NCAA Football 2018 Rankings: Brigham Young Bringing the Noise

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 16, 2018

NCAA Football 2018 Rankings: Brigham Young Bringing the Noise

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    BYUMorry Gash/Associated Press

    After a rather tame first two weeks of the 2018 college football season, Brigham Young shocked the world with a 24-21 upset of No. 6 Wisconsin. Not only did the loss send the Badgers tumbling 12 spots to No. 18, but the marquee win was enough for the Cougars to make their debut in the latest AP Top 25 at No. 25.

    Thanks to Squally Canada's 10.7 yards per carry and two rushing touchdowns, BYU will enter Week 4 as a ranked team for the first time since September 2015.

    Considering the Cougars are about to play a home game against McNeese State, there's a good chance they'll still be ranked for the subsequent game against No. 10 Washington.

    Could BYU deliver another seismic September blow to the rankings and the College Football Playoff projections?

    Elsewhere, Oklahoma State and LSU made the biggest strides in the latest Top 25, climbing nine and six spots, respectively. And joining BYU as newly ranked teams are Texas A&M and Boston College.

    Read on for more about the noteworthy changes in the AP Top 25.

Cowboys Up! Oklahoma State Surges

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    Taylor Cornelius
    Taylor CorneliusBrett Deering/Getty Images

    The biggest statement win of Week 3 belonged to Oklahoma State.

    One week after debuting in the AP Top 25 at No. 24, the Cowboys put a hurting on No. 17 Boise State, winning 44-21.

    The Cowboys aren't traditionally renowned for their defense, but they won the battle in the trenches in this one. They outrushed Boise State by a 176-34 margin, sacked Brett Rypien seven times and even blocked a pair of punts.

    Basically, Oklahoma State did to Boise State what the Broncos had previously done to Troy and Connecticut, manhandling an inferior foe while cruising to victory.

    Most expected this offense to take a step backward after losing Mason Rudolph and James Washington, but it is still one of the most unstoppable forces in the country. Led by QB Taylor Cornelius and RB Justice Hill, the Cowboys are averaging 52.3 points per game and have won each of their three games by at least a 23-point margin.

    They jumped from No. 24 to No. 15 in the AP poll, and don't expect the good times to stop rolling any time soon. Oklahoma State doesn't draw Oklahoma, West Virginia or TCU until Nov. 10, so it may well be 9-0 and ranked in the Top Five before facing a serious test.

UCF Wins Big Without Playing a Game

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    McKenzie Milton
    McKenzie MiltonPhelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Hurricane Florence wiped out three games involving ranked teams. No. 13 Virginia Tech, No. 14 West Virginia and No. 18 UCF all unexpectedly got the week off.

    For the Hokies and the Mountaineers, not much changed. They're still arguably the second-best teams in their respective conferences, and they're still slightly outside the AP Top 10. (Although, for some bizarre reason, WVU leapfrogged VT to move to No. 12.)

    But it was a huge week for the "reigning national champions."

    There were only two Group of Five teams in last week's rankings: No. 17 Boise State and No. 18 UCF, separated by just six votes. If the Broncos had won their road game against Oklahoma State, they would have become the undisputed favorite for the Group of Five's spot in a New Year's Six bowl. Because they lost, though, it is UCF's spot to lose.

    While Boise State dropped all the way out of the rankings, the idle Knights crept up two spots to No. 16 in advance of their Friday-night showdown with Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic.

Boston College Joins the Club

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    AJ Dillon
    AJ DillonGrant Halverson/Getty Images

    After nearly a decade on the outside looking in, Boston College is back in the AP Top 25.

    The Eagles stomped Massachusetts and Holy Cross to make their way into the conversation, and they punched their ticket with a 41-34 road win over Wake Forest on Thursday, debuting at No. 23.

    AJ Dillon did his thing early with a 45-yard rushing touchdown barely one minute into the game. From there, though, it became the Anthony Brown show. The sophomore QB threw for 304 yards and five TDs, each of them from at least 27 yards out. He originally set career highs in both passing yards (279) and touchdowns (four) against Massachusetts, but he topped both of those marks in this one.

    Over the second half of last season, we were given a taste of what this offense could do. After about two-and-a-half years as one of the most anemic Power Five offenses, BC scored at least 35 points in each of its final five wins. And this is currently one of the highest-scoring units in the country at 52.7 points per game.

    Whether the Eagles have staying power in the AP Top 25 will likely depend on the defense. Giving up 34 points, 298 rushing yards and 512 yards of total offense to Wake Forest wasn't great, but get ready to see this team in a lot of entertaining, high-octane games.

LSU Leaps, but Not as Much as It Should Have

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    Joe Burrow
    Joe BurrowButch Dill/Associated Press

    If the College Football Playoff began releasing its rankings today, LSU would have to be No. 1, right?

    Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma have looked great while reinforcing their spots in the Top Seven of the preseason AP Top 25, but they collectively don't have as many high-quality wins as LSU has.

    The Tigers won a neutral-site game against then-No. 8 Miami in Week 1 and just won a road game against then-No. 7 Auburn. If you think there's a more impressive resume in the country right now, you're out of your mind.

    Of course, that's not how the AP poll works. Even though Clemson just barely eked out a two-point win over Texas A&M and even though neither Alabama nor Oklahoma has faced an opponent that was ranked at any point this season, a top-tier team doesn't drop unless it loses a game.

    LSU is knocking on the door, though, and it will eventually kick down the door if it keeps winning, thanks to upcoming home games against Georgia (Oct. 13) and Alabama (Nov. 3).

    The Tigers rocketed from No. 25 to No. 11 after beating Miami, and this latest win over Auburn pushed them up to No. 6. But even if you have major doubts about the staying power of this offense, there's no question LSU deserves to be ranked even higher than that.

The Wheat Further Separates from the Chaff

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    Tua Tagovailoa
    Tua TagovailoaRogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Following a week in which six ranked teams suffered losses, the bottom 20 spots in the AP poll were basically thrown into a blender.

    But the top six spots are currently in a class of their own, thanks in large part to losses by No. 6 (Wisconsin) and No. 7 (Auburn) and a way-too-close-for-comfort win by No. 8 (Notre Dame).

    After last week, the gap between No. 4 and No. 7 was razor thin. Ohio State was only 64 votes ahead of Auburn, meaning the Tigers would have been three spots higher in the poll if each of the 65 voters had put them just one spot higher on their ballots.

    At this point, though, the gap between No. 6 LSU and No. 7 Stanford is about as wide as the Grand Canyon. Nearly 200 votes separate the College Football Playoff favorites from the rest of those teams trying to prove they belong in the conversation.

    The great thing about that particular line of demarcation is that we still get to argue about who the four most deserving teams are. After all, what's mid-September college football without a little playoff debate?

Big Ten's Awful Week Not Reflected in Rankings

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    Jonathan Taylor
    Jonathan TaylorJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    It was a no good, very bad weekend for the Big Ten.

    Michigan State had a bye week, but each of the other 13 teams in the conference battled nonconference opponents. Ten of those 13 games were played at home against teams outside the Power Five conferences, none of which were ranked teams. In fact, the only ranked opponent the Big Ten faced in Week 3 was No. 15 TCU, and it was the league's best team (No. 4 Ohio State) who drew the Horned Frogs.

    Per OddsShark, the Big Ten team was at least a 10.5-point favorite in 10 of the 13 games, and the only one that was a significant underdog was Illinois, which was getting 14 points against South Florida. The league should have won at least 10 games. It reasonably could have won all 13.

    Instead, it went 6-7 and lost a ton of respect nationwide.

    Oddly enough, though, you wouldn't know it from the AP poll, as Wisconsin was the only ranked Big Ten team to suffer a loss.

    The Badgers paid the price for their no-show against BYU, plummeting from No. 6 to No. 18. But Ohio State stayed put at No. 4, while Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State each climbed at least one rung on the AP ladder.

    However, games against the likes of Maryland, Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue will no longer be viewed as sneaky-good wins for those ranked teams, which will hurt the league's perception as the season progresses.

Pac-12 South Loses a Pair

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    Herm Edwards
    Herm EdwardsKent Horner/Getty Images

    Last week, it was the SEC that had to say goodbye to two teams at the back end of the Top 25, following losses by then-No. 24 South Carolina and No. 25 Florida.

    This week, it was the Pac-12's turn to lose a pair of ranked teams with both No. 22 USC and No. 23 Arizona State biting the dust.

    Truth be told, USC should've already been gone. The Trojans didn't look great in the opener against UNLV, and their offense was atrocious in the Week 2 loss to Stanford. It was hard to believe that 49 of the 65 AP voters still had the Trojans on their ballots last Sunday. Thanks to the 37-14 beatdown from Texas, though, the 1-2 Trojans are no longer receiving any votes.

    Meanwhile, Arizona State's stay in the rankings was a brief one, due to a 28-21 loss to San Diego State. After moving the ball well in the first half, the Sun Devils went ice cold in the second half with four consecutive three-and-outs. A seven-point lead gradually became a 14-point deficit, and a pair of incomplete Hail Mary attempts left Herm Edwards and Co. on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

    Let's also note that the Pac-12 sort of lost a third ranked team. Utah was first among others receiving votes in last week's AP Top 25 and surely would have slid into this week's poll if not for the 21-7 home loss to Washington.

    The league does still have Stanford, Washington and Oregon in the Top 25, but they're all in the same division. The Pac-12 South is the only power-conference division without a ranked team.