Tuesday September 9th, 2014

In the 1988 movie Cocktail, character Brian Flanagan, played by Tom Cruise, frequently takes advice from a fellow bartender named Doug Coughlin. (In this fictional world I like to pretend he is the brother of New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin.) As is the custom in '80s flicks, Cruise is trying to get the girl, make his dreams come true and listen to some cool tunes.

Coughlin doles out his advice in the form of “Coughlin’s Laws.” They include:

• “Anything else is always something better.”

•​ “Never show surprise, never lose your cool."

•​ “Beer is for breakfast around here. Drink or be gone.”

•​ "Bury the dead, they stink up the place.”

Those seem like fine rules to follow when it comes to ranking college football teams (especially that third one). But the most important one is last.

STAPLES: What are the Big Ten's playoff chances?; Punt, Pass & Pork

I won’t go so far as to bury the Big Ten after Week 2, but that conference played poorly from top to bottom on Saturday. Even the ACC, famous for laying eggs to opponents such as Richmond or William & Mary, was likely impressed by the extent of its league-wide struggles. But one bad week won’t define the season. When we look up in December, some Big Ten teams will be in contention for prized bowl berths and possibly a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Other conferences will have bad days, too, and we’ll overreact accordingly.

As for “anything else is always something better,” that’s where we stand. There’s a new No. 1 in my Power Rankings. I’ll try to not show surprise or lose my cool when I’m judged harshly in the comments.

College Football Power Rankings
 
  • 1
    1Oregon Ducks
     
    last week: 2
    record: 2-0
    After Oregon rallied past Michigan State in the second half on Saturday, it felt like a weight had been lifted off the Ducks. There are countless excuses why Oregon can’t be a national title contender: It’ll never win without Chip Kelly; the Ducks aren’t physical enough; the Pac-12 is too deep. But all it took was some Marcus Mariota magic and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu’s spectacular fourth-quarter interception to erase those doubts. Oregon looks like the best team in the country. It’s up to the Ducks to keep playing that way.
     
    Last game: Beat Michigan State, 46-27
    Next game: Saturday vs. Wyoming

  • 2
    2Florida State Seminoles
     
    last week: 1
    record: 2-0
    You’d be excused if you didn’t notice Florida State's game on Saturday night. The Seminoles had a sleepy date with The Citadel while everyone else was trying to watch Michigan-Notre Dame, Virginia Tech-Ohio State, BYU-Texas and East Carolina-South Carolina. And the ‘Noles did plenty right in a 37-12 win. They got a more efficient performance out of Jameis Winston, who went 22-of-27 for 256 yards with two touchdowns.
     
    Last game: Beat The Citadel, 37-12
    Next game: Sept. 20 vs. Clemson

  • 3
    3Oklahoma Sooners
     
    last week: 5
    record: 2-0
    All the talk about Oklahoma this offseason centered on the offense. That was probably good, as it allowed the Sooners' defense to sit back like a cobra coiled in the sun. If Oklahoma emerges from the Big 12, it’ll likely be because of its front seven. That unit will get a chance to shine against Tennessee this Saturday.
     
    Last game: Beat Tulsa, 52-7
    Next game: Saturday vs. Tennessee

  • 4
    4Alabama Crimson Tide
     
    last week: 4
    record: 2-0
    The Crimson Tide quarterback situation rivals some of TV's most palpable relationship tensions. Last week's game against Florida Atlantic provided more clarity, but not much. Blake Sims (12-of-14, 228 passing yards, two touchdowns) moved the ball effectively, while Jacob Coker (15-of-24, 202 yards, one score) was inconsistent. This competition isn’t resolved, which should only make for more drama. As Sims said after the 41-0 win, via AL.com’s Andrew Gribble: “[Coker] has strengths where my weakness is, and I’ve got strengths where his weakness is. We’re a team.” The pair can keep playing it out on our screens. All we need is a catchy theme song.
     
    Last game: Beat Florida Atlantic, 41-0
    Next game: Saturday vs. Southern Miss

  • 5
    5Georgia Bulldogs
     
    last week: 7
    record: 1-0
    Georgia didn’t play last week, but that’s OK. It gave fans more time to watch highlights of running back Todd Gurley. The Bulldogs travel to South Carolina on Saturday and can further cement their status as a College Football Playoff contender with a win.
     
    Last game: Beat Clemson, 45-21
    Next game: Saturday at South Carolina

  • 6
    6Auburn Tigers
     
    last week: 6
    record: 2-0
    Lest we forget why Auburn was so good last year, the Tigers rushed for 358 yards and averaged 7.2 yards per carry in a 59-13 win over San Jose State. With runners named Cameron, Corey, Peyton and Roc, they’re an Ashley or Trevor away from debuting Tiger Beat, Alabama’s hot new boy band trying to make it in this big, cruel world.
     
    Last game: Beat San Jose State, 59-13
    Next game: Sept. 18 at Kansas State

  • 7
    7USC Trojans
     
    last week: 13
    record: 2-0
    We still don’t know whether coach Steve Sarkisian texted athletic director Pat Haden with emojis or words, but that’s irrelevant at this point. The Trojans beat a very good Stanford team though they were dominated in just about every meaningful statistical category. That counts for something. USC's lack of depth remains an issue, but a win like Saturday's has Sark's players believing they can do anything.
     
    Last game: Beat Stanford, 13-10
    Next game: Saturday at Boston College

  • 8
    8Texas A&M Aggies
     
    last week: 14
    record: 2-0
    Sure, it was only Lamar. But a 70-point win is a 70-point win. Quarterback Kenny Hill was basically flawless for the second straight week (17-of-26, 283 passing yards, four touchdowns), and the Aggies eclipsed 200 rushing yards against the Cardinals. With Rice on deck, Texas A&M isn't likely to slow down.
     
    Last game: Beat Lamar, 73-3
    Next game: Saturday at Rice

  • 9
    9Baylor Bears
     
    last week: 9
    record: 2-0
    Quarterback Bryce Petty's injury is something we’ll continue to monitor, but coach Art Briles must be impressed with how quickly backup Seth Russell acclimated to the offense. Russell averaged more than 27 yards per completion against Northwestern State, and Baylor looks like it found another big talent in freshman receiver KD Cannon, who made six catches for 223 yards and three touchdowns. With a light early schedule the Bears might be able to bring Petty back slowly, even if it would hurt the senior’s chances at winning individual awards.
     
    Last game: Beat Northwestern State, 70-6
    Next game: Friday at Buffalo

  • 10
    10LSU Tigers
     
    last week: 12
    record: 2-0
    There wasn't much drama in LSU's matchup with Sam Houston State, as the Tigers outgained the Bearkats 584-204. So, let’s just watch Leonard Fournette strike his best Heisman Trophy pose.
     
     
    Last game: Beat Sam Houston State, 56-0
    Next game: Saturday vs. Louisiana-Monroe

  • 11
    11Notre Dame Fighting Irish
     
    last week: 15
    record: 2-0
    If the Fighting Irish play as well as they did against Michigan every time they burn their timeouts early, maybe other teams will start to follow suit. Quarterback Everett Golson was spectacular -- and efficient -- in the 31-0 rout, and Notre Dame's young defense showed a lot of panache while pummeling Michigan. If the Irish being successful brings more reactions like this from coordinator Brian VanGorder, I’m on board.
     

     
    Last game: Beat Michigan, 31-0
    Next game: Saturday vs. Purdue (in Indianapolis)

  • 12
    12Ole Miss Rebels
     
    last week: 17
    record: 2-0
    The Rebels gave Vanderbilt a good old-fashioned beatdown on Saturday. The Commodores didn’t cross midfield until late in the third quarter, and they probably wouldn’t have scored if Ole Miss didn't fumble inside its own five-yard line (after stopping the ‘Dores on a goal-line stand) with 11:11 remaining. The 41-3 result may reflect how far Vanderbilt has fallen since James Franklin left for Penn State. But an early SEC road win is encouraging for the Rebels.
     
    Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 41-3
    Next game: Saturday vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

  • 13
    13Michigan State Spartans
     
    last week: 3
    record: 1-1
    It’s all but forgotten now, but the Spartans led Oregon 27-18 midway through the third quarter. If the two teams played another half of football, Michigan State may well have gone on another run and tied the score up. But we only get two halves per game, at least until my patent for Extreme Crazytime Football Ball® goes through. Sparty is still a balanced team with the potential to have a great year. It just ran into a buzzsaw against the Ducks. These things happen.
     
    Last week: Lost to Oregon, 46-27
    Next game: Sept. 20 vs. Eastern Michigan

  • 14
    14Stanford Cardinal
     
    last week: 8
    record: 1-1
    The Cardinal's poor red zone execution would have been troubling even if USC hadn't prevailed over Stanford. Teams can’t expect to beat quality foes with so many missed chances, and coach David Shaw's crew learned that the hard way. Still, the Cardinal defense played well. As Shaw told SI's Pete Thamel in the Inside Read: “We can play so much better.”
     
    Last game: Lost to USC, 13-10
    Next game: Saturday vs. Army

  • 15
    15Virginia Tech Hokies
     
    last week: NR
    record: 2-0
    How big of a deal was the Hokies’ 35-21 upset of Ohio State? The Buckeyes hadn’t lost a nonconference game to an unranked foe at The Horseshoe since 1982. Virginia Tech hasn’t always showed up for these types of games, and it’s significant that the Hokies did with so many young players and a solid performance from quarterback Michael Brewer. Saturday's result was nearly the definition of a statement win. Now, coach Frank Beamer's squad has to avoid a letdown -- and Virginia Tech hosts a dangerous East Carolina team on Saturday.
     
    Last game: Beat Ohio State, 35-21
    Next game: Saturday vs. East Carolina

  • 16
    16Arizona State Sun Devils
     
    last week: 16
    record: 2-0
    Another week, another batch of big numbers from Sun Devils running back D.J. Foster. The junior racked up 270 all-purpose yards as Arizona State’s offense marched up and down the field in a 58-23 drubbing of New Mexico.
     
    Last game: Beat New Mexico, 58-23
    Next game: Saturday at Colorado

  • 17
    17Missouri Tigers
     
    last week: 22
    record: 2-0
    Treasure Missouri for playing at a place like Toledo. Watching that game was like getting all pink pieces in a pack of Starburst. Savor it, because it’s not likely to happen very often in the future. Mizzou athletic director Mike Alden indicated the school is trying to eliminate true road games against non-Power Five opponents. The Tigers beat a scrappy Rockets team in a tough environment by 25 points. Now, if only their inexperienced secondary can figure things out.
     
    Last game: Beat Toledo, 49-24
    Next game: Saturday vs. UCF

  • 18
    18Wisconsin Badgers
     
    last week: 20
    record: 1-1
    The Badgers scored only two points -- from a safety on the opening kickoff -- through the first 27 minutes of its matchup with Western Illinois. Not exactly an inspiring performance from a team that recently collapsed against LSU. Wisconsin turned it on from there, though, with quarterback Tanner McEvoy accounting for 338 total yards and the defense limiting the Leathernecks to 11 first downs.
     
    Last game: Beat Western Illinois, 37-3
    Next game: Sept. 20 vs. Bowling Green

  • 19
    19Kansas State Wildcats
     
    last week: 18
    record: 2-0
    Strange things tend to happen in Ames, Iowa. So strange that the Coen brothers could probably make a movie in that setting. Yet somehow, in a game Kansas State had no business winning, the Wildcats scored 12 fourth-quarter points to edge the Cyclones. This (mostly) proves the theory that Bill Snyder's magic is more powerful than Ames' cursed pet cemetery.
     
    Last game: Beat Iowa State, 32-28
    Next game: Sept. 18 vs. Auburn

  • 20
    20UCLA Bruins
     
    last week: 10
    record: 2-0
    Maybe Virginia and Memphis will end up having surprising seasons. Maybe fans will look up in November and say the Bruins survived tough tests by beating both of those teams. But with only two weeks of data to evaluate, UCLA's 2-0 start has been underwhelming. The offensive line was the problem in Week 1. The defense couldn’t get consistent stops on Saturday. Jim Mora needs to piece it together -- and fast.
     
    Last game: Beat UCLA (actually Memphis), 42-35
    Next game: Saturday vs. Texas (in Arlington, Texas)

  • 21
    21Ohio State Buckeyes
     
    last week: 11
    record: 1-1
    The Buckeyes' defense allowed 28 points to a young Virginia Tech offense. Urban Meyer’s creative attack looked uninspired and pedestrian. Ohio State's offensive line got pushed around, and quarterback J.T. Barrett made several costly mistakes. So, yes, there is plenty cause for concern for Buckeyes fans right now. However, the rest of the Big Ten is reeling. Some team has to take control, and Ohio State has as good a shot as anyone.
     
    Last game: Lost to Virginia Tech, 35-21
    Next game: Saturday vs. Kent State

  • 22
    22Louisville Cardinals
     
    last week: NR
    record: 2-0
    The Cardinals' offense hasn't missed a beat with Bobby Petrino back at the helm. Louisville maintained possession for more than 42 minutes and racked up 603 total yards in a 66-21 victory over Murray State. Keep in mind, this was all without back Michael Dyer and receiver DeVante Parker. Once it's all said and done, the ACC might wonder why it didn’t invite the Cards to join the conference a few years earlier.
     
    Last game: Beat Murray State, 66-21
    Next game: Saturday at Virginia

  • 23
    23BYU Cougars
     
    last week: NR
    record: 2-0
    The Cougars whipped Texas in Austin so thoroughly that Longhorns defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said this of the fans who left before the final whistle: “I would’ve left early. After seeing that mess, I would’ve been right there with 'em.” Given the way dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill has played so far, BYU might force other opposing fan bases to head for the exits early, too.
     
    Last game: Beat Texas, 41-7
    Next game: Thursday vs. Houston

  • 24
    24South Carolina Gamecocks
     
    last week: 21
    record: 1-1
    With 12:03 left in Saturday's clash with East Carolina, the Gamecocks had the ball at their own 12-yard line. The Pirates had just marched 75 yards to whittle South Carolina's lead to 30-23. Eighteen plays and more than 10 minutes later, the Gamecocks still possession. They ran the ball on nine consecutive plays at one point. This is the team South Carolina should be. This is the team South Carolina must be to win the SEC East.
     
    Last game: Beat East Carolina, 33-23
    Next game: Saturday vs. Georgia

  • 25
    25Clemson Tigers
     
    last week: 23
    record: 1-1
    The Tigers took out all of their frustration from Week 1's loss to Georgia against Saturday's opponent. The 73-7 result was so ugly that you wanted to stop them and ask if they needed a good cry. Unfortunately for Clemson, the blowout came at the expense of South Carolina State, not South Carolina.
     

     
    Last game: Beat South Carolina State, 73-7
    Next game: Sept. 20 at Florida State

Next five: Penn State, Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, Utah, Tennessee

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