College Football Plus Once Again Asks: Why Isn't LSU Ranked No. 1 Right Now?

Tom Luicci

Five questions

Q.Is there any reason LSU should not be ranked No. 1 right now based on results?

Two wins over Top 10 teams (No. 9 Texas and No. 7 Florida), one of them on the road, a quarterback (Joe Burrow) who is playing as well as anyone in the country, an offense that simply cannot be slowed down. What more would any pollster need after six games to rank a team No. 1? The Tigers not being No. 1 at this juncture – and let’s face it, they will have to earn that distinction when they play at Alabama later in the season – is simply the result of laziness by people who are infatuated with reputations. And anyone who has Clemson ranked ahead of LSU right now – and we are emphasizing right now – should have his or her voting privileges revoked. It’s a joke. It’s also irrelevant what Clemson did last year. That seems to be a concept that is difficult for many voters to grasp.

Q.Has Oregon worked its way back onto the periphery of the playoff discussion?

For those paying attention, the Ducks have won five straight since their 27-21 opening game loss to Auburn, outscoring those teams by a combined 195 to 28, with the 45-3 thrashing of Colorado last Saturday the latest impressive win. Go ahead and argue that the Pac-12 isn’t strong enough to help Oregon’s cause, but it sure seems as if the league has more solid teams from top to bottom than the ACC this year. You can even argue that the Ducks’ schedule is stronger than Clemson’s. Oregon needs help, and a lot of it right now, but after Florida and Georgia fell from the unbeaten ranks help may be on the way.

Q.Remind us again: What is the benefit any more of being independent?

Even Notre Dame, the flagship program for independents, has had to adjust because of scheduling, partnering with the ACC to play five teams from that league. The Irish aside, from a scheduling standpoint being an independent is nearly impossible to work out, since most Power 5 schools only have non-conference openings in September or early October. There are five other independents besides Notre Dame, and only one – Liberty – is having any success this year. Army is 3-3, BYU is 2-4, UMass is 1-6 and New Mexico State is 0-7. Army is coming off a good run over the past few years, but the Black Knights are just a different breed. Let’s see if Liberty can sustain its success with its mix of FBS and FCS scheduling – and if it gets the Flames anywhere. The bottom line: Schools belong in conferences. They need to be in conferences for scheduling purposes. It’s that simple.

Q.At the mid-point of the season we ask one of our favorite questions once again: Is it tougher to go unbeaten or winless?

Right now, the remaining unbeatens hold a significant advantage over the teams still winless. Twelve schools have made it to this point without a loss, with the number set to reduce dramatically since so many unbeatens have to play each other. SMU, Clemson, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Baylor, Boise State, Alabama, LSU and Appalachian State are the unbeatens. There are three winless teams: Rice, New Mexico State and Akron.

Q.Is it time to start considering Wisconsin as a playoff contender?

The Badgers posted their fourth shutout of the season with Saturday’s 38-0 laugher over coach Mark Dantonio’s latest feeble offense, have arguably the best running back in the country and are led by a quarterback who isn’t making mistakes and has proven to be a solid game manager. The big test for Wisconsin takes place Oct. 26 when the Badgers visit Ohio State in what could be a prelude to the Big Ten championship game. But it isn’t time to buy stock in Wisconsin until then, since the Badgers’ first-half schedule is comprised of the usual soft touches they seem to fatten up on early in every season. Take a wait-and-see approach with this team until it proves itself against a quality opponent (and no, inexplicably, Michigan doesn’t count as one of those anymore).

On the rise

Temple (5-1)

Owls are a bizarre loss to Buffalo away from being unbeaten after dealing Memphis its first defeat. Now comes the tougher part: SMU and UCF in the next two games.

Minnesota (6-0)

Golden Gophers are 6-0 for the first time since 2003 and their eight-game winning streak is the program’s longest since 1948-49. But are they any good? The second half of the schedule should tell us more.

Missouri (5-1)

Tigers have quietly reeled off five straight wins since a strange opening-game loss to Wyoming and now actually lead the SEC East Division at 2-0. Who had the prop bet in August?

On the decline

Rutgers (1-5)

This is what you get with an AD who has no clue about football: He fires a head coach he hired and then gave an extension to and replaces him with a guy who is essentially a high school coach. So it’s really no surprise the Scarlet Blights have been outscored 165 to 7 in four Big Ten games.

Michigan State (4-3)

There are some who still believe Mark Dantonio is one of the better coaches in the Big Ten. Sure would be nice to see some more recent evidence of that. And how good a coach can he be if he can’t field a functioning offense?

Georgia (5-1)

You can’t be a serious contender for any title – even the SEC East – if you can’t beat a mediocre conference team relegated to a backup quarterback while playing at home. Sorry. Those are the rules.

Who’s hot

Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina

The sophomore’s three interceptions off of Jake Fromm – one a 53-yard pick six, the other in OT – fueled The Gamecocks’ 20-17 upset. He also had 11 tackles.

Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

Florida’s defense came in as the national leader in interceptions – and failed to add to its total as Burrow went a sparkling 21-of-24 for 293 yards and three TDs and no turnovers in the 42-28 victory over the Gators.

Jayden Daniels, QB, Arizona State

Sun Devils’ frosh signal caller scored the game-winning TD on a 17-yard scramble with 34 seconds left and also threw for 363 yards and three TDs without an INT in a 38-34 victory over Washington.

Who’s not

Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

Missed field goals may have wrecked the Bulldogs’ playoff hopes but so did Fromm’s play: He suffered three interceptions, one returned for a TD, the other in overtime, and lost a fumble in a 20-17 loss to South Carolina.

Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas

So the Longhorns are back, are they? Ehlinger didn’t have a TD pass and was sacked nine times in the loss to Oklahoma. Maybe a little less brashness and a little more production in big games, Sam?

Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State

The SEC’s leading rusher coming into the game against Tennessee managed all of 13 yards on 11 carries in a 20-10 loss to the Vols. What happened to the offensive genius of Joe Moorhead?

Playing it forward

The top games of the coming week (all times Eastern)

Temple at SMU, ESPN, 3:30 p.m.

A key cross division game. The 5-1 Owls are on a roll and SMU is 6-0. This is as good as it gets in the American.

Oregon at Washington, ABC, 3:30 p.m.

Ducks, 5-1, look like they have their act together. But the Huskies are a sneaky-good 5-2 and look like the last obstacle to Oregon’s Pac-12 North hopes.

Michigan at Penn State, ABC, 7:30 p.m.

Can coach khaki pants find a way to win a road game against a Top 10 opponent? Can the Nittany Lions stay unbeaten until their showdown with Ohio State?

Arizona at Utah, Pac-12 Network, 6 p.m.

A key game in the Pac-12 South between a couple of 5-1 Division hopefuls. Too bad no one will get to see it because it’s on the Pac-12 Network.

Story Lines

1. Has anyone been able to figure out why teams need to go at it before a game the way Oklahoma and Texas players did with their ridiculous little skirmish at midfield 30 minutes before kickoff? It just seems like it should be easy to take out your aggression on the field, with football being a contact sport and all. The officials assessed a personal foul against every player on the field as a result of the little fracas, meaning if a player was hit with another during the game he would incur a one-half suspension. Here’s the thing: If players are going to start getting paid for their likeness maybe they should also get fined when they act like toddlers throwing tantrums. We get that it’s a rivalry. There are a lot of rivalry games when players don’t go at each other before the opening kickoff. Most of them, in fact. What took place was an embarrassment to the sport and the schools.

2. When Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was asked about deciding not to make any changes to his offensive staff during the offseason following Saturday’s 38-0 loss to Wisconsin snarled to the reporter that it was a “dumbass question.” Really? You were 7-6 last year with a scoring offense that ranked 126th nationally. You’re 98th nationally in scoring offense this year, and no quarterback in the country has regressed more than Brian Lewerke. And you just managed 149 yards of offense, 30 of it rushing, against Wisconsin. What’s “dumbass” is an administration extending the contract of a guy after a 7-6 season, like Michigan State did last year, and for a coach who is 24-21 the past four years combined.

Tom Luicci was the national college football and basketball writer for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. from 1979-2014.

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