Last weekend was quite the weekend, wasn’t it? I’ll have to admit, it might have been my favorite of the season so far after all the stress watching Auburn has caused over the last few weeks. We got to sit back, watch Auburn steamroll a Sun Belt opponent like we should, and enjoy all the chaos that everyone else felt around us. There were some marquee games, like Michigan-Wisconsin and Louisville-Clemson, but just as much fun were teams snatching victory away in the last seconds (I’m looking at you, UNC at Tennessee). A bit of schadenfreude, if you will, because I will never tire of watching UGA and FSU lose.
The chaos, however, made its way into the Sterritt Score. Things got… interesting this week.
Without further ado, here is this week’s Top 25!
As always, here's the link to the full spreadsheet.
Oh boy. Where do we start?
The Top 4
The top two teams, just as before, are still Michigan and Ohio State. Even though Michigan played a tight, low scoring game against Wisconsin, with only a 7 point MOV and about a 2 minute KO, that’s a pretty impressive win over a previously undefeated team who has been LSU and walloped Michigan State already. Michigan is easily in the driver’s seat right now. The only team they’ve played so far that was actually pretty bad was Hawaii, while the win over now #20 (!!!) Colorado looks more impressive each week. Michigan’s strength of schedule will fall some, though, as the season goes on. Their next three games feature #97 Rutgers, #85 Illinois, and a struggling #86 Michigan State team. Still on the schedule, though, is…
Ohio State. They’ve averaged 48 points per game… wait, that’s not right. They’ve averaged WINNING BY 48 points per game through four games while averaging a KO at the beginning of the second quarter. They haven’t played the toughest schedule yet, but they’ve been near invincible so far.
At #3 and #4, we have some newcomers who have more than lived up to the hype they received this summer. Miami, #3, has only played three counting games so far, but in them, they’ve steamrolled some people, including #39 App State. We’ll see how they hold up after the next few weeks, hosting #61 FSU and #46 UNC while traveling to #12 Virginia Tech and #53 Notre Dame. They should be favored in each game, but it’s a tough stretch nonetheless. The last team in right now, #4 Washington, demolished #33 Stanford at home last Friday. They did to Stanford what Stanford does to everyone else, and it was impressive. The schedule appears to be pretty easy from here out, too, with only trips to #43 Utah and #32 Wazzu looking like legitimate challenges.
So at this point you might be asking why in the world Clemson and Louisville are #10 and #8, respectively, and why Clemson is ranked *behind* Louisville despite beating them this week. The second question is easier than the first. Clemson is behind the Cardinals because of Clemson’s disappointing start to the year. Late, six-point wins over #20 Auburn, #15 Troy, and #8 Louisville, while impressive wins, have stifled their MOV and KO numbers tremendously. Meanwhile, Louisville with Lamar Jackson has just been stomping on mostly weaker opponents, only meeting a team who could measure up to them this week. With the teams playing similar schedules the rest of the year, if Clemson truly is the better team, it will show up in the numbers. For now, I have to think if that game was played on a neutral field, Louisville would slightly edge out Clemson. Death Valley was plenty into the game last Saturday, and it showed.
The answer to the other question of why both teams are ranked relatively low is that the teams ahead of them have been taking advantage of some weaker opponents to pad their stats. For example, outside of #23 Ole Miss, Alabama has played a fairly weak schedule, but they’ve put together comfortable wins in each game. #7 Western Michigan has actually played an average schedule, beating two middling Big 10 teams, in-state rival #83 Central Michigan, and Sun Belt power #64 Georgia Southern, but they’ve knocked out three of those teams in the 2nd quarter and only had Northwestern get within three scores. Their strength of schedule should soon fall away, just as most other small conference school’s will, once conference play really gets underway. I feel like I should include here my weekly reminder that this is only Week 5. Most teams have only had four games of data to work with, and usually one or two of those were against bad cupcake teams. Point being, the rankings will become more accurate as the weeks go on. Be patient!
Is any state playing better football than Alabama right now? I would check, but I don’t have the time on my hands to figure this one out definitively. Right now, the state has four teams: #6 Alabama, #15 Troy, #26 Auburn, and #88 USA. Disagree all you want about how Troy is ranked, but they came within six points of beating Clemson (they might have been a little bit screwed over in that game) and have a really good win in Hattiesburg taking down C-USA favorite #30 Southern Miss. Despite the Clemson loss, they have still averaged winning by 17 points per game and have knocked opponents out late in the 3rd quarter. South Alabama, the brand new FBS school, has been much more impressive than their #88 ranking, with wins over #55 (but then-ranked) SDSU and at #41 Mississippi State.
Overall, the state has a record of 13-5, with wins over USC, Ole Miss, LSU, Mississippi State, and Southern Miss. That’s impressive when half of your teams are Sun Belt teams. By comparison, Georgia is 6-9, Tennessee is 12-5 (not too shabby), and Mississippi is 7-5.
I’m confident in this team. It seems like the offensive coaching staff is starting to exorcise some of their demons, and we’re looking more and more competent on offense each week. I’d say we’re already miles ahead of where we were last year. And, despite how frustrating and winnable the two losses were, we’re 3-2 with losses to the #10 and #14 teams in the country. That’s… about where we thought we’d be right now, right? The schedule lightens up this month, despite having to travel. This week, we travel to #41 Mississippi State, a good litmus test for where the offense actually is. I like the defense to play pretty stoutly against the Bulldogs, and so long as we can punch a few drives into the end zone, we should walk away with a win.
The Week Ahead
While last week had the three top 10 matchups, this week appears to be as deep as a single weekend can get. Conference play is in full swing now, and it’s make or break for some teams (and coaches trying to save their jobs). Here’s a list of the matchups I’m most intrigued about…
#61 FSU at #3 Miami
#46 UNC at #14 Virginia Tech
#2 Ohio State at #18 Wisconsin
#66 OU vs #56 Texas, just for guaranteed meltdown of the losing team
#4 Washington at #62 Oregon
#32 Wazzu at #33 Stanford
#20 Colorado at #63 USC (Go Buffs!)
#37 LSU at #17 UF
#19 Tennessee at #14 TAMU
#6 Bama at #29 Arkansas
And of course…
#26 Auburn at #41 Mississippi State
That’s all I’ve got for this week, y’all. Thanks for reading, and War Eagle!