It wasn’t a chalky week across all of college football — hello, Knoxville — but it was at the top.
The only team from my preseason ballot that lost was in the only matchup of two ranked teams, with Oregon stumbling and losing to Auburn. (Justin Herbert, when throwing a 35-yard last-second shot at the end zone, please don’t throw it 50 yards)
But I think there are style points to be won in the early weeks, and some wins are obviously more impressive than others. Michigan struggling a bit with a C-USA team isn’t a good look. LSU blowing out a Sun Belt team that won 10 games last year is a good look.
I have no idea what to think of Florida, and had two-plus weeks to figure it out.
So, not every win is equal.
Here’s the ballot I filed this week:
1. Clemson (1-0)
Last week: beat Georgia Tech 52-14 (Aug. 29)
Next: vs. Texas A&M
2. Alabama (1-0)
Last week: beat Duke 42-3
Next: vs. New Mexico State
3. Georgia (1-0)
Last week: won at Vanderbilt 30-6
Next: vs. Murray State
4. Ohio State (1-0)
Last week: beat Florida Atlantic 45-21
Next: vs. Cincinnati
5. Oklahoma (1-0)
Last week: beat Houston 49-31 (Sept. 1)
Next: vs. South Dakota
My take: Pretty much #asexpected here. Oklahoma bumps up because of Jalen Hurts’ debut — and the most-impressive thing to me is how he’s handled himself in the past 12 months. Houston doesn’t figure to have a great defense or anything, but Hurts put up better numbers (332 passing yards, three touchdowns, 176 rushing yards, three touchdowns) than Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray ever put up in a single game.
Clemson obviously gets the toughest test of these teams this week, while Cincinnati could stand half a chance in the Horseshoe. The Alabama machine took one half to get greased up.
6. LSU (1-0)
Last week: beat Georgia Southern 55-3
Next: at Texas
7. Notre Dame (1-0)
Last week: won at Louisville 35-17
8. Michigan (1-0)
Last week: beat Middle Tennessee 40-21
Next: vs. Army
9. Florida (1-0)
Last week: beat Miami 24-20 (Aug. 24)
Next: v. UT Martin
10. Texas (1-0)
Last week: beat Louisiana Tech 45-14
Next: vs. LSU
My take: Notre Dame found itself in a dogfight against a revitalized Louisville team, which clearly isn’t going to be the pushover it was with Bobby Petrino and Co. seemingly hating its own players and aiming for a buyout.
I’ve still got faith in the Irish and maybe shouldn’t drop them two spots for winning a road game against a Power 5 team, but it’s also got a lot to do with how good Oklahoma and LSU looked against really good Group of 5 teams. Joe Burrow had more touchdown passes than incompletions — when has that ever happened for an LSU quarterback? I’m guessing never.
I was led to believe Feleipe Franks was improved for Florida, and, uh, not so much. I don’t think Michigan is as good as others seem to think, and I’ll take an uninspired 19-point win over Middle Tennessee as further evidence.
11. Penn State (1-0)
Last week: beat Idaho 79-7
Next: vs. Buffalo
12. Utah (1-0)
Last week: won at BYU 30-12
Next: vs. Northern Illinois
13. Texas A&M (1-0)
Last week: beat Texas State 41-7
Next: at Clemson
14. Auburn (1-0)
Last week: beat Oregon 27-21
Next: vs. Tulane
15. Oregon (0-1)
Last week: lost vs. Auburn 27-21
Next: vs. Nevada
My take: Color me shocked at Auburn beating Oregon, but when a freshman quarterback (Bo Nix) leads a two-score comeback in the fourth quarter … that’s impressive stuff. Didn’t drop Oregon too far (had them at No. 9) because they were missing a ton of receivers, and because a couple of these next teams were not exactly impressive.
Utah had an impressive performance against a rival and shouldn’t have a problem with Northern Illinois.
Texas A&M will obviously have all kinds of problems in Death Valley.
Penn State should roll, not sure if another 79 points are on tap — the defense was supposedly their strength this year.
16. TCU (1-0)
Last week: beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 39-7
17. Michigan State (1-0)
Last week: beat Tulsa 28-7
Next: Western Michigan
18. Virginia (1-0)
Last week: won at Pittsburgh 30-14
Next: vs. William & Mary (Sept. 6)
19. Iowa State (1-0)
Last week: beat Northern Iowa 29-26, 3 OTs
20. UCF (1-0)
Last week: beat Florida A&M 62-0
Next: at Florida Atlantic
My take: TCU beats the first college football team I covered as a professional — go Golden Lions, though no longer coached by Redskins Super Bowl winner Monte Coleman.
Michigan State might have the best defense — not just rush defense, no qualifier — in college football.
But the most-impressive performance in this section of the ballot is Virginia, which came out hot at Pittsburgh, fizzled, and then regrouped by winning the second half 17-0. The Cavaliers had never won in Pittsburgh, and now the ACC Coastal favorites have a win there over the reigning Coastal champs.
Conversely, Iowa State had one of the least-impressive performances of any team on the ballot. The Cyclones flirted with the danger of losing to an FCS team that was 7-6 last year.
21. Boise State (1-0)
Last week: won at Florida State 36-31
Next: vs. Marshall
22. Washington (1-0)
Last week: beat Eastern Washington 47-14
Next: vs. California
23. Nebraska (1-0)
Last week: beat South Alabama 35-21
Next: at Colorado
24. Syracuse (1-0)
Last week: won at Liberty 24-0
Next: at Maryland
25. Washington State (1-0)
Last week: beat New Mexico State 58-7
Next: vs. Northern Colorado
My take: Not the greatest of starts for Nebraska or Syracuse, and they’ll both face stiffer challenges this week with road games at Power 5 opponents.
Boise State, meanwhile, mightcould be higher up this ballot, honestly. But Florida State gave that game away as much as Boise State won it.
Washington and Washington State roll, and I’m trying to figure out if there are bigger opposites for coaches of rival teams than Chris Petersen and Mike Leach.
On the cusp (in no order):
Last week: won at South Florida 49-0
Next: vs. Central Michigan
Appalachian State (1-0)
Last week: beat East Tennessee State 42-7
Next: vs. Charlotte
Wake Forest (1-0)
Last week: beat Utah State 38-35
Next: at Rice
Last week: beat Miami (Ohio) 38-14
Next: vs. Rutgers
Last week: beat Northwestern 17-7
Next: at USC
Last week: beat UCLA 24-14
Next: at Ohio State
Last week: beat Mississippi 15-10
Next: vs. Southern U.