College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 5

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2020

College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 5

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The SEC star programs flexed their muscles, the Big 12 continued to slide and the ACC's powerhouse, Clemson, took care of business ahead of next week's marquee matchup with Miami.

    Saturday featured a lot of action, and several huge surprises were delivered. Arkansas snapped a three-year SEC losing streak with a win over last week's darling, Mississippi State, and Tulsa upset UCF late, too, ending the Knights' playoff hopes. 

    No. 9 Texas' two-week troubles finally manifested with a loss to TCU. That means there's just one undefeated Big 12 program: Oklahoma State.

    Alabama dominated Texas A&M, and Georgia manhandled Auburn in the conference's two big showdowns this weekend, while SMU dropped Memphis to announce its arrival alongside UCF and Cincinnati in a battle for AAC supremacy.

    Oh, and Oklahoma lost for the first time at Iowa State since November of 1960, three days before John F. Kennedy was elected president. As always, we tried to make sense of it all.

    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 5 Top 25

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

    (Others receiving votes: Iowa, Mississippi State, UAB, Arkansas, Iowa State)

Who's Hot: Beasts of the SEC East

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Saturday night's renewal of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry between fourth-ranked Georgia and No. 7 Auburn promised to be a hard-hitting showdown between two of the SEC's best teams.

    The hype lied.

    What transpired was the Georgia Bulldogs' utter domination from the game's opening whistle in a 27-6 cakewalk. The Tigers never knew what hit them in a raucous Sanford Stadium that appeared to have way more than the advertised allotment of 25 percent crowd capacity.

    Those fans had plenty to cheer as a revamped offensive line that lost two starting tackles to the NFL draft (Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson) and Cade Mays in a transfer to Tennessee opened semi-truck-sized holes for Zamir White and crew to gash Auburn.

    Kevin Steele's defensive line was embarrassed as UGA built a stunning 24-0 first-half lead.

    Despite a clamor for USC transfer quarterback JT Daniels to start, coach Kirby Smart went with walk-on Stetson Bennett again, and the signal-caller did not disappoint, finishing with 240 passing yards and a touchdown. UGA had 442 total offensive yards in the win.

    Toss in a Georgia defense that looked like it did a season ago when it was arguably the deepest, most athletic unit in the country, and the rumors of Florida's SEC East takeover may be greatly exaggerated.

    Here's the deal, though: The Gators are for real too. Though they sputtered for a while against South Carolina because of a shaky defense, quarterback Kyle Trask, tight end Kyle Pitts and crew wound up putting away the Gamecocks relatively easily, 38-24. 

    There's a reason Florida is ranked third, and the Gators did nothing to damage that status Saturday.

    A lot will clear up next weekend when they travel to Texas A&M to play an Aggies team that is better than it showed in getting demoralized by Alabama. Georgia, meanwhile, will host Tennessee in a showdown with major divisional ramifications.

    The Vols are 2-0 and look much improved in coach Jeremy Pruitt's third year in Knoxville, but they haven't seen anything like the physicality, talent and depth the Bulldogs will throw at them next week. Georgia looked incredible Saturday night after a stuttering start against Arkansas a week ago.

    Are the Bulldogs national title contenders? The team that showed up against Auburn sure is.

Who's Not: Texas-Sized Thud Thumps Big 12 from Playoff Picture

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Well, Oklahoma State, it's your board.

    Though anything can happen between now and the end of a wacky season that continues to see twists and turns, there's not a single Big 12 team that looks like it belongs in the College Football Playoff.

    A week after Oklahoma got whipped all over the field in its second consecutive loss to Kansas State, it was a pair of other Big 12 powerhouses that were bounced. The first dropped when No. 9 Texas lost its sixth out of its last seven meetings with TCU 33-31.

    After flirting with disaster last weekend in a wild overtime win over Texas Tech where they had to come back late, the Longhorns looked awful once again against an opponent that was supposed to be inferior. 

    It's no surprise Texas played terrible defense; it's been that way for a couple of years. A Horned Frogs offense that sputtered throughout 2019 and made a quarterback change to a healthy Max Duggan after a 37-34 season-opening loss to Iowa State racked up 457 yards and 25 first downs against the hapless Horns.

    But it wasn't only that side of the ball. Sam Ehlinger completed just 17 of 36 passes against a vaunted TCU secondary, and the offense never got on firm footing, either. Still, Keaontay Ingram lost a fumble on 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 4:01 left to complete the crumble.

    If you watched Texas' smoke-and-mirrors escape against the Red Raiders last weekend, this outcome isn't surprising. Still, it just confirms this conference has no real threat.

    To a lesser extent, last year's Sugar Bowl participant, Baylor—which lost twice to Oklahoma before ending the year by getting smoked by Georgia—lost 27-21 in double overtime to West Virginia to wipe out another Big 12 beast from a year ago. Life without coach Matt Rhule won't be easy.

    Neither is 2020 for the Big 12. No. 17 Oklahoma State kept rolling without quarterback Spencer Sanders (lower body injury) against Kansas, winning 47-7. The Cowboys, as the conference's only undefeated team, may be the only real hope left, even if it's an outside one.

    Everyone else is playing themselves right out of the picture.

Fun Fact: Zone Defense Works Against the Air Raid

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    Thomas Graning/Associated Press

    LSU didn't get the memo a week ago, but it obviously arrived in time for Arkansas to play No. 16 Mississippi State on Saturday night: Mike Leach's vaunted "Air Raid" offense is vulnerable against a zone defense.

    A week after Leach's Bulldogs shocked defending national champion LSU to open the season, giving him his first win as an SEC head coach, reality struck. Against an Arkansas team that had lost 10 consecutive games and 20 straight against SEC opponents, the air attack got grounded.

    The zone's success is no big surprise to those who've watched Leach's teams the past few years. Just ask Washington, which made a habit of running a variety of zone packages in the Apple Cup against Leach's Washington State Cougars.

    What the Razorbacks did so well to snap their streak and figure out the formula was rush just three men and drop eight defenders. This constantly confused quarterback K.J. Costello, who was forced to try to exploit holes in the zone. The problem was, there weren't a lot of them with so many defending the pass.

    Arkansas started things by intercepting Costello and returning it 69 yards for the game-opening touchdown, and the Hogs never relented. It set the tone, as Costello threw three picks.

    The Stanford transfer had turnover issues a week ago against the Bayou Bengals but made plenty of plays to go along with them. He couldn't match that against the Razorbacks, who finally broke the streak of conference losses, which dated back to October 28, 2017, when they beat Ole Miss 38-37.

    Costello attempted 59 passes but threw for just 313 yards. That magical equation for the Hogs equaled their first conference victory in 1,071 days.

    Leach's offense with SEC athletes can be scary-good, but unless he comes up with a way to combat what Arkansas threw his way Saturday, everybody will get the blueprint quickly.

What to Watch For: The Best Set of Games so Far

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Next week's slate could be exceptional, and it's arguably the best group of 2020 games so far.

    Get ready for intriguing contests in every time slot, starting with the ACC's marquee matchup of the season. There's also the Red River Rivalry, which still has a ton of intrigue even though it lost some luster over the past couple of weekends.

    Let's take a look at what's on tap for Week 6.

                           

    No. 8 Miami at No. 1 Clemson (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

    The Hurricanes and Turnover Chains take to prime time for the third time in four weeks, but this will be unlike any game they've played in front of a national television audience this year. Is Miami just a nice early-season story or for real? We're all about to see.

    The Clemson offense can put all kinds of pressure on teams, and this may just be the best matchup of any game in the ACC this season. If Hurricanes quarterback D'Eriq King can execute coordinator Rhett Lashlee's offense well enough to match Trevor Lawrence and Co. point for point, this has the trappings of a classic.

    It will be fun to watch all the glitz and glamor of The U against Dabo Swinney's steady, championship-tested program.

                       

    No. 9 Texas vs. No. 18 Oklahoma (Noon, Fox)

    No, this game isn't what everybody hoped it would be after Oklahoma fell to 1-2 and Texas' tightrope walk finally resulted in a face-plant against TCU on Saturday, but there are still reasons to watch.

    With both defenses struggling and trying to find their way, it will be a shootout with many twists and turns. Also, Oklahoma could still salvage its season.

    Both of these proud programs still have plenty left to play for, and there's no love lost. This is a must-watch.

                      

    No. 21 Tennessee at No. 4 Georgia (TBD)

    The way Georgia looked Saturday night, nobody should want a part of the Dawgs. The quarterback concerns looked over as Stetson Bennett and Co. trounced Auburn. Now, they get to host a Vols team that quietly has become one of the nation's hottest groups.

    Coach Jeremy Pruitt's team is 2-0, and it is playing as well as it has in the past decade. But the Bulldogs look like they have much bigger things in store. This will determine who Florida's biggest competitor is in the SEC East.

                

    No. 3 Florida at No. 13 Texas A&M (TBD)

    It's unclear whether the Gators-Aggies will slide into the 3:30 CBS slot or if it will be Vols-Dawgs, but regardless of when the game is played, it will be a major road test for the third-ranked Gators. If they are truly national title contenders, they'll pass.

    On the other side, much bigger things were expected of coach Jimbo Fisher's Aggies than what they showed in an embarrassing 52-24 loss at Alabama on Saturday. This is a major cross-division showdown.

               

    Virginia Tech at No. 12 North Carolina (Noon, ABC)

    COVID-19 made its way through the Hokies, causing several players to miss the team's first two games of the season. They were still able to escape North Carolina State and Duke with wins, but things get dicier on a road trip to Chapel Hill.

    The Tar Heels eked out a 26-22 win over Boston College on Saturday but didn't look like the 12th-ranked team doing it. Neither looks like it's on the level of Clemson or even Miami, but this will help to gain breathing room in the second tier of the ACC.

                 

    No. 2 Alabama at Ole Miss (6 p.m. ESPN)

    Nobody expects Lane Kiffin to pull the upset of the year and beat his former boss when Alabama travels to Oxford, but the former Crimson Tide offensive coordinator is coming off a massive 42-41 road win over Kentucky in Lexington.

    Though the Tide should probably score at will with all those playmakers, this game could be fun because the Rebels can score too. Kiffin also may be good for a couple of pregame zingers thrown Nick Saban's way this week.