1. Alabama (6-0). The Tide took care of business on Saturday, defeating Kentucky 48-7. With the exception of their game against Texas A&M, the Tide’s closest game has been decided by 25 points, actually on three different occasions. The Tide have their next three games at home, facing Arkansas and Tennessee before an off week, followed by a showdown with LSU. The Tide continue their quest for their third consecutive national championship.
2. Oregon (6-0). The Ducks faced their toughest test Saturday on the road at Wisconsin, and pulled away in the 4th quarter, 45-24. After they host Washington State this week, they will host unbeaten UCLA on October 26, before a bye week leading into a Thursday night game against Stanford on the road (although Stanford’s loss Saturday diminished the significance of this game a little bit, although it will still be a huge game). If Oregon gets through this stretch without a scratch, they will be threatening to be the number one team in the nation.
3. Ohio State (6-0). Ohio State moved up from 4th to 3rd this week while sitting at home on Saturday with a bye week, passing a Clemson team that struggled. The toughest two games the Buckeyes have left are at home against Penn State on October 26, and at Michigan on November 30, and do not play a ranked opponent the rest of the regular season. If they take care of business, they should be undefeated and play the Big Ten Championship Game on December 7.
4. Clemson (6-0). The Tigers fall from 3rd to 4th after struggling with Boston College, before eventually winning 24-14. The Tigers, in fact, trailed 14-10 after the 3rd quarter. It is certainly possible the Tigers struggled because they were looking ahead to this week, when they will host the Florida State Seminoles, who are 5th in my rankings and in both polls. Also, most teams who make a long undefeated run in which they have one game that is unexpectedly close that they survive. The Tigers did survive, keeping their undefeated season alive, at least for another week.
5. Florida State (5-0). The Seminoles had a bye last week, one week after blowing away Maryland convincingly, 63-0. The schedule has been generous for the ‘Noles, as they have had the extra week off to prepare for a trip to Death Valley to meet the Clemson Tigers, in what will be the ACC’s game of the year. Freshman QB Jameis Winston has already established himself as one of the nation’s elite, although this will be by far his toughest test yet.
6. LSU (6-1). I was reluctant to move LSU from 10th to 6th this week, even with the Tigers 17-6 win over Florida, because a Georgia team that beat them lost to Missouri, making LSU loss to them look worse. Then again, when 2 teams ahead of you lose (Stanford also lost), and another (Texas A&M) cuts it close, it’s easy to jump a few spots. I even jumped them over Louisville since the Tigers have now beaten Florida and Louisville’s toughest game thus far is Rutgers. The LSU offense is continuing to impress, even doing so in the Florida game scoring just 17 points, because they had 175 rushing yards, including 121 yards from Jeremy Hill, and a 5 for 9 conversion rate on 3rd downs (compared to just 6 for 17 by the Gators). This week, the Tigers visit Ole Miss (a place that Texas A&M barely made it out of alive), before a game with Furman next week and a week off to prepare for top-ranked Alabama on November 9 in Tuscaloosa.
7. Louisville (6-0). The Cardinals faced their toughest test yet on this past Thursday night when they defeated Rutgers at home, 24-10. This Friday, they will play a game that very well may be for the American Athletic Conference title and a BCS berth when they host Central Florida. I believe the game is tougher than it sounds, considering UCF lost to South Carolina by just 3 points. After that game, if the Cardinals take care of business they may not even be tested in their final 5 games, although 3 of the 5 will be on the road. The Cardinals defense has allowed the least points per game in the nation. The Cardinals moved from 9th to 7th after passing Stanford and Georgia.
8. Texas A&M (5-1). The Aggies survived a couple of scares on Saturday. In the first half of their game at Ole Miss, QB Johnny Manziel went down and grabbed his knee in what looked like the reaction to a serious knee injury, maybe even a torn ACL. Five minutes later, after the training staff had put a brace on the knee, Manziel was back on the field. As for the game, that was the other scare, as Ole Miss led 38-31 midway through the 4th quarter, and the Aggies needed a field goal as time expired to pull off the win. That has caused them to drop a spot in this ranking. This week, A&M will host Auburn, who is very quietly 5-1 and is now ranked 24th in the AP Poll. Both teams, in fact, come into this game in College Station at a 5-1 mark, and both are 2-1 in conference play.
9. UCLA (5-0). The Bruins make their first appearance in my power rankings after losses by one of their in-state rivals at Stanford, as well as Georgia. Oklahoma would have been the first in line to take this spot, but they lost by 15 to Texas in the Red River Rivalry. Therefore, the undefeated Bruins have reached the top 10 for the first time. Their best win is a 41-21 victory at Nebraska, in a game that was my “Big Game Guarantee,” but that guarantee was for Nebraska to win. This past week the Bruins beat Cal 37-10, A 7-point win at Utah the week before looks better now after Stanford lost at Utah by 6. The story of the Bruins season will be written in their next two games, at Stanford and at Oregon. Coach Jim Mora Jr. would have probably liked at least one of these games at home, but as it is they will both be on the road. That being considered, I’m sure that if a reporter asked him this week about the Rose Bowl, he’d say “Rose Bowl? Don’t talk about Rose Bowl! We’ve got to beat these two teams first!” (That’s an homage to his father’s “Playoffs?!” rant in 2001).
10. Miami (FL) (5-0). The Hurricanes of Miami also make their first appearance in my power rankings. The ‘Canes didn’t play this past week, but are coming off a 45-30 win against Georgia Tech in a game they led 24-23 midway through the 4th quarter before exploding for 3 touchdowns in a span of 6 minutes. Their marquee win, at least so far, was in Week 2 against Florida, which they won 21-16. This week, Miami will go to Chapel Hill to play North Carolina in the nationally televised Thursday night game. North Carolina didn’t look very good in their first chance this year on Thursday night (they lost in Week 1 to South Carolina, 27-10), so you know they’ll be ready for the Hurricanes this time around. By the way, after the game with the Heels, Wake Forest comes to Miami, and then there’s a game at Florida State lurking on November 2, and that game will be immediately followed with a home game against Virginia Tech.
Also considered: South Carolina (5-1), Stanford (5-1), Baylor (5-0), Missouri (6-0), Georgia (4-2).
Fell from rankings: Stanford (5-1, lost to Utah 27-21), Georgia (4-2, lost to Missouri 41-26).