The Associated Press released its new Top 25 on Tuesday afternoon, and the results were a sharp reminder that the SEC was off its game this past weekend.
But just like anything else that uses input from several dozen people, the aggregated poll typically leans toward “safe” results and groupthink (ex. “Where was this team ranked last week?” instead of using a clean slate to make decisions).
So, naturally, we have some problems with the Week 2 poll. Here’s how we’d fix it.
25. West Virginia
(1-0 • AP: Unranked) A win over Missouri didn’t turn many heads, but the Mountaineers dominated the Tigers at home. West Virginia unexpectedly posted 494 total yards against a stingy Missouri “D,” with the only scare coming when veteran quarterback Skyler Howard (ribs) left briefly before halftime.
(1-0 • AP: No. 15) The Horned Frogs appeared as if they might join a few other Power 5 programs on the “gimme” chopping block, as South Dakota State grabbed an early lead and — after TCU appeared to pull away — scored a late touchdown to cut the home team’s lead to 45-41. The defense can’t afford to be as porous against Big 12 foes, and a couple Jackrabbits interceptions made Frogs quarterback Kenny Hill’s big day (484 total yards) far from perfect.
23. Miami (FL)
(1-0 • AP: No. 25) Mark Richt’s new school took care of Florida A&M with a 70-7 win at home. The most impressive figure was 373: the number of rushing yards the Hurricanes racked up on just 36 carries against the hapless Rattlers.
(1-0 • AP: No. 17) Appalachian State is a much better team than the oddsmakers gave them credit for, but Tennessee was supposed to be College Football Playoff contender. Thursday’s performance was uninspiring on both sides of the football. It will be impossible to believe in this team until it ends an 11-game losing streak to Florida on Sept. 24.
(0-1 • AP: No. 21) Brandon Harris is not very good. The Tigers’ offensive plan is questionable. LSU is one loss from being effectively removed from playoff conversation. But there may not be a team outside of Tuscaloosa with as much talent as Les Miles has piled up in Baton Rouge.
(1-0 • AP: No. 23) The mountain of off-field distractions in Waco has apparently distracted us from the fact that Baylor is ready to contend again in 2016. Sure, the university’s violations might be bad enough to get the Bears banished from football; but those who overlook them while the team still exists are doomed. Baylor kicked off its season with a 55-7 shellacking of FCS school Northwestern State on Saturday.
(1-0 • AP: No. 16) It’s not truly football season until Kirk Ferentz gets a contract extension. He’s now locked up through 2068 (we kid), but Iowa brass seems to forget that his Hawkeyes teams underwhelm — like clockwork — when high preseason expectations are placed on them.
18. Michigan State
(1-0 • AP: No. 12) One of several supposedly elite teams to struggle against an inferior program, Michigan State never broke away from Furman during a 28-13 win in East Lansing. Just like Iowa, the Spartans are a Big Ten team that few people want to put money on at this juncture. Unlike Iowa, the Spartans have shown a consistent ability to exceed expectations under Mark Dantonio.
17. Notre Dame
(0-1 • AP: No. 18) The Fighting Irish nearly snuck out a tough win at Texas, and probably would have gotten the “W” if Brian Kelly had given DeShone Kizer (15-for-24, 215 yards, 5 touchdowns) full control of the Notre Dame offense over Malik Zaire. We’re worried about the Notre Dame defense (517 yards allowed), but this is a team that can play with anyone.
16. Ole Miss
(0-1 • AP: No. 19) In the first half of Monday night’s game, Ole Miss held a 22-point lead over what might be the best team in the country. It all came crashing down against Florida State, of course. But we caught a glimpse of what the Rebels are capable of. There’s enough talent on this team to take down Alabama for a third straight season.
15. Oklahoma State
(1-0 • AP: No. 22) The Cowboys shared the wealth in a 61-7 romp over Southeast Louisiana in Stillwater. Star quarterback Mason Rudolph was sharp and 19 total offensive players touched the football. Next up is Central Michigan, which gave the Pokes some trouble in a 24-13 game last year.
(1-0 • AP: No. 13) We still don’t know much about Louisville after a 70-14 thrashing of Charlotte last Thursday. Quarterback Lamar Jackson thrust himself into the Heisman conversation with 8 total touchdowns in the first half (!), but we want to see the Cardinals tested against a better program.
(1-0 • AP: No. 11) Poor Charlie Strong finally has a team that’s capable of bringing the Longhorns back into the national championship conversation. Beating Notre Dame in overtime required talent, execution and perseverance — most of which has been missing in Austin since Strong took over. We like the look of Texas’ two-quarterback attack.
12. Texas A&M
(1-0 • AP: No. 20) What more do you want from a title contender? The Aggies showed an elite ability to rush the passer and have a senior quarterback throwing to what might be the country’s most talented group of receivers. Sure, they blew a late lead against UCLA, and, sure, Kevin Sumlin’s teams tend to fade down the stretch, but this year’s Aggies have the pieces to contend for the SEC West title against big, bad Alabama.
(1-0 • AP: No. 10) There’s not much to love about Wisconsin’s offense, but the Badgers did enough to trip up LSU — a supremely talented squad — this past weekend. If the Badgers are able to get to November with one or no losses, they will be Playoff-worthy: They play at Michigan State, at Michigan, vs. Ohio State, at Iowa and vs. Nebraska before then.
(0-1 • AP: No. 14) Someone had to lose Saturday’s dogfight vs. Houston, so we’re not going to punish the Sooners too much for falling to the Cougars. They remain the most talented team in the Big 12, and their Sept. 17 matchup against Ohio State will take care of that Playoff talk one way or another.
(1-0 • AP: No. 7) Christian McCaffrey has brought a spotlight to Palo Alto, but the Cardinal’s first victory — a 26-13 defeat of Kansas State — resulted in mixed reviews. There’s little doubt McCaffrey will hold up his end of the bargain, but the rest of his teammates? The next three games (vs. USC, at UCLA and at Washington) will test their talent.
(1-0 • AP: No. 8) Unlike their Pac-12 rival at No. 9, the Huskies are easing into their season. Saturday brought a blowout win over Rutgers, and the next two weeks feature visits from Idaho and Portland State, neither of which should bring trouble to Seattle.
(1-0 • AP: No. 5) For the second straight year, Jim Harbaugh will attempt to reach the Playoff with a no-name quarterback. It nearly worked in 2015 — save for an act of God against Michigan State — and the Wolverines’ group of Jordan-branded Jumpmen looked unstoppable in a 63-3 drubbing of Hawaii in Week 1.
(1-0 • AP: No. 9) If the Bulldogs can get settled at quarterback, they look like the favorite to win the SEC East. An impressive comeback win vs. ACC contender North Carolina featured star running back Nick Chubb (222 yards) returning from knee surgery and putting himself near the top of the Heisman conversation. We’ll learn all about true freshman Jacob Eason during an upcoming three-game stretch against top defenses: at Missouri, at Ole Miss and vs. Tennessee.
5. Ohio State
(1-0 • AP: No. 4) J.T. Barrett’s Heisman campaign and the Buckeyes’ invincibility were briefly called into question when the star quarterback tossed a pick-6 to open the season vs. Bowling Green. As if to punish the Falcons for trying, Barrett and the Buckeyes outscored them 77-3 over the remainder of the contest. Message received: Ohio State is dominant again.
4. Florida State
(1-0 • AP: No. 3) A neutral-site win over SEC West heavyweight Ole Miss is about as close as you can get to replicating a Playoff game during the regular season. The Seminoles got off to a slow start — they fell behind by 22 in the first half — but the offense became as scary as advertised once redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois got comfortable.
(1-0 • AP: No. 2) We’re a bit torn here, because Heisman candidate Deshaun Watson and the Clemson offense underwhelmed against a huge underdog. But a win at Auburn is big for any program, large or small, so we’re giving the defending national runner-up a pass and counting on a soft September schedule to allow Dabo Swinney’s squad a chance to build up steam.
(1-0 • AP: No. 6) Smashing the Big 12 favorite away from your home stadium is about as good as it gets for a non-Power 5 team. Houston has a great chance of running the table in 2016, but it could likely find itself on the outside of the Playoff looking in as bigger programs — say, the ones ranked directly behind it here — play through tougher conference schedules.
(1-0 • AP: No. 1) The Alabama defense might be better than last year’s, which means an average offensive effort would be enough to contend for an SEC title. But the Crimson Tide offense is borderline elite, too, especially if the eventual full-time starter at quarterback — either true freshman Jalen Hurts or redshirt freshman Blake Barnett — gets into a mid-season groove.