College Football Power Rankings for Week 10

The college football season typically begins reaching its peak as the calendar turns to November. Sure enough, this past weekend–on the first Saturday of November–several big games wrecked the Playoff hopes of some big-name teams, while others solidified their status, or at least survived to stay in contention another week.

This week should be even more consequential, as eight of the top 10 face a ranked opponent, with four of those on the road, and six of the top 10 facing each other.

With three weeks left in the regular season, here are how the teams stack up in this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Alabama (9-0, Last Week: 1st, CFP Ranking: 2nd)
Although the Crimson Tide are second in the Playoff rankings, they remain first in both polls. Their 24-10 win over LSU was convincing on the scoreboard, although the Tide and the Tigers were quite even statistically. This week the Tide meet arguably their biggest test yet when they travel to #16 Mississippi State.

2. Georgia (9-0, LW: 2nd, CFP: 1st)
Georgia dispatched South Carolina, 24-10, behind one of quarterback Jacob Fromm’s best performances of the season (16-22, 196 yards, two touchdowns), as the Bulldogs held the Gamecocks to 43 rushing yards. Georgia will play in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 2–they clinched the SEC East on Saturday–but the biggest threat ahead of that game to their Playoff status is this weekend when they head to the plains to face #10 Auburn.

3. Notre Dame (8-1, LW: 4th, CFP: 3rd)
The Irish beat Wake Forest 48-37, although they led 48-23 early in the fourth before a pair of late Demon Deacon touchdowns. The Irish totaled 710 yards offensively, but those defensive lapses are something the Irish need to fix; if they allow 587 yards again this week, the odds of leaving with a win over #7 Miami would be slim.

4. Clemson (8-1, LW: 5th, CFP: 4th)
NC State is a tough place to play, but the Tigers were able to survive their trip to Raleigh with a 38-31 win. Although the Wolfpack outgained the Tigers 491-415, the Tigers used 224 rushing yards–including 88 from quarterback Kelly Bryant–and two Wolfpack turnovers to seal the win. The Tigers host Florida State this week in a game that, given Florida State’s 3-5 record, is much more pedestrian than it would have appeared before the season.

5. Oklahoma (8-1, LW: 6th, CFP: 5th)
The Sooners’ “Bedlam” game with rival Oklahoma State was just that: a 62-52 shootout with 1,446 combined yards of offense and 62 first downs. Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 598 yards and five touchdowns, throwing himself right into the middle of the Heisman discussion. Saturday the Sooners will host #6 TCU; it’s a potential preview of the Big 12 title game, although the winner will greatly enhance their chances of getting there.

6. Miami (8-0, LW: 9th, CFP: 7th)
The biggest knock on Miami has been their schedule, but that is changing. The Hurricanes beat Virginia Tech on Saturday, 28-10, on the strength of 210 rushing yards and four Hokies turnovers, and will now host #3 Notre Dame on Saturday
#3 Notre Dame

7. Wisconsin (9-0, LW: 8th, CFP: 8th)
Wisconsin, who beat Indiana 45-17 on Saturday, is another team who has been hurt some by their schedule. However, they do now at least have one win over a ranked team, as Northwestern, who they beat Sept. 30, is now a top 25 team, and they will have a chance at another this weekend due to the emergence of #20 Iowa.

8. TCU (8-1, LW: 10th, CFP: 6th)
The Horned Frogs responded to their Oct. 28 loss to Iowa State with a 24-7 win over Texas, outrushing the Longhorns 177-9 in the win. This week, TCU faces their biggest test so far this season, when they travel to #5 Oklahoma, a team they could potentially have to beat twice to make the College Football Playoff.

9. Washington (8-1, LW: 13th, CFP: 9th)
The Huskies are quietly hanging around in the top 10, and defeated Oregon 38-3 on Saturday, holding the Ducks to just 31 passing yards. The Huskies are the favorites to win the Pac-12, but to return to the College Football Playoff they’ll need a ton of help. First though, they must win out, starting Saturday at Stanford.

10. Auburn (7-2, LW: 14th, CFP: 10th)
The Tigers beat Texas A&M 42-27 on Saturday, and are still lurking in the SEC race. They still control their fate in the SEC West, although it won’t be easy–they would have to beat the top two teams in the nation to reach the title game, then beat one of them again to win it–but Auburn has been in a similar situation before; remember 2013? The gauntlet stretch run begins Saturday, when the Tigers host #1 Georgia.

Worth a Mention: Iowa (6-3)
What is it about Iowa pulling off huge upsets at home? The Hawkeyes have now won four of their last five home games against top-five competition. Last year’s win over Michigan cost the Wolverines a Playoff berth, and Saturday’s 55-24 drubbing of Ohio State will likely do the same to the Buckeyes. The Hawkeyes had scored a combined 27 points their previous two games entering Saturday–and more than doubled that in their upset win, with the help of the defense’s four interceptions of Buckeyes signal-caller J.T. Barrett.

11. Ohio State (7-2, LW: 3rd, CFP: 13th)
12. USC (8-2, LW: 17th, CFP: 11th)
13. Michigan State (7-2, LW: unranked, CFP: 12th)
14. Penn State (7-2, LW: 7th, CFP: 14th)
15. Oklahoma State (7-2, LW: 12th, CFP: 15th)

16. UCF (8-0, LW: 16th, CFP: 18th)
17. Virginia Tech (7-2, LW: 11th, CFP: 17th)
18. Mississippi State (7-2, LW: 19th, CFP: 16th)
19. Washington State (8-2, LW: 25th, CFP: 19th)
20. Michigan (7-2, LW: 24th, CFP: unranked)

21. South Florida (9-1, LW: 22nd, CFP: unranked)
22. Memphis (8-1, LW: 23rd, CFP: 22nd)
23. Iowa (6-3, LW: unranked, CFP: 20th)
24. Iowa State (6-3, LW: 15th, CFP: 21st)
25. NC State (6-3, LW: 20th, CFP: 23rd)

Fell from Rankings: Stanford (6-3, LW: 18th), LSU (6-3, LW: 21st)

Also ranked in CFP Rankings: LSU (6-3, 24th), Northwestern (6-3, 25th)

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College Football Power Rankings for Week Six

1. Clemson (6-0, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 2nd)
The Tigers beat Wake Forest 28-14 Saturday, but led the Demon Deacons 28-0 in the fourth before allowing two late scores. Clemson won this game doing what they’ve done all year: dominate on defense, and supplement that with a more-than-sufficient offense. The offense isn’t without questions, however, heading into this week’s game at Syracuse, as quarterback Kelly Bryant is questionable with a sprained ankle. The Tigers biggest remaining regular season game isn’t Florida State, as everyone would have predicted, but a trip to NC State on Nov. 4.

2. Alabama (6-0, LW: 2nd, AP: 1st)
The Crimson Tide didn’t dismantle Texas A&M quite like they did Ole Miss and Vanderbilt the previous two weeks, but the Tide outrushed the Aggies 232-71, including 124 yards from Damien Harris, and forced three turnovers to win in College Station, 27-19. The SEC isn’t as strong this year, and it shows in the Tide’s schedule: they have yet to play a team that is currently ranked (that win over Florida State hasn’t aged well), and only have one ranked team on the regular-season agenda the rest of the way, as they travel to Auburn on Nov. 25.

3. Penn State (6-0, LW: 4th, AP: 3rd)
Both teams struggled on the ground–it wasn’t a traditional Big Ten ground-and-pound affair–but despite only rushing for 95 yards, the Nittany Lions used their running game in the right spots to beat Northwestern 31-7 in Evanston. Three of Penn State’s touchdowns came on the ground, including the game’s biggest play: a 53-yard Saquon Barkley run that gave the Nittany Lions some third-quarter breathing room. The Nittany Lions have a bye this weekend, which comes at a good place in the schedule–the next three games are against ranked opponents (Oct. 21 vs. Michigan, Oct. 28 at Ohio State, Nov. 4 at Michigan State)

4. Georgia (6-0, LW: 5th, AP: 4th)
After a 45-14 win over Vanderbilt, it’s safe to say the state of Tennessee doesn’t like the Georgia Bulldogs; the last two weeks, they’ve beaten the state’s two SEC teams by a combined 86-14 margin. The rushing duo of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb dominated in the win, with Michel gaining 150 yards and a touchdown, and Chubb rushing for 138 yards and two scores. The Dawgs host struggling Missouri this weekend, before a bye week ahead of their rivalry game with Florida.

5. Washington (6-0, LW: 7th, AP: 5th)
Saturday, the Huskies defeated California 38-7, doing so with an exceptional defensive performance. Cal only gained 93 yards in the game, and the Golden Bears actually lost 40 yards rushing against the Washington defense. The Huskies are ranked in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency as they try to return to the College Football Playoff. Washington travels to Arizona State this weekend before a bye, and while coaches don’t like to look ahead, I will:  the “Apple Bowl” rivalry game against Washington State on Nov. 25 looks bigger and bigger every week.

6. TCU (5-0, LW: 10th, AP: 6th)
The Horned Frogs were outdone by West Virginia in nearly every stat category on Saturday, but TCU won the most important one–points–by a 31-24 margin after quarterback Kenny Hill’s go-ahead rushing touchdown with 2:53 to go. Hill became the just second player with passing, rushing and receiving touchdowns in the same Big 12 conference game. This week the Horned Frogs head to Kansas State; the Wildcats are unranked, but Manhattan is always a hard place to play.

7. Washington State (6-0, LW: 9th, AP: 8th)
A week after beating USC, the Cougars went on the road and dominated Oregon 33-10 for another impressive win. People focus on the Cougars offense, but their defense contained Oregon to 277 yards and held the Ducks scoreless after the first quarter. The Cougs play their second Friday game in three weeks tonight, when they travel to Cal.

8. Wisconsin (5-0, LW: 8th, AP: 7th)
Jonathan Taylor ran for 249 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries Saturday in a 38-17 win at Nebraska, as the Badgers further cemented their status as the heavy favorites in the Big Ten West. Taylor’s performance was his second 200-plus-yard game this season, after gaining 223 on Sept. 9 against Florida Atlantic, and the freshman is averaging 153 rushing yards per game. The Badgers host Purdue this weekend.

9. Miami (4-0, LW: 13th, AP: 11th)
Even in a rivalry with an abundance of classic games, Miami’s win over Florida State on Saturday is one that will be remembered for a long time by Hurricanes fans. The win, which snapped the team’s X-game losing streak to their rivals, came after Darrell Langham barely crossed the goal line (if he even did at all–the play was the subject of a very tough replay review) after a 23-yard pass from Malik Rozier with 0:06 to play, giving the Hurricanes the 24-20 triumph after a back-and-forth thriller. The Hurricanes return home Saturday to face Georgia Tech.

10. Auburn (5-1, LW: 12th, AP: 10th)
The Tigers dominated Ole Miss even more than the 44-23 final score sounds; Auburn led 41-10 after three quarters, to the tune of a 561-yard offensive explosion. Auburn outrushed the Rebels 326-83, with 204 yards coming from Kerryon Johnson, who scored three touchdowns on his 28 rushes. The Tigers have an interesting schedule the rest of the way, as they have three straight road games, starting Saturday at LSU, before finishing with three straight home games.

Worth a Mention: Iowa State (3-2)
Iowa State is not one of the more prominent Power Five-conference programs, as they haven’t had a winning season since 2009, and have combined for an 11-37 record the last three years. Yet once every three or four years, the Cyclones program has a knack for sneaking up on a big-name team and pulling off an upset. It most notably happened to Oklahoma State in 2011, costing the Cowboys a BCS Championship Game berth, but it happened again on Saturday when the Cyclones traveled to Norman and upset #3 Oklahoma, 38-31. With a win on Saturday against Kansas (the worst team in the Power Five by far), Iowa State would win their fourth game, a mark they haven’t reached since a 6-7 season in 2012. Don’t look now, but second-year coach Matt Campbell, who came to Iowa State after a successful stint at Toledo, has vastly improved this program.

11. Oklahoma (4-1, LW: 3rd, AP: 12th)
12. Ohio State (5-1, LW: 11th, AP: 9th)
13. USC (5-1, LW: 14th, AP: 13th)
14. Oklahoma State (4-1, LW: 15th, AP: 14th)
15. Michigan (4-1, LW: 6th, AP: 17th)

16. Virginia Tech (5-1, LW: 17th, AP: 15th)
17. South Florida (6-0, LW: 19th, AP: 18th)
18. San Diego State (6-0, LW: 20th, AP: 19th)
19. NC State (5-1, LW: 23rd, AP: 20th)
20. UCF (4-0, LW: 22nd, AP: 22nd)

21. Stanford (4-2, LW: unranked, AP: 23rd)
22. Michigan State (4-1, LW: unranked, AP: 21st)
23. Notre Dame (5-1, LW: unranked, AP: 16th)
24. Utah (4-1, LW: 18th, AP: unranked)
25. Navy (5-0, LW: unranked, AP: 25th)

Also ranked in AP Poll:  Texas Tech (4-1, AP: 24th)

Fell from Rankings:  Florida (3-2, LW: 16th), Louisville (4-2, LW: 21st), Florida State (1-3, LW: 24th), West Virginia (3-1, LW: 25th)

College Football Power Rankings for Week Five

1. Clemson (5-0, Last Week: 3rd, AP Poll: 2nd)
After the Tigers’ 31-17 win at Virginia Tech, they clearly have the best resume of anyone. Clemson has three wins against the current AP Top 25 (Virginia Tech, Louisville, Auburn)–no one else has more than one–with two on the road. They are playing better than anyone, including Alabama, and have only been kept from the top spot because the Tide, who were the top-ranked team in the preseason, hasn’t struggled with anyone (more on that below). It’s the Tigers, not the Tide, with the best resume right now.

2. Alabama (5-0, LW: 1st, AP: 1st)
Pushing Alabama down to the second spot is in no way a knock to their early-season success. In fact, it’s almost unfair to knock the Tide down a spot, given their 125-3 advantage over the last two weeks, and a majority of the AP Poll voters decided not to punish Alabama for Clemson’s success, which is out of the Tide’s control. But while Alabama has simply been dominant, they don’t have the resume to match Clemson, at least not right now.

3. Oklahoma (4-0, LW: 2nd, AP: 3rd)
The Sooners are coming off a bye week, and face Iowa State on Saturday. As is the case with Alabama, Oklahoma dropping a spot is not a slight to them, but is simply because Clemson has earned the right to move up.

4. Penn State (5-0, LW: 4th, AP: 4th)
Penn State’s game against Indiana had the narrative of Nittany Lion domination from the opening kickoff, which was returned for a touchdown by Saquon Barkley, as they went on to beat Indiana 45-14, led by DaeSean Hamilton’s three receiving touchdowns. The Nittany Lions travel to Northwestern on Saturday before a bye next week, but have back-to-back games against Michigan and Ohio State lurking on Oct. 21 and Oct. 28.

5. Georgia (5-0, LW: 8th, AP: 5th)
A year after losing to Tennessee in a heartbreaking last-second Hail Mary, the Bulldogs found revenge and then some with a 41-0 drubbing in Knoxville, giving the Volunteers their worst home loss since 1905. While the Dawgs lack the resume of some of the teams above them–their best win is at Notre Dame–they have nonetheless looked more and more impressive each week.

6. Michigan (4-0, LW: 6th, AP: 7th)
The Wolverines are coming off a bye week as they face in-state rival Michigan State on Saturday night. While Michigan clearly has the better team on paper, history shows you should throw out the records and the stats as bragging rights are on the line in the Great Lake State.

7. Washington (5-0, LW: 7th, AP: 6th)
After leading by just seven at halftime, the Huskies scored 35 in the second half to pull away from Oregon State, 42-7. The Huskies schedule gets progressively tougher leading to a huge November against Oregon, Stanford, Utah and Washington State.

8. Wisconsin (4-0, LW: 9th, AP: 9th)
The Badgers held Northwestern to 25 rushing yards in a 33-24 win over the Wildcats, coming off a bye the previous week. Wisconsin will travel to Nebraska this week before back-to-back Big Ten home games with Purdue and Maryland.

9. Washington State (5-0, LW: 20th, AP: 11th)
While Washington gets a lot of the attention in the Pac-12 after reaching the College Football Playoff last year, the Cougars made their own statement on Friday night with a 30-27 win over USC. The win was the Cougars’ first over a top five opponent since 1992, and their first over USC since 2002, giving them a 5-0 record for the first time since 2001. Staying perfect won’t be easy, though, as the Cougs travel to Oregon on Saturday.

10. TCU (4-0, LW: 10th, AP: 8th)
The Horned Frogs enjoyed a bye, fresh off their big 44-31 win over Oklahoma State. TCU enters Saturday’s game against West Virginia with a 17-0 record at home as a top 10-ranked team under coach Gary Patterson.

Worth a Mention: Troy (4-1)
In 2008, Troy led LSU 31-3 before the Tigers pulled off their largest-ever comeback in a 40-31 win. Saturday, Troy was able to finish off the upset, winning 24-21 in Baton Rouge to hand the Tigers their first home non-conference loss since 2000, ending a 49-game streak. The Trojans, who were paid $985,000 to come play LSU, are now 4-1, and have steadily progressed since their season-opening loss to Boise State.

11. Ohio State (4-1, LW: 11th, AP: 10th)
12. Auburn (4-1, LW: 14th, AP: 12th)
13. Miami (3-0, LW: 13th, AP: 13th)
14. USC (4-1, LW: 5th, AP: 14th)
15. Oklahoma State (4-1, LW: 15th, AP: 15th)

16. Florida (3-1, LW: 16th, AP: 21st)
17. Virginia Tech (4-1, LW: 12th, AP: 16th)
18. Utah (4-0, LW: 17th, AP: 20th)
19. South Florida (5-0, LW: 19th, AP: 19th)
20. San Diego State (5-0, LW: 19th, AP: 19th)

21. Louisville (4-1, LW: 21st, AP: 17th)
22. UCF (3-0, LW: unranked, AP: 25th)
23. NC State (4-1, LW: 24th, AP: 24th)
24. Florida State (1-2, LW: 25th, AP: unranked)
25. West Virginia (3-1, LW: unranked, AP: 23rd)

Also ranked in AP Poll: Notre Dame (3-1, 21st)

Fell from rankings: Mississippi State (3-2, LW: 22nd), LSU (3-2, LW: 23rd)

College Football Power Rankings for Week Four

1. Alabama (4-0, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 1st)
In arguably Vanderbilt’s biggest home game in years–the Commodores entered undefeated–the Tide destroyed them, 59-0. Now they face old nemesis Ole Miss, although the Rebels are nowhere close to the team that beat the Tide in 2014-15.

 

2. Oklahoma (4-0, LW: 2nd, AP: 3rd)
The Sooners trailed winless Baylor 31-28 late in the third, but responded with a strong fourth quarter to survive. The Sooners enter a bye week with the  nation’s longest road winning streak at 13 games, and have also matched longest conference win streak in school history at 17.

 

3. Clemson (4-0, LW: 3rd, AP: 2nd)
After the Tigers, as five-touchdown favorites, entered the final quarter tied against Boston College, they outgained the Eagles 213-37 in the fourth on their way to 27 unanswered points and a 34-7 win. Now the Tigers will face a tough road test against Virginia Tech, though they aced the last such test at Louisville two weeks ago.

 

4. Penn State (4-0, LW: 4th, AP: 4th)
Night games in Iowa City tend to be dangerous for highly-ranked teams, and it took until the last play for the Nittany Lions to avoid such doom, scoring on a 7-yard pass from Trace McSorley to Juwan Johnson as time expired. The Lions now host Indiana, with a Happy Valley showdown against Michigan looming.

 

5. USC (4-0, LW: 6th, AP: 5th)
Following the theme among several highly-ranked teams, USC’s win at Cal wasn’t convincing–they were tied 13-13 going to the fourth quarter–but it was enough, with a 17-point fourth leading to a 30-20 win, although they did force six turnovers in the game. The Trojans will be tested this week as they head to Washington State.

 

6. Michigan (4-0, LW: 7th, AP: 8th)
After trailing 10-7 at half, the Wolverines shut out Purdue in the second half, holding the Boilermakers to just 10 yards of offense in the second half on their way to a 28-10 win. Now the Wolverines get an off week to figure out the health of quarterback Wilton Speight, who left Saturday’s game in the first quarter and was relieved by John O’Korn, who helped lead the team’s second-half surge.

 

7. Washington (4-0, LW: 8th, AP: 6th)
In last year’s Pac-12 Championship Game, Washington beat Colorado 41-10; Saturday, they put on an encore performance, winning 37-10 on the road in Boulder. Myles Gaskin rushed for 202 yards in the win for the Huskies, who will travel to Oregon State this weekend, where they will likely be 30-plus point favorites.

 

8. Georgia (4-0, LW: 12th, AP: 7th)
A week after Mississippi State’s impressive blowout of LSU, it was the Bulldogs from Athens–not the ones from Starkville–that impressed on Saturday in a 31-3 rout. Running back Nick Chubb scored twice, giving him six touchdowns for the year, as the Dawgs collectively rushed for 203 yards. Georgia faces back-to-back SEC East road games at Tennessee and Vanderbilt, but then won’t play a true road game again until November 11.

 

9. Wisconsin (3-0, LW: 9th, AP: 10th)
Coming off a 40-6 road thrashing of BYU, the Badgers enjoyed a bye week Saturday and return to action this week as they host Northwestern. The Badgers have the easiest schedule of the top ten, as they won’t face a currently-ranked team until November 18 (Michigan).

 

10. TCU (4-0, LW: 20th, AP: 9th)
The Horned Frogs picked up one of the most impressive wins of anyone so far this season when they beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater, 44-31, leading my as many as 20 early in the fourth. Darius Anderson ran for a career-high 160 yards and three touchdowns, and the Horned Frogs forced four Cowboy turnovers in the game. TCU now has a bye ahead of next week’s home game against #23 West Virginia.

 

Worth a Mention: UCF (2-0)
After missing two games due to Hurricane Irma, the Knights of UCF showed some serious meddle–and no rust whatsoever–when they went to previously unbeaten Maryland and won 38-10. The Knights should contend in the American Athletic Conference, and may threaten to be the “Group of Five” representative in the New Years Six bowl games.

 

11. Ohio State (3-1, LW: 11th, AP: 11th)
12. Virginia Tech (4-0, LW: 13th, AP: 12th)
13. Miami (2-0, LW: 14th, AP: 14th)
14. Auburn (3-1, LW: 15th, AP: 13th)
15. Oklahoma State (3-1, LW: 5th, AP: 15th)

 

16. Florida (2-1, LW: 16th, AP: 21st)
17. Utah (4-0, LW: 18th, AP: 20th)
18. South Florida (4-0, LW: 19th, AP: 18th)
19. San Diego State (4-0, LW: 21st, AP: 19th)
20. Washington State (4-0, LW: 22nd, AP: 16th)

 

21. Louisville (3-1, LW: 25th, AP: 17th)
22. Mississippi State (3-1, LW: 17th, AP: 24th)
23. LSU (3-1, LW: 24th, AP: 25th)
24. NC State (3-1, LW: unranked, AP: unranked)
25. Florida State (0-2, LW: 10th, AP: unranked)

 

Also ranked in AP Poll: Notre Dame (3-1, 22nd), West Virginia (3-1, 23rd)

 

Fell from rankings: Colorado (3-1, LW: 23rd)

College Football Fast Five and Power Rankings: Week Two

Fast Five:  Week Two Storylines

Mayfield, Oklahoma top Ohio State

A year after Ohio State beat Oklahoma in Norman, the Sooners returned the favor in Columbus with a 31-16 victory over the Buckeyes.

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield led the Sooners to 28 second-half points, going 27-35 for the game with three touchdowns.  His Ohio State counterpart J.T. Barrett completed just 19 of his 35 attempts with an interception.  Mayfield outpassed Barrett 386 yards to 183.

The Sooners also controlled the ball well, possessing it for 35:17.  The result, despite a 3-3 halftime tie and a 17-13 game through three quarters, was a convincing Oklahoma win that moved them to second in the AP Poll.

Clemson defense stifles Auburn

In a battle of Tigers, Clemson’s offense totaled just 284 yards, but that was enough to beat Auburn 14-6 after an incredible defensive effort by the Tigers in orange and purple.

Clemson held Auburn to 117 total yards, including just 38 rushing yards in 42 attempts.  While Clemson’s own offense didn’t have their best night (284 yards), and while Clemson had two turnovers against none by Auburn, Clemson made enough plays to win–they were 9-for-16 on third down, and got two rushing touchdowns from QB Kelly Bryant, while Auburn’s failure to get touchdowns on two first-half red zone trips came back to haunt them.

Auburn was unable to return the favor for a 2011 loss at Clemson–their first as defending national champions–and their 2016 loss to Clemson in Auburn; Clemson passed their first big test in their title defense.

USC races past Stanford

USC dominated Stanford in every statistical category–the Trojans outgained the Cardinal 623-342, outpassed them 316-172, outrushed them 307-170, and had 28 first downs to Stanford’s 16–on their way to a 42-24 win.

Several Trojans had huge nights:  QB Sam Darnold was 21-26 for 316 yards and four touchdowns, with nine of those receptions for 121 yards on connections with Deontay Burnett, who scored twice, while Stephen Carr rushed for 119 yards on just 11 carries and Ronald Jones II ran for 116 with two touchdowns on 23 attempts.

If not for two pro-Cardinal factors, Stanford may have lost by more than 18.  Darnold did throw two interceptions–the only knock on an otherwise excellent game by the early-season Heisman candidate–and Bryce Love ran for 160 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

A week after struggling to top Western Michigan, the Trojans reasserted themselves as Pac-12 favorites by this commanding win over Stanford, who was coming off a 62-7 win over Rice in their opener.

Late turnover dooms Irish in slugfest

Neither team was particularly awe-inspiring in the first regular-season meeting between traditional powers Georgia and Notre Dame, but a late fumble recovery by the Bulldogs sealed a 20-19 win in South Bend.

It was a sloppy game by all accounts–the teams were a combined 7-35 on third down, totaled 20 penalties for 189 yards, and committed two turnovers each.  Irish QB Brandon Wimbush was 19-39 for 211 yards and rushed for the team’s only touchdown, as the Irish rushed for just 55 while settling for four field goals.  Georgia managed just 141 yards in the air, but 185 rushing yards helped lead them to the win.

After a back-and-forth game, Georgia took the lead with 3:39 left on a go-ahead field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship, a former walk-on who was just placed on scholarship this past week, before the fumble with 1:27 to play clinched the Georgia victory.

Hurricane Irma alters schedule

While the sports impact is a minor detail of Hurricane Irma, given its sheer magnitude and its impact on Florida and the southeast, the storm has affected college football’s schedule for both Week Two and Week Three.

Games in the state of Florida that were cancelled over the weekend include Memphis at Central Florida, Louisiana-Monroe at Florida State and Northern Colorado at Florida.  Miami’s game at Arkansas State and South Florida’s game at Connecticut were also cancelled due to travel concerns.  None of these games are expected to be made up (all are non-conference games except South Florida-Connecticut).

The Miami at Florida State game scheduled for this weekend has been postponed to Oct. 7, which was originally an open week for both teams.  As a result, Miami’s game against Georgia Tech that was originally scheduled for the following Thursday (Oct. 12) has been moved to Oct. 14.

Week Two Power Rankings

1. Alabama (2-0, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 1st)
After QB Jalen Hurts rushed for 154 yards in a 41-10 win over Fresno State, the Tide will face Colorado State; the Rams should be one of the best non-Power Five teams this season, but don’t expect them to be competitive in Tuscaloosa.

2. Oklahoma (2-0, LW: 6th, AP: 2nd)
The Sooners have the most impressive win so far after their convincing win at Ohio State.  They begin a stretch of three ranked opponents in four games on October 21, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t enter that stretch at 6-0.

3. USC (2-0, LW: 4th, AP: 4th)
The win over Stanford was a defensive improvement for the Trojans, who had looked sluggish against Western Michigan.  While they’ll be heavy favorites in the coming weeks, the next three teams they face can each score a lot of points if that defense doesn’t continue improving.

4. Penn State (2-0, LW: 3rd, AP: 5th)
The Nittany Lions avenged last year’s loss to Pittsburgh with a 33-14 win.  Looking ahead, their two biggest games (and the only two they won’t be favored in) are back-to-back, against Michigan and Ohio State the last two weekends in October.

5. Oklahoma State (2-0, LW: 5th, AP: 9th)
A 44-7 win at South Alabama isn’t impressive on paper, but give the Cowboys credit for agreeing to play the Jaguars, who were hosting their biggest home game ever, on the road.  This week they travel to Pittsburgh, who they beat last year in a 45-38 track meet.

6. Clemson (2-0, LW: 9th, AP: 3rd)
I still have questions about Clemson’s offense, but they answered a lot of questions about their defense in holding Auburn to 117 yards.  That said, the defense isn’t out of the woods–this week the Tigers travel to Louisville and face defending Heisman winner Lamar Jackson.

7. Michigan (2-0, LW: 7th, AP: 7th)
On one hand, the Wolverines looked unconvincing at times against Cincinnati, even in a 36-14 win.  On the other hand, they have two games they should win easily and a bye week before facing Michigan State on Oct. 7.

8. Washington (2-0, LW: 12th, AP: 6th)
The Huskies have been quietly solid, outscoring their first two opponents 93-21, although their toughest opponent so far was Rutgers.  This week they finish their non-conference slate with Fresno State, before a Pac-12 Championship Game rematch with Colorado to open league play.

9. Wisconsin (2-0, LW: 11th, AP: 10th)
The Badgers, who beat Florida Atlantic 31-14 over the weekend and travel to BYU this weekend, have the easiest schedule of any top 10 team–they will face one team that is currently ranked the entire season (Nov. 18 vs. Michigan).

10. Florida State (0-1, LW: 10th, AP: 11th)
Hurricane Irma has compromised the Seminoles’ schedule; they will resume play Sep. 23 against N.C. State after a 21-day layoff.

Worth a Mention:  Duke (2-0)
Northwestern was ranked 23rd in these rankings last week, reason being that they were an experienced team from a Power Five league that I thought could be a sleeper in the Big Ten West.  Then they met Duke:  the Blue Devils outgained the Wildcats a staggering 538-191, held the Wildcats to 22 rushing yards, and gained 34 first downs to Northwestern’s 15 while possessing the ball for 41:18.  I don’t have the Blue Devils ranked, but I’m surprised they didn’t get any AP Poll votes (they did get three votes in the Coaches’ Poll).

11. Ohio State (1-1, LW: 2nd, AP: 8th)
12. Georgia (2-0, LW: 13th, AP: 13th)
13. Auburn (1-1, LW: 8th, AP: 15th)
14. Miami (1-0, LW: 14th, AP: 17th)
15. LSU (2-0, LW: 16th, AP: 12th)

16. Kansas State (2-0, LW: 17th, AP: 18th)
17. Virginia Tech (2-0, LW: 18th, AP: 16th)
18. Utah (2-0, LW: 20th, AP: unranked)
19. Florida (0-1, LW: 19th, AP: 24th)
20. Stanford (1-1, LW: 15th, AP: 19th)

21. Louisville (2-0, LW: 21st, AP: 14th)
22. South Florida (2-0, LW: 22nd, AP: 22nd)
23. Tennessee (2-0, LW: 24th, AP: 23rd)
24. UCLA (2-0, LW: 25th, AP: 25th)
25. TCU (2-0, LW: unranked, AP: 20th)

Also Ranked in AP Poll:  Washington State (2-0, AP: 21st)

Fell from Rankings:  Northwestern (1-1, LW: 23rd)

Twitter Picks for College Football Championship Weekend

Entering “championship weekend” in college football, each of the Power Five conferences has a championship game, either directly, or in de facto fashion (Big 12).  There are many scenarios regarding what could happen and how teams could reach the College Football Playoff, as you can read in my Power Rankings, but Alabama and Ohio State appear to be in the Playoff, and Clemson and Washington should be with wins on Saturday.  Any other scenario, and the December version of Selection Sunday would be very interesting.

 

Each game is co-Game of the Week for this week.  They are listed in chronological order.

Pac-12 Championship Game

#4 Washington (11-1) vs. #8 Colorado (10-2)
Friday, 9:00 pm ET, FOX
at Santa Clara, Calif. (Levi’s Stadium)
Favorite:  Washington by 8
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Washington- 4th, Colorado- 9th

 

Big 12 regular season finale (de facto championship game)

#10 Oklahoma State (10-2) at #9 Oklahoma (10-2)
Saturday, 12:30 pm ET, FOX
Favorite:  Oklahoma by 11
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Oklahoma State- 10th, Oklahoma- 7th

 

SEC Championship Game

#1 Alabama (12-0) vs. #15 Florida (8-3)
Saturday, 4:00 pm ET, CBS
at Atlanta, Ga. (Georgia Dome)
Favorite:  Alabama by 24
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Alabama- 1st, Florida- 14th

 

ACC Championship Game

#3 Clemson (11-1) vs. #23 Virginia Tech (9-3)
Saturday, 8:00 pm ET, ABC
at Orlando, Fla. (Camping World Stadium)
Favorite:  Clemson by 10
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Clemson- 3rd, Virginia Tech- 20th

 

Big Ten Championship Game

#6 Wisconsin (10-2) vs. #7 Penn State (10-2)
Saturday, 8:00 pm ET, FOX
at Indianapolis, Ind. (Lucas Oil Stadium)
Favorite:  Wisconsin by 3
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Wisconsin- 6th, Penn State- 8th

 

 

 

 

For what it’s worth…

Overall Record: 67-51-1
Previous Week: 8-4
College Overall Record: 63-47
NFL Game of the Week: 4-4-1

Game of the Week: 6-4
Big Game Guarantee: 3-7
Upset of the Week: 4-6
Closer Than the Experts Think: 4-6
Not Closer Than the Experts Think: 7-3
Overhyped/Bad Spread Game: 5-5
Group of Five Game of the Week: 7-3
Is This Futbol?: 8-2
Is This Basketball?: 8-2
Toilet Bowl: 6-4
Miscellaneous: 5-5

 

For an explanation of the categories for Twitter Picks, click here.

College Football Power Rankings for Week 13

With college football season in the home stretch, there are still a lot of questions to be answered.

Going into championship weekend, Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Washington are in the desired top four spots in the College Football Playoff rankings, and should likely be in the four-team Playoff with a win this weekend (Ohio State doesn’t play this weekend, but more on that later).

But if one or more of those teams don’t win on Saturday, chaos could ensue, something that we’ve already seen on multiple Saturdays this season.

Could a two-loss team get in the Playoff?  Does a team that didn’t even win their division, like Ohio State or Michigan, deserve a playoff bid?  Could the Big Ten get more than one team in the four-team field?  Could a Pac-12-champion Colorado team or the Big Ten champion get in?

In short:  yes, and it is actually guaranteed to happen if either Clemson or Washington lose;  yes, because the best four teams should get the four spots;  yes, with some help, and there is even a long-shot, chaos-driven, doomsday scenario with three Big Ten teams getting in;  maybe, although even a win and some help doesn’t guarantee them anything.

Each team’s best chance to reach the playoff is listed below, with still a variety of possible scenarios–perhaps the most entering championship weekend in the three years of the College Football Playoff format.

The last few weeks, I have not had the time to write a rankings post, but have posted my top 25 on Twitter.  (See rankings for Week 10 here, and Week 11 here).  I ranked the teams after Week 12 last week, but never posted them to Twitter; however, those rankings are reflected below, listed as each team’s “last week” ranking.

 

The Current Top Four

1. Alabama (12-0, Last Week: 1st, CFP Ranking: 1st)
Last Week:  def. #13 Auburn, 30-12
This Week:  SEC Championship Game vs. #15 Florida
The Crimson Tide are the only Power Five conference team who is undefeated, with 10 “convincing” wins that include triumphs over USC and Auburn, as well as a 10-0 road win over LSU.  Even if the Tide are upset by Florida in the SEC Championship Game, their resume would still be good enough to be one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff.

2. Ohio State  (11-1, 2nd, 2nd)
Last Week:  def. #3 Michigan, 30-27 (2ot)
In the first two years of the Playoff format, all eight teams to make the four-team field have been conference champions.  Ohio State will not be a conference champion, as their lone loss to Penn State cost them the Big Ten East Division title, but the Buckeyes have played four of the top nine teams in the CFP’s current rankings, and beat three of them, including Wisconsin and Oklahoma on the road, and Michigan in last week’s double-overtime instant classic.  Yes, the committee infamously dropped TCU from third to sixth after a win in the final week of the 2014 season, but I see no way they would drop the Buckeyes three spots and out of the playoff field.

3. Clemson (11-1, 3rd, 3rd)
Last Week:  def. South Carolina, 56-7
This Week:  ACC Championship Game vs. #23 Virginia Tech
Clemson’s loss is to Pittsburgh, who is now a top 25 team, appears to have been a wake-up call for the Tigers, as all they’ve done in the two games since is outscore their competition 91-20, including a 56-7 win over rival South Carolina, the largest win in the series since 1900.  Clemson is one of the teams that could make things interesting–even chaotic–with a loss, but if the Tigers beat Virginia Tech in the ACC title tilt, the 2015 runners-up will be back in the Playoff for the second straight year.

4. Washington (11-1, 5th, 4th)
Last Week:  def. #23 Washington State, 45-17
This Week:  Pac-12 Championship Game vs. #8 Colorado (Friday)
The Huskies dominated rival Washington State, clinching the Pac-12 North Division.  Washington has the least impressive resume of the one-loss teams, which is why they’re fourth and not higher, and has a loss to the highest ranked team they’ve played, USC.  CFP committee chairman Kirby Hocutt even said the margin between Washington and Michigan is “extremely small.”  However, past precedent shows the committee values conference championships, and if the Huskies win they would not only have a conference trophy but also a new signature win over an 8th-ranked opponent (Colorado), which should be enough to seal their spot.  If they lose, since their game is Friday night, if could make Saturday’s action even better as the teams below the top four would have added hope knowing a spot is already potentially open.

Other Contenders

5. Michigan (10-2, 4th, 5th)
Last Week:  lost at #2 Ohio State, 30-27 (2ot)
The Wolverines, like Ohio State, did not win the Big Ten East, although unlike Ohio State, Michigan did beat Penn State head-to-head.  After Hocutt’s comments on the small difference between Washington and Michigan, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit inferred that, should one or both of Clemson and Washington falter, the Wolverines would be the next team on a hypothetical Playoff depth chart.  Two three-game stretches are the key to Michigan’s resume:  back-to-back-to-back wins over Colorado, Penn State, and Wisconsin could, in the end, be what gets the Wolverines in the Playoff, but losing two out of three to end the season–even with the losses by just one on the road to Iowa and to Ohio State only after a controversial fourth-down spot to keep the Buckeyes’ eventual game-winning drive alive (it was very close, but yes, it was a first down)–could be what keeps them out of the four-team field.

6. Wisconsin (10-2, 6th, 6th)
Last Week:  def. Minnesota, 31-17
This Week:  Big Ten Championship Game vs. #7 Penn State
On one hand, Wisconsin’s biggest win came way back on Sept. 3 over LSU (who has changed coaches since), although they have also beaten Iowa and Nebraska.  The Badgers two losses are in tough games they played well in–a 7-point loss at Michigan and an overtime loss to Ohio State.  If Wisconsin wins the Big Ten on Saturday, they will have a new signature win over Penn State, but they need some help to have any Playoff shot, especially since one of the teams they would have to jump is a Michigan team they’ve lost to.

7. Oklahoma (9-2, 7th, 9th)
Last Week:  idle
This Week:  vs. #10 Oklahoma State
With the Big 12 lacking a conference championship game, the league has regular season games this weekend.  However, as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State play their “Bedlam” rivalry game, it will double as a de facto league title game, with the victor winning the Big 12.  The Sooners have won nine straight after early-season losses to Houston and Ohio State, although they only have one win over a team that is currently ranked, West Virginia.  The CFP committee did not rank the Sooners as high as I have, which means they face a very uphill battle to have any Playoff shot–it would likely take a huge blowout of the Cowboys and losses by both Clemson and Washington, and even then that probably would still not be enough, as the Sooners are would have to jump two teams out of Michigan, the eventual Big Ten champion, and Colorado (who would be the team to potentially beat Washington).

8. Penn State (10-2, 8th, 7th)
Last Week:  def. Michigan State, 45-12
This Week:  Big Ten Championship Game vs. #6 Wisconsin
The Nittany Lions are one of the nation’s best stories of the season, winning 10 games and the Big Ten East after two straight 7-6 seasons, and just three years removed from postseason ban that followed the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  To some, Penn State have a better case than a couple of the teams directly above them, given their eight game winning streak that includes wins over Ohio State and Iowa.  The Nittany Lions also won a division most consider the toughest division in college football this year, preventing Ohio State and Michigan from doing so.  Two September losses to Michigan and Pittsburgh are what hurts the Nittany Lions chances, especially considering the Michigan loss was by 39 points.  Still, Penn State may have a shot at the top four, albeit a small one, with a win Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship Game and some help from a couple of the teams ranked above them.

9. Colorado (10-2, 9th, 8th)
Last Week:  def. #22 Utah 27-22
This Week:  Pac-12 Championship Game vs. #4 Washington (Friday)
The Buffaloes may have an even better story than Penn State.  They are in playoff contention after clinching their first bowl appearance since 2007 and their first winning season since 2005, and had won just 11 conference games in the last eight years entering this season, finishing last (tie or outright) all five seasons in the Pac-12.  Now, they are the champions of the Pac-12 South, with their only losses coming to Michigan and USC, although they lack a true signature win (#20 Utah is their best).  At the very least, they can play the role of spoiler in Friday’s title bout against #4 Washington.  It would take a dominant performance and a lot of help, but if chaos occurs, the Buffaloes could still have an outside shot at the four-team field.  Regardless, Mike McIntyre is easily the national coach of the year.

10. Oklahoma State (9-2, 10th, 10th)
Last Week:  idle
This Week:  at #9 Oklahoma
Mike Gundy’s Cowboys have quietly put together another solid season, and are one win away from the Big 12 title, facing Oklahoma in the “Bedlam” game on Saturday.  While the Cowboys have wins over West Virginia and Pittsburgh, although they also have losses to Baylor and Central Michigan.  The latter is the worst loss among any of the Playoff contenders, although the game was only lost after the officials made a procedural error at the end of the game that allowed Central Michigan an untimed down, on which they scored, an error the Big 12 later admitted to.  The Cowboys resume doesn’t have the punch that the nine teams above them do, and with the two Big 12 contenders ranked 9th and 10th they are likely out of Playoff contention, even in the most unusual circumstances, although if the Pokes blow out Oklahoma and have a lot of help, they may have a sliver of hope.

Great Team, But No Playoff Case

11. USC (9-3, 14th, 11th)
Last Week:  def. Notre Dame, 45-27
USC may be the hottest team in the country, with eight straight wins, including victories over both Pac-12 division winners (the only conference loss for both teams), leaving a few of the more radical pundits clamoring for the Trojans to be considered for the Playoff.  But the Trojans lost three games in September, and only one of them was close.  This is a hot team, and one which I would not want to play as an opposing player or coach, but three losses is simply too much for a team to be even considered for the Playoff.

12. Western Michigan (12-0, 13th, 17th)
Last Week:  def. Toledo, 55-35
This Week:  MAC Championship Game vs. Ohio (Friday)
The Broncos are one of two undefeated teams in FBS, alongside Alabama, but with their MAC schedule I agree with the committee that they aren’t a Playoff team (although I do have them five spots higher than the committee does).  It’s not that they haven’t been dominant–the Broncos have scored 34 or more in 11 games and allowed 21 or less in eight games–but looking over their schedule there are no truly quality wins.  I can’t even identify who their “best win” is.  Western Michigan plays Ohio for the MAC title on Friday night, and currently holds a two-spot edge over Navy to be the highest ranked “Group of Five” champion, a distinction that earns an automatic “New Year’s Six” bowl bid (this year, the Cotton Bowl).

The Best of the Rest

13. Florida State (9-3, 15th, 12th)
14. Florida (8-3, 12th, 15th)
15. LSU (7-4, 23rd, 21st)

16. West Virginia (9-2, 21st, 16th)
17. Louisville (9-3, 11th, 13th)
18. Auburn (8-4, 16th, 14th)
19. Iowa (8-4, unranked, unranked)
20. Virginia Tech (9-3, unranked, 23rd)

21. Stanford (9-3, unranked, 18th)
22. Pittsburgh (8-4, unranked, 25th)
23. Navy (9-2, unranked, 19th)
24. Nebraska (9-3, 17th, unranked)
25. Utah (8-4, 22nd, 20th)

Also ranked in CFP Rankings:  Tennessee (8-4, CFP: 22nd), Houston (9-3, 24th)

Fell from Rankings:  Tennessee (8-4, Last Week: 18th), Houston (9-3, 19th), Boise State (10-2, 20th), Texas A&M (8-4, 24th), Washington State (8-4, 25th)

 

 

Note:  the tweets with my power rankings from previous weeks can be seen here:
Week 10
Week 11