NCAA Football: State of the Top 10
NCAA Football

We are seven weeks into the college football season, and it has been a roller coaster to this point! We have witnessed a top 10 team lose 14 different times. Of course, some of those losses were to other top 10 teams but most of them were not. We saw top 5 teams, like Alabama, Iowa, and Oregon, lose to unranked opponents. We have also had the privilege of witnessing teams like Cincinnati, Michigan, Michigan State, and Oklahoma State shoot up the rankings to make their way into the top 10. This has been a crazy season to say the least! It has been a while since we have seen Bama and Clemson not in the top 2. So what does that mean for this season? Who has a realistic shot at the title? Can a team like Cincinnati finally make the college football playoff? Let’s dive in and look at the state of the top 10 in college football after 7 weeks!

Georgia Bulldogs (1)

Georgia came into the season ranked number 5 and they have quickly moved up the rankings. Georgia’s defense is elite and is ranked first in the country, only allowing 3.58 yards per play and 208.4 yards per game. They are ranked 16th in 3rd down conversion defense and 1st in scoring defense only allowing 6.57 points per game. Their offense is not on the same level as their defense, but it is still respectable. They come in ranked 48th in total offense averaging 430.1 yards per game and ranked 15th in scoring offense averaging 38.4 points per game. This is Georgia’s year! They finally have the team to win the SEC. They have already beaten two top 10 teams and two other top 25 teams this season. They will finish the season as the number 1 team in the country and be the number 1 seed in the college football playoff this year.

Cincinnati (2)

Cincinnati is ranked what?!?! Yes, you are reading that correctly, Cincinnati comes into week 8 ranked number 2 in the country. They do not have the resume that Georgia has, and they will not. Cincinnati has only beaten one ranked opponent and that was Notre Dame in week 4 who was ranked 9th. Currently they only have one more ranked opponent on their schedule, SMU who is currently ranked 21st. For Cincinnati to keep their spot in the college football playoff, they will have to continue to smash all their opponents and will also need SMU to remain ranked. If they do not, I could see a one loss team or even another undefeated power 5 team jumping them in the rankings. They come in with the 32nd ranked total offense averaging 446.5 yards per game and the 6th ranked scoring offense averaging 43.5 points per game. Their offense is led by their running back Jerome Ford who has 709 yards and ranks second amongst running backs in touchdowns with 12. Their defense comes in ranked 14th in total defense giving up 296.7 yards per game and 3rd in scoring only giving up 13.67 points per game. The argument with Cincinnati’s team rankings is their opponents have been subpar. Cincinnati will end up winning out and should do so with the only close game being against SMU. I see Cincinnati finishing ranked 4th in the college football playoff rankings and making the college football playoff for the first time ever!

Oklahoma (3)

Oklahoma came into this season with extremely high hopes and led by a Heisman Trophy candidate in Spencer Rattler. Instead of Oklahoma coming in and proving that they are worthy of the initial season rankings they have not looked good in most of their wins. To be fair, they keep winning, but everyone is just waiting for them to slip up in one of these close games. Outside of their game against WCU, their average margin of victory is 8.2 points per game. They did have a big win over number 21 ranked Texas on October 9th, coming from behind to win on a 33-yard touchdown run with 3 seconds left. Oklahoma comes into week 8 ranked 65th in total defense giving up 377.9 yards per game and the 67th ranked scoring defense giving up an average of 24.9 points per game. The strength of this team is their offense. Their offense comes in ranked 14th in total offense with an average of 479.1 yards per game and ranked 7th in scoring offense averaging 42.7 points per game. During the Texas game Rattler was benched due to his poor performance and Caleb Williams took his place and played very well. Williams was named the starter the following week against TCU. Oklahoma is another team that has not had the toughest schedule with their only ranked opponent to this point being Texas. They will have two more big matchups this season against Baylor and Oklahoma State. I do not believe that Oklahoma will get through this season undefeated. They have played too many games close and it will come back to bite them at some point. They will finish in the top 10 due to their easier schedule but they will not make the college football playoff this year!

Alabama (4)

It is crazy to say that Alabama is having a “down” year when they have lost one game, but they are not the same dominant team they typically are. I am not 100% sure how they only dropped to 5th after losing to an unranked Texas A&M team two weeks ago, but they did and after last week they moved to number 4. Bama has three top 15 wins this season. They come in with the 12th ranked total offense averaging 482.6 yards per game and the 4th ranked scoring offense averaging 45 points per game. Where Alabama has had a bit of a drop off from other years is in their defense. Their defense comes in ranked 17th in total defense giving up 300.4 yards per game and 35th in scoring defense giving up 20.1 points per game. This is still a very good team, but they need to improve their defense to beat Georgia this year. They will have their opportunity in the SEC championship! Bama will win out and lose to Georgia in the SEC championship game. With two losses Bama will not make the college football playoff this season for only the second time since its inception in 2014 but will finish in the top 10.

Ohio State (5)

Ohio State did not look good to start the season. They struggled against Minnesota and Tulsa and lost to Oregon in the first three weeks. Since then they have won by an average margin of 46.7 points. C.J. Stroud did not look very good to start the season but has really come on strong over the last few games. He has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 736 yards in the last two games. OSU’s offense comes in ranked first with 563.2 yards per game and second in scoring offense putting up 48.5 yards per game. Stroud has seemed to figure it out, but the questions remain with their defense. Their defense comes in ranked 76th giving up 387.3 yards per game and 40th in scoring defense giving up 20.5 points per game. This includes the last two weeks where they have only given up an average of 15 points. If their defense can figure it out and they can limit the better teams they have a real shot to get in the college football playoff as a 1-loss team. They still have a few tough matchups left with Michigan (6), PSU (7), Purdue (25), and MSU (9) on the schedule. OSU will end up winning out and winning the Big 10 this season and making the college football playoff.

Michigan (6)

Michigan has managed to remain undefeated to this point even with a couple tough wins against average teams like Rutgers and Nebraska. There are still some unanswered questions that this Michigan team faces, and they are the same questions that are asked every year. Yes, Michigan is 6-0 and has looked pretty good getting to this point. Their competition has not been great, but the tougher competition is coming. They still have MSU (9), PSU (7), and OSU (5) on their schedule. Two of those are on the road. Can Michigan win a couple big games on the road? Is McNamara the right guy to lead this team? Are their defense and running game good enough to be productive against good teams? Their offense comes in ranked 38th in total offense putting up 440.5 yards per game and 14th in scoring averaging 38.5 points per game. There offense is driven by their running game. Their running game is ranked 7th averaging 246.5 yards per game on the ground. Their defense is ranked 21st giving up 310 yards per game and 9th in scoring defense giving up 15.5 points per game. There toughest challenges are yet to come. Michigan will end up with two losses this season and end in the top 15.

Penn State (7)

Penn State comes in ranked seventh with their only loss coming to, at that time, number 3 Iowa. Penn State is a bit of a surprise this season, but their defense has been very good and helped give them a shot in every game. Penn State came into the season ranked number 19. They beat Wisconsin who was ranked number 12 at the time, Auburn who is currently ranked 19, and Iowa who is currently ranked 11. Their offense comes in ranked 68th in total offense averaging 396.7 yards per game and ranked 68th in scoring offense averaging 28 points per game. Their defense comes in ranked 23rd in total defense allowing their opponents to rack up 312.7 yards per game and 4th in scoring defense holding their opponents to 13.83 points per game. This team’s defense is very good, but they will need a better offense to be able to keep up with better schools like OSU. Penn State will end up with two losses and finish tied for second in the Big 10 West. They will finish ranked in the top 15.

Oklahoma State (8)

Oklahoma State is probably the biggest surprise in the top 10. They came into this season unranked and did not get ranked until after their week four win over, then ranked 25th, Kansas State. They then beat a good Baylor team who was ranked 21st and followed that up with a big win over 25th ranked Texas. This team goes into week eight with the 80th ranked team in total offense only putting up 381.7 yards per game. They are not any better on the scoring front coming in ranked 83rd averaging 26.5 points. The strength of this team is their defense. They bolster the 19th ranked defense in the country giving up 307.2 yards per game. Their scoring defense is giving up 19.5 points per game which is good enough for 28th in the country. Where Oklahoma State ends this season in the rankings will 100% be based on how their defense performs. They hold their destiny in their own hands as they will face off with number 3 Oklahoma their last game of the year. Every other game on their schedule is a winnable game. Oklahoma State will lose once this year to Oklahoma either the last week of the year or in the Big 12 Championship game. This will be enough to keep them from finishing in the top four and making the college football playoff. I expect them to finish in the top 12 of the rankings.

Michigan State (9)

What a job Mel Tucker has done turning around this MSU program! MSU was 2-5 last season and looked really bad doing so. MSU is another team that has not had that tough of a schedule to this point and has played very well at times and struggled at other times. They beat, at the time, number 24 Miami on the road. At the time this seemed like a huge win, but Miami is now 2-4 on the season. They also beat a Nebraska team who is a tough opponent even though their record does not show it. MSU still has a tough remaining schedule with Michigan (6), Purdue (25), OSU (5), and PSU (7) left to play. MSU’s defense comes in ranked 87 in total defense giving up 406.4 yards per game. Their defense could be classified as a bend don’t break style defense meaning that although they give up yards scoring on them is significantly harder. Their scoring defense is ranked 16th giving up only 18.7 points per game. MSU’s offense is ranked 27th for total offense putting up 451.7 yards per game and 29th in scoring offense racking up 34.3 points per game. This offense is really carried by there running back Kenneth Walker III. He comes in as the number 1 running back in the country smashing his way to 997 yards and 9 touchdowns on the season. They are averaging 200.4 yards per game on the ground. MSU will be a tough game for anyone due to the good scoring defense and the very good running game. MSU will end up with three losses on the season and will finish in the top 15 but they will miss out on the Big 10 Championship and the college football playoffs this year!

Oregon (10)

As far as toughness of schedule, Oregon has one of the easiest ones left. There is currently not one top 25 team left on their schedule. Oregon has struggled in their last two games, a win against Cal 24-17 and a loss to Stanford 31-24. Oregon still has UCLA, Washington State, Utah, and Oregon State on their schedule but the best team of those is probably UCLA who is 5-2. Oregon has a signature win against OSU in week 2 but as previously mentioned, also has a bad loss to an unranked Stanford team. Oregon’s offense is averaging 426.7 yards per game which is good enough for 51st in the country but their scoring offense is ranked 33rd averaging 33.8 points per game. Oregon’s defense is led by the projected number 1 overall pick in Keyvon Thibodeaux. Their defense comes in ranked 91st overall giving up an average of 410.3 yards per game and 42nd in scoring defense giving up 21 points per game. Based on how Oregon has played in the last two weeks, I do not see them getting through the rest of the season unscathed. I could easily see a loss this coming week to UCLA. I can see Oregon ending the season with three losses and somewhere in that 15-20 range in the rankings.