Some people hate college football. Some people are obsessed with criticizing college football. The Deadspin College Football Top 25 Or So loves college football. We love college football so much, we will spend the season ranking the sport according to its own logic, even where that logic might seem demented or self-contradictory. Here's what matters: winning. Tradition. A tradition of winning. Crushing your rivals. Sportsmanship. Running up the score. Class. Swagger. Here's what doesn't matter: NCAA rules, unless their enforcement makes a team start losing. Graduation rates.
These are the rankings at the beginning of the season. As such, they are based on past accomplishments, reputation, politics, and style—Deadspin's subjective impression of how much respect each team deserves, coming into the season. The list can and will be revised, violently, as the results of actual games come in. Don't like your team's ranking? Buy the quarterback a Land Rover and tell him to start winning.
Investigation? Nobody cares. The champ is the champ till someone beats the champ. On the field. Whiners elsewhere in the S.E.C. can stop phoning in tips about Cam Newton and start investigating why their teams weren't in the Tostitos BCS National Championshp Game. (A: Because they weren't as good as Auburn.)
[Gene] Chizik has placed his stamp firmly on the Auburn program, including a "never say quit" attitude that saw Auburn rally from four double-digit deficits to win in 2010, including the largest comeback in school history when the Tigers turned a 24-0 deficit at Alabama into a 28-27 victory.
2. Ohio State
Tradition meets innovation! The Buckeyes had almost achieved an honest pay-for-play system, or at least a barter-for-play system, before the exigencies of the NCAA forced them to dismantle it. Even in nominal disgrace, the Buckeye approach—from supplying the gear that players could trade to announcing its own punishments—felt like a pilot program for vertical integration.
[Luke] Fickell is a Columbus native (DeSales High School, where he was a state wrestling champion) and a 1997 graduate of Ohio State where he was a four-year starter at nose guard while earning his degree in exercise science.
There's beating your rival, and then there's driving your rival clear out of the conference. With the all-time Oklahoma-Nebraska series standing at 45-38-3 in Oklahoma's favor, the Cornhuskers fled the Big 12 altogether to hide out in the Big Ten. Nebraska: forever losers. Oklahoma: forever winners.
To be among the best at Oklahoma is to be among the best in college football.
Such dramatics are lost on Bob Stoops. The Sooner head coach befriended the would-be albatross of OU's successful past from his first day on campus and remains steadfastly focused on tomorrow and the championship it holds.
The Baton Rouge police chief announced the arrests of quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Josh Johns on assault charges by saying it was "a sad day for the city of Baton Rouge ... a sad day for Louisiana State University ... a sad day for the Baton Rouge Police Department." Maybe the prosecutors should be looking for a change of venue? (Note: the last Baton Rouge district attorney is and was part of the LSU broadcast team.)
When [Les] Miles isn't overseeing his LSU football family, he can most likely be found in the bleachers supporting his wife and kids at their sporting events. His oldest daughter Kathryn, who is commonly referred to as "Smacker", is one of the top junior swimmers in the nation, while his two sons—Manny and Ben—are avid athletes who participate in everything from football to baseball to wrestling. Coach Miles also gets his share of time with the youngest of the Miles family, 8-year old Macy Grace.
Another almost-honest pioneer of professionalism. Wouldn't it be more embarrassing if Team Nike were accused of not spending top dollar on recruiting?
In just two full seasons at the helm, Chip Kelly has taken a program accustomed to making gradual steps up the ladder toward conference supremacy and has elevated it into one that appears ready for hyperspace.
It's refreshing to see the Great Man Theory of Football applied to a college quarterback instead of the head coach. We will believe in Andrew Luck until the evidence proves otherwise.
A four-year letterwinner at Stanford from 1991-94 as a receiver, [David] Shaw was a member of Stanford's 1991 Aloha Bowl team coached by Dennis Green that finished the season with an 8-4 mark and was the third-highest scoring team in school history.
7. (tie) Oklahoma State
7. (tie) Texas
One of these teams is better than the other. They'll play each other Oct. 15. Then we'll know which one.
Under [Mike] Gundy, Oklahoma State has won at least seven games in five straight seasons for the first time ever, Under Gundy, OSU has reached a bowl game in five straight seasons for the first time ever. Under Gundy, OSU has won at least nine games in three straight seasons for the first time ever. Under Gundy, Oklahoma State has won 29 games over a three-year period for the first time ever.
[In 2008,] The University of Texas honored Mack Brown with The Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs. The Chair is part of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, a university-wide global affairs research center named for renowned lawyer and public servant, Ambassador Robert S. Strauss. The center is part of the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Legendary Penn State head coach Joe Paterno traveled to Austin to present The Chair.
9. Texas A&M
Would have been in a three-way tie with Oklahoma State and Texas, but it keeps trying to quit the conference and stumbling in the doorway.
"I think the world of Mike Sherman and I think he will do a great job at Texas A&M," former Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre said. "He did a great job for us here at Green Bay and really related well to our team."
There's something hypnotic about the Badgers' nonconference schedule: UNLV, Oregon State, Northern Illinois, South Dakota, Nebraska—oh, hang on, Nebraska is in the Big Ten. Sheesh. Vegas isn't, though, yet, right?
Not as easy to quantify but just as important as the numbers are the adjectives people use when they talk about the Badger football team under [Bret] Bielema, words like "tough," "smart," "physical," "aggressive," "punishing," and "relentless." Those are the characteristics that have propelled UW to consecutive 10-win seasons, including a share of the 2010 Big Ten title and a place in the 2011 Rose Bowl.
Take a deep breath. You really want to lobby us about whether or not your school is the 11th-best team in the country?
12. Florida State
There are worse things to be than reigning champions of the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Few embody the "unconquered spirit" that defines the Seminole Nation as well as [Jimbo] Fisher, whose best attributes include a relentless work ethic, the passionate pursuit of perfection, a keen vision for the long range future as well as a sense of place for his faith, family and football.
13. South Carolina
There are worse things to be than reigning losers of the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
During his 12 seasons with the Gators, [Steve] Spurrier's teams won seven Southeastern Conference championships, one national title and finished ranked in the nation's top 10 nine times. His record at Florida was an amazing 122-27-1 (.817). Spurrier, who won the 1966 Heisman Trophy as a quarterback for the Gators, was also head coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins (2002-03).
In the only game that matters, Navy is on a nine-year winning streak against Army. But for the heck of it, the Midshipmen have also beaten Notre Dame twice in a row, and three years out of the past four. What college football team could be a bigger success, by its own standards?
[Ken] Niumatalolo is just the second coach since World War II to lead Navy to a winning record in each of his first three seasons at the helm and joins Eddie Erdelatz and Wayne Hardin as the only Navy coaches to beat Notre Dame in consecutive seasons.
15. Michigan State
The Spartans will play Nebraska this year, because Nebraska is in the Big Ten.
[Mark] Dantonio is quite familiar with East Lansing, as he spent six years (1995-2000) as Michigan State's secondary coach, including five seasons under Saban and one under Bobby Williams. He was promoted to associate head coach in 2000. During his six-year tenure as an assistant, the Spartans compiled a 39-30-1 record.
16. Boise State
The Broncos play football politics the way Gonzaga plays basketball: Get a nice ranking, have no chance to make a difference. They're not going to let you into the national championship game, OK? No matter what you do to Toledo.
Success has come at extraordinary levels for Boise State head football coach Chris Petersen during his five years guiding the program. Petersen is the winningest active coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision, boasting a 61-5 record for a winning percentage of .924. The mark is the second-highest amongst active coaches at any four-year institution, regardless of division or association. He is also one of just six coaches nationally to have won multiple Bowl Championship Series games at his current school.
17. Texas Christian
Speaking of Boise State: While TCU waits one more year to jump to the Big East, Boise State has jumped to the Mountain West. So on Nov. 12, the Blue Turf™ hosts a one-time-only showdown between Boise State and Boise State Jr. for the right to complain about getting shut out of the BCS championship.
Since taking over the helm of the Horned Frogs in December 2000, Gary Patterson has become synonymous with TCU football.
The Razorbacks played in the Sugar Bowl last season. Ohio State scored more points, but the Buckeyes had to vacate the victory. Who gets the win? No.
17 18 Arkansas? Or No. 10 11 Nobody?
In his coaching career, [Bobby] Petrino has worked with numerous players who went on to play professionally, including an impressive list of NFL quarterbacks. As a head coach, he helped develop quarterbacks Stefan LeFors (2003-04) and Brian Brohm (2004-06) at Louisville. As a coordinator or assistant, he tutored Jason Campbell at Auburn (2002), Chris Redman at Louisville (1998), Jake Plummer at Arizona State (1993), and Doug Nussmeier (1990-91) and John Friesz (1989) at Idaho.
19. Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech went undefeated in the ACC last year. Unfortunately, Boise State and James Madison weren't in the ACC.
In 1990, [Frank] Beamer received a new contract and a substantial pay raise. He refused the raise, however, until a time that all classified and faculty employees of the university could have the same opportunity for pay raises. Most state salaries had been frozen at the time. When offered a pay increase in 2006, he did not sign the agreement until his assistant coaches were taken care of first.
Did we mention that Auburn is the reigning national champion? Would ranking Alabama somewhere in the top 5 change that? It would not. Win some games, Alabama. And by "some games" we mean "every game on the schedule, plus the BCS title game." Otherwise, you're failures.
Entering [Nick Saban's] fifth spring in Tuscaloosa, his uncompromising dedication to excellence in every phase of the program has already resulted in the school's 13th national championship and the foundation has been set to yield long-term success for the Crimson Tide.
21. Penn State
[Joe] Paterno is the only coach to win the four traditional New Year's Day bowl games—the Rose, Sugar, Cotton and Orange bowls—and he owns a 6-0 record in the Fiesta Bowl. He was selected by the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame as the first active coach to receive its Distinguished American Award. Paterno also was the 1986 Sports Illustrated Sportsman-of-the-Year.
Or Missouri. Either way.
A native of Omaha, Nebraska, [Mark] Richt came to Tallahassee with an astute knowledge of the passing game after playing the position for the Miami Hurricanes under Howard Schnellenberger. Richt spent most of his career at Miami as a backup to former Buffalo Bills star Jim Kelly. In one of Richt's years at Miami, his teammates included Kelly, Vinny Testaverde, Bernie Kosar, and quarterbacks coach Earl Morral.
Megalomaniacal athletic director Kevin Anderson fired coach Ralph Friedgen after an 8-4 season, an ACC coach of the year award, and a blowout bowl victory. That was a fine season by the Terps, and it was as good a season as Maryland—a non-football school in a state that only cares about the NFL— ever deserves. Anderson's power play—dumping the rotund and reasonably successful Fridge in favor of ahistorical martinet Randy Edsall, to turn the Terps into a Serious Football Program—is doomed and embarrassing. Maybe if Edsall knows what he's doing, after he's done taking the names off the jerseys and making the uppity players conform to his grooming code, the Terps will rise all the way to BCS snubbee status, before the coach ditches the school for a real football program and the NCAA swoops in to investigate how Maryland got top talent to go to a school where nobody cares about football, and then (because Maryland is a school where nobody cares about football) the death penalty will come down, and we'll never have to watch this kind of stupid charade again.
The 2010 Huskies were typical of a hard working, blue-collar Edsall team. After starting out 3-4, including 0-2 in the league, UConn finished the year with five consecutive Big East wins to earn the conference championship and a spot in the BCS.