We are now 75% through the 2023 season, and I think it’s fair to assess teams on what they’ve done. Not their potential, whether they’ve passed some ephemeral eyeball test, what-ifs, or rewarding soft schedules.
That is why, for the first time on these pages in almost two years, our No. 1 team is...the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Why? They’ve simply done more. A lot more than anyone else in the country too, and have done so against the nation’s No. 1 SOS. Is it always a pretty team? Lord no. Is it a great team? Nope — it plays very average at time. Is it the most talented team? That’s debatable as well.
But, it’s a very coachable team, it’s a team that improves from week to week — even quarter to quarter, and for now, it’s the best team.
Because it’s also the team that has done the most, and after 8-9 games, it ought to finally be acknowledged.
How about this comparison?
Team A: 5 wins vs. Quad 1 (i.e. top 35) teams in FPI, with its lone loss coming to a top-10 team
Team B: 5 wins vs. Quad 1 (i.e. top 35) teams in FPI, with its lone loss coming to a top-10 team.
Clearly a good comparison ... except Team A is Alabama, and Team B is Oregon and Texas combined.
Indeed, it’s almost been accepted as fact that Oregon is the best one-loss team in the country, despite the fact the Ducks’ only impressive win came against Utah, a team playing a safety at tailback and a former walk-on at QB. The next-best item on their resume is a loss.
On to Week 11 rankings.
Usual caveats: The criteria are nebulous, far-ranging, and capricious — strength of schedule, bad and good coaching, injuries, exigent circumstances, home/away results, defense or lack thereof, offense or lack thereof, line play, power poll-ishness, can you cover a spread (Vegas is pretty smart about how good a team is), head-to-head where possible or prudent, and my own lying eyeballs.
The Midmajors are in chaos. The best of the bunch may be James Madison, but owing to the NCAA’s goofy transitional rules, the Dukes can’t even play in a bowl this year, despite being undefeated. Their fellow undefeated, Liberty, has a killer defense and running game...and just won’t get a chance to prove it. Air Force had one of those days where everything went wrong, and turned the ball over nine times in an upset loss to Army (6 turnovers, three failed 4D conversions), SMU has been very impressive in the AAC...too bad the AAC is down this year. Fresno State is the quietest 1-loss team in the nation...in a year when the Mountain is also down. Who do you give the Big Six bid to? In a year of mediocrity, the real chaos may come during bowl selection.
A lot of the Big 10’s problems could be solved this week, when Michigan travels to Penn State to face literally the first team that can punch them in the mouth. Not sure if you’ve seen some of those offensive line stats, but the Lions can win this game pretty easily.
The Pac 12 continues to cannibalize itself, and will do so even further this week, when USC travels to Oregon, and the Utes hit the road to Washington. Neither are gimmes for the home teams for obvious reasons — the Huskies in particular could have issues with the Utes running game and ability to tackle in space...the same things that almost got them beat by Oregon.
Georgia remains singularly unimpressive. Mizzou played well enough to win that game, and despite being at home, the Ole Miss game is not a gimme.
Texas has teetered on destruction two weeks of the last three, almost losing twice, yet twice pulling it out. Sark is trying hard to Sark this one away.
FSU and Ohio State’s wins keep getting more diminished by the week. The Buckeyes’ best win is a last second 3-point roadie at Notre Dame...a team with three losses that has now tasted defeat to 5-4 Clemson and Duke. Even that Maryland win isn’t looking so great. The Terps are also 5-4, and sliding to Pinstripe Bowl territory.
I can’t in good faith rank Iowa, despite being 7-2. That offense is a war crime. Their MAC counterpart, Toledo, has about as many impressive wins and marginally better offense...with a far greater ceiling on that side of the ball.
You have to have the perfect storm to beat LSU, and that is an offense that will blast them after the break...as three Top 10 teams have done so this year. This could be the best three-loss team in the country simply because their awful defense is compensated for by a terrifying offense.
Tennessee is quietly 7-2 and can run the table. If the Vawls reach 10-2, that’s a lot better than most projected for 2023. Heupel may actually be a decent coach after all.
Assuming there is a rematch this week, who are you betting on?
This poll is closed