Anyone can put together a basic college football top 25 poll, but I’m going to approach my weekly rankings a little differently. I’ll take a look at the best teams in each Power 5 conference, as well as the best of the G5 schools, and finish off with a top 10 power ranking as well.
Best of the Big 12: Baylor Bears
Unlike Tom Fornelli’s weekly Bottom 25, my Kansas Jayhawks will not be the most-recognized team in the conference. Instead, we’re going to recognize teams that actually win games. While I’m a fan of TCU and expect them to be the better team come season’s end, Baylor right now is clearly the best team in the conference, even with their lack of a strong (or anything remotely resembling strong) schedule. Regardless of competition, Baylor is putting up huge numbers on a consistent basis. When you’re an undefeated P5 team and you’re dropping 60 every game and winning by over 20 each week (in Baylor’s case, their lowest scoring total this season was the opener at SMU when they only put up 56), you’re indisputably one of the best teams in the nation. The Bears get the nod over TCU here because while both teams are undefeated, score a lot of points and play little to no defense, TCU has had to fight for several of their wins while Baylor has been cruising. This could easily change by season’s end but Baylor is #1 in the Big 12 for now.
Best of the SEC: LSU Tigers
There really shouldn’t be any debate about this, right? LSU is the only remaining undefeated team in what most people consider the best conference in the game. They haven’t been blowing teams out regularly (although they do have 20+ point wins against Auburn and South Carolina) but against decent competition they continue to win. The defense is allowing just 23 points per game in both SEC competition and overall, while Brandon Harris is starting to really come into his own as the team’s starting QB. Harris is netting 178.5 total yards per game in SEC play, with 8 total touchdowns in conference play as well. He of course is helped out by having the best player in the country, RB Leonard Fournette, in the backfield with him. Fournette’s on pace to earn himself the Heisman Trophy this season, as he is racking up ridiculous stats (200.3 YPG, 8.0 YPC, 14 TD) and is manhandling defenders seemingly every time he touches the ball. Alabama has been strong as always but LSU is getting the nod due to their record. It’s shaping up to be another huge matchup when the Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa this season.
Best of the Pac-12: Utah Utes
Stanford is nipping at their heels, but right now Utah is the top team out west. Kyle Whittingham has done a tremendous job with the Utes and they just continue to win and win and win, in fact they’ve done nothing but win halfway through the season, en route to to holding on to first place in the Pac-12 South currently. With wins over Michigan (which continues to look like a better win every week), Oregon in Eugene, Cal and Arizona State, Utah has assembled a great resume already this season. In what has become the year of the running back across college football, Devontae Booker has proven he’s one of the best. Only twice netting less than 118 yards this season, he has been a consistent weapon and helps to set up Travis Wilson and the passing game. Let’s not forget the brutal Utes defense, either; Utah is giving up just 19.5 points per game this season and just 20.7 in Pac-12 play, a conference normally filled with high-scoring affairs. Stanford is breathing down their necks for this spot, but Utah is more than deserving of being named the top team in the Pac-12 today.
Best of the Big Ten: Ohio State Buckeyes
In a way, this is almost the default choice. The Buckeyes are the defending national champs and they still have a perfect record, although they have not looked as impressive as most of America expected. The defense has been stout, allowing just 16.3 points per game, including a shutout of Hawaii, but the offense has been disappointing, to be frank. Most people, myself included, were looking for Ohio State to cruise past opponents all the way until their meeting with Michigan State in the second to last game of the season. Instead, we’ve seen games like a 20-13 nail-biter over Northern Illinois and another close call against Indiana. Sure, this is just two games out of seven thus far, but the point about OSU’s offense being underwhelming has been a theme all season long. The difference is in the quarterback play. Cardale Jones is a tank but he cannot lead the Buckeyes offense like JT Barrett can. I was a proponent of Barrett starting the season as quarterback and I’m still in favor of him taking over the job. It’s a different team when Barrett is at the helm, a better team, as was exhibited this week against Penn State. Michigan State has had a few close calls of their own (this weekend the closest and luckiest win of all) but they’re still a very good team, and Michigan is playing well despite this week’s loss at home to MSU, but with JT Barrett in control of the offense on the field, Ohio State is and will continue to be the best team in the Big Ten.
Best of the ACC: Clemson Tigers
I am not a Clemson fan by any means but it is impossible to deny that they are a very strong team this year. Deshaun Watson is a hell of a player and is going to lead this team to an ACC Championship. Averaging 235 passing yards per game, with 14 passing touchdowns and another 39 yards per game on the ground, Watson is arguably the best playmaker in the conference (Dalvin Cook may dispute that) and has been stellar through the Tigers’ first six games. Truth be told, Clemson has one of the most impressive offenses in the country, a point only furthered after putting up 34 points and nearly 400 yards of offense on Boston College’s incredible defense. Clemson’s defense is nothing to sneeze at itself, as they’ve limited their opponents to 16.7 points per game thus far this season. Dabo Swinney’s teams seem to always lose one game inexplicably each season, but looking forward to the second half of their season, the only potential losses I see are against Florida State and at arch-rival South Carolina (solely for the fact that it’s a rivalry game). FSU has been a surprisingly good team this year in my eyes, but Clemson still holds this top spot.
Best of the G5 conferences: Memphis Tigers
There are some legitimately good teams among the mid-major programs this year. Temple is undefeated (although they struggled with pathetic UCF), Houston is also undefeated under first-year head coach Tom Herman and Toledo is undefeated in the MAC and holds wins over two P5 teams, including one on the road against an SEC school (Arkansas). While all of these teams are very good and are deserving of recognition, Memphis has been the best of the bunch this season. Justin Fuente’s team is undefeated and looks as impressive as anyone in the country right now. In fact, Memphis’ toughest game has been at Bowling Green so far in 2015, as they escaped that game with a three-point victory. Led by NFL-bound Paxton Lynch at quarterback, the Tigers’ offense is averaging 46 points per game and has proven that they can score at any time and in any situation (they’ve come back from 10-point deficits 4 times this season, including in both of their games against P5 teams). Speaking of games against P5 schools, Memphis has won both of theirs on the road and both came in impressive fashion (yes, one was against Kansas, but it’s a game versus a P5 school nonetheless). Never would have guessed that Memphis/Temple/Houston would be one of the most exciting races for a conference title in the country, but it certainly is thus far in 2015. While those other schools are very good in their own right, Memphis has been great this season,
The Top 10:
- LSU Tigers
- Utah Utes
- Ohio State Buckeyes
- Baylor Bears
- Clemson Tigers
- Michigan State Spartans
- TCU Horned Frogs
- Stanford Cardinal
- Alabama Crimson Tide
- Memphis Tigers
Just missing the cut: Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Join a conference, assholes.
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