I said it in the preseason. I said it after Week 1. And I said it after Week 3.

I don’t trust USC.

Well, the Trojans showed exactly why last Friday, losing 30-27 at No. 11 Washington State. Yes, the Cougars (5-0) are a solid team, and yes, road games against conference rivals can be tricky. But USC has played far too many white-knuckle games this season. If you let teams hang around week in and week out, eventually you’re going to get burned – and USC got burned in Pullman.

To be fair, the Trojans (4-1), who fell from No. 5 to No. 14 in the AP Poll, aren’t necessarily out of the playoff race, but they’re going to need help, especially since the Pac-12 champion could be the odd man out in the College Football Playoff.

No. 6 Washington (5-0) is the highest-ranked team in the Pac-12, but the Huskies have played no one of note and struggled in their season-opening 30-14 win at Rutgers. By comparison, No. 10 Ohio State (4-1) – which has underperformed essentially all year – beat Rutgers 56-0 last Saturday.

That might not seem like a big deal today, but it could be when the committee is splitting common-opponent hairs in December.

As it stands, here are my top six teams in college football:

1 (1) Clemson (5-0)

When you’ve beaten three top-15 opponents in the first five weeks of the season – and your toughest remaining test is at No. 24 NC State (4-1) – life is good. Clemson has officially overtaken Ohio State as one of the top two programs in America.

2 (2) Alabama (5-0)

The Tide won their first two SEC games by a combined score of 125-3. Saturday’s showdown with Texas A&M (4-1) at College Station should be closer, but not by much. Look for Bama to Roll Tide – and for Kevin Sumlin’s hot seat to get even hotter.

3 (3) Penn State (5-0)

No, the Nittany Lions haven’t beaten a ranked team yet, but they have the best player in the country (Saquon Barkley) and a defense that is allowing just 9.4 points per game. Penn State should pass this week’s test – at Northwestern (2-2) – with flying colors, but back-to-back games against Michigan (Oct. 21) and at Ohio State (Oct. 28) will define the Nittany Lions’ season.

4 (4) Oklahoma (4-0)

The Sooners allowed 41 points against 0-5 Baylor. Iowa State (2-2), which scored just seven points in its last game – at home against Texas – shouldn’t come anywhere near that in Norman. Key word being shouldn’t.


5 (5) Georgia (5-0)

Through two SEC games, Georgia has rushed on 92 of 121 offensive plays (76.0 percent) and beaten Mississippi State and Tennessee by a combined score of 82-3. The Bulldogs might need to be a little more balanced against Florida and Auburn – and potentially Alabama in the SEC Championship – but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Vanderbilt (3-2) doesn’t have a prayer on Saturday.

6 (NR) Michigan (4-0)

The offense is still a work in progress, but the defense has allowed just four touchdowns in four games. Anything can happen against Michigan State, but look for the Wolverines to win a close, low-scoring game Saturday night in Ann Arbor.

Tony Meale is a Chicago-based author, journalist, and content creator who uses words to inform, educate, entertain, and inspire. A Cincinnati native, he has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Louis University and a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio University. He began his career as a high school sports reporter before writing and publishing 2012’s “The Chosen Ones: The Team That Beat LeBron,” a behind-the-scenes look at the greatest sports story never told. He’s been creating written and spoken content ever since.


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