After the craziest weekend in college football in years, the power rankings undergo quite a shakeup this week. For perspective, the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 10th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 19th, 22st, and 25th ranked teams in last week’s rankings all lost. While six of those 12 lost to other teams who were in my top 25 last week, six others lost to unranked opponents. Here are the new power rankings, which has the biggest shakeup in the year and a half-long history of this weekly post, and also includes a trio of new top five teams, all of whom are in my top five for the first time ever.
1. Auburn (5-0, Last Week: 5th)
Saturday, the Tigers played LSU, the last team to beat them in the regular season, and Auburn erased last year’s loss with a dominating, 41-7 win over the Tigers of the purple and gold variety. Auburn had 566 yards of total offense, including 298 on the ground, with QB Nick Marshall throwing for 207 yards and two touchdowns and running for 119 yards and two touchdowns. While Auburn is ranked second behind Florida State in the AP Poll, I disagree, as I have been much more impressed with Auburn’s body of work for the season. They will have a chance to solidify this ranking this week, but also a chance to lose it, when they hit the road to face 3rd-ranked Mississippi State in Starkville. In what has already been a crazy year in the SEC, and particularly in the SEC West, this will be the conference’s biggest game of the year (at least so far).
2. Florida State (5-0, 2nd)
Maybe I’m being picky, but it seems there has been a small reason to criticize Florida State every week this season, and this week, even after a 40-point victory, is no different. While the Seminoles won 43-3 at home, they trailed a bad Wake Forest team 3-0 after the first quarter, and the game was tied at 3-3 into the final minutes of the first half, when a touchdown with a minute remaining in the second and a field goal in the final seconds made the halftime score 13-3, and 30 second half points produced the final score. While the team has won all their games, in essence “doing all they can do”, they haven’t been impressive enough in my eyes to rank at the top. This week, the Seminoles get another game that should be pretty easy, even with it on the road, as they travel to Syracuse. Looming next week is a primetime, top five showdown at home with Notre Dame.
3. Ole Miss (5-0, 11th)
The Rebels beat Alabama, who had been my top-ranked team the last two weeks, 23-17 on Saturday in Oxford, for the first win over a top three opponent since 1977. The doubts I previously had about the Ole Miss offense and quarterback Bo Wallace were answered when Wallace led his team down the field for a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns. Additionally, the Ole Miss defense, who I complemented in my “College Football Picks” post (although I picked Alabama to win the game), made the key play of the game as Senquez Golson intercepted a Blake Sims pass in the end zone with 37 seconds remaining to seal the win. After the big win, Ole Miss and in-state rival Mississippi State are now tied for third in the AP Poll, which is the highest ranking for Ole Miss since a brief stint at first in 1964. As is true for every SEC West team, the schedule doesn’t lighten up after the tough game against the Tide, as the Rebels now hit the road to face the potent Texas A&M offense in College Station.
4. Mississippi State (5-0, 13th)
The Bulldogs earned their first win over a top six opponent since 2000 in dominating fashion, beating Texas A&M 48-31. The game wasn’t even as close as the score makes it sound, as the Bulldogs led 41-17 after three quarters. Aggies QB Kenny Hill was intercepted three times, and Bulldogs QB Dak Prescott threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed for 77 yards and three touchdowns in the win. The win resulted in the Bulldogs highest ranking ever in the AP Poll, at a tie for third, beating their previous high of seventh in 1981. This all comes after the team was ranked 25th in the preseason in my power rankings, and unranked in the AP Poll, and had moved to 12th before the win over the Aggies based on a win over LSU. That high ranking will be tested this Saturday when the Bulldogs play Auburn, but the good news for them is that the game is at home. Since the Bulldogs have never been in the top five, obviously they have never been involved in a game where both them and their opponents were so highly ranked.
5. Notre Dame (5-0, 7th)
Lost in the commotion caused by the weekend’s upsets, particularly in the SEC and Pac-12, was the Notre Dame-Stanford game, a contest between two top 15 teams coming in. The Irish trailed 14-10 late in the defensive slugfest, but QB Everett Golson found Ben Koyack in the back of the end zone on a fourth-and-10 with just over a minute remaining to give the Irish the lead and the win, 17-14. Notre Dame outgained the Cardinal 370-205 for the game, and was able to move the ball when it mattered most, as Golson improved to a 15-1 mark as the school’s starting QB (the only loss is the 2012 national title game against Alabama), which is a school record .938 winning percentage. This week, North Carolina comes to South Bend, a week ahead of a bigger matchup against the ACC, when the Irish head to Tallahassee to play Florida State on October 18.
6. Baylor (5-0, 8th)
Another game lost in Saturday’s chaos was Baylor’s game against Texas, but that’s because the game held to the form that was expected, as the Bears took care of business in a 28-7 win in Austin. Baylor only led 14-0 after three quarters, but a pair of scores early in the fourth stretched their lead to 28-0 before Texas scored a touchdown in the game’s closing minutes. The Bears, who are normally a pass-based offense, struggled throwing the ball, only gaining 111 yards through the air, but made up for it with 278 rushing yards. This week, the Bears host TCU, who is also ranked in the AP’s top 10 after their win over Oklahoma. The matchup will go a long way toward determining the Big 12 title.
7. Alabama (4-1, 1st)
The Crimson Tide, who had been at the top of these rankings, were upset by Ole Miss on Saturday, 23-17. There had been doubts among some in Tuscaloosa, and around the country, about how QB Blake Sims would play in a tough situation. Well, the situation presented itself late in Saturday’s contest, as Alabama was suddenly behind with under three minutes left after Ole Miss took the lead, and Sims led his team all the way down the field, only to be intercepted in the end zone with under a minute remaining. If the Tide want to avoid one loss turning into two or three, they will have to play well when they hit the field in their next couple of games off the loss. First, they will travel to Arkansas, then they will host Texas A&M. With one loss, if they can win the rest of the games, particularly in the SEC West, the Tide would certainly still be in the playoff race.
8. Oregon (4-1, 2nd)
Just as they did a year ago, the Ducks lost to Arizona, 31-24, although this loss was even more shocking as it was at home (last year’s was at Arizona). In their last 27 games, Oregon is 23-0 against opponents not named Stanford and Arizona, and 0-4 against those two schools. The game also marked the third time since 2007 that an unranked Arizona team has upset a top five Oregon team. Oregon didn’t necessarily play poorly in the loss, although they did allow 495 total yards to the Wildcats, but they just simply didn’t score enough points to have more than the opponent. The loss of the Ducks, coupled with UCLA’s home loss to Utah, took away the potential for a top 10 matchup Saturday at the Rose Bowl, but the game will still see the 12th- and 18th-ranked teams in the AP Poll meet, in a potential Pac-12 Championship Game preview.
9. Michigan State (4-1, 9th)
On a Saturday when favorites struggled mightily, the Spartans of Michigan State did exactly the opposite, as they thrived in a home matchup with a ranked opponent in Nebraska, winning 27-22. The final score doesn’t necessarily tell the story of the game, as Sparty led 27-3 after three quarters, before allowing Nebraska to slowly sneak back in and score three fourth quarter touchdowns. The Spartans outgained the Huskers by nearly 100 yards on the night, and allowed only 47 rushing yards, holding one of the nation’s best backs, Ameer Abdullah, to 45 yards. Now, the Spartans head into a couple of games that should be fairly easy, but are on the road against conference opponents, at Purdue on Saturday and at Indiana next week.
10. Georgia (4-1, 12th)
Georgia reenters the top 10 after falling out of it when they lost to South Carolina on September 13. While that loss does hurt Georgia’s résumé, given the recent struggles of the Gamecocks, Georgia’s early win over Clemson on August 30 and their blowout of Vanderbilt by a 44-17 score on Saturday make them impressive enough to put back in the top 10 with the losses of so many teams ahead of them. Georgia does have a loss that is less than stellar, but so do so many of the other teams around them at this point. RB Todd Gurley is having a Heisman-worthy season, as he has 778 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ first five games of the seaosn. The SEC East could be on the line for Georgia on Saturday when they head to 23rd-ranked Missouri.
11. Oklahoma (4-1, 4th), 12. TCU (4-0, unranked), 13. Arizona (5-0, unranked), 14. Ohio State (4-1, 18th), 15. Texas A&M (5-1, 6th)
16. Clemson (3-2, 21st), 17. Arizona State (4-1, 23rd), 18. UCLA (4-1, 10th), 19. Stanford (3-2, 14th), 20. East Carolina (4-1, 20th)
21. Kansas State (4-1, unranked), 22. Oklahoma State (4-1, unranked), 23. Missouri (4-1, 24th), 24. Georgia Tech (5-0, unranked), 25. USC (3-2, 16th)
Fell from rankings: LSU (4-2, 15th), 17. Wisconsin (3-2, 17th), BYU (4-1, 19th), Nebraska (4-1, 22nd), South Carolina (3-3, 25th)
Note: the only undefeated team remaining who is unranked is Marshall (5-0).
Note: to show the parity in this college football season, here are a couple of examples. First, here’s where my preseason top 25 rank now:
2nd, 7th, 8th, 11th, 9th, 1st, 18th, 10th, unranked, 14th, 6th, unranked, 19th, unranked, 3rd, unranked, 16th, 5th, 17th, unranked, unranked, 25th, unranked, unranked, 4th.
Second, here’s where my current top 25 ranked in the preseason:
6th, 1st, 15th, 25th, 18th, 11th, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 8th, 4th, unranked, unranked, 10th, unranked, 17th, 19th, 7th, 13th, unranked, unranked, unranked, unranked, unranked, 22nd.
And we’re not even halfway through the season. It should be a fun couple of months on the road to the college football playoff.