Tramel: Mississippi State ranks No. 1 in college football
College football 2020 opened on September 5, and the game of the day was Arkansas State-Memphis. The homestanding Tigers held off Arkansas State 37-24.
Norman North’s Cole Mashburn recovered an Arkansas State fumble in the third quarter, setting up a short Memphis touchdown drive that gave the Tigers a comfortable lead, and they held on.
It was a good opener for a pandemic-stricken season. It also was an important result.
That loss to Memphis is keeping the Red Wolves from being ranked No. 1.
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The next Saturday, Arkansas State went to Manhattan and beat Kansas State 35-31. Two weeks after that, K-State went to Norman and beat OU 38-35.
We’re early in this college football season, still trying to determine who’s good and who’s not, and those of us who rank teams based on what they’ve done -- not what we think they will do -- have scant evidence to go on.
So a team that not only beat Memphis but beat an OU conqueror would stand tall.
Instead, we’ll just go with Mike Leach No. 1. Leach’s maiden game coaching Mississippi State was a beaut -- his Bulldogs shocked defending national champion LSU 44-34.
Who knows if LSU is anything close to the powerhouse it was a year ago? Who knows if the Sooners are Big 12 title contenders after five years of owning the conference?
But at this point, we’ve got to give credit for beating the likes of LSU and OU, so Mississippi State is No. 1, and Kansas State is not No. 1 courtesy of that loss to Arkansas State. Or Arkansas State is not No. 1 courtesy of that loss to Memphis. Ever how you want to look at it.
Anyway, here’s the new top 10, and again, this is based on who you played, where you played and how you did. Maybe where you played becomes less important as the season wears on. OU losing in Norman and LSU losing in Baton Rouge is early evidence that homefield advantage isn’t what it’s cracked up to be:
1. Mississippi State 1-0: What a debut for Leach, who won reasonably big at Texas Tech (not easy), who won at Washington State (dang near impossible) and has Hail State off to a strong start. Winning in Pullman, Washington, and Starkville, Mississippi, should make a coach a prime College Football Hall of Fame candidate.
2. Memphis 1-0: Hey, don’t get ruffled. The Tigers beat the team that beat the team that won at OU. Who did you want me to rank No. 2? The team that beat Missouri?
3. Arkansas State 1-1: The Red Wolves were scheduled to play Tulsa last Saturday (and Central Arkansas the week before that), but were popped by the coronavirus. Bummer.
4. Kansas State 1-1: Don’t worry, SEC. Your battalion of quality teams soon will trump all these interlopers.
5. Miami 3-0: Home wins over Alabama-Birmingham, Louisville and Florida State. Not an OU or LSU on that list, but still impressive for this early in the season.
6. Louisiana-Lafayette 3-0: Won at Iowa State, then squeaked by Georgia State and Georgia Southern. But I don’t care about style points.
7. Tennessee 1-0: Good opener for the Volunteers, winning at South Carolina.
8. Brigham Young 2-0: Routs of Navy (on the road) and Troy. I hope BYU can cobble together a strong-enough schedule to keep up.
9. Pittsburgh 3-0: The Panthers have ACC victories over Syracuse and Louisville, and both the Orange and Cardinals have ACC wins. So Pitt’s doing something right.
10. Auburn 1-0: The Tigers’ victory over Kentucky was one of the better victories of Saturday.