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College football rankings: Auburn is No. 1


The college football world once breathlessly waited each week for the AP poll. The coaches poll, too, I suppose, but we long ago learned that the coaches put little intellectual energy into their ballots. So the AP reigned supreme.

Not so much anymore, with the advent of the College Football Playoff and the weekly rankings that start in late October. The playoff rankings send the AP poll to the curb every year, since what the committee thinks is infinitely more important than what the media panel thinks.

So the AP poll now is just a nice list to use the first couple of months of the season. And it’s never been more bogus. Maybe it’s always been so.

Last week, Auburn was ranked eighth in the AP poll. Ohio State was ranked sixth. Never mind that those ratings were absurd, that if anything, they should have been reversed. Auburn had a neutral-site victory over Oregon to its credit; Ohio State had a road win at Indiana as its best argument for greatness.

Then Saturday, Ohio State blitzed Miami-Ohio 76-5 and Auburn won 28-20 at Texas A&M. The Buckeyes played an exhibition game. The Tigers won a showdown at Kyle Field.

And what did the AP voters do? They moved Ohio State up one slot in the rankings. And they moved Auburn up one lost in the rankings. The Buckeyes went to No. 5 (jumping past Oklahoma) and Auburn went to No. 7.

On what rational basis is anyone ranking Ohio State ahead of Auburn? Or OU ahead of Auburn? Heck, not even Clemson or Alabama should be ranked ahead of Auburn.

The classic plague of the polls – voters’ relentless refusal to base their rankings on what has happened on the field – was there in full color.

These rankings are not so mired in tradition. These weekly rankings are not based on names or colors or pedigree or even potential. These rankings are not a prediction. They are a mirror of what’s happened in college football this season.

And what’s happened in college football is that no team has done what Auburn has done. No team has won two games against top-flight competition, both away from home.

I don’t know yet how Oregon or Texas A&M will fare. But there’s reason to believe both are quality competition. Auburn beat them both, and neither on the plains of southern Alabama.

Auburn is No. 1. That’s abundantly clear. The Tigers have done more than any other team in college football so far.

Maybe that won’t hold. Probably that won’t hold. But polls that refuse to acknowledge what has happened are as silly as a computer ranking that measures first downs.

So let’s get to the rankings this week, which are based on three things: Who have you played, where have you played and how did you do?

1. Auburn 4-0: Heck, the Tigers also have a home win over Tulane, which is proving to be a solid mid—major. The Plainsmen have already played Oregon in Arlington and at A&M. Still to come are road games at Florida and LSU, and home games against Georgia and Alabama. If Auburn goes 11-1, it deserves serious consideration for a playoff berth, even without an SEC West Division title.

2. LSU 4-0: The victory at Texas remains the nation’s most impressive victory, though I suppose Auburn at A&M comes close.

3. California 4-0: The Golden Bears are ranked 23rd in the AP poll. One spot behind Washington. Cal beat Washington 20-19. In Seattle. This season. And while UW has a nice road win at Brigham Young on its ledger, Cal just won at Ole Miss, which is a BYU of the South. There is no justification for the Golden Bears being ranked as low as 23rd, but wherever you rank them, rank them ahead of Washington or get “I am stupid” tattooed on your forehead. Your choice.

4. Clemson 4-0: The Tigers have three Power 5 Conference victories – Georgia Tech and Texas A&M at home, at Syracuse – and that’s something to be proud of this early in the season. Clemson’s problem is that the schedule is front-loaded. Not much stands in the Tigers’ way. I guess that’s actually not a problem, because the committee doesn’t have the guts to take an 11-1 or 12-1 team that played a loaded schedule over a 13-0 Clemson that spent most of autumn cakewalking.

5. Georgia 4-0: Beating Notre Dame 23-17 in Athens might have been more impressive than if the Bulldogs had routed the Fighting Irish.

6. Wisconsin 3-0: Take the Badgers, for example. Wisconsin jumped on Michigan 35-0 before winning 35-14. Seems like the one-sided verdict was more about Michigan than it was about Wisconsin.

7. Florida 4-0: The Gators also have three Power 5 wins. None were overly impressive, but still. Beating Miami on a neutral field, winning at Kentucky and routing a traditional rival in Tennessee is a solid resume’.

8. Iowa 3-0: The Hawkeyes’ victory at Iowa State appears to be one of the better victories of the season. We’ll see if Iowa can build on it.

9. Southern Cal 3-1: Hard to get ranked in the top 10 this early in the season with a loss to a non-heavyweight. But we can forgive SC’s loss at Brigham Young considering the Trojans have three solid home wins – Fresno State, Stanford and Utah.

10. Kansas State 3-0: Hey, the Big 12 makes an appearance. The Wildcats’ victory at Mississippi State was made more solid when Mississippi State routed Kentucky.

Related Photos
Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) dives over the goal line for a touchdown against Texas A&M during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) dives over the goal line for a touchdown against Texas A&M during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e8fcd856946274a9f1576e4d05275c00.jpg" alt="Photo - Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) dives over the goal line for a touchdown against Texas A&amp;M during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)" title="Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) dives over the goal line for a touchdown against Texas A&amp;M during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)"><figcaption>Auburn running back JaTarvious Whitlow (28) dives over the goal line for a touchdown against Texas A&amp;M during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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