No top-25 matchups? No problem!
Despite a dull slate of games this Saturday, college football brought the drama.
Missouri upset Kansas State on a last-second, 61-yard field goal, Ohio — not Ohio State! — stunned Iowa State and South Alabama — not Alabama! — won at Oklahoma State. Duke, Wake Forest, Rutgers, Washington State, Oregon State and Kansas are all 3-0 (who knew?).
Georgia (South Carolina), Texas (Wyoming) and Colorado (CSU) needed second-half rallies to win, and in Brian Ferentz Watch, Iowa cracked the 25-point mark for the first time this season (his contract calls for the Hawkeyes to average at least 25 points this season for him to be retained).
BYU won at Arkansas (on this absurd touchdown catch) to continue the SEC’s woeful non-conference performance. The league drops to 5-7 in Power Five non-conference games this year. Stanford coach Troy Taylor lost to his old team, Sacramento State (the first FCS-over-Power Five result of the season), and Michigan completed its Jim Harbaugh-less opening three games unbeaten.
But maybe the biggest eye-popper for a second consecutive Saturday was Alabama. South Florida further exposed more of the Tide’s problems. Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees have plenty to fix before Ole Miss visits Tuscaloosa next week. The Tide have problems at two of the most important parts of a football team: quarterback and offensive line.
Bama played two more quarterbacks Saturday in the 17-3 win, Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner and redshirt freshman Ty Simpson, after benching last week’s starter, Jalen Milroe. In an indictment of the Tide’s O-line, USF finished with its most sacks in a game (five) since playing UConn in 2019.
Enough about the Tide’s issues. Let’s get to our new Top 10.
Keep in mind that we rank teams differently than most. We do not consider any preseason polls or any past season results. What happened in the past is in the past. For instance, the Georgias and USCs of the world, while in most top fives, don’t make the cut because of their paltry early season schedules.
This system normally rewards teams with tougher early season opponents and puts a premium on good wins, but it also makes for an unusual group of teams in the first couple of weeks. By mid-season, our Top 10 won’t be much different than many others. But for now…
This week: won 41-7 at Michigan State
Next week: vs. Cal
Best win: at Michigan State
Surprised? Don’t be. The Huskies have blowout wins over a solid Group of Five (Boise), Tulsa (meh) and a road trip at a Power Five (Michigan State). It’s not the toughest slate, but it’s far from the easiest, and they’ve looked spectacular, led by Heisman hopeful Michael Penix. He added 473 more yards and four scores to a season total that now sits at 1,332 yards, 12 touchdowns, one pick and a completion percentage around 75. On Saturday, the Huskies rolled up the most yards that a Michigan State team has ever allowed: 713.
2. Florida State
This week: won 31-29 at Boston College
Next week: at Clemson
Best win: vs. LSU
Were the Noles looking past the Eagles toward the Tigers? Maybe. But Mike Norvell’s team is good enough in Year 4 to overcome a sleepy performance. FSU fed 6-foot-7 receiver Johnny Wilson (four catches for 105 yards) and scored 21 unanswered to take a big lead before nearly blowing it. BC scored three touchdowns in the final 17 minutes. That’s concerning as FSU heads to see its good buddy Dabo Swinney next weekend.
This week: 31-10 won vs. Wyoming
Next week: at Baylor
Best win: at Alabama
The Longhorns laid the post-Alabama victory egg. They entered the fourth quarter tied at 10 with the Cowboys before a Quinn Ewers-to-Xavier Worthy 44-yard TD pass sparked a 21-point fourth quarter. Given this result and Alabama’s showing at USF, should we be concerned that the Horns aren’t actually back? Yes, we should.
4. Notre Dame
This week: won 41-17 vs. Central Michigan
Next week: vs. Ohio State
Best win: at NC State
More sterling statistics from transfer QB Sam Hartman: 330 yards passing on 16 completions and three TDs. The Irish and their new QB get their toughest test in a premier matchup next weekend against Ohio State in South Bend. Sure, none of ND’s first four opponents are top-25 teams — Navy, Tennessee State, NC State and CMU — but none of the games have been particularly tight. Let’s see what happens against the Buckeyes.
5. North Carolina
This week: won 31-13 vs. Minnesota
Next week: at Pitt
Best win: vs. South Carolina
What do we have here … another good defensive performance from the Tar Heels? Well, I’ll be! UNC QB Drake Maye had the same amount of incompletions as Minnesota QB Athan Kaliakmanis had completions (11). That’s the kind of day it was for the Gophers against Gene Chizik’s D. Minnesota’s five second-half possessions ended in three punts, an interception and a field goal.
6. Penn State
This week: won 30-13 vs. Illinois
Next week: vs. Iowa
Best win: at Illinois
The Nittany Lions picked off QB Luke Altmyer four times, forced six punts and four three-and-outs. Quite a day for coordinator Manny Diaz’s unit. In fact, the PSU defense has allowed 35 points in three games. Look for that strong defensive performance to continue next week. PSU hosts one of the country’s most inept offenses (Iowa) before heading to Northwestern and hosting UMass. They should be 6-0 entering the game at Ohio State.
This week: won 43-35 in double overtime vs. Colorado State
Next week: at Oregon
Best win: at TCU
The Buffaloes tested the patience of their head coach in an ugly affair in Boulder that ended at 2:25 a.m. ET Sunday. They needed a 98-yard touchdown march in the final two minutes and a game-tying two-point conversion to do it and send it to OT. Despite the victory, coach Deion Sanders and crew lost two-way star Travis Hunter, whose prognosis is uncertain. He missed the second half after sustaining a hard blow in the second quarter and was transported to a hospital for further evaluation, according to ESPN.
This week: won 31-7 vs. Weber State
Next week: vs. UCLA
Best win: vs. Florida
The Utes may not be winning impressively — they barely survived at Baylor last week — but they’re winning and that’s all that matters, especially without starting QB Cam Rising. Backup Nate Johnson, a redshirt freshman, ran for 71, threw for 193 yards and scored three touchdowns. Kyle Whittingham’s defense held Weber to 127 total yards.
This week: won 30-14 vs. Northwestern
Next week: at UConn
Best win: vs. Clemson
Duke’s three opponents this season — Clemson, Lafayette and Northwestern — have started 30 drives. Just six of those resulted in scores, 12 were punts and nine were turnovers. How about that for Mike Elko’s defense? QB Riley Leonard ran for 97 and threw for 219 against the beleaguered Wildcats. Are the Blue Devils for real? Sure seems like it.
10. Ohio State
This week: won 63-10 vs. Western Kentucky
Next week: at Notre Dame
Best win: at Indiana
Receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. blew the game open with a 75-yard touchdown catch to go along with four other catches, and QB Kyle McCord was spectacular, misfiring on just four passes and rolling up three TDs for 318 yards passing. We still don’t really know how good the Buckeyes are, but we’ll learn plenty in South Bend on Saturday.