Rankings are very fluid throughout the year, which is something all of us who do them fall back on as an excuse when ours look bad.
But this year, the Central Section top 25 has been remarkably stable. There have been a couple of big shifts — Buchanan from nowhere into the top 10, Washington Union from the top 10 to out — but for the most part, teams have only exceeded or fell short of expectations in small doses.
I say this with two weeks of football to be played before league play begins for nealry everyone Oct. 5; next week has a fairly light schedule as most teams who haven't yet had a bye take that chance. That leaves one full week to continue to sort these teams out before they get into the league. Is a big shakeup still coming? Stay tuned.
1. Bakersfield (4-0, Division I, last week: 1) — Now four-fifths of the way through what was thought to be a minefield non-league schedule, the Drillers haven't played a game closer than 10 points. The biggest win from a state-wide perspective clearly was this week over Long Beach-Poly. Yes, the Jackrabbits are down, but beating that program by 23 points will get everyone's attention.
LAST WEEK: won at Long Beach-Poly, 29-6. THIS WEEK: at No. 9 Clovis-Buchanan
2. Clovis North (4-0, Division I, last week: 2) — As fun as it would be to see Clovis North take on Garces again with the Division II championship on the line, it appears we're all pretty lucky that the Broncos decided to move into Division I for 2012. This team has all the pieces to be a TRAC champion and section champion.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 9 Frontier, 38-21. THIS WEEK: at Merced
3. Fresno-Central (4-0, Division I, last week: 3) — With Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops in attendance to see Sooners DB commit Hatari Byrd, the Grizzlies crushed El Diamante, leading Miners coach Mark Rogers to tell the Fresno Bee that Central was the best team his guys had faced. Who else has El D faced? Clovis North. Hmmm.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 14 Visalia-El Diamante, 42-7. THIS WEEK: at Tulare Union
4. Clovis (3-1, Division I, last week: 4) — Despite the final score, I wasn't blown away by Clovis in its beatdown of Stockdale last week, unlike last year when the Cougars dominated the Mustangs for 48 minutes. Still, Clovis is solid and averse to mistakes; that's a heck of a formula, and it's worked already in games against Edison and Centennial, too.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 11 Stockdale, 37-6. THIS WEEK: at Atwater
5. Garces (3-1, Division II, last week: 5) — In a rivalry game, when emotions tend to run high, the underdog always has a chance. At least until a focused team like Garces comes out and exacts four years' worth of revenge, which is what the Rams did in a late-night Holy Bowl rout of Memorial. But look out: Stockdale is a tricky, talented opponent that won't be in a good mood when it hits Sam Tobias Field on Friday. Win here, and the Rams should run the table.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial, 41-7. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 16 Stockdale
6. Liberty (3-1, Division I, last week: 6) — No room to move up for the Patriots, though for the second week in a row, they were plenty impressive enough to be considered a top 5 team. Every week, Liberty shows off a new dimension to its game — this week, it was special teams, which gave the Pats two quick touchdowns after halftime (kickoff return and punt-snap recovery) to put Buchanan away.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 8 Clovis-Buchanan, 42-21. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 13 Ridgeview
7. Fresno-Edison (2-2, Division I, last week: 7) — There's a big step down from No. 6 to No. 7 in my book, but the Tigers also aren't going to fall after playing Crenshaw, one of the best teams in the L.A. City Section, tough in a shootout loss. Edison will be favored in every game it plays at least until the regular-season finale against Bullard.
LAST WEEK: lost at L.A.-Crenshaw, 41-30. THIS WEEK: BYE
8. Kingsburg (3-0, Division II, last week: 10) — Tough to get a read on the Vikings, whose three victims are a combined 2-8. Kingsburg is this high on pedigree, but it'll be a while before we know exactly how good it is; the Vikes won't be challenged until back-to-back road trips to Paso Robles and Dinuba in mid-October, and even that might not be that tough.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: at Kerman
9. Clovis-Buchanan (2-1, Division I, last week: 8) — The Bears' trouble at Liberty might have more to do with how strong the Patriots are than anything else. After all, Buchanan still has a 36-14 whipping of Bullard to fall back on. Things certainly won't get any easier this week: Consider it a victory for Buchanan if the game stays within three touchdowns (hey, that would be better than Long Beach-Poly did).
LAST WEEK: lost at No. 6 Liberty, 42-21. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 1 Bakersfield
10. Fresno-Bullard (2-1, Division I, last week: 12) — It's not often that a Bullard-Clovis West game takes a backseat to anything in the Central Section, but that's the situation we're in this week. While the Knights rebuild a bit after last year's run to the title game, Clovis West is 3-11 since winning the 2010 championship. Go back in time and amaze your friends with that tidbit.
LAST WEEK: won at Clovis East, 28-14. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 20 Clovis West
11. Frontier (1-3, Division I, last week: 9) — I still think the Titans have the potential to be a top 10 team in the section — mostly because I don't think the bottom of the top 10 is all that elite — but this schedule is taking its toll and Frontier's ranking had to pay the price at some point. A chance to get well against West this week and a bye next week, then back into the flames with SWYL play.
LAST WEEK: lost at No. 2 Clovis North, 38-21. THIS WEEK: vs. West
12. Wasco (3-0, Division IV, last week: 15) — Impossible not to be impressed by what the Tigers did at Golden Valley. I said Wasco had a chance to roll up 500 rushing yards, and they out-did even that with 693. Six hundred ninety-three. Basically in three quarters. You see anybody on that schedule who's going to slow Wasco down? Me neither.
LAST WEEK: won at Golden Valley, 62-18. THIS WEEK: at East
13. Ridgeview (2-2, Division III, last week: 13) — No shame in losing to Santa Clarita Valley power Hart for the Wolf Pack, but this program is reaching the stage where it expects to be in any game, especially with Kamari Cotton-Moya behind center. That holds true in a very difficult challenge this week at Liberty.
LAST WEEK: lost vs. Newhall-Hart, 49-27. THIS WEEK: at No. 6 Liberty
14. Tulare-Mission Oak (3-0, Division IV, last week: 17) — It was only a matter of time before Mission Oak's rapidly rising program appeared in the top 15, but I'm not sure I understand how many outlets, including Cal Hi Sports, have the Hawks ranked far ahead of Wasco. Both teams brought back a lot from last year — which ended for Mission Oak when Wasco beat it handily in the Division IV section semifinals. For now, Wasco stays ahead.
LAST WEEK: won at Selma, 40-0. THIS WEEK: vs. Exeter (Thursday)
15. Visalia-Mt. Whitney (3-0, Division III, last week: 18) — Likewise for Mt. Whitney, it was just a matter of time before the Pioneers cracked the top 15. Games the next two weeks against area rivals El Diamante and Mission Oak will tell us a whole lot about whether Mt. Whitney will stay here — or possibly move up a bunch. Quarterback Tucker Mendonca is one of the section's best: He has already thrown for 821 yards and seven TDs (with just one pick) and ran for 198 yards and two more scores.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: at No. 17 Visalia-El Diamante
16. Stockdale (1-2, Division I, last week: 11)
17. Visalia-El Diamante (2-2, Division II, last week: 14)
18. Centennial (1-2, Division I, last week: 19)
19. Tehachapi (3-1, Division II, last week: 21)
20. Clovis West (0-3, Division I, last week: 19)
21. Visalia-Redwood (2-1, Division II, last week: 22)
22. Porterville (2-2, Division III, last week: NR)
23. Mendota (3-0, Division VI, last week: 24)
24. Dinuba (3-1, Division III, last week: 16)
25. Independence (2-1, Division III, last week: NR)
Dropped out: No. 23 Fresno-Washington Union, No. 25 Arvin