clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ranking college football’s 11 remaining undefeated teams

The Top Whatever is Spencer Hall’s weekly ranking of only the teams that demand to be ranked at this time.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

1. Ohio State

Hi, Alabama.

Here’s the odd thing about ranking anyone. By mentioning someone else first, it is all but guaranteed that the first people paying the most attention to said ranking will be the people who were not listed first.

So let’s talk about you, since that’s your favorite thing, and you’re the one reading this. You didn’t play on the road at Wisconsin, a full-strength mauler of a team. You played Tennessee. They have Derek Barnett and Colton Jumper on defense. The other nine spots on the depth chart are occupied by golems made from medical tape. You should have run for 400 yards on them. You’re Alabama, and they are a burn ward in orange and white.

Also, y’all notice you’re running the inverted veer now?

It even has the Gus Malzahn arc block in there. You’re doing all that icky spread offense stuff Nick Saban spent at least two years moaning about as the end of football itself, and not even trying to hide it.

Deny it if you will, but I’m not the one wearing red and talking about an unstoppable Tide. The People’s Revolution was the original Process, and Bama blowing up a bunch of outmanned Volunteers with a faceless army is clear enough evidence to me.

P.S. Certainly not the kind of place that does cult of personality. Nope. Noooooooooope.

P.P.S. I’m a hypocrite, because I would actually buy this one.

P.P.P.S. You not being No. 1 is more about Tennessee not being as competitive as they might have been, and less about you being the College Football Borg, assimilating all tactics and movements and strategies and seamlessly integrating them into your death machine. REBUILD BRYANT-DENNY AS A CUBE.

Ohio State, you’re in the next entry, which is actually the one about the demonstrated best team in the country this week.

2. Alabama

Actually, it’s Ohio State! Wisconsin made you look awful in a 30-23 road win, Ohio State’s 20th straight under Urban Meyer. This is Wisconsin’s game plan, every week, for every team. The new wrinkle was getting the ball run on you for over 200 yards on the night, something Wisconsin had only previously done against Akron in 2016.

That might be worrisome, but eventually a Paul Chryst team was going to figure out the run game. And even with that, the Buckeyes’ defense got stops when they needed them, and also got the mistake that redshirt freshman quarterback Alexi Hornibrook was bound to make. (Remember: if you like the taste of turnovers, set a young quarterback on a 60-minute timer and you’ll get a few.)

Ohio State got a few from J.T. Barrett, but the ability to work through bad/difficult/ugly situations is a thing experience will give you. Barrett is not Braxton Miller blowing the doors off safeties on long TD runs. He is not Cardale Jones winging the ball 50 yards downfield off his back foot, because Barrett is not a charismatic giant with a pumpkin-chunkin’ arm.

What Barrett is: a really good bad-ball hitter of a quarterback, a golfer capable of hitting it clean out of someone’s living room, a bowler who picks up 7-10 splits, a quarterback athletic and tenacious enough to get over what got him in a bad situation in the first place. The final possession in OT was Barrett on five plays (four passes, one rush) closing the door on a legit upset threat.

It’s also nice if you have Noah Brown in the end zone.

Your team is so stupid for not having a Noah Brown. Get smarter, other teams.

3. Clemson

Survived a brutal 24-17 game against NC State. If you did not watch this game: don’t. NC State played a 99.99999 percent perfect game of obstructionist football. They threw screen after screen to slow down the pass rush, choked off the run game, forced Deshaun Watson to throw 52 times, and encouraged Clemson to turn the ball over four times.

The Wolfpack then missed a potential game-winning field goal before collapsing in overtime. NC State has the misfortune of being a well-coached team with zero doubt about its identity. They have small ambitions and large reserves of meanness; they know waiting for you to make a mistake is a better strategy than hoping to make much happen on their own.

They’re a frustrating-to-watch defense-minded soccer team that scores on the counter. Fortunately for Dabo Swinney and Clemson, they miss penalty kicks and lack a consistent striker and midfield talent.

What’s wrong with Watson this year, you ask? Why dear reader, it’s that —

[/ejects from column]

[/waits for six straight months of anonymous NFL scout slander about his small hands or big hands or hands with the wrong attitude or other mostly invented critiques]

— he’s pressing? Losing starting running back Wayne Gallman to a vicious hit did not help, so we’ll continue to hedge on “Watson is pressing” as the best answer to why he’s a notch off what he was for most of 2015. It’s just hard to accept variance as a real thing that happens with fallible athletes who play games with 21 other people on the field at once.

4. Michigan

Wisely avoided football last week and will not play another football game until October 29 at Michigan State. You tell me, “Oh, they play Illinois this week, you forgot about them.” No, I didn’t.

5. Washington

The Huskies also skipped football this week to plan for Oregon State. Oregon State just lost starting quarterback Darrell Garretson to an ankle injury. Oregon State is going to have to be wrung out of a mop after this game.

6. Texas A&M

Yet another bye-week team, though resting up for Alabama scarcely feels like a bye week. Here’s where you are supposed to read all the reasons why a win over Alabama isn’t an impossibility, presented with as little enthusiasm as I can:

  • maybe Alabama will be sleepy
  • rogue seven-turnover game by the Alabama offense
  • Myles Garrett? I dunno, saying “Myles Garrett” and shrugging feels right here
  • “Trevor Knight has already beaten Alabama before” shhhh just keep saying it
  • maybe Alabama will [mumbles, walks off camera]

7. Nebraska

America’s second-least-impressive undefeated team is still unimpressively undefeated after a 27-22 win over Indiana. The Huskers play headless Purdue next week, a team fresh off a coach firing and a game in which they had to call a timeout to properly take a knee.

Then, in successive weeks, Nebraska will play at Wisconsin and at Ohio State. You know when you go from two light jogs a week to the full Henry Cavill Superman workout without any prep? That’s what Nebraska is about to do, and if they’re still undefeated after that, I will rank them first in the nation and do the Henry Cavill Superman workout as penance.

8. Baylor

Beat Kansas 49-7, and let’s see, a bye week, and then let’s see if they finally play anyone ... TEXAS? BAYLOR, HOW DO YOU MAKE AN ENTIRE SCHEDULE WITHOUT EVER PLAYING ANYONE? HOW.

9. West Virginia

Dominated Texas Tech, 48-17, which would mean a lot if dominating TTU — a team that allowed eight TDs to a single player in a game this season — meant anything. The Mountaineers are playing well, regardless of any market corrections made here on Texas Tech under Kliff Kingsbury.


10. Boise State

Sure, they’re undefeated. Let’s note that, and then do what we’ve done for years: ignore Boise State being undefeated. Their 28-23 win over Colorado State had week six’s Ending Lawyers Get Excited About, thanks to some dubious lateraling that didn’t matter.

Q: Is coaching at Colorado State turning Mike Bobo into a hollow shell of a man?


Gadzooks, Bobo looks like he spent the night running from the spirits of trapped miners in an abandoned copper mine.

11. Western Michigan

If I put Boise in here, you’re damn right I’ll put WMU in here. Akron broke an oar to mock P.J. Fleck’s primary motivational credo, “row the boat.” Akron got broken, 41-0.

DON’T MOCK P.J. FLECK’S PRECIOUS MOTTOES AND ACRONYMS OF EXCELLENCE, AKRON. Fleck’s going to be horrifying coaching LSU next year, though I can’t decide which kind of horrifying.

Teams with one loss that are probably good enough to creep back in once Alabama loses the one game they need to throw to pretend they’re mortal:

  • Louisville, who only has one loss to Clemson and still has the best player in the nation, Lamar Jackson. This week’s fun and random comparison: in 2016, Lamar Jackson has 90 points by himself, and South Carolina has 84. As a team. That allegedly plays the same sport.
  • Houston. Survived 38-31 against Tulsa, a team that had Ohio State pinned down until the third quarter. Waiting to play Louisville, then get lucky elsewhere to make anything New Year’s happen.
  • Florida? The question mark is deliberate.