1. USC: I'll be honest, I really disagree with them dropping out of first in the AP poll. Yes the game with Washington was close on the scoreboard (27-24), but USC still absolutely dominated a very solid opponent on the road. They out-gained Washington by almost a 3-1 margin, and absolutely shut down U-Dub star quarterback Jake Locker. He threw almost 30 passes, but couldn't break the 100 yard mark. Washington could only muster 190 yards of offense on 61 plays. This game was only as close as it was due to a fluke interception return for a touchdown and a blocked punt that was pretty meaningless in the closing seconds. I know everyone thinks USC is the devil down here, but they are a very good football team, this is a pretty impressive win, and they shouldn't have been knocked off their perch as the number one team in the country. To be sure, they still have a very tough stretch with road games at Cal, Oregon, and Arizona State, but this team looks like the best.
2. LSU: The Bayou Bengals won, which honestly says something on a day nearly everyone else fell, but they didn't play very good football. Tulane is, being quite frank, one of the worst FBS teams in the entire country, no doubt there. This is the same bunch who went 4-8 a year ago, lost all of their best players, got the head coach fired, and who was beaten by several touchdowns by Mississippi State. Nonetheless, though, Tulane almost took the lead into halftime, and sacked Matt Flynn six times. I just don't get it. How does a team that gives up six sacks, struggles to rush for 100 yards as a team (despite 38 carries), and commits 15 penalties against one of the worst teams in the country manage to leapfrog the dynasty of the decade and the team that has been the consensus number one all season? LSU may very well be the best team in the country at the moment, but they didn't play well at all this past Saturday. I'm not convinced that had they turned in that performance against a quality opponent that they wouldn't have gotten beaten, so I certainly don't see them being the number one team in the country right now. They go number two in my ballot.
3. Ohio State: I really don't think the Buckeyes are all of that great, but they are undefeated. And let's be honest here, they are likely to drub Michigan given how the Wolverines are looking at the moment, and Penn State should give them no problem. I really don't think this team is all of that good, but the Big Ten is very, very weak. I think the Buckeyes going undefeated is unlikely -- though it's possible -- but it is very likely that they win the Big Ten and play in a BCS bowl.
4. California: I'm wary of ranking Cal this high simply because it's very unlikely that two Pac-10 teams can make a BCS bowl, and hence be both ranked this high. Nonetheless though, for the moment, you have to give Cal a whole lot of credit after going on the road and edging out a good-looking Oregon team. I really don't think they can beat USC, but they are looking to be in good shape. Even with a loss to the Trojans, an 11-1 season is very possible.
5. Wisconsin: Another team that I'm not particularly sold on, but given the weakness of the Big Ten, this squad is likely to have a big season. They play Ohio State on November 3rd, and the winner of that game will likely end up in a BCS bowl. I think the Buckeyes pull it off, but 10-2 or so looks possible for the Badgers, and they are undefeated, so they go number five.
6. South Florida: I don't think this team could knock off many of the top dogs, but with the collapse of Louisville, their win over West Virginia, and the poor display by Rutgers, USF suddenly has to become the favorite to win the Big East. I don't think they can run the table -- and I know BCS supporters sure as hell hope they don't -- but it's likely that they win the Big East and get a secured BCS bowl bid.
7. Kentucky: I must admit, I love the story of the Wildcats, and Andre Woodson is a fine player. He may be the best quarterback in the country, and he could win the Heisman at a top program. With that said though, I'm afraid that this will all fall apart with three games upcoming against South Carolina, LSU, and Florida. Still though, they are 5-0 at the moment, so they come in at number seven.
8. Oklahoma: The Sooners fell apart in the fourth quarter against Colorado, but this is still a good football team. They will likely beat Texas this Saturday in Dallas, and that win will carry them a long way. I know the Sooner faithful must be disappointed with a loss, but they should beat Texas and they are likely still the favorite to win the Big 12. At this point, a return trip to a BCS bowl game looks like it's a very real possibility for the Sooners, even after a loss to Colorado.
9. South Carolina: The Gamecocks struggled somewhat with a surprisingly tough Mississippi State team, but Chris Smelley looked good, and SoCar is in pretty good shape. They've got a big game coming up this week on Thursday night against Kentucky, but a win there and the Gamecocks should most likely be considered the favorite to win the SEC East now that Florida already has a conference loss.
10. Georgia: The Bulldogs were neck and neck with the Rebels going into the fourth, and it looked like it would be a repeat of last year. Then the UGA rushing attack exploded and put Johnny Reb away. Now it's Tennessee, and to be frank this is a game that the Dawgs should win. For better or for worse, this is a very big week for Georgia. A win over Tennessee and a loss by South Carolina to Kentucky, and the Dawgs are suddenly right back in the thick of the SEC East race. On the other hand, if the Dawgs lose to Tennessee and South Carolina gets by Kentucky, you can stick a fork in UGA because they are done in the East.
11. Oregon: The Ducks are a good football team, and they showed that against California. Honestly, it was a bit of a fluke thing that they didn't tie it up at the end and force overtime, but such is the way the ball bounces... literally. That said, though, it seems unlikely that this team could get in a BCS bowl and contend for a final top ten ranking with the loss to California and USC and Arizona State looming on the schedule.
12. Boston College: Yes they looked like crap against lowly UMass, but you know they had to be overlooking that game. This is nevertheless a team that is going to move to 6-0 with a win over Bowling Green next week.
13. Florida State: I warned about the 'Noles, and you better take notice right now. This team is loaded with talent, they have a great coaching staff, and now that they have seemingly found a quarterback they could really take off. With Clemson losing and the game with Boston College still looming, this team is very much a legitimate contender to win the ACC now. This team has significantly improved in each of the three previous games, and their defense was basically an immovable object against Colorado and Alabama. I have a feeling we haven't heard the last from the 'Noles this season.
14. Purdue: I can't help but like the Boilermakers for some reason, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tiller as a coach. And they are 5-0, but I'm not really sold. Yes they beat Notre Dame last week at home, but they almost threw it away late to arguably the worst football team in the country. Ohio State comes to town this week, and that will be huge. If the Boilermakers win, they jump into the top ten, but I'm just not convinced that they can knock off the Buckeyes.
15. Florida: The Gators fall a long way on my ballot. I thought this was a dang good football team after they annihilated Tennessee, but after a squeaker win over Ole Miss and a loss to an Auburn team that had played terrible all year, I must admit that I'm not really sure how good this team is, and that win over Tennessee looks more like an indictment of the Vols than anything else. You can rest assured that those guys will come out playing hard against LSU, but I'm just not sold. I really don't think they can knock off LSU, and that would almost certainly require them to beat South Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky if they want to get back to Atlanta. You must realize that failure is always an option, but to be quite frank I don't know if Florida is going to make it back to Atlanta at the moment. If they plan on doing so, then somehow, someway, they have to get a win this weekend in Baton Rouge over the Bayou Bengals.
16. Missouri: The Tigers are 4-0 with Nebraska coming to town this weekend. Considering the struggles that Nebraska has had this year -- the squeaker wins over Wake Forest and Ball State, not to mention the annihilation at the hands of USC -- they are likely to pull off the win. I really don't think they can beat Oklahoma the following week, but it's likely that they become the odds-on favorite to win the Big 12 North with a victory over Nebraska this week.
17. Arizona State: The Sun Devils are 5-0, but truthfully they haven't played a quality team to yet. They should move to 6-0 this week with a win over Washington State, but again I'm not sure how good they are. Erikson is a good coach, but I don't think they are this good yet. This is still the same bunch that went 7-6 a year ago. After an expected win over Wazzou, they get Washington, Cal, Oregon, UCLA, and USC in successive weeks. I figure that exposes them. But for now they are undefeated, so in they go.
18. Cincinnati: I'll give the Bearcats some credit, they are playing quite well this year, and look to be a decent team. They have Rutgers this week though, and that's really a must-win game for both teams. I figure whoever wins there has to be the de facto second best team in the conference behind USF.
19. Texas: How do you stop Colt McCoy? Wear a Kansas State uniform. Sorry, crappy joke. Truth is, as much as I hyped them early on, Texas isn't that good. They've played mediocre at best football all year, and they were finally exposed in Austin this past Saturday when they were blown out by another mediocre team. This could be the worst year the 'Horns have had in a while, and I wouldn't be shocked if OU really took it to them this Saturday.
20. West Virginia: So I missed on this bunch big-time. Slaton and White look slow against faster defenses, and they still can't effectively throw the ball. The defense might be better than a year ago, but not by much. The Mountaineers aren't out of the Big East / BCS race, but they really need for USF to have the wheels fall off, and I don't see that happening. Oh well, many thanks again, Rita. Tell your wife the 'Bama faithful said hello.
21. Hawai'i: Considering the collapse of TCU, this team is likely the best non-BCS conference team in the country. Unless something major happens unexpectedly, this is a team that is going to start 10-0, and the final two weeks could decide whether or not they become this year's Boise.
22. Illinois: Don't look now, but Zook has the Illini at 4-1 and in the thick of the Big Ten race. Only a narrow loss to a pretty good Missouri squad, on the road, clouds their resume, and this program can really put itself back on the map with a win against Wisconsin this week. You have to give Zook credit, he can recruit as well as anyone I've ever seen, and the talent he has assembled has put the Illini back on the map in a way they haven't been since 2001.
23. Kansas State: I'm not sure how good any team is that loses to Auburn (see Florida), but the Wildcats aren't that bad, I suppose. They did beat a top ten Texas team on the road, and that has to account for something, though the Longhorns were admittedly pretty overrated.
24. Kansas: The Jayhawks have now annihilated four crap-tacular opponents to start the season 4-0, and now it's time to face a fairly decent opponent in Kansas State. I don't know if this team is any good, but at 4-0 they deserve to go in somewhere. Either way, either K-State or Kansas will fall out next week, but for now they are both in.
25. Nebraska: Are the Cornhuskers that good? No. Do I expect them to lose to Missouri? Yes. But I need a team to round at my rankings, so the 'Huskers get the nod.