1. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (3-0)
The Tide may not be playing with the sheer dominance that recent years’ teams displayed, but they are still the best team in the country. This weekend was a prime example of that. Alabama went into The Swamp to play #11 Florida and left with a 2-point win after denying the Gators a game-tying two-point conversion. For most teams this is a great victory, but Bama’s standards dictate that there is some fine-tuning to be done after squeaking out of Gainesville.
2. GEORGIA BULLDOGS (3-0)
I may be stating the obvious here, but this Georgia team seems to be a legit National Championship contender. After defeating Clemson in Week 1, the Bulldogs have not taken their foot off the gas, defeating UAB & South Carolina by a combined score of 96-20. With the potent aerial attack afforded to Georgia by JT Daniels, the Bulldogs are doing a fine job thus far of separating themselves from the pack.
3. OREGON DUCKS (3-0)
There were some question marks around this Oregon team after a Week 1 scare against Fresno State. The Ducks quickly put those questions to rest in Week 2 when they went into The Horseshoe and outplayed #3 Ohio State. The Ducks left some doors open for an Ohio State comeback in the 2nd half, but they dominated the first 30 minutes, and made the stops they needed in the 4th quarter to pull off the upset as a 14-point road dog. This appears to be a formidable Oregon team with a path to the College Football Playoff.
4. IOWA HAWKEYES (3-0)
The Hawkeyes are off to an incredible start in their 2021 campaign. They are 3-0, with two wins over Top 20 teams, including their in-state rival #9 Iowa State. In typical Big Ten fashion, defense has been the main storyline. Iowa has given up only 30 points thru 3 games, forcing 8 turnovers along the way. If this play continues, you can expect to see the Hawkeyes in Indianapolis come December.
5. PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (3-0)
I have two friends who are pretty big Penn State fans, and after the Nittany Lions defeated #22 Auburn in their legendary annual “White-Out Game”, their opinions on this team were on opposite ends of the spectrum. One sees them as the 3rd best team in the country, and the team to beat in the Big Ten. The other feels that the defense is great, but he has a lack of faith in Sean Clifford, and believes that the QB is not capable of getting the Nittany Lions into the College Football Playoff. My opinion lies somewhere in between. This team is loaded with playoff caliber talent, but I would like to see that Clifford has improved on his accuracy from last season before I can firmly call them a playoff team. They are certainly on the right track, however.
6. OKLAHOMA SOONERS (3-0)
Sooners fans may not want to hear this, but this team has been a bit of a letdown based on their preseason hype. Oklahoma entered the season ranked 2nd in the AP Poll, with QB Spencer Rattler listed as the favorite to bring home the Heisman Trophy. Things got off to a rocky start in Norman when the Sooners found themselves needing a defensive stop against Tulane with under 3 minutes left. The defense held. They found themselves in the same position this week against Nebraska, and once again, the defense held. A win is a win, but it is troubling that they are finding themselves in situations like this against below-average opponents. Simply put, they are playing with fire by not putting opponents away with their offense.
7. CINCINNATI BEARCATS (3-0)
Cincinnati has raced off to an undefeated start, partly in thanks to a couple big 2nd halves. After going into the locker room tied 7-7 with Murray State, the Bearcats outscored the Racers 35-0 in the final 30 minutes. It was a similar story when they traveled to Bloomington to take on Indiana. Cincinnati opened the 3rd quarter with a 4-point deficit but would go on to win the 2nd half by 18. This may make for an interesting matchup in South Bend, as the Irish have found themselves narrowly closing out games against inferior opponents.
8. TEXAS A&M AGGIES (3-0)
After a major scare against Colorado, the Aggies looked back to form in a 34-0 thumping of New Mexico. Zach Calzada looked a lot more comfortable at the helm, but that was to be expected given the opponent. This game came at a good time, as the Aggies take on #14 Arkansas this week.
9. CLEMSON TIGERS (2-1)
It’s still early, but it looks like it may be a down year on offense in Death Valley. Clemson scored only 17 combined points in their games against Georgia and Georgia Tech. The last time Clemson scored so few points in any two-game combination was over a decade ago in 2010. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has not quite played up to expectations, which is concerning for a program whose annual goal is a National Championship. The good news is that Clemson has no games remaining on their schedule against an opponent who is currently ranked. With a stout defense to fall back on, Clemson’s playoff hopes are still alive and well.
10. FLORIDA GATORS (2-1)
Despite losing a ton of talent on offense, the Gators are moving the ball with ease. They racked up an astounding 1,219 yards in their first 2 games and followed that up with 439 against Alabama. Although the Tide left Gainesville with the win, the Gators have a lot to feel good about, as all signs are pointing to the SEC East title coming down to The Cocktail Party game.
11. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (2-1)
This is beginning to look like it could be a down year in Columbus, by Buckeyes standards, at least. They are 2-1, dropping a home game to a very good Oregon team, but that isn’t what’s troubling. The Buckeyes were trailing at some point in both victories and have had great difficulty moving the ball in the 1st half. In Ohio State’s highest scoring 1st half, they put up only 13 points. If that trend were to continue as they get deeper into conference play, they are going to find themselves in serious jeopardy of losing their Big Ten crown.
12. BYU COUGARS (3-0)
No more Zach Wilson? No problem. The Cougars are off to a 3-0 start, with two of those victories coming against ranked opponents. While they aren’t putting up the numbers on offense that Wilson enabled them to do, the defense has been sturdy. The Cougars have not surrendered more than 17 points in any of their games. We can likely expect another great defensive showing this week against South Florida.
13. NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (3-0)
Notre Dame still has not lost a game since the Ian Book era ended, but the wins haven’t been pretty. It took OT to beat a downtrodden Florida State team, and a TD followed by a defensive stop in the final 2 minutes to eek out a win at home against Toledo. We should get a good measure of this Irish team this weekend when they take on #21 Wisconsin at a neutral venue.
14. ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (3-0)
Woo Pig Sooie! The Razorbacks have climbed out of the SEC’s cellar and into the Top 25. It would appear that Sam Pittman has this team on the right track, as the Hogs are undefeated, including a win against #15 Texas. We will get to see just how far this team has come when they take on Jimbo Fisher’s #8 Aggies in their annual game in AT&T Stadium. However, no matter the outcome, things are certainly looking up in Fayetteville.
15. OLE MISS REBELS (3-0)
I’ve been a believer in Matt Corral since he was a high school recruit. Mississippi’s faith in him is paying off, as they are putting up points with ease. This is the team who put a scare into Alabama last season. I believe the points will keep coming, but I would like to see more from the defense before I consider them a true contender in the SEC.
16. COASTAL CAROLINA CHANTICLEERS (3-0)
The Chants are once again looking to make some noise in the college football world. This mullet-riddled roster once again knocked off a P5 program when they defeated Kansas 49-22. They should be able to continue winning in the Sun Belt, so a NY6 berth is surely this team’s goal.
17. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (3-0)
Mel Tucker’s sophomore campaign as the Spartans head coach is off to a much better start than his first. The Spartans once again appear to be a difficult team to play against. If you wanted to say that their first two victories were achieved mainly because they faced an inferior opponent, that would have been fair. However, when they traveled to Coral Gables and laid a beating on the #24 Hurricanes as a 6.5-point dog, they made a statement declaring that they are back in the fray at the top of the Big Ten.
18. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (3-0)
After an offseason where we heard quiet discussions about Harbaugh’s future as the head coach of the program, we see him trying to put those whispers to rest. Not only are the Wolverines undefeated, but they have been merciless, winning games by over 35 points on average. In two weeks, we will see just how far the Wolverines have come since last year, as they will travel to Madison to take on the Badgers, in what will be a raucous atmosphere.
19. NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (2-1)
Sam Howell & company suffered what I consider to be a scheduled loss in Week 1, getting thrown into chaotic Lane Stadium for their first game in front of a capacity crowd in over a year. They bounced back well, posting 59 points in both of their victories over Virginia and Georgia State. The loss was a big setback in their chase for the Coastal title, however, as they will now need outside help to claim it.
20. IOWA STATE CYCLONES (2-1)
In my opinion, Iowa State has had a somewhat disappointing start. They are 2-1, but their first victory was only by a score of 16-10 against Northern Iowa. Then they got stomped at home by in-state rival Iowa. With the Cyclones returning QB Brock Purdy and RB Breece Hall, I had high expectations for this squad. While 1 loss to a team like Iowa is not the end of the world, I am worried about the quality of the play they displayed in their first two games.
21. WISCONSIN BADGERS (1-1)
They have only played two games, so the sample size is small, but I believe this is a formidable Badgers team. That may not come as a surprise if you followed my weekly rankings last season, as I declared my belief in Graham Mertz multiple times throughout the season. In their Week 1 loss to Penn State – in which it is worth mentioning does not look as bad as it did at first – the Badgers were the better team for much of the game. Multiple red zone disasters doomed them, however. I believe this team will still be in the mix atop the standings at the end of the season.
22. AUBURN TIGERS (2-1)
Auburn is 2-1, and without a P5 victory yet, but I believe this is a good team. Bo Nix is now an experienced QB, the ground game looks great, and the defense appears to be solid. A loss is a loss, but it’s difficult for me to criticize a team whose first road game with a capacity crowd in over a year just happened to be the Whiteout Game in Happy Valley. I would say that this is another example of a scheduled loss. However, we won’t get a true measure of this Auburn team until next weekend, as they host Georgia State this week, which should be a cruise control victory.
23. FRESNO STATE BULLDOGS (3-1)
Fresno State’s hot start has been a surprise considering their poor 2020 season. They gave #11 Oregon a run for their money in Week 2, then knocked off #13 UCLA at the Rose Bowl this past week. They will try to move up the rankings the rest of the series in hopes of landing a prestigious bowl berth.
24. UCLA BRUINS (2-1)
A hot start by the Bruins was quickly cooled by a home loss to Fresno State. UCLA made a lot of noise in Week 1 by defeating #16 LSU 38-27, but that good defensive play was nowhere to be found against Fresno, as they surrendered 569 yards, 455 of which came through the air. There is no need to hit the panic button, however, as the offense has put up 35+ in all 3 games. I expect them to make some noise in a thin PAC-12.
25. MARYLAND TERRAPINS (3-0)
The Terrapins are off to a good start behind high-quality QB play from Taulia Tagovailoa and solid defensive efforts. They won their first 3 games by an average margin of 23.7 points. They may be a team to watch in the stacked Big Ten East.