With more than a third of the college football season in the books, we can safely say we know more than we did a month ago, but there’s much yet to be learned. As such, every result can be overamplified with sample sizes still relatively small.
We’re back once again to look at the biggest overreactions from the weekend, and to hopefully provide a bit of perspective.
We’ll begin with a debate that has raged for decades, since rankings became an inexorable part of the sport’s landscape. Then we’ll take our weekly swing around some of the most polarizing programs that always provoke a reaction – or an overreaction.
HIGHS AND LOWS: Winners and losers from Week 5 in college football
Somebody else should be No. 1
Generally speaking, poll voters are reluctant to move a team down in the rankings as long as said team keeps winning, no matter how pretty or ugly the victory may be. Some critics of this methodology point out, quite rightly, that the standards for the No. 1 team ought to be higher. The premise, after all, is to name the best team in the country, and if said No. 1 team doesn’t look the part, perhaps some other squad should be considered.
All of which brings us to Georgia, the two-time defending national champion that has held the top spot in the US LBM Coaches Poll since the preseason. Part of the perception issue with Georgia, of course, is that it inevitably runs into comparisons with past versions of itself. Simply put, the Bulldogs of the last two title runs looked a lot more dominant than the current squad that has been in dogfights – no pun intended – in their first two conference contests. There is also the unavoidable juxtaposition with second-ranked Michigan, which save for allowing an early touchdown against Rutgers hasn’t been threatened through its first five games.
The counterargument, of course, is that Georgia has done what it has needed to despite having new players at key positions, not the least of which is quarterback Carson Beck. It is also accurate that it was around this time a year ago that the Bulldogs had their narrow escape at Missouri but went on to run the table.
The bottom line – and we’ve made this point often – is that rankings tend to sort themselves out over the course of the entire season. The weekly snapshots of the Top 25 should be viewed as just that, quick takes on who the top teams are based on admittedly incomplete data. It’s also important to remember that neither major poll has any weight in the playoff discussion.
In short, please do look at the polls, talk about them, even critique the entire process of promotion and demotion if you like. But don’t take them as the be-all end-all, especially just a month into the season.
The ACC needs to stop playing Notre Dame
The complicated relationship between the football playing members of the Atlantic Coast Conference and Notre Dame has been dissected at great length. The league threw the Fighting Irish a lifeline during the pandemic season of 2020 that ultimately proved beneficial to all as both Notre Dame and Clemson earned College Football Playoff invitations. Since then, however, Notre Dame’s scheduling privileges with the league in which it is a member in all other sports hasn’t been nearly as symbiotic.
Since the 2021 season, Notre Dame has won 11 in a row against the rest of the ACC, including an upset of Clemson last season that helped derail the Tigers’ playoff case. Duke became the latest victim Saturday, a heartbreaking loss for the Blue Devils who were on the verge of notching another win in a dream season. In a week, Notre Dame will look to hand another unbeaten ACC team its first loss when it visits Louisville.
The relationship between the conference and Notre Dame football in future seasons is somewhat less predictable given the sport’s changing alignment, but there’s more than a little sentiment among the league’s members that Notre Dame should either become a full football participant or that the scheduling arrangement should be reconsidered. Neither is likely, and on the plus side losses to Notre Dame at present don’t affect the conference race, but it’s understandable that fans of the league’s top-tier squads might be unhappy with the status quo.
This will be the biggest Red River game in the history of everything
There’s no disputing that the game is as relevant as it’s been since 2011, the last time both the Longhorns and Sooners reached their annual encounter in Dallas unbeaten. It’s also undoubtedly the top matchup of the week.
But let’s not get carried away. To be sure, it will be a nice result to have for the winner. But it’s somewhat watered down by the fact that there might be a rematch in a couple of months in the Big 12 finale. This is also a series that has featured several matchup of top 10 teams, including multiple matches where the teams were ranked No. 1 and No. 2. While Texas has proven itself with a win at Alabama, it's still unclear after five victories if the Sooners are at the level of playoff contender one year removed from finishing with a losing record.
Alabama’s going to win the SEC after all
It’s not often that the Crimson Tide legitimately have the ‘no one believes in us’ card in their hand. Their most recent triumph against Mississippi State doesn’t really alter the team’s perception on its own, but the Ole Miss win the Tide earned a week earlier gained some value after the Rebels outlasted LSU.
Alabama’s next assignment is a road trip to Texas A&M, which hasn’t always gone well even in its championship years. But if the Crimson Tide win there, they’ll have a bit more leverage to the argument that the reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. Alabama can by no means be considered the league favorite at this point, but does anyone want to face a Nick Saban team with a point to prove?
The Mountain West has overtaken the American Athletic
The American was bound to take a hit with three of its stronger football members from last year in the Big 12. Meanwhile, the Mountain West has a ranked team, Fresno State, for the first time this season and another, Air Force, that probably should be getting more love from the voters. And don’t forget Wyoming, which already owns a Power Five win against Texas Tech and was in a tie with Texas in the fourth quarter with its backup quarterback starting.
The lower echelon of the Mountain West, however, isn’t quite as accomplished. Yes, there was Colorado State’s battle into the night with Colorado, but seven of the conference’s squads are under .500 through September. As far as the automatic New Year’s Six bowl berth is concerned though, it’s only the playoff committee’s ranking of the top finisher that matters. The MWC has the inside track there at the moment, but defending American champion Tulane and once-beaten Memphis are still in the mix.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football Week 5 overreactions: Georgia isn't really No. 1