This early in the season, I have to look forward and see how many teams will really be with no losses in the next month. The prediction of movement is of interest in trying to guess where USC will stand in early November. For USC (13) to have a legit role in the Bowl picture, we need to see several teams reduced to one loss or even two losses.
USC's opponents have been Hawaii, Syracuse, Stanford, and California. Hawaii is 1-2. Syracuse is 1-3, Stanford is 4-0, and California is 1-3. So, USC's opponents are 7-7, include two conference opponents, and only one non-AQ opponent (Hawaii).
SEC pundits like to claim that USC has a weak schedule. By the end of this analysis, I hope you will agree that this claim is baseless. The teams ranked ahead of USC on the AP are as follows:
SEC: Alabama (1), Georgia (5), South Carolina (6), Florida (11)
PAC-12: Oregon (2), Stanford (8)
ACC: Florida State (4), West Virginia (9)
Notre Dame (10)
Big Twelve: Kansas State (7), Texas (12)
Now, the first thing I see in this list is a skew towards ranking SEC schools higher than other conferences. I'm not clear on why the media keeps ranking Alabama so highly. The scheduling for Alabama is uninspiring and unchallenging for a top ranked school.
LSU and Alabama play on Nov 3. How in the heck is Bama at 1? Their schedule to date has been Michigan (2-2), Western Kentucky (3-1), Arkansas (1-3), and Florida Atlantic (1-3). So, cumulatively, Alabama's opponents records are 7-9 at the fourth week of the season! They've only played ONE conference game against one of the worst teams (KY) in the Eastern USA. Kentucky's only win is against Kent State (MAC), and lost to Western Kentucky (Sun Belt). Alabama's opponents include TWO non-AQ schools and TWO AQ schools.
Let's talk LSU: LSU played North Texas, Washington, Idaho (WAC), and Auburn (SEC). North Texas is 1-3 (Sun Belt team). Washington is 2-1 and plays Stanford this Thursday in their conference opener. Idaho is 0-4, in the WAC and hasn't yet played a conference game. Auburn is 1-3. So, LSU's opponents are 4 wins and 11 losses at this point. Similar to Alabama, two non-AQ, and two AQ schools. Hardly a challenging strength of schedule for a top ranked team also.
Either LSU or Alabama will fall to one loss because they play each other.
Georgia plays Tennessee on 9-29. That will be Georgia's first real test. They play South Carolina on 10/6. I don't see much to talk about here because until GA plays TN, we don't really know how the team plays. GA played Buffalo, Missouri, Florida Atlantic, and then Vanderbilt in the first month of this season. None of these games really say much about the team's capabilities within SEC top-tier competition.
Florida State plays Boston College on 10/13 , Miami on 10/20, but are going to challenged with VaTech on 11/8 and Florida on 11/24. I'd say that FSU could run the table. However, even Florida State's strength of schedule is questionable. They played Murray State, Savannah State, Wake Forest, and Clemson. Like the SEC schools, they have two AQ, and two non-AQ games.
Florida is currently ranked one back from USC but are 4-0. If any team has a legitimate beef about the current ranking system, it has to be Florida. They played Bowling Green, Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Kentucky. They are 4-0, including 3 wins against conference opponents. Yet, they are one behind USC? Does that make any sense?
Florida will play South Carolina on 10-20 and Georgia on 10-27. Therefore, if they beat GA and South Carolina, it would be hard pressed to argue that they should be out of the top 10.
Excluding the discussion about the PAC-12 north and south, it is already apparent that strength of schedule is not a factor in the current national polls. By the end of November, the top 10 will look much different. The reason should be clear. SEC schools selectively choose to play non-AQ opponents and do not start conference play until October. Meanwhile, USC has already played Stanford in mid-September.