College football rankings: What is the biggest AP Poll surprise three weeks in?
We love many things about college football, but perhaps this is the biggest draw: it’s never boring.
Between the crazy endings, the upsets and the miraculous moments that happen each Saturday, college football is an exhilarating and unpredictable sport. Last season, as a group, NCAA.com staffers had an 11 percent success rate in picking College Football Playoff teams before the season.
RANKINGS: Week 4 AP Poll
So naturally, just three weeks in, the AP Poll looks significantly different than most would have thought prior to the season. Here are a few of the biggest surprises in the country thus far.
Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals have exceeded the hype
We do this thing as sports media members where we hype up a potential sleeper so much that they really no longer qualify as a sleeper. That’s what Lamar Jackson felt like going into 2016.
His talent as a freshman was obvious, but his production was inconsistent. Jackson completed less than 55 percent of his passes in 2015, and though he was electric on the ground, there was reason to be skeptical that he’d become an elite dual-threat quarterback as a sophomore.
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Jackson playing well to start the season isn’t a surprise, but if he continues to perform at this level, he’ll win the Heisman by a landslide. And that is a surprise. So is Louisville checking in at No. 3 in the Week 4 AP Poll. The Cardinals take on No. 5 Clemson in a few weeks, and that will be must-see television.
Texas A&M is ranked in the top 10, and it’s because of its defense
For once, few are talking about the Aggies in a year in which they deserve to be talked about.
Texas A&M has boasted flashy offenses with explosive skill position players in the past, but this season, the defense is delivering the goods for Kevin Sumlin. The Aggies are surrendering a stingy 13.3 points per game, and perhaps most importantly, they’re generating takeaways.
Texas A&M already has five interceptions on the season. Part of that is a function of an elite pass rush; Myles Garrett is the best defensive end in the country. But the secondary has long been an issue in College Station, and in 2016, that group looks much improved.
Two 1-2 teams are still ranked
On the surface, it might seem silly that two teams with losing records are ranked above schools that are undefeated. But once you dig in, it makes plenty of sense.
Ole Miss’ two losses are against Alabama and Florida State, and the Rebels looked like the better team for significant portions of each game. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s losses are to No. 6 Houston and No. 2 Ohio State.
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With that said, there is reason for concern in Norman. The offense just looks a step slower than it did last season; Sterling Shepard meant a ton to the Oklahoma offense in 2015, and he’s now a New York Giant. But voters still respect Baker Mayfield and Bob Stoops, and the Sooners have a chance to vault their way back up in the ranks once Big 12 play starts.
Houston is ranked sixth, and the Cougars could be one big win away from the College Football Playoff
Of course, anything can happen in college football. But two of Houston’s toughest games in 2016 (Oklahoma and Cincinnati) are banked wins. One game on this schedule might give Cougar fans trepidation, but the rest of the slate certainly isn’t scaring anyone:
|Sept. 24||@Texas State|
Thursday, Nov. 17 against Louisville is going to be a lot of fun. If the Cougars can prevail, we’re likely to see a non-Power Five school make the College Football Playoff for the first time ever.