Some moving and shaking in my AP top 25 this week, with Florida State tumbling from the No. 2 spot after losing at home to top-ranked Oklahoma and Wisconsin vaulting the rankings to No. 9 with a third consecutive one-sided victory.
Not a good week for two other Big Ten schools – Ohio State and Michigan State or the second-tier SEC teams as the Buckeyes, Auburn, Mississippi State and Tennessee all dropped out of my poll after losses – none that close, although three of the four came on the road. The Spartans fell to No. 25 after Notre Dame manhandled them in South Bend.
Baylor, Clemson, Illinois and Southern Cal claim the vacant spots, with the Bears checking in the highest at No. 19.
LSU and Alabama are neck-and-neck in my rankings, as they appear to be everywhere else.
Sept. 18 AP poll
1. Oklahoma (2-0): Sooners solidified the top spot in my poll with a gritty, defensive-led victory in a tough road environment at Florida State. Along with LSU and Alabama, the Sooners play defense as well as anybody in the land and they maintain the top spot because they have the best quarterback of the three top dogs.
2. LSU (3-0): Good, and potentially very good offense + a lock-down dominant defense + no trepidation of playing in tough road environments = a national championship contender.
3. Alabama (3-0): Now that we know the Crimson Tide can manhandle slower upper Midwest teams and outmanned Sun Belt Conference teams, we really get to see what they’re capable of this week when Arkansas visits Tuscaloosa.
4. Boise State (2-0): Broncos made a nice quiet statement by blowing out the same Toledo team that nearly won at Ohio State. The Kellen Moore-led Boise State offense is as good as any in the country.
5. Stanford (3-0): Finally, we got a glimpse of what the Cardinal is capable of when there’s some motivation involved. Schedule sets up for a nice run now, with no legit competition until late October.
6. Florida State (2-1): Despite the 23-12 loss to Oklahoma, I still see the Seminoles as a very solid team, although the Sooners exposed some offensive problems by rendering the Seminoles one-dimensional. FSU’s defense was rock-solid against one of the best QBs in the country and should hold up well in the ACC.
7. Oklahoma State (3-0): The Cowboys are pretty content relying on their (almost) point-a-minute offense, which so far has blazed the way for three lopsided high-scoring wins. A much tougher test arrives this weekend in College Station.
8. Virginia Tech (3-0): The Hokies might not wind up in the SEC after all, but they resemble the league’s top two teams – a defense that doesn’t budge and an offense that does enough to keep winning.
9. Wisconsin (3-0): Hard to find a weakness in the Badgers so far. After another breather this week, though, Wisconsin takes a trip to Nebraska for one of the biggest – maybe the biggest – game of the Big Ten season.
10. Oregon (2-1): After running into a brick wall against LSU, the Ducks have found their offensive groove again. That could be a key in a three-game stretch vs. Arizona, Cal and Arizona State.
11. Florida (3-0): After three games, the Gators look like the best team in the SEC East again, but the real tests come in October with back-to-back games against Alabama and LSU.
12. Texas A&M (2-0): Aggies have held serve nicely in two easy wins. Now they jump into the deep end against Oklahoma State.
13. Nebraska (3-0): Is it possible Bo Pelini has turned into an offensive guru? Nah, his Huskers just aren’t very good on defense right now and the offense is carrying most of the load.
14. West Virginia (3-0): Stronger start for the Mountaineers last week gave them just enough of a cushion to hold off Maryland. Is there enough firepower to make a dent against LSU, though?
15. South Carolina (3-0): Not sure the Gamecocks have the defensive chops to remain a factor in the SEC East, but their offense is as good as anybody in the league, except maybe…
16. Arkansas (3-0): The Razorbacks showed some defensive flaws against Troy last week. Looking ahead by chance to the little showdown Saturday in Tuscaloosa?
17. South Florida (3-0): Bulls may be the best team in the Big East and nobody is lining up to lure them away … yet.
18. Texas (3-0): Amid all the realignment talk centered around the Longhorns, don’t forget that they look like a pretty good team again.
19. Baylor (2-0): One more in-state opponent awaits this week before the Bears and their prolific offense jump into Big 12 Conference play.
20. TCU (2-1): Horned Frogs have gotten past their season-opening loss nicely but they’re still way under the radar.
21. Clemson (3-0): Can the Tigers avoid the ping-pong effect that has plagued them the last few seasons after they ended Auburn’s long winning streak? We’ll see the next two weeks against Florida State and Virginia Tech.
22. Southern Cal (3-0): Trojans have gradually gotten better each week and need to follow that arc as they move into a tough Pac-12 stretch with three road games in four, capped by a visit from Stanford.
23. Illinois (3-0): In the watered-down Big Ten, could the Illini suddenly be a contender? You bet, without a team on the scheduled that’s currently ranked until Wisconsin in November.
24. Arizona State (2-1): Sun Devils split their tests against Midwest opponents and now will have to play a whole lot better against SC this weekend to avoid a two-game skid.
23. Michigan State (2-1): Spartans laid an egg at Notre Dame last week, just their third loss in the last 18 regular-season games. One chance to get some mojo back before an October gauntlet of Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Dropped out: Ohio State, Mississippi State, Auburn, Tennessee