How the AP Top 25 should’ve looked after Week 2
Erase what you thought you knew about the SEC West heading into the 2015 season.
After two weeks, Texas A&M and Ole Miss are better than expected — the Aggies defensively and the Rebels offensively — as two of the division’s best teams, Alabama’s about where we thought it would be and the Auburn-Arkansas combination has failed to live up to expectations.
The good news? Auburn survived its scare.
Ten SEC teams ranked in the second AP Top 25 was simply too many and separation will soon begin. Tennessee’s fourth-quarter meltdown against Oklahoma proves the Vols aren’t yet ready for a spot inside the Top 20 and Mississippi State fell a couple plays short in its SEC opener against LSU.
If the season ended today, I’d say Ohio State, TCU and Michigan State were the three best teams in college football. The fourth spot’s up for grabs.
Ranking the Top 25 based on what we saw on the field Saturday with Week 2 rankings in mind, here’s how the AP Top 25 should’ve looked heading into the third weekend of games:
How the AP Top 25 Should’ve Looked
1. Ohio State (2-0) — Point blank, the Buckeyes can sleepwalk through the next two months of the regular season.
2. Alabama (2-0) — Six touchdowns for Derrick Henry thus far, but the Crimson Tide still haven’t settled on a quarterback. Jake Coker needs to play well — and produce enough points — to win Saturday’s showdown against Ole Miss. If not, Alabama has zero margin for error the rest of the way much like last season.
3. TCU (2-0) — Trevone Boykin’s Heisman campaign was re-energized against Stephen F. Austin with four touchdown passes.
4. Michigan State (2-0) — The Spartans posted college football’s best win thus far Saturday night in East Lansing after holding off Oregon.
5. Baylor (2-0) — Art Briles’ offense has taken awhile to get started in consecutive weeks, but when it has, it doesn’t stop.
6. USC (2-0) — Distractions aside, the Trojans have disposed of their first two opponents by a score of 114-15.
7. Georgia (2-0) — I’m still worried that the Bulldogs will be a one-dimensional football team against elite competition further down the road this season. That one-dimension is awfully good with Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and others, but at some point, the passing game must become a threat. Georgia’s defense in Year 2 under Jeremy Pruitt could be even better than advertised.
8. Notre Dame (2-0) — The fighting Irish’s Playoff hopes took a severe blow after Malik Zaire broke his ankle, but his back-up showed flashes of starpower during a win at Virginia.
9. Florida State (2-0) — Dalvin Cook’s unstoppable. The sophomore ballcarrier’s rushed for 422 yards on 49 carries thus far as Everett Golson adjusts to the Seminoles’ offense.
10. Oregon (1-1) — Vernon Adams and the Ducks had their chances at fifth-ranked Michigan State, but it wasn’t to be. That could be Oregon’s only loss during the regular season.
11. Oklahoma (2-0) — I didn’t think the Sooners could go on the road in front of 100,000-plus and beat Tennessee, much less doing so with a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
12. UCLA (2-0) — Josh Rosen’s second start wasn’t as spectacular as his first, but this Bruins team is most likely the most talented Jim Mora’s had in the Pac 12.
13. Clemson (2-0) — Injuries are mounting for a preseason Power 5 favorite.
14. LSU (2-0) — Good old fashioned pad-crunching. If you don’t like the way the Tigers play the game, you aren’t a football purist. Les Miles fed arguably the West’s best player (Leonard Fournette) a career-high 28 times Saturday night in Starkville to ensure his team won its opener. Taking pressure off Brandon Harris’ shoulders was a marvelous plan.
15. Ole Miss (2-0) — Video game numbers. Not only have the Rebels been explosive with Chad Kelly under center, they’ve been downright unstoppable. Ole Miss is averaging a nation-leading 9.3 yards per play and has scored 149 in eight quarters. En fuego. Will it continue in Tuscaloosa?
16. Texas A&M (2-0) — The fourth West team in this ranking thus far, I’d put the Aggies a hair behind LSU and Ole Miss for the battle for second in the division after two weeks. Arizona State slipped past Cal Poly, which didn’t exactly strengthen Texas A&M’s Week 1 win. The defense has been rock solid under John Chavis, however and if that continues, this team’s capable of 10 wins.
17. Auburn (2-0) — Jeremy Johnson is an unknown and the Tigers haven’t passed the eye-test defensively with so many injuries, but anyone writing off Auburn’s Saturday night affair in Baton Rouge is overreacting. I thought Auburn’s 12-spot fall from No. 6 to No. 18 in this week’s poll was too harsh at first glance, but after further inspection, the Tigers did this to themselves. Let’s wait until there’s a mark in the loss column however before handing out mediocre bowl invites.
18. Georgia Tech (2-0) — Boasting an offense that’s the inverse of Mississippi’s up-tempo spread, Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets have stomped a sizable hole in their first two opponents.
19. Arizona (2-0) — Quarterback Anu Solomon’s completing passes at a near 67 percent clip and has six touchdowns without an interception in two starts.
20. Utah (2-0) — Wins over Jim Harbaugh are obviously inflating, but the Utes could be a factor our West.
21. BYU (2-0) — Kudos to the Cougars for wins over Nebraska and Boise State. The Hail Mary magic will soon run out.
22. Mizzou (2-0) — If there’s one player having an outstanding year that few have mentioned nationally, it’s linebacker Kentrell Brothers. Not only did he help the Tigers stave off an upset Saturday at Arkansas State, but his 32 total tackles thus far leads college football. Brothers is improving his draft stock with every game tape. Mizzou hasn’t looked like one of the Top 25 best teams in the country early, but the two-time defending division champs get the benefit of the doubt since they were ranked in the preseason.
23. Northwestern (2-0) — Many feared the Wildcats would overlook Eastern Illinois following a win over nationally-ranked Stanford, but it didn’t happen.
24. Oklahoma State (2-0) — There’s a team in the Big 12 playing defense early? Maybe the Cowboys won’t be forced to out-score the opposition in shootout fashion this fall.
25. Wisconsin (1-1) — The Badgers showed more in a loss to Alabama than they did over the weekend during a 58-point drubbing.
Other SEC notes: Mizzou could be the next SEC team to fall out of the Top 25 if the Tigers don’t get it together offensively. Too much inconsistency. After Saturday’s game against UConn, Mizzou travels to Lexington in a game that could possibly decide which team stays ranked heading into October (if the Wildcats beat Florida this weekend).