My AP ballot: Top five fixed, but four out, four in down below

by | College Football Insider

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -– Last week I promised there would be a lot of shakeup among the top teams on my Associated Press ballot this week.

Guess what? I lied.

Actually, it wasn't an intentional lie -- are they ever? -- it was just that the top five teams on my ballot from last week (Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama, Boise State and Stanford) all won.

I have four new schools in my Top 25: No. 21 Illinois, No. 22 Texas, No. 24 Clemson and No. 25 USC. I'd reference what conferences they are in, but it will probably change in a matter of minutes.

Four schools lost and were banished from my ballot: Michigan State, Ohio State, Mississippi State and Auburn.

And, as always, if you don't like my ballot this week, I promise it will be different next week.

My AP ballot for this week (last week's ranking in parenthesis):

1. Oklahoma (1): In the Sooners' victory at Florida State, quarterback Landry Jones threw two interceptions for the first time since last season. But he also had 199 yards passing and passed Sam Bradford as Oklahoma's career leading passer. Next: vs. Missouri, Saturday.

2. LSU (2): The Tigers throttled Mississippi State 19-6 Thursday night. LSU (3-0) now has two 13-point victories against Oregon and Mississippi State along with a blowout of Northwestern State. Since Les Miles' 2007 BCS national title season, the Tigers have defeated 31 automatic qualifying BCS teams -- only 13 by more than 10 points. Next: at West Virginia, Saturday.

3. Alabama (3): The Crimson Tide (3-0) blanked North Texas 41-0. It was Alabama's first shutout in since 2009 against Chattanooga (45-0) and their fourth shutout in their past 35 games. The other two were against Auburn (36-0) and Arkansas State (35-0) in 2008. Next: vs. Arkansas, Saturday.

4. Boise State (4): The Broncos (2-0) defeated Toledo 40-15 Friday night. Boise State has scored at least 30 points in 21 consecutive regular-season games and 31 of its last 33 regular-season games. Look out: the Broncos get Tulsa this week and the Golden Hurricane allowed 59 to Oklahoma State and 47 to Oklahoma. Next: vs. Tulsa, Saturday.

5. Wisconsin (5): Is it too late for FCS member South Dakota to forfeit? Seriously. Wisconsin (3-0) is coming off a 49-7 win against Northern Illinois. In the process, the Badgers rolled up 621 yards of offense. In its three wins, Wisconsin is averaging a Big Ten-best 505 yards of offense per game. Next: vs. South Dakota, Saturday.

6. Stanford (9): Stanford pulled away from Arizona 37-10, marking its sixth consecutive victory by at least 27 points. To put that in perspective, Stanford never even won as many as six games in a season from 2002-2008. Also before last season, the Cardinal's last six-game winning streak bridged the 1996-97 seasons. Next: vs, UCLA, Oct. 1.

7. Oklahoma State (10): Oklahoma State and Oklahoma have the Bedlam Series, but Oklahoma State and Texas A&M have recently had the Barnburner Series. Four of the past five meetings between the Cowboys (3-0) and Aggies have been decided by five points or fewer. The only exception was Oklahoma State's 56-28 win in 2008. In Sunday's win -- yes, Sunday, the game started after midnight local time because of weather delays -- at Tulsa, wide receiver Justin Blackmon's NCAA record streak of consecutive 100-yard receiving games ended at 14 when he was held to 57. Next: at Texas A&M, Saturday.

8. Texas A&M (7): During last week's off week, the Aggies (1-0) likely spent some time working on their defense against Baylor President Ken Starr. Actually, Texas A&M hasn't fared well coming off bye weeks under coach Mike Sherman, losing five of six games. Idaho shouldn't pose much of a problem; the Vandals are 0-17 against ranked opponents. Next: vs. Oklahoma State, Saturday.

9. South Carolina (8): Who would have thunk it: Vanderbilt visits South Carolina (3-0) Saturday in a matchup of two unbeatens? The Commodores might want to try to slow down Marcus Lattimore. He's leading the nation, averaging 178 yards per game. That, by the way, is more than 76 teams are averaging rushing per game. Next: vs. Vanderbilt, Saturday.

10. Arkansas (11): The Razorbacks (3-0) defeated Troy 38-28 to improve to 28-0 all-time against Sun Belt opponents. The degree of difficulty gets turned way up Saturday against the Crimson Tide. Arkansas has lost four consecutive games to Alabama and five of the past six. Next: at Alabama, Saturday.

11. Oregon (12): After two lackluster games, LaMichael James may have gotten back in the race to repeat as the nation's leading rusher. In the Ducks' 56-7 victory, he rushed for 204 yards to shoot up to 26th nationally. He had a 90-yard touchdown Saturday, which almost matched his rushing output in his first two games (121). Next: at Arizona, Saturday.

12. Nebraska (14): The Cornhuskers (3-0) extended their regular-season domination of Washington 51-38 Saturday. In two regular-season meetings, Nebraska has outscored the Huskies 107-59. In the last bowl meeting, though, Washington won 19-7.Next: at Wyoming, Saturday.

13. Virginia Tech (15): The Hokies have almost safely navigated their "tough" non-conference slate of Appalachian State, East Carolina and Arkansas State. Now if they can only get past Marshall, a 44-7 loser to Ohio Saturday. Amazingly, the Hokies are off to their first 3-0 start since 2006. They started 4-0 that season, then promptly lost their ACC opener. Next: at Marshall, Saturday.

14. Florida State (6): In Saturday's 23-13 loss to Oklahoma, the Seminoles scored fewer than 14 points for the seventh time since 2006. Surprisingly, four of those offensive struggles have come in Doak Campbell Stadium. Along with Saturday: a 17-7 loss to South Florida (2009), 12-3 loss to Wake Forest (2008), 21-14 loss to Florida (2006). Next: at Clemson, Saturday.

15. West Virginia (17): The Mountaineers (3-0) have scored at least 34 points in their first three games under new coach Dana Holgorsen. The last time WVU accomplished that was in the second half of the 2008 season. I'm guessing WVU's 34-point streak likely ends this week. Next: vs. LSU, Saturday.

16. Florida (19): Chris Rainey became the first Gator since Percy Harvin with 100 yards rushing and receiving in the Gators' 33-23 victory against Tennessee. Rainey and Boise State's Doug Martin are the nation's only FBS players to lead their teams in rushing and receiving. Next: at Kentucky, Saturday.

17. Baylor (18): The Bears (2-0) are not only No. 17 on my AP ballot this week, but also No. 17 in this week's AP poll. It's the Bears' highest ranking in the AP poll since the week of Oct. 14, 1991. Not sure if Baylor President Ken Starr realizes this, but back then Baylor was in the Southwest Conference. Five years later, the Bears left the Southwest Conference high and dry for the Big 12. This week, they meet an old SWC rival. Next: vs. Rice, Saturday.

18. South Florida (21): The Bulls (3-0) crack the Top 20 rankings (up to No. 18 this week) for the second consecutive week. They've got a ways to go to match the school record when they were ranked among the top 20 for their first eight games in 2008. Next: vs. UTEP, Saturday.

19. TCU (22): The Horned Frogs (2-1) allowed 17 points in Saturday's 38-17 victory against Louisiana-Monroe. Not bad, right? Well, not based on TCU's standards. TCU has allowed at least 17 points in three consecutive regular-season games for the first time since 2007 when TCU finished 8-5. In the three seasons since then, TCU went 36-3. Next: vs. Portland State, Saturday.

20. Michigan (24): The Wolverines (3-0) put together a rare defensive performance, at least in recent memory, in Saturday's 31-3 victory against Eastern Michigan. It was the fewest points Michigan has allowed since shutting out Notre Dame 38-0 in 2007. Next: vs. San Diego State, Saturday.

21. Illinois (NR): Under coach Ron Zook, the Illini are off to their first 3-0 start since 2001 after edging Arizona State 17-14. That year the Illini won the Big Ten championship. The victory against the Sun Devils also ended Illinois' 10-game losing streak to ranked opponents, dating back to 2007. Next: vs. Western Michigan, Saturday.

22. Texas (NR): The Longhorns (3-0) blasted UCLA 49-20 in what was a likely matchup of future Pac-16 rivals. In his first start Texas sophomore Case McCoy had a successful debut, throwing for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Next: at Iowa State, Oct. 1.

23. Arizona State (13): With Saturday's 17-14 loss at Illinois it marked the fourth consecutive season, the Sun Devils (2-1) lost their third game of the year by three points or less. In 2008, Arizona State lost to UNLV 23-20 in overtime, in 2009 20-17 at Georgia and 2010 20-19 at Wisconsin. And all previous three years, the Sun Devils lost their next game, which doesn't bode well this week. Next: vs. USC, Saturday.

24. Clemson (NR): It shouldn't be surprising the Tigers beat Auburn for another 3-0 start. After all, it's an "odd" year. This is the third consecutive odd year Clemson has started 3-0. The Tigers also did so in 2009 and 2007. In its past three "even" seasons, the Tigers started 2-1 in 2010, 2008 and 2006. Next: vs. Florida State, Saturday.

25. USC (NR): Wide receiver Robert Woods had eight receptions for 82 yards as the Trojans (3-0) defeated Syracuse. Through three games, Woods has 33 catches, the most in any three-game span by a USC player in school history. Next: at Arizona State, Saturday.


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