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SI’s Top 10: Georgia, Alabama Survive but Show Nobody’s Perfect

The SEC giants fended off some pesky conference foes, but several of the top dogs showed some vulnerability.

On the alleged unbeatable Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide, as the honorable Lee Corso might say, “Not so fast, my friends.”

In arguably their worst outing in three years, Kirby Smart’s crew slogged to a 26–22 win over Missouri in a game in which it took its first lead with four minutes, three seconds left. The Bulldogs trailed 16–3 in the second quarter, 19–9 in the third and 22–12 in the fourth before mounting their comeback in Columbia.

And as for Alabama, its Heisman Trophy-winning starting quarterback, Bryce Young, suffered a shoulder sprain, and its defense allowed 23 consecutive points. While its game against Arkansas turned into a rout (49–26) this was anything but.

Do we finally have some parity in this ol’ game of ours? Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. But for those teams scratching and clawing at the heels of the Tide and the Bulldogs, know that they are indeed beatable.

And what about everyone else? Well, Ohio State and Michigan have played the weakest schedules of any top-10 team. Penn State put up a stinker of a win Saturday against Northwestern. And even Clemson has shown vulnerability this season. No one is perfect and maybe that’s good for the whole.

Speaking of the whole, 10 AP Top 25 teams lost Saturday (five of those played against fellow ranked teams). Still, this felt like a prove it-type day in which the frauds were exposed and the victors were rewarded with a boost of confidence. Take for instance Florida State, whipped at home by Wake Forest. There was Kentucky, too, which lost to Ole Miss. And Washington got housed at UCLA.

Meanwhile, a trio of teams (Illinois, Tulane and Maryland) moved to 4–1 by beating a trio of teams (Wisconsin, Houston and Michigan State) that dropped to 2–3. Yes, you read that correctly.

In news of the bizarre, Georgia Tech won a road game over a top-25 team (Pitt) for the first time in six years on the week it fired its coach; ESPN College GameDay is heading to Kansas (Kansas!) for the unbeaten clash we all saw coming in August when the Jayhawks host TCU; and Jimbo Fisher’s Texas A&M team got bludgeoned by 18 points in Starkville, Mississippi.

In not-so-weird news, Iowa’s offense is still stinking up the whole of college football!

O.K., it’s time for the Top 10, which we remind you is not only a gauge of your record but the records of your opponents!

1. Alabama (5–0)

Last game: Beat Arkansas 49–26

Next game: Texas A&M (Saturday)

Most expected the Hogs to give the Tide a challenge. And they did, for a fleeting moment, storming back from a 28–0 hole with 23 consecutive points. However, Nick Saban reminded us that his team is good enough not to need the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. A Young-less Tide scored 21 in the fourth quarter to pull away and set up what might be a bloodletting next week when Jimbo brings his 3–2 Aggies to Tuscaloosa four months after his public tiff with Saban over NIL.

Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs was selected in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft by the Lions.

Jahmyr Gibbs ran wild against the Razorbacks, racking up 206 yards and two scores.

2. Clemson (5–0)

Last game: Beat NC State 30–20

Next game: Boston College (Saturday)

QB DJ Uiagalelei led the Tigers in rushing and in passing and continues to play like the player we all expected (that’s two straight games now!). Meanwhile, Clemson’s defense got a much-needed boost after some lackluster outings. The Wolf Pack converted 5-of-14 third downs, averaged 1.6 yards a rush and didn’t crack the 300-yard mark. Dabo Swinney’s guys vault up our Top 10 after back-to-back quality victories.

3. Georgia (5–0)

Last game: Beat Missouri 26–22

Next game: Auburn (Saturday)

Few expected UGA’s game against Missouri to warrant such attention late in the fourth quarter, but lo and behold, the Bulldogs had to claw out of a couple of 10-point deficits and a 13-point hole. Behind QB Stetson Bennett and RB Kenny McIntosh, UGA put together 75 and 68-yard touchdown drives in the final 10 minutes to remain undefeated. It was a head-scratching game in which the team of four and five stars found itself out-gunned against a team of mostly two and three stars.

4. Ohio State (5–0)

Last game: Beat Rutgers 49–10

Next game: at Michigan State (Saturday)

The Scarlet Knights leaped out to a 7–0 lead and then were outscored 49–3 the rest of the way in an utter beatdown. Ohio State RB Miyan Williams had 189 yards rushing. Rutgers had 187 yards total. And if you’re wondering why Ohio State is outside of the top 3, the Buckeyes haven’t yet played a road game, nor have they hosted a team inside the current top 25.

5. Oklahoma State (4–0)

Last game: Beat Baylor 36–25

Next game: Texas Tech (Saturday)

Mike Gundy and the Pokes finally beat some good competition, taking their show on the road and walloping the Bears. Like last year, Oklahoma State isn’t reliant only on an electric offense. Its defense was one of the best in the country in 2021, and on Saturday, the Cowboys got a 98-yard kickoff return from Jaden Nixon and a safety from the D. They only needed 181 yards passing from QB Spencer Sanders.

6. Michigan (5–0)

Last game: Beat Iowa 27–14

Next game: at Indiana (Saturday)

RB Blake Corum and QB J.J. McCarthy were responsible for 288 of Michigan’s 327 yards in what was a fairly ho hum outing against the hapless Hawkeyes and their dysfunctional offense. The Wolverines defense is real, real enough to have allowed more than two touchdowns just once in the first five games.

Iowa running back Kaleb Johnson is tackled by Michigan defenders.

The Hawkeyes were held to just 280 total yards.

7. USC (5–0)

Last game: Beat Arizona State 42–25

Next game: Washington State (Saturday)

It lasted four games and 18 quarters of football, but the Trojans’ season-opening, turnover-less streak ended Saturday when Caleb Williams was picked off in the end zone. The pick didn’t hurt. In fact, USC amassed consecutive touchdown drives afterward to ice the game against a Sun Devils squad that fired coach Herm Edwards earlier this season.

8. Kansas (5–0)

Last game: Beat Iowa State 14–11

Next game: TCU (Saturday)

Has any team ever had a more surprising start to a season? It’s a legitimate question to ask after the Jayhawks rolled to yet another victory. It’s not like their schedule has been a cakewalk. They have road wins over West Virginia and Houston and have beaten Duke and ISU at home. That’s four victories over Power 5 teams (Houston is soon to make the move to the Big 12). Lance Leipold’s team has won in different ways too. With its offense and QB Jalon Daniels struggling against the Cyclones, the defense stood tall. ISU was 5-of-18 on third down.

9. Penn State (5–0)

Last game: Beat Northwestern 17–7

Next game: at Michigan (Oct. 15)

A bye week awaits the Nittany Lions and it’s a good thing. Maybe they can try to figure out what happened in an ugly performance against the lowly Wildcats. Here’s a start: five turnovers. If James Franklin’s team was playing even a mediocre squad, it might no longer be undefeated.

10. Tennessee (4–0)

Last game: Beat Florida 38–33

Next game: at LSU (Saturday)

The Vols rested up this week before traveling to Tiger Stadium. QB Hendan Hooker and his Big Orange Show must beat the Tigers to set up what might be the most relevant Alabama-Tennessee game in more than a decade on Oct. 15. Can they do it? They received some help from the SEC’s television partners, which slotted the game at an 11 a.m. local time kick. Avoiding a night kick in Baton Rouge for any opponent is a positive.

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