College Football: The 5 Best Teams at the End of September
We all know the AP and Coaches’ polls can be misleading. Teams that are placed at the top of the rankings in the preseason stay there until they lose, even if they aren’t necessarily performing like one of the best five teams in the nation.
Of course, picking the best teams in college football is no easy task, especially with only one month of action. Several teams have had notable victories that deserve recognition. That being said, the voters have a tough decision in placing these schools.
Still, we feel that the polls may not be accurately portraying what the top five teams in the game really are here at the end of September. Therefore, we’ve decided to rank the teams ourselves, based off of strength of victory and other factors. So here it is: the five best teams in the country at the end of September.
5. UCLA Bruins
Actual Rank: 7 (AP)
With all of the big “upsets” so far in the PAC 12, UCLA stands as the top-rated team in the conference after four weeks of play. Based off of how well they have played, they could be ranked even higher than No. 7 in the AP Poll.
This past weekend, the Bruins crushed a team that looked to be a contender in the conference — the Arizona Wildcats — by a score of 56 to 30 (on the road, mind you). In the previous week, UCLA shaved off a tough BYU team with a late rally. With that, UCLA has proven it can come from behind and blow out its opponent. Winning in these different situations is only going to make this team stronger.
The Bruins are led by freshman QB Josh Rosen who has played some strong football so far in 2015, throwing 7 TDs and nearly 1,000 yards. UCLA also has a dynamic running back in Paul Perkins to give the team a balanced offense. The team could use some improvement defensively, but with the ability to put up points in bunches, it has some room for error. With the strong victories and how balanced this team appears to be, you have to put UCLA in the top five at this point.
4. Utah Utes
Actual Rank: 10 (AP)
The Utah Utes have come out of nowhere to take the college football world by storm in the first month of the season. After beginning the season unranked, the Utes started off the year with a solid victory over Michigan. After two wins over inferior opponents, Utah got its first big test of the season in the form of the Oregon Ducks. Needless to say, it passed with flying colors.
Utah destroyed Oregon to the tune of a 62-20 beat-down in Eugene. The win propelled the Utes to No. 10 in the AP Poll, but even that huge jump in the poll is an underestimate of how good this team really is. QB Travis Wilson was dynamic in that contest, tossing 4 touchdowns and running for 100 yards along with another score. Defensively, Utah held a historically great Oregon offense to just 20 points at home and forced three turnovers.
If Wilson plays like he did against the Ducks and the defense continues to create turnovers, this Utah team will be the real deal. For now, a top-five ranking is easily in order.
3. LSU Tigers
Current Rank: 9 (AP)
LSU always has a good football team. The team has been in multiple national title games over the years and is one of the most consistent programs in the country. Despite all this, 2015 has the feeling of a very special campaign in Baton Rouge. A lot of it is due to a dominant runner in the backfield.
Leonard Fournette has almost literally put the Tigers on his back this season to lead the team to a 3-0 start. In LSU’s big win against Auburn in week three, Fournette ran for 228 yards and 3 touchdowns. Last week against Syracuse, he went for 244 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the season, Fournette easily leads the Heisman race with the 3rd most rushing yards in the nation and 8 touchdowns. The team’s passing game needs work, but this running back provides enough offense to support what is a top-10 defense for the Tigers.
With huge wins against Mississippi State and Auburn to open the season, a dominant running game, and a great defense, the Tigers could end up being the best team in the nation by season’s end. For now, No. 3 feels appropriate.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
Actual Rank: 1 (AP)
You have to respect the defending national champions. Maybe Ohio State hasn’t played outstanding football so far in 2015, but it hasn’t done anything to merit a steep drop from its current No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll. Once the Buckeyes start playing tougher opponents, we will know how good they really are. For now, you can only judge them based off of what they have done against the teams they have played.
It isn’t an impressive group of victories for Ohio State, but the players have gotten the job done. A week one against Virginia Tech looks nice, then they dominated in week two, struggled a bit in week three, and played brilliantly once again in week four. Of course, the big concern in Columbus is at quarterback, where it’s really a problem of riches more than anything. Both Caradale Jones and J.T. Barrett can play and play well, so whoever they end up sticking with (currently Jones) should do fine. Ezekiell Elliott is one of the better backs in the nation, and the team’s defense is superb. Really, there is no reason to worry (right now) about Ohio State.
1. Ole Miss Rebels
Actual Rank: 3 (AP)
It’s tough to put a team other than the Ole Miss Rebels here. This team has done everything almost perfectly to begin its season. Back-to-back 70-point performances against less-talented teams put them in position for what was probably the biggest game of the young college football season in week three. What they did in that game gave them the national respect they are receiving right now.
Nobody beats Alabama twice in a row, but that’s what Ole Miss did to the Crimson Tide. They played with confidence and proved that they were a team to be reckoned with in that contest, surviving a last minute gasp by the Tide to win on the road. While the Rebels looked somewhat vulnerable against Vanderbilt in week four, you can’t penalize them there. This team is talented as can be on offense with quarterback Chad Kelly and an explosive receiving corp led by Laquon Treadwell. On defense, the team is creating turnovers and making big plays to support the offensive effort. The Rebels are scary good right now, and the only thing that may be able to stop them is themselves.
It won’t be easy the rest of the way for the Rebels, playing in the SEC West. They might suffer a heartbreaking defeat later in the season, but for now, Ole Miss is more than deserving of the No. 1 ranking in the country at the end of September.