Despite looking like the closest thing to its national title-winning product one season ago, Ohio State has dropped from its No. 1 overall ranking in the Today’s U Top 25 for the very first time.
The Buckeyes fell victom to yet another slow first quarter, in which the offense failed to score within the first 15 minutes of action for the second time in the last three weeks. Once coach Urban Meyer removed Cardale Jones and gave the keys to backup quarterback J.T. Barrett, though, OSU went on a tear and finished off Penn State, 38-10.
That wasn’t enough to hold back the inevitable; Baylor took over sole ownership of the No. 1 spot by a single point after thrashing West Virginia, 62-38, as the Bears scored 60-plus points for the fifth straight game — which ties an NCAA record with the 2008 Oklahoma Sooners. Between the seemingly unstoppable force of Seth Russell and Corey Coleman, Baylor’s offense has scored 383 points in six games, which is 13.7 more points per game than the No. 2 scoring team in the country: TCU.
Heading into Week 8, the College Football Playoff picture is still vague. But we also must remember that last year at this point, Mississippi and Ole Miss were in the top 4, Alabama was No. 7, Oregon stood at No. 9, and Ohio State was still battling back at No. 13.
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*A point system was assigned, giving 25 points for a team with a No. 1 vote, 24 points for a No. 2 vote, 23 points for a No. 3 vote, and so on.
WHY: It would be a monstrosity to talk about Baylor without elaborating on the ridiculous connection between quarterback Seth Russell and wide receiver Corey Coleman. Through six games, Coleman has 41 catches for 877 yards (21.4 per catch!) and 16 touchdowns. To put that into perspective, Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins led the entire FBS with 17 touchdowns in 2014 at the conclusion of the season. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen even went as far to say that Coleman is “the best player in college football. You can put me on record for that.” Russell has 62 completions for 1,030 yards and 11 touchdowns to anyone not named Corey Coleman.
Baylor gets one more cupcake matchup with Iowa State on Saturday before a daunting November stretch of at Kansas State, vs. Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, and at TCU. We’ll have a much better idea of whether the Bears are 100 percent legit in a few weeks time.
WHY: Ohio State fans can do nothing but sit back and watch this one play out. It doesn’t matter if the Buckeyes don’t win pretty; if they win, they’re going to be in the College Football Playoff no matter what. However, they’d be able to breath a little easier with more performances like the one we saw last weekend — but it looks like that will be determined on who the starting quarterback is moving forward. And if the Penn State game was any indication of what’s to come, it’s going to be the Big Ten record holder for total touchdowns in a single season (J.T. Barrett) leading the offense from start to finish … not just in the red zone.
WHY: Allowing 21 first-quarter points to Iowa State is not what championship teams do, but recovering for a three-quarter shutout and winning 45-21 definitely qualifies. TCU has now won 15 games in a row dating back to its insane 61-58 loss to Baylor last October, and all signs are pointing to an unblemished record once the Horned Frogs host the Bears in a revenge, all-or-nothing game on Friday, November 27. That is, of course, if they can get past road contests against an upstart Oklahoma State team and an Oklahoma squad that looks to be a complete wild card on the way.
WHY: Every championship-caliber team has to prove that it can win ugly from time to time, and Utah did just that against Arizona State in a game most people probably didn’t stay up for, since it didn’t finish until after 1 a.m. ET. The Utes found themselves down 18-14 heading into the fourth quarter before reeling off 20 straight points to end the game with a 34-18 victory, moving to 6-0 for the first time since 2010, when they were a member of the Mountain West Conference. Utah’s defense held Arizona State to 257 total yards of offense (3.7 per play), including a mere 15 yards on the ground.
WHY: Brandon Harris showed the college football world that LSU is more than a one-man show by completing 13-of-19 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-28 win over Florida, against one of the best secondary units the game has to offer. There isn’t a ton of flare to his game, but his consistency and ability to simply not turn the football over is something Les Miles and the Tigers offense has lacked for several years now. Now that we know LSU is for real — the Gators were our 6th-ranked team last week — it goes without saying that it controls its own destiny and is in the driver’s seat in the SEC.
WHY: Clemson did what no other opponent could do against Boston College: score more than 14 points. Florida State scored 14 on the Eagles, while Duke scrounged 9; the Tigers, led by Deshaun Watson’s 452 total yards and four touchdowns, were able to produce 34 in the team’s 17-point win. Clemson should be favored in every game from here on out, and even has a 62.1 percent chance to knock off Florida State in Week 10, per ESPN’s FPI (Football Power Index) rankings.
WHY: Mark Dantonio said it best when interviewed following the absolutely ridiculous game-winning play against Michigan that resulted from a fumbled punt with 10 seconds left:
“You go from 10 seconds, a guy punting the ball, you’re thinking OK this is done,” Dantonio said, according to ESPN. “And then all of a sudden, life gets flipped upside down. …That’s why football is loved so much in America. It’s because things like this happen. Every now and then, they happen.”
Maybe the Spartans shouldn’t be 7-0 right now. Maybe Michigan should be ranked No. 7 instead. But, this is college football, and here we are.
WHY: Alright, what’s going on here? Alabama loses to Ole Miss, and the Rebels subsequently get walloped by Florida and Memphis by a combined score of 75-34? Either the Crimson Tide are really bad, or that game was an honest fluke. We’re leaning toward the latter, and the opportunity to prove that is there with Tennessee and LSU on the schedule in back-to-back weeks. Don’t blink — Bama could be back in the top 4 before you know it, and normalcy will be restored.
WHY: We learned a little more about what Florida State can do last Saturday, when Everett Golson went 26-of-38 for 372 yards and three touchdowns, while Dalvin Cook rushed his way for 163 yards and two scores of his own against a solid Louisville defense. There’s not much to be said about the Seminoles’ competition to this point — the Cardinals, who are now 2-4, are the best team they’ve seen so far — but things may get a little more difficult with a road trip to face a desperate Georgia Tech team that has lost five games in a row.
WHY: After the bye week, Notre Dame’s schedule plays out like this: at Temple, at Pittsburgh, vs. Wake Forest, vs. Boston College, and at Stanford. Temple, Pitt, and Stanford all found a home in the latest AP Top 25 poll, and all will be played on the road. Can you imagine a scenario in which Notre Dame wins out, and Clemson — the Irish’s lone loss — goes 12-0? The College Football Playoff committee would salivate at the opportunity to put a brand such as Notre Dame in the four-team roulette, especially if it finishes 11-1 with a backup quarterback. (Sound familiar?)
WHY: Since its 16-6 season-opening loss to Northwestern, Stanford is averaging 45.0 points and 492.8 yards per game and is now the favorite to win the Pac-12 North Division. So much for David Shaw’s conservative approach to play-calling, right?
WHY: Take a deep breath, reader. Stay calm. This is new for us, too, and we’re not quite sure how to handle it. But the Iowa Hawkeyes are 7-0 for the first time since 2009, coming off a 40-10 rout of Northwestern on the road. And don’t look now, but the remaining schedule is setting this team up for an undefeated regular season record and not only a shot at the Big Ten Championship Game, but — dare I say it — the playoffs. Stay tuned.
WHY: Treon Harris performed admirably in light of Will Grier’s suspension, finishing 17-of-32 for 271 yards and two touchdowns in Florida’s 35-28 loss to LSU in Death Valley. While Gators fans were probably hoping for a win — and maybe a little bit of a better appearance from the defense — they should be quick to remember that UF was picked to end the year fifth in the SEC East.
WHY: There is literally nothing Jim Harbaugh and Michigan can do but put that play behind them and move forward. Having a short memory will be vital for a program that is learning how to win again, and there’s certainly a ton to play for as the Wolverines should be favored to win their next four games before hosting Ohio State in the regular season finale. Losing focus with a loss to Minnesota following the bye would be devastating for the progress that’s been made so far; how will UM respond?
WHY: Did you know that Oklahoma State was 6-0 with the grand opportunity to go 7-0 after playing Kansas this week? Chances are you didn’t, but with a backloaded schedule (OSU plays Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma in four of its next five games), we’ll learn sooner than later whether the Cowboys are a contender or a pretender.
Dropped from rankings: UCLA (19), Northwestern (20), Boise State (23).
Other receiving votes (in order): UCLA, Mississippi State, Wisconsin, Western Kentucky, Bowling Green, Georgia.