Remember the mission of the True Top Ten, as announced last week: College football teams should be ranked on performance -- especially wins over other good teams. But as a couple of gifted readers pointed out, that’s a hard thing to judge early in the season. In Week 1, Alabama mauled Michigan, and Florida State mauled Murray State. My gut says Alabama had a better win. But who’s to say Michigan is that much better than Murray State this year? Well, Murray State lost at home to Central Arkansas on Saturday, so that helps sort things out.
But Week 2 didn’t prove a whole lot otherwise -- most of the traditional powers played the Murray States of the world again, and no team has beaten two strong opponents yet. Remember, the True Top Ten is not about which team will end up with the title, or which team would hypothetically beat another; it’s about which team is having the best season so far.
Here’s the True Top Ten for Week 2:
1. Arizona (2-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Oklahoma State 59-38.
Every week the Western time zones supply a sneaky-great game that makes us Easterners wish we’d stayed up late. Rich Rodriguez has popped up in Tucson, like a prairie dog running the read option, and his team has the two best combined wins of anybody: first Toledo, a solid MAC team, and now Oklahoma State, which sniffed the top of the polls last year. The Cowboys lost Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon to the NFL and still gained 636 yards, but yards aren’t enough against a RichRod offense. You need lots of points. Except when he was at Michigan. But let’s not spoil the fun right now. Next up: South Carolina State.
2. Florida (2-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Texas A&M 20-17.
No crowd in America was more fired up for their Saturday game than the Aggies, and their freshman QB, Johnny Manziel, bewildered the Gators for a half. But Florida running back
Mike Gillislee, stuck on the bench last year under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis (more on him shortly), steadied the Florida offense in the second half and scored the go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter. This follows a win over a decent Bowling Green team in Week 1. Florida hasn’t looked great for a single series this year, but we don’t give style points in the TTT. Next up: at Tennessee.
3. UCLA (2-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Nebraska 36-30.
Here at the TTT we value road wins. Did you see the Rose Bowl at game time for this one? It looked like a Saturday afternoon in Lincoln. So UCLA gets extra credit for taking down Nebraska, which was coming off a solid win against a Southern Miss team that was pretty good last year. The Bruins also get credit for beating Rice in Week 1, because Rice beat Kansas at Kansas on Saturday. Granted, Kansas was 2-10 last year, but the Jayhawks now have Weis as coach, which means they have a decided schematic advantage over their opponents. So beating Kansas should probably count for four or five victories, and beating the team that beat Kansas puts UCLA up here on the high floors. Next up: Houston.
4. Alabama (2-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Western Kentucky 35-0.
Proved nothing this week, except that Nick Saban can always find some reason to glare at the media. Of course, he’s not wrong in one sense: You don’t want to be the coach whose national powerhouse loses to one of those teams with a direction or a hyphen in its name. (See No. 6 in poll.) Next up: at Arkansas.
5. Oregon State (1-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Wisconsin 10-7.
I don’t care if Russell Wilson’s gone -- Wisconsin scored 44 points a game last year and was two Hail Marys away from playing for the national title. Holding even the remnants of that team to a single touchdown was the heaviest lifting any team did in Week 2. Mike Riley, keep doing this and no one will come to Corvallis to play you. Next up: Open date (at UCLA on Sept. 22).
6. Louisiana-Monroe (1-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Arkansas 34-31 (OT).
The pride of the Sun Belt has a history of this sort of thing; UL-Monroe beat Alabama back in 2007. (That was Saban’s first year with the Tide. They went 7-6 and Bama fans agreed to stare at the “Men in Black” mind-eraser pen afterward, so don’t ask him about it because it didn’t happen.) This win was a bigger shock because Arkansas had national-title hopes. But the Warhawks knocked Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson out of the game. Then their own QB, Kolton Browning, worked double magic: a fourth-down TD pass with 47 seconds left to tie the game, then a fourth-down TD run to win it in overtime. UL-Monroe plays Auburn and Baylor the next two weeks; win those, and the coaches’ and media polls might notice. Until then, Warhawks, remember who loved you first. Next up: at Auburn.
(As for Arkansas … I don’t know if this says it all, but it says plenty, and Lord help me I can’t stop watching.)
7. Georgia (2-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Missouri 41-20.
I talked about this game over in the weekly wrapup, but a couple more thoughts: 1. Missouri was just as fired up as Texas A&M for its first SEC game, except for A&M being full of future Green Berets and all. 2. If Georgia hadn’t committed so many dumb penalties (12, including five false starts), the game wouldn’t have been as close. 3. If Georgia didn’t commit dumb penalties, it wouldn’t be Georgia. Next up: Florida Atlantic.
8. Northwestern (2-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Vanderbilt 23-13.
In Week 1 they beat Syracuse, who hung with mighty USC for three quarters Saturday. And last week the Wildcats beat Vandy, who hung with South Carolina for the whole game on opening weekend. (I’m the only one left on the Vanderbilt bandwagon, but I still think they’re going to be good.) Plus, as you might imagine for a strong academic school, Northwestern loves drama: It scored with 44 seconds left to beat Syracuse, and got 10 points in the last 2:01 to beat Vandy. Stephen Colbert pride! Next up: Boston College.
9. Michigan State (2-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Central Michigan 41-7.
Not exactly heavyweight opponents, but the Spartans get credit for playing an in-state rival in an away game -- as they say, danger always lurks when you play the Chippewas in Mount Pleasant. (“They” being some Central Michigan fans I just made up.) Michigan State wisely lightened the load on Le’Veon Bell this week, and let the defense carry things. The only two TDs the Spartans have given up this year came on interception returns. Next up: Notre Dame.
10. Kansas State (2-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Miami 52-13.
The hardest thing so far in the TTT is figuring out what fraction of a win you should get for beating an ACC team. Five-eighths? Seven-sixteenths? K-State roadkilled Miami on Saturday, and Miami beat fellow ACCean Boston College last week, but I’m not sure both those together equal a win over a good MAC squad. The main thing I want out of this season is for K-State quarterback Collin Klein (17 career passing TDs, 36 career rushing TDs) to stay healthy so he can fulfill his destiny of bulldozing NFL defenders out of the wildcat formation. But, Collin, please: don’t ever do this again. Next up: North Texas.
Dropping out of the TTT: Clemson, Texas State, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Nebraska, Duke. (Things are volatile here, early on.)
Bubbling under: South Florida, Notre Dame.