What if I told you that Iowa — Iowa! — is in the driver’s seat for the Big Ten West crown and is very much still alive in the College Football Playoff race?
Halfway through the season, the Hawkeyes, with one of the worst offenses in the country, are 6-1 and in control of their season after beating Wisconsin by a score of 15-6. Sure, they need to average about 30 points a game the rest of the season for offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz to keep his job, but why let something so trivial bog things down?
The Hawkeyes didn’t make our Top 10, but they’re inching closer! Big Blue finally cracked into our rankings, Alabama is back and the Huskies zipped up the poll after the electric victory over Oregon.
1. Oklahoma Sooners
This week: Bye
Next week: vs. UCF
Best win: vs. Texas
Only two teams have forced more turnovers than the Sooners and five teams average more offensive yards per game. They’ve got, arguably, the best win of the season and they’ve got a winning margin of 30 points. Several teams have a legitimate argument for the No. 1 spot — but none have a stronger one than the Sooners.
2. Florida State Seminoles
This week: won 41-3 vs. Syracuse
Next week: vs. Duke
Best win: vs. LSU
No Johnny Wilson? No problem. Florida State didn’t need the 6-foot-7, 240-pound injured wideout to pummel the Orange. The 'Noles showed off their host of weapons (QB Jordan Travis, WR Keon Coleman, RBs Lawrance Toafili and Trey Benson). It’s Homecoming at Doak Campbell Stadium next week, but Duke is no pushover.
3. Washington Huskies
This week: won 36-33 vs. Oregon
Next week: vs. Arizona State
Best win: vs. Oregon
In his postgame news conference, coach Kalen DeBoer made sure to tell us sniveling reporters that, in fact, his team is tough. There were questions about the Huskies' physicality, but they showed might, strength and moxie against the Ducks in a wild one. There are still issues (defense and the run game), but QB Michael Penix Jr. leads one of the country’s most dangerous passing attacks.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
This week: won 41-7 vs. Purdue
Next week: vs. Penn State
Best win: at Notre Dame
Now we can all focus on the big game. The Buckeyes didn’t look too far ahead to the showdown against the Nittany Lions, playing more of their suffocating defense and showing signs of improvement on offense. QB Kyle McCord and WR Marvin Harrison Jr. connected six times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Can OSU’s offense move the ball enough against a Penn State defense that has held every opponent to fewer than 16 points?
5. Georgia Bulldogs
This week: won 37-20 vs. Vanderbilt
Next week: Bye
Best win: vs. Kentucky
With six minutes left in the game, the Commodores pulled within 10 points. Yes, this one was closer than we all thought it might be. No one walks into Nashville for a walkover win! Well, plenty of teams do, but not on this day. The Bulldogs and QB Carson Beck need to clean things up before a stretch that includes Florida, Ole Miss, Missouri and Tennessee.
6. Penn State Nittany Lions
This week: won 63-0 vs. UMass
Next week: at Ohio State
Best win: vs. Iowa
The Nittany Lions' schedule set up nicely leading into the top-10 collision next week in Columbus. They got a bye week followed by a game against UMass. Their defense is one of the best in the country and Ohio State has struggled offensively this year. Do we smell an upset?
7. North Carolina Tar Heels
This week: won 41-31 vs. Miami
Next week: vs. Virginia
Best win: vs. South Carolina
QB Drake Maye threw four more touchdowns against the Hurricanes and the Tar Heels continue to show that they can roll up points with the best of them. They should be heading into a home game against Duke at 9-0. We are so used to that top-10 Tobacco Road clash being in basketball, but maybe we’ll get the football version soon enough.
8. Texas Longhorns
This week: Bye
Next week: at Houston
Best win: at Alabama
Oh, what fun this week will be in the Lone Star State. The Longhorns’ CFP title hopes hinge on running the table from here on out, and yes, that includes winning at Houston. The Big 12 newbie Cougars upset West Virginia on a Hail Mary Thursday. Can they keep the luck going?
9. Alabama Crimson Tide
This week: won 24-21 vs. Arkansas
Next week: vs. Tennessee
Best win: vs. Ole Miss
The Crimson Tide remain imperfect, but Nick Saban’s squad is on a five-game winning streak and is in full control of its fate to reach the SEC championship game. The Tide’s offense still has much to be desired, but the defense is stiff enough to do what they did Saturday, smothering Arkansas to 250 yards of total offense.
10. Michigan Wolverines
This week: won 52-7 vs. Indiana
Next week: at Michigan State
Best win: vs. Rutgers
Well, well, well. Look who has finally cracked our Top 10! Still, the Wolverines have played one of the easiest first-half slates of any program in the country. When your best win is Rutgers, that’s not great. However, a bludgeoning of Indiana has Jim Harbaugh’s team cracking our rankings — barely!