1. Alabama (6-0)
The defensive play hasn’t been typical lights-out like we are used to seeing with Nick Saban-coached teams. But that’s the growing trend in college (and NFL football) — offenses are going to score lots of points and defenses have to do just enough to win and make the key play at the key moment. And Alabama does that. It doesn’t hurt the the Tide’s offense is electric, itself, led by freshman Jalen Hurts, who’s proven he has the arm and the legs to lead the offense. Bama is the clear number one right now. Even if they lose a game, it’s hard to not view them as a top-4 team in the country.
2. Clemson (6-0)
The Tigers definitely came out of the blocks slowly in 2016 with sloppy, unimpressive wins over Auburn and Troy. Since, Clemson has looked more like the team we expected would show up this year and contend for the number one spot in the country right from the start. The win over Louisville is what puts the Tigers at 2, above the Cardinals and Ohio State.
3. Louisville (4-1)
The Cardinals could be the best team out there. It’s very questionable how any defense in the nation would do against Lamar Jackson. Even Clemson — who’s defense is outstanding — could only hold the Heisman Trophy front runner in check for a half. This is the most exciting offense to watch and if the defense can hold up, they’ll be in prime playoff position all season long.
4. Ohio State (5-0)
The Buckeyes are doing what the Bucks always seem to do early on — win and win big. Usually against substandard teams. This year, the win in Norman against the Sooners stands out, but it’s hard to tell just how good this team is right now after seemingly going at half-speed against the likes of Rutgers and Indiana.
5. Texas A&M (6-0)
Head coach Kevin Sumlin has raised the bar at A&M and, often, his teams fail to meet expectations. But this year — so far, so good. The Aggies have a high-powered offense that dominated an improved Arkansas team and held off a valiant charge from the Volunteers this past Saturday. Of the remaining teams on this list, A&M looks the most impressive against decent competition.
6. Washington (6-0)
With Stanford getting taken apart by Washington State over the weekend, the Huskies big win over the Cardinal looks less impressive. But U-W has done it’s job so far and has a look of a team that should win the Pac-12. Now, winning the conference out west doesn’t automatically mean we’re talking about playoffs. But the Huskies have a lot of season left to change the experts’ mindsets.
7. Michigan (6-0)
Like Washington, Michigan has gotten it done over teams they are clearly much much better than. Their best win is over Wisconsin, who played real tough in Ann Arbor. We’ll know more about Michigan when they play on the road — Rutgers doesn’t count. But in all honesty, this is a really weak schedule, especially with Michigan State looking off this season, and the only game that matters is the one at the end in Columbus. It’s a one-game season for the Wolverines.
8. Ole Miss (3-2)
I know, 2 losses — how can the Rebels be slotted at 8? Easy, they held double-digit leads on both Alabama and FSU before surrendering them. Ole Miss plays tough teams and are tested. Put them in a big game and they will be ready. I relate it to those college basketball teams — like MSU and Tom Izzo — who front load tough matchups in the early portion of the schedule to test themselves and get them “postseason-ready”. Ole Miss isn’t and won’t be afraid or intimidated to play against anyone.
9. Tennessee (5-1)
This is the team of 9 lives. Big comeback wins against Florida and Georgia helps make the Vols a team that won’t give up in any game. They never think they’re out of it — and they’ve got an offense that supports that thought. Despite losing to Texas A&M on Saturday, the Vols showed that never-say-die attitude and came back from a double-digit deficit to force overtime. Big game against Alabama this weekend will show us exactly how good this team is. A win could vault Tennessee into the top 6 and make them a real, legit playoff contender.
10. Wisconsin (4-1)
The annihilation of the Spartans in East Lansing a few weeks ago had the shine come off after they went into Ann Arbor and lost to Michigan at their own game — slow, sluggish, pound-it-out. Not to mention, MSU has lost 3 straight so how impressive was the Badgers win there? All that said, Paul Chryst’s team is tough and has that very important ability to make teams play the game that Wisconsin wants. If Michigan keeps winning (and the Badgers do too, of course), the loss in Ann Arbor shouldn’t hurt them too much. Get to Indy and anything is possible.
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