After an extended first weekend of college football, I did not hesitate to make some drastic changes from my preseason Super 16 poll.
Shortly after Tennessee stuffed Georgia Tech’s two-point conversion attempt in overtime in Atlanta Monday night, I checked my inbox to look for my link to cast my ballot in the Super 16 poll this week. The Super 16 is a weekly poll organized by the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation, and this is my second season as a voter. After submitting my preseason ballot and sharing it with you on the blog last week, I advised you that I would likely be making some big changes almost immediately based on everything I have seen, reviewed, and contemplated to that point in the season each week.
We now have one week’s worth of samples to review (two weeks if you include Week 0, which I do; maybe we’ll call it 1.5 weeks?), and I did make some big changes in my ballot this week. Keep in mind that my weekly ballot is not necessarily a reflection on how my outlook for the season will play out. But my voting principle is to go off of what we have seen and not so much what I expect to happen next.
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) September 5, 2017
Here is how I voted this week, with the team’s rank in the current Super 16 poll.
1. Alabama (No. 1 in Super 16, 46 first-place votes)
That defense is stacked, as Florida State discovered first hand. Do we really need to defend having Alabama in the top spot right now? No. Let’s move on.
2. Michigan (No. 7)
Remember my preseason ballot, when I explained why I wasn’t putting Michigan on my ballot so early? Scratch that. Michigan’s defense dominated Florida in Arlington, and made a loud statement to all watching that Michigan may not be rebuilding quite as much as anticipated. I do think Michigan’s passing game is vulnerable and could hurt them at some point this season, but so far so good for Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines.
3. Penn State (No. 4)
Penn State moves up one spot in my Super 16 ballot this week after a 52-0 victory over Akron. Saquon Barkley went off and got his Heisman Trophy campaign started on the right foot, and the defense shut things down all afternoon. Sure, it was only Akron and there were some mistakes along the way, but Penn State looked like a defending Big Ten champion on Saturday. Up next is a revenge game at home against Pitt. LEt’s see if they keep this up against the Panthers.
4. Clemson (No. 3)
Out of all of the schools in the ACC in Week 1, nobody had a finer performance than the defending national champions. After having them No. 8 on my preseason ballot, I’m moving Clemson up to No. 4 this week after a smashing win against Kent State. I could have swapped Clemson with Penn State, but the Nittany Lions getting a shutout was the tiebreaker in my mind this week. Plus, Akron is probably a better opponent than Kent State.
5. Ohio State (No. 2)
I am still very high on Ohio State this season, but I stand by my ballot being a reflection of the season’s sample size to date. And to date, I would rank Ohio State’s win — a slow-starting road test at Indiana before turning the engines on in the second half — third among their division foes from Michigan and Penn State. Of course, that can easily change this week with a home game against Oklahoma. There is a reason Ohio State is still my pick to win the Big Ten, and perhaps play for the national championship.
6. Oklahoma State (No. 10)
7. Oklahoma (No. 5)
I had more separation between Oklahoma (No. 5) and Oklahoma State (No. 11) on my preseason ballot, but put them side-by-side this week because I feel they showed the same stuff this weekend. And the Cowboys get the slight upper hand because I felt they dominated a stronger opponent in Tulsa compared to Oklahoma’s thrashing of UTEP. Oklahoma gets a chance to make some noise this week with a road trip to Ohio State. Win in Columbus, and the Sooners will easily move past their rivals from Stillwater on my ballot, and would very likely be a lock for a top three spot on my ballot.
8. Wisconsin (No. 11)
Like Ohio State, the Badgers had a rough first half of play in their opener against Utah State but turned it on in the second half for a blowout win. The Badgers actually got bumped up a spot on my ballot this week, thanks in part to Florida State losing and falling on my ballot.
9. LSU (No. 13)
Like Michigan, I did not have LSU on my preseason ballot, but the Tigers did rank in the Super 16 preseason poll. I’m still not a big fan of LSU and don’t think things will go very well in conference play, but I have to give them respect for blanking BYU this week after their game in Houston was moved to New Orleans. But I’m not entirely sure how good BYU is right now either, so we’ll see how long I decide to keep LSU up this high. For now, it has been earned.
10. Florida State (No. 8)
I really thought long and hard about dropping Florida State this far. I said before the season opener that a loss against Alabama shouldn’t be held against Florida State too harshly. I’m dropping them seven spots this week because the special teams play was so poor, even teams not named Alabama could have taken advantage of the miscues, and I felt other teams showed enough to warrant being ranked ahead at this point in time. Florida State is the only team with a loss on my ballot. And now with Deondre Francois out for the year, I’m left with a serious question about how FSU keeps it going after seeing how Clemson looked. But first, FSU gets a week to work out some kinks against a weaker opponent before taking on Miami. I want to see what Florida State does these next two weeks. I suspect I will keep them around this spot until after the Miami game, at which point a fair re-evaluation of the Noles can take place.
11. Virgina Tech (Not ranked)
Virgina Tech was left off the preseason Super 16 poll, but I had them in my No. 16 slot on my ballot. After watching Josh Jackson against West Virginia, I’m moving the Hokies up. I trust Justin Fuente more and more every week it seems, and it’s hard not to second-guess my ACC Coastal prediction of Miami already. We have a long way to go, and Jackson will surely hit some bumps in the road. How he responds will be the story of the season for the Hokies. For now, I’m in.
12. Stanford (No. 14)
Stanford was off this week, and I ended up not moving them on my ballot. The Cardinal have a chance to prove worthy of top 10 consideration this week with a game against USC. Win this one, and Stanford will remain my top-ranked team in the Pac-12, but I’m not entering them into any playoff conversation just yet if they beat the Trojans.
13. Auburn (No. 12)
Auburn remained firm in my No. 13 slot this week after a good showing against Georgia Southern. They get Clemson this week, which should be fun to watch. LEt’s see if Auburn is legit or if they drop out of ranking next week.
14. Washington (No. 9)
I’ll give Washington credit for flying across the country to play Rutgers. And give Rutgers some props for hanging with the Huskies for a while. But I was not impressed by the Huskies for a whole half of play against a program I have very low expectations for this season. Chris Petersen got it together though, and Jake Browning made some plays when he needed to and Washington got to fly home with a win. I don’t think Washington will stay ranked this low in my poll for a long time, but they do need to win back some points from me.
15. USC (No. 6)
I was a tad less optimistic about USC than the pollsters in the preseason poll, and after watching the Trojans take three quarters to get things going against Western Michigan, I have some concerns as USC prepares to play Stanford. I dropped them pretty hard this week, but it was nice to see them light it up in the fourth quarter to pull away for the win. Feel like I’ve seen that one before…
16. Georgia (No. 15)
All of the talk about Appalachian State pushing Georgia proved to be a waste of time. Even after losing Jacob Eason to an injury (he will not play this week at Notre Dame), the Bulldogs can rely on Jake Fromm, the running game, and the defense often enough to make a push in the SEC East. After one week, the Bulldogs are the top team in the division.
Who did I not vote for that is ranked this week?
Louisville (No. 16) – Louisville being pushed to the limit against Purdue was similar to Washington getting tested by Rutgers; few saw that happening ahead of time. I was actually more optimistic about Purdue pushing Louisville for a little bit, but I was surprised Louisville couldn’t find a way to put Purdue away the way Washington did with Rutgers. After having the Cardinals No. 10 on my preseason ballot, I removed them this week, but I don’t think they will be staying off for very long. I anticipate they’ll be back on my ballot next week.
I was wrong about Michigan. The Wolverines were ranked No. 11 in the preseason Super 16, but I left them off my ballot until I could see them in action. As you can tell by my ballot this week, I’m a changed (Michigan) man this week.