This week the elephant is in the living room, the Big 12 returns to form, and a Pac 12 team makes a big move.
After starting their season 3-0, Vanderbilt fans taunted and poked the elephant (Alabama) in anticipation of a potential upset and got stomped for their impertinent behavior. After sleepwalking through three nonconference games, Alabama awoke with a vengeance in its first conference game, posting the highest grade ever earned under the RPG grading system – a whopping 135.55 (on a scale of 1 to 100). The Tide scored on seven of its ten long field possessions and both of its short field possessions and didn’t commit a single mistake against the Commodores. On the other side of the ball, they stopped Vanderbilt on all eleven possessions, seven by three-and-out, and never allowed a Commodore possession to begin in Alabama territory. As a result, the Tide vaulted into their customary position at the top of the rankings.
By the way, Vanderbilt ranked No. 1 in scoring defense coming into that game, proving again that raw traditional statistics have no meaning. Kentucky ranked No. 1 in defense against the run, then allowed the Gators to crawl all over them, proving again that raw traditional statistics have no meaning.
The poll voters are in love with the Pac 12 team in L.A. but the other Pac 12 team – Washington – posted the second best grade of the weekend – 107.25 – in defeating Colorado on the road. On a weekend when grades were generally low, that performance propelled the Huskies to No. 2 in the RPG rankings.
Last week Oklahoma State and Oklahoma were atop our rankings but this week both played like stereotypical Big 12 teams, meaning they played no defense. The Cowboys gave up 44 points at home while the Sooners barely outran a Baylor team ranked No. 87 out of the 130 teams in the FBS subdivision. Dismayed by the Cowboys loss in its first conference game, poll voters dropped them to No. 15 but they didn’t fall that far in our accurate rankings. The Cowboys earned a grade of 57.97 – not a zero – in their loss. When averaged with three previous, sparklingly high scores the Cowboys still rank No. 6 relative to the thirteen teams in our rankings.
While the polls undervalued Oklahoma State (and Wisconsin which had a bye week), the polls continue to overvalue Clemson and USC, both of whom turned in lackluster performances. The final score of the Clemson game probably looked good to voters who didn’t research the Tigers’ performance on the field but that score was the result of several late BC gifts. In reality, Clemson stunk up Death Valley for three quarters and earned the second lowest winning grade of the weekend – 74.56. Only LSU, which looked inept against poor Syracuse, turned in a lower winning grade.
As for USC, their middle name is mediocrity. They did mange to pull away late on the road at Cal, but received a lukewarm grade of 81.92 for their visit to the Bay area. The Trojans still rank behind one loss Ohio State and have shown no streaks of brilliance.
We added Georgia to the rankings this week after their drubbing of one hit wonder Mississippi State. They received the third highest grade of the weekend and that left them at No. 10 in our rankings, one position behind one loss Ohio State. The polls don’t allow one loss teams to be ahead of perfect record teams because they rank records and not playing performance.
Next on the watch list for inclusion in our rankings are TCU, the new darling of the voters after one good game, and Virginia Tech. The Hokies play Clemson next week and if they win, they’re in. If they follow Auburn, Stanford, Mississippi State, and Louisville, past darlings who immediately fell on their swords, they’re out. As for TCU, we already know what happens to one hit wonders.