1. Alabama Crimson Tide, 4-0 (1) – Mighty Alabama just about fell to Arkansas. The Tide was down to the Hogs by 13 in the second half, but 2 Ryan Mallett interceptions and Alabama’s cool resolve ended in a 24-20 win. The champs don’t get any time to rest, though. They welcome the Gators to Tuscaloosa for another big game, and then have to travel to South Carolina. Last week: Defeated Arkansas, 24-20. This week: vs. Florida (4-0).
2. Ohio State Buckeyes, 4-0 (2) – Ohio State hung 73 on Eastern Michigan, one of the worst teams in FBS football. They have to travel to Illinois this week, which will be tougher, but the Buckeyes should be fine. A trip to Madison on October 16 is looming on the horizon. Last week: Defeated Eastern Michigan, 73-20. This week: at Illinois (2-1).
3. Florida Gators, 4-0 (6) – Things are coming together in Gainesville. The Gators throttled a pretty good Wildcat team. The defense is especially tough. If they can win on the road in Alabama, look for the Gators to occupy the top spot in next week’s poll. Last week: Defeated Kentucky, 48-14. This week: at Alabama (4-0).
4. Boise State Broncos, 3-0 (5) – Boise State wasn’t as impressive as they needed to be in order to play for a national championship. It’s hard to imagine that a one-loss team from a BCS conference will be passed over by Boise, but you never know. The Broncos open WAC play at New Mexico State this week. Last week: Defeated Oregon State, 37-24. This week: at New Mexico State (0-3).
5. TCU Horned Frogs, 4-0 (3) – The Horned Frogs had some trouble with SMU. They won by 17, but weren’t able to dominate the Mustangs. Their defense displayed some shoddy tackling. They open their conference schedule with a cupcake, though the Rams earned their first win by beating Idaho at the buzzer last Saturday night. Last week: Defeated SMU, 41-24. This week: at Colorado State (1-3).
6. Oklahoma Sooners, 4-0 (4) – The Sooners got a game effort from the Bearcats. It’s hard to get a read on this team, but this week’s match-up should help. They play Texas in the annual Red River Shootout in Dallas. The Longhorns are coming off a bad home loss to UCLA, so they’ll be angry. The winner has a definite advantage in the Big 12 South. Last week: Defeated Cincinnati, 31-29. This week: vs. Texas (3-1).
7. Nebraska Cornhuskers, 4-0 (7) – The Huskers struggled with an FCS opponent, but that can be excused after their thrashing of Washington the week before. And with a bye for the upcoming week, it had to be difficult getting excited to play SDSU. Taylor Martinez is electric, but he needs to take better care of the football. A Thursday night trip to Manhattan, Kansas is a trap game before welcoming Texas to Lincoln on October 16. Last week: Defeated South Dakota State, 17-3. This week: Bye.
8. Oregon Ducks, 4-0 (9) – The Ducks looked beatable against Arizona State. Either they aren’t as good as people thought or ASU is better than people expected. Probably both. They have a monster game with Stanford this Saturday. Alabama vs. Florida and Oklahoma vs. Texas will get a lion’s share of media attention, but don’t forget about this game. It will probably be the most fun to watch. The winner takes an important step toward Pasadena. Last week: Defeated Arizona State, 42-31. This week: vs. Stanford (4-0).
9. Wisconsin Badgers, 4-0 (10) – Wisconsin had a lopsided win over an FCS school. Considering the way the Badgers have struggled to dominate opponents, this was a feel good win for Badger fans. They’ll get a big test from the Spartans in East Lansing. Both teams are good enough to play a big role in the Big 10. Last week: Defeated Austin Peay, 70-3. This week: at Michigan State (4-0).
10. Auburn Tigers, 4-0 (16) – The Tigers won another physical game against a quality opponent. Auburn deserves a break, and they’ll get one against Louisiana-Monroe. Then they travel to Kentucky for what might be a trap game, followed by home contests against Arkansas and LSU. Last week: Defeated South Carolina, 35-27. This week: vs. Louisiana-Monroe (1-2).
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11. USC Trojans, 4-0 (11) – Like Wisconsin, USC had to feel good about their slaughter of Washington State. The Trojans have been disappointing so far, but Lane Kiffin and company got on track in a big way. This week they get a fellow underperforming team in Washington at home. This will be a homecoming for Steve Sarkisian, the former USC offensive coordinator. Last week: Defeated Washington State, 50-16. This week: at Washington (1-2).
12. LSU Tigers, 4-0 (12) – LSU scored a nice non-conference victory over West Virginia on Saturday night, although they failed to cover the spread. The Tiger defense is fast and athletic, but the offense has their fans worried. A quarterback controversy is brewing. Last week: Defeated West Virginia, 20-14. This week: vs. Tennessee (2-2).
13. Stanford Cardinal, 4-0 (15) – The Cardinal was impressive in South Bend. The offense is potent and the defense is underrated. This is one of the best teams that few people are talking about. They get an opportunity to swing the public consciousness in Oregon. A win over the Ducks would catapult the Cardinal into the Top 10. Last week: Defeated Notre Dame, 37-14. This week: at Oregon (4-0).
14. Arizona Wildcats, 4-0 (17) – Arizona just about laid an egg against Cal, but a late touchdown won the game. After Cal missed a game-sealing field goal, Nick Foles led his team down the field and got the job done. The Wildcats head into the bye week with a ton of momentum. Last week: Defeated California, 10-9. This week: vs. Bye.
15. Iowa Hawkeyes, 3-1 (18) – After losing a heartbreaker to Arizona, Iowa bounced back by destroying Ball State. Somehow, the game wasn’t as close as the score indicates. The Hawks will get a much tougher test when the Nittany Lions visit Kinnick Stadium this Saturday. The loser drops out of the Top 25. Last week: Defeated Ball State, 45-0. This week: vs. Penn State (3-1).
16. Utah Utes, 4-0 (19) – The Utes dismantled another cupcake in San Jose State. Utah is in the middle of one of the easiest schedule stretches in the entire country. After the bye they travel to Ames, IA to battle the Cyclones in a possible trap game, but probably not. If they can get by TCU and Notre Dame in November, this team has a shot at an undefeated season. Last week: Defeated San Jose State, 56-3. This week: Bye.
17. Arkansas Razorbacks, 3-1 (14) – Oh, Arkansas. The game was the Razorbacks to lose, which is exactly what they did. You have to feel bad for Ryan Mallett, who threw two critical interceptions late in the game. It’ll be hard for Arkansas to forget that game, but having a bye week might help to regroup and refocus. Last week: Lost to Alabama, 20-24. This week: Bye.
18. South Carolina Gamecocks, 3-1 (13) – Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks lost a hard fought game to Auburn. They get the bye to lick their wounds, and then they welcome Alabama to town. The SEC East still looks up for grabs, and you have to imagine that the Gamecocks are pulling for the Tide over the Gators this week. Last week: Lost at Auburn, 27-35. This week: Bye.
19. Miami Hurricanes, 2-1 (21) – The U was impressive in Pittsburgh. They dominated both sides of the ball, and basically did whatever they wanted. The offense gets a lot of publicity, but the defense is really good, too. This might be the best team in the ACC. They’ll get a battle this week when they head to Death Valley to take on Clemson. Last week: Defeated Pittsburgh, 31-3. This week: at Clemson (2-1).
20. Texas Longhorns, 3-1 (8) – It was a matter of time before Texas’ weaknesses were exposed, but who imagined UCLA would go into Austin and whip the Longhorns? Texas has some serious troubles on offense, and the rush defense was gashed by an up-and-coming Bruins team. They can redeem themselves this weekend when they battle the Sooners for Big 12 South supremacy. Last week: Lost to UCLA, 12-34. This week: vs. Oklahoma (4-0).
21. Michigan Wolverines, 4-0 (20) – Watching Denard Robinson go down with a knee injury had to scare the hell out of Wolverine fans. I’m surprised Rich Rod didn’t faint. Thankfully, Michigan was playing an inferior Bowling Green squad. Robinson should be ready to go against Indiana, but the defense has to start playing better. Michigan’s offense isn’t good enough to win games single-handedly against Big 10 opponents. Last week: Defeated Bowling Green, 65-21. This week: at Indiana (3-0).
22. Penn State Nittany Lions, 3-1 (23) – The Nittany Lions earned a tough victory over an underrated Owls squad. The schedule gets more difficult, though, as Penn State travels to Kinnick Stadium to take on a very good Iowa team. Two great defenses will be on the field for what should be a low-scoring contest. Last week: Defeated Temple, 22-13. This week: at Iowa (3-1).
23. Florida State Seminoles, 3-1 (25) – Who knew FSU had a defense? The Seminole D threw a shutout against a rebuilding Wake Forest team. Jimbo Fisher is having success in his first season as head coach. The offense is experienced, which makes this a dangerous team. But Virginia might be underrated, and the Seminoles would be wise to not overlook the Cavaliers. Last week: Defeated Wake Forest, 31-0. This week: at Virginia (2-1).
24. North Carolina State Wolf Pack, 4-0 (NR) – The Wolf Pack spring into the top 25 after handling the Ramblin’ Wreck on the road. Russell Wilson is a talented quarterback, and Tom O’Brien is working his magic at another program. NC State welcomes Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech in what amounts to being a measuring stick game for both teams. Last week: Defeated Georgia Tech, 45-28. This week: vs. Virginia Tech (2-2).
25. Michigan State, 4-0 (NR) – The Spartans rolled over Northern Colorado and make it into the Top 25. They’ll get a chance to prove their mettle when Wisconsin comes to East Lansing. The Big 10 is deep this year. Last week: Defeated Northern Colorado, 45-7. This week: vs. Wisconsin (4-0).
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