Welcome to the new Top 10 Plus One!
The first part is pretty standard. I rank the teams I think are the 10 best in America, and you get mad because you think I ranked your favorite team too low. (Unless you’re an Alabama fan, in which case you’ll get mad because I’m not predicting a shutout every week.) The Plus One is the new part. We honor one team a week that wouldn’t sniff the actual top 10 but deserves credit for an incredible game.
These rankings will vary wildly the first few weeks and then settle into a fairly predictable pattern as more data points arrive. So if you hate this list, don’t fret. There will be a new one next week.
1. Alabama (1–0)
This week: Beat Louisville, 51–14
Next week: vs. Arkansas State
Louisville eventually scored, so at least Nick Saban found some things to get mad about. But you’re more interested in the quarterback situation, so let’s break it down. Tua Tagovailoa started and completed 12 of 16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Jalen Hurts came in later and completed 5 of 9 passes for 70 yards. Tagovailoa led Alabama to touchdowns on five of six possessions. Hurts led the Crimson Tide to punts on his first two possessions. His most successful drive ended with a field goal.
Nick Saban is tired of getting questions about the quarterback competition, but if this keeps up, the questions will answer themselves.
2. Ohio State (1–0)
This week: Beat Oregon State, 77–31
Next week: vs. Rutgers
The investigation into and suspension of Urban Meyer didn’t appear to affect the Buckeyes on the field at all, which is a testament to interim coach Ryan Day and the rest of Ohio State’s assistants. The Dwayne Haskins era at quarterback got off to a thrilling start with the redshirt sophomore completing 22 of 30 passes for 313 yards and an interception. Mike Weber carried 20 times for 186 yards and three touchdowns, but you get the sense Ohio State will go with whomever has the hot hand between Weber and J.K. Dobbins, who carried 15 times for 74 yards against the Beavers. Going forward, this offense could look an awful lot like the one Ohio State used late in the 2014 season with Cardale Jones at quarterback. With Haskins, Ohio State has a quarterback who can stretch the field vertically but won’t be relied upon to carry the load in the run game. That means the backs will get fed. That should terrify Big Ten defensive coordinators.
3. Oklahoma (1–0)
This week: Beat Florida Atlantic, 63–14
Next week: vs. UCLA
Either Lane Kiffin’s Owls ate the rat poison or Oklahoma’s offense is going to be really good with new quarterback Kyler Murray at the helm. FAU brought back a lot from a team that went 11-3 last season, and the Sooners just torched the Owls at every turn. Murray completed 9 of 11 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns, and tailback Rodney Anderson carried five(!) times for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, the defense kept what should end up being a pretty good offense in check.
4. Clemson (1–0)
This week: Beat Furman, 48–7
Next week: At Texas A&M
Let the Kelly Bryant vs. Trevor Lawrence argument begin in earnest. In his first action, freshman Lawrence completed 9 of 15 passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Bryant, who started, completed 10 of 16 passes for 127 yards and one touchdown. “I thought they both settled in and made some big-time plays,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “That’s what they need to do. I didn’t see anything that would say, ‘Hey, this guy doesn’t deserve an opportunity to play.’” Translation: They’re both going to play against Texas A&M. The guy who finishes the game in College Station may have the inside track to start going forward.
5. Auburn (1–0)
This week: Beat Washington, 21–16
Next week: vs. Alabama State
The Tigers have the best win so far of this young season, but there is room for improvement. The defense was great in the red zone but not between the 20s. The run game delivered a huge touchdown late but not enough early. The good news? Every opponent won’t be as good as Washington. The bad news? Two of the Tigers’ future opponents are on this list.
6. Wisconsin (1–0)
This week: Beat Western Kentucky, 34–3
Next week: vs. New Mexico
Wisconsin’s defense shut down the Hilltoppers, and the Badgers’ offensive line began to assert itself in the second quarter to help tailback Jonathan Taylor gain 145 yards on 18 carries. Receiver Quintez Cephus is facing very serious charges and may not be back. Fellow receiver Danny Davis is suspended at least through the New Mexico game for his role in that same incident. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook got the ball to receivers A.J. Taylor and Kendric Pryor on Friday, and those guys will need to find a way to get open against better defenses to help Hornibrook and keep the offense from becoming one-dimensional.
7. Georgia (1–0)
This week: Beat Austin Peay, 45–0
Next week: at South Carolina
Georgia coach Kirby Smart and Austin Peay coach Will Healy agreed to play a 10-minute final quarter, so that tells you how much we learned about the Bulldogs in this game. The good news is we’ll find out a lot more when Georgia visits Williams-Brice Stadium next week to face Smart’s former Georgia teammate Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks, who could be Georgia’s top challenger in the SEC East.
8. Notre Dame (1–0)
This week: Beat Michigan, 24–17
Next week: vs. Ball State
The offense looked great in the first half but got shut down in the second. That’s not the end of the world, though. Michigan’s defense is going to shut down a lot of offenses. The good news is quarterback Brandon Wimbush produced early. The defense kept pressure on Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson all night and came up huge with Jerry Tillery’s strip sack to seal the win.
9. Stanford (1–0)
This week: Beat San Diego State, 31–10
Next week: vs. USC
The Cardinal started slow but found its groove in the third quarter. Sometimes, it seems coach David Shaw is trying to prove a point with his playcalling rather than trying to simply gain yards. When he opened the playbook in the third quarter and stopped trying to force the run, everything got easier. Stanford will need to stay in that mode next week when USC visits for a rematch of last season’s Pac-12 title game.
10. West Virginia (1–0)
This week: Beat Tennessee, 40–14
Next week: vs. Youngstown State
The offense was exactly what we expected. Quarterback Will Grier completed 25 of 34 passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns. Receiver David Sills V caught seven passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. The pleasant surprise was the defense, which got pressure on Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and got a push up the middle from USC graduate transfer Kenny Bigelow and junior end Reese Donahue.
Plus One: Nicholls State (1–0)
This week: Beat Kansas, 26–23
Next week: At Tulane
Nicholls State scared the heck out of Georgia in 2016, but the Colonels couldn’t finish. Saturday, they got their win against a Power Five (at least officially speaking) opponent by beating Kansas.