Only three full weeks of the college football season have been completed. Most teams in the sport’s top division haven’t even embarked on the conference portion of their schedules yet. Naturally, everybody loves to talk about what they’ve just seen (That’s what we’re here for, right?), and that inevitably leads to some of that talk getting just a wee bit hyperbolic.
OK, sometimes those first impressions prove to be correct, as future outcomes validate the significance of some earlier results. But as it is still September, usually some more data points will be needed.
Here are the top five overreactions of the week.
Texas A&M is still a contender in the SEC West
We’ll say this much — the Aggies’ victory against Miami was desperately needed. After the Appalachian State setback, A&M could ill afford a second non-league loss before entering an extremely challenging stretch of games away from College Station.
Despite getting out with the victory, however, the offensive inconsistencies remain. The change at quarterback didn’t really address problems in pass protection and the lack of receiver depth. A major overhaul isn’t really practical with the Aggies set to face Arkansas and Alabama over the next three weeks. Things could get worse before they get better if that doesn’t happen.
Penn State is going to contend in the Big Ten East
to contend? Perhaps, but probably not a favorite just yet. Give the Nittany Lions credit for a complete performance in SEC territory, even against a team as flawed as Auburn. With two Power Five wins away from home, they’ve done as much to earn their ranking as anyone at this early juncture of the campaign.
Obviously, the competition will get tougher in the division, which now features six 3-0 teams in all. True, the subjective value of Ohio State’s opening win against Notre Dame has changed, and we don’t actually know much about Michigan yet given the Wolverines’ level of competition to date. But those two remain atop the league’s power rankings for most analysts. PSU is now probably a solid third in that pecking order in the wake of the Auburn win and Michigan State’s loss at Washington. That’s still a far better place than where the program stood at the end of 2021.
WHAT YOU MISSED:Washington’s win, Oklahoma’s mettle lead list
MISERY INDEX:Harsin has turned Auburn into a bad and boring team
HIGHS AND LOWS:Winners and losers in Week 3 of college football
The Big 12 champ will come from the state of Oklahoma
The Sooners and Cowboys have done nothing to indicate their lofty preseason rankings were unwarranted. OU’s business-like dismantling of a Nebraska team that started fast was impressive, and while we don’t know much about the Cowboys yet, they’ve handled their preconference slate without incident.
Look a bit deeper, though, and the Big 12 race is actually still as wide open as it appeared in preseason analysis. Texas, understandably slow out of the gate against Texas-San Antonio after its tough battle with Alabama, will be in the mix. Baylor’s overtime loss at Brigham Young did nothing to damage its prospects at the conference. Even Kansas, 3-0 for the first time since 2009 after taking down preseason American Athletic Conference favorite Houston, is hardly an automatic ‘W’ on the schedule.
The real problem for the league is whether the top hopefuls will pick each other off and shut the conference out of the playoff once again. Wondering that, even at this early phase of the season, is definitely not an overreaction.
Speaking of BYU, its New Year’s Six bowl hopes are caput
Maybe not entirely, but they were severely damaged by the loss at Oregon, a game in which the Cougars weren’t particularly competitive.
The Baylor win had fans dreaming big, and it’s conceivable that an 11-1 finish, which would include a win against Arkansas, might still boost BYU high enough in the rankings to earn an invitation to a major bowl. The remaining slate also includes a long trip to Liberty and a visit to occasional Cougar nemesis Boise State, as well as a date with Notre Dame in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, none of those opponents would move the needle much for the playoff, and a loss in any of those would take the NY6 lineup off the table.
The polls should be thrown out
This complaint is evergreen, but we’ll address a few specifics this week for illustrative purposes. We’ll continue to hear it, of course, but we hope readers who have stayed with us thus far are informed fans who understand the big picture.
The USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll is not the ultimate arbiter of which teams are the best. It is certainly not a definitive statement that, say, the No. 14 team is better than the No. 15 team. It is simply a weekly snapshot of the opinions of the voters, and those opinions are not always going to agree. This is true of the AP media poll as well, but we’ll stick to the coaches since that is the one we administer.
The thing to keep in mind when looking at the poll is that not every ballot can account for every head-to-head result, even through just three weeks. As such, the point totals might not always appear to reflect on-field outcomes. Just this week, for example, Baylor is ranked 17th, six positions ahead of BYU, No. 14 Utah is above No. 22 Florida, and Washington is still three places behind Michigan State despite having just beaten the Spartans. And — we’re hearing this one a lot this week — Texas A&M is in the Top 25 while Appalachian State is not.
By the time the entire season plays out, where certain teams were ranked in the September polls will be largely forgotten, and so-called discrepancies will probably have sorted themselves out. In short, don’t get too wrapped up in the rankings each week right now, because they’re sure to change as the season progresses.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism