1 Word to Describe Every Top 25 College Football Team Entering October

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 30, 2022

1 Word to Describe Every Top 25 College Football Team Entering October

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    LEXINGTON, KY - SEPTEMBER 17: Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops runs onto the field before a game between the Youngstown State Penguins and Kentucky Wildcats on September 17, 2022, at Kroger Field in Lexington, KY. (Photo by Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Mark Stoops | Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    As the opening month of the 2022 college football season comes to a close, we could share hundreds of words about every Top 25 team.

    What has played out as anticipated? How about something new we've learned? Where is the roster thriving, struggling or is somewhere in between? All of these starter questions are valuable.

    Concision, however, is our friend.

    Using a single word followed by a brief summary, we're reviewing the first month of the campaign for each program in the most recent AP Top 25.

25-21. Kansas State, Pitt, Florida State, Wake Forest, Minnesota

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    WINSTON-SALEM, NC - SEPTEMBER 24: Sam Hartman #10 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons drops back to pass against the Clemson Tigers at Truist Field on September 24, 2022 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Clemson won 51-45 in 2OT. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
    Sam Hartman | Lance King/Getty Images

    25. Kansas State Wildcats: Funky

    Lose at home to Tulane, beat Oklahoma on the road. As one does. I'd love to call it "strange" or something like that, but this is Kansas State. Funky stuff happens every year on the program's inevitable road to eight wins.

    24. Pitt Panthers: Choppy

    The highs of a last-minute, dramatic win over historic rival West Virginia led to the lows of a home overtime loss to Tennessee. Then, the Panthers played third-string quarterback Nate Yarnell in a never-concerned-but-not-pretty win at Western Michigan and didn't exactly roll through Rhode Island. Pitt's win-loss record has matched expectations, but the eye test needs to improve.

    23. Florida State Seminoles: Interesting

    Victories over LSU, Louisville and Boston College aren't the foundation of a sudden title contender. Recent versions of FSU probably lose to two of those, though. The offense's high-level efficiency is the driver of this early success, but it's about to meet three enormous obstacles. Wake Forest, NC State and Clemson—all Top 25 programs—are FSU's next three opponents.

    22. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Hectic

    After winning the opener without star quarterback Sam Hartman, he returned in Week 2 and excelled. Wake Forest then survived Liberty on a failed two-point conversation yet took ACC favorite Clemson to overtime before losing. It's been a bit of a roller coaster in Winston-Salem.

    21. Minnesota Golden Gophers: Overpowering

    Nuance is imperative. New Mexico State has three FBS victories since 2019, Western Illinois is from the FCS, Colorado is an objectively bad team in 2022 and Michigan State has struggled this season. But, y'all, the Gophers have walloped everyone. They outscored that quartet 183-24 behind Mohamed Ibrahim's eight rushing touchdowns and a resurgent season from quarterback Tanner Morgan. Minnesota is the early favorite in the Big Ten West.

20-16. Arkansas, BYU, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Baylor

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    NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 3:  Quarterback Dillon Gabriel #8 of the Oklahoma Sooners sidesteps safety Tyson Wilson #1 of the UTEP Miners for a 12-yard touchdown in the first quarter at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 3, 2022 in Norman, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma won 45-13.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
    Dillon Gabriel | Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    20. Arkansas Razorbacks: Irritating

    Man, talk about a "what could have been" month. Arkansas was a top-of-the-upright-ricocheting field goal removed from a perfect September with satisfying wins against Cincinnati, South Carolina and Texas A&M. There's a whole lot to like about Arkansas offensively, but that missed kick opposite A&M—and the 17-point deficit to Missouri State, for that matter—is a tough memory in a productive month.

    19. BYU Cougars: Reasonable

    It feels like we've seen this movie 100 times. An experienced roster with a returning QB starts fast and picks up a marquee win over a Top 15 team yet fades with a loss to a quality opponent. Check, check, check. BYU's veteran group, led by Jaren Hall, celebrated a superb home victory over Baylor but lost at Oregon. Keep an eye on BYU as a New Year's Six bowl contender if it topples Notre Dame or Arkansas in October.

    18. Oklahoma Sooners: Familiar

    This again? For the third time in four seasons, Oklahoma carried an unbeaten record into a clash with Kansas State and lost to the Wildcats. The good news is the Sooners still celebrated a Big 12 title when it happened in 2019 and 2020. Transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel is certainly capable of leading that charge this season. But, really, again?

    17. Texas A&M Aggies: Unconvincing

    Texas A&M fell to Appalachian State, barely beat an unimpressive Miami team and squeaked out a victory over Arkansas thanks to a fortuitous defensive score and the aforementioned bizarre missed kick. Look, you cannot take the 3-1 record from the Aggies. But the confidence meter, on a 1-10 scale, probably isn't reading higher than a 4 or 5 in College Station.

    16. Baylor Bears: Satisfactory

    Baylor had a couple of chances to survive the trip to BYU, and not capitalizing on those moments is a letdown. Stressing over a road loss to a veteran team is unwise, though. Otherwise, the Bears have crushed Albany and Texas State along with a decently comfortable win at Iowa State. Baylor fans don't need us to tell them Saturday's clash with Oklahoma State is a big one in the Big 12 race. But, folks, it's a big one.

15-11. Washington, Ole Miss, Oregon, Utah, Penn State

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    EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 17: Quarterback Bo Nix #10 of the Oregon Ducks runs with the ball against the Brigham Young Cougars during  the first half at Autzen Stadium on September 17, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)
    Bo Nix | Tom Hauck/Getty Images

    15. Washington Huskies: Unexpected

    Washington at 4-0? In this economy?! But seriously, what a month. The Huskies have leaned on Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr., whose return from a shoulder injury while guiding a new program has been incredible. He's thrown for 300-plus yards in every game, ranking 12th nationally at 9.7 yards per attempt with 12 touchdowns to one interception. Washington has legitimate 10-win potential if the offense keeps playing this well.

    14. Ole Miss Rebels: Quiet

    And that, my friends, is a good thing. High-profile USC transfer Jaxson Dart won the QB competition, but he's ultimately inexperienced at the college level. The reasonably painless slate has afforded the Rebels a chance to gear up for a tougher October—starting with a key home clash against Kentucky—before the looming gauntlet in November.

    13. Oregon Ducks: Resilient

    The 46-point loss to Georgia in Week 1 was horrendous. However, the Ducks have since recovered, with Bo Nix accounting for 13 touchdowns in a three-game run that featured a win over BYU and memorable comeback at Washington State. Oregon remains a key contender in the Pac-12—something that didn't feel certain after the opener.

    12. Utah Utes: Acceptable

    Moral victories aren't important to title hopefuls. But a three-point road loss to Florida has become a little more forgivable each week. Utah has smacked Southern Utah, San Diego State and Arizona State, surrendering a total of just 27 points to the trio. October is a vital month for the Utes' effort to defend their Pac-12 crown, given the schedule includes a 14-2 combined opponent record in Oregon State, UCLA, USC and Wazzu.

    11. Penn State Nittany Lions: Stable

    Once the Nittany Lions survived a trip to Purdue, they steamrolled Ohio and Auburn before handling Central Michigan. Penn State should beat Northwestern and enter its idle weekend at 5-0 in time for a season-defining stretch against now-unbeaten squads Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State.

10-6. NC State, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Kentucky, USC

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 10: Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) rushes with the ball during the college football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Pittsburgh Panthers on September 10, 2022 at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Hendon Hooker | Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    10. North Carolina State Wolfpack: Unremarkable

    The key point is NC State holds a 4-0 record. Every goal remains a possibility for the Pack. Simultaneously, they nearly lost the opener at East Carolina and only gained 270 yards in a victory over Texas Tech. Remember, this is simply about September. We're not saying the team is destined to be unremarkable all year. Winning at Clemson in Week 5 would silence any creeping questions around a sturdy NC State roster.

    9. Oklahoma State Cowboys: Intriguing

    As with several others, the Pokes haven't played a tremendously high level of competition. Still, it's easy to appreciate how the offense has performed. Oklahoma State has tallied 6.9 yards per play and 51.7 points per game behind quarterback Spencer Sanders, who has averaged 342 offensive yards and totaled 13 touchdowns in three wins.

    8. Tennessee Volunteers: Appealing

    Who doesn't love a dynamic offense? Tennessee leads the nation in yards per game, is fourth in scoring and ranks eighth in yards per play. Dual-threat quarterback Hendon Hooker is an electrifying talent, and the Vols have quality wins against Pitt and Florida. Sustainability is a major question with LSU, Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia looming in the next five matchups. But, hey, Tennessee is fun to watch again.

    7. Kentucky Wildcats: Solid

    So far, the 'Cats have easily dispatched MAC contender Miami, convincingly won at Florida, blanked Youngstown State and pulled away late from Northern Illinois. Kentucky's performances opposite UF and NIU balance each other out, sending UK into October as a respected but speculative team.

    6. USC Trojans: Encouraging

    Had the Trojans not needed a late escape at Oregon State, the word may have been more positive. Through three games, USC looked fantastic on offense. Although that changed in Week 4, the defense put together a tremendous night and held OSU to 14 points. USC's upside is the College Football Playoff, but it's not difficult to see a contest or two in which the offense stumbles and the defense cannot pick up the slack.

5-1. Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia

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    Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy looks to throw against Maryland in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
    J.J. McCarthy | AP Photo/Paul Sancya

    5. Clemson Tigers: Valuable

    From a team perspective, the 4-0 record with two ACC victories—including a key triumph at Wake Forest—is terrific. But the Tigers also should be more confident in second-year quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, who struggled in the opener but has since thrived. October games against NC State, Florida State and Syracuse could effectively seal a return to the ACC Championship Game.

    4. Michigan Wolverines: Transitional

    The schedule hardly could've been easier. Given the circumstances, though, that's probably a good thing. Michigan is adjusting to new coordinators on both sides of the ball, and the Wolverines made the not-unanticipated switch from Cade McNamara to J.J. McCarthy at quarterback in Week 2. The real challenge starts now, beginning with a tough trip to Iowa.

    3. Ohio State Buckeyes: Powerful

    Ohio State held Notre Dame to 253 yards in the season-opening showdown. From there, the Buckeyes rolled Arkansas State, Toledo and Wisconsin with victories of 33-plus points. Second-year quarterback C.J. Stroud is looking every bit the Heisman Trophy favorite, and the Buckeyes have a seemingly improved defense under new coordinator Jim Knowles. So far, all is good in Columbus.

    2. Alabama Crimson Tide: Fortunate

    Anything less than blowout wins against Utah State, Louisiana-Monroe and Vanderbilt would've been surprising. Alabama racked up a combined score of 173-10 against the trio. But, quite simply, the Tide were fortunate to escape Texas with a 20-19 victory. Entering a tough stretch opposite Arkansas, Texas A&M and Tennessee, Bama has that helpful CFP margin for error intact.

    1. Georgia Bulldogs: Commanding

    September's fireworks ended with a fizzle for Georgia, which didn't put away Kent State until the fourth quarter. Before that, though, the Dawgs thrashed Oregon 49-3, shut out lower-division Samford and smacked South Carolina 48-7. Veteran quarterback Stetson Bennett has exceeded expectations to help the reigning champions start fast.


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