Top teams starting to materialize
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 4 ballot shook out.
Stabilized: Nine teams didn’t budget from where I had them last week, including Nos. 1-6. The logjam was created by teams pummeling opponents they were supposed to pummel (such as No. 3 Oklahoma clobbering Tulane, 56-14), winning big at potential threats (No. 2 Clemson winning at then-No. 14 Louisville, 47-21) and surviving scares from a non-conference, Power 5 opponent (USC’s 27-20 double-overtime victory over Texas).
Energized: Oklahoma State was the only team in the top 10 to move as it leapfrogged Michigan to move into the No. 7 slot. The Cowboys were dominant in their 59-21 win at Pittsburgh, scoring touchdowns on each of their first seven possessions to take a 49-14 halftime lead. Quarterback Mason Rudolph was pulled in the middle of the third quarter, but not before completing 23 of 32 passes for 497 yards and five touchdowns. While the Cowboys have outscored opponents 59-0 in the first quarter this season, their defense have given up only two plays of 30 or more yards, though each defense its faced has been ranked outside of the top 60 nationally. That trend will change next week when Oklahoma State plays
No. 16 TCU.
Pulverized: LSU looked the same on Saturday under new coach Ed Orgeron as it did with former coach Les Miles –– and that means the Tigers were impotent offensively. But a bigger concern for Orgeron is that Mississippi State did what it wanted, when it wanted during its 37-7 win on Saturday, only the Bulldogs’ second over LSU since 2000.
Scrutinized: Michigan did what it was supposed to do by beating Air Force, still it fell one spot on my ballot because of the ever-probing eye test. The Wolverines’ 29-13 win was primarily the product of school record-tying five field goals by Quinn Nordin that preceded their first touchdown of the game. Nordin also attempted six field goals during Michigan’s season-opening win over Florida, leading to the eyebrow-raising perception that the Wolverines won’t be able to finish drives against elite competition in its own conference.
Recognized: In addition to Mississippi State at No. 22, San Diego State and Oregon are other newbies to crack my ballot. The 24th-ranked Aztecs secured their second straight win over a Power 5 opponent this season by beating then-No. 20 Stanford, 20-17 (They beat Arizona State last week, 30-20). Oregon is now No. 25 after beating Wyoming, 49-13. The Ducks held Cowboys quarterback Josh Allen –– considered to possibly be the top overall pick
in the 2018 NFL Draft –– to 9 of 24 passing for 64 yards. Sixteen NFL scouts saw Allenstruggle again against a Power 5 opponent. He’s 49 of 96 for 427 yards, eight interceptions and only one touchdown over the past two seasons against Nebraska, Iowa and Oregon.
Capsized: UCLA lost to Memphis, Kansas State lost to Vanderbilt. The Bruins and Wildcats –– as well as Stanford –– fell off my ballot.
Organized: With the addition of the Mountain West Conference’s San Diego State, there are now two Group of Five teams on my ballot. South Florida of the American Athletic Conference is 18th. The rest of my ballot continues to be dominated by the Power 5 leagues, led by five teams each from the ACC, the Pac-12 and the SEC. The Big Ten and Big 12 have four teams each.
Monopolized: Three of the four SEC teams on my ballot hail from the West Division, with Florida being the lone East Division representative. That script is flip with regards to the Big Ten, as Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State call the East Division home while Wisconsin hangs its hat in the West. You can put it another way to say that 40 percent of the top 10 is comprised of teams from the Big Ten.
This week’s rankings (previous week):
1. Alabama (1)
2. Clemson (2)
3. Oklahoma (3)
4. Southern Cal (4)
5. Washington (5)
6. Penn State (6)
7. Oklahoma State (8)
8. Michigan (7)
9. Ohio State (9)
10. Wisconsin (10)
11. Georgia (12)
12. Florida State (13)
13. Virginia Tech (15)
14. Auburn (14)
15. Washington State (21)
16. TCU (23)
17. Miami (18)
18. South Florida (19)
19. Louisville (14)
20. Florida (25)
21. Colorado (22)
22. Mississippi State (NR)
23. LSU (11)
24. San Diego State (NR)
25. Oregon (NR)
You can follow Scott Hamilton on Twitter: @ScottH_Sports
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