NCAA Football Rankings 2016: Predicting the Top 25 After Week 2

The first week of the 2016 college football season was one to remember. A slate of games with national implications unfolded, and so too did some surprises.

Seven Top 25 teams lost, including a pair of Top Five teams in LSU and Oklahoma. That marked the first time two Top Five teams lost on the opening weekend since 1972. It created a seismic shakeup in the polls, with Wisconsin leaping from unranked to No. 10 and Texas trailing right behind at No. 11.

However, at least on paper, Week 2 lacked pizazz, with no matchups between Top 25 teams. While it didn’t match up to the momentous preceding weekend, it did feature its share of poll movement, including in the Top Five between ACC teams and with a Week 1 team rejoining the fray following an impressive victory.

It also saw teams legitimize their poll positions, a wild Big 12-MAC finish and the Battle at Bristol between Tennessee and Virginia Tech. How did it all shake out?

      

Moving Up

Florida State

The first two weeks of 2016 have done little to change the notion that the ACC title will be decided on Oct. 29 when Clemson visits Tallahassee for a showdown with Florida State. The Tigers and Seminoles are the clear class of the ACC Atlantic and the ACC in general.

Saturday, Florida State had a foe it was expected to easily dispatch when it welcomed FCS program Charleston Southern to town. It went about as you’d expect; even on a short week following a Labor Day comeback win over Ole Miss, the Seminoles rolled the suspension-wracked Buccaneers 52-8.

FSU quarterback Deondre Francois was impressive, completing 25 of 32 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Given Clemson’s struggles to put away Troy, the programs will likely flip-flop spots.

      

Arkansas

In his time at Arkansas, Bret Bielema hasn’t been known for quick starts. The Razorbacks entered 2016 hoping to avoid the ugly 1-3 beginning, including a home loss to Toledo, that marred 2015. So far, so good. Arkansas needed a late score to escape Louisiana Tech in Week 1, and while Saturday’s matchup with TCU left hearts racing across the Natural State, no one will complain about the results.

The Razorbacks and quarterback Austin Allen put together a frantic final drive and reverse-handoff two-point conversion to tie the game at 28, blocked a potential game-winning TCU field goal at the end of regulation and then cleared the way for Allen to score on a quarterback draw in double overtime for a 41-38 win over the No. 15 Horned Frogs.

The renewal of the old Southwest Conference rivalry was a classic, and with Texas State up next, Arkansas appears a certainty to enter the SEC season at 3-0 and just outside the Top 20. That’s a much better feeling than a year ago.

      

Wisconsin

Despite 10 wins in Paul Chryst’s inaugural season at the helm, Wisconsin wasn’t on the national radar when this season began.

Several key pieces from the nation’s top-scoring defense were gone, as was defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who bolted for LSU. In addition, fifth-year senior Bart Houston was no sure thing replacing Joel Stave at quarterback.

Those national pundits appear to have underestimated the Badgers. Wisconsin stunned No. 5 LSU 16-14 at Lambeau Field in Week 1, and kept the momentum going Saturday against Akron on Saturday, rolling to a 54-10 victory.

Houston threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns, and senior tailback Corey Clement continued a solid start to his final season, rushing for 111 yards and two touchdowns in just over a half of play before leaving with a minor ankle injury.

The Badgers will now likely rise even higher into the Top 10.

       

Louisville

Louisville began 2016 as the third-best team in the ACC Atlantic behind national powers Clemson and Florida State, with hopes of excelling as the dark horse. Through two weeks, the Cardinals could be ready to challenge for a division title and much more.

Following Friday’s 62-28 rout of Syracuse, Bobby Petrino’s bunch has outscored its opponents 132-42.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson is breaking out as one of the nation’s biggest offensive threats. Friday, he rolled up 610 yards of total offense (411 through the air, 199 on the ground) and accounted for five touchdowns. Much tougher tests lie ahead, such as Florida State Saturday and Clemson Oct. 1, but the Cardinals look ready to meet them.

     

Moving Down

Georgia

When culture changes happen, it’s easy to want linear progressions: new coach arrives, good things happen, better things happen after that and everyone’s happy. Too often, it just isn’t that simple. That’s the case with Georgia and Kirby Smart.

Smart’s UGA debut was impressive. The Bulldogs faced the defending ACC Coastal Division champions, North Carolina, and authored a strong finish, scoring the game’s final 19 points for a 33-24 victory.

Saturday’s home game against FCS foe Nicholls was a classic “letdown” game on paper. The Bulldogs jumped into the Top 10 at No. 9, but the Colonels are hardly a top-flight FCS team. They’re coming off a 3-8 2015 that saw them lose by a combined 95-0 to FBS teams Colorado and Louisiana-Monroe.

Georgia played down to its competition in a 26-24 win. The Bulldogs led 10-7 at the half and didn’t put the Colonels away; Nicholls outscored Georgia 10-0 in the fourth quarter and forced UGA to run out the clock with its first-string offense. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason was uneven, completing 11 of 20 passes for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception and yielded late to senior Greyson Lambert.

Fellow SEC East foe Tennessee was penalized for taking Appalachian State, a good Sun Belt team, to overtime. The Bulldogs will feel some wrath from voters and drop out of the Top 10.

     

Oklahoma State

Let’s make something clear: Central Michigan is not a bad football team. The Chippewas are coming off a seven-win bowl season, and the core of that team (14 starters), including talented senior quarterback Cooper Rush, returned.

Still, there’s no excuse for them to be hanging around with an Oklahoma State team that won 10 games in 2016 and returned an even better offensive group led by quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington.

Yet that’s where the Cowboys found themselves with no time remaining Saturday, leading 27-24. The Chippewas got a major break when Rudolph was whistled for intentional grounding on fourth down on what should have been the game’s final play.

Officials gave CMU a final, untimed down—which they later admitted was a blown call—and Rush took advantage, throwing a downfield strike to Jesse Kroll, who lateraled to Corey Willis at the OSU 12.

Willis scored to finish the wildest play of the young season for a shocking 30-27 win. As Joe Fleming of USA Today explained, the play never should have happened. Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder wasn’t pleased.

“In my mind, it is incomprehensible that a mistake made after time expired cannot be corrected,” he said in a statement. “The final score shows that Oklahoma State lost the game, but that doesn’t mean that I have to agree with it.”

The circumstances sting, but Oklahoma State should have put the Chippewas away long before that. They’ll drop out of the Top 25 as a result.

     

TCU

Life without Trevone Boykin and the guts of a talented offense mean this season will be somewhat transitional for TCU. The Horned Frogs returned only one offensive starter from 2015, and while Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill excelled against FCS foe South Dakota State, the defense showed cracks in a 59-41 victory.

Saturday against Arkansas, those concerns became even more apparent. Leading 28-20 and needing to hold the Razorbacks offense out of the end zone with under two minutes to play, the Frogs couldn’t do it. Hill got the offense in position to win, but Ryan Graf’s potential game-winning field goal was blocked.

In overtime, those same defensive issues reared their head, as Allen scored the game-winning touchdown for a 41-38 double-OT win.

TCU harbored hopes of a Big 12 title, but with Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma still on the schedule, head coach Gary Patterson must fix his leaky defense to make them realistic.

     

Clemson

No. 2 Clemson survived a late push from Auburn and escaped Jordan-Hare Stadium with a 19-13 victory, no small feat in an opening week that saw fellow Top Five teams LSU and Oklahoma fall.

The Tigers were a heavy favorite at home over Sun Belt mid-pack team Troy, but Dabo Swinney’s bunch never really looked dominant.

The Tigers led throughout and were never truly threatened but only led 13-10 after three quarters. They scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter and looked on their way to a more comfortable win, but poor defense and penalties late allowed the Trojans to make the score look respectable at 30-24. Clemson had to recover an onside kick with under 30 seconds left to run out the clock.

In an environment where style points matter—especially to those who didn’t watch the game—the Tigers will likely slip a bit, especially with ACC rival Florida State dominating overmatched competition. However, Auburn is still a better win than Bowling Green, Tulsa, Hawaii or Central Florida, the teams Michigan and Ohio State have whipped up on.

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Source: Bleacher Report-CFB News

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