College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 4

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2020

College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 4

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    If we learned anything on SEC Saturday, when the conference finally injected itself into the college football schedule, it's that predicting what's going to happen on the gridiron is futile as always.

    This is what transpires when the wild and wacky world of college football meets the bizarro 2020. 

    No. 3 Oklahoma was upset for the second year in a row by Kansas State. And the defending champion LSU Tigers showed the aftereffects of losing so many starters in a shocking season-opening loss to Mike Leach's Mississippi State Bulldogs. 

    Miami continued to roll, Alabama looked like a major title contender, and so did the Florida Gators. Others like Georgia scuffled while searching for a quarterback, Texas needed a frantic comeback to beat Texas Tech, and Louisiana needed a last-second 53-yard field goal to beat Georgia Southern.

    Saturday was supercharged with drama, and it may just set the tone for the rest of the season.

    B/R experts David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller and Brad Shepard make up the panel in charge of ranking the teams that are playing. Each panel member submitted a ballot, with a first-place vote being worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.


    B/R Week Week 4 Top 25

    1. Clemson (Last Week: 1)
    2. Alabama (2)
    3. Ohio State (3)
    4. Florida (T-6)
    5. Georgia (4)
    6. Notre Dame (T-6)
    7. Miami (13)
    8. Auburn (15)
    9. Mississippi State (NR)
    10. Penn State (8)
    11. UCF (12)
    12. North Carolina (14)
    13. Oregon (NR)
    14. Wisconsin (16)
    15. Cincinnati (18)
    16. Pittsburgh (NR)
    17. Oklahoma State (17)
    18. Tennessee (19)
    19. Texas A&M (10)
    20. Texas (11)
    21. Oklahoma (5)
    22. Minnesota (20)
    23. LSU (9)
    24. Virginia Tech (NR)
    T-25. Louisiana (24)
    T-25. Michigan (NR)

    Others receiving votes: Kentucky, BYU, Memphis, USC, Boise State

Who's Hot: The U

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Some time in the midst of a frantic first half that saw Miami overwhelm rival Florida State in every facet of the game, as defensive end Jaelan Phillips mugged for the cameras with the turnover chain and the swag ran deeper than the Atlantic Ocean, one thing was clear:

    The U appears to be back.

    At this point, how could you believe otherwise? 

    Coach Manny Diaz's Hurricanes look like one of the surprise national contenders through three weeks. While the post-Tua Alabama Crimson Tide certainly earned some prime-time pub by destroying Missouri, it was Missouri. Miami slapped its second consecutive opponent in ABC's marquee game.

    Last week, the Hurricans thrashed Louisville, and they followed that up by dominating the Seminoles, who had no answers. In its first five offensive possessions, Miami scored five touchdowns and built a 35-3 first-half lead.

    With D'Eriq King (who finished with 332 total yards and a pair of scores) leading the charge, coordinator Rhett Lashlee's offense was clicking. Cam'Ron Harris, Jaylan Knighton and Don Chaney Jr. are capable runners, and the opportunistic defense seems to get stronger and stronger each game.

    Not only is the pass-rushing tandem of Phillips and Quincy Roche dynamic (and just think of this team with Gregory Rousseau, who opted out), but there are also three probable NFL safeties The U can trot out there.

    There are waves of talent and confidence, and all of it was on display as they piled on FSU in a 52-10 win that featured six sacks and three forced turnovers.

    Yes, this is the ACC, where the weekly competition isn't great. But for two weeks in a row, King and the 'Canes were featured in a big game, and they showed up and showed out. Now, they've got a bye week before a massive clash in Death Valley against Clemson.

    Just a few weeks ago, who would have pegged this as being a huge showdown that could preview the ACC championship? Despite the early-season positive vibes thrown off by Clemson, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and North Carolina, the Hurricanes have earned their praise, too.

    They look legit.

Who's Not: Oklahoma and Its Early-Season Mojo

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Never mind that Oklahoma was ranked third in the nation entering Saturday. Forget about a three-touchdown lead the Sooners built over Kansas State. Wipe away the fact the Wildcats reportedly had seven starters out due to COVID-19. Erase thoughts of their season-opening shocking loss to Arkansas State.

    None of that mattered as K-State roared back by scoring 24 unanswered points, climaxing with a 50-yard go-ahead field goal in a 38-35 win over the Sooners.

    History repeated itself as Chris Klieman ran his record to 2-0 against Lincoln Riley in his second year at Kansas State, and the Sooners are left with the same old questions.

    How is this defense ever going to shape up into being a championship-caliber unit? When are the costly mistakes going to subside? Can this team be disciplined enough to regroup and win the conference, much less compete for the College Football Playoff?

    There are even more questions at this point than in years past, though. While redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler has flashed some pizzazz, he threw three interceptions Saturday, failed to utilize the middle of the field enough and left the pocket far too quickly.

    He's going to be very good, but Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts are not walking through that door this year. 

    Instead, Oklahoma is left with a 1-1 record, and while it has plenty of time to get things moving in the right direction, coordinator Alex Grinch's defense is fundamentally broken, allowing 31 second-half points and often just looking lost. Simply put: It predictably fell apart with the game on the line.

    Grinch told Tulsa World writer Eric Bailey he was "not getting the job done."

    What's next for the Sooners? Last year, they surged back. But this team looks far from one of the country's best right now. The Big 12 has question marks, too, especially after Texas' scary overtime survival against Texas Tech.

Fun Fact: Fun 'n' Gun Numbers for Trask and Co.

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    Thomas Graning/Associated Press

    When Joe Burrow started last season flinging darts and taking names for LSU, it took a few weeks for most to realize this resurgence was more than just a passing fancy.

    Maybe we're all witnessing the next breakout quarterback before our eyes, again, in the SEC.

    It's just one game, and Florida's Kyle Trask didn't exactly come from from out of nowhere like last year's Heisman Trophy winner, but he had a national resume performance on Saturday in a 51-35 shootout win at Ole Miss.

    The redshirt senior completed 30 of 42 passes for 416 yards and six touchdowns, with four of those going to elite tight end Kyle Pitts. Everything he wanted to do against the Rebels, he did. Those are some "Fun 'n' Gun" numbers the Ol' Ball Coach would be proud of.

    The Burrow connection to that game? The six scoring tosses tied the LSU quarterback for the most ever in an SEC conference opener, according to ESPN. Pitts' four touchdown receptions tied Ike Hilliard and Jack Jackson for the most ever by a Gator in a single game.

    The Steve Spurrier connection? The 642 yards of offense was the most ever for the Gators in an SEC game, and this is a program known for offense. Coach Dan Mullen told the Sun Sentinel's Edgar Thompson he thought that would be worth "a nice bottle of wine" from his neighbor, Spurrier.

    Trask is another enjoyable story like Burrow, who transferred from Ohio State and won a title for the Bayou Bengals. The story has been rehashed many times by now, but the Gators signal-caller was a high school backup to Miami's D'Eriq King and got his full-time shot as Florida's QB last year when Feleipe Franks got hurt.

    All he's done since is throw dimes, but he just looked different Saturday. Maybe Ole Miss' defense (which wasn't expected to be good at all) is just awful. But in Year 3 of the Mullen era, the coach has adapted his offense to his quarterback.

    Florida's defense has to play a lot better than it did against Ole Miss for this to be a team capable of winning a title, but Trask looks as comfortable as any thrower in the country.

What to Watch For: Early-Season Grudge Matches for Conference Separation

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Are you sick of just seeing good teams play cupcakes? There have been a few intriguing matchups so far, but things ramp up considerably next week. How much?

    Two SEC showdowns between Top 10 teams highlight a schedule that has opportunities for a lot of style points. There are going to be several early-season separators, so you need to get ready. 


    No. 8 Auburn at No. 4 Georgia

    Everybody is used to watching the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry between the Tigers and Bulldogs late in the season, but a wacky 2020 will flip the script on that. AU-UGA will be renewed in Athens on the SEC's second regular-season weekend.

    Both offenses are searching for continuity, but this is a massive game early in the year for both teams. If Georgia is really a national title contender, it needs to prove quarterback isn't really an issue. Auburn needs to find playmakers after a rugged opener against Kentucky. This has the trappings for a good one.


    No. 10 Texas A&M at No. 2 Alabama

    Nothing will quell all the buzz around Jimbo Fisher's third year in College Station if the Aggies go to Tuscaloosa and pull off a huge upset against the Crimson Tide. 

    Without Tua Tagovailoa, 'Bama has some question marks, but there is still a ton of talent all over the field as evidenced by annihilating Missouri on Saturday night.

    The same goes for A&M, which looked just OK in a win over Vanderbilt. Seasoned quarterback Kellen Mond needs a huge game if the Aggies are going to win.

    This game is an SEC West litmus test.


    No. 3 Oklahoma at Iowa State

    This is the battle of supposed Big 12 beasts with stunning losses already on the ledger.

    With Oklahoma's 38-35 loss to Kansas State, the Sooners won't be ranked third next week. Iowa State knows the feeling. Before a shocking loss to Louisiana to open the year, some expected the Cyclones to be one of Oklahoma's biggest threats. Now, Matt Campbell's team is just trying to find its footing. 

    Now it's just a matter of which team can pick up the pieces after demoralizing losses and rebound. This game still matters a lot, but not as much as it did.


    No. 17 Memphis at SMU

    Much of the early-season AAC discussion has centered around Central Florida's explosive offense and the steady strength of Cincinnati. The Bearcats beat a good Army team 24-10.

    Don't forget about last year's champion Memphis Tigers or the high-octane SMU Mustangs, either. The former haven't played in a couple of weeks after a COVID-19 outbreak and the disputed party bus incident. But Ryan Silverfield's team has plenty of weapons, and so do the Mustangs.

    This is a big one for separation.


    Virginia at No. 1 Clemson

    The only reason this game is on the list is it's a rematch of last year's ACC Championship Game.

    It wasn't much of a contest then in a 62-17 win by the Tigers, and it shouldn't be next weekend, either, especially with Bryce Perkins no longer in the picture for the Hoos. But Clemson has to keep proving week in and week out that it's the cream of the conference, and this is the next step.

    UVA has a quality defense, but there will likely be too many weapons on coach Dabo Swinney's team.