Jameis Winston Can't See: 125 FBS Teams, Ranked

Each week during college football season we put the conventional polls to shame by ranking every FBS team from 1-125, by whatever standard we see fit. As always, last week's rankings were not consulted.

1. ALABAMA (8-0). Of course we're all slavering over the prospect of an Odd Couple championship game between Alabama and Oregon, old-money constancy vs. nouveau riche flash, etc., but the team that has given Bama the most trouble over the years is the one built in its own image: LSU. Since Nick Saban touched down in 2007, Alabama and LSU have split six regular-season games with a combined margin of 32 points. (The last two years, Bama rolled into the LSU game having won its first eight by an average of 32 points, and both of those games came down to the final play.) Les Miles is the only coach in that span to beat Saban twice in a row, or twice, period. On some level, I relish that fact as an example of a freewheeling savant triumphing o'er the cold, pattern-reading machinery of the assembly line. Really, it's just two identical rosters canceling each other out, blue-chip for blue-chip.

2. FLORIDA STATE (8-0). I don't have any degrees in ophthalmology, so technically I'm no expert on human vision. I am, however, functionally blind without contact lenses. If I was standing on the sidelines of FSU's win over Miami, for example, without contacts or glasses my view of the game would have looked roughly like this:

Jameis Winston Can't See: 125 FBS Teams, Ranked

No exaggeration. So there is literally nothing–nothing–Jameis Winston can do as a quarterback that baffles and impresses me more than the fact he does it without his contacts. I don't even care if his prescription is minimal: Myopics know that squint. We know it intimately. Dude is the truth, and he cannot see shit out there.

3. OREGON (8-0). No matter how dominant FSU has been to date (which is pretty damn dominant) or will be down the stretch, it's still hard to see how it can possibly fend off Oregon in the BCS if the Ducks run the table. Although the Miami romp bumped the Seminoles back up to No. 2 in this week's standings, the margin is still razor-thin–much too thin to keep them there if Oregon beats Stanford tonight. For now, Florida State's edge overall is a result of the input of the BCS computers, which collectively rank FSU No. 1; in the same algorithms, Oregon comes in third. But the relevant human polls have refused to budge on the Ducks at No. 2, and the computers will fall in line soon enough in response to Oregon's steeper strength of schedule over the last four/five games. (The difference in schedules is not huge, but neither is the difference in the standings; beating Stanford alone will be enough to tip the scales toward the Ducks, and there's not enough weight on FSU's remaining schedule to tip them back.) Short of an outright upset, the Noles' only hope is that Oregon looks so uninspiring in victory that human voters opt for Florida State on the basis of "style points." And given that Oregon has won 23 in a row against unranked teams by at least 17 points, that's hoping against hope.

4. OHIO STATE (9-0). Speaking of style points: Bless the Buckeyes for going for broke the last two weeks against Penn State and Purdue, thereby forcing skeptics to acknowledge that they look like viable contenders, at least, even if they don't have another heavy hitter on the schedule to prove it. For the kind of voter who defaults to the "eyeball test" over the resumé, Ohio State is passing. If the dominoes start falling in front of them, that and the fact that Ohio State is Ohio State™ will be all they need to fend off an undefeated Baylor or late-surging Stanford from behind.

5. BAYLOR (7-0). How huge is tonight's date with Oklahoma? After nine years, Floyd Casey Stadium is finally shedding the giant tarp that has covered the south end zone stands since 2004, when it was installed at the request of fans to hide huge swathes of inevitably empty seats. (The tarp, forever declaring "This Is Bear Country," was such an omnipresent reminder of the program's depths that quarterback Bryce Petty suggested "they should burn it." Locals have taken to selling #BurnTheTarp t-shirts.) The game is officially sold out, making it just the fifth sellout at Baylor since 1950, with the season finale against Texas already confirmed as the sixth. The potential stakes in that game are inconceivable.

6. STANFORD (7-1). Last year's upset in Eugene was a thorough exhibition of Duck wrangling that drove home Oregon's most glaring vulnerability under Chip Kelly: An inability to establish the run against first-rate defenses. Of course, hardly anyone can establish the run against first-rate defenses, which is what makes them first-rate. Of the seven games Oregon lost under Kelly, though, six of them–against Boise State in 2009, Ohio State in the 2010 Rose Bowl, Auburn in the 2011 BCS title game, LSU in the 2011 opener, USC in late 2011, and Stanford last November–came at the hands of teams with deep, disruptive defensive lines stocked with future draft picks. Stanford has that kind of front again, and is more than capable of making Marcus Mariota's life miserable in the pocket if the Ducks become too one-dimensional. (As Sean Mannion can attest.) Just like last year, the Cardinal lead the Pac-12 in rushing defense, sacks per game and tackles for loss.

7. MISSOURI (8-1). For a lot of teams, a loss like Mizzou's overtime heartbreaker against South Carolina would be allowed to fester and spoil the rest of the season. Instead, the Tigers responded by throttling Tennessee, 31-3, reaffirming their grip on first place in the SEC East. And not to get too far ahead, but they're also on track to challenge to the 2007 team as the best in school history.

8. CLEMSON (8-1). It's been decades since Clemson and South Carolina played with anything at stake outside of state lines, so the prospect of this year's finale serving as a de facto play-in game for a BCS bid is pretty compelling. Still a few weeks out, but there is no reason it shouldn't come down to that.

9. OKLAHOMA (7-1). The biggest challenge Oklahoma presents to Baylor is its ability to line up and run the ball directly at the defense: In their three best wins, over West Virginia, Notre Dame, and Texas Tech, the Sooners have averaged 275 yards rushing on 5.6 per carry, and the Bears were badly gashed on the ground in their only remotely competitive win, at Kansas State. Because they ran so effectively, the Wildcats were also able to run up a 19-minute advantage in time of possession in that game, which is not Oklahoma's usual M.O., but is the main reason K-State was able to hang around as long as it did: The fewer possessions for the Baylor offense, the better.

10. AUBURN (8-1). With apologies to Tulane and Buffalo, Auburn's whiplash-inducing turn from 3-9 doormat in 2012 to darkhorse contender in the SEC is the most dramatic reversal of the season, by far. (Seriously, the Tigers were 0-8 in conference games last year with an average margin of 24 points.) That said, at this point I still have a hard time envisioning them as spoilers to Alabama.

11. SOUTH CAROLINA (7-2).

12. LSU (7-2). I heard some professional analysis this week that concluded, in all seriousness, that LSU's only chance of beating Alabama was for quarterback Zach Mettenberger to be Johnny Manziel. Really? LSU came pretty damn close to beating Alabama last year with Mettenberger turning in the best game of his career in very un-Manzielian fashion, entirely from the pocket. But as good as they've been to date, I do have my doubts that receivers Odell Beckham or Jarvis Landry can play the role of Mike Evans against the Bama secondary.

13. TEXAS A&M (7-2).

14. OKLAHOMA STATE (7-1). The Cowboys have figured out who they are offensively, and it's not who they thought they were. Since 2010, Oklahoma State has been "Air Raid" all the way, especially in Big 12 games, where it routinely put the ball in the air 40 to 50 times per game; in its first three conference games this year, 57 percent of offensive snaps were passes. Against Texas Tech, though, OSU ran 55 times for 281 yards and five touchdowns, the second week in a row the offense has kept the ball on the ground on at least 60 percent of its snaps in a high-scoring Big 12 win. Most of the work against the Red Raiders went to tailback Desmond Roland, who followed up a career game against Iowa State with 31 carries for 96 yards and three touchdowns in Lubbock, despite a long gain of just nine yards. But the Cowboys also got bigger plays from backups Rennie Childs and Jeremy Smith and QB Clint Chelf, who had the team's longest run of the season on a 67-yard touchdown run.

15. ARIZONA STATE (6-2).

16. MICHIGAN STATE (8-1). Are the Spartans the defensive equivalent of Baylor's offense? Against Michigan, the assault was so relentless you could actually see the Wolverines' spirit departing their bodies as the evening wore on and quarterback Devin Gardner wore down, even with the game technically within reach. For the game, Michigan State finished with seven sacks and held the Wolverines to -48 yards rushing (including sacks), the worst total by any FBS offense in the last three seasons. For the year, MSU is allowing fewer yards per game and per play than any defense since the turn of the century except Alabama's in 2011, and hasn't allowed a touchdown in 12 consecutive quarters.

17. MIAMI (7-1). The hype leading up to the beatdown at FSU felt half-hearted because almost no one bought the 'Canes as national players, especially after down-to-the-wire escapes against North Carolina and Wake Forest. (Real contenders don't go into rivalry games in November as 21-point underdogs.) Short of an upset in Tallahassee, though, this weekend's visit from Virginia Tech was always the bigger game in terms of the ACC standings, and ought to tell us a lot more about Miami's place in a watered-down Coastal Division. A season-ending injury to its best player, tailback Duke Johnson, only adds to the threat of letting an opportunity slip away.

18. CENTRAL FLORIDA (6-1).

19. NOTRE DAME (7-2). The Irish barely hung on Saturday against Navy, 38-34, their fourth victory this season by four points or less. You may think the prospect of this particular team returning to a BCS bowl is funny, but it's not.

20. UCLA (6-2).

21. BYU (6-2).

22. WISCONSIN (6-2). If Wisconsin gets by BYU this weekend, it looks increasingly likely that the only thing standing between the Badgers and their fourth consecutive BCS bowl is going to be the bizarro ending at Arizona State back in September. Surely Badger fans have learned to let bygones be bygones, though, right?

23. OLE MISS (5-3).

24. TEXAS (6-2). The Longhorns are 5-0 in Big 12 games, four of those wins coming by double digits, and I guarantee most Texas fans are thinking a routine trip to West Virginia this weekend looks ripe for a random flop. West Virginia is terrible, of course, but that's really beside the point. When it looks safe to start trusting this team again, that's when you know it's due.

25. GEORGIA (5-3). A lot of the time successful play-calling amounts to throwing rock against the defense's scissors, which is a good way to describe Georgia's second touchdown Saturday against an all-out blitz from Florida. Then again, when your version of rock is a healthy Todd Gurley, it usually winds up beating everything.

26. LOUISVILLE (7-1).

27. FRESNO STATE (7-0). The Bulldogs remain 16th in the latest BCS standings, ahead of BIG AMERICA frontrunners UCF, Houston and Louisville, and therefore still on pace for an automatic bid to one of the big-money bowls if they remain undefeated. (Which they definitely should.) If Fresno does crash the BCS, it will probably be in the Fiesta Bowl, probably against the Big 12 champ, which will probably be Baylor. Provision your bunkers accordingly.

28. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (9-0). One of my weekly obsessions right now is cataloging the stunning gap between NIU's standing in Jeff Sagarin's "real" computer rankings, which he considers more accurate, and the version he submits to the BCS, which have to be retrofitted to comfort to arcane BCS rules. In the former, the Huskies come in 46th this week, behind an FCS team (North Dakota State) and five major-conference teams with records at or below .500. In the latter, they rank fourth, just ahead of Baylor, Ohio State and Stanford. Fourth! Who knew beating up on Idaho, Eastern Michigan and UMass could be so good for one's reputation?

29. MICHIGAN (6-2).

30. TEXAS TECH (7-2).

31. WASHINGTON (5-3.

32. USC (5-3).

33. ARIZONA (6-2). I don't know if it's possible for a reigning All-American to be "under the radar," really, but if it is, Ka'Deem Carey is pulling it off with aplomb. After leading the nation in rushing in 2012, Carey is right on schedule to do it again, having broken the century mark now in 11 consecutive games and 17 of his last 20. Chances of cracking the Heisman debate? Virtually nil. One difference this year is that he's breaking fewer long runs (only seven carries of 20 yards or longer, compared to 23 as a sophomore), and Arizona isn't drawing nearly as much attention as it did for last year's fast start. Mainly, though, Carey is such a machine that it's just too easy to take him for granted.

34. OREGON STATE (6-3).

35. UTAH (4-4).

36. HOUSTON (7-1).

37. FLORIDA (4-4). What's left to say here? The Gators are besieged by injuries, out of the running in the SEC East and in danger of complete collapse this weekend against Vanderbilt. With South Carolina and Florida State on deck, .500 and a bottom-rung bowl game looks like a best-case scenario; a lapse against the Commodores would essentially clinch the first losing season at Florida since 1979, ending the second-longest streak in the country.

38. MINNESOTA (7-2).

39. NEBRASKA (7-2). The best thing about Nebraska's Hail Mary heave to beat Northwestern was the fact that it was delivered by a quarterback, Ron Kellogg III, who is both a)A fifth-year senior who spent his first four years on campus as a walk-on, never appearing on the depth chart, and b)Legitimately fat on a Lorenzen-esque scale. Kellogg's official team bio lists him at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, which is like the time your high school program listed your scrawny, 125-pound ass at 160 when you were in 10th grade, but the opposite of that. After the game, RKIII attributed the apparent bulk to his rib protector, but my guess is he goes 250 if he's an ounce.

40. BALL STATE (9-1).

41. GEORGIA TECH (6-3).

42. DUKE (6-2).

43. VIRGINIA TECH (6-3). Last week I defended quarterback Logan Thomas as the only part of Virginia Tech's offense that occasionally, kind of works, and the point still stands after Thomas accounted for 429 of the Hokies' 446 total yards at Boston College. But the other point about–that he is an erratic turnover machine who consistently undermines an excellent, overworked defense–was driven home with even greater emphasis. Four more giveaways against the Eagles gives Thomas eight (six interceptions, two fumbles) in back-to-back losses, both games Tech would have won by punting on those possessions instead. With three games to go in his career, he's no closer to fulfilling his enormous potential than he was three years ago.

44. BOISE STATE (6-3).

45. VANDERBILT (4-4).

46. TENNESSEE (4-5).

47. IOWA (5-4). Saturday's loss to Wisconsin proved again that as long as it's a mathematical possibility, Kirk Ferentz plays every game to win it 6 to 4.

48. PENN STATE (5-3).

49. WASHINGTON STATE (4-5).

50. MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-4).

51. EAST CAROLINA (6-2).

52. BOSTON COLLEGE (4-4).

53. MARYLAND (5-3).

54. PITTSBURGH (4-4). My vote for Most Beleaguered Player goes to Pitt's Aaron Donald, an undersized (6-0, 285) defensive tackle who has been the most disruptive linemen in the nation for a team that seems determined to finish 6-7 for the third year in a row. (At least the transition from the Big East to the ACC means they won't be going back to the BBVA Compass Bowl.) Saturday, Donald was credited with 11 tackles (all solo), six tackles for loss and two forced fumbles against Georgia Tech, while the offense finished with -5 yards rushing in a 21-10 loss.

55. KANSAS STATE (4-4).

56. WEST VIRGINIA (4-5).

57. CINCINNATI (6-2).

58. RUTGERS (5-3).

59. BUFFALO (7-2).

60. TOLEDO (6-3).

61. UTAH STATE (5-4).

62. SAN JOSE STATE (5-3).

63. NORTHWESTERN (4-5). Northwestern is this week's occupant of the CRATER OF MEDIOCRITY, the depressing hole at the dead center of the rankings. It's an appropriate landing: With the Hail-Mary heartbreak at Nebraska, the Wildcats have lost five in a row in increasingly despondent fashion, from blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Ohio State to falling short in overtime at Iowa to… well, see above. The loss in Lincoln marked the second year in a row Northwestern has blown a double-digit lead against the Cornhuskers, as well as a +3 turnover margin.

64. NAVY (4-4).

65. INDIANA (3-5).

66. SYRACUSE (4-4).

67. NORTH CAROLINA (3-5).

68. TCU (3-6).

69. ILLINOIS (3-5). Saturday's loss at Penn State was Illinois's 18th in a row in Big Ten play, and the most disappointing: When the Illini scored to go ahead, 17-14, with 5:30 to play, suddenly they found themselves with a fourth-quarter lead over a B1G opponent for the first time since Oct. 29, 2011. (Also against Penn State, coincidentally, in what turned out to be Joe Paterno's final game.) But the lead didn't last then, and it didn't last on Saturday, thanks to a late Nittany Lion field goal to tie and an interception in overtime. If losing is inevitable, which it certainly seems to be at this point, sometimes it's better just to take your lumps and be done with it at the half.

70. NORTH TEXAS (6-3).

71. RICE (6-2).

72. TULANE (6-3). At one point Saturday, quarterbacks Devin Powell and Nick "Yes That Montana" Montana combined to throw four interceptions on four consecutive passes against Florida Atlantic, three of them to the same guy. (The Green Wave lost, 34-17, blowing a ten-point lead at the half.) At this point, they can go on pulling that shit for the rest of the year and this will still be the best Tulane team in more than a decade, by a mile.

73. OHIO (6-3).

74. MARSHALL (5-3).

75. LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE (6-2).

76. BOWLING GREEN (6-3).

77. WAKE FOREST (4-5).

78. WESTERN KENTUCKY (5-4).

79. MIDDLE TENNESSEE (5-4). The Blue Raiders beat UAB Saturday, 24-21, on a last-second field goal, the second game in a row and third this year they've won on the last snap. (Last week, MTSU beat Marshall on a touchdown pass with no time remaining, roughly a month after outlasting Florida Atlantic in overtime. Prior to that, there was also a late, go-ahead field goal in the final two minutes against Memphis that turned out to be the game-winner.) The only victory that hasn't come down to the wire was an opening-day win over Western Carolina. Just FYI, since you'll probably want to tune in to the end of the Beef 'O' Daddy dot com Bowl or wherever they end up going.

80. ARKANSAS (3-6).

81. COLORADO (3-5).

82. SMU (3-4).

83. SAN DIEGO STATE (4-4).

84. COLORADO STATE (4-5).

85. UNLV (5-4).

86. WYOMING (4-4).

87. VIRGINIA (2-7). On the latest installment of Mike London's Burning: Virginia was thoroughly trounced Saturday by Clemson, at home, clinching a losing record for the third time in four years on London's watch; with North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech on deck, the Cavs are well on their way to finishing winless in the ACC with 10 consecutive losses to FBS opponents. For that, London is set to make $2.2 million as part of a seven-year deal that will pay him $15 million in all–most of which he'll get even if he's shown the door. More proof that once you get paid in this country, you stay paid.

88. N.C. STATE (3-5).

89. LOUISIANA-MONROE (4-4).

90. TEXAS STATE (6-3).

91. TROY (5-3).

92. ARKANSAS STATE (4-4).

93. TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (4-5).

94. FLORIDA ATLANTIC (3-6).

95. NEVADA (3-6).

96. IOWA STATE (1-6).

97. SOUTH FLORIDA (2-6).

98. KENTUCKY (2-6).

99. KANSAS (2-5).

100. CALIFORNIA (1-8).

101. PURDUE (1-7). The margin in Saturday's loss to Ohio State, 56-0, made it the most lopsided defeat in Purdue history, among a host of other new lows. (The Buckeyes set a new scoring record in Ross-Ade Stadium, breaking the record set by Northern Illinois in September.) Aside from a meaningless, garbage-time touchdown in the final minute of a blowout loss to Nebraska, the Boilermakers have been shut out by Big Ten defenses in 14 consecutive quarters.

102. SOUTH ALABAMA (3-5).

103. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (3-6).

104. AKRON (3-7).

105. KENT STATE (2-8).

106. AIR FORCE (2-7).

107. ARMY (3-6).

108. TULSA (2-6). This section of the rankings is littered with underachievers, but none have missed the mark quite as egregiously as Tulsa, which began the season as an overwhelming favorite to repeat as C-USA champion and finds itself instead staring down the barrel of a losing season. Predictably, the Golden Hurricane are well behind last year's pace in terms of both total offense and total defense, but they're also committing suicide by turnover, finishing in the red in all six losses.

109. LOUISIANA TECH (3-5).

110. UAB (2-6).

111. MEMPHIS (1-6).

112. NEW MEXICO (2-6).

113. HAWAII (0-8).

114. IDAHO (1-8). I have no idea how Idaho beat Temple earlier this year, and I prefer to leave it a mystery, like that one unlabeled can at the top of your cabinet you're afraid to open. In their other other eight games, the Vandals have been outscored by 250 points.

115. TEMPLE (1-8).

116. CONNECTICUT (0-7).

117. WESTERN MICHIGAN (1-8).

118. MASSACHUSETTS (1-8).

119. EASTERN MICHIGAN (1-7). Between them, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan are 1-15 against FBS opponents, losing on average by four touchdowns per game. This weekend's showdown threatens to open a spectacular vortex of directional suck over Ypsilanti, which will be valiantly chronicled by the only guy in attendance and completely ignored by the rest of the world.

120. UTEP (1-7).

121. FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (1-6).

122. NEW MEXICO STATE (1-7).

123. MIAMI (OHIO) (0-9). The RedHawks are averaging 10 points per game, on pace to finish as the lowest-scoring FBS offense since 2006.

124. GEORGIA STATE (0-9).

125. SOUTHERN MISS (0-8). The nation's longest losing streak hit 20 games Saturday in a ridiculous, 61-13 loss at Marshall, marking both the most points the Thundering Herd have ever scored in a Conference USA game and the most the Golden Eagles have ever allowed. Speaking of counting: Marshall is the seventh consecutive opponent to count Southern Miss as its most lopsided victory of the season.


Matt Hinton writes about college football for Football Outsiders and SB Nation's Football Study Hall. Follow him on Twitter, @MattRHinton.