The Vegas Top 10

The dog days of college football are officially upon us.  I say that tongue in cheek knowing every weekend of the fall offers more entertaining twists and turns than the ongoing Jameis Winston saga (despite what Rufus Swearingen thinks).  Oddsmakers have taken a stance in their assessment of the national landscape, indicating there are 12 teams with a realistic shot to win the inaugural college football playoff. FSU remains prohibitive chalk at 5-1, not necessarily because they're the best team going now but rather a tissue soft remaining schedule makes them such.  Listed behind them is where the log jam begins with 11 teams all priced between 7-1 & 12-1 including the likes of Baylor, Ohio St, and every SEC team currently with only 1 loss not named Kentucky.  

Before anyone works themselves into a lather about what they're about to see in the newest edition of our Vegas Top 10 understand this: Alabama actually has the easiest remaining schedule of all SEC West teams.  Sure there are dates with Auburn and Mississippi St remaining but both come to Tuscaloosa giving the Tide a major advantage.  Georgia's schedule shapes up nicely in the east although they still need to survive this week's road test in Little Rock against Arkansas followed by a showdown with Auburn in mid November down Athens way.  

Also allow me to end this debate right now as well: just because Team A beat Team B doesn't automatically mean they should be ranked higher in my poll.  I'm well aware the AP & Coaches use different criteria (or none) but I refuse to punish either Alabama or Auburn for losing in the Magnolia state.  Had they drawn either of the Mississippi schools at home the results would be different, meaning for my purposes this poll identifies the best teams, not most deserving.  Keep in mind too that the gap between schools in the top 10 isn't consistent, there is a massive cliff between the #8 Oregon Ducks and the tandem of Notre Dame/Ohio St.  Like always the rankings are fluid, not prone to knee jerk reactions, meaning teams can see status improve off a loss or decline after a win.  Just ask the Oklahoma Sooners who fell out of my top 10 with an ugly win over Texas.  In addition to OU the other team to keep an eye on is Clemson. However they've reached a ceiling in the top 15 while DeShaun Watson is recovering from hand surgery. Notre Dame was another team whose stock I downgraded off a lethargic effort against UNC, but fortunately we'll know everything we need to about the Irish after their trip to Tallahassee this weekend so a ranking (good or bad right now) is to be taken with a grain of salt.  

The one school I remain reluctant to do much with at this point is actually Georgia.  Saturday we saw their defense rise to the occasion, stifling any semblance of a drive Missouri tried to put together, but then again this is a Tigers team who has looked punchless on offense most of the season.  Power rating wise, Todd Gurley's absence creates a negative impact over the long haul yet in the short term highly touted prospect Nick Chubb appears capable of filling in admirably.  Now just watch them lose on the road at Arkansas this weekend disproving any credit I want to give to Mark Richt's team.

Teams flirting with the top 10: Michigan St (just a slight tick behind Ohio St), Oklahoma, & Clemson.  

Winners: the state of Mississippi

Everyone wanted to laud the Magnolia state 2 weeks ago when Ole Miss took care of Alabama in Oxford and Mississippi St upended Texas A&M in Starkville.  I'm always cautious making snap judgments after one big win which is why this past Saturday was so important in making me believe the Bulldogs & Rebels were for real. Both programs handled their first taste of prosperity like schools that had been there before. MSU jumped out to an early lead against a very talented Auburn side while Ole Miss went behind enemy lines taking the air out of Kyle Field from the opening kickoff.  I know neither Ole Miss or MSU make the top spot in my weekly poll like they do the AP but both sides should be commended for the magical seasons they're putting together on their respective campuses.  

Losers: the SEC Conference

I know what you're immediately thinking... that I'm looking to troll the entire conference but this has nothing to do with what unfolded on the field last Saturday but rather the retirement of long time commissioner Mike Slive.  The man single handedly turned the conference into a money making behemoth and college football powerhouse (if it wasn't already).  Under his leadership the recent 12 year run allowed the league to distance itself from other power conferences culminating in the biggest coup of all: the launch of the SEC network before this season.  His choice to expand the league by adding Missouri and Texas A&M has paid dividends with the programs' on field performances as well as reaching new audiences consistent with high league standards.  While some will ignore his major accomplishments citing off field issues it goes without saying that you simply can't just plug in a figurehead in the modern era to advance a league.  If you're unwilling to give him credit just look where Bud Selig has led baseball in the final years of his tenure and you'll know exactly why finding a visionary is essential in the current sports landscape.

Upset Alert:  West Virginia (+8.5) over Baylor

Straight Up: 2-2

Against the Spread: 3-1

In these parts we don't go looking for field goal underdogs to turn heads: it's big game hunting.  Baylor heads to Morgantown fresh off an emotional comeback against TCU which saw them erase a 21 point deficit in the games final 11 minutes. Bryce Petty was electric in leading the comeback along with the rest of the Bears offense that compiled just less than 800 yards.  However, there are kinks starting to emerge on the defensive side that inevitably spell trouble on the conference highway.  This will be the Bears 3rd road game in 4 weeks before they head into a bye week.  West Virginia's looked rather pedestrian of late themselves, needing a big 2nd half to storm back against Texas Tech in Lubbock.  Clint Trickett to Kevin White has turned into an outstanding pass/catch combo and I personally think that's the duo capable of ruining the Bears bid for perfection.  In a week that looks like the top teams in the country survive, don't be surprised if we're talking about another school dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten early in the day.

Heisman Watch

With each game the Heisman outlook gets more and more muddled.  As an added feature in the column, we'll include the top 5 candidates from an odds perspective every week moving forward.  Just for comparison sake I want to include a snapshot of the landscape from Week 1 when compared with how things look right now.  Surprisingly enough the board shows remarkable similarities aside from the biggest mover Dak Prescott.  For anyone wondering where Dak's counterpart at Ole Miss sits: Bo Wallace is now 18-1 to take home the hardware.  


Written by
Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021. One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines. Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide. Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports. Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.