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The Top Whatever: Ranking college football teams after everything went all non-Alabama

The Top Whatever is a weekly ranking of only the college football teams that really need to be ranked at the moment. If you’re looking for the polls, those will be over here.

Arkansas v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

1. Alabama.

A boring, crushing, pleasantly consistent, 41-9 win over Arkansas.

Tell everyone who tried to find a different No. 1 team: welcome back. We tried to find others. How’d that work out? Did the Tide not process everyone like so much meat falling into the grinder? Did they not render almost every game a tedious scrimmage after the first 15 minutes?

Did that OTHER TEAM — maybe one you chose instead of Alabama as the nation’s best team — do something really stupid, like lose to Syracuse? On a Friday, no less? Did that OTHER TEAM go to Tempe and make a few late-night mistakes? (To be fair: Tempe is made for mistakes.) Did that OTHER TEAM, which seemed so much shinier and more interesting, score three points in a blowout at Cal? Did the diamond in the rough do something drastic, like losing to an underachieving Boise State?

They probably did. Everyone learned a few old lessons in Week 7.

  1. Alabama remains the least entertaining and steadiest bet because of its bottomless depth chart and its ability to run the ball, pass just enough to win, and reduce whatever the opposing team is attempting to do to ashes by the second quarter.
  2. Coming off a disappointing performance against Texas A&M, the Tide were the surest bet in the college football universe to win a blowout. This is mostly because Nick Saban undoubtedly made life for everyone around him a living hell this week, right down to his 8,827 coach-strong consultancy watching film until their eyes bled.
  3. It’s cute to consider other teams, even if Alabama might — might — be beatable with a perfect storm. The offense remains largely one-dimensional and dependent on the run. The defense, like all defenses, can be broken down by a mobile quarterback having an insanely good game. The Tide fumbled two punts against Arkansas, something Saban mentioned in his postgame presser, because of course Saban mentioned that in his postgame presser.

They’re beatable, but they won’t do things to embarrass you. They won’t call you from jail in Syracuse, talking about how they lost a bar fight with a giant orange. They won’t have a crazy story about losing your debit card in a bar in Arizona. (Those charges afterward are going to be weird.) They won’t lose to Cal. Alabama might do a lot of things in 2017, but dammit, we swear this: it won’t embarrass you by losing to Cal.

2. Georgia.

Won a rollicking, 53-28 matchup with Mizzou. That may look like a lot of points to give up to Missouri, but remember that playing the Tigers in 2017 is a lot like facing a button-masher in a fighting video game. They don’t know what they’re doing, everything good that happens is an accident, and after an initial flurry, they will collapse.

At 7-0, there are few mysteries about Georgia. It plays brilliant defense. Its finesse/speed back, Sony Michel, hit poor DeMarkus Acy so hard, his feelings should have been hurt. When your speed back is doing things like that, you are in a rare, rare space as a football team.

When Georgia’s gone 7-0 before, it meant SEC titles at least, and in one modern case — the hallowed 1980 season — it meant a national championship. There is no snide joke about inevitably losing to Florida or Alabama here. I’ve been preparing my soul for the real possibility of consistently good Georgia football for several months now. For your own protection, I suggest you do the same.

3. TCU.

A 26-7 win over Kansas State. The Frogs continue to be whatever they have to be. Kansas State wanted to dominate possession, so TCU shut down the K-State run game, especially in short-yardage situations K-State has long dominated. From there, it was a matter of Kenny Hill being efficient, the Horned Frogs’ defense putting pressure on a backup quarterback, and the defense carrying the team.

And if the circumstances are reversed next week against Kansas — indulge the fantasy for a moment, OK — then TCU can probably still win, because it remains one of the few real complete teams. The offense can be efficient or explosive as needed, and the defense can apply pressure or fall back in coverage.

TCU is not the most talented team in the nation, and that might not matter at all because it is the most flexible. Flexible is hard to beat: Just when you think you have one thing covered, TCU reaches an inch farther than you can and creates a whole new problem just out of your reach. (Also: Kenny Hill, efficient quarterback! 2017 is stranger than we could have predicted.)

4. Miami.

A 25-24 thriller over Georgia Tech. Miami may or may not be a very good team overall, but I feel confident saying this:

Also, the Canes beat a mean-ass Georgia Tech team custom-built for the letdown game Miami was supposed to have after beating Florida State. That’s no small accomplishment, especially since Miami politely handed Tech a touchdown on a failed surprise onside kick attempt.

This ended up being completely worth it since it broke commentator/perpetually terrified risk-phobe Rod Gilmore’s brain for the remainder of the game. If Rod Gilmore called the X Games, he would die screaming sometime in the second hour. “WHY WOULD YOU GO UPSIDE DOWN, EVER? WHY? IT’S TOO DANGEROUSSSSSSS—”

5. Wisconsin.

Beat Purdue, 17-9, a victory that is worth more than it used to be, via Purdue being interesting and good now. Wisconsin will probably win the West. Then, it will clean out the remainder of its schedule and step bravely into the ring in Indianapolis to take a 30-point loss from whatever monster roars in from the Big Ten East.

And that’s fine, because remember: Wisconsin will probably finish with a lovely, fat bowl junket to enjoy, and its former coach, Gary Andersen, just gave up $12 million so he could leave Corvallis, Oregon. Context is everything.

6. USF.

Defeated Cincinnati 33-3. The Department of Zero Sum Thinking would like to point out that, given the sludge remaining on the schedule, the Bulls should launch a PR campaign to pump up the reputation of the UCF Knights. UCF is the only remaining team of quality on the Bulls’ schedule, and USF needs to do everything it can to make that look like a Playoff play-in game.

We recommend targeting gullible voters and influencers with fake articles on Facebook in order to boost the reputation of the American Athletic Conference. Please click to share “TULSA BEATS BAMA 56-0” and “NAVY SINKS OHIO STATE 45-2 AT HOME” with all of your online friends. It’s worked before.

7. UCF.

Torched a hapless ECU team, 63-21. Like USF, there’s not much left on the schedule. However, whatever is left will be burned to the foundation, because UCF had 33 first downs yesterday, will probably have 30 first downs in every game moving forward, has a top-five yardage offense, and is hoarding the allotment of offensive touchdowns granted to the entire state of Florida. A terrifying team to face right now, and one that will probably blow up someone up in a major bowl game.


Penn State. Please remember that the Top Whatever ranks only the teams that played this week. The Nittany Lions are a Playoff-quality team at this point and can hammer that point home against a punchless Michigan squad that destroyed them in their last meeting. Will someone email me about this, failing to read all the way down or understand the concept? YOU BET THEY WILL, READER.


  • Ohio State. J.T. Barrett threw five TDs in a single game against Nebraska. Yes, that’s legal now.
  • Oklahoma. Baker Mayfield flew off the field after a win over Texas wearing a golden cowboy hat and riding an invisible horse. This sentence is literal, and we are making nothing up.
  • NC State. We’re just as shocked as you are, OK?
  • Clemson. Injuries piling up really shouldn’t relegate it to the B-pile just yet. Also, and we say this with all sincerity: Syracuse was due to kneecap someone, and Clemson walked in at exactly the wrong moment.
  • Michigan State. [gestures at undefeated record in Big Ten, waves hands, shrugs, walks away from chalkboard dotted with inscrutable equations, shaking head]
  • Michigan. Starting to think over-leveraging a team’s futures on the market based mostly on a blowout of an impotent Florida might have been a bad idea.
  • Notre Dame. Starting to think shorting a team’s futures on the market based mostly on a narrow loss to a really good Georgia might have been a bad idea.
  • USC. Sam Darnold didn’t throw an interception against Utah despite throwing the ball 50 times. Darnold threw 9 INTs for the entire 2016 season; he’s thrown nine in 2017. This is what an optimist would take away from this: Apparently Darnold just gets nine INTs in a season, can budget them however he likes, and got them all out of the way early this year. He did fumble twice and lose another off a teammate’s facemask, however.
  • Washington. It will be so hard to justify putting the Huskies in a Playoff, given the weakness of that schedule, and their losing in the exact, excruciating way they lost to Arizona State. Plus their rivalry game got a lot less lustrous rankings-wise, thanks to Wazzu completely befouling its bed at Cal. WASHINGTON STATE TRANSITIVELY RUINING YOUR SEASON, HUSKIES! Even their losses spite you.
  • Kentucky. If you got this far down in the column, congratulations on paying attention and realizing that Kentucky is 5-1, and would be 6-0 if it had decided to cover two Florida receivers. We’re probably not going to rank the Wildcats just yet, but thank you for reading this far. The best easter eggs are the ones you don’t have to make up.