By RALPH D. RUSSO
Breaking down the AP college football poll after Week 2 of the regular season.
MAKING A STATEMENT
Here we go again.
Alabama and LSU are Nos. 1 and 2. It’s almost as if last season never ended. The Crimson Tide and Tigers held the top two spots for eight weeks in 2011 before finally playing a rematch of a regular-season game for the BCS title, which Alabama won.
The difference this year is Alabama is No. 1 and LSU is No. 2, instead of vice versa.
Blame Southern California for the latest Southeastern Conference takeover.
USC was preseason No. 1 in a close vote and slipped to No. 2 after Alabama throttled Michigan to start the season. Then on Saturday night, Stanford handed the Trojans their first loss, 21-14 on the Farm.
So we’re back where we were last season, waiting for Alabama and LSU to play in the first weekend of November, and wondering if either will be upset along the way.
It doesn’t seem likely.
“We have really been fighting against allowing ourselves to accept average,” Tide coach Nick Saban said after a 52-0 demolition of beleaguered Arkansas.
The Tide faces Florida Atlantic and Mississippi over the next two weeks, and then takes a week off. After that come road games at Missouri and Tennessee, followed by a visit from No. 23 Mississippi State on Oct. 27.
The big game in Baton Rouge, La., is on Nov. 3.
LSU, which has outscored its opposition 145-37, has played an easier schedule than Alabama to this point. But going forward, its slate is tougher than the Tide’s. The Tigers are at Auburn next week, followed by a home game against Towson. Then comes a road trip to No. 14 Florida and a home game against No. 7 South Carolina. Those could be tricky.
A game against Texas A&M and a week off precede the Alabama game. The Tigers finish with home games against Mississippi State and Mississippi and a road game at Arkansas.
And what about another rematch of LSU-Alabama in the title game?
Well, let’s get to Round 3 first before we start that again.
No. 9 Stanford shot up 12 spots after beating USC for the fourth straight season, and No. 11 Notre Dame rose nine places after dominating Michigan State 20-3 in East Lansing, Mich.
The Cardinal are proving there is life and prosperity after Andrew Luck. The assumption was when the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up moved on to the NFL, Stanford would slip back into the Pac-12 pack.
Well, it seems as if the Cardinal are going to be a conference contender again. New quarterback Josh Nunes is no Luck, but the foundation of Stanford’s success since Jim Harbaugh took over the program in 2007 has been power.
“I have been saying it for years, even before I became head coach: This game isn’t about who you play, it is about how you play,” said coach David Shaw, who replaced Harbaugh last season.
The Cardinal’s running game sputtered in its first two weeks, cranking out only 247 yards total against San Jose State and Duke.
Stepfan Taylor and Stanford looked more like themselves against USC with 202 yards on the ground. On defense, the Cardinal’s big and strong front seven led by Trent Murphy and Chase Thomas exposed USC’s one offensive weakness — its line.
Without Luck, Stanford is still a tough and physical team.
Tough and physical are now a way to describe Notre Dame — for the first time in a long while.
Behind linebacker Manti Te’o and defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt, the Irish smothered the Spartans, allowing 237 total yards, only 50 on the ground.
The Irish and Cardinal meet in South Bend, Ind., on Oct. 13.
There were signs last week, in No. 13 USC’s 42-29 victory against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium, that the Trojans’ line play would be a problem.
Even before the season, there were fears that USC’s defensive line looked thin and the offensive line less-than-dominant. But there was so much talent and skill on both sides of the ball, including Heisman Trophy favorite Matt Barkley at quarterback, it was easy to overlook potential problems.
“We obviously did not have an answer (for their defense),” Barkley told reporters after the game.
IN AND OUT
No. 24 Boise State and No. 25 Nebraska, after brief exits, are back in the rankings, and No. 23 Mississippi State is in the Top 25 for the first time in a bit more than a year.
The Bulldogs are 3-0 for the first time since 1999, though getting there was tougher than most probably expected. Mississippi State won 30-24 at Troy on Saturday.
“We jumped into the polls and we did not perform at our best. I hope it’s a real motivating factor,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said Sunday.
Falling out were Tennessee, BYU and Virginia Tech.
The Hokies suffered maybe the most surprising loss of the weekend, falling 35-17 to previously winless Pittsburgh.
Virginia Tech is unranked for the first time since October 2010, snapping a string of 29 polls.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Florida State heads into maybe its biggest regular-season game of the year with its best ranking since Oct. 9, 2005.
The Seminoles, coming off a 52-0 victory against Wake Forest, host No. 10 Clemson at Doak Campell Stadium on Saturday in a game that should go a long way to determining who wins the Atlantic Division of the ACC.
ODDS & ENDS
No. 18 Michigan beat UMass 63-13 and dropped a spot in the polls. Seems odd, but don’t take it personally, Wolverines fans. Michigan received 19 more points this week from the media panel, but essentially Stanford and Notre Dame’s rises pushed the Wolverines back a spot. Michigan is at Notre Dame on Saturday. … The other Top 25 matchups this week are No. 15 Kansas State at No. 15 Oklahoma and No. 22 Arizona at No. 3 Oregon. It feels as if the Ducks’ season hasn’t even started after easy victories against Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech.
AP top 25 poll
The Top 25 teams in The Associated Press college football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Sept. 15, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote, and previous ranking:
Record Pts Pv
1. Alabama (58) 3-0 1,498 1
2. LSU (2) 3-0 1,433 3
3. Oregon 3-0 1,356 4
4. Florida St. 3-0 1,275 5
5. Georgia 3-0 1,203 7
6. Oklahoma 2-0 1,181 5
7. South Carolina 3-0 1,081 8
8. West Virginia 2-0 1,051 9
9. Stanford 3-0 1,009 21
10. Clemson 3-0 899 11
11. Notre Dame 3-0 854 20
12. Texas 3-0 816 14
13. Southern Cal 2-1 776 2
14. Florida 3-0 743 18
15. Kansas St. 3-0 683 15
16. Ohio St. 3-0 680 12
17. TCU 2-0 535 16
18. Michigan 2-1 448 17
19. UCLA 3-0 429 22
20. Louisville 3-0 366 19
21. Michigan St. 2-1 318 10
22. Arizona 3-0 296 24
23. Mississippi St. 3-0 106 NR
24. Boise St. 1-1 95 NR
25. Nebraska 2-1 80 NR
Others receiving votes: Oregon St. 68, Baylor 55, Northwestern 41, Ohio 20, Oklahoma St. 19, Rutgers 19, Iowa St. 15, Virginia Tech 13, Cincinnati 9, Tennessee 6, Texas Tech 5, Wisconsin 5, Missouri 4, Texas A&M 4, Georgia Tech 3, Fresno St. 2, Utah 1.