Jeremy Hill Is A Beast. Does His Past Matter? 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. Last week's rankings were not consulted.

1. ALABAMA (3–0). After surviving a wild, uncharacteristic shootout at Texas A&M, Bama ran just 48 offensive plays Saturday in a sleepy win over Colorado State, fewest in the Nick Saban era. This is like when you pull a couple all-nighters in a row to finish a big project at work, then spend the next week groggily clicking through a Wikipedia wormhole on European history and the comment sections on reviews of TV shows you hate. The difference is that your boss has probably never responding by having a walk-on sacrificed during a team meeting to get everybody's head right for Ole Miss.


2. OREGON (3–0). The Ducks took the weekend off for some quiet contemplation, but quarterback Marcus Mariota looked so good in inaction that the oddsmakers at Bovada extended his lead in the Heisman race, bumping his odds of winning from 9/2 to 3/1 following the bye.

3. LSU (4–0). Herculean tailback Jeremy Hill is going to be a star, meaning everyone who is now obligated to write or talk about him is also obligated to decide how much they care that Hill has pleaded guilty to two violent crimes in the past three years. I bring it up selfishly, because I am one of those people, and after watching him eviscerate Auburn for 183 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday night, I'd like to be able to talk about him as the centerpiece of a championship-caliber offense without having to attach a permanent disclaimer acknowledging the moral purgatory that one enters when heaping praise on a violent offender for being good at football. We're not talking about weed or some arbitrary NCAA controversy here: I can't recall another player on the college level with Hill's profile who has played with anything as serious as a sexual battery rap in his background, much less an additional battery charge after arriving on campus.


That's not an argument that he shouldn't be playing—quite the opposite. My policy on that kind of moralizing is that if the legal system, the university, and the coaches are okay with letting a borderline kid continue to play, that's their call. (In this case, the decision was also up to Hill's teammates, who voted to allow him back this summer.) If not, also their call. They have assumed a role in his development as a citizen and a human. I'm interested in the kid as a player. And Hill is a hell of a player. Like most people, the best I can do at reconciling these competing impulses is to nod in the general direction of Cecil Collins, another talented, troubled LSU running back who shone so brightly in such a brief window of time—he saw the field in a grand total of four games in 1997—that his ongoing legal odyssey still makes local headlines more than 15 years later. How good could "The Diesel" have been, if he'd remained healthy and out of handcuffs? Jeremy Hill is in the process of showing us. Whether or not he deserves the opportunity, I'd still prefer we never wind up asking the same question about him.


4. CLEMSON (3–0). For my money the worst call of the week came in the Tigers' 26–14 win over N.C. State, when officials ruled N.C. State receiver Bryan Underwood stepped out of bounds in the course of what appeared to be an 83-yard, go-ahead touchdown run in the third quarter. (ACC headquarters issued an official response stating that, after reviewing every possible angle, they still have no idea if Underwood stepped out or not. I have an idea: He didn't.) The Wolfpack trailed 13–7 at the time; a touchdown would have given them a 14–13 lead, at home, with a quarter-and-a-half to play and this guy getting warmed up. That's still no excuse for going in the tank instead.

5. STANFORD (3–0). The Cardinal mostly dominated the weekend's only collision of ranked teams, leading Arizona State 29–0 at the half and 39–7 at the end of the third quarter. I'm not sure if an ASU "rally" to bring the final score to 42–28 means anything or not.


6. FLORIDA STATE (3–0). FSU was one of many top teams this weekend that found themselves contorting into unprecedented yoga poses to avoid scoring 100 points on some random gnat that just hoped to make it out alive. With a 54–6 win over Bethune-Cookman, the Seminoles were slightly more humane about it than others.

7. OHIO STATE (4–0). The Buckeyes so thoroughly obliterated Florida A&M—with their star quarterback on the bench, no less—that I feel like punishing them just for scheduling the game in the first place. (And please, don't be one of those sad-sack homers who defends adding FAMU to the schedule as a last-second replacement for Vanderbilt. One, you are wrong. Two, any game in which a 50-point favorite covers the spread before halftime cannot be justified under any circumstances.)


8. GEORGIA (2–1). No team has benefited more from the quirks of SEC scheduling than Georgia. In 2011, the Bulldogs' cross-division opponents from the West Division were Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Auburn (combined conference record: 6–18), and they repped the East in the conference championship game without taking down a single ranked opponent. In 2012, the cross-division draw gave them Ole Miss and Auburn (combined conference record: 3–13), and they repped the East in the conference championship game with only one ranked victim, Florida. (The Gators' draw from the West: LSU and Texas A&M.) No such luck this year, with LSU coming to Athens this weekend in a defining game for both sides. If Georgia wins, it will be its first victory over a ranked opponent from the West since 2008.


10. WASHINGTON (3–0).


12. TEXAS A&M (3–1).

13. UCLA (3–0).

14. OKLAHOMA (3–0).

15. LOUISVILLE (4–0). After I gave Ohio State what-for over a game it won 76–0, it might seem hypocritical to defend Louisville for hosting a 72–0 debacle against Florida International that played out in the same grisly fashion. I'm going to do it anyway. Unlike Florida A&M, FIU is a full-fledged FBS program, one that just moved into the same conference (Conference USA) that Louisville called home less than a decade ago. In fact, the last time these two teams played, FIU left Louisville with a 24–17 upset in 2011, on its way to its second consecutive bowl game. When Saturday's game was scheduled, Louisville was one of the worst teams in the Big East under coach Steve Kragthorpe, and hot shot recruit Teddy Bridgewater had never heard of the state of Kentucky. While FIU probably looked like a reliable win at the time, it wasn't the kind of game you could peg three or four years out as a 72-point blowout. Unlike Ohio State with FAMU, Louisville had reason to expect a little better (see below).


That said, FIU is definitely not better, and will remain a burden on the Cardinals' already suspect strength-of-schedule for the rest of the year.

16. OLE MISS (3–0).

17. MIAMI (3–0). Again, the Hurricanes get no credit whatsoever for beating up Savannah State, a rock-bottom FCS outfit that finished 1–10 last year in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and came in 243rd out of 246 teams in Jeff Sagarin's full Division I rankings. Prior to Saturday's "game," the Tigers had already been trounced this year by margins of 68 points at Georgia Southern and 63 points at Troy. (The final margin in Miami was 70 points.) Obscure athletic departments agree to such ritual humiliations because they need the money to keep the lights on. I just hope the golf team realizes it has blood on its hands.


18. NORTHWESTERN (4–0). Michigan State can't score, Nebraska can't stop anyone from scoring and Michigan can't stop turning the ball over. Meanwhile, here are the Wildcats, cruising into the bye week looking like the class of the Big Ten's Legends Division.

19. BAYLOR (3–0). If I said something like, "Baylor is leading the nation …" etc., I'm not sure it'd really capture what's going on right now with this offense. On Saturday, the Bears scored eight touchdowns in a span of 46 snaps before cutting the engine against Louisiana–Monroe, building a 63–7 lead less than four minutes into the third quarter. (The defense added a score of its own on an interception return.) For the game, Baylor racked up 781 yards of total offense on 10.1 per play; for the season, it's averaging 751 yards on 9.8 per play despite throttling down in the third quarter of all three games.


20. MICHIGAN (4–0). What are we supposed to do with this team? A couple weeks back I joked that I'd like to see quarterback Devin Gardner continue to balance the excellence he displayed against Notre Dame with the hilarity of his only major mistake in that game, and he's taken that suggestion to heart: Over the last two games, Gardner has been responsible for seven turnovers (four interceptions, three fumbles) in a pair of harrowing, skin-of-the-teeth escapes against Akron and UConn, while also leading the Wolverines out of fourth-quarter deficits on both occasions. Works for me, but I'm not sure Michigan fans can take this much entertainment.


21. GEORGIA TECH (3–0). Incredibly, Georgia Tech is now using the end of the insane convocation speech that went viral last month as its official, university-sanctioned commercial during football games, meaning that some shrieking, virginal Nerd God is actually the image Georgia Tech wants to project to the world. I've never felt like much of a jock, but the fact the university is actually embracing that shit feels me with the urge to stuff the entire campus in a locker.


22. FRESNO STATE (3–0). Fresno's back-and-forth, #WACtion-worthy win over Boise State on Friday night was the most entertaining game of the weekend, and snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Broncos dating back to 2005. It may also be the last time we hear from the Bulldogs until A) they lose a game, knocking them out of the chase for a BCS bowl, or B) the BCS pairings come out, and everybody starts bitching about a team that played this schedule being in one.


23. FLORIDA (2–1). When not being hit in the face by the snap, Florida's new quarterback, Tyler Murphy, looked pretty good in his first extended action, leading three consecutive touchdown drives in the second and third quarters that helped the Gators pull away from Tennessee. Still, he was being graded on a pretty forgiving curve: the quarterback Murphy replaced, Jeff Driskel, was injured in the process of throwing a pick-six, his fifth interception in as many quarters, and the defense Murphy was facing finished dead last in the SEC last year in both yards and points allowed; in their first game against a real offense this year, the Vols were incinerated for 59 points at Oregon. Good start; all further judgment withheld until we see him at LSU in a few weeks.


24. NOTRE DAME (3–1). The Irish were the beneficiaries of four pass-interference penalties against Michigan State, three of which served to extend their only two touchdown drives in a 17–13 win. A couple of those were legit. One that definitely was not was a flag on cornerback Trae Waynes that negated a Spartan interception on the first play of the fourth quarter—Waynes positioned himself perfectly on the inside of the receiver and came down with a pick in the end zone that would have prevented the Irish from breaking a 10–10 tie. Instead, the bogus flag gave Notre Dame a first-and-goal at the MSU 7-yard line, from whence it easily punched in a touchdown that turned out to be the difference in the final score. This has been your SYSTEM IS RIGGED FOR NOTRE DAME/THE MEDIA IS BIASED AGAINST NOTRE DAME Moment of the Week.

25. MARYLAND (4–0). At what point are we allowed to concede that Maryland might actually be, I dunno, kinda good? True, the non-schedule leaves a lot to be desired, and even Saturday's 37–0 romp over West Virginia—the Mountaineers' first shutout loss since 2001—may say more about West Virginia's foundering offense than Maryland's defense. (After the game, WVU coach Dana Holgorsen called his team "as inept as we can possibly be," and complained "we didn't compete.") But this is a team that won just four games all season in 2012, and just snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series. Most of what we need to know, we'll learn in two weeks at Florida State; in the meantime, the Terps should enjoy an extra week of being undefeated while they still can.


26. TEXAS TECH (4–0).


28. VIRGINIA TECH (3–1).

29. ARIZONA (3–0).


31. MISSOURI (3–0).

32. ARIZONA STATE (2–1).

33. WISCONSIN (3–1).

34. MICHIGAN STATE (3–1). Whatever you have to say about the officials at Notre Dame, they still weren't as bad as the Michigan State offense, which managed just 254 yards against the same defense Michigan turned into hamburger meat. The Spartans' longest gain of the day was 19 yards, and three of their four trips inside the ND 25-yard line yielded field goal attempts (two good, one missed). Last year, MSU played nine games decided by four points or less, winning four and losing five. Saturday brought their record in that category in 2013 to 0–1. Until they figure out a way to score some points that doesn't involve defensive linemen returning tipped passes, that path leads right back to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.


35. AUBURN (3–1).

36. PENN STATE (3–1).

37. OREGON STATE (3–1).

38. UTAH (3–1).


40. USC (3–1). The Trojans claimed the most perfectly unremarkable victory of the season against Utah State, edging out the Aggies in a plodding, 17–14 decision so devoid of showmanship it failed even to devolve into a comedy of errors. Unless you had money on it, the only possible reactions to this game are "OK" and "that seems about right." It was everything Lane Kiffin could have hoped for.


41. NEBRASKA (3–1). The Cornhuskers beat their token FCS piñata, South Dakota State, by a comfortable margin of 59–20, yet somehow still allowed 200 yards rushing to some guy named Zach Zenner


42. BYU (1–2).

43. UTAH STATE (2–2).

44. TEXAS (2–2).

45. TCU (1–2).

46. MINNESOTA (4–0).

47. VIRGINIA (2–1).

49. RUTGERS (3–1).

50. IOWA (3–1). The Hawkeyes fulfilled Kirk Ferentz's deepest fantasies by scoring four non-offensive touchdowns in less than 15 minutes against Western Michigan, courtesy of back-to-back punt returns by Kevonte Martin-Manley in the second quarter and back-to-back interception returns by B.J. Lowery in the second and third. The final score, 59–3, gave Iowa its widest margin of victory since the 2005 opener, a 56–0 win over Ball State.


51. ILLINOIS (2–1).

52. NAVY (2–0).

53. BOISE STATE (2–2).


55. CINCINNATI (3–1).

56. ARKANSAS (3–1).

56. KANSAS STATE (2–2). The player of the week for my money was diminutive receiver/return man Tyler Lockett, who personally accounted for more than 60 percent of K–State's total offense in a 31–21 loss. By the fourth quarter, the Wildcats' entire game plan consisted of "Bomb to Lockett." Although he didn't find the end zone himself, two of Kansas State's three touchdowns came as a direct result of big plays to its smallest player, following receptions of 47 and 22 yards in the first quarter and 31 yards in the fourth; Lockett also came down with a 52-yard heave in the fourth quarter that put the offense within striking distance, only to watch quarterback Jake Waters fumble away the last chance at a comeback inside the 10-yard line. Through four games, Lockett leads the Big 12 in both receiving and all-purpose yards, which is no small feat.


57. HOUSTON (3–0).

58. BOWLING GREEN (3–1).

59. WYOMING (3–1).


61. PITTSBURGH (2–1).

62. OHIO (3–1).

63. COLORADO (2–0). Colorado is holding down the dead center of the rankings this week—the CRATER OF MEDIOCRITY, as I like to call it—a big step for a perennial doormat after its second consecutive weekend off. (This one was planned; previously, a Sept. 14 visit from Fresno State was postponed due to flooding.) Which just goes to show: The Buffaloes never look better than when they're not playing.



65. VANDERBILT (2–2).

66. TENNESSEE (2–2). After the flop at Oregon, I get why Tennessee coaches were anxious to move on from Justin Worley as starting quarterback. But I would really like to know what they saw in redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman that convinced them he was ready to take that step, on the road, against arguably the best defense in the country. Because his performance in the first half of Saturday's loss to Florida should be edited like one of those videos of gruesome car crashes they show in driver's ed class, set to "Highway To the Danger Zone" and shown at coaching clinics as a cautionary tale. This is what happens when you push a young quarterback too fast, too soon.


In two quarters, Peterman turned the ball over four times (two fumbles, two interceptions) and finished with a pass efficiency rating of 3.8, which as far as I can tell is the worst performance by a starting SEC quarterback, against any opponent, in at least a decade. (Here's the full list of the lowest single-game efficiency ratings from 2003–12, among players who attempted at least 10 passes; Peterman attempted 11.) For some context, keep in mind that the median efficiency rating in college these days is in the neighborhood of 130; anything below 100 is untenable and likely to get you at least temporarily benched. A first-time starter who delivers a 3.8 will probably never be heard from again. Let's just hope he's not scarred for life.


67. BALL STATE (3–1).


69. TOLEDO (2–2).

70. INDIANA (2–2).

71. SYRACUSE (2–2).

72. EAST CAROLINA (2–1).


74. MARSHALL (2–2).

75. WEST VIRGINIA (2–2).

76. CALIFORNIA (1–2).

77. DUKE (2–2).

78. LOUISIANA–LAFAYETTE (2–2). No onside kick ever will or possibly could compete in Louisianans' boudin-encrusted hearts with "Ambush," the surprise onside that propelled the Saints to victory in the Super Bowl, but for plain, dumb balls, it's hard to top the Ragin' Cajuns' decision to go onside Saturday with a slim fourth-quarter lead against Akron—a move that was so crazy it actually worked. Having just gone ahead of the Zips, 28–24, with a little over eight minutes to play, ULL kicker Hunter Stover caught everyone off-guard by flubbing the ensuing kickoff and pouncing on it himself near midfield. (I like to imagine his unwitting coaches looking on in horror, followed by relieved jubilation, but it was a deliberate call by head coach Mark Hudspeth, "to put the dagger in.") From there, the Cajun offense scored again to extend the lead to 35–24, just the cushion they needed in a 35–30 win.


79. NORTH TEXAS (2–2).

80. SAN JOSE STATE (1–2).

81. NEVADA (2–2).


83. WAKE FOREST (2–2).

84. TULSA (1–2).

85. SMU (1–2).

86. PURDUE (1–2).

87. RICE (1–2).

88. KANSAS (2–1). Matthew Wyman connected on a 52-yard field goal as time expired to beat Louisiana Tech 13–10, Kansas's first win over an FBS opponent in two full years. As you might expect, it was due mainly to Louisiana Tech's penchant for kicking itself in its own testicles: Not once but twice in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs appeared to be on their way in for a game-clinching touchdown, only to fumble away the opportunity inside the Kansas 5-yard line on both occasions. And on both occasions, KU's otherwise dormant offense responded by driving for points, following the first fumble with its only touchdown drive and the second with a two-minute drill to set up Wyman's game-winning kick. What a thrill it must be after all this time to discover that you aren't the most hopelessly dysfunctional team on the field for a change.


89. KENT STATE (1–3).



92. TEXAS STATE (2–1).

93. SOUTH ALABAMA (2–1).


95. KENTUCKY (1–2).

96. IOWA STATE (0–2).

97. TROY (2–2).


99. AIR FORCE (1–3).

100. AKRON (1–3).

101. BUFFALO (1–2).

102. UNLV (2–2).

103. TULANE (2–2).

104. UAB (1–2).

105. MEMPHIS (1–2).


[spoiler alert]

107. NEW MEXICO (1–2). Contrived as it may have been, for those of us who thought of Gray Matter Technologies as the "Rosebud" in Walter White's transformation into Heisenberg, the final scene in Sunday's penultimate episode of Breaking Bad struck right at the heart of what makes this character tick at just the right moment. Like much of this season, "Granite State" seemed far too rushed: After five years of raising the legal and financial stakes of Walt's criminal empire, the show spends just one scene on Skyler facing the consequences of its collapse, leaving the rest of her story to exposition delivered by a character we only meet at the beginning of the hour; meanwhile, in New Hampshire, months of soul-crushing isolation pass in a matter of minutes. Although we see Walt as a broken man (and a newly minted hipster), we don't get much sense of the solitude that wore down the bristling thug who arrived there.


What we do get, finally, is a window into his core impulse, beneath the bullshit about "family." To the extent that Walt does care about his family, it's primarily in the selfish context of his own legacy, his need to be seen (or at least remembered) as a capable man, a man who provides. In his mind, Gretchen and Elliott took that identity away from him; his decision to cook, and to keep cooking, and to be known as the greatest cook, stem from his need to get it back. (A man who cared about his family, as opposed to his ego, would have taken Elliott up on his offer to pay for cancer treatments and set him up with a cushy job in the first season, short-circuiting everything that's happened since.) In the end, as in the beginning, it's his erasure from the success of Gray Matter that ignites the pride beneath a hapless, ineffectual stupor. Walt is who he is because he believes Gretchen and Elliott reaped fame and fortune from his brilliance, leaving him with a pittance and no credit. Now, Lydia and Jack's gang of neo-Nazis are reaping the benefits of Walt's "life's work," as he now refers to his trademark blue meth, while he rots 2,000 miles from the destroyed family he only wanted to see him as he sees himself. When he and his money are rejected by Walt Jr., his last tie to family, Walt's instinct is to surrender. When his pride is insulted by Gretchen and Elliott, though, in their interview with Charlie Rose, the original spark is reignited. In the end, as in the beginning, only Walt's pride compels him to act.

[/spoiler alert]

108. CONNECTICUT (0–3).

109. SAN DIEGO STATE (0–3). The Aztecs did what truly terrible teams do Saturday against Oregon State, blowing a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter in balls-kicking fashion. Up 30–28 with 2:37 to play, facing a 2nd-and-19 from its own 16-yard line, SDSU decided to play it safe with a wide receiver screen. Instead, quarterback Quinn Kaehler was late on the throw, and OSU linebacker Steven Nelson stepped in front for an easy pick–six that moved the Beavers in front, 34–30. Another interception on the next series put the game on ice, along with any remaining doubts that this team is every bit the doormat its first two games suggested.


110. ARMY (1–3).

111. UTEP (1–2).



114. SOUTHERN MISS (0–3).

115. LOUISIANA TECH (1–3). Last year, the Bulldogs led the nation in scoring at 51.5 points per game. This year, they rank 113th at 16.5 points per game, having scored a grand total of 39 points in their three losses combined.


116. TEMPLE (0–3).

117. SOUTH FLORIDA (0–3).

118. HAWAII (0–3).


120. MIAMI (OHIO) (0–3). The RedHawks finished with 87 yards of total offense in a 14–0 loss at Cincinnati, leaving them with fewer yards for the entire season (448) than 52 teams on this list are averaging per game. Against Cincy, they were 0-for-11 on third down conversions with eight punts, two interceptions and four turnovers on downs.


121. IDAHO (0–4).


123. NEW MEXICO STATE (0–4).

124. GEORGIA STATE (0–4). The Panthers came as close as they've come to a win Saturday against Jacksonville State, rallying from a 23–9 deficit in the fourth quarter, only to lose in overtime, 32–26. It's probably as close as they're going to come: The schedule was designed for early success against lower-division opponents. From here on, it's just taking lumps, first on a trip to Alabama—another game that should be prohibited by law—then as the new doormat on the block in the Sun Belt.


125. FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (0–4). FIU had more yards in penalties (40) at Louisville than in total offense (30), ultimately averaging a half-yard per play with two first downs. Through four games, they've been outscored 187 to 23, including a three-touchdown loss at the hands of Bethune–Cookman. Good thing they fired a perfectly decent coach for this.

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