There are 16 undefeated teams left in the top tier of college football, so there are just 16 candidates for this week’s True Top Ten. We admire and reward teams that take on tough schedules, but with the season not even halfway through, you still have to have a clean sheet to earn your way in.
Last weekend was a blast not just because of all the great games (N.C. State, we hear you, ARROOOOOOOOO), but because it sifted the field. The True Top Ten doesn’t measure talent or style; it measures the strength of the season a team has put together. And now a handful of résumés are rising to the top of the pile.
UPDATE: The TTT was offline for a couple of days and just now realized that we whiffed on Mississippi State as one of the last unbeaten teams. We wondered why we kept hearing cowbells. Our apologies. -- Tommy T.
1. Florida (5-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. LSU 14-6.
Two things about Florida: One, Mike Gillislee is the grind-it-out back the Gators haven’t had since Emmitt Smith. He’s not as good as Smith, but you can give him the ball 35 times a game and he’ll take care of you. Two, the Gators haven’t given up a point in the fourth quarter all year. Running and defense might not make great TV, but if it’s your team, it’s beautiful.
The Gators still have South Carolina at home, Georgia in Jacksonville and Florida State on the road. Before the season, I’m not sure many people would have picked the Gators to win any of those. Now they might be favored in all three.
Quick travel note: I was in Gainesville on Saturday, and even as a lifelong Georgia fan, I enjoyed the vibe around the stadium and over on University Avenue. There’s a bar named Balls that you should go to once and only once. It is every great thing a college student imagines about a college bar and every terrible thing a parent of a college student imagines about a college bar. The cover charge is $5 and a nonreturnable chunk of your soul. Other than that, I kind of liked it. Next up: at Vanderbilt.
2. Kansas State (5-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Kansas 56-16.
3. West Virginia (5-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Texas 48-45.
So is Oklahoma better than Texas? That’s the question I had to ask to sort out these two spots. I think Oklahoma’s a little better, which makes Kansas State’s win in Norman three weeks ago slightly more impressive than West Virginia’s win in Austin on Saturday. These two teams play at WVU in two weeks, and the winner will have an inside slot to the national title game (not to mention Morgantown will be INSANE). But only if they both win this week, and they’ve both got road games against decent teams. Could it be a DOUBLE-TRAP WEEKEND? Next up for K-State: at Iowa State. Next up for West Virginia: at Texas Tech.
4. Notre Dame (5-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Miami 41-3.
Against three solid opponents -- Michigan State, Michigan and Miami -- the Irish gave up a total of 12 points. Maybe Notre Dame should’ve joined the SEC instead of the ACC. If that defense holds in its three remaining big games -- Stanford, at Oklahoma, at USC -- the Irish will be playing somewhere warm for lots of money in January. Next up: Stanford.
5. South Carolina (6-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Georgia 35-7.
Even though I think the Gamecocks are really good -- despite all their fans’ fears -- I hesitate to give them too much credit for this win. It hurts me to say this, as a Georgia grad, but the Dawgs are frauds -- they look like supermodels but they can’t walk in high heels. Last year they went 10-4 but lost to the only four good teams they played. This year they averaged more than 40 points a game until they played a good defense; South Carolina shut them out until a meaningless TD at the end. And Georgia still has to play Florida, which looks like a clone of the Gamecocks. Great.
(Thanks for letting me vent, y’all.)
South Carolina has to fly through thunderstorms the next two weeks. If they make it out the other side undefeated, they’re good enough to win it all. (Gamecock fans, if you read that sentence backward it’ll reverse the jinx.) Next up: at LSU.
6. Oregon State (4-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Washington State 19-6.
7. Oregon (6-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Washington 52-21.
The Beavers were No. 1 in the TTT last week but slipped this week for two reasons: Other teams won bigger games, and the Beavers’ big wins (UCLA and Arizona on the road) don’t look as big anymore because the Bruins and Wildcats both lost again last weekend. But that’s still a slightly better body of work than Oregon, which has looked great every week but has played five home games and one against Washington State in Seattle. The Ducks finally wander outside the Pacific Northwest this week. Progress! Next up for Oregon State: at BYU. Next up for Oregon: at Arizona State.
8. Ohio State (6-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Nebraska 63-38.
Somehow it seems fitting all the way around -- for Urban Meyer, for Ohio State, for the Big Ten -- that the Buckeyes might go undefeated in a season when it doesn’t count. For now, Ohio State has to settle for being roughly three times as good as anybody else in the Big Ten so far. Next up: at Indiana.
9. Alabama (5-0)
LAST WEEK: Idle.
Take a week off in the TTT and you get passed. Yes, Alabama looks as strong as anyone else in the country. But the Tide has played exactly one decent team: Michigan on a neutral field. Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A&M are all down the road. We’ll know for sure then. Next up: at Missouri.
10. Ohio (6-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Buffalo 38-31.
The Bobcats return to the TTT because their Week 1 win at Penn State looks better all the time – the Nittany Lions are now 4-2 and beat previously undefeated Northwestern on Saturday. Ohio’s schedule is probably not good enough to keep them in the TTT after this week, but it’s always good to get some MACtion while we can. Next up: Akron.
Dropping out: Florida State, Texas, Louisiana Tech.
Bubbling under (the other undefeateds): Louisiana Tech, Louisville, Mississippi State, Rutgers, Cincinnati, UT-San Antonio (!).
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