Alabama now leads the second-best and third best teams in the Southeheast Conference, beating Georgia 17 and Texas A&M 28. Clemson left four opponents in the Atlantic Coast Conference with an average margin of 34.3 points.
That’s your landslide 1-2, in any order you want. After that, it was interesting.
Georgia earns third place in the SI Top 10 with more defaults than anything else. The Bulldogs were good before going to Tuscaloosa, and good for half when they got there. In the current barren landscape – where we don’t rank anyone who hasn’t played yet – that’s enough.
North Carolina coughed a giant hairball against Florida State and Notre Dame was not impressive enough against Louisville as it seemed fair to start a national search for the fourth best team. Why not BYU? The Cougars passed their biggest test of the season until Friday night, moaning back to beat Houston.
The last half of the Top 10 is similarly unrecognizable. A pair of one-eggplant SEC teams, a pair of undefeated Group of Five teams. And, alas, look at what the cat pulled: the only undefeated Big 12 team, Oklahoma State, that hasn’t played since October 3rd.
Long story short, the arrival of the Big Ten this week was perfectly timed. There are many high rankings available.
1. Clemson (5–0)
Last game: Beat Georgia Tech, 73-7
Next game: Syracuse Saturday
The Tigers offense dropped 52 points to Georgia Tech in the first half, more than half in school history against an ACC opponent – and despite making two turnovers. Trevor Lawrence had five touchdown passes before the intermission, although he threw his first block from October 19, 2019. Most ridiculous stat from Clemson’s ridiculous attack: 17 Tigers caught, with Dabo Swinney’s fellow children. We are left again wondering if anyone in the ACC can even lightly stress Clemson. (Notre Dame or bust on November 7?)
2. Alabama (4–0)
Last game: Beat Georgia, 41-24
Next game: In Tennessee Saturday
Passing the Bulldogs at halftime, the Crimson Tide opened a beatdown can in the third and fourth quarters. Massive play of their unparalleled wide receivers on some beautiful deep balls from Mac Jones; the standard full-fledged efficiency from Najee Harris; and a few major stops from a defense that bulged in the field and the press. It may be closer if Nick Saban needs to stay home, but ‘Bama looks like a better team once the defense tightens and gets Stetson Bennett IV. A Joe Burrow supernova next door, the SEC continues to run in Tuscaloosa.
3. Georgia (3–1)
Last game: Lost in Alabama, 41-24
Next game: In Kentucky October 31
The Bulldogs’ so-called defense was shattered by Alabama’s passing game, which gave them 417 yards and four touchdowns in the air. That was the longest yard Georgia has allowed since 2000, when Hal Mumme coached Kentucky and Jared Lorenzen overthrew it. Another dazzling issue for Georgia: Stetson Bennett IV was not enough to win a shootout. The former walk-on has been a success story so far, but he has been exposed by Alabama — completing just 18 of 40 passes for 269 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. It may be time for Kirby Smart to transfer to USC transfer JT Daniels.
4. BYU (5–0)
Last game: Beat Houston Friday, 43–26
Next game: Texas State Saturday
BYU eased it through the first four games, and then Houston made the Cougars for this one. Falling 26–14 late in the third quarter, BYU exploded for 29 missed points to win. It was another showcase performance for quarterback Zach Wilson (25 for 35 for 400 yards and four touchdowns, plus 40 yards rushing), and a defense that had trouble stopping in Houston all night standing up to make a lot of big plays in the last quarter. The Cougars will be more favored in their next two games (Texas State and Western Kentucky) before facing Boise State Nov. 6. If the Cougars run the table, they will most likely be the team’s most contested from a College Football Playoff perspective.
5. Notre Dame (4–0)
Last game: Beat Louisville, 12-7
Next game: In Pittsburgh Saturday
The Fighting Irish struggled unexpectedly against the 1-4 Cardinals. Louisville joined the game with 34.3 points per game, but did not give up on a touchdown until late in the third quarter. Notre Dame failed to finish the drives in the Red Zone, and the passing game took just 106 yards. There are zero plays 20 yards or longer through the air. This was the second straight game the Irish entered in the second half, but it was short. After four straight home, it was time for Notre Dame to go down the road.
6. Texas A&M (3–1)
Last game: Defeat the State of Mississippi, 28–14
Next game: Arkansas October 31
The Aggies still missed the season, thanks to a sideways loss to Alabama. But it was a second straight impressive performance-offensive firecracker against Florida last week, and a strong defense against the Bulldogs this week. A week after receiver Caleb Chapman lost for the season, A&M showed some depth of play in that position with a 51-yard touchdown reception freshman Chase Lane. But the offensive anchor continues to run back to Isaiah Spiller, who finished his third 100-yard rushing game of the season against the Bulldogs.
7. Florida (2–1)
Last game: Lost at Texas A&M on October 10
Next game: Missouri October 31
The only place the Gators did not suffer any embarrassment this week was on the field, as their game was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak. That was followed by coach Dan Mullen’s absurd assertion that he wanted “Pack The Swamp” with 90,000 fans after Saturday’s defeat at Texas A&M. The week ended with Mullen publicly acknowledging that he, too, had the virus. Florida is a mess from a perspective on the numbers that the game scheduled for next week will be pushed back to Halloween.
8. Cincinnati (3-0)
Last game: Beat USC 28-7 on October 3
Next game: at SMU Saturday
The Bearcats’ own COVID-19 outbreak forced their game against Tulsa, meaning they were 21 days between games when they visited the undefeated SMU Saturday (assuming the game would stay on schedule) . That was a big one for the American Athletic Conference. Cincinnati’s offense has been pedestrian to this day, with quarterback Desmond Ridder as less dynamic as it has been for the past two seasons. But Luke Fickell’s team remains the best defensive unit in the AAC, and will likely make them the team to beat in the league.
9. Oklahoma State (3–0)
Last game: Beat Kansas 47-7 on October 3
Next game: Iowa State Saturday
The Cowboys ’game against Baylor has been postponed by the Bear’s ongoing COVID-19 issues, so they are on the same Cincinnati schedule – three weeks between games. Next up is one that weighs heavily on the Big 12 race, whose Cyclones are also undefeated in conference play. The Oklahoma State defense leads the conference with fewer points allowed per game (9.0) and fewer yards allowed per game (4.05).
10. Marshall (4–0)
Last game: Beat Louisiana Tech, 35-17
Next game: Florida Atlantic Saturday
Time to show some love to Thundering Herd, which still can not be tracked in a game nowadays. Marshall has a top 10 defense nationwide, and freshman quarterback Ben Wells continues to impress – he was 19 of 24 on 227 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score Saturday against Tech. The Herd figure is more favored with each remaining regular-season games.