This is the time of year when college football becomes all screwed up.
Typically, a narrative begins to be written from the start of the season and continues up to a certain point. Then teams lose and the whole thing muddies up.
Once the picture becomes foggy and confusing, a new narrative begins. It continues to a point until the cycle repeats itself.
The whole thing keeps repeating over and over again until the final games have been played. This constantly keeps us on our toes, reevaluating and repositioning teams on a weekly—nay, even daily—basis in a subjective hierarchy of college football.
With only two games to go—and only one that actually threatens Clemson’s current record—it seems like a good time to solidify the hierarchy.
Florida State, Alabama, and Baylor are all in a class by themselves. I list them in that order on purpose, because that’s the way I would rank them overall, based on the eye test and each team’s accomplishments. Ohio State would be next—I’m just not sold on the Buckeyes as a team competing on the same level as any of the other three undefeated teams.
Fresno State and Northern Illinois are…well, they’re Fresno State and Northern Illinois.
Then we get down to the one-loss contingent, which is where Clemson comes into play. Other than the Louisville-UCF contingent—otherwise known as the “No Chance With a Loss” group—there are some pretty good teams to sort through as we head down the stretch of the season.
Oregon is ranked higher than any of the others in this group in the BCS standings at fifth overall. The Ducks have utterly decimated everyone on the schedule except Stanford, who beat them for about the 872nd consecutive time. The only truly impressive win was a home victory over UCLA where Oregon shut out the Bruins after halftime. I’d say their resume speaks for itself.
Auburn is a newcomer to the nation’s elite. The Tigers lucked into a win over Georgia on Saturday but have been impressive otherwise. Beating Texas A&M’s horrible defense on the road is the highlight. A road loss to LSU looms large given the inconsistency with which the Bayou Bengals have played of late. Still, Auburn looks like a solid team quickly rising.
Missouri has been impressive, albeit ridiculously lucky in scheduling. The Tigers got to face depleted versions of both Georgia and Florida. The slate thus far has been a cake walk, with the easiest possible combination of SEC teams scheduled. Only a Connor Shaw miracle comeback has kept Missouri from an unbeaten record. Still, I’m a fan of the matchup nightmare that is Gary Pinkel’s offense.
I’d take Michigan State next. The Spartans were absolutely horrendous on offense to start the year, continuing last year’s unfortunate trend. But a new quarterback and some young playmakers have revolutionized Sparty into a legitimate offensive threat to go along with a words-cannot-describe-the-havoc-wreaked-on-opponents defense. I’m a huge fan of this new look team.
I don’t buy Oklahoma State at all. The Cowboys turn the ball over too much. I respect the defensive improvement, but this team can’t get out of its own way too often in a bad league.
I know you think I forgot Clemson, but I didn’t. I just waited until the end to make you keep reading.
The Tigers have arguably the most excusable loss of all of the one-loss teams. They have the pedigree and the balance required to be considered an elite team. Plus, they have one more chance to impress in Columbia in a couple of weeks.
Where would I put Clemson in relation to its one-loss brethren? I think the only squad more impressive than Clemson so far has been Oregon, but I think the Ducks and the two upper Tigers (Auburn included) are the three best one-loss teams in the country.
So where would you place the Tigers? Debate and discussion make this crazy time of year worthwhile. It can also drive you crazy when your team is directly involved.