Remember that The Top Whatever puts the team with the best record and also with the most outstanding performance that week at the 1 spot. Other polls may blindly transfer over last week’s momentum. Those polls are lazy. Disregard them at once.
Also, Nick Saban told me not to put Alabama here, because he is very unhappy with his team for only winning 38-10 over the defending Conference USA champion.
I have to put someone in this extremely silly and illogical spot, so why not Arkansas? The Razorbacks beat TCU in Fort Worth in what was probably the best Week 2 matchup of two teams you might actually know. They are a large team that does things in a large way. By that I mean that they are physically huge, averaging 6’6 and 316.6 pounds across their offensive line. I also mean that they move in big cycles: first they crept to a lead over TCU, then got winded and gave that up, then had a snack break and barreled through the last quarter of the game.
- In the third quarter, Arkansas has first-and-goal on the 2-yard line with a 20-7 lead over TCU. This game is over.
- They stall, miss a field goal, and immediately allow three consecutive TD drives. In response, the Razorbacks punt twice, because BIG MAN NEEDS A BREATHER. Also, TCU WR/KR KaVontae Turpin is 155 pounds. As a small thing, he terrifies Arkansas defenders, who do not understand things that weigh fewer than 225 pounds. They can’t even see him.
- Logically, the Arkansas offense crackles to life and pulls a TD out of its netherparts behind first-year starting QB Austin Allen. They convert against the Horned Frogs with a WR reverse pass from Keon Hatcher to Allen on a play named "Frog," because Bret Bielema hates you, and only you, and wants the bad things in life to happen to you
- Here’s the really delightful part. Arkansas kicks to Turpin at the worst possible moment to kick to Turpin. (Again: as giants, he’s too tiny for them to understand.) Of course he returns it 64 yards to put TCU in game-winning field position. Of course the freshman kicker hammers the potential game-winning field goal into the arms of a 6’10 offensive lineman named Dan Skipper.
Skipper is 45 years old and used to run a logging operation in Northwest Arkansas. He turned to football because his mom always wanted him to get an education, and this was the only way he could afford it. Arkansas wins in OT, and Skipper’s mom is real proud of him.
Arkansas is my favorite team this week because they played a game against a quality opponent that nearly went off the rails before a miraculous series of saves in a fashion Bielema should just trademark at this point. They’re the national champions of Week 2, even if they’ll probably cough up a howler against Texas A&M or someone else they should beat handily.
Got to rest their starting quarterback and running back and still managed 511 yards of offense against Lamar in a 42-0 recovery workout. They only gave up 73 yards and got to run a glorified scrimmage for their backups.
Houston is doing nothing wrong and can do nothing wrong in 2016, and even their meaningless games are opportunities for learning and personal growth. It’s OK to hate them a little.
Starting the season with two overwhelmed range targets isn’t going to boost your national reputation, sure, but it will make UCF coach Scott Frost dig into the darkest reaches of the Motivational Men’s Carry-All to find some silver lining.
"It's hard to say when the score is what it is, but we came in here and outhit those guys today," Frost said. "Standing on the sideline, there was no doubt who was hitting harder."
I’d like to make fun of Frost here, but Frost was the one who bearhugged LeGarrette Blount off the field after he knocked out Byron Hout in Boise in 2009. If you can do that you are a very big and strong person, and this was fine, Frost. This is good motivational speechery, and if we see you in person, remember how much we liked it.
BTW: Michigan did only run the ball for 119 yards, if you’re nitpicking and looking for warning signs of future trouble in an otherwise giddy, 51-14 blowout.
4. Ohio State
Don’t lie: It’s a joy to roll out 50 points without much effort and not worry about lesser opponents. If you don’t believe this, please see the case of NICHOLLS V. GEORGIA, where the ninth-ranked team in the nation struggled with an FCS team until the final seconds. Punting Tulsa off the edge of Ohio Stadium, 48-3, might not be terrifically sporting, but deep down it’s way, way more rewarding than a two-point win over an FCS team.
On the actual positive side: The Buckeye defense stifled a pretty good Tulsa attack, limiting it to under 200 yards on the day even in garbage time. See, some possibly legit data, even in lopsided blowouts.
Scraped by in a weird, 30-24 home game against Troy. Deshaun Watson threw two interceptions, Troy was within one score after a late rush, and the biggest upside for Clemson might be this: That if they’re good, they haven’t looked good yet, and can only go up from here given the talent on their roster.
Double upside: Ray-Ray McCloud literally dropped six points on the way into the endzone Desean Jackson style, so Clemson is still good enough to make sloppy mistakes like that and win.
The downside: This might be who Clemson is this year, and they’ll have to win while playing mistake-prone football and overcoming themselves before they ever worry about the opponent.
6. Florida State
When you play someone like Charleston Southern, you want to beat them handily and avoid getting anyone major injured. The Seminoles won 52-8, but also lost starting DB Derwin James to a knee injury.
The next opponent for the Seminoles is Louisville, which has a quarterback named Lamar Jackson. Huh. Wonder if that’s bad.
7. Lamar Jackson
He’s 44th among entire teams in total offensive yards in his last four games, so we’ll just have the quarterback drag the entire Louisville team along with him in The Top Whatever. (See: Cam Newton Exemption, where one player can haul a whole team to loftier heights than it might deserve.)
Had Louisville’s receivers not dropped a few passes and fumbled a few more, Louisville would have had more yards. The Cardinals had 845 against Syracuse.
Here is a photo of Jackson conversing with a teammate casually while stretching. In the middle of a game. A foot and a half above a Syracuse defender.
If he does this against Florida State this weekend, Jackson will ascend into orbit. If you need him, that is too bad. He will be busy high-fiving the Hubble Telescope.
I’m done laughing at you, Iowa, even if you signed your coach no one is actively courting to a 5,000-year contract for an atrocious amount of money. You beat rival Iowa State, 42-3, and went undefeated last year and, like I said, I’m through laughing at you, because an undefeated Iowa can go on a while, and I want to prepare for it well ahead of time. We all waited too long in 2015. Look how that worked out for everyone.
Saban, still enraged after Alabama drew the most penalties it’s had in three years, demanded I move the Tide to the lowest point possible in The Top Whatever. Fearful of damage to my tender ass, I comply. PLEASE DON’T HURT ME, TINY ANGRY RICH MAN.
Teams barely missing the Top Whatever
- Stanford, who wisely decided not to play football this week.
- Washington, who really hasn’t played anyone yet after beating up on Idaho and Rutgers, and yes, this is hypocritical given who Michigan and Ohio State have played.
- Georgia, who looked anemic against Nicholls.
- Texas, who took a freebie game off UTEP.
- Tennessee, who somehow managed to score 45 points and not look real impressive against a discombobulated Virginia Tech.
- Oregon, because we have trust issues with them now, and will for a while. It’s an issue, mostly between Oregon, us, and our therapist.