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The Louisville Cardinals are so good, I watched them instead of the game I was actually at

This is The Top Whatever, in which Spencer Hall ranks exactly the teams he feels like ranking at this moment.

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1. Louisville

Not just quarterback Lamar Jackson this time, but the whole team.

I was in Boone, North Carolina, and supposed to be watching Appalachian State attempt to upset Miami, but a few things happened.

First, the Mountaineers turned out to be a bit smaller and slower than Miami. This led to a rapid onslaught of deep passes and long runs and a massive lead. This led to a slow, relatively uninteresting game with a wide point differential. It led to a very drunk App State fan sitting next to me at the bar after the game — whom we’ll call "Austin," because he looked like an Austin — who told me my beard looked nice and who disappeared with his beer on the bar and an open tab.

"Hey, do y’all know he just left?"

"Yeah, we know. We know him."

They said they’d just settle up with him when he came back, because Austin does this all the time. Being in a small college town has its disadvantages, and one of them is never being able to skip out on a bar tab.

The other thing that happened was having the Louisville-Florida State game, which kicked off at the same time, open on my laptop and being unable to look away from the carnage. It’s not just that Jackson was destroying coverages single-handedly, though that’s fun all by itself. Watching safeties turn into panicking grunts from Halo when Jackson begins to scramble is maybe my favorite thing from this season so far.

Louisville’s defense brought the bonus entertainment by nullifying most of what FSU attempted, harrying Deondre Francois into looking like a redshirt freshman for the first full game this year, sacking him five times, and reducing the Seminoles to a paltry 2-of-13 on third down conversions. Something is not right with FSU running back Dalvin Cook, even though Jimbo Fisher insists everything is right with Cook, who had just 54 yards on 16 carries and did not score.

So yes, that’s why I spent most of one game in Boone watching another: because Louisville is blowing things up at such an alarming rate, and with such shocking ease, that it can eclipse impressive things happening directly in front of you.

2. Ohio State

They could be number one. Maybe they should be number one. Call them 1a? Or 1b? It doesn’t matter, and please don’t pretend like it does, because Ohio State is one of the four best teams in the nation after three games.

That comes with the highly conditional achievement of beating a now 1-2 Oklahoma team with obvious problems all over the field by a lopsided score of 45-24.

A note on that: all victories at this point are highly conditional, so thank you for noticing, Mr. "THEY AIN’T PLAYED NOBODYYYYY."

Here is what you can know about Ohio State, based strictly on game tape and statistics. The defense looks fast as hell and is a big reason why they lead the nation in turnover margin. The Buckeyes run the ball with at least three backs (running, running, quarter--) for around 300 yards a game, and do it at a murderously consistent pace. They have wide receivers who can catch the ball off your DBs’ backs if necessary.

Noah Brown of the Ohio State University, you are a cruel person.

"Leave the Building Immediately, Defensive Back": A Painting By Noah Brown, 2016

Yes, obvious dullards who like to tweet literal things and make obvious comments, yes, we are still three games into the season. Three games into the season, Ohio State looks exactly as it should, efficient and productive on offense while giving you the sense they’ve barely scratched the surface of what they could achieve; malicious and speedy on defense, and disruptive to opposing offenses in a quantifiable and qualifiable way; and capable of punting, which they are second in the nation in right now.

That deeply unsexy last fact bears mentioning because this is a machine of a roster built with obsessive detail and padded with maturing talent, right down to the punter. Urban Meyer didn’t just make you a supercar that was all horsepower and zero luxury, Ohio State. No, behold the rich leather racing seats. This team goes 0-100 with fierce acceleration, but it also has cupholders, y’all. Good ones.

P.S. So much of the rankings of any sort right now depend on Oklahoma, Ole Miss, and Notre Dame being pretty good down the stretch, so root accordingly even if you have to pull for Notre Dame, an action that has some pretty scary medical side effects you should really look up on

3. Alabama

I don’t even think Alabama fans would be angry if you put them at four or lower at this point. They would also admit they were very spoiled, and that there are probably a lot of positives and negatives to take from a 48-43 win over Ole Miss. The positives are defeating a team that had beaten Alabama twice in a row, counterpunching with defense and special teams after falling behind on the road 24-3 to win, and discovering an effective run game with quarterback Jalen Hurts and running back Damien Harris.

The downside: Ole Miss might be headed to butt town.

The Rebels appear incapable of doing anything with a run game on either side of the ball, and thus might not be a really good indicator of much for Bama’s overall quality.

Alabama, your defense gave up over 400 yards passing, which may be a problem if you face someone with a balanced attack down the road? Which, checking your schedule, could be ... um, Texas A&M. It’s basically just A&M, barring Arkansas catching you napping in a road trip to Fayetteville. Of note: Arkansas has not beaten Alabama since 2006, and has never beaten a Nick Saban-coached [Alabama].

It’s pretty much Texas A&M and whatever spent trash the SEC East rolls on three bald tires into the SEC Championship, and you’re in the final four, Alabama.

4. Houston

Avoided a Tuberville Special, meaning they beat Cincinnati as a road favorite despite the Cougars’ every attempt to throw this game and all Playoff hopes in the trash. That 40-16 score is bloated by a 28-point fourth quarter, featuring two pick-sixes.

Greg Ward, Jr. is still standing and functional despite a vaguely defined shoulder injury, and the defense is still deeply underrated. To wit: they held that Oklahoma team to fewer yards than the Ohio State defense did (393 to 403) and didn’t look appreciably slower, either. As long as that’s all true, Houston is right there, even if they fall off the map schedule-wise until a November matchup with Louisville that suddenly looks like the most important game in the universe.

5. Michigan

Beating Colorado might mean something this year, since a 45-28 score doesn’t really reflect just how hard Michigan had to scratch just to get out from under an early Buffaloes lead. This is all a covert way to compliment Colorado in a losing effort, since Colorado being good is good for college football, something I just made up because I like any excuse to go to Folsom Field and stare at the Flatirons while watching a football game under the influence of nothing but life itself. What I’m saying is that Colorado might be pretty good this year for their standards, and sure, Michigan is a better team and rankings should reflect that.

Oh, and Michigan blocked another kick, something we’ll find really special until we realize in film study that Jim Harbaugh has had extra kick blockers in ghillie suits hiding in the turf of Michigan Stadium all season long.

6. North Dakota State

Whatever, this doesn’t count since they are an FCS team, so hell, put them in this meaningless poll and enjoy it. NDSU ground out a 23-21 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes with a field goal as time expired, and we can’t even make fun of them for it, because North Dakota State keeps beating FBS teams on the road. Iowa was the sixth straight for the Bison, who received $500,000 for the privilege of beating the Hawkeyes in front of a horrified home crowd.

This entry contains no mention of Kirk Ferentz’s contract, or when it was renewed, or for how long or how much!

7. Clemson

Beating South Carolina State 59-0 won’t prove much, other than a dedication to attendance and doing what you’re supposed to do, though it was nice to see Deshaun Watson and the offense looking relaxed and productive.

Clemson’s defense should have kept SC State to 102 yards, and it did, and let’s remember that sometimes Power 5 teams don’t do this to teams with FCS-level scholarship counts. See No. 6.

Just missing

  • Michigan State might be good, or might have just been rolling over a crumbling Notre Dame defense. Also only has two real games to look at so far, so the evidence is limited.
  • Stanford feels like they’re still stretching and playing with one hand tied behind their back, even after beating USC soundly in Week 3, because I dunno, smart kids like to show off sometimes.
  • Washington really needs to play hard through the Pac-12 schedule and beat Oregon to draw some national attention.
  • Miami? Sure, Miami, why not, they basically looked like they were running a scrimmage at half-speed against Appalachian State and still blew them out in Kidd Brewer Stadium. Try the fried pies if you go to an App State game; they’re delicious and sold by a dude in overalls who looks like he should be selling fried pies at an App State game. Yes, the Marlboros were red, and hell no, they did not take Square or Bitcoin.