In years past, by the time November rolls around, we usually can identify the No. 1-ranked team in the country. The best usually rises above the rest. It’s often pretty obvious.
Alabama is that team a lot. Clemson was that team a few times. Maybe an LSU in 2019. Or an Ohio State a couple of times.
Good luck. Let’s look at the candidates, shall we?
The most dominant team in college football has unquestionably been Michigan and yet the Wolverines’ best win so far is against … Rutgers. So much for that.
How about Washington? While the Huskies hold arguably the best win of the season — against one-loss Oregon — they also struggled against Arizona State and Stanford.
There’s Florida State, which has victories over LSU, Clemson and Duke. But those wins looked much better at the time, not so great now.
Finally, Georgia, a team that has played a grand total of one team currently ranked in the AP Top 25.
That leaves us with Ohio State, which has wins over Penn State (it was ugly, yes) and at Notre Dame (that looked better a few days ago than it does now).
On that note, let’s get to our rankings, which do not include Oklahoma (Mike Gundy’s Cowboys saw to that).
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
This week: won 35-16 over Rutgers
Next week: vs. Michigan State
Best win: vs. Penn State
We’re starting to get used to these ugly Ohio State wins, no? The Buckeyes, of all teams, are relying on a stingy defense and a ground-and-pound running attack to win games and that’s just downright weird. RB TreVeyon Henderson (128 yards) and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ unit played the biggest role on Saturday in New Jersey.
2. Washington Huskies
This week: won 52-42 at USC
Next week: vs. Utah
Best win: vs. Oregon
If you’re wondering if the pass-heavy Huskies can rely on a ground game to win, well, running back Dillon Johnson sure did wonders answering that question. He ran for 256 yards on 26 carries for four touchdowns. Sure, USC’s defense stinks, but Washington is starting to prove that it is more than a one-dimensional offense. That defense? Well, it needs some work.
3. Georgia Bulldogs
This week: won 30-21 vs. Missouri
Next week: vs. Ole Miss
Best win: vs. Missouri
For a second straight season, Missouri gave the Bulldogs a real problem. And for a second straight season, in the end, the Bulldogs solved that problem. But did Mizzou expose some Georgia flaws? UGA gave up three sacks. File that away ahead of next week’s potential top-10 showdown against Ole Miss in Athens.
4. Florida State Seminoles
This week: won 24-7 at Pitt
Next week: vs. Miami
Best win: vs. LSU
The Noles, leading just 10-7 at halftime, struggled to move the football on the Fightin' Pat Narduzzis, but they got a couple of long touchdowns in the second half to pull away, including a 55-yard run and 22-yard pass. They also locked up a trip to Charlotte for the ACC championship game. But we all know that’s not coach Mike Norvell’s top goal this year.
5. Michigan Wolverines
This week: won 41-13 vs. Purdue
Next week: at Penn State
Best win: vs. Rutgers
The Michigan offense scored on its first three possessions and its defense didn’t allow a touchdown until the fourth quarter. Sign-stealing scandal and all, Michigan continues to be the most dominant team in the country this season. But, as explained above, does that mean the Wolverines should be No. 1 when their best win is Rutgers? We’ll know a lot more from Happy Valley next Saturday afternoon.
6. Oregon Ducks
This week: won 63-19 vs. Cal
Next week: vs. USC
Best win: at Utah
Where would the Ducks be had they hung on to beat Washington earlier this year in Seattle? The answer: the No. 1-ranked team in the country and in prime position to make the College Football Playoff. Dan Lanning’s team has rebounded in extraordinary fashion since that blown fourth-quarter lead against the Huskies. They’ve outscored Washington State, Utah and Cal 136-49.
7. Texas Longhorns
This week: won 33-30 in OT vs. Kansas State
Next week: at TCU
Best win: at Alabama
The Longhorns led 17-0 and then 27-7 before almost blowing it. It was a wild final few minutes, with the Wildcats scoring three touchdowns in a span of about three minutes to make things interesting in the fourth quarter. Steve Sarkisian’s group pulled it out in the end when its defense stuffed the Wildcats on a fourth-and-goal at the 4 in overtime.
8. Alabama Crimson Tide
This week: won 42-28 vs. LSU
Next week: at Kentucky
Best win: vs. Ole Miss
That loss to Texas seems so, so long ago. This Bama team looks different. More physical. Better QB play. Tougher defense. The Tide have won seven straight since losing at home to the Longhorns. Six more straight for a national title.
9. Penn State Nittany Lions
This week: won 51-15 at Maryland
Next week: vs. Michigan
Best win: vs. Iowa
Coordinator Manny Diaz’s defense seems quite good. The Nittany Lions entered second in the country in total defense. They held Maryland to 234 total yards, including -49 on the ground. James Franklin’s focus can now shift to the next game: Michigan. Franklin is 3-6 against the Wolverines.
10. Ole Miss Rebels
This week: won 38-35 vs. Texas A&M
Next week: at Georgia
Best win: vs. LSU
Welcome, Lane Kiffin, to the Top 10 — just in time to take the trip to two-time defending national champion Georgia! The two former Nick Saban assistants meet in a top-10 showdown with lots of SEC marbles on the line. The Rebels are still in the SEC West and, who knows, maybe the CFP race. Kiffin’s crew had a late-season meltdown last year, losing the final three regular season games. What will happen this year down the stretch?