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SI's Top 10: Alabama, Georgia Make Opening Statements

The reloaded Tide didn't miss a beat in Week 1, while Oklahoma survived a scare from Tulane and Clemson's offense got shut down by the Bulldogs.

I don’t believe in preseason polls. I only slightly believe in polls around Week 8. In my opinion the best thing about the College Football Playoff committee is the fact that they wait until we’re deep into the season and actually have an idea of what teams look like. But if we must deliver a top 10, here’s my stab at it after a Week 1 that didn’t really see many of the presumed best teams in the country overly impress.

North Carolina, Wisconsin, LSU and Washington lost in varying degrees of embarrassing fashion, including the Huskies falling to an FCS team at home. Iowa State, Penn State and Oregon struggled to clunky wins in their season openers. (Notre Dame doesn’t play until Sunday night). What remains are the few teams that truly impressed in college football’s opening weekend.

Alabama's Jameson Williams reacts after he scored a touchdown vs Miami

1. Alabama (1–0)

Last game: beat Miami (FL), 44–13
Next game: Mercer

Rumors of Bama’s demise were greatly exaggerated by many [including me]. The Tide mauled the 'Canes from the very first snap of the game, never letting up. This felt like a more vintage Bama: a suffocating defense with an offense that was explosive, yes, but not exactly the supernova that the sport experienced last season—although Bryce Young was plenty good in his first start at the helm. Thank goodness a plucky upstart program like Alabama has finally found a quarterback after all these years.

2. Georgia (1–0)

Last game: beat Clemson, 10–3
Next game: UAB

It wasn’t pretty, but the Dawgs blitzed the Tigers into submission in Week 1’s marquee game. Georgia’s offense certainly didn’t have the high wattage output that some expected, but it did just enough to get the job done (stop me if you’ve heard that before). But not enough can be said about how dominant the Dawgs were up front. Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, Nolan Smith … take your pick of Georgia front seven players. They harassed D.J. Uiagalelei all night long.

3. Ohio State (1-0)

Last game: beat Minnesota, 45–31
Next game: Oregon

The Buckeyes weren’t sharp in the first half against the Gophers, whether it was failing to stop Minnesota's ground attack or inaccurate passes by debutant QB C.J. Stroud. Ohio State is as advertised in the receiving corps, paced by Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. They certainly helped to settle Stroud down, and he was noticeably more comfortable in the second half boat racing to the victory. Eventually, talent won out especially after Minnesota lost running back Mohamed Ibrahim to a leg injury.

4. Texas A&M (1–0)

Last game: beat Kent State, 41–10
Next game: Colorado

The Aggies took a bit to really get going, but once they did Kent State was no match. Even though the Golden Flashes have a talented passer in Dustin Crum, he was stifled along with the rest of the offense and held without a touchdown until midway through the fourth quarter. Two second-quarter interceptions and a third later on were what kept this blowout from being worse, and the Aggies will need to iron that out moving forward even though new QB Haynes King wasn’t bad otherwise.

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5. UCLA (2–0)

Last game: beat LSU, 38–27
Next game: Fresno State

One of two 2–0 teams in college football, but UTEP hasn’t looked nearly as good as these Bruins. This may finally be Chip Kelly’s breakthrough. The Bruins were fast and physical against LSU, sending their guests back home after rushing for 210 yards. The rushing attack may just be a two-headed monster with Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown proving themselves capable backs. Both gave quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson a boost in addition to some huge yard-after-catch gains from his receivers. He finally got his signature win after four years in blue and gold.

6. Cincinnati (1–0)

Last game: beat Miami (OH), 49–14
Next game: Murray State

Desmond Ridder played lights out for the Bearcats as they didn’t let the RedHawks off the mat until they scored late in the game. This is not a Cincinnati team that’s read its press clippings over the summer. It came in and took care of business in Week 1 against an overmatched opponent.

7. Iowa (1-0)

Last game: Beat Indiana, 34–6
Next game: Iowa State

Iowa just keeps on chugging under Kirk Ferentz. It had the Hoosiers down quick 14–0 within the first three minutes of the game thanks to a pick-six, and the Hawkeyes didn’t let up from there. IU was a preseason darling, but in Iowan style they dismantled the new hotness in a workmanlike whoopin'. A massive in-state rivalry game with Iowa State awaits next week.

8. Clemson (0–1)

Last game: lost to Georgia, 10–3
Next game: South Carolina State

The last time we saw Clemson it was struggling to protect the quarterback, and not much has changed since the Sugar Bowl shellacking at the hands of Ohio State. Clemson doesn’t churn out pros from the offensive line position at the rate of its elite peers, but it hasn’t mattered much as it's had elite QB play to make up for it. It might finally be catching up with the program. Uiagalelei showed the growing pains in this game that were absent last season, but it certainly wasn’t all on him given the fact that he was under heavy pressure all night.

9. Oklahoma (1–0)

Last game: Beat Tulane, 40–35
Next game: Western Carolina

Spencer Rattler and the Sooners had an uneven win over Tulane. They struggled early with bad turnovers, seemingly took firm control of the game in the middle, then nearly gave it all away late to a Green Wave squad that wouldn’t quit. This game was supposed to be in New Orleans, but thanks to Hurricane Ida Tulane turned into road warriors multiple times, flummoxing an Oklahoma defense that was expected to improve heading into the season. Oklahoma has the offense to bail its defense out, but it was supposed to be a different story for these Sooners— instead of the same old tale we’re used to.

10. USC (1–0)

Last game: Beat San Jose State, 30–7
Next game: Stanford

Any time you score as many points on defense as you give up, you know you had a great day on that side of the ball. But the same can’t really be said for the offense. USC only took a 13–7 lead into the fourth quarter before it turned it on late with 17 points in the final frame. Saving all its points for the end is one way to get the win, and Drake London had a fantastic day with 12 catches and 142 yards.