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Alabama, Oregon, Florida State top Power Rankings after Week 9

Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Wide receiver Amari Cooper (9) and Alabama routed Tennessee to improve to 8-0 on the 2013 season.

I don't envy the people who vote in the polls that actually determine who will play in the BCS title game. In most years, late-season upsets clarify the championship picture at least to a degree in November. Yet as Stewart Mandel pointed out in this week's College Football Overtime, that simply may not be the case with the teams atop this year's polls.

While Baylor has yet to hit the meat of its schedule, Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State have been dominant against a fairly representative chunk of their slates. In fact, the next two weeks may provide the biggest tests for four of the top five teams in these rankings. Florida State faces Miami this week, and if the folks in Vegas are to be believed, it isn't an even matchup. Next week will bring the most must-see Thursday since Ross and Rachel led into Seinfeld when Oklahoma-Baylor sets the table for Oregon-Stanford. Two days later, LSU will visit Alabama. If the heavyweights stay undefeated after that set of challenges, the chances of a BCS mess in early December increase dramatically.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1Alabama Crimson Tide
Las week: 1
Oregon beat down Tennessee on Sept. 14. Alabama beat down Tennessee last Saturday. Any thought of finding separation between these two teams has dissipated. This seems a collision course to the national title matchup most have wanted to see for the latter part of the BCS era. Alabama and Oregon have dominated the past five seasons like no one else, and it would only be fitting if this period of college football ended with a clash of these two programs. Naturally, that means it won't happen. The BCS doesn't want us to have nice things. (OK, maybe Texas-USC after the 2005 season. But that's about it.) Both of these teams look so dominant that the idea of either losing seems far-fetched. But that's exactly when teams like this lose. Maybe Alabama will fall to LSU in Tuscaloosa. Maybe Oregon will lose to Stanford, which feels like the defensive equivalent of Texas A&M's offense. Or maybe, just maybe, they'll both keep on winning. Then we can wonder why Florida State or Ohio State didn't get a shot.

Last game: Beat Tennessee, 45-10
Next game: Nov. 9 vs. LSU
 
2Oregon Ducks
Last week: 2
In Mandel's dispatch from the UCLA-Oregon game, Ducks offensive coordinator Scott Frost offered a telling quote. "If you'd told me before the game we're going to win by 28 points, I'd be happy," said Frost. "That was the toughest 'easy' game we've ever had around here." It speaks to Oregon's dominance that the Ducks can get bottled up for two quarters and then break open the floodgates. Oregon's offense gets most of the attention, but the bulk of the credit for Saturday's win belongs to the defense, which contained UCLA's offense about as well as Stanford's defense did a week earlier.

Last game: Beat UCLA, 42-14
Next game: Nov. 7 at Stanford
 
3Florida State Seminoles
Last week: 3
How long has it been since this rivalry was relevant? Let's measure the passage of time in Wide Rights. Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo wasn't even a gleam in his father's eye for Wide Right I (Gerry Thomas in 1991) or Wide Right II (Dan Mowrey in 1992). Aguayo was six for Wide Right III (Matt Munyon in 2000). No one wearing garnet and gold on Saturday has any recollection of a time when games against Miami were decided by errant kicks. The wiseguys in Vegas don't think this one is going to come down to a kick. They think Florida State will win by at least three touchdowns. Given the way Miami has looked the past few weeks and the way Florida State has looked the past few weeks, that line makes perfect sense. Still, given the familiarity of the players -- many of whom played together or against one another in high school -- and the lingering intensity of the rivalry, this game probably won't be that easy for the Seminoles.

Last game: Beat NC State, 49-17
Next game: Saturday vs. Miami
 
4Ohio State Buckeyes
Last week: 4
The Buckeyes scored some style points on Saturday, and because something is always wrong in college football, they were promptly accused of running up the score. When backup quarterbacks score with four minutes remaining in the third quarter of a conference game -- even with the starter split out wide on the play -- it's not running up the score. Ohio State can't win here. As long as Alabama, Oregon and Florida State keep winning, the Buckeyes probably won't jump any of those teams in the polls. The knock against Ohio State before was that the Buckeyes didn't win impressively enough. Yet if they win too impressively, they're ripped for picking on inferior teams. All they can do is keep playing well and hope the teams above them stumble.

Last game: Beat Penn State, 63-14
Next game: Saturday at Purdue
 
5Baylor Bears
Last week: 5
Ladies and gentlemen, the 2013 Baylor football team ...

Still, as the replies to Kint's tweet suggest, most of those scores came against inferior opponents. The competition upgrade begins in earnest next week as Baylor enters a ferocious five-game stretch. If the Bears can keep up their scoring pace -- or even if they fall off a little -- they'll be in great shape in the Big 12 race. As far as the national title hunt, the Bears and Buckeyes can commiserate.

Last game: Beat Kansas, 59-14
Next game: Nov. 7 vs. Oklahoma
 
6Miami Hurricanes
Last week: 7
The Hurricanes slid by against North Carolina and Wake Forest, and it sure didn't seem like they were saving anything as they scratched and clawed for those wins. So don't expect some sort of huge schematic surprise this Saturday against the Seminoles. Miami is going to have to trade blows with Florida State and try to stay upright. Any flaws covered up in the comeback victories of the past two weeks will be exposed. Now would be the perfect time for the 'Canes to play their best game. Otherwise, the Seminoles will prove Vegas correct.

Last game: Beat Wake Forest, 24-21
Next game: Saturday at Florida State
 
7Stanford Cardinal
Last week: 9
Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner left Saturday's win in Corvallis with an injury affecting his left side. On Tuesday, it was announced that Gardner will miss the remainder of the season with a left pectoral injury. Gardner is tough to replace from a leadership and production standpoint, but the Caridnal will have to try. That ferocious pass rush is Stanford's best trait. Stanford defenders racked up 13 tackles for loss against Oregon State last Saturday, and that was the difference in the game. Forcing Oregon into negative plays and turnovers is the only way to beat the Ducks. The Cardinal are the team best suited to do that, but that will be much more difficult without Gardner.

Last game: Beat Oregon State, 20-12
Next game: Nov. 7 vs. Oregon
 
8 Clemson Tigers
Last week: 8
Clemson looked iffy for most of Saturday's first half against Maryland, but the firm of Boyd and Watkins stated its case rather emphatically that the Tigers would not curl up and quit following their crushing home loss to Florida State. Clemson has three winnable games before its regular-season finale against South Carolina that should decide whether the Tigers are in position for a BCS at-large berth.

Last game: Beat Maryland, 40-27
Next game: Saturday at Virginia
 
9 Auburn Tigers
Last week: 11
Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall went down with an apparent shoulder injury on Saturday, but Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said on Monday that Marshall should be OK to play against Arkansas. The good news for Auburn is that freshman Jeremy Johnson has gotten some quality snaps -- albeit against very overmatched competition -- and shouldn't have much of a learning curve if he gets pressed into action in Fayetteville. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema should be able to find Johnson in the game film, but if he can't, he can probably just check his DVR. All the games in the SEC are televised, after all.

Last game: Beat Florida Atlantic, 45-10
Next game: Saturday at Arkansas
 
10Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 6
As disappointing as Saturday was, the Tigers need to forget it quickly lest they let the Gamecocks beat them again. Because all of South Carolina and Georgia's conference losses came against SEC East teams and because the Tigers have a head-to-head win over Florida, Missouri remains in prime position to win the East in most three-way tie scenarios. The problem will come if the Tigers sulk over this loss and allow Tennessee to beat them this week. That would give Missouri two East losses as well and would likely bring the BCS standings into a three-way tiebreaker. The Volunteers proved against South Carolina that they can beat better teams, and they'll want to erase the taste of a pounding from Alabama. If Mizzou is going to drop another SEC game -- and there is no guarantee that will happen -- it is much better off losing to Ole Miss on Nov. 23 or Texas A&M on Nov. 30. Of course, the Tigers would be best served putting the fourth-quarter collapse and the doink off the upright behind them and winning their last four. They have the talent to do it.

Last game: Lost to South Carolina, 27-24 (2OT)
Next game: Saturday vs. Tennessee
 
11South Carolina Gamecocks
Last week: 22
I realize the Gamecocks just went on the road and beat Missouri, but a double-overtime game decided on a shanked chip-shot field goal is not enough to erase the fact that Missouri has the better record and that South Carolina took a terrible loss at Tennessee a week earlier. That said, rankings don't really matter for the Gamecocks. They aren't in the BCS title picture, but they still have a chance to win the SEC East and go to Atlanta. They'll need some help, but if they keep winning, they've definitely got a chance. For the Gamecocks trying to figure out their rooting interests for the remainder of the season, you'll want Ole Miss or Texas A&M (or both) to take down Missouri, and you'll want Auburn to take down Georgia. Florida remains in the hunt as well, but the Gamecocks and Gators can hash out any issues on the field in Columbia next month.

Last game: Beat Missouri, 27-24 (2OT)
Next game: Saturday vs. Mississippi State
 
12UCLA Bruins
Last week: 12
The Bruins might look back on this season and wonder what could have been had they had a deeper offensive line. Injuries have pressed some young players into service, and the resulting pressure from opposing defenses cost UCLA against Stanford and Oregon. Both games were closer than their final scores indicate, and both are an indication that UCLA is not too far away from fielding a team that can compete at the highest level. What makes this situation so interesting is that if UCLA can take care of business in the South division and its youngsters can mature in the next month, the Bruins could get another crack at the Cardinal or Ducks in the Pac-12 title game.

Last game: Lost to Oregon, 42-14
Next game: Saturday vs. Colorado
 
13LSU Tigers
Last week: 13
Things looked pretty dicey at halftime on Saturday in Baton Rouge. LSU led Furman by only four, and the hangover from the Tigers' loss at Ole Miss clearly hadn't faded. LSU managed to pull away in the second half, but if the Tigers don't shore up their defense, they'll get humiliated in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 9. Besides the rematch in the BCS title game after 2011 season (a 21-0 Alabama win), every meeting between Les Miles' Tigers and Nick Saban's Crimson Tide has been decided by nine points or fewer. Miles seems to be able to will his team to be competitive even when Alabama has the talent advantage, but this might be the first year the talent gap is on defense instead of on offense.

Last game: Beat Furman, 48-16
Next game: Nov. 9 at Alabama
 
14Texas A&M Aggies
Last week: 16
Finally, Texas A&M's defense kept the drama to a minimum. A pair of early stops against Vanderbilt allowed Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans and the offense to build a 21-0 first-quarter lead. Most opponents will never recover from such a deficit. If the defense can keep playing well in first quarters for the rest of the season, the Aggies might be able to play their way into a BCS at-large berth.

Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 56-24
Next game: Saturday vs. UTEP
 
15Oklahoma Sooners
Last week: 18
The Sooners survived Texas Tech over the weekend, but it was a Pyrrhic victory. They lost fullback Trey Millard for the season to two torn knee ligaments. Millard's stats (91 rushing yards, 64 receiving yards) belied his importance to the offense. His blocking paved the way for the running game and gave quarterback Blake Bell a steady protector in the passing game. Millard would have been especially useful against Baylor, which has seemed susceptible to a power-running attack in the moments when its offense isn't gaining 100 yards a minute. The Sooners will have to recover from the blow and prepare for their toughest challenge to date. A win in Waco next week puts Oklahoma right back in the thick of the Big 12 title race.

Last game: Beat Texas Tech, 38-30
Next game: Nov. 7 at Baylor
 
16 Texas Tech Red Raiders
Last week: 10
Texas Tech hung in against Oklahoma, but it made too many mistakes to escape Norman with a win. Afterward, Red Raiders defensive end Branden Jackson said this to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: "Everything we've got, we've earned, and we feel like we took a little bit of respect today. After this game, OU knows that. We're actually a good team. This isn't a fluke." The Red Raiders are good, but they'll need to offer a little more proof. They'll have to decide this week whether they want to have a special season or whether they want to be that team that feasted on an easy early schedule. The Cowboys have looked vulnerable since their loss at West Virginia, but they have overcome quarterback issues and kept themselves afloat. If Texas Tech wants to be a player in the Big 12, it has to win a game like this.

Last game: Lost to Oklahoma, 38-30
Next game: Saturday vs. Oklahoma State
 
17UCF Knights
Last week: 15
The schedule sets up quite nicely for the Knights. Of all the teams to face after winning at Louisville, lowly Connecticut was probably the most hangover-proof. Now UCF has an open date to prepare for Houston, which ran its record to 6-1 on Saturday by hammering Rutgers on the road. (If you're looking for an explanation as to why Fresno State isn't ranked here, there is one clue. The Bulldogs' best win came at home in overtime against the Scarlet Knights. I don't have Houston ranked, either.) UCF, Houston or Louisville is going to win the AAC, and the Knights can make their path to the title crystal clear by beating the Cougars.

Last game: Beat Connecticut, 62-17
Next game: Nov. 9 vs. Houston
 
18Louisville Cardinals
Last week: NR
The Cardinals bounced back from their loss to UCF by trouncing the Knights' Interstate 4 rival. Louisville will probably hammer UConn as well. Then the Cardinals get a week off. They'll have to watch as UCF faces Houston. They should be able to pick up some tips on playing the Cougars, who come to Louisville on Nov. 16. If Houston beats the Knights, Louisville should be able to jump back into pole position for the AAC's BCS bowl berth with a win over the Cougars because voters will likely vault the Cardinals over the Knights. But if UCF beats Houston, the AAC title might already be out of reach.

Last game: Beat South Florida, 34-3
Next game: Nov. 8 at Connecticut
 
19Oklahoma State Cowboys
Last week: 19
Running back Des Roland broke out with 219 yards on 26 carries at Iowa State, and his production takes some of the starch out of the quarterback conundrum faced by head coach Mike Gundy and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. Clint Chelf is supposed to be the better passer, but he has looked like the better runner of late. J.W. Walsh is supposed to be the better runner, but he has recently looked like the better passer. That makes choosing a quarterback difficult for the coaches. Chelf got the nod on Saturday, but if he doesn't raise his completion percentage, the Cowboys may have to go back to Walsh. Of course, if Roland goes crazy again in Lubbock, it may not matter who takes the snaps.

Last game: Beat Iowa State, 58-27
Next game: Saturday at Texas Tech
 
20Michigan Wolverines
Last week: 21
The Wolverines finally broke through against the Spartans last year, ending a four-game losing streak to their neighbors to the north. To establish firm control of the state, Michigan needs to start a streak of its own. That's going to be difficult. With the notable exception of the Purdue game, the Spartans' offense under quarterback Connor Cook has improved. While it isn't Baylor by any stretch, any offensive contribution, when combined with Michigan State's excellent defense, makes the Spartans especially dangerous. Where's the threat? This time, it's up in East Lansing. This one could determine who wins the Legends Division.

Last game: Beat Indiana, 63-47
Next game: Saturday at Michigan State
 
21Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last week: 23
Prior to Saturday, Notre Dame's previous four wins had come by an average of 4.5 points. The Fighting Irish finally got to breathe a little during a game, and the results were refreshing. Quarterback Tommy Rees looked comfortable a week after getting knocked out of the USC game, and five of his 17 completions went for touchdowns. Meanwhile, tailback Cam McDaniel didn't allow his debut of Magnum during the USC game to distract him. He averaged 6.1 yards a carry against the Falcons.

Last game: Beat Air Force, 45-10
Next game: Saturday vs. Navy
 
22Arizona State Sun Devils
Last week: 24
A Halloween game in Pullman? A Halloween game in Pullman. Don't bother making predictions. Nothing we can imagine will possibly measure up. OK, one prediction. Mike Leach will consider candy volume and avoid dressing as the Grim Reaper.

Last game: Beat Washington, 53-24
Next game: Thursday at Washington State
 
23 Wisconsin Badgers
Last week: 25
The bye week came at a good time for the Badgers, who had a few injuries that needed some time to heal. The biggest beneficiary of the rest might have been linebacker Chris Borland, who left Wisconsin's win over Illinois on Oct. 19 with a leg injury. Borland should be ready to play by the time the Badgers reach Iowa City.

Last game: Beat Illinois, 56-32
Next game: Saturday at Iowa
 
24Ole Miss Rebels
Last week: 17
Rebels defensive coordinator Dave Wommack deserves a bonus for stitching together the unit that helped beat LSU in spite of a rash of injuries. The Rebels then got a quasi-bye (Idaho) last week, followed by a real bye this week. With some time off, Ole Miss might at least be able to get the Nkemdiche brothers back on the field for the stretch run. Younger brother Robert (hamstring) missed the LSU and Idaho games, and older brother Denzel (ankle) went out during the LSU game and missed the Idaho game. On offense, tailback Jeff Scott (thigh) sat out against the Vandals but should be back in time to play the Razorbacks.

Last game: Beat Idaho, 59-14
Next game: Nov. 9 vs. Arkansas
 
25BYU Cougars
Last Week: NR
The Cougars' season-opening loss to Virginia looks more mysterious by the week. Thanks to what appears to be improvement in Austin, BYU's win over Texas looks better by the week. After what Houston did to Rutgers on Saturday, the Cougars' comeback win at Reliant Stadium also looks pretty impressive. After beating Boise State handily on Friday, BYU gets an off week before a three-week stretch that includes visits to Madison and South Bend.

Last game: Beat Boise State, 37-20
Next game: Nov. 9 at Wisconsin

Next five: Oregon State, Texas, Northern Illinois, Houston, Fresno State

Andy Staples' Power Rankings also serve as his ballot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

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