1. Charlie Strong. No. Don't fight this. Look at him.
Charlie Strong was dead and gone. Texas fans were measuring new drapes in the football offices for Chip Kelly or Nick Saban or whatever other pipe dream replacement they wanted. Bevo didn't even make the game, though a life-threatening illness was both a legitimate excuse and a painfully obvious metaphor for Longhorn football.
AND YET THE HAT.
Dead as a doornail, fretted over even by the charitable critics of College GameDay and given zero chance of survival by anyone daring to forecast the Red River Rivalry, Strong and Texas did what Texans do in hard times: they got legal and filed a counter-suit. The plaintiff accused Oklahoma of a negligent inability to defend the run game (verified with 313 rushing yards) and an inability to protect offensive assets (as demonstrated by six sacks on Baker Mayfield and only 17 points for OU on the scoreboard).
The field back at Texas is named for a trial attorney, and he beamed at the verdict. The jury rules in favor of Texas, and commends Counselor Strong on an astonishing result. He's No. 1 this week, and if you feel like arguing with him, be warned. He has a golden cowboy hat, and you do not.
2. TCU. Everyone should be familiar with the Bill Snyder Game. Every high-powered Big 12 team must play it. The pace slackens. Your offense spends a lot of time on the bench while Kansas State's quarterback stares at the play clock before snapping the ball with one second left. Your defense, for reasons you will never understand, has its hands full with a shockingly talented converted long snapper Snyder found at a Wyoming community college, or wherever.
So if TCU runs a paltry 53 plays and only has the ball for 20 minutes and still pulls out a 52-45 win in a hostile Manhattan, give the Frogs all credit. They endured their attempted Bill Snydering for 2015 and will have the handwritten thank you card to prove it as soon as Snyder gets it in the mail on Monday. Hope you don't mind purple ink and very neat handwriting.
3. LSU. The Tigers hosted South Carolina for a 45-24 drubbing, but were heavy on the hospitality. For instance, they courteously limited Leonard Fournette to 158 yards rushing and one polite TD. That was nice, as was letting Brandon Harris off the leash just enough to pass for an unheard of 228 yards, but then reining him in before things got too out of hand. (They also scraped together a home game for South Carolina at the last second, sure, but the football was courteous.)
The Tigers still have their massive pool of unknown quantities, but at this point, they remain appealing unknowns. That's enough to keep them up here for now.
4. Clemson. Won 43-24 over Georgia Tech, a preseason favorite for the ACC championship! (The Jackets are 0-3 in the conference.) Limited the Yellow Jackets to just 71 rushing yards, a real accomplishment given the Yellow Jackets' run-first offense! (The loss against Clemson marks GT's fourth straight game under 260 yards of offense, which coincides with a four-game losing streak.) Overall, a productive victory over a team sure to break out of its slump and finish strong. (Georgia Tech is fried, and a win over GT can only mean so much, but you're still clearly an excellent team, Clemson.)
5. Utah. Going to the wire with previously undefeated Cal in a 30-24 victory does represent an accomplishment. Cal plays crazy-making football. For example, Jared Goff threw five interceptions in this game and yet still had the ball on the Utah 21-yard line with time for a shot at a winning score. Unlike everyone else stuck in Cal's vortex of madness, however, Utah did not flake out, miss a crucial extra point, fumble out of nowhere or make the kind of pressured mistakes the madcap Bears can force you into.
They ran the ball with Devontae Booker. They got enough production out of QB Travis Wilson. Most impressively, the Utes defense knocked around Goff enough to force a normally unflappable player into mistakes. This was one.
Utah has beaten Oregon by an embarrassing margin, gave Michigan its only defeat and made Goff do this. If forcing the nation's best quarterback into unsuccessful figure skating lifts isn't the stuff of potential champions, nothing is.
6. Florida. Did have a letdown game in a listless, punt-heavy, 21-3 win over Mizzou. A letdown game for Florida now consists of farting around on a road trip and winning by 18 points, a vast improvement over the Will Muschamp-era definition (i.e., losing to Missouri by 28 points at home despite only allowing 119 yards of offense, the football equivalent of being let down into a well filled with centipedes).
7. Michigan State. Struggling with Rutgers in a 31-24 win and involved in a game in which one team spiked the ball on fourth down? Ah, Sparty, that's the kind of deeply unglamorous, marginal victory that makes me trust you even more. The Spartans look awful and still beat those upstarts at Michigan on a last minute safety next week, thus forcing a nation aghast with its options to rank them highly.
8. Baylor. Pulled up when up 52-7 at the half and only finished with 66 points while allowing Kansas to score a touchdown. That's seven points, Baylor! We're worried about your lack of killer instinct. Score 50 on West Virginia next week to signal that you're not sick or something.
9. Ohio State. Still undefeated after a 49-28 win over the Terps, and still this year's 2014 Florida State. Oh, they might look like they're losing to Maryland or some MAC team or Indiana or another MAC team or Virginia Tech, but a heroic fourth quarter and one or two dazzling Ezekiel Elliott runs later and nope, you just wasted another hour waiting to see Ohio State lose. On the positive side, the Buckeyes might have delivered the death blow to Randy Edsall's career at Maryland, so don't say they didn't do anything nice.
10. Florida State. Handed rival Miami a 29-24 loss and have a Dalvin Cook. FSU will slog through its underwhelming ACC schedule, and in defense of this, one can point to Cook and say: but they have that. Cook ran for 269 total yards with a sore hamstring. The atrocities he could commit if fully healthy boggle the mind. Florida State is undefeated and has a Dalvin Cook, something you should look into getting for yourself if possible. Beating Florida State without one of your own seems like a very difficult thing to do.
11. Oklahoma State. Only plays nail-biting thrillers, but ends them well. With a 33-26 overtime win at West Virginia, the Cowboys are undefeated. This is a fact that seems to confuse even Cowboys fans, but there's a reason psychiatrists like to say things like "feelings are not facts" a lot. OSU's pretty good and can clearly win close games. (Even if they have to drive to the brink of disaster and peer over the edge to get properly motivated.)
12. Iowa? Undefeated? Iowa? We'll double check this, but the numbers appear to be solid. Iowa is undefeated and ran poor Jordan Canzeri 43 times for 256 yards in a 29-20 win over Illinois, so the possibilities of this happy run coming to an end when he suffers a month-long full body cramp are very real. So is this possibility: with this schedule, Iowa could pretty easily go undefeated and get into the Big Ten Championship.
Cal, which somehow had a chance to win against Utah despite turning the ball over five times.
Alabama, which has a loss.
Michigan, because the Wolverines have a loss but are flattening everything in their wake.
Undefeated Temple and Houston and their peers, via schedule.
Oklahoma, via losing to Texas.
Ole Miss, via a loss to Florida.