Down
enlarge
Florida State survives a scare
2:28 | College Football
Florida State survives a scare
Tuesday September 23rd, 2014

At the tail end of fall camp, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris told SI.com he felt like the Tigers were “four or five plays away” from having a special season. He couldn’t predict when or where those plays would occur, but he had a pretty good idea they’d happen in the first few weeks of the season, when Clemson was set to play Georgia and Florida State.

In the Tigers’ 23-17 loss to No. 1 Florida State on Saturday, it was easy to see what Morris meant, thought not in the way he had hoped -- like when C.J. Davidson fumbled the ball in the red zone with under two minutes to play or when the Tigers were stuffed on fourth-and-one in overtime after Dabo Swinney decided to go for it.

National title contenders like Florida State find a way to make those plays and win those games. That leaves everybody else looking up and wondering what could have been. By winning without Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, the Seminoles stay in the picture. So do the Oregon Ducks, who held off a charge from Washington State and the Tim Burton movie that is Pullman, Wash., at night to steal a 38-31 win.

As the season goes along, more of these types of games will happen. The pretenders will fall, and we’ll be left with those eight to 12 teams (as we always are) that stand out among the rest. Odds are pretty good Florida State and Oregon will be right up there, and that’s why it’s easy to keep those two teams at one and two in this week’s Power Rankings. The Seminoles did enough in their win over Clemson to steal away the top spot once again.

• INSIDE READ: NFL scouts say Winston needs another year at Florida State

College Football Power Rankings
 
  • 1
    1Florida St. Seminoles
     
    last week: 2
    record: 3-0
    From our friends at Tomahawk Nation:
     
    “Florida State did not have Jameis Winston. It didn’t have superstar defensive end Mario Edwards, Jr., for much of the game. It lost defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample down the stretch as well.
     
    “The Seminoles were out gained by nearly 100 yards. They did not win the turnover battle. And yet, they still won their 19th game in a row. They are still undefeated at Doak Campbell Stadium under Jimbo Fisher against Atlantic Division opponents.”
     
    Last year Florida State demolished teams. That was who the ‘Noles were. This year they have the look of the veteran boxer who can’t just throw one power punch to get a knockout blow but can still win the fight.
     
    Next game: Saturday at NC State

  • 2
    2Oregon Ducks
     
    last week: 1
    record: 4-0
    It’s a good thing the Ducks get almost two weeks off after this one. The offensive line certainly needs the rest. Marcus Mariota is firmly at the top of my hypothetical Heisman ballot, and this game was a strong thesis for why. He was knocked around, flushed out of the pocket and nothing came easy. He still finished 21-of-25 for 329 yards and five scores.
     
    Last game: Beat Washington State, 38-31
    Next game: Oct. 2 vs. Arizona

  • 3
    3Alabama Crimson Tide
     
    last week: 4
    record: 4-0
    Just how good has Lane Kiffin been for Amari Cooper? Last season Cooper had 45 catches for 736 yards and four touchdowns. Through four games this year the receiver has 43 catches for 655 yards and five scores. As Cooper appears to be Alabama’s best player, maybe it’s a no-brainer that the Tide are getting the ball in his hands early and often.
     
    Next game: Oct. 4 at. Ole Miss

  • 4
    4Oklahoma Sooners
     
    last week: 3
    record: 4-0
    America, meet Samaje Perine. The freshman running back had 242 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries in Oklahoma’s 45-33 win over West Virginia and gave the Sooners an element they needed in a tough road environment. It isn’t that Trevor Knight can’t throw it around -- his Sugar Bowl performance clearly showed he is capable of it -- but Oklahoma might have a better shot if he isn’t forced to do so. Having a runner like Perine to be the Sooners’ steady hand would do wonders.
     
    Last game: Beat West Virginia, 45-33
    Next game: Oct. 4 at TCU

  • 5
    5Auburn Tigers
     
    last week: 5
    record: 3-0
    The Tigers challenged themselves against a tough, physical nonconference opponent and walked away a better team for it. These games build character, and it’s not a bad thing if Auburn busts a tooth flipping over its handlebars or gets shot down by its crush in front of the whole lunchroom. Plus the Tigers may still have some of that Gus Malzahn magic left over from last season in a squirt bottle like Michael Jordan’s “Secret Stuff” in Space Jam.
     
    Next game: Saturday vs. Louisiana Tech

  • 6
    6Baylor Bears
     
    last week: 6
    record: 3-0
    The Bears didn’t play last week.
     
    Here is a video of a bear having fun at a golf course:

     
    Last game: Beat Buffalo, 63-21
    Next game: Saturday at Iowa State

  • 7
    7Texas A&M Aggies
     
    last week: 7
    record: 4-0
    Through four games, the Aggies have scored 221 points. They’ve allowed just 47. Granted the competition -- aside from South Carolina -- is going to get a lot stiffer than the SMUs, Rices and Lamars of the world from here on out, but if this defensive improvement is real, don’t be surprised if Texas A&M becomes the team to beat out of the SEC West.
     
    Last game: Beat SMU, 58-6
    Next game: Saturday vs. Arkansas

  • 8
    8Notre Dame Fighting Irish
     
    last week: 8
    record: 3-0
    Everett Golson should have no trouble keeping the fast start to his season going against Syracuse, but it’d be nice if he could get some assistance from the ground game. If you take away backup quarterback Malik Zaire’s 56-yard run against Rice, the team has just 418 yards on 110 carries, good for a 3.8 yard per carry average. That’s with the Fighting Irish’s three wins coming against teams with a combined 4-7 record.
     
    Last game: Beat Purdue, 30-14
    Next game: Saturday vs. Syracuse (in MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.)

  • 9
    9Ole Miss Rebels
     
    last week: 10
    record: 3-0
    You might be a little surprised to learn that Bo Wallace actually has a 75.5 percent completion percentage so far this season. Keeping that up is unsustainable, obviously, but it’s what Wallace does with his incompletions that matters most. If too many of them end up in the hands of the other team -- as Wallace has done 21 times in his two and a third seasons on play -- Ole Miss will have a much tougher hill to climb.
     
    Last game: Beat Louisiana-Lafayette, 56-15
    Next game: Saturday vs. Memphis

  • 10
    10Stanford Cardinal
     
    last week: 11
    record: 2-1
    The Cardinal can go a long way toward putting their loss to USC behind them with a win over Steve Sarkisian’s old team, Washington. To do so they’ll have to rely heavily on a defense that’s allowed just 13 points all season. Cardinal is a shade of red, so you’d think they’d be better in the red zone than they have been.
     
    Last game: Beat Army, 35-0
    Next game: Saturday at Washington

  • 11
    11Michigan St. Spartans
     
    last week: 12
    record: 2-1
    The Spartans held Eastern Michigan to a single yard in the first half of Saturday’s game. That’s pretty good. I’m sure Mark Dantonio would’ve been happier if they had held the Eagles to one yard through the whole game though. Goals are important.
     
    Last game: Beat Eastern Michigan, 73-14
    Next game: Saturday vs. Wyoming

  • 12
    12Mississippi St. Bulldogs
     
    last week: NR
    record: 4-0
    The Bulldogs were the toughest team to rank this week based solely on the fact that I’m not so sure where they belong. They have Texas A&M after a bye, and if they win that game, they’re worthy of being in the top 10. If they lose that game, they have Auburn after that and could quickly drop out of the top 25 again completely. For now let’s let them have No. 12. I like to believe John Stockton would want them to have it and wear it proudly.
     
    Last game: Beat LSU, 34-29
    Next game: Oct. 4 vs. Texas A&M

  • 13
    13South Carolina Gamecocks
     
    last week: 14
    record: 3-1
    In his press conference after the team’s 48-34 win at Vanderbilt, Steve Spurrier said the word “embarrassed” about 500 times. He also said: “We got all the voters fooled thinking we’re pretty good.” I’m not a voter, but consider me one of the fooled. I think Spurrier is playing possum a bit and trying to light a fire under his guys. This is a young team, and young teams make mistakes.
     
    Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 48-34
    Next game: Saturday vs. Missouri

  • 14
    14Georgia Bulldogs
     
    last week: 16
    record: 2-1
    Troy fell, and Georgia basically dragged the Trojans around the field like Hector’s corpse behind Achilles’ chariot. That’s one way to get over a tough road conference loss from a week earlier.
     
    Last game: Beat Troy, 66-0
    Next game: Saturday vs. Tennessee

  • 15
    15Brigham Young Cougars
     
    last week: 15
    record: 4-0
    The Cougars already have wins over an ACC team, a Big 12 team and two American Athletic Conference teams and they have a Mountain West team up next. They’re basically playing the Independent version of Pokemon at this point.
     
    Last game: Beat Virginia, 41-33
    Next game: Oct. 3 vs. Utah State

  • 16
    16UCLA Bruins
     
    last week: 18
    record: 3-0
    Brett Hundley’s status is still up in the air with an elbow injury to his non-throwing arm, but Arizona State is preparing as if Hundley is going to play. For all the hemming and hawing about the Bruins’ early-season struggles, a win over Arizona State (with or without Hundley) would be big. Jerry Neuheisel better be ready to play hero again just in case.
     
    Last game: Beat Texas, 20-17
    Next game: Thursday at Arizona State

  • 17
    17Arizona St. Sun Devils
     
    last week: 17
    record: 3-0
    The Sun Devils have a quarterback injury of their own to deal with, and we know Taylor Kelly isn’t going to play. That puts the impetus squarely on Mike Bercovici, a former Rivals.com three-star recruit, and running back D.J. Foster to upend the Bruins.
     
    Last game: Beat Colorado, 38-24
    Next game: Thursday vs. UCLA

  • 18
    18Wisconsin Badgers
     
    last week: 21
    record: 2-1
    Wisconsin rushed for 644 yards against Bowling Green, which is more rushing yards than 68 FBS teams have all season. Welcome back, Melvin Gordon. College football is a much more entertaining place when you’re running well.
     
    Last game: Beat Bowling Green, 68-17
    Next game: Saturday vs. South Florida

  • 19
    19East Carolina Pirates
     
    last week: 25
    record: 3-1
    Saturday’s 70-spot makes 125 points scored in the Pirates’ past two victories over North Carolina. Because we’re having fun with stats this week, another team in North Carolina, Wake Forest, scored 220 points in all of 2013.
     
    Last game: Beat North Carolina, 70-41
    Next game: Oct. 4 vs. SMU

  • 20
    20USC Trojans
     
    last week: 20
    record: 2-1
    For as bad as the Boston College loss was, it wasn’t a conference loss, and that’s relatively important. The Trojans earned their win over Stanford in Week 2 and have a chance to move to 2-0 in Pac-12 play before the end of September.
     
    Last game: Lost to Boston College, 37-31
    Next game: Saturday vs. Oregon State

  • 21
    21Nebraska Cornhuskers
     
    last week: NR
    record: 4-0
    Okay, so the Cornhuskers’ 41-31 win over the Hurricanes wasn’t the most epic matchup in the history of the Nebraska-Miami series, but it didn’t stop tempers from flaring up, Bo Pelini from getting super mad and the teams from scuffling. These two teams don’t like each other. We need more of that (assuming of course that nobody gets hurt in the process).
     
    Last game: Beat Miami, 41-31
    Next game: Saturday vs. Illinois

  • 22
    22Ohio St. Buckeyes
     
    last week: 22
    record: 2-1
    Urban Meyer said in his press conference this week that he gave the team a bunch of simulated game reps during the bye week. We’ll see if that makes any impact for a pass defense that’s facing a quarterback -- Cincinnati’s Gunner Kiel -- who doesn’t have very many real game reps as a starter yet. Kiel has made the most of his two games, throwing for 10 touchdowns.
     
    Last game: Beat Kent State, 66-0
    Next game: Saturday vs. Cincinnati

  • 23
    23Kansas St. Wildcats
     
    last week: 19
    record: 2-1
    Whether Kansas State beat itself or got beat by Auburn is of no consequence. The Wildcats were in it (and probably should have won) against an SEC team that was in the national title game last year. The way this team is built invites close games against teams like Iowa State or Auburn. Bill Snyder has to hope the Wildcats end up on the right end of most of them.
     
    Next game: Saturday vs. UTEP

  • 24
    24Penn St. Nittany Lions
     
    last week: 24
    record: 4-0
    I’m higher than most on the Nittany Lions, and that’s okay. It’s important to have convictions. Plus outside of those Ohio State and Michigan State games, Penn State doesn’t face many stiff challenges. A 10-win season is completely feasible, and the ceiling is playing in the Big Ten title game. Now if only James Franklin could find a way to actually #DominateTheStateOfTheUnion.
     
    Last game: Beat Massachusetts, 48-7
    Next game: Saturday vs. Northwestern

  • 25
    25LSU Tigers
     
    last week: 9
    record: 3-1
    I’m not sure what’s most concerning for the Tigers: that the defense got pushed around as easily as it did by Mississippi State, that LSU looked so beatable in Death Valley, that the running game could only muster 2.5 yards per carry or that it took Les Miles so long to give quarterback Brandon Harris a chance. Regardless, the Mad Hatter has to go back to the drawing board a bit. A date with New Mexico State on Saturday should help.
     
    Next game: Saturday vs. New Mexico State

Next five: Oklahoma State, Duke, Utah, Marshall, Arizona

• STAPLES: Mississippi State breaks through in vaunted SEC West

2:51 | College Football
College Football Roundup: Week 4

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.