Clay Travis’ Starting 11: Georgia Is Unanimous Number One, But Who Is the Second Best Team?

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After three weeks of games Georgia is clearly the best team in college football. The Bulldogs have given up just one touchdown and absolutely torched two power five conference teams, Oregon and South Carolina, in road and neutral games.

But who is the second best team in college football after three games if you just judge teams by what they’ve done on the field?

Just about every other top undefeated team has a half or a game that would make you feel a bit uncomfortable putting them in the second spot — Ohio State, Alabama, USC and Penn State would fit this bill — or hasn’t played anyone of great consequence so far. Michigan and Clemson would fit this criteria.

So there are good debates to have right now about who the second best team is, but based on what we’ve seen so far if you aren’t voting Georgia No. 1, you shouldn’t have a poll vote at all.

Through three games the Dawgs are as dominant as any team I’ve seen in a long time.

Kaytron Allen celebrates after scoring
Penn State running back Kaytron Allen (13) of celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the game against Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Sept. 17, 2022, in Auburn. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

1. Penn State got a massive win and deserves all the credit for it, but the bigger story to me coming out of this game was how bad Auburn is.

Before we dive into the game, I had an awesome time at Auburn on Saturday and thanks to all of you who came by and said hi, including men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

I’ve always loved Bruce Pearl and think he has a pretty good chance of winning a national title at Auburn before he retires. Here was our interview:

So let’s start on the Auburn side of the ball. The Tigers aren’t good on defense — Penn State sliced and diced them all day — but their quarterback play is a disaster. They don’t have anyone on the roster who can actually pass the football.

Given the existence of the transfer portal and the number of quarterbacks in it each year, this is grounds for firing Harsin by itself.

Say what you will about Bo Nix, but he runs circles, at his best, around these quarterbacks at their best. Nix was frustrating because he would mix some really good in with the bad. These current Auburn quarterbacks are frustrating because there is no good, they’re just bad. The fact that you could go into the season with this group is, frankly, indefensible.

After watching LSU in the second half against Mississippi State, I think Missouri may be the only SEC team that Auburn truly matches up well with, and that’s only because Missouri looks truly awful.

It honestly would not surprise me if Auburn goes 1-7 or 2-6 in the SEC this year. In fact, I expect it.

Which means the question of whether Bryan Harsin gets fired is just a question of when, not if. Harsin is probably protected in the short term because Auburn has already fired the AD. Which means I’m not sure who can actually fire him.

But Harsin is going to be fired.

So who does Auburn go get whenever they can make a new hire? I’d make a hard run at Lane Kiffin and try to repeat the Tommy Tuberville hire from the 1990’s, but I’m not sure Kiffin would come. So who else is on the list? Hugh Freeze, Urban Meyer, Lance Leipold, Matt Campbell and Dave Clawson are all decent ideas.

But Harsin’s mercurial tenure, to me, feels over.

2. Penn State appears to have righted the ship.

Over the past 22 games, James Franklin was just 11-11.

That had Nittany Lions fans nervous. But based on the whipping Penn State put on Auburn yesterday, Penn State looks like the third best team, at worst, in the Big Ten and they’ve got a bevy of young playmakers that are studs, including Nicholas Singleton who is going to be an absolute beast.

Penn State running back Nick Singleton
Penn State running back Nick Singleton (10) runs the ball past Auburn safety Zion Puckett (10) for a touchdown at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Sept. 17, 2022 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

Penn State will now be 5-0 when the Nittany Lions go on the road at Michigan on October 15th. Then Ohio State will come to Happy Valley on October 29th and Michigan State comes to town on November 26th to close out the season.

So what happens in these three games because I don’t think any other Big Ten team on the schedule can pull off the upset?

A 2-1 record probably puts you either in the Big Ten title game or in the mix for an at-large bid playoff bid. 1-2 and you’re headed to the Citrus Bowl, 0-3 and Nittany Lion fans are ready to turn the page for the young talent next year. I think Penn State will beat Michigan State and be good enough to split with Michigan and Ohio State, but can they split these two games? That’s the season.

Regardless, I think this win was big for James Franklin because it established that Penn State is back to being a top 15 program in college football.

3. Texas A&M is still a mess, but they got the much needed win over Miami.

But while they got the win Miami went up and down the field on A&M and probably should have won this game.

Consider, the Hurricanes out-gained the Aggies 392 to 264 yards, had 27 first downs to A&M’s 16, and ran the ball better than A&M did, 36 carries for 175 yards for Miami compared to 32 carries for 124 yards for A&M.

Max Johnson (14) of the Texas A&M Aggies
Max Johnson (14) of the Texas A&M Aggies throws a pass against Miami at Kyle Field on Sept. 17, 2022. (Photo by Jack Gorman/Getty Images)

The Aggies just aren’t very good, at all, on offense no matter who the quarterback is.

In the next three weeks, Jimbo Fisher’s team plays Arkansas, at Mississippi State and at Alabama. It wouldn’t stun me if A&M loses all three of these games. But it also wouldn’t stun me if the Aggies go 2-1. (They aren’t beating Alabama at night in Tuscaloosa.)

Where does that leave us in year five for Jimbo? I see A&M at 8-4 at best and that’s primarily thanks to the Aggies getting South Carolina and Florida this year, managing to avoid the better teams in the SEC East.

What will that fall out be in Aggieland?

Great question.

4. Georgia is the best team in the SEC, but who is the second best SEC team based on what we’ve seen so far?

After just three weeks of games there are only six undefeated teams left in the SEC. All six teams have at least one road or neutral win over a power five conference opponent except for Arkansas, but the Razorbacks, who we will discuss below, beat a top 25 preseason team in Cincinnati and took down South Carolina as well.

So how would we assess these six teams chances to compete against Georgia?

Let’s go ahead and presume Alabama is a very good football team for purposes of this discussion because I think most of us would be pretty stunned if, for instance, the Tide lost three regular season games. (I don’t think you can say this about Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss or Arkansas. That is, no one would be stunned if any of these teams went 9-3. In fact, some teams like Tennessee would have been ecstatic before the season started to go 9-3 this year.)

And just to forestall the emails, I’m ranking Alabama lower than some of these other teams in my SEC power rankings based on what we’ve actually seen of them so far on the field. That is Alabama, while still undefeated, has come closer to losing than any of the five other undefeated SEC teams. With that caveat out there, who is the best team in the SEC right now if you take Georgia and Alabama out of the equation?

I think there’s a strong argument it’s Tennessee. The Vols have a road win over a top 25 team, Pittsburgh, they’ve crushed two non-power five teams at home, Ball State and Akron, and they haven’t trailed in the second half all season. Kentucky, yes, beat Florida, but as we’ll discuss below, the Gators look, at best, very average, like a 7-5 or 6-6 team.

Ole Miss crushed Georgia Tech, but the Yellow Jackets are awful and otherwise the Rebel schedule has been light. Arkansas would have been the pick as the third best team prior to yesterday, but they had to come from behind to beat Missouri State at home.

So I think, gulp, Tennessee is the third best team in the SEC right now.

Now that I’ve said it, this inevitably means Florida will somehow beat the Vols by twenty in Neyland on Saturday.

5. Who does Vegas think the best teams in college football are?

Here’s the FanDuel top 12 national title odds as of this morning:

1. Georgia +180
2. Alabama +200
3. Ohio State +300
4. Clemson +1100
5. USC +1200
6. Michigan +2500
7. Oklahoma +4000
8. Tennessee +6000
8. Penn State +6000
10. Utah +10000
10. Oklahoma State +10000
10. Washington +10000

There’s a clear drop off, in the minds of the oddsmakers, after the top three here, Georgia, Bama and Ohio State are seen as a tier above everyone else, but then Clemson, USC and Michigan are the next trio before we move into the longshot rankings.

Which teams stand out to you?

I’d say the biggest surprise here is that Vegas agrees with me and has Tennessee as the third best team in the SEC this year. But Washington, who the polls had unranked, is also way up here. Indeed, the Pac 12 has three of the top 12 national title odds here, which I would bet hasn’t happened in a long time.

6. App State won on this insane final play of the day, which just epitomizes why so many of us love college football.

A couple of other notes worth dropping here, Washington whipped Michigan State soundly to get to 3-0. I feel like this game totally slipped under the radar unless you’re a gambler.

Washington, which was atrocious last year, posted over 500 yards of offense and ran up 39 points on the Spartans.

Anyone know the Huskies new first year head coach? Don’t look up his name.

Kalen DeBoer.

I bet like 20% of you got this without peeking.

Heck of a debut for him.

Also, congrats to all the gamblers out there who took the over on Vanderbilt’s season win total. It’s rare to get to cash a season win total ticket on September 17th, but that’s exactly what Commodore backers did yesterday. Vandy’s over/under was 2.5 on the season and with a win over Northern Illinois, Vandy’s now 3-1 on the season.

Their reward.

At Alabama this weekend.

7. The Florida Gators are not a good football team.

Florida Gators celebrate after a late game interception. Courtesy of UAA and Florida Athletics

I hesitate to write this because I’m sure Anthony Richardson will have a Tim Tebow’s greatest hits game on Saturday in Neyland, throwing for 200 and passing for 200 too, but Florida was lucky to beat South Florida and doesn’t look like a good football team.

The final game management of both coaches was indefensibly bad, but with around seven minutes to play South Florida missed what should have been a touchdown that would have given the Bulls a ten point lead. This came right after an atrocious end zone interception for Anthony Richardson that gave the Bulls the ball up four.

Richardson was 10 of 18 for 112 yards and two interceptions.

Strangely, he continues not to run the football.

The timeout situation, however, in the final minute of this game was a calamity of coaching errors. Florida calling a timeout after a bad snap by South Florida might be one of the dumbest timeouts I’ve ever seen taken.

With the usual caveats that the Gators are 16-1 against Tennessee in the past 17 games, frankly, it shouldn’t be close in Knoxville on Saturday.

If the Gators come into Knoxville and get the win we may have to reassess this team — although maybe not, Florida went 4-8 last year and still beat Tennessee — but right now this feels like a 6-6 debut for Billy Napier and, worse than that for Gator fans, does Napier look like he’s in control on the sidelines? He doesn’t to me.

If I’m a Utah fan who has watched the past two Gator games, I’m sick to my stomach that we lost that opener.

8. How good is Michigan?

The Wolverines have outscored their first three opponents 166-17.

The only top team that’s remotely close to that is Georgia. Unlike Georgia, Michigan still has quarterback uncertainty, but with Maryland, at Iowa, and Indiana on the schedule for the next three weeks, we may not get a really good test of the Wolverines until Penn State rolls into town in mid-October.

But with Penn State and Michigan State both coming to the Big House, it’s hard to see how the Big Ten East isn’t decided until November 26th in Columbus.

Michigan, at least so far, feels much like last year’s team when the Wolverines were under the radar early and then got hot late.

We’ll see if that happens two years in a row.

9. Oregon beat BYU, but some Duck fans chanted “F— the Mormons,” in the stands.

We’ve got a story up about it on OutKick here.

Look, when I started OutKick we were a zany and irreverent college football fan site. We’re now much more than that, but I think that remains our core zeitgeist. This is a site for people who like sports and pop culture and having a good time.

But as OutKick has risen in stature, the rest of sports media has gone batshit crazy. Eleven years ago when I started this site I never thought you’d have dudes deciding to become chicks and win titles in those sports. And I certainly never thought that sports media would be arguing that’s heroic.

OutKick isn’t perfect, but we try to do a decent job of being fair.

And I want you to think about why OutKick is the only sports site on the Internet — with any kind of substantial audience size at least — that will even cover this story.

Remember, we just spent nearly a month having the media exhaustively decry and cover a fake racial slur allegation from a BYU volleyball match. That story was everywhere and based on all the evidence it didn’t even happen. BYU was raked over the coals for being racist and their entire university was widely defamed.

Over something that never happened.

Here we have clear video of Oregon fans chanting, “Fuck the Mormons,” during their football game. This is actual anti-religious hate on video at a sporting event.

And most media won’t even bother to cover it.

Why? The narrative. BYU is a white school so they can only be the victimizer never the victim. Worse than that, we can’t even apply even clear and even standards of what’s acceptable fan behavior and what isn’t. Yet if any other minority religion had an organized chant against it, Jews or Muslims, let’s say, this would be everywhere.

But if it happens to the Mormons?

Nobody cares.

I think it’s worth at least asking yourselves why that clear double standard exists.

USC Trojans wide receiver Tahj Washington (16) catches a pass for a gain during a college football game between the Rice Owls and the USC Trojans on September 03, 2022, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

10. My OutKick National Top Ten

Reminder, even though the people who get upset about this won’t bother to read it, I only rank teams based on the games that have been played on the field itself.

Not based upon what I expected to see before the season started.

Early in the season I give the most weight to games won against power five conference opponents at road or neutral venues.

1. Georgia
2. USC
3. Tennessee
4. Penn State
5. Michigan
6. Kentucky
7. Ohio State
8. Oklahoma
9. Washington
10. Florida State

11. My SEC power rankings

Again, the same drill. These are rankings based entirely on the games played.

1. Georgia
2. Tennessee
3. Kentucky
4. Alabama
5. Arkansas
6. Ole Miss
7. LSU
8. Texas A&M
9. Mississippi State
10. Florida
11. Vanderbilt
12. South Carolina
13. Auburn
14. Missouri

I’ll be in Knoxville this weekend with Big Noon.

Can’t wait.

Written by Clay Travis

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.


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