After taking a week off from the JP Top 25 to give you the CFB Playoff Tiers of Hope, I’m back this week to offer up the 25 best resumes in college football. This is not a power ranking. This is not an order of the best teams in college football. This is about the most deserving teams; who has the best Playoff resume. Quality wins, quality losses, margin of victory, all of these things play a role in the JP Top 25. Honestly, it should probably be a JP Top 1 anyway. Alabama’s winning it all.
Here we go:
A few weeks ago I said I thought this could be Nick Saban’s best team ever. That’s not supposed to be a hot take, I just haven’t seen an Alabama team this versatile in the running game. Jalen Hurts, Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, you can even throw Najee Harris in the mix – it’s as deep of a backfield as we’ve seen since the 2001 Miami team. That Hurricanes team featured Clinton Portis, Frank Gore, Najeh Davenport and Willis McGahee. I don’t know if these Alabama backs will go on to have the same NFL career as those ‘Canes did, but this is the best group of runners I can think of since then.
Alabama is the best team in college football, period. The gap between the Tide and the next best team, whoever that is, is a mile wide. The SEC is much weaker than normal this season, and that’s going to make Alabama look even better…but we saw them dominate Florida State when Deondre Francois was still healthy. That was the statement win of the season so far. They’re now the odds-on favorite (-125) to win the national title. I think I’d take those odds.
I was close to moving Georgia up into the number 2 spot, but I’m going to credit the Horned Frogs for knocking off better teams than the Bulldogs so far. Georgia has one win over a good team so far – Notre Dame. TCU has knocked off Oklahoma State, West Virginia and an OK Kansas State team. From strictly a resume perspective, TCU belongs ahead of Georgia. Now, it the Frogs and Dogs met on a neutral field? I’d favor Georgia by a touchdown or more. But this is about resumes, and earning your spot by beating good teams and beating them soundly. TCU has a slight edge right now. The challenge will be if they can keep it up during a rugged six-week stretch to end the season.
If I didn’t make it clear above, I think Georgia is the second-best team in college football. The running game is ridiculous – DeAndre Swift might be the best of the bunch and he’s the third-stringer – and Jake Fromm looks like the best quarterback Georgia’s had since Matthew Stafford. I love this Bulldogs team; they’re fun to watch and they are playing with an edge that tells me a Clemson/Syracuse-like letdown ain’t happening. It’s been a while since these ‘Dawgs had some bite, and if Kirby Smart can keep them chomping at the bit every week, ‘Bama better be careful come early December.
It’s really a coin flip between the Sooners and Clemson right now. Oklahoma has the better win between the two (two-touchdowns at Ohio State), and probably a slightly worse loss (Iowa State at home vs. Syracuse on the road). As Scott Van Pelt always asks, how good is your good? Oklahoma’s “good” is a little better than Clemson’s right now. The Tigers’ wins over Auburn and Louisville lost a bit of their shine this week. Oklahoma survived a good Texas team, and needs to solve some issues on the defensive side before a late-season stretch against TCU, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and the rest of the Big 12.
As I said right above, the Tigers’ resume took a pretty major hit this weekend. Obviously the loss to Syracuse hurts, but it doesn’t crush Clemson in the long run as long as the Tigers win out. The bigger concern for Clemson is their schedule strength taking such a big hit. If Louisville continues to look like a fraudulent club, that hurts Clemson. Right now the Tigers’ best win is a road win at Virginia Tech. That’s a good win, but not a great win. NC State looms large in a few weeks at Carter-Finley Stadium. Win that one and the Tigers should skate into the ACC Championship Game with a Playoff berth on the line. I’m not panicking about Clemson just yet.
- Penn State
There’s not a whole lot to say about the Nittany Lions. Here we are. Michigan comes to State College this week, then a trip to Columbus looms after that. This is Penn State’s season. I can’t rank them higher than one-loss Clemson or Oklahoma because there isn’t a single win on the resume right now that jumps off the page at me. Even with a loss, Clemson and Oklahoma have shown me more so far than Penn State. If they knock off Michigan and Ohio State in the next two weeks, that can change.
- Ohio State
Remember when I said after the Oklahoma loss not to turn your back on the Buckeyes? Well, the schedule hasn’t been all that daunting, but Urban Meyer has this team on a roll right now. Only Alabama and Clemson have better national title odds right now. If I’m betting on a team to win the Big Ten, I’m betting on the Buckeyes. That was my pick before the season, my pick after Oklahoma, and it’s still my pick today. One extra note: JT Barrett has piled up 21 touchdowns to 1 interception. Ten years after Urban’s other favorite son won a Heisman, could Barrett do the same?
I don’t really love this USC team, but when half the other teams you think are good keep losing to bad teams, you sort of have to credit USC for beating a lot of pretty good teams along the way. The Washington State loss will sting for the Trojans, because I believe if they had won that game they’d still have a mulligan in their back pocket down the stretch. If the Trojans can get past Notre Dame in South Bend this weekend, it’s feasible to see them at 11-1 and favored in the Pac-12 Championship Game. They’ve been far from dominant, but the possibility of a Playoff run for the Trojans is starting to seem more likely.
- Notre Dame
I’ve been banging the drum for Notre Dame ever since the Georgia loss, really, and I’m not stopping now. The Irish aren’t getting nearly enough credit for a 20-point win at Michigan State. We didn’t know if the Spartans were any good then, but we do now…so why can’t we go back and give the Irish some more love for smoking them on the road? Notre Dame is without a doubt a top-10 team so far this season in my mind. I like them to beat USC this week in a de facto Playoff elimination game. Why isn’t College Gameday going there?
- Oklahoma State
I stand by my feeling that the Big 12 is going to eat itself alive, but if I had to pick one team to win the league, I’d pick Oklahoma State. I still think they have the best offense, and in a conference where it’s a shootout nearly every week, I have a little more faith in Mason Rudolph and that passing attack than anyone else. Still, it’s pretty fascinating how the Big 12 has about 5 teams who are more or less the exact same.
- Virginia Tech
I don’t think Virginia Tech is the 11th best team in college football, but the West Virginia win is holding up pretty nicely, and they don’t have an awful loss. That’s enough to earn them the 11th spot this week.
- Michigan State
You know what? Sparty’s alright. Michigan sputtered to an overtime win at Indiana, but I like what Michigan State is doing. The win over the Wolverines still looks better than the best win out of any of the next four teams on this list.
- West Virginia
The Mountaineers have two great losses (TCU, Virginia Tech), and have won comfortably in their other five. They’re a darkhorse to win the Big 12.
They’ve won in the final seconds in consecutive weeks over two unranked teams. It’s better than losing – just ask a couple teams from Washington – but I need to see Miami beat someone relevant before I just grant them access to the top 10.
Coming off a 17-9 win over Purdue, the Badgers can’t manage to beat any of the pedestrian teams on their schedule by enough for me to rank them higher than this. This might honestly even be too high. You can’t control who you play, but you can control how you play against them. Blow someone out for once, Bucky.
- NC State
The Wolfpack love is getting to be a little much. They beat a flat-out average Louisville team at home on a Thursday night, and lost another average South Carolina team on a neutral field. Let’s chill with the ACC title/Playoff talk until Clemson in a few weeks.
I’m starting to think I was wrong about Michigan. The defense is still great, but it just takes so much for the offense to get going that I don’t think they can knock off Penn State or Ohio State this season. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m losing more faith in the Wolverines by the week.
- Washington State
Well my lock of the week really killed it. I had the Cougars laying 15 at Cal on Friday night. Nothing like watching your lock turn it over seven times and lose 37-3. Mike “8-4” Leach has some work to do to get this team to double-digit wins for the second time in his career.
Auburn still controls its Playoff destiny, even after the LSU loss. Beat Georgia (twice) and Alabama, and the Tigers are in. Easier said than done…
The Fighting Scott Frosts are the best Group of Five team right now. Frost has taken UCF from winless to the top-20 in less than two seasons. He’s getting a big-time job this winter. No question.
- South Florida
After a pretty sluggish September, the Bulls are cruising along against some pretty soft opponents. Even against bad competition, USF has beaten every FBS team its played by at least 20 points. Houston in two weeks, plus UCF in the season finale are the big ones to circle for Charlie Strong’s club.
Bryce Love is fantastic, but as I said a few weeks ago about Saquon Barkley, you don’t win the Heisman as a running back unless you’re on a national title contender, and your best games come on the biggest stage. I’m afraid Love won’t check either of those boxes this season. The Cardinal could still run through the Pac-12 North, and Love could get a New York invite…I just don’t think it’ll be enough to win the Heisman. Stanford’s a real threat to win the Pac-12, though.
The AAC is awfully, awfully fun. Memphis is the third-best team in the conference and still ranked. Beating Navy by a field goal means the Tigers control their own destiny in the West division. The road trip to Houston this Thursday night will be fun to watch.
How on EARTH does the AP poll rank Washington 12th? How? They played a miserable non-conference schedule, blew out some of the worst teams in the Pac-12 in the past few weeks, then the only time they play anyone remotely decent they lose 13-7? The Huskies can still make the Playoff if they win out and win the Pac-12, but I can’t in good conscience rank them any higher than this right now.
I tried to calm everyone down after the Troy loss. It was a red flag, but Ed Orgeron has the Tigers playing well again. What an awesome job against Auburn to come back from 20-0 down and win at home. The Alabama game could get ugly, but it’s not crazy to think LSU could still finish second in the SEC West.