Last weekend's Shake-Up Saturday left half of the Top 10 wondering what happened and the other half just happy to have survived.
And it also meant big changes in the AP Poll. We saw the narrowest margin between Nos. 1 and 2 since 2002 as LSU edged USC by two points while teams who hadn't seen the Top 10 in decades - Boston College and Kentucky - made returns. And we also had a team that's only been around 11 years suddenly find itself in the Top 10 among the likes of Tigers, Trojans, Bears and Buckeyes.
So what to make of it all? What should the Top 25 really look like? We offer you our own version, void of prejudices. We've ranked each based strictly on overall strength, regardless of record (just because a team is 5-0 doesn't guarantee it Top 10 status), history, helmets, prestige or booster dollars.
And just for good measure, we've included where each team was ranked in our preseason poll. Some have barely budged, others have come out of nowhere. But one thing's for sure; our Oct. 3 poll looks a whole lot different from Aug. 8's.
1. LSU - No question who the best team in the country is. Preseason: 2
2. USC - The Trojans haven't looked like the dominant team we all thought they'd be after the first month of the season. They have some injuries and have seemingly played down to some of their competition. But it's still Pete Carroll, a stacked defense and an offensive line that could turn the pack of running backs into household names. Preseason: 1
3.Cal- The national championship could actually run through Berkeley, Calif. when the Bears host USC Nov. 10. Still not sold on the Bears' defense, especially against the pass, although they're playing relatively well, but offensively they've got one of the better trios in the country in Nate Longshore, Justin Forsett and DeSean Jackson. Preseason: 11
4. Ohio State - Very young offensively, but they've overcome some early-season sloppiness and the defense remains stout as ever. Have to wonder if the Buckeyes, like some other Big Ten teams, are paper tigers. They're 5-0 against YoungstownState, Akron, Washington, Northwestern and Minnesota. Preseason: 16
5. Oklahoma - Sooners had a bad day at the office in Boulder and lost on the game's final play, a common trait among nearly all their losses the past few seasons. Might have been different had Sam Bradford allowed Malcolm Kelly to catch a pass. Offensively, they are too stacked not to remain among the top tier. The Sooners are still the class of the Big 12 mostly because Texas has been so bad. Preseason: 10
6. Florida - Tim Tebow can't do it all alone as has pretty much been the case thus far for the Gators. Urban Meyer's team needs to cut down the penalties and hope they don't lose their super sophomore quarterback to injury. Extremely young defense has shown some flashes and only figures to get better. Face national title elimination game Saturday against LSU. Preseason: 8
7. Oregon - Ducks lost to Cal, but very well could be where the Bears are right now had Cameron Colvin not lost the ball a few inches before the goal line. Ducks offense will continue to roll behind Dennis Dixon after they proved they're one of the 10 best in the country last weekend. Preseason: NR
8. USF - Uncharted territory for the Bulls, but they clearly showed they're the best team in what has been a rather disappointing Big East. Bulls have vastly underrated speed on defense that allows them to compete with almost anyone. Two impressive wins over Auburn and West Virginia. Preseason: ARV
9. Kentucky - The Wildcats haven't been Top 10 material since 1977 and they can thank Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Andre' Woodson for that. Woodson has helped orchestrate multiple comeback wins for Kentucky so far. Big liability defensively and we'll find out everything we need to know about the Wildcats with three straight games against South Carolina, LSU and Florida. Preseason: ARV
10. BostonCollege - Eagles haven't looked all that impressive in their last two games against Army and UMass, but what other team can say they started the year 3-0 against conference foes, including an impressive performance against Georgia Tech? Eagles have a defense, but it's one that could be better defending the pass. Preseason: 13
11.Georgia - The young offense has matured rather quickly with Matthew Stafford establishing himself at quarterback. They aren't flashy, but the Bulldogs can put some points on the board and have a knack for winning on the road. Statistically they're middle of the road in the SEC, but no one wants to face them, including Tennessee this weekend. Preseason: 19
12. South Carolina - The Gamecocks were over-matched against LSU, but not nearly as badly as Virginia Tech was against the Tigers. Steve Spurrier's crew actually has done it with defense and the rushing game, the Ol' Ball Coach's staples. South Carolina's a quarterback away from being a real contender. Preseason: ARV
13. Wisconsin - Despite their gaudy 5-0 record, the Badgers sit outside the Top 10 because of lackluster performances against just about everyone, most especially UNLV, The Citadel and Iowa. The defense, the supposed strength of the Badgers, has yet to play up to its capabilities. Preseason: 8
14. Auburn - Despite all their flaws, and they have a ton of them on offense, the Tigers are Top 20 material based on the fact of who they have beaten Kansas State and Florida. There may not be a more underrated coach than Tommy Tuberville, if that's possible at a place like Auburn. Predictably a good defense, they didn't allow any big plays out of the Gators. If only they could find some semblance of consistency on offense. Preseason: 12
15. West Virginia - Aside from their freshman season when the Mountaineers surprised everyone with their Sugar Bowl win over Georgia, Pat White and Steve Slaton haven't exactly played big in their biggest games. That was the case again vs. USF last weekend. Defensively they have put up nice numbers, but against legit offenses they almost always come up short. Haven't beaten anyone of real consequence. Preseason: 4
16.Virginia Tech - The Hokies were exposed against the Tigers in Baton Rouge in Week 2 and the defense hasn't lived up to the preseason hype. Offensively, they've been underwhelming, averaging just 21 points against ECU, Ohio and North Carolina. With a back like Brandon Ore you'd figure the Hokies would be better than 91st in rushing. But Tyrod Taylor should mature with every start and the defense should continue to improve. There's just too much talent for it not to. Preseason: 7
17. ArizonaState - The Sun Devils' numbers are kind of deceiving. Their offensive numbers are middle-of-the-road while defensively they look like a juggernaut. Once ASU hits the bulk of its Pac-10 slate in late October, we'll really find out about Dennis Erickson's bunch. Those numbers should reverse. Preseason: NR
18. KansasState - Ten-point losers to Auburn in the season opener, Ron Prince has been quietly doing a great job in Manhattan and they're doing it with defense. Also feature one of the best return games in the country. Preseason: NR
19. Cincinnati - Think USF is overlooked in the Big East? Try Cincinnati. The Bearcats own a legit defense - no one in the country is better at taking the ball away - and Brian Kelly has stepped right in and taken Cincinnati to a whole other level from Mark Dantonio. Win over OregonState was impressive in Week 2, but have yet to face any other notable competition. Preseason: NR
20. Clemson - The Tigers have two of the best running backs not playing at Arkansas and a very good defense. But why do they always lose games they seemingly should win? It has a lot to do with stopping James Davis and C.J. Spiller, which was the case in their last loss to Georgia Tech, and that essentially falls on the offensive line. If Clemson can get consistent play out of the front five then the Tigers have BCS potential. Preseason: NR
21. Rutgers - The Scarlet Knights have looked much more impressive offensively this season, but if there ever was a paper tiger, it's RU. The Scarlet Knights took down Buffalo, Navy and NorfolkState in their fist three games before allowing a mediocre ACC team to run all over them. Defense was supposed to be strength of the team. Maybe running up the score at the end of the first half against NorfolkState came back to haunt Greg Schiano's crew last weekend. Preseason: 15
22. Purdue - Another Big Ten team who has played nobody so far this season. The offense has looked pretty impressive and special teams have been very good as well. Fits the bill of a paper tiger. They're 5-0 against the likes of Toledo, Eastern Illinois, Central Michigan, Minnesota and Notre Dame. Preseason: NR
23. Hawaii - The Warriors have played no one and even if they go undefeated, they're not going to be BCS bound because the voters and coaches can't in their right mind put them among the Top 12 in the country. Can't even make a real assessment on the Warriors because of their soft schedule. Preseason: 25
24. Missouri - Sitting pretty at 4-0 in the Big 12 North, the Tigers are flying thanks to the offense. Have yet to really knock anyone off, only having beat Illinois in the season's first week. Defensive numbers are a big cause for concern. Preseason: NR
25. Nebraska - The Cornhuskers are woefully inept on defense. Allowing 460 yards of offense to USC is one thing. But 610 to BallState? They're going to lose at least one more brutally disappointing game this season. Nebraska is barely hanging on to the final spot in poll. Preseason: 20
Potentially On The Verge (with preseason rankings): No. 14 Florida State, Miami, Illinois, Alabama, No. 4 Texas, UCF