My AP ballot: Have to start with OU, but watch LSU

by | Senior Writer

LSU starts with an impressive win, and if the Tigers get to 4-0, look out. (AP)  
LSU starts with an impressive win, and if the Tigers get to 4-0, look out. (AP)  

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Oklahoma is still OK on my Associated Press ballot. Actually, better than OK, the Sooners remain No. 1.

Even with LSU's victory against Oregon on Saturday, I kept the Tigers at No. 2 and left Oklahoma at No. 1. LSU certainly defeated a more impressive opponent than Oklahoma, but LSU's offense was limited to 273 yards, quarterback Jarrett Lee failed to break triple digits in passing yards and Oregon outgained LSU by 62 yards.

After facing Northwestern State this week, LSU visits Mississippi State and West Virginia in consecutive weeks. If the Tigers are 4-0 at that point, it would be hard to keep them out of the top spot.

Four teams that were on my preseason ballot last week -- Notre Dame, Georgia, USC and Pittsburgh -- are not among my Top 25 teams this week.

Replacing those schools are Baylor, Mississippi State, Ohio State and South Florida.

Here is my AP ballot for this week. Last week's ranking in parenthesis:

1. Oklahoma (Preseason: 1): Sad news for the Sooners as former Oklahoma great Lee Roy Selmon passed away Sunday. I was lucky enough as a kid growing up in Oklahoma to watch Selmon play in person and then have the privilege to get to know Lee Roy after he finished his NFL career in Tampa. I covered the University of South Florida, where he worked since 1993, and he was -- without question -- the nicest, most genuine human being I have known my entire life. He will be greatly missed. As for the Sooners, walk-on RB Dominique Whaley (131 yards, four TDs) was the biggest surprise as OU cruised to a national-best 37th consecutive home victory by beating Tulsa 47-14. Next: at Florida State, Sept. 17.

2. LSU (2): Les still is More. Despite playing without suspended QB Jordan Jefferson and WR Russell Shepard, the Mad Hatter pulled out another improbable victory. This time, LSU won 40-27 despite getting outgained by Oregon 335-273. Ironically, QB Jarrett Lee threw for 98 yards -- or 1 yard for each shoe (49 pairs) that the police confiscated from Jefferson two weeks ago. Next: vs. Northwestern State, Saturday.

3. Alabama (3): Alabama coach Nick Saban still wasn't ready to name his starting quarterback on Monday. But while there might be some question on whether AJ McCarron or Phillip Sims will get the start this weekend, there's no doubting the Tide's defense. Alabama held Kent State to minus-9 yards rushing and six first downs in Bama's 48-7 win. The Tide's degree of difficulty increases this week when Alabama plays its first road game against a Big Ten opponent since visiting Wisconsin in 1928. Next: at Penn State, Saturday.

4. Boise State (6): The Broncos proved they not only had better looking uniforms than Georgia, but also the better team. Boise State bullied the Bulldogs 35-21 and turned the temperature up on Mark Richt's rear-end by, oh, 150 degrees. Kellen Moore moved another step closer to passing Texas' Colt McCoy as the winningest quarterback in FBS history. If the Broncos don't lose -- and they won't -- Moore will set the record in game eight against UNLV. And did you see what Wisconsin did to UNLV's defense? Next: at Toledo, Sept. 17.

5. Wisconsin (11): The home crowd got their first look at transfer QB Russell Wilson as he led Wisconsin to a 51-17 victory. UNLV's defense is still looking for him because the Runnin' Rebels could never find him. In his UW debut, Wilson completed 10 of 13 for 255 yards and two TDs and rushed for 62 yards and another score. Wisconsin had 37 first-half points when Coach Bret Bielema mercifully decided to take his foot off the pedal in the second half. Next: vs. Oregon State, Saturday.

6. Florida State (4): The Seminoles blanked Louisiana-Monroe 34-0 and with another tomato can on deck this weekend (Charleston Southern), the Seminoles probably won't allow a point until Sept. 17 when Oklahoma comes to Tallahassee. In fact, the Seminoles may not allow a first down Saturday against the Buccaneers, who are coming off a 62-0 loss at UCF. Florida State has scored at least 30 points in 10 of 15 games under Jimbo Fisher. That will be 11 of 16 after Saturday. Next: vs. Charleston Southern, Saturday.

7. Texas A&M (7): Texas A&M certainly looked like an SEC team Sunday. The Aggies throttled SMU 46-16. QB Ryan Tannehill threw for 246 yards and two TDs, RB Cyrus Gray had 21 carries for 132 yards and two TDs and WR Ryan Swope had eight receptions for 109 yards and a score. The only thing missing was the Fightin' Texas Aggie band spelling "SEC" at halftime. Next: vs. Idaho, Sept. 17.

8. South Carolina (9): Now that the Connor Shaw Experiment has officially been shelved after one quarter, the question is can Stephen Garcia make it through an entire season? South Carolina's senior quarterback led the Gamecocks to 56 points in a 28-minute span -- albeit against a porous East Carolina defense -- as Carolina outlasted East Carolina 56-37. Next: at Georgia, Saturday.

9. Stanford (13): How is Stanford QB Andrew Luck supposed to rack up Heisman Trophy numbers when the Cardinal seal-clubbed San Jose State 57-3. Luck threw for 171 yards and two touchdowns before watching the fourth quarter from the sideline. This week, he might not play after halftime. The Cardinal, who have scored at least 38 points in seven of their last eight games, face Duke, coming off a 23-21 loss to FCS member Richmond. Next: at Duke, Saturday.

10. Oklahoma State (10): The Cowboys piled up plenty of points (61) and yards (666), but they had a devil of a time on keeping UL-Lafayette off the scoreboard. The Ragin Cajuns returned two interceptions for touchdowns and finished with 320 yards offense in OSU's 61-34 victory. OSU booster Boone Pickens said if the Big 12 doesn't work, the Cowboys might as well head west to the Pac-12. They'll get a preview of things to come in two days. Next: vs. Arizona, Thursday.

11. Nebraska (12): The Cornhuskers got three touchdown runs from QB Taylor Martinez and four field goals from Brett Maher in coasting past Chattanooga in their first game as a Big Ten member. Martinez scored on runs of 7, 43 and 47 yards and finished with 135 yards on 19 carries. He also hit 11 of 22 passes for 116 yards. Nebraska, which set a school record for most penalties in a season last year, committed only three for 33 yards. Next: vs. Fresno State, Saturday.

12. Arkansas (14): Punt returner Joe Adams single-handedly outscored Missouri State, returning two punts for touchdowns in the Razorbacks' 51-7 victory. For good measure, Arkansas also got 260 yards passing and two touchdowns from quarterback Tyler Wilson. The Hogs tied up the Bears' offense, limiting Missouri State to 163 yards. It likely will be more of the same the next two weeks against New Mexico and Troy before the schedule gets interesting with consecutive games against Alabama and Texas A&M. Next: at New Mexico, Saturday

13. Virginia Tech (15): The Hokies got their kicks on Route 66 as Virginia Tech routed Appalachian State 66-13. David Wilson rushed for 162 yards and three touchdowns and Logan Thomas added 149 yards passing and two touchdowns. Before the game the Hokies honored Frank Beamer, who began his 25th season as Virginia Tech's head coach. Then the Hokies promptly scored 52 points in the first 33 minutes. Next: at East Carolina, Saturday

14. Oregon (5): Another SEC opponent and yet another loss for Oregon. This time it was LSU as the Tigers took advantage of three Oregon turnovers to dismantle the Ducks 40-27. If the Ducks are going to return to the BCS title game, they've got a lot of work left to do -- like reel off 12 consecutive victories -- and if LaMichael James is going to repeat as the nation's leading rusher, he'll need to triple last week's 54-yard performance against LSU starting this week. Next: vs. Nevada, Saturday

15. Mississippi State (NR): The Bulldogs mauled Memphis 59-14 in a tune-up for this week's SEC opener. Against Memphis, Vick Ballard rushed for 166 yards on only 10 carries with three touchdowns as Mississippi State finished with a school record 645 yards offense, including 405 in the first half. Next: at Auburn, Saturday

16. West Virginia (17): Dana Holgorsen's head coaching debut at West Virginia got cut short by weather, but it was still successful as the Mountaineers downed rival Marshall 34-13. Playing only three quarters, the Mountaineers still managed 34 points and 291 yards on offense. Quarterback Geno Smith looked comfortable running Holgorsen's new attack, throwing for 249 yards and two scores. Next: vs. Norfolk State, Saturday

17. Arizona State (21): Brock Osweiler threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns as the Sun Devils coasted past UC-Davis 48-14. Arizona State led 24-0 at halftime and 41-0 after three quarters and totaled 517 yards on offense. On Friday, when the Sun Devils host Missouri, they're expecting a much tougher challenge. Arizona State will look to halt a two-game non-conference losing streak to AQ BCS teams and halt Missouri's 22-game regular season non-conference winning streak. Next: vs. Missouri, Friday

18. Penn State (23): Rob Bolden got the start over Matt McGloin at quarterback in the Nittany Lions' 41-7 annihilation of Indiana State. Both played with Bolden going 6 of 12 for only 37 yards, while McGloin was 6 of 8 for 77 yards. Those numbers will have to improve drastically for Penn State to have a chance this weekend to avenge last year's 24-3 loss to Alabama. Next: vs. Alabama, Saturday

19. Baylor (NR): QB Robert Griffin III put on a clinic Friday night, directing Baylor's offense to a wild 50-48 shootout victory against TCU. Behind Griffin, the Bears rolled up an unheard of 564 yards on a Gary Patterson defense. Griffin threw for 359 yards and five TDs and WR Kendall Wright had 12 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns. With the future of the Big 12 in doubt, this could be the Bears' best -- and last -- chance to win a Big 12 title. Next: vs. Stephen F. Austin, Sept. 17

20. Ohio State (NR): Even missing eight suspended players, the Buckeyes blasted Akron 42-0. Ohio State had 517 yards on offense, while holding the Zips to 90 yards and five first downs. QB Joe Bauserman, who backed up Terrelle Pryor the past two seasons, completed 12 of 16 for 163 yards, including three touchdowns to TE Jake Stoneburner. Next: vs. Toledo, Saturday

21. Michigan State (20): WR B.J. Cunningham had nine catches for 130 yards to tie the school's career reception record as the Spartans pulled away from pesky Youngstown State 28-6. Senior QB Kirk Cousins threw for 222 yards, completing 18 of 22, and RB Edwin Baker added 91 yards rushing. The Spartans' biggest challenge this week will be not looking ahead to next week's visit to Notre Dame. Next: vs. Florida Atlantic, Saturday

22. Missouri (22): James Franklin led the Tigers to a 17-6 win against Miami (Ohio) in his first career start, but Missouri's quarterback was hardly satisfied. "I probably failed this test," said Franklin, after throwing for 129 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 72 yards and another score. Franklin's sub-par effort will be easily forgotten if he can lead the Tigers to a victory in the desert Friday against Arizona State. The Tigers' underrated defense has allowed an average of only 4.3 points in their past three regular-season games. Those numbers will be tested by the Sun Devils. Next: at Arizona State, Friday

23. BYU (24): So far, so good for BYU as an independent. The Cougars rallied from a 13-0 fourth quarter deficit to beat Ole Miss 14-13. QB Jake Heaps threw for 225 yards, but BYU's defense was the key. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy had a 3-yard fumble return for a touchdown and the Cougars held Ole Miss to only 208 yards offense. In its past nine games since Coach Bronco Mendenhall took over defensive coordinator duties, BYU is allowing only 16 points per game. Next: at Texas, Saturday

24. South Florida (NR): USF's 23-20 win at No. 16 Notre Dame gave the Bulls an upset over a nationally-ranked non-conference opponent for the fourth time in the past five years. USF also knocked off No. 18 Florida State in 2009, No. 13 Kansas in 2008 and No. 17 Auburn in 2007. Despite the win, a lot of folks nationally don't know much about Skip Holtz's club. Specifically Notre Dame's stadium public address announcer, who announced after the game: "Final score: the University of Southern Florida 23, Notre Dame 20." Next: vs. Ball State, Saturday

25. TCU (18): TCU QB Casey Pachall threw for 251 yards and four touchdowns, capping a wild second-half comeback at Baylor. But it wasn't enough as the defense put together a very un-Horned Frogs-like performance in the 50-48 loss in Waco, Texas. The defeat ended TCU's national best 25-game regular-season winning streak. TCU's looks to begin a new streak at Air Force this week in its farewell season in Mountain West. Next: at Air Force, Saturday


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