Auerbach’s Top 10: Georgia Expands Wealth, Michigan Keeps Sailing, Kentucky Locks It Down
Every Saturday night throughout the college football season, I will rank the top 10 teams in the country. The order will fluctuate from week to week depending on new results, player availability and anything else that impacts this chaotic sport. The last spot each week will go to a team that cannot Actually to be the 10th best team in the country but still deserve a bit of a shine.
1. Georgia (3-0)
I guess Bulldogs offensive coordinator Todd Monken is really enjoying this. That’s what I remember seeing Georgia score 48 points on Saturday in a rout of South Carolina. Fantastic tight end Brock Bowers scored three touchdowns on the day, including a rushing touchdown on an inning. Quarterback Stetson Bennett threw it all and 10 different Bulldogs carried the ball.
Georgia scored on eight of its first nine drives and had over 550 total rushing yards before the starters left the game. Meanwhile, it took until the last minute of Game 3 of the season for the Bulldog defense to allow an offensive touchdown.
So here is. Georgia remains very good at football. But what I love about watching this particular team is how intentional Monken was to spread the ball and, frankly, keep it fun. “Fun” isn’t a word that many outside the program would have used in relation to the Georgia offense prior to Monken’s arrival, but Kirby Smart didn’t care as long as the unit handled the ball, completed defense and helped win games. . In recent months, Smart has offered sharper responses to criticism of the offense, stating adamantly after Oregon’s win that he wanted his program to have an offense that appeals to elite players. Monken explained last month how he’s opened up the attack over the past two years and why it’s important to be explosive.
This month’s performances against Oregon and South Carolina confirm that popular labels for Georgia’s offense are well out of date. Bennett is not a game manager. This offense is not just about running the ball between tackles or using tight ends. It’s all about passing the ball to the playmakers in space, and the Bulldogs have a ton of that. It’s also about using players creatively and unpredictably and not letting go once a comfortable lead has been established. Which, by the way, sounds pretty fun to do.
2. Ohio State (3-0)
CJ Stroud picked up key weapons Saturday in Julian Fleming (who had three catches, including two for touchdowns) and Jaxon Smith-Njigba (two catches) in the Buckeyes’ 77-21 rout of Toledo. Stroud spread the ball well, with Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. each adding a pair of touchdowns. And when top guard TreVeyon Henderson was sidelined with injury, we got to see more of the Buckeyes’ young talent waiting in the wings with rookie Dallan Hayden. There were a few defensive shortcomings, but we’ll learn a lot more about that side of the ball next week when the Buckeyes open the Big Ten game against Wisconsin.
3. Alabama (3-0)
A ho-hum 63-7 win over Louisiana Monroe didn’t provide the best opportunity to learn much more about Alabama. The Crimson Tide led by three touchdowns midway through the first quarter despite running just five offensive plays, thanks to a Will Anderson pick six and a blocked punt returned for a score. But Bryce Young worked much less than a week ago to claim the victory.
4. Michigan (3-0)
Fortunately, Michigan finished its non-conference slate on the cream, knocking out UConn 59-0 on Saturday afternoon. The Wolverines have scored at least 51 points in each of their games against Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn, and they’ve allowed just 17 points in the three games combined. While many college football fans may roll their eyes at what Michigan has done so far this season due to the level of competition, I’m going to get a little excited. The Wolverines took care of business early and easily, just the way you’d want to see them do against inferior opponents. They looked solid defensively, and the special teams also provided highlight play material, including AJ Henning’s punt return touchdown on Saturday.
The past two weeks have seen JJ McCarthy get comfortable as Michigan’s starting quarterback and begin to push the boundaries of what’s possible on offense. The ceiling is high with McCarthy due to the threat he provides on the ground and the laser he has for his arm. He’s just starting to scratch the surface, and we’ll have a better idea of where he and the Wolverines stand next week against Maryland.
5. USC (3-0)
It’s easy to see why USC wanted Jordan Addison. The 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner has been a huge factor in the Trojans offense so far, and he caught Caleb Williams’ first touchdown pass in Saturday’s 45-17 win over State of Fresno, again helping the Trojan pounce on an outclassed opponent. It was Addison’s fifth touchdown of the season, and he went on to make five more catches in the game, while Williams added another touchdown pass and two scores with his own legs. This offense is going to be a problem in Pac-12 play, and its first conference test is next week at Oregon State.
6. Kentucky (3-0)
The Wildcats ate literal alligator meat this week and followed up another victory over Florida with a resounding 31-0 loss to foe FCS Youngstown State. (Please don’t eat a penguin, please.) While it’s always nice to see quarterback Will Levis methodically dispose of a defense, the biggest takeaway I had concerned the defense of Kentucky. It was, again, terrific, holding Youngstown State to less than 200 total yards, a paltry 2.6 yards per carry, and no converted third downs.
7. Oklahoma (3-0)
BetMGM only had the Sooners as 10.5-point favorites, which surprised me, but I thought there were a few things to worry about: Nebraska playing a potentially emotional first game for the coach- acting chief Mickey Joseph, and Brent Venables coaching in his first big game. Neither affected the outcome.
I was actually quite impressed with the quality of Oklahoma, especially early on when the Huskers’ energy was at its peak. Venables’ impact on defense is already clear, and Dillon Gabriel led a balanced offense that notched 35 straight points after Nebraska opened the game with a touchdown. It took the Sooners offense a while to wake up last week against Kent State, but that was no problem against Nebraska in a 49-14 victory that will go down as one of the most imbalances in the history of the rivalry.
8. Arkansas (3-0)
The Razorbacks avoided utter disaster on Saturday, going 21 points in the fourth quarter to avoid a thwarted offer from Bobby Petrino and foe FCS Missouri State. Arkansas owe Rocket Sanders, who took the ball on a shovel pass and burst through midfield 73 yards to the end zone to wake up the entire team after a sloppy start. It was an unusual performance for coach Sam Pittman’s team, but I’m willing to give Arkansas the benefit of the doubt on a bad night (and an awkward opponent) until we see more grounds for concern.
9. Clemson (3-0)
The offense provides obvious reason to be skeptical, but it’s clear Clemson’s defense is pretty good. And that unit should keep the Tigers in most, if not all, of their games this season. They won in different ways in the first three weeks of the season, and in a 48-20 win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday night, they won the race game. The Bulldogs rushed for just 6 yards on 21 carries, and the remaining one-dimensional offense couldn’t keep pace with Clemson’s ultimately quite decent offensive outing. I don’t know what’s going to happen with this team this season, but I know the ACC Atlantic still goes through Clemson.
10. Kansas (3-0)
The Jayhawks could be ranked in this week’s AP poll for the first time since 2009 after a resounding 48-30 win over Houston on Saturday. It’s also the first time since 2009 that they’re 3-0, and they’re coming off back-to-back road games for the first time since 2007. Quarterback Jalon Daniels deserves plenty of credit for Saturday’s victory , bringing methodical and calm play even in the face of an early deficit before a weather delay. There’s no way to talk about what the Jayhawks are up to without praising sophomore coach Lance Leipold, who proved to be an outstanding program builder everywhere he went, from the Division III to Buffalo via Kansas. It’s an ideal situation, and it’s great to see an oppressed program regain its place.
Also, a winning Kansas team tends to be the harbinger of a chaotic season (see: 2007), which I fully support.
(Photo: Jeff Blake/USA Today)