College football Week 5 roundup

We always knew that the rankings would move around a little bit after Week 5, if only because of the clash between two top ten teams, Clemson and North Carolina State, which would inevitably see one of them out of the rankings. But what we didn’t know was that this would be the week of the almost-upset; of the ten top teams, five were seriously threatened late in the game. Yet when the dust settled, the ranks looked pretty similar to last week.

Our Rankings:

1 Alabama (5-0)

2 Ohio State (5-0)

3 Georgia (5-0)

4 Michigan (5-0)

5 Clemson (5-0)

6 USC (5-0)

7 Oklahoma State (4-0)

8 Tennessee (4-0)

9 Ole Miss (5-0)

10 Penn State (5-0)

Without a loss, the top three — Alabama, Ohio State, and Georgia — were always going to stay the same, but their order is liable to move around. And here, it did. All three teams have been dominant all season, but Ohio State gets bumped up from #2 to #3 on the back of a thumping win over Rutgers, while Georgia, who were only saved in the final minutes of a 26-22 win over Missouri which featured an insane nine — yes, nine — field goals, dropped down to #3.

Realistically, the order of the top three doesn’t matter. None of them are going to fall below third unless they lose a game, but two of the three tried their damndest to lose last week. Alabama led comfortably, 28-0 against Arkansas before a hellish third quarter which saw their lead reduced to 28-23 and their starting quarterback, Bryce Young, sidelined with a shoulder injury. Yet the Crimson Tide did what they do best, and late in the game, pulled away. The final score was a comfortable 49-26, which doesn’t do justice to the scare the Razorbacks gave the Tide.

Ohio State had settled into third, and they’ve been playing like we’d expect a #3 team to play, beating Notre Dame in a tough game and winning blowouts, but with competition the likes of Arkansas State, Toledo, and Wisconsin — not teams that are expected to seriously compete. Saturday was no different, as the Buckeyes laid into Rutgers, beating them 49-10. While they haven’t been tested much recently, they go into a tough three-game stretch next, playing Michigan State, Iowa, and Penn State, in that order. For now, they’re at #2 — not because of their improvement, but because of Georgia’s recent inability to run up the score the way the Buckeyes have.

Georgia slots in at #3. The National Championship favorites have been struggling, and this makes it two weeks in a row. After running their first three opponents out of the stadium by a combined score of 130-10, the Bulldogs have played two tight games in a row, getting away from Kent State last week 39-22 and nearly losing to Missouri tonight, taking their first lead in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter. In every game they’ve played, Georgia has indisputably been the better football team. But can the Bulldogs stand up to the pressure every Sunday, or will they eventually crack and lose one notwithstanding? The injuries are starting to pile up for this team, and if they lose a game, Georgia’s playoff hopes will center on not only going undefeated from here on out, but also beating Alabama in the SEC Championship. That’s no small task.

At #4 comes Michigan, who struggled at the end against Iowa but ended up with a comfortable-looking 27-14 win. Fifth is Clemson, who beat North Carolina State — ranked #10 going into the weekend — 30-20. Sixth is USC, who looked shaky early, but pulled away from Arizona State to win, 42-25. At #7, Oklahoma State beat a very good Baylor team in a game that featured, inexplicably, almost no scoring outside of the third quarter, when the teams combined for 39 of the game’s 61 points. At #8 is Tennessee, who edged a formerly-ranked Florida squad. At #9, Ole Miss, new to the top ten after knocking off Kentucky by a score of 22-19. And finally, at #10 comes a Penn State squad which was unranked to start the season but hasn’t yet played a ranked team. Penn State’s next three games, against Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio State, should test that, and we’ll see if this team is for real.

Looking forward to next week:

Next Week’s Schedule

1 Alabama vs. Texas A&M

2 Ohio State at Michigan State

3 Georgia vs. Auburn

4 Michigan at Indiana

5 Clemson at Boston College

6 USC vs. Washington State

7 Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech

8 Tennessee at Louisiana State

9 Ole Miss at Vanderbilt

10 Penn State - Bye Week

While there are no matchups within the top ten and no games that jump off the page as upsets, there are still a few to watch. All of the top three are playing teams that — while objectively inferior skills-wise — have a tendency to disrupt good teams’ seasons. Alabama, in particular, will remember last year’s loss to Texas A&M which nearly cost them a playoff spot. Further down the ladder, Texas Tech and LSU both have upset potential playing Tennessee and Ole Miss, respectively, and Penn State is the only truly safe team. Don’t be surprised if there’s a lot of change in the rankings next week, and don’t be surprised if there’s no change at all. But stay on your toes, because Week 7 — the week after — will be a doozy. We’re getting into that part of the season where teams can start thinking about playoffs and conference championships, which means that in a few weeks we’ll start talking more about those things. And more importantly, it means that the games just take on that much added importance and the sport becomes that much more fun to watch.