College Football Rankings 2018: Bleacher Report's Week 4 Top 25

Ian Wharton@NFLFilmStudyFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 16, 2018

College Football Rankings 2018: Bleacher Report's Week 4 Top 25

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    David K Purdy/Getty Images

    The third full week of college football delivered. With the Top 25 engaged in ranked showdowns, we saw close finishes and upsets throughout the day.

    Top 10 teams Wisconsin and Auburn faltered in the second halves of their games, succumbing to limited offenses that were concerns for each entering the year. Both must go perfect the rest of the season and still may need some luck to reach the College Football Playoff.

    Meanwhile, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Washington won closer-than-you'd-like games.

    LSU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, meanwhile, made statements. LSU's ascent is particularly notable considering its starting spot in the preseason, while Oklahoma and Oklahoma State continue to be offensive powers in the Big 12.

    Bleacher Report's panel of experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—voted on the action. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.

    Here is our Week 4 poll:

    1. Alabama (last week: 1)

    2. Georgia (2)

    3. Clemson (3)

    4. Ohio State (4)

    5. Oklahoma (5)

    6. LSU (12)

    7. Washington (8)

    8. Stanford (9)

    9. West Virginia (10)

    10. Auburn (6)

    11. Penn State (14)

    12. Notre Dame (11)

    13. Mississippi State (13)

    14. Virginia Tech (16)

    15. UCF (17)

    16. Oregon (18)

    17. TCU (15)

    18. Wisconsin (7)

    19. Oklahoma State (NR)

    20. Michigan (20)

    21. Texas A&M (21)

    22. Boston College (23)

    23. Miami (22)

    24. Boise State (19)

    25. Iowa (NR)

    Others receiving votes: Houston, Syracuse, Duke, Michigan State, Missouri

Who's Hot: The Big 12

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    Brett Deering/Getty Images

    There wasn't a more impressive collection of performances than what the Big 12 had Saturday, as the conference nearly went perfect. Oklahoma overcame Iowa State, while Oklahoma State asserted itself as a contender with a blowout of Boise State.

    Tom Herman's Texas Longhorns finally had a signature game go their way as well, blowing out USC 37-14. Both the Longhorns and Cowboys appeared vastly more talented and better coached in all phases of the game.

    Even Kansas got in on the fun, blowing out Rutgers 55-14. The Jayhawks have an offensive star for the first time in years with running back Pooka Williams Jr., who bulldozed his way to 158 yards.

    The showdown of Texas Tech and Houston brought as many fireworks as expected, and the Red Raiders prevailed 63-49. The win was huge for Kliff Kingsbury's Red Raiders, and freshman quarterback Alan Bowman had an incredible 605 passing yards.

    (Check out a record-breaking highlight here.)

    While TCU couldn't withstand Ohio State's star-studded defensive effort, the Horned Frogs lost no respect in their 40-28 defeat. Gary Patterson's team played as fast as possible and nearly pulled off the upset, tallying 511 yards on Ohio State's talented defense. But three turnovers proved fatal.

    All in all, the Big 12 proved itself beyond the Sooners, and that helps boost the profile of whoever wins this conference.

Who's Not: Second-Tier Contenders

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Wisconsin and Auburn lost in surprising upsets this week, but they weren't the only ones who lost stock. Notre Dame barely held on against Vanderbilt and made Kyle Shurmur look like one of the top passers in the country. And Stanford could barely get out of second gear against UC Davis without Bryce Love.

    For Wisconsin, it was the first regular-season loss since October 2016. The Badgers' run under Paul Chryst has been wildly successful, but this loss may knock them out of the CFP picture.

    The same goes for Auburn, which couldn't get it done in crunch time. The Tigers offense nearly endured against LSU's onslaught of speed, but Jarrett Stidham's lack of reliability and dynamic playmaking showed as the game progressed. Gus Malzahn should be kicking himself for not putting more on Stidham's plate so he could overcome shortcomings around him.

    (Check out the game-winner here.)

    Notre Dame and Stanford will collide in two weeks. Stanford must play a tough Oregon team on the road first, and Notre Dame will be tested by Wake Forest. Each has an unreliable offense and is vulnerable.

Fun Fact: The Oklahoma Offense Hasn't Skipped a Beat

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    Matthew Putney/Associated Press

    Three games into the Kyler Murray era, the Sooners haven't dropped off one bit from Baker Mayfield. They exacted revenge on Iowa State from last year as they fended off Matt Campbell's Cyclones on the road with a 37-27 victory.

    Lincoln Riley's plethora of playmakers and explosive options continue to overwhelm foes despite losing one of the most prolific passers in history. Murray has been great in Riley's scheme, blending his out-of-pocket athleticism with consistent accuracy.

    Even with running back Rodney Anderson out for the season, the Sooners have been feasting with the dynamic receiving duo of Ceedee Lamb and Marquise "Hollywood" Brown. Lamb and Brown can lap defenses with their blazing speed, and it opens up single coverage for tight ends and backs underneath.

    (Check out a 75-yard play here.)

    The offensive ecosystem that Riley has replicated with Murray speaks to the talent of the staff and individual players. It's not just the system making the players perform at such a high level, but it does maximize their skill sets and the margin for error as it stretches defenses past their capabilities.

    Murray blasted the Cyclones for 348 passing yards, 77 rushing yards and three touchdowns. While the defense continues to struggle slowing opponents, it's not going to matter in most games because the offensive firepower is as potent as any team's offense in the nation.

What to Watch For: Top 25 Upset Alerts

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Florida Atlantic at Central Florida (Friday at 7 p.m. ET)

    We'll be treated to an offensive showdown here as Lane Kiffin's Owls face Josh Heupel's Golden Knights. The Owls may not have enough depth to upset UCF, but quarterback Chris Robison and running back Devin Singletary are capable of making this a game worth watching. Plus, Mckenzie Milton may be the best quarterback in the nation, so at least this game will be entertaining.


    Notre Dame at Wake Forest (Saturday at noon)

    As well as the Notre Dame defense has played this season, suffocating each offense, the Fighting Irish offense has yet to unlock an identity. The passing game is limited with Brandon Wimbush's inconsistency, and Wake Forest can create pressure on him this week. The Demon Deacons are coming off a Thursday night loss against a good Boston College team but will force a tight game here.


    Texas A&M at Alabama (Saturday at 3:30 p.m.)

    The Aggies pushed Clemson to the brink two weeks ago. Alabama is better than the Tigers, but Jimbo Fisher has a quarterback who fits the mold that's needed to beat Nick Saban. Kellen Mond is an adept runner and has improved his passing to the point where he's a dual-threat. This upset would be huge, and there's at least a small chance.


    Mississippi State at Kentucky (Saturday at 7 p.m.)

    Now at 3-0, it's time to pay attention to Kentucky and how much noise it can make in the SEC. Led by Heisman Trophy contender running back Benny Snell Jr., the Wildcats are tough-nosed on both sides of the ball and can play keep-away to shorten games. The Wildcats will have to be sharp again this week as the Mississippi State Bulldogs come to Kroger Field. The Bulldogs have good athletes all over the field and will stack the box to stop Snell. We'll see an upset if they can't contain him.


    Stanford at Oregon (Saturday at 8 p.m.)

    Week 4 was a slog for the Bryce Love-less Stanford offense. Traveling to Eugene won't be easy, as the Ducks have been able to blow out each foe so far. This will also be the first quality team Oregon will face, so this one will have an adjustment period for both teams. If Love comes back, the Cardinal will have much better odds. But if his undisclosed injury keeps him out, then K.J. Costello and the rest of the offense may have too much on their plates.


    Arizona State at Washington (Saturday at 10:30 p.m.)

    Unfortunately for this game, Herm Edwards' Sun Devils slipped out of the Top 25 as they lost to San Diego State. But this will still be one to watch. Arizona State doesn't have the pure talent to overwhelm Washington, but the Sun Devils are gritty and can make life frustrating for the deeper Huskies.