There are several ways to look at this issue, which goes to show why rankings before mid-October probably should not be tabulated because if a school is ranked low early (See Auburn, 2004), it will have a hard time climbing regardless of what it does. Based strictly on results, Southern California should not be ranked No. 1 yet -- the operative word being "yet" -- because the Trojans have not played anyone. Consider if Texas Tech pasted Hawaii and Arkansas the way USC did. Would the Red Raiders be No. 1 in the country?
Look at it a third way -- based neither on results nor preseason hype -- and ask, "Which team would a coach least like to face?" Our answers: 1) USC; 2) Texas; 3) Virginia Tech; 4) Louisville; 5) University of California-Davis. Okay, the last one was the latest punch line for Stanford, which inexplicably lost to the Division I-AA team at home last week.
Our rankings, based strictly on this season's performance, are becoming more difficult to assemble each week, even as fewer teams make sound arguments for being No. 1. Despite uneven quarterback play, Florida State has patched together a strong resume, having beaten two of the three recent ACC expansion teams, Miami and Boston College. Texas still gets a slight edge, however, because no team in America has a stronger road victory than the Longhorns, who won at Ohio State. Should LSU handle Tennessee Monday, the Tigers will make a strong case for No. 1, unless of course USC wins at Oregon, 99-3.