Former Winston-Salem Journal columnist and ESPN Triad host Scott Hamilton is one of 61 voters in the Associated Press college football poll. Here’s how his Week 7 ballot shook out.
Where’s the beef?: Alabama and Clemson maintained the Nos. 1 and 2 positions for the fifth straight week thanks to comfortable, though not particularly dominating, victories. The Crimson Tide beat Texas A&M, 27-19, in a game during which Alabama committed its first turnover of the season. Clemson secured a 28-14 win over Wake Forest despite losing quarterback Kelly Bryant to an ankle injury. Still, a win is a win is a win and even a ho-hum victory is enough to keep the participants of the last two national championship games in place.
Can you hear me now?: Kentucky didn’t make my ballot despite a 5-1 record that is blemished only by a one-point loss to Florida. The Wildcats have an average of 7.6 points in those five victories which have come against a 1-4 FCS team, two members of the Group of Five and a pair of SEC brothers with a combined 4-6 record. And that narrow defeat to their annual tormenters doesn’t look quite as benign after the Gators lost to a troubled LSU team, 17-16. Still opportunities remain to seize a validating victory, as Kentucky’s remaining schedule is ranked as the 34th most difficult and includes No. 4 Georgia.
Plop, plop, fizz, fizz: Oklahoma and Michigan likely had their hopes for berths in the College Football Playoff squashed with more than three weeks remaining before Halloween. Then third-ranked Oklahoma was upset by an Iowa State team that had a former quarterback-turned-linebacker once again taking snaps. Joel Lanning had eight tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery on defense while also completing 2 of 3 passes for 25 yards while rushing nine times for 35 more yards. Those ground-shaking numbers, but are indicative of a defense that was exposed. The Wolverines, previously eighth on my ballot, were impotent offensively in a 14-0 defeat at home to Michigan State. Coach Jim Harbaugh of Michigan is now 1-4 against the Wolverines’ two primary rivals. Harbaugh has lost two of three to the Spartans and is 0-2 against Ohio State.
Just do it: Washington keeps plugging along playing almost color-by-numbers football. The Huskies remained in the prime No. 4 spot on my ballot after beating Cal, 38-7. The Huskies sacked Cal quarterbacks eight times and held the Bears to 93 total yards. Washington, however, scored 24 first-half points as quarterback Jake Browning was en route to a 27-of-40, 215-yard, two-touchdown game. Browning also had a 21-yard touchdown run.
Like a rock: In addition to Alabama, Clemson and Washington, two other teams didn’t budge on my ballot. Penn State remains fifth after beating Northwestern, 31-7, while South Florida is still 17th after having a week off.
The quicker picker-upper: They didn’t make huge gains, but a handful of teams did move up a notable number of positions. Georgia, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Notre Dame and Central Florida each moved up three spots. The flipside is that Oklahoma and Michigan lost major ground after suffering upset defeats. The Sooners dropped from third to 14th while the Wolverines went from No. 8 to No. 16.
Think different: Four new teams cracked my ballot. Michigan State, Texas Tech, Navy and Stanford are now in the mix at Nos. 22-25. Michigan State is especially intriguing since the Spartans are now 4-1 with their only loss looking less damaging each week. Notre Dame won, 38-18, in East Lansing, Mich., on Sept. 23.
It’s the real thing: Georgia continues to impress, so much so that the Bulldogs seem very … Bamalike. Coach Kirby Smart’s team rushed for 423 yards in a 45-14 win at Vanderbilt to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2005. The Bulldogs’ seem even more bruising when you consider that 54 of Georgia’s 68 plays were runs for an average of 7.8 per carry.
Can you hear me now?: The season began as last season ended –– discussing the demise of the SEC as the alpha among conferences. A league that was assumed to merely be Alabama and everyone else could still end up being just that by the time we get to January. But as of now, three SEC teams are ranked inside the top 10, including No. 1 and 3. That means half of the four-team College Football Playoff would be comprised of SEC representatives if the brackets were announced today. Of course, that’s not the case.
This week’s rankings (previous week):
You can follow Scott Hamilton on Twitter: @ScottH_Sports.