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Utterly Unbiased Top 25: South(eastern) Rises Again

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PROJECTIONS TRULY ARE risky business in college football. Case in point: This week, Jerry Palm continues to project USC highly in the playoff structure despite the Trojans’ weird loss at Boston College.

It was an odd thing to see, considering USC dropped to No. 17 in the AP poll, but Palm may have a point. The Eagles’ loss this season came against Pittsburgh, which is proving to be a pretty good team. The Trojans had to go across the country the week after a very emotional – and winning – showdown with Pac-12 rival Stanford.

Who says it was a bad loss for USC? Alas, here in the world of the Utterly Unbiased Top 25, where we only take into account what is going down on the field without looking ahead, the Trojans will have to take some medicine. For now.

So, too, must our former No. 2, Georgia, following its loss at SEC East rival South Carolina. The Bulldogs’ tumble down our rankings has more to do with other teams stepping up and our dogged pursuit of reward for head-to-head victories. South Carolina returns to the rankings this week and, very necessarily, Georgia must line up behind the Gamecocks until such a time when the Gamecocks lose or Georgia puts a result on the board that can trump that head-to-head setback.

Same goes for Virginia Tech, whose win at Ohio State must be taken into account, even with the ensuing loss to East Carolina, whose lone loss happens to be to those Gamecocks. Not only does ECU have that head to head win against the Hokies; thanks to South Carolina’s big victory, the Pirates now have the more impressive defeat.

An interesting situation is developing with the FBS independents. BYU and Notre Dame each are boasting the prospect of undefeated seasons. BYU has a better shot at that, due to what appears to be a lackluster schedule from here on out. Still, what happens if the only two unbeatens at year’s end are these two?

Anyway, on to this week’s rankings. You’ll see an astonishing 10 teams from the SEC. Bias? No way. Law of the land, people. The SEC schools simply boast the best resumes three weeks into the season, especially since a mere 23 unbeatens remain. No way any league’s dominance will persist, but for now, tip your cap to college football’s traditional power and demand more from your own league.

 

1. TEXAS A&M (3-0)

Defeated Rice 38-10

No change. Got to hand it to the Owls: They didn’t mess around to open the 2014 season. Rice opened the season at Notre Dame, then traveled to College Station. Yikes. Their in-state brethren took their foot off the gas fairly quickly, though, after Kenny Hill tossed his fourth touchdown pass less than two minutes into the second half. There really are few questions remaining for the Aggies offense, but after they pummel a left-for-dead SMU this week, a better-than-advertised Arkansas will give them their biggest test since winning at Columbia.

 

2. BAYLOR (3-0)

Defeated Buffalo 63-21

Baylor moves up one spot. Buffalo on a Friday night. Now that’s a weird venue for a Power 5 superpower. What mattered this time around was quarterback Bryce Petty, who returned to action after a back injury in the season-opener against SMU. He looked no worse for the wear, lobbing for 416 yards and four touchdowns as Baylor jumped ahead 35-0 and set the snooze alarm for the flight home. The creampuff portion of the schedule is now complete. We’ll start to get a better read on the Bears this week with a trip to dangerous Iowa State.

 

3. FLORIDA STATE (2-0)

Did not play

Florida State moves up one spot. Difficult to say just what the Seminoles are at the moment. Clearly the defending national champs are loaded, but are they as elite as they were in 2013? Some were spooked by their performance against Oklahoma State to open the season, but it is possible the Cowboys are a very good team. The Citadel victory last week cannot be weighed or dismissed. It just is. This week, FSU plays host to Clemson, yet another question mark opponent. It could be that we must wait until FSU faces Notre Dame in mid-October before we really have an idea who the defending champs are.

 

4. ALABAMA (3-0)

Defeated Southern Miss 52-12

Alabama moves up one spot. The Tide has pummeled a pair of weak sisters after their tougher-than-expected win against West Virginia in the season-opener. Florida comes calling this week with a modicum of confidence after gritting out an overtime victory against Kentucky, a team that might surprise this season. Nothing particularly stood out for the Tide this week other than the fact Southern Miss scored first and were still down just 21-6 at halftime. Sleepwalk, much?

 

5. LSU (3-0)

Defeated La-Monroe 31-0

LSU moves up one spot. The Tigers have pitched a pair of shutouts against inferior competition after scaring the stripes off themselves in a heart-stopping win against Wisconsin in the season-opener. LSU has now gone nine quarters without allowing a point. Almost 10 – Wisconsin’s final points came at the 13:24 mark of the third quarter. In comes Mississippi State, the weaker of the two Mississippi SEC schools, but a dangerous offensive team, nonetheless. Should give us all a good gauge of just how solid LSU’s defense is.

 

6. AUBURN (2-0)

Did not play

Auburn moves up two spots. Not sure which team has the most pressure on it when Auburn travels to Kansas State this Thursday. Coming into the season, many were warning of a potential Auburn defeat against the always-dangerous genius, Bill Snyder. But Kansas State has a lousy record against non-con ranked teams and Auburn has had the same week off as Kansas State to prepare. Considering this isn’t a trap game for Auburn (it’s sandwiched between San Jose State, a bye and Louisiana Tech) it is difficult to see how Auburn is going to get much of a test. In fact, it’s much easier to envision a colorful Auburn rout than it is a stunning upset, albeit against a good Power 5 foe on the road.

 

7. OLE MISS (3-0)

Defeated La-Lafayette 56-15

Ole Miss moves up three spots. The Rebels are now ninth nationally in passing yards and fourth with 10.3 points allowed per game. This week, Bo Wallace tossed a 25-yard touchdown on his first pass of the game and the Rebels never looked back. It’s important to note that first pass came on the Rebels’ second drive, not the first. That’s because I’Tavius Mathers opened the game with a 56-yard touchdown run. Ole Miss is firing on all cylinders and will have another tune-up game against Memphis this week before Truth Or Consequences Week at Alabama.

 

8. PITTSBURGH (3-0)

Defeated Fla. International 42-25

Pittsburgh moves up three spots. Nothing the Panthers have done so far screamed special – just solid – until Boston College stunned USC this weekend. That victory by the Eagles suddenly made the Panthers’ 30-20 win against B.C. that more impressive, hence another climb in the UU Top 25 despite an ordinary look against FIU. For what it’s worth, the game was in sunny Florida, so perhaps the Panthers were working on their tans.

 

9. NOTRE DAME

Defeated Purdue 30-14

Notre Dame moves up three spots. The UU Top 25 does not believe in ties, but truth be known, we’re seeing little difference between Pitt and Notre Dame just now. This could almost be interpreted as No. 8b, rather than No. 9 for the Irish. Everett Golson is taking on the look of a Heisman Trophy contender after the Irish’s second, dominant win against a Big Ten opponent. A bye, followed by a fairly uninteresting matchup against Syracuse, is next before a big showdown against Stanford on Oct. 4

 

10. BYU (3-0)

Defeated Houston 33-25

BYU drops one spot. This week’s win against fellow Cougars was looking really impressive until Houston stormed back and somehow made a game of it. That stings BYU just a smidge in this week’s rankings, as does Texas’ most-recent defeat, which deflates BYU’s strength of schedule. BYU can cure their hiccup, though, with a win against visiting Virginia, a team that nearly cracked this week’s rankings.

 

THE REST OF THE BEST

 11. PENN STATE (3-0)

Defeated Rutgers 13-10

Penn State moves up three spots. Hard fought victory against one of the early season’s surprise squads keeps the Nits at the forefront Big Ten title discussion.

 

12. OREGON (3-0)

Defeated Wyoming 48-14

Oregon moves up three spots. Might not be all that easy to find a superlative in a seemingly also-ran sort of game, but the Ducks were impressive in shaking off a Michigan State hangover in the first quarter against Wyoming.

 

13. OKLAHOMA (3-0)

Defeated Tennessee 34-10

Oklahoma moves up three spots. We were a little skeptical of Tennessee despite nudging them into the UU Top 25 this past week. There was something suspect about the Vols. We should have trusted our instincts, perhaps, but we definitely can now say we trust in Oklahoma’s defense.

 

14. MISSOURI (3-0)

Defeated Central Florida 38-10

Missouri moves up four spots. OK, maybe it’s time we start considering Mizzou’s chances in a chaotic SEC East. The offense is putting itself together and the defense has been pretty impressive despite heavy graduation losses.

 

15. MISSISSIPPI STATE (3-0)

Defeated South Alabama 35-3

Mississippi State moves up seven spots. The rise of the Bulldogs has a heckuva lot to do with madness in the back half of our rankings. They have pounded three weak sisters, which gives them the UU Top 25’s Suspect Award, previously held by dearly departed Tennessee. LSU will cross-examine the Bulldogs this week.

 

16. ARIZONA STATE (3-0)

Defeated Colorado 38-24

Arizona State moves up one spot. The Sun Devils’ defense seems questionable. We’ll get answers to that question in the next two weeks when ASU must face UCLA and USC.

 

17. NEBRASKA (3-0)

Defeated Fresno State 55-19

Nebraska moves up three spots. Wow, does Fresno State miss Derek Carr. The Bulldogs may be one of the very worst teams in the country this year. Nebraska did what it had to do in this very weird road trip. We will find out whether Nebraska is a Big Ten threat this week in a measuring stick game against an ordinary Power 5 opponent in Miami.

 

18. SOUTH CAROLINA (2-1)

Defeated Georgia 38-35

South Carolina was unranked. Two weeks ago at the Power 5 Bottom 10, it was cautioned that South Carolina wasn’t as bad as that season-opening loss against Texas A&M made it appear. Proof of that came this past weekend. Big, season-salvaging victory.

 

19. GEORGIA (2-1)

Lost to South Carolina 38-35

Georgia drops 17 spots. And just as it was cautioned not to read too much into the Gamecocks’ loss to Texas A&M, we offer the same advice for Georgia’s setback at Columbia. It’s a blip.

 

20. BOSTON COLLEGE (2-1)

Defeated USC 37-31

Boston College was unranked. The Eagles are not the class of the ACC, but their home turf can be a tough place for an opponent to scratch out a win. BC is in, for now, but let’s see if they can hang. Two slop games are next on the docket before a trip to a decent N.C. State.

 

21. USC (2-1)

Lost to Boston College 37-31

USC drops 14 spots. This loss also has the look of temporary setback. While the Trojans’ ceiling may not be as high as it seemed last week, they still contain Top 10 potential.

 

22. UCLA (3-0)

Defeated Texas 20-17

UCLA was not ranked. Unlike our AP and Coaches Top 25 comrades, we have massive reservations over the unbeaten but lethargic start to 2014 by the Bruins. All wins are by one score. Where’s the powerhouse we were expecting?

 

23. EAST CAROLINA (2-1)

Defeated Virginia Tech 28-21

East Carolina was not ranked. The Pirates will continue to terrorize their Power 5 neighbors this week, playing host to North Carolina. This is a gritty crew led by a very underrated QB in Shane Carden.

 

24. FLORIDA (2-0)

Defeated Kentucky 36-30

Florida drops one spot. Looks ugly, right? Kentucky took you to overtime at The Swamp, Gators? Really? Psst … it’s possible the Wildcats are a tad more dangerous than first thought. Solid on the offensive side of the ball. Alabama awaits.

 

25. VIRGINIA TECH (2-1)

Lost to East Carolina 28-21

Virginia Tech drops 12 spots. We were pretty conflicted this week by the Hokies. On one hand, hangover losses at home are pretty bad. On the other hand, winning at Ohio State will always be impressive. So, for now, they stay in the rankings, but teams like Kansas State, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas and Washington are lurking.

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