“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” Among the AP Top 25 Poll Teams, Many of Whose Records Are Better Than the Team

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 8

The 8th week of the AP Poll’s Top 25 play reminded me of Sergio Leone’s epic Spaghetti Western trilogy: “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”.

Allow me to set aside this week the hot or not-so-hot performances of the Heisman candidates and other supposedly incredible superstars (examples: Matt Barkley of USC and Geno Smith of West Virginia), and look only at the team’s bottom line—the actual score without the histrionics. After all, it was the legendary Green Bay Packer Coach Vince Lombardi who said, “If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?”

The Good—representing Clint Eastwood’s role as the “Man With No Name”—included only 4 teams not to mess with: Alabama, Florida, Kansas State and Oregon. Here is why:

#1 Alabama (7-0) traveled to Tennessee (now 3-4) and did what the nation’s top team should do to an unranked SEC opponent, win by at least 3 touchdowns. The Crimson Tide turned a 23-10 halftime lead into a 21-3 second half performance to win 44-13 by scoring on 7 drives (6 touchdowns, one missed point after, and a field goal). Alabama has a +14 turnover margin in 7 games.

#3 Florida (7-0) hosted #9 South Carolina (now 6-2) in another SEC contest—this time among Top 10 teams—and easily outplayed the Gamecocks, 44-11, again, winning by at least 3 touchdowns or more. Both Florida (ranked #7 among 120 teams) and South Carolina (ranked #9) have great defensive teams, and each has a mediocre offense (South Carolina #95 and Florida #100), but clearly, Florida is the better team, and not to be messed with.

#4 Kansas State (7-0) traveled to #17 West Virginia (now 5-2) and dominated the Mountaineers, 55-14, winning by 5 touchdowns against a Top 25 team. West Virginia started the season at 5-0 and rose to #5 in the AP Top 25, but got suplexed by Texas Tech 49-14 last week, and now gets suplexed again by K-State 55-14. Despite the 2 horrific losses, West Virginia was not kicked out of the Top 25, but dropped from #17 to #25. What a joke, but I’m not laughing. The Mountaineers will lose again because they still must face TCU, Oklahoma and Iowa State, and West Virginia is rated #113 defense among the 120 major teams. 

#2 Oregon (7-0) traveled to unranked Arizona State (now 5-2) and annihilated the Sun Devils, leading 43-7 at the half and virtually sitting all of its starters in the 2nd half to win 43-21, again, by at least 3 touchdowns. Duck Coach Chip Kelly could have won this game 86-14 against what was the best defense in the Pac 12. Kelly’s no-huddle, spread offense just wears opponents out, and there is a real question if any team can slow them down.

The Bad—representing Lee Van Cleef’s role as “Sentenza”—includes Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Clemson, Mississippi State, Rutgers and Boise State. There is nothing wrong with these victories except that they come against mediocre to hapless opponents.

#10 Oklahoma (5-1) dropped a bomb on a 1-6 Kansas team, 52-7.

#11 Southern California (6-1) whipped up on a 1-6 Colorado team, 50-6.

#14 Clemson (6-1) downed 4-4 Virginia Tech, 38-17.

#15 Mississippi State (7-0) zipped past 4-3 Middle Tennessee, 45-3.

#19 Rugters (7-0) beat 3-3 Temple, 35-10.

#24 Boise State (6-1) outscored 1-7 UNLV, 32-7.

The Ugly—representing Eli Wallach’s role as “Tuco”—includes Notre Dame, LSU, Ohio State, Oregon State, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, Texas Tech, Cincinnati, Stanford and Michigan. These are all Top 25 teams whose records are better than they are.

#5 Notre Dame (7-0) continued to win by the skin of their Irish chinny-chin-chin, besting a middle-of-the-pack, 4-4 Brigham Young team, 17-14, and needing a 4th quarter touchdown to do it. Notre Dame is not as good as advertised.

#6 LSU (7-1) traveled to #20 Texas A&M (now 5-2) and won by all of 5 points, 24-19. The Tigers led 14-12 after 3 quarters. LSU lost to Florida earlier in the season because its defense is ranked #3 and its offense is ranked #76, which is really rank for a Top 6 team. It was said that LSU got off to a slow start against Texas A&M. I have news for them, LSU has gotten off to a slow start the entire season, and its offense continues to be unimpressive.

#7 Ohio State (8-0) at home needed overtime to beat a 3-4 Purdue team, 29-22, and needed a 4th quarter touchdown with a 2-point conversion to JUST send the game into overtime. The Buckeyes have the 40th best offense in the country and the 63rd best defense. They have had enough luck this season to pull lighting bolts from the sky, and eventually will get found out. Ohio State has Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan ahead. If the Buckeyes played in the SEC, they would have at least 2 losses by now.

#8 Oregon State (6-0) at home could only beat a 2-5 Utah team by 14 points, 21-7. That’s what happens when your offense is ranked 48th and your defense #37. It’s even more true when your scoring offense is ranked 74th and your scoring defense 17th. Oregon State is not as good as advertised.

#12 Florida State (now 7-1) traveled to Miami-Florida and beat a 4-4 Hurricane team by 13, 33-20. The game was 16-13 after 3 quarters, before Miami’s 93rd ranked scoring defense collapsed in the last quarter.

#13 Georgia (now 6-1) traveled to Kentucky and escaped with a 29-24 win against a 1-7 Kentucky Wildcat team. This is Georgia, right? The Bulldogs get a 5-point victory over a 1-7 team. Is Georgia the 13th best team in the country? You decide, I have already decided.

#17 Louisville (7-0) at home managed to slip by an unranked, 2-5 South Florida eleven, 27-25, as if they were a legitimate 7-0 team, and amazingly they are in the really weak Big East Conference.

#18 Texas Tech (6-1) traveled to unranked TCU (now 5-2) and needed 3 overtimes to win, 56-53, in a repugnant display of defensive football. The score was tied at 36 going into overtime. It was undoubtedly an exciting game, but there were zero style points for defense, and it does raise a question: If an unranked team can score 53 points on a ranked team, why aren’t they in the Top 25? A lot of Top 25 teams do not play defense either.

#21 Cincinnati (now 5-1) traveled to Toledo (now 7-1) and promptly got upset by the Rockets, 29-23, because Cincy is nowhere near as good as its unbeaten record coming in, and Toledo is as good as its 7-1 mark. Cincinnati has the 20th best scoring defense among major teams, but the Bearcats compiled their 5-0 mark on the backs of teams with a combined 18-18 record and two of those wins came against AA teams. Busted. ‘Nuff said.

#22 Stanford (5-2) traveled to Berkeley and got by a feckless, unranked, 3-5 Golden Bear team, 21-3, after playing a scoreless 2nd half. To top it off, the Stanford coaches and staff labeled their victory as a “breakout” game for the Cardinal. Seriously? A breakout game against a 3-5 team that has an average offense and defense? Where was this Stanford giant that was beaten by Notre Dame and was upset by a 3-4 Washington team?

#23 Michigan (now 5-2) at home against unranked Michigan State (4-4), was held to 4 field goals in winning 12-10 against the Spartans for the first time in 4 years. Hotshot Denard Robinson lost the first 3 years against Michigan State.

In other games of note among unranked teams:

Northern Illinois pushed its record to 7-1 with a 37-7 win over Akron (1-7).

Tulsa pushed its record to 7-1 with a 28-24 win over Rice (2-6).

Louisiana Tech pushed its record to 6-1 with a 70-28 victory over Idaho (1-7).

Kent State pushed its record to 6-1 with a 41-24 win over Western Michigan (3-5).

Duke (6-2) won its 6th game this year over North Carolina, 33-30. Wonder of wonders, miracles of miracles. The Blue Devils are leading the Coastal Division of the ACC. What next, an ACC divisional title? Maybe, the teams are crummy enough to warrant it.

Auburn (1-6) lost its 6th game of the season to a 3-4 Vanderbilt team, 17-13. Yikes! The last time Auburn lost 6 of its first 7 games was in 1952 under Shug Jordan (60 years ago). Would you believe that this year’s roster has 12 seniors and 67 freshman? Man, does it show. Two years ago, Coach Gene Chizik won the national championship with Cam Newton. I wonder if Chizik is beginning to pack his bags.

There were 5 one-point victories, including:

Troy (4-3) over Florida International (1-7), 38-37.

Nebraska (5-2) over Northwestern (6-2), 29-28.

Louisiana-Monroe (5-2) over Western Kentucky (5-2), 43-42.

Navy (4-3) over Indiana (1-6), 31-30.

San Diego State (5-3) over Nevada (6-2), 39-38.

And South Alabama (2-5) won in double overtime against Florida Atlantic (1-6), 37-34.

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