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UCF’s in my top 10 because of its incredible spite toward a made-up rivalry

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

1. Alabama

OK YOU’RE GREAT WHATEVER FINE. The gut-wrenching realization about this Alabama team is that, yes they are a delight to watch, even if their games are like foreclosure proceedings punctuated by moments of breathtaking athleticism.

There are no explanations for how this team will lose, and no predictions for when. They can run Lane Kiffin’s hybrid inverted veer-bone and roll out a predatory 3-4 defense with perfect pattern reads and premium talent. They score on special teams and only miss like, one or two field goals a game at most.

Case in point: starting safety and punt returner Eddie Jackson broke his leg against Texas A&M in the Tide’s 33-14 victory. Jackson was replaced by junior Hootie Jones (a four-star recruit) in the base defense and junior Tony Brown (five-star) in the dime package. His role as punt returner was filled by Xavian Marks, a reported 4.4 runner who has already returned a TD this year.

You can’t replace Jackson’s experience in all three roles. If you’re Alabama, though, you can reach into the bench and pull out three qualified and seasoned replacements. The talent of the starting 11 is one thing, but what’s kept the Tide moving like a nuclear winter through the SEC is depth.

Your backup sixth DB IS A FIVE-STAR VETERAN. When they run out of champagne, Alabama has more champagne, which is how they keep drinking champagne. If they lose, it will be an anomaly, an error of math, a lightning strike. You know, like an undefeated Ohio State beating Penn State in almost every statistical category and losing anyway.

Ohio State v Penn State Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

1a. UCF

A 4-3 team makes the top 10 this week for buying petty low and selling it high. UCF beat UConn, 24-16, in a game that would not matter if UConn had not randomly selected a school 1,218.8 miles away as its rival. It should be noted that they did not bother to tell UCF about it ahead of time, either.

Knightro, tell ‘em.

That was last year, when UCF was trashing the idea of the rivalry even in the middle of a 40-13 blowout by UConn.

This year, after turning around and beating the Huskies, the Knights left the field of the “Civil ConFLiCT” without the rivalry trophy, like a half-crushed Powerade cup. That trophy: The one UConn had made for the rivalry with the name ripped straight from the 1990s school of TWiStED mOviE TitLeZ, the one that looks like something you get for selling insurance real well.

UConn made an anti-friendship bracelet for you, and YOU THREW UCONN’S ANTI-FRIENDSHIP BRACELET AWAY. That’s championship level spite, UCF. Not even remembering that your original mascot was an unholy mongrel Space Orange-Astronaut can dim our respect for the style displayed here. You’re 1a this week because football is a game of the heart, and yours is cold enough to survive any winter, UCF.

UCF doesn’t think about you at all, UConn. They don’t think about you at all.

2. Michigan

Couldn’t even let Illinois have a normal mercy score and won, 41-8, but that’s Illinois’ fault for going for the noble two-point conversion. This must be the opposite of a Sad Field Goal, even if posting an ocho looks almost as sad. An eight says, “We wanted to show we still had fight in us, a delusional desire to fight, even as we were getting our head kicked in by a team that let 15 different players get rushing attempts on us.”

Jim Harbaugh probably appreciated that, in between impressing recruits by showing up in vans at heinous hours.

Explaining his decision to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he raved about U-M coach Jim Harbaugh, calling him "the coolest dude I ever met in my life" and citing how impressed he was that Harbaugh came to pick up recruits in a van at midnight after U-M's game.

Harbaugh picking you up in a van: probably cool. Bill Snyder picking you up at a van at midnight? Not cool, because that’s how you wind up helping him restock snack machines for extra cash. You think those out-of-production mid-’80s Nike Cortezes pay for themselves? With salary? Son, only a fool spends their salary.

Michigan also came out in the Train formation again, because Harbaugh would dress his players up as snarling bears if he could, but this will have to do.

3. Washington

A 41-17 breeze through Oregon State feels like something Washington shouldn’t take for granted, which is cool because the Huskies are good enough to start treating these games as practices, and yeah, sort of taking them granted.

That might seem unfair to Oregon State, an improving team at least one year away from being competitive. They’re trying, but ... this is how Oregon State defended Dante Pettis, the Huskies’ second leading receiver, in the third quarter.

Oregon State, we feel your pain. So does the rest of the Pac-12, because Washington could have taken this game for granted. Instead, they gained over 500 yards on you and took a 38-3 lead before going into clockbleed mode.

4. Clemson

Didn’t play, which is always smart.

5. Louisville

  • NC State came within a missed field goal of beating Clemson.
  • That same Clemson beat Louisville, 42-36, in one of the season’s sloppier great games.
  • This weekend, Louisville rent a hole in the fabric of the universe and threw NC State through it in a 54-13 farce.

The transitive property is useless. Stop using it, unless it suits my purposes exclusively, in which case it is great.

(For instance: South Alabama beat San Diego State, who beat Cal, who beat Texas, who beat Notre Dame, who beat Syracuse, who beat Virginia Tech, who beat North Carolina, who beat Pitt, who beat Penn State, who beat Ohio State. Thus does the transitive property prove that South Alabama is a superior team to Ohio State, along with everyone who’s beaten South Alabama this year. You don’t want any part of Arkansas State, Buckeyes. Not one delicious, venison-scented bite of them.)

Louisville remains a full-power, three-phase team with the best player in college football. They are terrifying as long as Lamar Jackson stays healthy, which you should want, because you like beautiful things. The rest of Louisville’s schedule should help: Virginia, Boston College, Wake Forest, Houston, and Kentucky, and only Houston poses a real threat.

Jackson already has over 3,000 yards in 2016. Based on those defenses remaining, he might finish the regular season with 5,000 ... and still finish second in the nation in total yardage. Texas Tech QB Pat Mahomes has 3,550, and barring injury and assuming consistent production will definitely finish with over 5,000 yards and could threaten fellow TTU QB B.J. Symons’ record of 5,976 yards, set in 2003.

That’s a lot of math. So if that doesn’t help, here’s a GIF of Jackson running so fast that even Jackson can’t handle it.

Final stats: 20-of-34 passing for 355 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions, 76 yards and one touchdown on the ground, and one tackle (of himself).

6. Stella the Owl

This Temple animal hates me and you and everything not of owl or owlkind so, so much.

Look at that Cotton Hill-lookin’ owl. It’s just radiant with disdain for every less murderous thing around it. Don’t even think about having one as a pet, even if Stella looks like the living embodiment of everything you feel about the universe.

He’s gonna want you to stay up hooting along with him, man. Harry Potter lied about everything, but mostly about owls being cuddly, and British people having feelings about anything that weren’t “THIS IS SHITE” and “well that wasn’t going to work anyway, nothing ever does.” Temple upset USF, 46-30, and it didn’t matter to Stella, because all she dreams about is killing in dark silence, not American Athletic Conference football.


Ohio State. They’ll be back, provided they win out and figure out what’s happening in their passing game, and also in pass protection, and also quit doing that swoony thing their offense does for extended periods of games, and oh there’s also the matter of what happened on that blocked kick, and the strange pair of TD drives they allowed Penn State to get, and ... there’s a lot, Ohio State. There’s just a lot to look at here, and that’s before you also have to figure out how you held Penn State to under 300 yards and still lost.

Nebraska. Still sticking to the “win your scheduled games against Wisconsin and Ohio State and become GODS” philosophy.

West Virginia. It would be on brand for WVU to go 11-1 and get shut out of the Playoff because a.) the Big 12’s strength of schedule fell apart, b.) they won’t play a conference title game, and c.) some random terrible thing happens to them along the way. Dave Wannstedt has a place in football history, and it’s starring as “The Enormous Talking Sandwich That Destroyed West Virginia’s Best Shot at a BCS Title” in a movie every Mountaineer fan hates down to their marrow. (WVU’s good, though. Really, really good.)

Baylor. See: “West Virginia, but with a less comfortable appraisal process.”

Western Michigan. PJ Fleck is bound for the LSU job, since he is basically Les Miles’ Adderall-chomping son.

Boise State. Still undefeated and insanely fun and, yeah, saddled with a Mountain West Conference schedule. Still got tee dog, though.

WHO’S A GOOD BOY. That dog will catch a halfback pass one day. That makes it merely a trick play; it becomes Boise State when the dog laterals for a game-winning TD.