1. Alabama (4-0, Last Week: 1st)
The Crimson Tide enjoyed a bye week Saturday, coming off their 42-21 win over Florida. This week the Tide will face their toughest test yet, when they head to Oxford to play Ole Miss. Ole Miss struggled offensively in a 24-3 win over Memphis, but the Rebel defense has been strong all year. The matchup will feature two top 11 teams, and begins a tough schedule stretch for Alabama, as they will play five ranked teams from the SEC West the rest of the way.
2. Oregon (4-0, 2nd)
Like the Tide, Oregon had a bye heading into a big game. Coming off a 38-31 win over Washington State in which the offensive line struggled, the Ducks will host undefeated but unranked Arizona on Thursday night, in a rematch of a 2013 Arizona upset of the Ducks which, in part kept them out of the Pac-12 Championship Game. Oregon is likely to have revenge in mind, in a game that is also their final game before a top 10 matchup with UCLA next week in Pasadena.
3. Florida State (4-0, 3rd)
The Seminoles survived a trip to Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, which is more than they’ve been able to say in past years, but they trailed NC State 24-7 after the first quarter, showing (once again) that they are human on their way to a 56-41 win. While the ‘Noles struggled in the game, they showed a lot of resolve in finding a way to beat the upset-minded Wolfpack. Jameis Winston threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns in the win, but also had two interceptions, part of four Florida State turnovers. The next two weeks should be pretty easy for the Seminoles, as they host Wake Forest and travel to Syracuse, facing a pair of teams they defeated 59-3 a year ago (and both Wake Forest and Syracuse aren’t as good this year). They have those two games to use as preparation for an October 18th top 10 showdown with Notre Dame.
4. Oklahoma (4-0, 4th)
Oklahoma, like the top two, had a bye week. Last week they came away from Morgantown unscathed after a 45-33 win over West Virginia in a game many. Including me, thought was a potential upset. This week the Sooners head back on the road, this time facing their first ranked opponent, facing TCU on Fort Worth. TCU comes in undefeated, although Minnesota is the toughest team they have faced. The game begins a stretch of three ranked opponents in their next five games, culminating in a November 8 showdown with Baylor.
5. Auburn (4-0, 5th)
The Tigers beat Louisiana Tech on Saturday, 45-17, totaling 473 total yards and 254 rushing yards in the win. The game marked the last time until November 22 that the Tigers faced a team that is not currently ranked, or has not been ranked earlier in the season (South Carolina). While Auburn’s early season stretch wasn’t the easiest, with wins over Arkansas and Kansas State already to their credit, the stretch they start this week is immeasurably difficult. The rough stretch starts this Saturday in the battle of Tigers as Auburn hosts LSU. LSU is the last team to beat Auburn in the regular season, beating War Eagle 35-21 last year in Baton Rouge. The schedule is so tough the rest of the way for Auburn that, with the exception of Samford, South Carolina looks to be their easiest game.
6. Texas A&M (5-0, 6th)
Saturday the Aggies faced their first test since their beatdown of South Carolina, and were down to Arkansas 28-14 in the fourth quarter, before QB Kenny Hill led a comeback, throwing two long touchdown passes in the final 12 minutes, before throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime which led to a 35-28 win. Texas A&M played a light schedule in between their opener in Columbia and their game against the Razorbacks, beating Lamar, Rice, and SMU. Now, though, their schedule gets much tougher, and it starts this week with a trip to Starkville to play Mississippi State. Every game except one the rest of the way is against a ranked opponent, which is a product of playing in the SEC West, so if the Aggies want to play in the college football playoff they will certainly have to earn their way.
7. Notre Dame (4-0, 7th)
The Fighting Irish took on Syracuse in a neutral site in the Meadowlands on Saturday, beating Syracuse 31-15. While the Irish never led by less than 14 after the midway point of the first quarter, but they were never able to completely pull away from the Orange, in a game they probably should have won by more than two possessions. QB Everett Golson threw for 362 yards and four touchdowns, although he did throw two interceptions in the game. The toughest team Notre Dame has played was Michigan (a place where there’s a lot of anticipation and questions over the potential firing of coach Brady Hoke), and while the 31-0 win over the Wolverines had an impressive margin, the win has lost its luster with Michigan’s struggles since. This week, however, the Irish will face a test, when a top 15 opponent in Stanford comes to South Bend. After that game we will have a much better sense of whether or not the Irish are a legitimate playoff contender.
8. Baylor (4-0, 8th)
The Bears’ game against Iowa State very quietly came and went, with some of the other games going on around the country seeming to take precedent on Saturday night, as the Bears put away Iowa State 49-28. The Cyclones were the first conference opponent for Baylor, and were the toughest team they have faced so far. That being said, after Baylor’s defense was very stout last year until their bowl game, allowing 28 points to a bottom half Big 12 team may be some cause for concern, with the team also allowing 21 to Buffalo earlier in the season. September was easily the Bears easiest month on the schedule, and October will get tougher, before a very tough November, when they play three of the other four ranked teams in the Big 12. This week, moving into October, they travel to Texas, to face a team that has been, in many ways, hot and cold throughout the season.
9. Michigan State (3-1, 10th)
The Spartans made easy work out of their final non-conference opponent, Wyoming, winning 56-14 over the Coyotes. Michigan State ran for 338 yards in the game, totaling 533 yards of offense on the night, dominating time of possession without committing a turnover. The Big Ten conference schedule isn’t by any means the toughest league schedule in the country, which means the Spartans have one of the better shots among the current top 10 at running the table. However, they do still have to win a few tough games, and that starts this week when undefeated Nebraska comes to East Lansing for an interdivisional Big Ten matchup.
10. UCLA (4-0, 12th)
After many had their doubts about the Bruins legitimacy among the nation’s top teams after three close wins to start the season, UCLA answered some questions on Thursday night in a dominating 62-27 win over a ranked opponent on the road at Arizona State. The Bruins were down 17-6 early in the game’s second quarter, and from there went on a 56-10 run to show they were clearly the better team in the matchup. QB Brett Hundley threw for 355 yards and four touchdowns, also rushing for 72 yards and a score, resuming his strong play from last season after some struggles and an injury earlier this season. This week the Bruins host Utah, a week ahead of a top 10 matchup at home against Oregon, which is a potential Pac-12 Championship Game preview.
11. Ole Miss (4-0, 9th), 12. Georgia (3-1, 11th), 13. Mississippi State (4-0, 14th), 14. Stanford (3-1, 15th), 15. LSU (4-1, 16th)
16. USC (3-1, 20th), 17. Wisconsin (3-1, 19th), 18. Ohio State (3-1, 21st), 19. BYU (4-0, 23rd), 20. East Carolina (3-1, 24th)
21. Clemson (2-2, 25th), 22. Nebraska (5-0, unranked), 23. Arizona State (3-1, 13th), 24. Missouri (3-1, unranked), 25. South Carolina (3-2, 17th)
Fell from rankings: Penn State (4-1, 18th), Duke (4-1, 22nd)