Published Tuesday, September 6, 2011 AT 9:42 AM / Updated at 4:47 PM
Sam McKewon’s Top 25, Week 1
Sam McKewon Omaha World-Herald

As I took on the challenge of ranking the top 25 teams every week, I tried to consider the key rule of the Associated Press: The poll is based on performance. After the preseason poll — which, by its nature, has to be somewhat predictive — the subsequent polls should be more reflective of what’s happened. As such, there are some fluctuations in my top 25. Enjoy, bicker, whatever:

For reference, here’s the preseason poll.

1. LSU: The Tigers bullied Oregon all over the field, intimidating them with speed and power. The Ducks’ fumbles weren’t turnovers, folks — they were takeaways. LSU remains a work in progress — but it had the best win of last week amidst a ton of adversity and controversy surrounding quarterback Jordan Jefferson.

2. Alabama: Knocked around Kent State but struggled with turnovers.

3. Boise State: Erased an ugly loss to Georgia several years ago with a thorough beating of the Bulldogs in the Georgia Dome. Kellen Moore has season, while the Broncos’ front seven has salt.

4. Oklahoma: Pounded Tulsa at home. No stunner. That’s what OU does at home. Landry Jones threw the ball 47 times.

5. Stanford: Did 57-3 man dance all over San Jose State.

6. Arkansas: Quarterback Tyler Wilson looked sharp in beating Missouri State.

7. Virginia Tech: The Hokies looked tough all around in beating a pretty good FCS team (Appalachian State.)

8. Florida State: Stifling defense in 34-0 blanking of Louisiana-Monroe.

9. Texas A&M: Shaky start on defense turned into a dominant second-half performance vs. SMU. Good win.

10. Oregon: The Ducks got a big punch in the nose in Dallas. All that speed looked mighty weak vs. LSU in the second half.

11. Wisconsin: The defense was a bit slow, but the offense behind quarterback Russell Wilson looked pretty deadly on Thursday night. The Badgers could have scored 70; they settled for 51.

12. Nebraska: The offensive line needs work.

13. Oklahoma State: The Pokes posted a 64-31 win. Get used to those scores until Big 12 season.

14. Ohio State: Just looked better than several teams ranked ahead of it, including USC and Michigan State.

15. Florida: The Gators are young, but they thumped Florida Atlantic, outgaining the Owls by more 300 yards in a 41-3 win.

16. Michigan State: The Spartans were too conservative on offense and too-slow-to-react on defense. There’s some pieces missing on MSU’s defense.

17. South Carolina: Shook off a poor start against East Carolina thanks to a relief appearance by quarterback Stephen Garcia, who would have been a kind of Southern legend 40 years ago.

18. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs nearly made my Top 25 last week. They’re in now with a big jump thanks to a 59-14 blowout of a pretty bad Memphis team on the road. Still 645 total yards is 645 total yards.

19. Houston: The Cougars won the best way they knew how: by simply outscoring the opponent, in this case UCLA 38-34.

20. USC: Let Minnesota hang around much too long in the second half, and it nearly cost the Trojans a victory. Teams are not as afraid of the Men of Troy as they used to be.

21. Penn State: The quarterback debate in Happy Valley continues. An upset chance vs. Alabama awaits.

22. South Florida: Probably wouldn’t beat Notre Dame three times out of ten. But, see, the Bulls did, and that’s what counts. With the aid of several Irish turnovers and a couple lightning delays, USF belongs in the top 25.

23. Notre Dame: The Irish lost 23-20 to South Florida, but could return to the top 20 with a road victory at Michigan. Right now, ND 2011 looks like ND of, oh, 1997-2010. Inconsistent.

24. Baylor: If it’s about performance, then the Bears belong in the top 25 right now. That offense — led by quarterback Robert Griffin III — will be tough for any defense outside of Norman, Okla., to stop.

25. TCU: Head coach Gary Patterson’s apparent insistence on playing man-to-man coverage cost his Horned Frogs a win. But TCU’s still a top 25 team based on that dogged fourth-quarter comeback.

Dropped out:

Georgia: The Bulldogs hit a handful of big plays vs. Boise, but were otherwise outclassed despite having a home crowd at The Georgia Dome.

Southern Mississippi: Narrowly beat Louisiana Tech 19-17 at home.

Miami (Fla): Hung in tough in a 32-24 loss at Maryland, but the Hurricanes’ defense could be in for a bruising this year.

Teams I’m watching:

Northwestern: Very impressive road win at Boston College with backup quarterback Kain Colter.

Michigan: Scored two defensive touchdowns in 34-10 win over Western Michigan.

Auburn: I was right not to put this team in my preseason top 25, but the Tigers will get their chance to bust into it with a game vs. Mississippi State.

Missouri: We’ll know much more about these Tigers after their game at Arizona State.

Arizona State: Ditto for the Sun Devils.

BYU: Heads to Texas for a road game.

West Virginia: Dana Holgersen’s bunch draws Norfolk State this week.

About Sam McKewon

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him at And follow him on Twitter at @swmckewonOWH. And call him at 402.219.3790.


  1. knapplc says:

    Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam! It’s a little gripe, but really – how do you watch a glorified practice where we obstinately ran the same six/seven plays into the teeth of nine men in the box and drop UNL below Wiscy? Watching the Badgers could not have made you feel they are now better than Nebraska.

    1. Steve says:

      Maybe the fact that we were very inconsistent with those six/seven plays against an average FCS (1AA) team? As of right now we will go into Madison with the better D and they will have the better O. Our OL needs to prove themselves. If they can go 8 possessions with 7 TDs and a FG against any of Fresno, Wash or Wy then maybe we go in with the advantage but that is asking a lot at this point. Wisky’s getting Wilson would have been like us getting a couple big senior O-linemen with 3 years starting experience at a high level. We may have a big advantage over them next year but this year we need to respect them and Russel Wilson who looked better than any QB week 1.

    2. Butch says:

      Are you kidding me? Tell me who we are going to beat with an offense that executed like an 8-man Junior Varsity squad? Wisconsin’s D stinks, but their O executed without flaw. Our defense is solid, but the offense we saw the other night isn’t beating anyone. Right now NU is incredibly overrated at anything lower than #15.

    3. Mike G. says:

      Saturday’s performances by both Wisconsin and Nebraska did nothing to convince me that Nebraska will walk into Camp Randall and beat the Badgers. That could change in a couple of weeks, but the Huskers have a lot to work on offensively. Good overall analysis of your Top 25 Sam. I like your brief breakdowns.

  2. Dave says:

    First weeks of college football are some of the best.

  3. HuskerJay says:

    Sam – I agree with you rankings except for Notre Dame. Notre Dame needs to stay unranked until they can prove they can win.

  4. Q says:

    Awfully critical of the Huskers.

    Wisconsin: The defense was a bit slow?
    EDIT: Wisconsin: The defense was a lot awful.

    That game will be one to remember. Great offense v. great defense. Bad offense v. worse defense.

  5. SKERBATER says:

    Sam, you hit the nail on the head with the skers, the o-line play was pathetic… you are not being overly critical of them, it’s a trend with this team for the last decade. sure miss the richie “rip your face off” incognito mentality. Until the line plays decent, we will lose big games….

    1. BallField78 says:

      I don’t recall when Incognito actually played for NU, I thought Callahan kicked him off the team before he hit the field. There are many linemen past who would serve as better examples.

      1. Husker Josh says:

        that’s because your menory is LOUSY…..just delete your whole comment and save yourself the ensuing embarassment

  6. HuskerJ says:

    An invitation to “bicker”, Sam you continue to amaze me. Keep these articles coming, good stuff.

    After this weekend, Hawaii will get a start in your poll.

  7. TG says:

    If its based on performance, shouldn’t all the top 25 teams after week 1 be 1-0? If they lost, they shouldn’t be ranked… just my 2 cents.

  8. Stacey says:

    I agree, Norte Dame has no business being ranked! Northwestern should be in there.

  9. David says:

    Not even watching Maryland? Their offense looks really good. I’d have them as #3 in the ACC right now.

    Oklahoma’s win over Tulsa is way more impressive than Alabama over Kent State. Not that there should be problems debating a #4 vs #2 ranking.

    You only have 6 SEC teams so your poll is not correct! Need at least 8 becaue they’re so good!

    Wisconsin looked real good. Move em up.

  10. Bill says:

    The most overrated team in the country- Texas A&M. They had a nice win streak last season with the Nebraska win being handed to them on a silver platter at home (they still barely won), and Oklahoma choking 3 times on 4th and goal from the 1 yard line. Then they got embarrassed by LSU in the Cotton Bowl. They also lost Von Miller, the anchor of their defense. Someone please tell me how this is a top 10 team?

    I also strongly dislike Texas A&M, so yes…there is a certain level of bias in my disdain for them being a top 10 team. But I still don’t get it aside from my bias. I can’t wait until they get schooled by Baylor.

    1. kevin says:

      bill how can you dislike AM… Heck I live in San Antonio and have come to respect the heck out of those guys….. now UT I could understand

  11. Finner says:

    #16: “There’s some pieces…” Arrg. “There ARE…” not “There IS…”

  12. IA_Husker says:

    Not sure why you are down on NU? They did what they were supposed to do against a team they were supposed to beat. The outcome was never in doubt and they used the game as another practice and to have some film to work on this week. They are starting freshman (true and redshirt) all over the field and they need a couple more weeks of practice. If you had them at #11 last week because you thought they would be a finished product vs. the mocs, then you were confused, but this game is the way they were supposed to play. Truer tests will come, but don’t kill a team for style points in a 40-7 blowout against the little sisters.

  13. Samisnuts says:

    The Nebraska O-Line will be fine. If you watched the running plays that were called 4 were between the tackles, all the rest were to the edge and option plays. NU ran 8 different offensive running plays all day( and used 3 block schemes) and Chattanooga put 8 guys in the box and the 3 deep were 9 yards off the line of scrimmage…that was a tough assignment for the straight ahead blocking schemes that were called. Not many offensive lines will knock teams off the line when you get outmanned at line of scrimmage like that all day…maybe some passing downfield would have opened that up?…But maybe Beck just isnt going to show his hand just yet.

  14. Tyler Scheer says:

    Boise State is way overrated. You kidding me, #3 and they beat a team that went 6-7 last year? Sick of games being way over hyped when Boise plays.

  15. Some Dude says:

    OK, I get everything else, even a losing Oregon team ahead of Nebraska, but could someone please tell me why Florida St is ranked so high?!? What did they do? Sure, they recruited well, but so did we in ’04, ’05, ’06… I actually can’t even tell you who they beat, because it was obvious they were going to win, just like everyone else (except LSU and Oregon). Boise St might be over rated for beating Georgia, who is nothing. But they probably deserve that ranking because they are probably actually really good…

  16. Tony says:

    Wow, SIX Big 12 (10 teams total) in the top 25 in both AP and Coaches poll. No wonder we left for the Big 10.

  17. Timothy says:

    You are right to be concerned about the O-line. Might they get better with some time together in the next few weeks? Sure. Might we have a nice looking line in 2 years. You bet. Are they anything resembling the pipeline of old? Not the same galaxy yet. I think they’ll come around, but it takes some work. As for the option… that was somewhat painful to watch, but then we were spoiled for like 25 years on option excellence. I remember a young transfer named Scott Frost who ran to the boundary before pitching and made a lot of dumb mistakes for a while. The old stadium booed the kid before they finally embraced him and he QB’d a national title team. It is a building process, and we sure believe in this team a lot more than 4-5 years ago!

  18. GiantHusker says:

    I’m proud of you for dropping your methdology for the preseason rankings and doing the right thing by ranking the teams by performance.
    Your ballot is good.
    I think you overrate the Huskers, but a little homerism is OK.