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Ballot Type: human

Overall Rationale:
This is an update to my preseason rankings. It is not a holistic re-ranking of teams -- I move teams up or down based on how much my estimation of them has changed. It is not a resume test (Iowa has the best resume in the country imo, but they are not my #1), but based on who I think would be the best team on like a 40-99 "video game overall" scale.It is based primarily on peripheral stats, which I opponent-adjust to the best of my ability using advanced metrics where necessary -- if you have a hard-luck loss, like fumbling four times and losing all four of them, I'm not likely to dock you significantly. If you blow somebody out but the margin is inflated by fluky defensive or special teams plays, you won't rise as much as you would in a resume or pure-points rating.

Rank Team Reason
1 Alabama Crimson Tide They torched Miami, but it's possible that Miami sucks based on what we saw this week -- I still think this will end up being a defensive-minded Tide team, but we won't find that out against Florida, who looks like a shootout-prone opponent.
2 Georgia Bulldogs I am a JT Daniels hater, but Clemson's defense will make a lot of quarterbacks look bad, so I'm reserving judgment. The defensive front is outstanding and will keep them in any game they play.
3 Oregon Ducks Oregon is the best team in the Pac-12 on the line of scrimmage, and one of the best in the country. If they have an issue, it's in the secondary, their youngest and thinnest position group.
4 Oklahoma Sooners I'm not sweating their scare against Tulane. I think TU is pretty good, and Oklahoma shut it down at halftime, which was stupid but hardly unique to them. This feels like a playoff team to me.
5 Clemson Tigers Clemson's offensive line has been its worst, least-developed unit for a while now, and there are a few teams in the ACC (namely, Pitt and Virginia Tech) who might exploit that. Still a solid shot to make the playoff.
6 Iowa Hawkeyes Iowa managed fewer than 3 yards/play, which is just appalling. For fans of Bill C., their postgame win expectancy chart will probably not be all that impressive. With that said, they're capable of being a much better offense than this, and it seemed to me that they turtled up at halftime, because they had two good touchdown drives in the second quarter. They dominated the line of scrimmage despite their peripherals, and so I'm breaking my own rule and ranking the worse per-play team higher in this isolated case.
7 Ohio State Buckeyes Pros: They outgained Oregon per play, and Stroud really grew up quickly under fire. Cons: They absolutely got their asses kicked by the Oregon offensive line (humblebrag about the argument I won about this in the prediction thread, by the way). Penn State and Iowa both look like very real threats now.
8 Cincinnati Bearcats If they go 12-0, I will advocate for them in the playoff, including over Ohio State, but I just have not seen enough to think they're actually *better* than the Buckeyes. I've been on the "most deserving" train for years now.
9 Penn State Nittany Lions Big climber because I needed to see good things from their offense, and in the first two weeks I've seen a lot of quality and composure that didn't exist the last two years. Good win over Wisconsin that should hold up, and I think the lines are better than they've been under Franklin.
10 Iowa State Cyclones I lean toward "Iowa is amazing" rather than "State suddenly sucks." Purdy's limitations have been exposed at this point, and Iowa has maybe the best defensive front in the Big Ten, which was a bad mix. I did not pick ISU to win the Big 12 for that reason, but I still think they have a high ceiling.
11 Texas A&M Aggies I considered ranking Colorado, because their defensive effort was pretty inspired, but once the backup QB settled down it seemed like he solved the pressures that CU was bringing. Ultimately, I think Colorado is about a top-35 team (which is a huge success for them, don't get me wrong!), and A&M's struggle with them is very concerning, but on a per-play basis they were decisively better.
12 Florida Gators This defense sucked last year and early returns this year are not promising. I still think Todd Grantham is all right, but if the defensive backs aren't comfortable being left on an island, he strikes me as too stubborn to make changes that will protect them.
13 UCLA Bruins I had them 23rd preseason, which was sort of a hedge between their ceiling (top 12ish) and their floor (7-5). I don't think LSU is great, but I do think that their power at the line of scrimmage is competent, and UCLA just bossed them around up front, which makes them probably the most physical team in the South.
14 North Carolina Tar Heels Exactly where I had them preseason, because I actually predicted them to lose to Virginia Tech and I have receipts.
15 Arkansas Razorbacks Their offense is antiquated, but their offensive line gets enough push to compensate for it. They could crater in conference play, but I think they will be the dividing line between the haves and the have-nots in the SEC -- I like where they're at better than either Mississippi school, for example.
16 Virginia Tech Hokies Have a lot of upside on defense, and not much on offense. They actually have a little bit of Justin Fuente's Memphis look to them, which is a really good sign for the success of their rebuild -- I don't think they're better than North Carolina overall, but their matchup was very favorable (UNC's O-line is janky) and VT is at least in the same ballpark.
17 Wisconsin Badgers About where I had them preseason. No shame in losing to PSU, who I think is good.
18 Pittsburgh Panthers Again, about where I had them preseason -- I thought they would beat Tennessee, and they beat Tennessee, so nothing has really changed.
19 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Idk, man. I know they looked crappy the first two weeks, but they have some good players. I attribute their problems at least in part to quarterback play (do we really think Jack Coan is their long-term solution?) but I do not have a long leash for them.
20 UCF Knights When Dillon Gabriel turns the ball over, UCF gets bogged down easily, but I think Gus knows their strengths and is well-suited to run their program. They totally outclassed Boise in Week 1 and should beat Louisville.
21 Arizona State Sun Devils My innate sense of fairness wins out over my partisan dislike. ASU has a strong running game, a good quarterback, and potential all-conference defenders at all three levels. They have some holes too, especially at wide receiver, and they're glitchy as hell, but they have a shot at the division.
22 Texas Longhorns I guess? Like, the talent is here, and I don't think Louisiana is a *bad* win, but Arkansas kicked the crap out of them, and I think Arky is solid but not a conference contender. For now my theory is that there's still work to do on installing the system they really want.
23 Kansas State Wildcats The rush defense is solid and the pass defense has major issues, but if Skylar Thompson is healthy, KSU is in the teens or the twenties. If he isn't, the bottom could drop out.
24 Utah Utes Outgained BYU per carry by a ton and per pass by a little. They lost this game because of conversions (22% on 3rd down to BYU's 58%) and turnovers (2-0 BYU), neither of which is particularly repeatable. I'll give them one more week.
25 Miami Hurricanes ...I guess? Like, Miami was extremely not impressive this week, but App State might be pretty good and the pieces are there. I am very short on teams for this spot.

Submitted: Tue 14 Sep 2021 00:07