Hamilton column: Were Week 1 results the real deal or smoke and mirrors?

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Former Winston-Salem Journal columnist and ESPN Triad host Scott Hamilton is one of 61 voters in the Associated Press college football poll. Here’s how his Week 2 ballot shook out.

Blind shuffle: Alabama retained the top spot after beating then-No. 2 Florida State, 24-7, and that barely diverged from a theme for the majority of the teams on the upper part of my ballot. The Crimson Tide was one of only three teams to move up a spot in my rankings thanks to a chain reaction created by the Seminoles’ loss. Michigan moved from ninth to seventh via a 33-17 win over then-No. 16 Florida while Penn State remained at No. 8 after beating an uninspired Akron team, 52-0. Of course, Alabama couldn’t do better than to stay at No. 1.
Misdirection: Florida State fell 11 spots after losing against top-ranked Alabama, though not because it wasn’t competitive. With quarterback Deondre Francois out with a season-ending knee injury, I’m hesitant to label the Seminoles as a top-10 team until I see true freshman James Blackman take meaningful snaps.
Abracadabra: Opening week is traditionally when winners and contenders set the stage for their Heisman Trophy candidacy and it was no different over the weekend. Familiar names from last year again had standout performances, including Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. The reigning Heisman winner completed 30 of 46 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns while running for another 107 yards in a 35-28 win over Purdue. But also takenote of these new names: Running backs J.K. Dobbins of Ohio State and Bryce Love of
Stanford. Dobbins, a freshman, ran 29 times for 181 yards during the Buckeyes’ 49-21 win over Indiana. Love, charged with taking over for Christian McCaffery, ran for 180 yards and a touchdown on only 13 carries as the Cardinal beat Rice, 62-7.
Presto: Two teams missed prime opportunities to enhance their brands. Texas A&M, which was unexpectedly listed as fourth in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, fell behind 28-7 en route to a 35-28 loss at Mississippi State. Nebraska, previously ninth on my ballot, was pummeled by the Buckeyes, 62-3. The Huskers could still win the Big Ten West Division, yet is only 3-3 against Michigan and Ohio State since joining the conference. And none of those victories have come against coaches Jim Harbaugh or Urban Meyer.

Now you see me: Notre Dame, TCU and Colorado are now on my Top 25 ballot after being unranked in the preseason. The Irish beat Temple, 49-16, in junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush’s first career start. TCU rolled Jackson State, 63-0, while Colorado — which lost eight defensive starters from last year’s team as well as defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt — beat Colorado State, 17-3.
Now you don’t: Texas, West Virginia and Appalachian State have already vanished from my ballot. The Longhorns lost Coach Tom Herman’s debut, 51-41, to Maryland while Georgia had little problem with Appalachian State, 31-10. Virginia Tech beat West Virginia, 31-24, in the first game between the former Big East foes since 2005.
Sleight of hand: My ballot is dominated by the Power 5, with No. 15 South Florida the only Group of 5 team to crack the list. And there is parity among the big boys, as the ACC, Pac-12 and SEC each have five teams ranked. The Big Ten is slightly off that pace by having four teams ranked — or is it? All four Big Ten teams are between No. 2 (Ohio State) and No. 10 (Wisconsin). The Big 12 also has four teams, though they’re spaced out with a pair in the top 10 and two others near the bottom in No. 20 Kansas State and No. 23 TCU. Notre Dame, a new addition this week at No. 24, is the lone independent.

This week’s rankings (preseason ranking):
1. Alabama (1)
2. Ohio State (3)
3. Southern Cal (4)
4. Clemson (5)
5. Washington (6)
6. Oklahoma (7)
7. Michigan (9)

8. Penn State (8)
9. Oklahoma State (10)
10. Wisconsin (11)
11. LSU (12)
12. Auburn (13)
13. Florida State (2)
14. Stanford (14)
15. Georgia (15)
16. Virginia Tech (20)
17. Louisville (17)
18. Miami (Fla.) (18)
19. South Florida (21)
20. Kansas State (24)
21. Washington State (23)
22. Colorado (NR)
23. TCU (NR)
24. Notre Dame (NR)
25. Florida (16)
You can follow Scott Hamilton on Twitter: @ScottH_Sports