A special, if somewhat sad edition of the top-25 rankings this week. Saturday delivered another terrific day of college football, but we also must remember and celebrate one of the best rock n rollers of all-time, Tom Petty, who passed away earlier this week. So, in addition to the usual top 25, you get some bonus rankings, my picks for the 25 best Petty songs ever. Enjoy.
With Week 6 in the books, here’s my top 25:
1. Clemson (6-0)
It wasn’t a blowout, but the champs rolled on with a comfortable-enough win over Wake Forest. Of bigger concern is Kelly Bryant, who left the game with an ankle injury.
No. 25: “Saving Grace” from Highway Companion, 2006
2. Alabama (6-0)
Bama held on to win by eight after a 21-point third-quarter lead shrunk down. But was it ever really in doubt for the Tide? They will no doubt roll through a weak schedule leading up to the Iron Bowl.
No. 24: “The Wild One, Forever” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976
3. TCU (5-0)
Defensively, the Frogs kept West Virginia out of the end zone through the first 41 minutes. Offensively, Kenny Hill had himself a day and matched the Mountaineers’ late charge. Oh, and TCU is now in complete command of the Big 12.
No. 23: “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” from Hard Promises, 1981
4. Georgia (6-0)
The Dawgs delivered another SEC pounding — yawn — and have outscored their conference foes by 100 points in three games. Expect that number to balloon further with Mizzou on the schedule next.
No. 22: “Rebels” from Southern Accents, 1985
5. Penn State (6-0)
Saquon Barkley had a negative rushing total in the first half Saturday, and this one was somehow never in doubt. Barkley finished with a pair of touchdown runs as the Lions look far and away the best team in the Big Ten East.
No. 21: “The Same Old You” from Long After Dark, 1982
6. Wisconsin (5-0)
Things looked a bit dicey with Wisconsin tied with Nebraska in the third quarter. But the Badgers ran away, closing with three straight touchdowns and winning easily on Jonathan Taylor’s huge night: 249 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.
No. 20: “Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid)” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979
7. Washington (6-0)
I doubted Washington early, and at this point I’m not sure why. The Huskies pounded Cal on Saturday night — yes, Chris Petersen, a night game — and are one of three teams (Alabama, Ohio State) in the top 10 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense.
No. 19: “Century City” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979
8. Washington State (6-0)
Wazzu’s still undefeated, taking complete advantage of an Oregon team without its starting quarterback, holding the Ducks to just 10 points, Oregon’s fewest since the LeGarrette Blount punch game.
No. 18: “Hometown Blues” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976
9. Miami (4-0)
What a wild finish in the rivalry game with Florida State, but Miami finally stopped its losing streak to the Noles. The Canes’ defense allowed more than 400 yards, but Malik Rosier threw three touchdown passes.
No. 17: “Listen to Her Heart” from You’re Gonna Get It!, 1978
10. Auburn (5-1)
Just like Alabama and Georgia, Auburn is clobbering everyone else in the SEC. Since only beating Mercer by 14, the Tigers have smoked Mizzou, Mississippi State and Ole Miss by a combined 144-47 score.
No. 16: “Runnin’ Down a Dream” from Full Moon Fever, 1989
11. Ohio State (5-1)
Somehow, the guy who was one of the most focused-on college football players of the summer, J.T. Barrett, is low-key having a phenomenal season. Saturday against Maryland: 320 passing/rushing yards and four total touchdowns.
No. 15: “Louisiana Rain” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979
12. Virginia Tech (5-1)
Josh Jackson threw for 322 yards in the Hokies’ 13-point win over Boston College. You would’ve liked to see a bit more, but it was a nice bounce back after the loss to Clemson.
No. 14: “Ways to Be Wicked” from Nobody’s Children, 1995
13. Oklahoma State (4-1)
Okie State finally got to rest up after losing to TCU and almost losing to Texas Tech. The TCU loss looks better and better, but the Cowboys need to hope for a slip-up from the Frogs and not slip up themselves in the back-to-back gauntlet of West Virginia and Oklahoma.
No. 13: “Learning to Fly” from Into the Great Wide Open, 1991
14. Notre Dame (5-1)
Not expected to do much after last year’s eight-loss debacle, the Irish are kind of really good. They’re the No. 6 rushing team in the country, adding to their total with 341 more rush yards against North Carolina.
No. 12: “You Wreck Me” from Wildflowers, 1994
15. Michigan State (4-1)
Out of nowhere, here comes Sparty. A sensational defensive performance against a top-10 Michigan team in rain-soaked Ann Arbor, plus a not-so-bad loss to Notre Dame, has Mark Dantonio’s team skyrocketing.
No. 11: “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” from Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna, 1981
16. West Virginia (3-2)
A valiant comeback attempt by Will Grier & Co. was shut down by Kenny Hill, but that doesn’t take away from West Virginia managing to look good on the road against one of the country’s best teams.
No. 10: “I Won’t Back Down” from Full Moon Fever, 1989
17. USC (5-1)
You don’t really get any points for beating up on terrible Oregon State. But things are about to get much tougher for Sam Darnold and USC with back-to-back games coming against Utah and Notre Dame.
No. 9: “Anything That’s Rock N Roll” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976
18. Oklahoma (4-1)
Iowa State played out of its mind, had a linebacker throwing passes and pulled the upset of the year. Baker Mayfield played well, the Sooners were just derailed by fumbling at the worst possible time. And like that, the Playoff chances take a nosedive.
No. 8: “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” from Greatest Hits, 1993
19. North Carolina State (5-1)
Don’t talk back to the Wolfpack, who now have beaten Florida State and Louisville this season. A Week 1 home loss to South Carolina — how did that happen? — is all preventing the Nov. 4 game against Clemson from determining the ACC.
No. 7: “Breakdown” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976
20. Stanford (4-2)
With a big win over previously undefeated Utah, the Cardinal are really still in the mix for the Pac-12 crown. Two losses (even two good ones) might box Stanford out of the Playoff race, but Bryce Love & Co. are a good team.
No. 6: “Don’t Do Me Like That” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979
21. South Florida (5-0)
No game for the high-scoring Bulls this weekend. All eyes are on the season finale against UCF.
No. 5: “Even the Losers” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979
22. Louisville (4-2)
Not even Lamar Jackson’s 427 total yards and three total touchdowns could put Louisville past NC State. The Cardinals have allowed 37.3 points per game in their four contests against Power Five teams this season.
No. 4: “Free Fallin’” from Full Moon Fever, 1989
23. San Diego State (6-0)
Another win for the Aztecs and another big day for Rashaad Penny. They’ve got six wins, two of them coming against Pac-12 teams, and can’t possibly lose to another Mountain West team, right?
No. 3: “The Waiting” from Hard Promises, 1981
24. Michigan (4-1)
The Wolverines’ offensive ineptitude really bit them hard on Saturday night, as the Big Ten-iest game of all-time ended in Michigan State walking out of the Big House with a win. Michigan can’t run the ball, nor can it throw the ball, which is a horrendous combination.
No. 2: “American Girl” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1976
25. Utah (4-1)
The Utes are undefeated no more, losing to a good Stanford team on Saturday. In a crowded and competitive Pac-12, Utah gets no rest: USC next and Oregon, Wazzu and Washington down the line.
No. 1: “Refugee” from Damn the Torpedoes, 1979
Others receiving votes
The Knights are rolling just as well as any Group of Five team out there, dropping 51 points in three quarters on Cincinnati.
Georgia Tech (3-1)
Off week for the Jackets, who have the second-best rushing offense in the country (shocking, I know) and a one-loss record in a crowded ACC.
The Hawkeyes finally got to exhale from those back-to-back losses to Penn State and Michigan State, two of the best-looking teams in the Big Ten. Iowa beat up on Illinois for a near 30-point win.
Texas Tech (4-1)
Scoring 65 points against Kansas is always fun! A good tune up for the Red Raiders who play road games at West Virginia and Oklahoma over the course of their next three games.
Good for Coach O to go into The Swamp and get a huge road win over a ranked Florida team to stop his program’s free fall. Beating Florida is a whole lot better than losing to Troy.
The Gators somehow lost a home game to an LSU team that lost to Troy last weekend. But I wanted to include Florida here to sign off with what The Swamp did to honor Tom Petty. It was awesome.
Other Tom Petty songs receiving votes
“Baby’s a Rock N Roller” from You’re Gonna Get It!, 1978
“Letting You Go” from Hard Promises, 1981
“Straight Into Darkness” from Long After Dark, 1982
“Make It Better (Forget About Me)” from Southern Accents, 1985
“The Apartment Song” from Full Moon Fever, 1989
“Surrender” from Anthology: Through the Years, 2000