How Miami Got Away With It: 125 FBS Teams, Ranked

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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 (7-0). There were six games Saturday between SEC teams, and the Vegas favorite lost in five in them in potentially season-crippling fashion. Then there's Alabama, which bludgeoned Arkansas by the exact same score as last year, 52-0, the Crimson Tide's 42nd consecutive victory over an unranked opponent and 23rd consecutive victory over an unranked opponent by at least 17 points. There were a few suggestions over the first half of the season that this team doesn't possess the same alpha-dominant streak as some of its predecessors, mainly because the defense looked so vulnerable in a very un-Bama-like shootout at Texas A&M. Six weeks later, though, the Tide are back to their usual perch, statistically, ranking fifth nationally in total defense and first in scoring D. In their last five games since yielding six touchdowns and 42 points to A&M, they've allowed one touchdown and 16 points combined.

2. FLORIDA STATE (6-0). After a decade of false starts, Saturday's start-to-finish 51-14 beatdown at Clemson looked like the official return of the halcyon Free Shoes University-era Noles in every respect. Halfway through the regular season, they're outscoring opponents by 41 points per game and have betrayed no hint of weakness in the façade. Is this the appropriate time to point out that FSU has lost at least one game as a ranked team to an unranked opponent in eight consecutive seasons? Or is it safe to assume they're past all that?


3. OREGON (7-0). Even if you're doubling down on Jameis Winston's emerging reign of terror in the ACC, Florida State still has a very tall, ludicrously attired hurdle to clear in the BCS standings. True, the initial standings released on Sunday night give the nod to the Noles at No. 2, despite Oregon's grip on that spot in both of the relevant human polls. (The computers put them over the top, ranking FSU No. 1 in three of the six computer polls and in the consensus of all six.) In the final tally, though, the distance from No. 2 and No. 3 is barely perceptible—.0028 points is the narrowest margin between any two teams in the top 25—and should be no problem for Oregon to make up against a backloaded schedule that includes UCLA, Stanford, Oregon State, and (presumably) the Pac-12 title game. The human voters have already expressed their solidarity with the Ducks: If the massacre in Death Valley wasn't enough to get FSU to No. 2 in those polls, it's not going to happen until Oregon or Bama actually loses. Assuming neither one does, it's only a matter of time before the computers fall in line.


4. MISSOURI (7-0). If you're so inclined—and I know so many of you are—it's certainly possible to diminish or outright dismiss back-to-back upsets over Georgia and Florida as an example of a hot, relatively fresh team catching a pair of injury-ravaged frontrunners at just the right time. (The Bulldogs and Gators were both missing their best players, Todd Gurley and Dominique Easley, respectively, among others.) With anyone who actually watched those games, though, the skeptics have about as much chance as opposing offensive lines have had against the Mizzou pass rush, which leads the SEC so far in both sacks and the kind of blue-chip swagger that allegedly separates the Ess Ee See brand from the rest of the country. Somehow, ESPN even managed to unearth an obscure statistic that shows the Tigers' front four is generating more pressure than any other defense in the major conferences without help from blitzers. An extended run in this league behind an unheralded redshirt freshman quarterback may be a longshot, but the next lineman this year to keep Michael Sam out of his backfield on a consistent basis will be the first.

5. OHIO STATE (7-0). A win is a win is etc., but for an outfit considered head and shoulders above the rest of its conference, the Buckeyes never make it look easy, do they? Saturday's 34-24 win over Iowa matched OSU's widest margin of victory in its last five Big Ten games, and the sixth time in the course of an 11-game B1G winning streak that it's trailed in the second half.


6. STANFORD (6-1). How long did it take ESPN to brand this amazing one-handed touchdown catch by Stanford's Kodi Whitfield with the #SCtop10 hashtag?

In real time, it was probably between 40 seconds and a minute, the third or fourth time the broadcast showed the replay. Because heaven forbid the viewing audience appreciate a spectacular feat of athleticism on its own terms before it can be re-contextualized in terms of how it will be interpreted by ESPN.


7. BAYLOR (6-0). If you're impressed by Baylor's chart-topping, Earth-scorching offense, you should be prepared to defend the defense. Right now, that's easy: The Bears rank among the top dozen nationally in both yards and points allowed, and came within 47 seconds against Iowa State on Saturday of their first in-conference shutout since 1985. OK, so now you should be prepared to defend the schedule, which is not so easy: After this weekend's inevitable annihilation of Kansas, the Bears will go into November with a single win over an opponent with a winning record, and that opponent (believe it or not) is Buffalo. From there, it gets much steeper, very quickly.

8. MIAMI (6-0). Although it was not a slap on the wrist—the Canes have forsworn bowl games the last two seasons, and passed on playing in the ACC championship game in 2012—the long-awaited verdict against Miami in the Nevin Shapiro scandal was more proof that the NCAA cares a lot less about its members breaking the rules than it does about how they respond when caught. Remember when the scandal broke back in 2011? There was serious, sober discussion about whether many allegations detailed by Yahoo would or should summon the NCAA "death penalty." Here was documented evidence of a booster funneling tens of thousands of dollars in cash and prizes to players and recruits and even coaches in multiple sports over the course of an entire decade. Instead, in addition to the "self-imposed" bowl ban in 2011-12, the U was docked nine scholarships over the next three years and agreed to some arcane restrictions in recruiting.


Then again, compared to the heavy-handed sanctions levied against USC for lesser offenses in the Reggie Bush case—on top of a bowl ban, the Trojans were docked 30 scholarships over three years, more per year than Miami is losing altogether—maybe that does seem like a slap on the wrist. The crucial difference in the cases had nothing to do with what either school did or didn't do in regard to the rules, but how they reacted to the investigation. Because it lacks the resources to proactively enforce a billion bylaws on several hundred member schools, or even a couple dozen of the most high-profile, the NCAA's enforcement model relies heavily on the notion that schools can and will police themselves. It rewards those who make some token attempt to do so with far more lenient sentences. USC, in the NCAA's view, made no such attempt: Faced with allegations against Bush, the university claimed innocence and/or ignorance on most of the charges, made no personnel changes, and challenged the investigation's findings at every step. In other words, it acted like a criminal defendant who expected to be judged based on the evidence (or lack thereof), which turned out to be a flawed analogy in a process with no external oversight.


Miami, on the other hand, while not only failing to prevent violations but actually embracing the perpetrator (Shapiro was a major donor), at least admitted to breaking the rules and showed some semblance of contrition in the form of the bowl ban, a handful of player suspensions, and some minor scholarship restrictions. Ditto Ohio State, which copped to major violations stemming from the Tattoogate scandal in 2010, "vacated" a dozen wins from that season, and eventually fired Jim Tressel for sitting on the story; the Buckeyes were subsequently hit with a one-year bowl ban and (like Miami) docked a relatively paltry nine scholarships over three years. Oregon got a lot less than that. Every time a new sentence is handed down these days, USC stamps its foot over the lack of brimstone. But even when the head coach himself is caught red-handed in a coverup, all the NCAA has ever needed to hear is, "Yes, you're right and we're so sorry."

9. CLEMSON (6-1). What is the essence of "Clemsoning"? Suddenly the question demands an answer. In its most venerable form, the true Clemsoning occurs at an especially unexpected and/or inopportune moment against a random underling—your Marylands, your Georgia Techs, and so forth. As all language evolves, though, so the definition has expanded to encompass all manner of disappointing flops, as we see in the well-trod Urban Dictionary entry defining "Clemsoning" as "the act of delivering an inexplicably disappointing performance," "the act of failing miserably on a grand athletic stage, or when the stakes are high" and "failing miserably and/or by a wide margin." All of the above apply to the Tigers' lopsided, miserable loss to Florida State on national television, where the stakes were arguably higher than they'd been in any Clemson game in decades and the result that much more deflating. I honestly never thought we'd be having this discussion about a team quarterbacked by Tajh Boyd, who'd seemed to put the "Clemsoning" meme to bed for good in star-making turns against LSU and Georgia, but there's no point arguing with the authorities.


10. LSU (6-2). It speaks volumes for LSU's reputation for producing beastly, blue-chip defenses that everyone just assumed the Tigers could replace seven draft picks on that side of the ball without missing a beat. Yeah, not so much. With 525 yards on Saturday, Ole Miss was the first SEC offense to crack the 500-yard barrier against LSU since Cam Newton's unforgettable Nissan #HeismanMoment™ (presented by AFLAC) back in 2010, and the fourth to drop at least 400 yards on the Tigers in less than a month. In conference games, they're more than 100 yards per game behind the curve of any previous Les Miles defense with the exception of 2008, the only team in the Miles era that finished unranked; in that case, they're only 65 yards behind the curve.

11. AUBURN (6-1). This may seem like a strange thing to say about a team that just gave up 41 points at Texas A&M, but I'm impressed by Auburn's front four on defense. (Or more accurately, as often as they substitute, Auburn's front nine.) At any rate, despite Johnny Manziel's success as a passer, the Tigers did a relatively good job of keeping the pressure on in the pass rush (Manziel was sacked three times with two interceptions) and hemming him in as a scrambler. The Aggies finished with their worst output of the season on the ground, by far, and—impressive as 41 points may look in any other context—also their worst output on the scoreboard.


12. TEXAS TECH (7-0). Like Baylor, the Red Raiders' undefeated record comes with a single victory over an opponent with a winning record (Texas State) and at least as many questions as answers about their staying power at the top of the Big 12 standings. Unlike Baylor, they can supply those answers definitively in one direction or the other this weekend at Oklahoma.

13. UCLA (5-1).

14. VIRGINIA TECH (6-1).

15. OKLAHOMA (6-1). If you were watching the scrolling ticker on Saturday, you saw Kansas take a 13-0 lead over Oklahoma in the first quarter and hang around within plausible striking distance well into the fourth. If you actually watched the game, you saw Jayhawk QB Jake Heaps complete 5 of 13 passes for 16 yards, matching the most anemic output through the air of any FBS offense this season. I hope the rest of your day was more productive.




18. ARIZONA STATE (5-2). Sometimes when you're trying to project an ostensibly evenly matched game, you come across a trend that cracks the dilemma wide open. For example, last week I was intuitively leaning toward Arizona State over Washington (mainly because ASU was at home) until I noticed the Sun Devils had been fairly horrible against the run; meanwhile, Washington boasted the nation's leading rusher, Bishop Sankey, and had already put up big games on the ground against Boise State, Illinois, Arizona, and Oregon. Naturally, I picked the Huskies straight-up as slight underdogs, based on their proven ability to establish the run. And naturally, of course, Arizona State proceeded to hold them to -5 yards rushing on 25 carries in a 53-24 blowout. I stand by the pick and will go on following the same logic until I die, probably at the hands of an enraged gambler.


19. TEXAS A&M (5-2). It's fair at this point to portray Johnny Manziel as a full-blown turnover machine: Already, he's been responsible for two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) in A&M's loss to Alabama, an interception and a fumble in a narrow escape at Ole Miss, and two more picks in Saturday's loss to Auburn, giving him nearly as many giveaways at midseason as he had in all of 2012. Then again, that's what happens when a player as prolific and confident as Johnny F. feels the pressure to overcome a rock-bottom defense that turns every game into a can-you-top-this shootout. While Manziel, incredibly, is ahead of last year's record pace in terms of total offense, in four SEC games the defense is yielding an equally incredible 532 yards and 41 points per game. Even though two losses leaves the Aggies with none of their most ambitious goals intact, there is still no player more valuable to his team right now than Mssr. Football.

20. SOUTH CAROLINA (5-2). Without the flying helmet, any and all attempts to turn this hit by Jadeveon Clowney against Tennessee …

… into a reprise of The Hit from January's Outback Bowl were futile, although by any standard it was Clowney's best game since that play transformed him from an All-American into college football's answer to Paul Bunyan. (Well, unless you're counting the final score.) Personally, I was more impressed by a later play wherein a panicked Rajion Neal, again finding himself in Clowney's grasp in the backfield, awkwardly pitched the ball forward for an incomplete pass on his way to the turf. It cost Clowney a TFL on the stat sheet, but the Gamecocks welcome all future running backs to give it a shot.


21. FRESNO STATE (6-0).

22. MICHIGAN (6-1).

23. NOTRE DAME (5-2). After combining for 24 points in the first half, the offenses for Notre Dame and USC failed to score at all in the second, combining for 10 punts, eight three-and-outs, two turnovers, one third-down conversion, and two turnovers on downs in the final two quarters alone. The Irish sealed a 14-10 win in appropriately anticlimactic fashion, on three straight incomplete passes by Cody Kessler to end the Trojans' final threat.



25. LOUISVILLE (6-1). Perversely, I enjoyed seeing Teddy Bridgewater's Heisman campaign coming to an apparent end last Friday as he watched Central Florida's game-winning drive from the sideline, just to relish the transparent idiocy that a quarterback's perceived value can plummet without his setting foot on the field. A few minutes earlier, Bridgewater was the hero after leading the Cardinals to a go-ahead touchdown that would have preserved their perfect season, if only the defense—ranked No. 2 nationally in total defense and No. 1 in scoring, coming in—had been able to come up with one last stop. Instead, he's automatically written off after arguably his best game of the season. Screw the context, TEDDY BRIDGEWATA IS NAWT A WINNAH.


26. OLE MISS (4-3).

27. GEORGIA (4-3). It's impossible to describe Georgia's slide from the national championship picture without referring to the plague of injuries that has mowed down like half the depth chart, but frankly any team that manages to blow a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter … to Vanderbilt … courtesy of a botched punt … has really made its own bed.


28. WISCONSIN (5-2).


30. OREGON STATE (6-1).

31. NEBRASKA (6-1).

32. BYU (5-2). The Cougars got in as many offensive snaps against Houston (115) as any FBS offense ever has in a single game, with helps explain how quarterback Taysom Hill wound up attempting 44 passes while also logging 34 carries in one afternoon. (Eight of those carries were sacks, for a net loss of 66 yards.) In other words, a perfect time for a short week! BYU gets Boise State at home on Friday night, which should right around the time Hill finally emerges from the hot tub.


33. TEXAS (4-2).

34. WASHINGTON (4-3).

35. ARIZONA (4-2).

36. UTAH (4-3).

37. FLORIDA (5-2). Remember when Tyler Murphy looked like the answer at quarterback in place of Jeff Driskel? After failing to score a touchdown against LSU—see above for the current state of LSU's defense against everyone else—the Gators finished with fewer yards of total offense at Missouri (155) than in any game since the 1999 SEC championship, and only crossed midfield once.


38. BOISE STATE (5-2).

39. PENN STATE (4-2).

40. HOUSTON (5-1).

41. GEORGIA TECH (4-3).

42. BALL STATE (7-1).

43. USC (4-3). Only 48 scholarship players saw the field against Notre Dame, and lingering injuries have forced the Trojans to practice this week with a banged-up starting quarterback, no scholarship tight ends, only two scholarship receivers (both playing on bad ankles), and too few offensive linemen to fill a two-deep. A knee injury to starting linebacker Lamar Dawson brings the complete injury list to 15 names, nine of them offensive skill players, including the top two tailbacks (Tre Madden and Justin Davis) and six of the top seven receivers. Somebody is going to show up this weekend against Utah, but even Trojans fans deranged enough to obsess over this lame-duck roster might not recognize them.


44. TENNESSEE (4-3). The most impressive true freshman in the country over the first half of the season (if not the most productive) is Tennessee wide receiver Marquez North, who would get serious consideration for the title based on this clutch catch against South Carolina alone.

North finished with just three catches for the game, but two of them were long, acrobatic grabs in the fourth quarter that set up a pair of field goals—i.e. the difference in a 23-21 upset, the Vols' first win over a ranked opponent in 19 tries.


45. VANDERBILT (4-3).

46. IOWA (4-3).

47. RUTGERS (4-2).

48. MINNESOTA (5-2).

49. PITTSBURGH (4-2).

50. DUKE (5-2).

51. MARYLAND (5-2). When it rains on Maryland, it pours, then floods, then follows up with tornadoes. Not only did the Terps get blown out by 24 points Saturday at Wake Forest; they also lost their two best players on offense, receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, both of whom will miss the rest of the season with knee injuries. You'll recall that in 2012 the Terrapins lost every quarterback on the roster to injury with four games left to play, subsequently finishing 0-4 in November after a respectable 4-4 start. As of Saturday, the QB shuffle has been reinstated, for different reasons, but the general sentiment after a 4-0 start is the same.


52. EAST CAROLINA (5-2).

53. RICE (5-2).


55. WASHINGTON STATE (4-4). Connor Halliday attempted 89 passes against Oregon—seriously, now, 89 passes—surpassing the FBS record set by Purdue's Drew Brees in a 31-24 loss at Wisconsin in 1998. The vast majority of Halliday's attempts came in the doldrums of a game the Cougars had no realistic chance of winning at any point, in which time he also set Pac-12 records for completions (58) and passing yards (557) against mostly scrubs. Oregon's defensive coordinator was not impressed.


56. TCU (3-4).


58. INDIANA (3-4).

59. BOWLING GREEN (5-2).

60. ILLINOIS (3-3).

61. CINCINNATI (5-2).

62. UTAH STATE (4-4).

63. BOSTON COLLEGE (3-3). The Eagles are this week's occupants of the CRATER OF MEDIOCRITY, the depressing hole at the dead center of the rankings, which feels like a tangible step up from the depths of the past two years. (You were reasonably competitive with Florida State and Clemson? Look at you!) Not enough progress to avoid being tabbed as a seven-point underdog against North Carolina, a team boasting a single win, over Middle Tennessee State, but you know, one step at a time.


64. OHIO (5-2).

65. MARSHALL (4-2).

66. TOLEDO (4-3).

67. WEST VIRGINIA (3-4).

68. KANSAS STATE (2-4).


70. WAKE FOREST (4-3).

71. SYRACUSE (3-4). I'm not sure if I feel worse for the Syracuse fans who made the trip to Atlanta for a 56-0 beatdown against Georgia Tech, or the Syracuse blogger who actually went through with his weekly breakdown of all the Orange's offensive plays. Fortunately, in both cases, there were so few of them.


72. ARKANSAS (3-5).

73. NAVY (3-3).

74. TULANE (5-2).

75. BUFFALO (5-2).

76. SAN JOSE STATE (3-3).

77. NORTH TEXAS (4-3).


79. N.C. STATE (3-3).

80. NORTH CAROLINA (1-5). Given that there is nothing resembling a pecking order in the ACC behind the "Big Four" at the top—Florida State and Clemson in the Atlantic Division, Miami and Virginia Tech in the Coastal—the Tar Heels could conceivably win or lose any or all of their last six games and it would make exactly the same amount of sense.


81. SMU (2-4).

82. COLORADO (3-3).

83. SAN DIEGO STATE (3-3).

84. NEVADA (3-4).


86. WYOMING (4-3).

87. UNLV (4-3).

88. VIRGINIA (2-5). The Cavaliers blew a 22-point lead Saturday against Duke—which, 5-2 record notwithstanding, remains Duke—the fourth time in four weeks they've come out of a winnable game one rung further down the ladder. In the first game in that stretch, UVA failed to score a touchdown against Pitt; in the second, they were blown out by 21 points by a MAC team, Ball State; last week, they lost by one point to Maryland after settling for five field goal attempts inside the UMD 15-yard line. After that game, coach Mike London received the dreaded vote of confidence from his boss, athletic director Craig Littlepage, who promised London would be back in 2014. On Monday, London stuck up for himself, insisting to reporters he's "the right man for the job." If/when the losing streak hits five against Georgia Tech, with Clemson, Miami, and Virginia Tech on deck, those start to look like famous last words.


89. IOWA STATE (1-5).

90. KANSAS (2-4).

91. KENTUCKY (1-5).

92. CALIFORNIA (1-6). Watching the baby Bears at the beginning of the year, I pegged them as an outfit that would grow into a season-spoiling nuisance by the end. Since then, they seem to be going steadily in the opposite direction.


93. PURDUE (1-6).


95. TROY (4-3).

96. SOUTH ALABAMA (3-3).

97. TEXAS STATE (4-3).


99. TULSA (2-4).


101. KENT STATE (2-6). Nothing like a 17-point loss to South Alabama to snuff out any lingering notion that this is the same team that pulled off an out-of-nowhere run to the MAC championship game in 2012. Partly the regression to the mean is due to the defense—in five losses, the Flashes are allowing 535 yards and 37 points per game—but more specifically it's about turnovers/lack thereof. Last year Kent forced 38 takeaways, second only to Oregon; this year, it's on pace to force 14, one of the lowest numbers in the MAC.




104. SOUTH FLORIDA (2-4).

105. ARMY (3-5).


107. MEMPHIS (1-5).

108. UAB (2-4).

109. AKRON (2-6). Saturday's win over Miami (Ohio) snapped a 28-game losing streak against FBS opponents dating back to 2010, the longest skid in the nation, as well as a 30-game road losing streak and a 74-year drought for Akron in Oxford, Ohio. The Zips are still named for an obsolete rubber shoe from the turn of the 20th century, the equivalent of a team today dubbing itself the "Uggs."


110. NEW MEXICO (2-5).

111. AIR FORCE (1-6).

112. LOUISIANA TECH (2-5).

113. TEMPLE (1-6).

114. HAWAII (0-6).

115. CONNECTICUT (0-6).


117. EASTERN MICHIGAN (1-6). As usual, the Eagles rank dead last in the FBS in attendance, drawing a reported 5,442 fans per game, well below the NCAA-mandated minimum of 15,000 to retain FBS status. (Through three home games, EMU reports 16,327 fans total, which is actually on pace to exceed the number from 2012.) As usual, the barrier is meaningless as long as the university is allowed to buy enough tickets from itself through funds allocated in various corporate contracts. Go Fighting PepsiCos!


118. UTEP (1-5).

119. IDAHO (1-6).



122. MIAMI (OHIO) (0-7).

124. GEORGIA STATE (0-7).

123. NEW MEXICO STATE (0-7). NMSU allowed only 45 points Saturday in a lopsided loss to Rice, slightly improving in terms of total defense to 48.3 points per game. That's still the worst average in FBS history, but this weekend's opponent, Abilene Christian, is about as far from an FBS program as the Aggies are allowed to play under NCAA rules. Meaning it's as close as they're going to get to a win.


125. SOUTHERN MISS (0-6). The Golden Eagles trailed East Carolina 55-0 after three quarters, having failed to score on offense or force a punt on defense en route to their 18th consecutive defeat. Fortunately, they weren't above adding a pair of meaningless touchdowns in the fourth, or it would have looked really bleak.

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