The Crimson Tide are still No. 1, but with September in the rearview, it's clear that their most high profile victims are not who we thought they were.
Now in its seventh year, the College Football BlogPoll is a weekly effort of dozens of college football-centric websites representing a wide array of schools under the oversight of SB Nation. As always, this is not a power poll.
Spoiler alert: Alabama is (still) No. 1 this week, here as everywhere else, and rolling is the Tide that wears the crown. 'Bama is (still) leading the SEC in every major defensive category, leading the nation in scoring defense and outscoring opponents by a wider margin (33.2 points per game) than any other team in the nation except Florida State, which has fattened its statistics on not one but two FCS cupcakes. True, the offense was not exactly firing on all cylinders Saturday in a 33-14 win over Ole Miss. But the only real argument against 'Bama as king of all it surveys is the increasingly obvious fact that the teams it's beaten to date are not who we thought they were.
The Tide certainly aren't getting any help from their marquee SEC victim, Arkansas, whose penthouse-to-poorhouse plunge actually accelerated in a 58-10 massacre at Texas A&M, which pretty much finished off any remaining hopes of claiming the Razorbacks as a "quality win." That leaves Alabama's opening day victim, Michigan, last seen in the throes of a complete offensive meltdown at Notre Dame, and… uh, Western Kentucky? Subsequent events have rendered those big, impressive margins in the first three weeks significantly less impressive in retrospect.
We're still a month out from the (presumably) winner-take-all, Armageddon tilt at LSU on Nov. 3. In between, Alabama is off this weekend, then at Missouri, at Tennessee and back home against Mississippi State – all opportunities for respectable wins, but none of them needle-moving blockbusters, even if Mississippi State happens to be undefeated at that point against a surprisingly generous schedule. In the meantime, virtually every other team in the top ten (with the possible exception of Florida State) has enough juice on the October schedule to conceivably pass 'Bama on a resumé basis. In the Big 12, there's a round robin on tap between Kansas State, Texas and West Virginia; in the SEC East, there's the round robin between Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Notre Dame gets Miami, Stanford, BYU and Oklahoma in a row. LSU's next three games are against Florida, South Carolina and Texas A&M, in College Station.
There you have eight undefeated teams, any of which, if it emerged from the coming month still unscathed, would deserve to move ahead of Alabama based on strength of schedule. Which is fine, as long as they realize they're only keeping the seat warm if the Crimson Tide win in Baton Rouge.
• Thinning of the pack. At any rate, the SEC's hegemonic reign over the rest of the top ten is over: Four of the five teams occupying a top-ten slot this week are head-to-head with one of the others this weekend, and between Georgia/South Carolina and LSU/Florida, two of them will be tumbling out of the ranks of the elite with their first loss. Accordingly, the winner of West Virginia/Texas will be ascending with all due haste.
• IN: Cincinnati, Texas A&M, Texas Tech. The Bearcats lead "Big East Row" this week on the strength of their last-second, 27-24 upset over Virginia Tech, which I'm willing to admit may be a slight overreaction to an ingrained, knee-jerk assumption that Virginia Tech is a quality victim. At the moment, the Hokies' overtime escape against subsequently awful Georgia Tech and lopsided loss at Pittsburgh suggest otherwise. But considering Cincinnati also routed Pitt, at least we know toppling the Hokies was no mirage.
• OUT: Arizona, Michigan State, Oklahoma. The only reason the Sooners are even in the "Waiting" category is the logo on the side of the helmet. One month into the season, OU has beaten UTEP and Florida A&M, and seriously struggled with UTEP. There are plenty of opportunities to get back in the good graces against a schedule that still includes four team in this poll (plus Baylor and Oklahoma State), beginning Saturday at Texas Tech, where Oklahoma hasn't won since Adrian Peterson was in high school. Until those skins are on the wall, though, we're much too far into the season to still be trading on reputation.