We expect too much too soon in college football.
Florida State and Alabama did not look like the No. 1 and 2 teams in the country on Saturday but why would they?
Both were playing neutral-site games against a Big 12 opponent, albeit each against an unranked Big 12 opponent, but talented teams nonetheless.
Both struggled but won, Florida State 37-31 over Oklahoma State in Arlington, Texas and Alabama 33-23 over West Virginia in Atlanta.
Both national powers lost significant personnel to the NFL draft. Ask Auburn if FSU defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan or receiver Kelvin Benjamin were any good.
Ask any NFL personnel director if the eight draft picks from last year's Alabama team were any good or the nine players taken from 2012 team or the eight from the 2011 team (quick math says there were at least 25 pros on '11 national title team).
See this is Nick Saban's fault. He made it look too easy winning three titles in four years with the Crimson Tide. It looked easy, just plugging in new recruits every year, but it's not. Certainly not this early in the season. Experience plays a part, so does motivation, the latter being a function of coaching.
Just because you have a talented replacement, doesn't mean you'll be the same team.
Wait, you mean, the South Carolina lost defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and its defense isn't as good? And just so you don't think I'm picking on the Chickens, Clemson's offense lost receiver Sammy Watkins and it isn't as good? Weird.
I'm not saying it's time to panic for FSU or Alabama what I'm really saying is college football needs a preseason.
If nothing else, it gives the officials a change to get their feet wet. There enough officiating mistakes in the Wake Forest and Syracuse games to see that.
The regular-season means too much in college football to punish a team in January because of what happened in August.
A weekly review of who's trending up or down across college football:
East Carolina: Good news for the Pirates: they beat N.C. Central while fellow "Group of 5ers" Central Florida, Houston and Boise State all lost (see below why that matters).
Texas A&M QBs: Props to Kevin Sumlin, the Aggies coach lost "Johnny Football" but found "Ken Tremendous." Sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill stepped right in for the departed Johnny Manziel and threw for 511 yards in a 52-28 blitz of South Carolina on the road on Thursday.
After the win, Sumlin said the Aggies were more than just Manziel and a "one-trick pony" and he is right.
Florida State QBs: Actual FSU QB Jameis Winston looked a little lost without Kelvin Benjamin, he certainly didn't look like the same quarterback from last year's opener. Last year's backup Jacob Coker, who transferred to Alabama, never got off the bench in the Tide's win over WVU.
East Carolina: The absolute last thing in the world ECU wanted was South Carolina, next week's opponent, getting skunked at home. The Pirates' task, a tall one to begin with, just got bigger after the embarrassment the Gamecocks suffered against Texas A&M. To be sure, Steve Spurrier will have his team's full attention this week in practice.
Instead of a weekly AP top 25 vote this season, I'm going to project the four teams in the College Football Playoff and the four other New Year's bowls.
==College Football Playoff==
Rose: No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Michigan State
Sugar: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Georgia
The top four teams, as ranked by the 13-person selection committee, will be placed in the Rose and Sugar Bowls and meet on Jan. 1. The winners will meet a week later in Arlington, Texas for the national title.
Look, let's not overreact to FSU's close call but you have to understand with the selection committee computers are out and it's human nature to be impressed with margin of victory.
This is a projection and I think Oklahoma will go 12-0. You're on the committee and you're going to compare teams. The most important numbers for Oklahoma might just be 37-31 — the final score of FSU-Oklahoma State — and 33-23 — the final score of Alabama-West Virginia.
If Oklahoma has an easier time with those two Big 12 teams, who do you think the committee is going to slot at No. 1?
That puts FSU at No. 2 with my pick for the SEC champion at the No. 3 seed. If you can run like Georgia can (a preposterous 328 yards vs. Clemson) then you can win on any level of football. Being on the East side of the SEC, Georgia also has an easier path than Alabama, LSU, Auburn or Texas A&M.
The No. 4 slot goes to Michigan State, my preseason pick for the national title. It's almost a "win and you're in" for the Big Ten and Pac-12 with this upcoming Saturday's game between Michigan State and Oregon. I think the Spartans will follow Stanford's blueprint and stifle the Ducks.
==New Year's bowls==
Fiesta: Stanford vs. Alabama
Cotton: Texas A&M vs. Oregon
Peach: ECU vs. Ohio State
Orange: Miami vs. Auburn
There are a lot of rules and contracts and provisions for the New Year's Day bowls but to highlight a few:
1) The highest-rated team, as ranked by the committee which will release a weekly top 25 starting in October, from the American Athletic, Mid-American, Mountain West, Conference USA and Sun Belt (aka the Group of 5) is guaranteed a spot in either the Peach, Cotton or Fiesta.
Where that team will actually go depends mostly on geography. I think the committee will take a 10-2 ECU team over an unbeaten Marshall.
2) The highest-rated ACC team is contracted to a spot in the Orange Bowl. It could still be Clemson, but I think it will be either Miami or Louisville.
3) There's no cap on the number of teams per conference, as there was for the old BCS. So Alabama, Texas A&M and Auburn are in play for at-large spots.
Stanford is my pick for the Pac-12 but I don't think there will be a one-loss team to emerge from the Pac-12, hence their omission from the playoff.