That’s more like it.
With its first truly dominating performance of the season — all four quarters; from start to finish — Ohio State has reclaimed its spot as the No. 1 team in the Today’s U Top 25 rankings.
It just so happened to come in quarterback J.T. Barrett’s start of the year, as the redshirt sophomore went 14-of-18 (77.8 percent) with 324 total yards and five touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ 49-7 win at Rutgers Saturday night.
Yes, it was against Rutgers, which is now a meager 3-4 (1-3 Big Ten) on the season. But Ohio State hadn’t looked like its national title-winning form in the majority of its seven wins heading into the game, and was in jeopardy of losing ground for the No. 1 seed once the first College Football Playoff rankings come out November 3.
We’re eight weeks into the 2015 season, but there are still a ton of questions and concerns with some of the country’s top teams (or so thought). Those won’t be answered until the rest of the games are played — and by then, new ones will arise — but until then, we’ll try to figure this thing out together.
What do you think of the rankings? Let us know in the comment section below, or follow @TodaysUSports to tell us how you really feel.
*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: There’s a clear difference with Ohio State when J.T. Barrett is lining up under shotgun, rather than Cardale Jones, who started the first seven games of the season. In short, the offense is much more efficient, as Barrett is the more effective option on third down and in the red zone — two areas in which the Buckeyes had struggled in through the first half of the season. Rutgers isn’t exactly the ideal team to use as a measuring stick, but for the first time since Week 1 (and little did we know that Virginia Tech just wasn’t a very good football team), Ohio State passed the eye test as the No. 1 team in the nation.
WHY: With starting quarterback Seth Russell likely sidelined for the rest of the season due to a fracture in his neck, true freshman Jarrett Stidham takes over for a team that has College Football Playoff aspirations. He’s not walking into a mess; the Baylor offense has scored over 60 points five different times this season, and wide receiver Corey Coleman is on pace to shatter records with 18 touchdowns through seven games. But one has to question whether he’s ready to take on the responsibility of taking the Bears to a 12-0 record with such limited time as a member of Art Briles’ system, especially with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and TCU looming.
WHY: There was nothing Clemson couldn’t do against Miami in a 58-0 blowout win that could have been much, much worse. Heck, the Tigers got Hurricanes head coach Al Golden fired. It was a statement that had to be made, though; this isn’t your typical Clemson team that folds when expectations rise. This team is for real, and has every opportunity to finish the regular season undefeated before taking on an ACC Coastal opponent in the conference championship game.
WHY: Pending the status of Seth Russell and the level of performance from Jarrett Stidham, TCU’s path to the College Football Playoff may have just gotten a little easier. The Frogs aren’t guaranteed to leave trips to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma with wins, but we’ve come to expect big things from Trevone Boykin and company, who have won 15 straight and 19 of their last 20.
WHY: It took over two quarters to settle in, but LSU was able to put away a pesky Western Kentucky team that proved to be a quality opponent, 48-20. Now the Tigers get a week off to prepare for a road trip to Tuscaloosa — a game that more than likely will determine the winner of the SEC, and ultimately send one of the two to the College Football Playoff.
WHY: Michigan State held a 28-26 lead against Indiana — thanks to two missed extra points — heading into the fourth quarter before blowing up the scoreboard with a 52-26 win in East Lansing. The Spartans desperately need this bye week to let his injury-plagued roster get some rest before traveling to Nebraska to face a Cornhuskers opponent that has their backs against the wall with five losses to date.
WHY: Since allowing 43 points and 433 yards of offense in its Week 3 loss to Ole Miss, Alabama’s defense has been spectacular, averaging 12.2 points and 246.0 yards per contest. The Crimson Tide, also on a bye after winning five straight, are hitting their stride just in time for the biggest game of the season: LSU. A win there would more than likely thrust Alabama back into the top 4.
WHY: There might not be a team hotter than Stanford, which has simply blown away its competition since a head-scratching Week 1 loss to Northwestern. With a soft remaining conference schedule and a handful of blowouts wins against some of the league’s better competition, the Cardinal should be regarded as the best team in the Pac-12.
WHY: Notre Dame fans have to be loving the fact that Clemson is ranked so high, because it’s keeping the Fighting Irish within reach of the College Football Playoff. Despite the one loss, there’s a chance Notre Dame still controls its own destiny, as all three of its remaining road games are against ranked teams (Temple, Pittsburgh, Stanford). But that starts with a win against Temple in Philadelphia on Halloween night, which will an incredible challenge.
WHY: Like we pointed out last week, Iowa’s remaining schedule is setting it up for an undefeated regular season and an appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Hawkeyes play vs. Maryland, at Indiana, vs. Minnesota, vs. Purdue, and at Nebraska — the Golden Gophers being the only opponent left with a record over .500. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s almost inevitable at this point that Iowa meets up with the East winner in December.
WHY: Beating Kansas by 48 doesn’t necessarily count as a quality win, but it was just another great display of football for an Oklahoma State team that is 7-0 for the first time since the Cowboys finished 12-1 back in 2011. A backloaded schedule might be the reason for that, but we’ll know for sure here soon: the Pokes play Texas Tech on the road this weekend before hitting the gauntlet that includes TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma.
WHY: After getting the last week to let that 35-28 loss to LSU in Death Valley to sink in, Florida travels to Jacksonville to face Georgia at EverBank Field for what will likely determine the winner of the SEC East. Even though the Bulldogs have lost two of three and are struggling to produce points, Vegas thinks this one will be close — the Gators are just a 2.5-point favorite.
WHY: Utah drops 10 spots after whiffing at USC (42-24), but let’s not forget what the expectations were for this team during the preseason. Head coach Kyle Whittigham lost both of his coordinators this offseason, and the Utes were completely off the radar as an unranked team in the AP Top 25. Plenty of challenges still await, but Utah still controls its own destiny in the Pac-12 South.
WHY: Through seven games, Memphis is averaging 48.9 points (3rd nationally) and 557.3 yards (6th) per game. Quarterback Paxton Lynch has stormed his way onto NFL draft pundits’ first-round talks with his impressive numbers to date: 174-of-243 (71.6 percent) passing, 2,366 yards, 17 touchdowns, and one interception, along with an additional two scores on the ground. Head coach Justin Fuente will be on every list for Power Five vacancies this offseason — he’s already on several right now — and the Tigers are eying a 13-0 mark to make CFB playoff committee members uncomfortable.
WHY: It’s yet to be determined whether the bye week right after that heartbreaking loss to Michigan State will serve beneficial for Michigan, but it’s safe to assume that Jim Harbaugh will have his boys ready for the next challenge ahead. Given the circumstances, beating Minnesota on the road would say a lot about this team, and it would put the Wolverines on track to have a chance at 9-2 heading into Ohio State week.
Dropped from rankings: California (21).
Other receiving votes (in order): Mississippi State, Northwestern, California, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Washington State, USC, Bowling Green, Marshall.