There is no doubt over which two teams should rank atop the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll. Instead, the debate is over which of this pair deserves to be No. 1.
Is it mighty Alabama, still unbeaten after a 42-21 win against No. 12 Mississippi that was more dominant than the score suggests?
Or is it powerful Georgia, which destroyed No. 11 Arkansas 37-0 and has the nation’s best defense in nearly every major category?
After one week of October, these two teams are unquestionably at the front of the pack in the Football Bowl Subdivision and miles ahead of the other primary contenders for the College Football Playoff.
Several teams that even flirted with No. 1 consideration, whether in the preseason or in the weeks since, have either lost or failed to look the part of the best team in college football.
Ohio State struggled with Minnesota and lost to Oregon, though the Buckeyes have played much better in the past three weeks. Previously No. 3 in the Coaches Poll, the Ducks lost in overtime to Stanford and will plummet down the rankings. Oklahoma has remained unbeaten but has yet to resemble the teams that reached the playoff in three of the past four seasons.
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Alabama has been No. 1 since the initial Top 25 and hasn’t necessarily done anything to be removed from that perch, even if the typically powerful running game struggled for much of September and the Crimson Tide barely escaped with a 31-29 win at Florida.
With so many losses from last year’s offense, the Tide have leaned on sophomore quarterback Bryce Young, who has tossed 17 touchdowns against just two interceptions.
Ranked fifth in the preseason poll, Georgia rose to No. 2 behind a smothering performance in the opener against Clemson and a series of blowouts in SEC play. The Bulldogs have outscored Arkansas, Vanderbilt and South Carolina by a score of 143-13.
It’s the defense that makes Georgia so dangerous. This group has given up just 23 points in five games and just a field goal in eight quarters against ranked competition.
Boiled down, these are the arguments for putting each team No. 1:
- Alabama has three wins against teams then ranked in the Top 25: Miami (Fla.), Florida and Ole Miss. With Clemson faltering, the victory against the Gators is more impressive than any one of the Bulldogs’ five wins. You can even make the argument that beating Ole Miss is more notable than topping Arkansas, but that would ignore the Razorbacks’ wins against Texas and Texas A&M.
- Georgia has four wins against Power Five competition to Alabama’s three. The Bulldogs also have done so without a healthy JT Daniels, who has missed two games to injury and been limited even when in the lineup. Most of all, Georgia has the nation’s most intimidating unit in a defense that leads the FBS in yards per play, yards per game and points per game. Even the perceived gap on offense between the Bulldogs and Tide isn’t rooted in reality: Alabama is averaging 6.8 and Georgia 6.6 yards per play.
The only sure thing? That everyone else is chasing the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide. Deciding which team deserves to be No. 1 might be impossible until they meet in the SEC championship game on the first Saturday in December.
Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg