimmage was less than 200.
But the voters do realize that Tennessee beat Appalachian State, right? Because when they submitted their ballots, it certainly seems like they forgot what the final score was way back on Thursday night.
It was an ugly win, sure, but the Mountaineers ranked 11th in the nation in yards allowed per game last season with 314.5, according to CFBStats.com. They only allowed 19.1 points per game while compiling an 11-2 record. Anyone expecting Tennessee's offense to come out and slice through Appalachian State's defense like a hot knife through butter clearly didn't pay much attention to the Mountaineers last year.
That isn't to say the Volunteers deserve to go unpunished for barely eking out a home win over a team they were supposed to beat by three touchdowns, according to Odds Sharks, but let's make sure the punishment fits the crime. Losing nearly 44 percent of total votes (from 1,021 to 573) in the AP poll following a win is ridiculous, particularly when you consider the more fair treatment that TCU received for its close call...
Hit: TCU Slips Slightly
USA Today Amway Coaches Poll: No. 12 (previously No. 14)
Associated Press Top 25: No. 15 (previously No. 13)
Week 1 Result: 59-41 win over South Dakota State
While LSU and Tennessee struggled on offense, TCU's defense was an outright disaster against a FCS squad that averaged just 28.4 points per game last season.
South Dakota State led the Horned Frogs 17-7 early in the second quarter before an 81-yard punt return and a SDSU fumble in the span of 41 seconds that snapped TCU's offense out of its slumber. It would score on seven of its next eight possessions to finish the game with 59 points.
But it's the 41 points the Jackrabbits scored that are troublesome.
SDSU's Sophomore QB Taryn Christion tore up TCU's secondary, throwing for 333 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a rushing TD to boot. TCU's rush defense was a bit more effective, though it did allow Isaac Wallace to break free for an 87-yard run as part of a four-play (all rushes), 99-yard touchdown drive for the Jackrabbits.
To be sure, it wasn't high expectations for the defense that made TCU one of the top preseason candidates to win the Big 12, considering the Horned Frogs gave up more than 27 points per game last year. Still, giving up that many points to a FCS offense wasn't a promising start.
According to Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, TCU head coach Gary Patterson said Tuesday that the team must improve on defense "If we want to win more games than we lose."
Though they did move up slightly in the Coaches Poll, it was only due to the number of losses suffered by teams previously ranked ahead of them. The Horned Frogs were leapfrogged by Iowa, Georgia and Washington and went from 19 votes behind Houston to 494 votes behind the Cougars.
Miss: Alabama Not Unanimous No. 1
USA Today Amway Coaches Poll: No. 1 with 62 out of 64 first-place votes (previously No. 1 with 55 first-place votes)
Associated Press Top 25: No. 1 with 54 out of 61 first-place votes (previously No. 1 with 33 first-place votes)
Week 1 Result: 52-6 win over USC
The AP voters who proclaimed their ballots on Twitter typically did so with an asterisk.
"I submit a preseason Top 25 because I'm asked to, but it really doesn't mean much," wrote Chris Murray of the Reno-Gazette Journal. "My vote is purely off results, so I usually have some wild swings in the first couple of weeks as things get calibrated."
"Typically, a ballot's greatest fluctuation occurs between Week 1 (when we're saddled with so many unknowns) and Week 2 (when we know a bit more)," wrote Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times. "On this particular ballot, that's no exception."
It's the right approach to take. We learned more about these teams in the past six days than we did in the previous six months, so it only makes sense to set the preseason ballots ablaze and start over from scratch.
Using that idea as a guide following Alabama's 52-6 destruction of USC, AP voter Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman posted the best (obviously fake) ballot on Twitter, ranking the Crimson Tide No. 1, followed by "Doesn't matter," "Who cares," "Some Other Team," and "Everybody else."
How anyone could watch that game and not come to the conclusion that Alabama is clearly the best team in the country is a conundrum—especially with No. 2 Clemson barely hanging on to beat Auburn, No. 3 Oklahoma losing to Houston and No. 4 Florida State needing one heck of a second-half comeback to beat Ole Miss.
And yet, two of the voters in the Coaches Poll and a staggering 11.5 percent of the AP voters managed to fill out a ballot that didn't begin with the Crimson Tide at No. 1.
In the end, it doesn't matter in the slightest. Alabama is the consensus top team with three months remaining until any sort of voting process that counts for something real. Perhaps those rogue voters are just waiting to make sure Alabama wins at Ole Miss on Sept. 17 before deviating from their preseason convictions.
Hit: Three New Additions
USA Today Amway Coaches Poll: Wisconsin No. 16, Texas No. 20, Texas A&M No. 24
Associated Press Top 25: Wisconsin No. 10, Texas No. 11, Texas A&M No. 20
Normally, there aren't a ton of newly ranked teams following the opening week of the season, because there isn't typically a buffet of high-profile games.
Two years ago, the only swap in the AP poll was No. 25 Washington dropping out after a close call against Hawaii. The year before that, Boise State and Oregon State fell out after suffering upset losses. In both years, those changes were because the formerly ranked team squandered its opportunity.
This year, they're because the formerly unranked teams made the most of their chances, as Wisconsin, Texas and Texas A&M each knocked off a ranked opponent.
Texas made the biggest statement in scoring 50 points in its win over Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish were supposed to be the ones platooning two quality QBs. Instead, it was the Longhorns who got three touchdowns from each guy they put under center. Tyrone Swoopes had three rushing touchdowns—including the game-winner in overtime—while Shane Buechele threw for two and ran for another. Defense and special teams left something to be desired, but that offense should be a major factor for what is now the highest-ranked Big 12 team in the AP poll.
Wisconsin was equally impressive in shutting down LSU for a 16-14 win, catapulting from just outside the preseason rankings all the way up to No. 10 in the AP poll. The offense needs some serious fine-tuning before the Badgers go through the gauntlet of at Michigan State, at Michigan, vs. Ohio State and at Iowa, but they should enter that slate as a top-10 team, as long as they don't slip up against Akron or Georgia State in the next two weeks.
Texas A&M also had a great showing against UCLA. Despite fumbling on the opening drive and missing a field goal midway through the first quarter, the Aggies led 24-9 after three quarters before needing an overtime period to emerge with the 31-24 victory. Their passing defense—which ranked fourth in the nation in yards allowed per game last season, according to CFBStats.com—gave UCLA's Josh Rosen fits en route to three interceptions and a 19.4 QBR, according to ESPN.
These teams were undervalued in the preseason, but now we (and the voters) know they mean business.
Miss: Oklahoma Drops 10+ Spots
USA Today Amway Coaches Poll: No. 13 (previously No. 3)
Associated Press Top 25: No. 14 (previously No. 3)
Week 1 Result: 33-23 loss to Houston
The first 15 minutes and 15 seconds of the second half of Oklahoma's season-opener against Houston will almost certainly go down as its worst stretch of the entire season.
The Cougars scored on each of their five possessions in the first half (four field goals and a touchdown) to enter the intermission with a 19-17 lead. They also got the ball to start the second half, which is when the Sooner defense finally figured out how to stifle Greg Ward Jr., forcing a three-and-out with a sack on third and long.
This was Oklahoma's chance to storm back ahead, asserting its dominance as the Power 5 team that's supposed to partake in the College Football Playoff. Instead, it was the beginning of the nightmare.
The Sooners put together a solid drive before attempting a 53-yard field goal that resulted in a touchdown return for Houston. On the subsequent drive, Jarvis Baxter fumbled on the second play, giving the ball back to Houston. They would add another TD 12 plays later. The Sooners turned it over once again on the following drive when Baker Mayfield fumbled on a sack in Houston territory.
Within nine minutes of a kick that would have given them a 20-19 lead, the Sooners were down 33-17 and didn't have the ball. It was a rough sequence, to say the least.
But the final margin was just 10 points. All other things being equal, the fluky 10-point swing on that long field-goal attempt was the only difference in the "neutral-site" game played in Houston's NRG Stadium. Oklahoma deserved to drop a few spots for the loss. But falling from No. 3 to outside the top 10 in both polls? That seems a little harsh.
Follow Kerry Miller on Twitter @kerrancejames.