I’m still catching up on game action from this week. I’ve been through most of it, but I should be finished watching what I want to before the NFL kicks off on Thursday night, an exciting match-up between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys.

That being said, my top 25 isn’t very much like the polls that you see consistently across media. I like to consider the talent on the team, where I think they will end up, and who is the better team on the field. Results, obviously, mean something, but I don’t want them to dictate the rankings every week. The less movement that we see in my rankings, the better off we will be! That’s the goal.

All that being said, let’s start with five teams that didn’t cut this week. Just because they didn’t cut this week doesn’t mean that they aren’t worthy. It’s more of an “I want to see more” list.

Five candidates who didn’t make the cut to watch next week

  1. Auburn Tigers (1-0; W Akron 60-10)
  2. Arizona State Sun Devils (1-0; W Southern Utah 41-14)
  3. Fresno State Bulldogs (1-1; L @ 11. Oregon 24-31)
  4. Boston College Eagles (1-0; W Colgate 51-0)
  5. Pittsburgh Panthers (1-0; W UMass 51-7)

It’s hard not to get excited about Auburn, who is loaded with NFL talent on both sides of the football. They had to scoop heavily into the transfer portal following the dismissal of head coach Gus Malzahn. If this team has it all together, they will be very competitive in the tough SEC West.

The game to watch this weekend to get a good glimpse of the teams will be Pittsburgh’s visit to the deep south, where they go on the road to play the Tennessee Volunteers. Tennessee is in a rebound year with a lot of uncertainty. If Pittsburgh goes in and handles business, they will be good to roll this season. The ACC Coastal is wide open this season, and for senior quarterback Kenny Pickett, it’s a huge chance to stand out for NFL teams.

Five notable holdouts from the rankings

  1. North Carolina Tar Heels (0-1; L @ Virginia Tech 17-10)
  2. LSU Tigers (0-1; L 18. @ UCLA 38-27)
  3. Washington Huskies (0-1; L Montana 13-7)
  4. Indiana Hoosiers (0-1; L 12. Iowa 34-6)
  5. TCU Horned Frogs (1-0; W Dusquene 45-3)

The writing is on the wall for LSU coach Ed Orgeron, affectionately known across the nation as “Coach O.” Unfortunately, with the rising SEC West, it’s hard to imagine LSU staying competitive after being dismantled by UCLA this weekend and not handling a physical, downhill running game. Much can be said the same for North Carolina headman Mack Brown, who came out of retirement to take over the program two years ago. The performance Friday night on the road against Virginia Tech was devoid of energy, and Brown himself looked like a tired old man on the sideline.

Washington just took a horrific loss to Montana, a team they hadn’t lost to in over 90 years (1920), effectively ending their chances at a College Football Playoff appearance. While loaded with talent, that loss will be a challenge to overcome. Indiana struggled to compete with Iowa on the road and didn’t perform like a top 25 team.

TCU just missed both cuts but is certainly a team to keep an eye on this season. Quarterback Max Duggan appears to be a fine college quarterback. You want to see the team limit mistakes against far less talented teams.

Vogel’s College Football Top 25: 25-21

25. Utah Utes (1-0; W Weber State 40-17)
24. Florida State Seminoles (0-1; L 8. Notre Dame 41-38 OT)
23. Kentucky Wildcats (1-0; W ULM 45-10)
22. Liberty Flames (1-0; W Campbell 48-7)
21. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (1-0; W Citadel 52-14)

It’s worth pointing out that while Florida State couldn’t come away with the win, they took a talented Notre Dame team to the ropes. With the talent on both sides of the ball, Florida State can contend with most teams in the top 25 this season. Between running back Jashaun Corbin and RUSH EDGE Jermaine Johnson, this team has the tools to be dominant across the ACC Atlantic.

One of the players I identified as a breakout candidate in college football this year is the new Kentucky QB, Will Levis. The transfer from Penn State has stood out all offseason after putting some good traits on tape last year, replacing Sean Clifford. Kentucky suddenly has many weapons to make some noise in the SEC East – and started with a thrashing of ULM on Saturday.

Vogel’s College Football Top 25: 20-16

20. Texas Longhorns (1-0; W Louisiana 38-18)
19. Miami Hurricanes (0-1; L 1. Alabama 44-13)
18. UCLA Bruins (2-0; W LSU 38-27)
17. North Carolina State Wolfpack (1-0; W USF 45-0)
16. Florida Gators (1-0; W Florida Atlantic 35-14)

Texas was a little bit of a wild card entering Saturday under new head coach Steve Sarkesian, and with redshirt freshman quarterback Hudson Card starting, not much was known entering the week. Now we have a little bit of an idea of this team – and they are pretty damn good. I liked them a lot, but I want to see more – a better look will be this week against Arkansas.

UCLA has a formidable north-south style of run game going in LA. The Bruins have an offense between Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown that even the SEC caliber LSU defense couldn’t manage and struggled to tackle. This defense is uber-talented as well. The only unknown is the passing game. UCLA is a lot of fun to watch this season.

North Carolina State is worth mentioning as well because of the rising interest in quarterback Devin Leary. This is perhaps the most talented team North Carolina State has put together in recent memory. Dave Doeren, now in his 9th season here, has gone toe-to-toe with Clemson twice with far less talented rosters. They will be a team to watch this season.

Vogel’s College Football Top 25: 15-11

15. Iowa State Cyclones (1-0; W Northern Iowa 16-10)
14. Wisconsin Badgers (0-1; L 9. Penn State 16-10)
13. Oregon Ducks (1-0; W Fresno State 31-24)
12. Ole Miss Rebels (1-0; W Louisville 43-24)
11. Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0; W Indiana 34-6)

Ole Miss put together a hell of a performance against the Louisville Cardinals on Monday night, showing an improved offense and a new-look defense that dominated against the athleticism of Micale Cunningham. Matt Corral showed every positive trait you want to see on tape, and even without their head coach Lane Kiffen (tested positive for COVID-19), the Rebels performed at their best and put on a great show.

The real surprise of the week was Iowa’s dominant performance over their in-conference rivals, Indiana. Not only were they vastly more physical than Indiana, but the Hawkeyes also showed tremendous speed across the board. The Iowa defense intercepted Indiana’s Michael Penix 3 times, including Senior Bowl watchlist Riley Moss’s two returns for touchdowns.

Unfortunately for Oregon, Saturday’s close victory over Fresno State came at a price. Star EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux has suffered a sprained ankle and will most likely miss the Ducks matchup this weekend with Ohio State. He is a game-changing talent, and missing him will really hurt Oregon this week.

Vogel’s College Football Top 25 #10. Cincinnati Bearcats (1-0)

Last week: W Miami (OH) 49-14

The entire Cincinnati season seems to lay on the shoulders of senior quarterback Desmond Ridder, a fourth-year starter with a bright NFL future. I had laid out some serious concerns for Ridder’s game entering the season while applauding certain NFL traits that showed on tape. Defensively, the Bearcats have two among the best in the country in their position groups. EDGE rusher Myjai Sanders looks to capitalize on the extra year and make himself a first-round pick. Cornerback Ahmad Gardner also has similar aspirations. They’re deep where they need to be and have enough talent to battle with most other teams on this list.

9. Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0)

Last week: W @ (14) Wisconsin 16-10

Penn State suffered the worst start to a season in school history last year, never having opened with five straight losses. This team appears to be much better equipped to compete, having landed key transfers in EDGE Arnold Ebiketie and STAR Johnny Dixon. The defense played phenomenally on the road against the Badgers, who tried to keep their defense on the field running time-consuming drives. Penn State withstood and cashed in on big-play opportunities from key playmaker Jahan Dotson. I think quarterback Sean Clifford will hold this offense back this year, but Penn State can contend defensively with anyone in the country.

8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0)

Last week: W @ (24) Florida State 41-38 (OT)

Notre Dame didn’t exactly sell me in week one action on the road in Tallahassee, but there is no doubt that this team is loaded with talent. Quarterback Jack Coan is a worthy replacement to the NFL-bound Ian Book, offering a more vertical approach to the Fighting Irish offense. They have young weapons too. Tight end Michael Meyer is special. He may be the best prospect at the position entering the 2023 NFL Draft.

This defense has the potential to be vicious. Kyle Hamilton is currently the best safety in the country, and the rest of this defense is loaded with NFL talent. We can only look forward to the matchup with Cincinnati on October 5th!

7. USC Trojans (1-0)

Last week: W San Jose State 30-7

Typically, I feel as though USC is almost always overrated. This year, though, they are pretty damn talented. Quarterback Kedon Slovis is very popular among the NFL people that I speak with. In fact, following the article I wrote (Scouting 1: Accuracy Vs. Placement) recently, one former NFL general manager told me, “You want to see ‘pinpoint accuracy?’ Watch Kedon Slovis.”

Regardless, outside of their quarterback, this team is full of NFL-level talent. One of the players I think is worth pointing out is Slovis’ backfield counterpart, running back Keaontay Ingram. The transfer from Texas was one of the most effective slashers in the country last season. Ingram ran for 86 yards in his debut with the Trojans while splitting time with Vavae Malepeai. The defense has a lot of talent, and USC might have a chance to win the PAC-12 this year.

6. Oklahoma Sooners (1-0)

Last week: W Vs. Tulane 40-35

Oklahoma survived an ugly ordeal at a surprise home game against Tulane, projected to be one of the bottom dwellers by most analysts in the AAC. Spencer Rattler, a quarterback that I identified as the favorite to be selected first overall next season, struggled tremendously with consistency and avoiding mistakes as he turned the ball over on two interceptions.

From a passing standpoint, Rattler did a lot, very well. He completed 30 of his 39 attempts for 304 yards and a touchdown. He ran for another score. That’s his game – he works well as both a passer and a runner. However, this team struggled to execute. They were 3-12 on third downs and averaged 3.3 yards per rushing attempt. They’re going to have to clean up the mistakes if they want to compete for a College Football Playoff appearance.

5. Texas A&M Aggies (1-0)

Last week: W Kent State 41-10

Texas A&M is always so well positioned in my college football top 25 rankings, and it’s not because they don’t deserve it. Rather, this team seems to be perpetually talent-laden. Ever since head coach Jimbo Fisher took over the program in 2018, the recruiting has improved. A&M has averaged finishing 8th in the country in recruiting over the last three years after averaging 16th the three years before that.

The Aggies have some of the most talented skill position players in the upcoming NFL Draft class. Running back Isaiah Spiller and tight end Jalen Wydermyer are already on NFL radars as top-five players in their position groups. The defense has intriguing talent as well. While they took care of business against Kent State this week, their sophomore quarterback, Haynes King, made some big mistakes (3 interceptions) that will need to be addressed. Still, adding Ainias Smith and Devon Achane to the conversation, this team has big-time playmaker threats all across the lineup as A&M has never had before.

4. Clemson Tigers (0-1)

Last week: L Vs. (2) Georgia 10-3

Clemson lost a tough one to long-time rivals Georgia, but it’s hard to fault them for anything in such a defensive slugfest. Clearly, Clemson didn’t have the talent to match Georgia, but the close nature of the game and the way that they rebounded from the mistakes all game is certainly impressive. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an 0-1 team that is so talented.

I had to keep them this high in my college football top 25 simply because of the incredible performance the Clemson defense put on. They were brilliant. Between linebackers James Skalski and Baylon Spector, the Clemson front appears ready and primed to cause mass chaos all season long. The offense, when not playing Georgia, should thrive as well. Somehow, Clemson is still firmly in the hunt for the College Football Playoff.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0)

Last week: W @ Minnesota 45-31

The Ohio State Buckeyes had to fight and claw their way on the road against a talented Minnesota team. Still, they benefited immensely from the injury of Minnesota running back Mo Ibrahim, who has been lost for the season after an incredible three-quarters of work. The youth in the backfield certainly took time for the Buckeyes to adjust to but were hitting their strides by the fourth quarter.

I think Ohio State has a great defense, despite the grinding performance that they gave up to the Golden Gophers. As usual, both sides of the ball are laced with NFL talent, backed by future NFL talent. It’s a deep team that needs to execute all season long.

2. Georgia Bulldogs (1-0)

Last week: W Vs. (4) Clemson 10-3

Coming into the season, I had tremendous faith in the Clemson football team. Their defense is loaded, and I explained that the Georgia offense wouldn’t be able to handle the Clemson defense. For the most part, this was true. I, however, vastly underrated the Georgia defense, who scored more points in their week one matchup than both offenses combined.

This Georgia defense is the best, hands down, that Kirby Smart has fielded with the Bulldogs. They were vicious and they didn’t let up all game. As this offense settles into their SEC schedule over the next few weeks, they will work out many of the kinks, but this defense is at a caliber high enough to win a championship. Can the offense outscore Alabama? We may find out sooner than people anticipate… Ahem, SEC Championship.

Vogel’s College Football Top 25 #1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1-0)

Last week: W Vs. (19) Miami 44-13

The Nick Saban train keeps rolling. It’s incredible what coach Saban has accomplished in his time with the Crimson Tide and this opening performance against Miami just highlighted everything he has done well at the program. Quarterback Bryce Young appears primed to be a problem in college football for the next two full seasons. The defense didn’t miss a beat. The receivers are again reloaded. Running back, Brian Robinson has waited his turn and is running with a huge chip on his shoulder. This team is wired to repeat as National Champions in 2021 if someone can’t rise to the occasion and stop them.

Final Notes

The conference representation that is currently in the top 25:

SEC: 6 (Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Florida, Kentucky)
ACC: 4 (Clemson, North Carolina State, Miami, Florida State)
Big Ten: 4 (Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin)
PAC 12: 4 (USC, Oregon, UCLA, Utah)
Big 12: 3 (Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas)
Independents: 2 (Notre Dame, Liberty)
American: 1 (Cincinnati)
Sun Belt: 1 (Coastal Carolina)

If the proposed Big 12 expands without any further changes, here is how the conferences would be split:

SEC: 8 (Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Florida, Texas, Kentucky)
ACC: 4 (Clemson, North Carolina State, Miami, Florida State)
Big Ten: 4 (Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin)
PAC 12: 4 (USC, Oregon, UCLA, Utah)
Big 12: 2 (Cincinnati, Iowa State)
Independents: 2 (Notre Dame, Liberty)
Sun Belt: 1 (Coastal Carolina)

Really interesting when you consider the sheer brand power the SEC will have with Oklahoma and Texas added. As though they didn’t have enough already! It’s also worth noting that if the Big 12 proposed expansion proceeds, Cincinnati will be the best team in the conference. That’s really something.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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