Tiebreaker.com’s sage preseason selection of the nation’s Top 5 college football teams continues on point. No major disruptions rocked the boat last week, leaving us to wonder once again how the NCAA is going to fit five great teams into its Final Four.
No. 1. Alabama (2-0)
Here’s a perfect example of why Nick Saban is considered as close in temperament to his former boss Bill Belichick as you can get in college football.
Alabama crushed Arkansas State last week 57-7, rushing for 278 yards, led by a career-high 135 yards from sophomore Najee Harris. In its first two games, the Crimson Tide are averaging 250 rushing and 5.8 yards per carry.
So what was one of Saban’s major talking points this week? How inconsistent his offensive line has been playing, how unimpressed he was in its ability to finish blocks and its fundamental ability.
Of course, this pep talk was perfectly timed for Saturday’s SEC opener at Ole Miss (2-0) and next week’s visit by Texas A&M, which almost beat Clemson last week.
But let’s look at the bright side. Alabama is 20-of-30 in third-down attempts (66.7 percent), which is tied for third nationally. And quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is 10-of-10 on third-down throws, which resulted in four touchdowns. On the season, Tua has completed 71.4 percent for six touchdowns and no interceptions.
No. 2 – Georgia (2-0)
The Bulldogs opened its SEC road schedule last week with a 41-17 thumping of South Carolina, which was ranked No. 24 coming into the game. Georgia has been playing at South Carolina since 1894 and had never scored that many points before. The 24-point margin of victory was also its largest at Columbia in 47 years.
What’s more, according to the program’s website, the Bulldogs have begun the season with a pair of 40-point games for the first time since 2012. During that season, they scored at least 40 in their first five on the way to a 12-2 record, SEC East title and Capital One Bowl win over Nebraska.
The Bulldogs are averaging 43.0 points. Sophomore D’Andre Swift leads the rushing attack with 107 yards and two touchdowns. They have also scored seven TDs and one field goal on nine red zone possessions.
The Bulldogs host Middle Tennessee on Saturday.
No. 3 – Clemson (2-0)
The major concern this week has been about safety in the face of the monumental hurricane that’s due to hit ground in the Carolinas by Friday morning. So the Tigers moved up the start time of their home game Saturday against Georgia Southern from 3:30 p.m. to noon.
The Tigers survived a storm of another variety last week at Texas A&M, holding on at the end of a frenetic second half for a 28-26 win.
Once again, quarterback Kelly Bryant was at the forefront of the attack, completing 12-of-17 for 205 yards and a touchdown. He also led the Tigers with 54 yards rushing and one TD.
It seems Bryant needs to play this way every week to stave off the challenge of freshman Trevor Lawrence, the consensus No. 1 high school player in the nation in 2017, who threw three TD passes against Furman and another for 64 yards to Tee Higgins on his first pass last week.
Here’s something else to consider: Clemson has won 54 of 56 when leading at halftime and is 75-2 since 2011 when ahead to start the fourth.
No. 4 – Wisconsin (2-0)
There is no question the Badgers have another prodigious offense. But it isn’t just about sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor anymore, even now that he is the leading Heisman Trophy candidate.
They have a pretty good receiver in A.J. Taylor, too. He had five catches for 134 yards a touchdown in their 45-14 win over New Mexico. And if nothing else, that will help take some of the pressure off quarterback Alex Hornibrook and the running game.
But what would life be like without criticism? During the week, some stories written about the program focused on Taylor’s two lost fumbles, even though he gained 253 yards against New Mexico and is averaging 199.0 in the first two weeks. Maybe that’s because he fumbled eight times while gaining 1,977 yards as a freshman.
Wisconsin plays at home against BYU on Saturday.
No. 5 – Ohio State (2-0)
Saturday’s game against No. 15 TCU marks the end of Urban Meyer’s three-game suspension. He returns Sept. 22 against Tulane. Frankly, the Buckeyes don’t seem to miss him.
In last week’s 52-3 win over Rutgers, the Buckeyes celebrated the Big Ten opener by gaining 579 yards and allowing only 134. Through two games, Ohio State is second nationally in offense (650.0) and points (64.5). It’s the first time in the history of the program that it has produced 1,300 total yards, 700 passing yards and nine touchdown passes in its ﬁrst two games.
Credit goes to quarterback Dwayne Haskins. He already has 546 yards passing (42-of-53) and nine touchdowns with just one interception. He played only two quarters against Rutgers and but threw four TD passes to four different receivers. No Ohio State quarterback until Haskins had ever thrown for at least four TDs in the first two games of a season.