Breaking down The Associated Press college football poll after Week 2 of the regular season.
ALL CLEAR UNTIL NOVEMBER. Now that Alabama has survived its latest meeting with Johnny Manziel, and for coach Nick Saban’s sake it will be the last time he’ll ever have to worry about Johnny Football, the Crimson Tide are set to settle into an accommodating slice of schedule as the No. 1 team in the country.
The Tide remained top ranked in The Associated Press college football poll Sunday after a wild 49-42 victory against Texas A&M in College Station, Texas.
Alabama received all but one of the 60 first-place votes from the media panel and the rest of the top five was unchanged this week, with Oregon, Clemson, Ohio State and Stanford. The Ducks got a first-place vote.
Texas A&M slipped four spots to No. 10.
The Tide return home to play former offensive coordinator Jim McElwain and his Colorado State team on Saturday in the first of six games in six weeks — five at home — in which Alabama will be a heavy favorite.
After dealing with the Rams (1-2) from the Mountain West, No. 21 Mississippi comes to Tuscaloosa to face the Tide. The Rebels run an up-tempo offense similar to Texas A&M, but quarterback Bo Wallace is no Manziel. Still, Ole Miss looks like the Tide’s biggest challenge over the next month and a half.
After that for the Tide, it’s Georgia State to get some work for the third string, a road trip to Kentucky and home games against Tennessee and Arkansas.
Then the Tide gets a week off before No. 6 LSU comes to Tuscaloosa.
So, yes, another college football season spent waiting for Alabama to play LSU.
OUTTA HERE. Nebraska’s latest humbling loss — 41-21 at home to UCLA — dropped the Cornhuskers out of the rankings for the first time this season.
The Huskers’ struggle to regain elite status has been a running theme for a decade. Coach Bo Pelini has done a good job guiding the program out of the misguided Bill Callahan era. Pelini is 50-21 since taking over in 2008 and 29-11 in conference. That’s good stuff. But Nebraska hasn’t won a conference title and hasn’t finished ranked in the top 10 during Pelini’s tenure. The Huskers seem to be stuck in fourth gear. Good enough to beat most teams and go to good bowls, but unable to be what they were for decades under Tom Osborne: a national championship contender.
To put some poll perspective on Nebraska’s fall from grace, from 1981-2002 the Huskers were ranked in a record 348 consecutive AP Top 25s. Since then, there have been only two seasons in which Nebraska has been ranked wire-to-wire and its best finish in the rankings was 14th in 2009.
MOVING UP. Ole Miss moved up four spots after its 44-23 victory against Texas. Sure the Longhorns are reeling. And the Rebels’ other impressive victory came against a Vanderbilt team that is 1-2.
But there is plenty to be optimistic about for Ole Miss fans. Whatever flaws Texas and Vandy have, the only other team in the country with two victories away from home against teams from BCS automatic-qualifying conferences is Alabama. And one of the Tide’s victories was at a neutral site. Ole Miss won two true road games.
MOVING DOWN. More often than not, the letdown theory for college football teams is a bit contrived. Win a big game, play an inferior opponent the next week, and inevitably the coach and players are asked about guarding against a letdown. Usually, it’s a stretch.
Then Michigan comes along and gives credence to the theory. The Wolverines, coming off a victory against Notre Dame last week, fell four spots in the latest rankings to No. 15 after needing a last-second goal line stand to beat Akron 28-24. The Zips have not beaten an FBS team since 2010.
“We almost lost to Akron, no disrespect to Akron,” said Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, who had four turnovers.
MOVING IN: No. 23 Arizona State moved into the rankings this week after beating Wisconsin 32-30 at home. The Badgers were in position for a mid-range field goal to take the lead in the final seconds, but never got the play off after awkwardly trying to center the ball and some odd — to say the least — officiating. The Badgers dropped four spots to No. 24.
Texas Tech debuted at No. 25 after beating TCU and knocking the Horned Frogs from the rankings in another game in which the officials took some heat for unusual calls.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoAP