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 10 ballot shook out.
Fangs: Alabama had the weekend off, yet maintained the No. 1 spot it has held since the preseason. The Crimson Tide returns to action this weekend when it hosts LSU, the No. 20 team on my ballot. A game at Mississippi State follows that as well as a non-conference sacrifice of Mercer before the Iron Bowl at Auburn on Nov. 25. Alabama will likely be in an identical spot when the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season are released on Tuesday night.
Trick-or-Treat: The good news for Kentucky is that it defeated Tennessee for the second time in seven seasons, a mundane accomplishment that gains weight considering the Volunteers rolled off 26 straight wins in the series between 1985 and 2011. The bad news for UK, however, is that this year’s Vols are an underwhelming team that the Wildcats should’ve rolled out of Lexington instead of eeking out a 29-26 win on Saturday night. More good news: Kentucky is now 6-2, 3-2 in the SEC and bowl-eligible for the second straight season. More bad news: Neither myself nor anyone else on the panel have seen enough to warrant putting the Wildcats on a Week 10 ballot. It’s a fascinating situation considering that three of UK’s final four games (Mississippi, at Vanderbilt, Louisville) are very winnable, yet could still result in the most ho-hum nine-win season in school history.
Bewitched: Texas Christian couldn’t stand prosperity. The Horned Frogs were the remaining undefeated team in the Big 12 and fourth on my ballot before losing to Iowa State, 14-7. TCU’s Kenny Hill struggled, completing only 12 of 25 passes and throwing two interceptions while also fumbling twice. To compound matters, the only points the Horned Frogs scored came via a kickoff return for a touchdown. I dropped TCU six spots to 10th –– a nice spot, but a far cry from that coveted top-four real estate.
Bump in the night: Ohio State wasn’t the only team to benefit from its 39-38 win over then-No. 3 Penn State on Saturday. While the Buckeyes jumped from sixth to third, Oklahoma –– which handed the Buckeyes their only loss thus far this season –– is now ninth after beating Texas Tech, 49-27. The Sooners, now the highest-ranked team in the Big 12, stand to gain more equity from that Sept. 9 victory in Columbus while resume-padding opportunities remain at Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia.
Brewing: The stars could be aligning for Notre Dame to make its first appearance in the College Football Playoff. The Fighting Irish beat then-No. 16 N.C. State, 35-14, to move up to No. 9 on my ballot. I left Notre Dame off of my preseason ballot and after a one-week appearance were still absent through Week 4. Yet it has won six in a row by an average score of 42-16 with running back Josh Adams having rushed for 1,169 yards and nine touchdowns. Adams needed only 110 carries to break the 1,000-yard barrier faster than any player in Notre Dame history.
Hair-raising: Miami is 7-0 and leads the ACC’s Atlantic Division. But three of those wins have come by less than a touchdown, including Saturday’s 24-19 win at undermanned North Carolina. The Hurricanes converted only 4 of 17 third-down attempts while their defense allowed the Tar Heels to outgain them, 428-415, including 176 yards rushing. Still a win is a win and Miami has won an FBS-leading 12 straight games dating back to last season. And it goes into this week’s division matchup with Virginia Tech as one of only four Power 5 teams that remain undefeated. Coincidentally, the other unbeatens are ranked first, second and fourth.
Ghastly: Washington State was ninth on my ballot just three weeks ago and ignited visions of Mike Leach waxing poetic or weird or whatever during the College Football Playoffs. Since then, however, the Cougars have lost two games on the road by an average of 27.5 points, most recently a 58-37 defeat at previously unranked Arizona. To compound matters, the Cougars could now have a quarterback controversy after he benched starter Luke Falk with 2:56 remaining in the first half after he completed merely 13 of 23 passes for 93 yards and a 1-yard touchdown pass. Sophomore Tyler Hilinski went 45 of 61 for 509 yards with two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns as well as four interceptions. There’s little room for drama on my ballot, so I’ve pushed Washington State down to 24th.
Phantom: Remember when we pondered the possibility that the American Athletic Conference could be the mythical Power 6 team as three AAC teams had cracked my ballot? That was only last week, though it seems long ago after then-No. 15 South Florida lost to Houston, 28-24. Hope remains, though, for the AAC to carry the Group of 5 banner into the playoffs as Central Florida and Memphis remained undefeated and appear headed for a meeting in the conference title game. The question is if an unblemished mark by the winner of that game will be enough for a Group of 5 squad to get an invitation to the four-team CFP party.
Ghosts: South Florida, Michigan State and West Virginia were ranked 15th, 17th and 21st, respectively, last week. Each lost and is now nowhere to be seen on my ballot.
This week’s rankings (previous week):
You can follow Scott Hamilton on Twitter: @ScottH_Sports.