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Power Rankings: Alabama, Notre Dame crack top 4
1:48 | College Football
Power Rankings: Alabama, Notre Dame crack top 4
Tuesday November 10th, 2015

These rankings generally get more rigid as the season goes on. One big win can boost a team high in the early weeks because it represents such a large portion of what we know about a team at the time. As the season goes on, each game makes up a progressively smaller portion of the available knowledge about a team: one-eighth after the team’s eighth game, one-ninth after the team’s ninth game and so on.

Week 10, however, is an exception to the rule. With the many huge showdowns between College Football Playoff contenders and surprising upsets, the rankings have swung sharply—even though one result only solidified the team at the top of the list.

•​ NADKARNI: Three thoughts on AP poll after Week 9 | Complete AP Top 25

College Football Power Rankings
  • 1
    1Clemson Tigers
     
    last week: 1
    record: 9–0
    The Tigers continue to build the most impressive résumé of any team in the country. While others either have slipped up at some point in the season or lack quality wins, Clemson has neither of those. With a dynamic quarterback, a potent threat at running back and a shutdown defense, the Tigers are capable of winning in too many ways.
     
    Last week: Beat Florida State 23-13
    Next week: Saturday at Syracuse

  • 2
    2Alabama Crimson Tide
     
    last week: 5
    record: 8–1
    Shutting down Leonard Fournette seemed impossible—until the Crimson Tide did it masterfully and without even needing to stack the box. LSU’s star running back gained more than four yards on only one carry and fell short of his previous season low by 119 yards. After Saturday’s beatdown, you can question who the nation’s top running back is, but there’s no doubt who has the country’s best front seven.
     
    Last week: Beat LSU 30-16
    Next week: Saturday at Mississippi State

  • 3
    3Baylor Bears
     
    last week: 3
    record: 8–0
    Baylor entered Thursday’s clash with Kansas State with 38 touchdown drives of two minutes or less. Jarrett Stidham promptly tacked on three more to match last year’s season-long total of 41 such drives. It looks like the Bears will be just fine without Seth Russell at quarterback. It’s the defense that could be a concern in Waco.
     
    Last week: Beat Kansas State 31-24
    Next week: Saturday vs. Oklahoma

  • 4
    4Notre Dame Fighting Irish
     
    last week: 11
    record: 8–1
    The Fighting Irish’s playoff résumé continues to improve by leaps and bounds each week, and not just because of their most recent victory. Suddenly that 41–24 pummeling of Navy on Oct. 10 is significant, and USC’s three-game winning streak keeps the Irish’s 41–31 win over the Trojans relevant, too. And of course losing by two at Clemson isn’t much of a blemish.
     
    Last week: Beat Pitt 42-30
    Next week: Saturday vs. Wake Forest 

  • 5
    5Iowa Hawkeyes
     
    last week: 9
    record: 9–0
    Yes, Iowa is my top-ranked Big Ten team, and I owe the Hawkeyes an apology for not doing it sooner. Based solely on what the teams have done this year to this point in the season, Iowa’s résumé is better than Ohio State’s. The Hawkeyes boast two road wins over ranked teams, including a dominant 40–10 rout at Northwestern. Several teams can catch Iowa due to its weak closing stretch, but Kirk Ferentz’s squad deserves to be here for now.
     
    Last week: Beat Indiana 35-27
    Next week: Saturday vs. Minnesota 
     

  • 6
    6Oklahoma State Cowboys
     
    last week: 14
    record: 9–0
    I held off of pushing the Cowboys into the top 10 because, until this week, their undefeated record lacked a single significant victory. Now that Oklahoma State has thrashed TCU, it’s safe to say Mike Gundy’s squad is a legitimate contender. The offense’s ability to score with ease on the Horned Frogs was less of a surprise than an aggressive defense that ended Trevone Boykin’s Heisman campaign with four interceptions.
     
    Last week: Beat TCU 49-29
    Next week: Saturday at Iowa State

  • 7
    7LSU Tigers
     
    last week: 2
    record: 7–1
    Saturday’s game left no question who was the superior team, but that’s been true of just about every Alabama game this season except against Ole Miss. LSU still has wins over a top-ten Florida and a top-25 Mississippi State. I’d still trust Leonard Fournette to run over any defense outside of the one from Tuscaloosa.
     
    Last week: Lost to Alabama 30-16
    Next week: Saturday vs. Arkansas

  • 8
    8Ohio State Buckeyes
     
    last week: 6
    record: 9–0
    Based on Ohio State’s schedule, this ranking shouldn’t really be a surprise. The Buckeyes are unbeaten but have no wins over ranked opponents or even opponents who are close to being ranked. This still might be the most talented team in the country, but it hasn’t had a chance to prove that yet. And compared to Baylor, Ohio State hasn’t beaten its inferiors foes by as wide of a margin.
     
    Last week: Beat Minnesota 28-14
    Next week: Saturday at Illinois

  • 9
    9Florida Gators
     
    last week: 4
    record: 8–1
    The Gators’ résumé took several hits in Week 10. First, their 9–7 home win over Vanderbilt was hardly inspiring. Then Ole Miss’s defeat to Arkansas cost Florida its only win over a ranked team. And LSU’s loss to Alabama make the Gators’ defeat to the Tigers look a bit worse, too. Overall, it was not a great week to be a Florida Gator.
     
    Last week: Beat Vanderbilt 9-7
    Next week: Saturday at South Carolina

  • 10
    10Stanford Cardinal
     
    last week: 10
    record: 8–1
    The Cardinal returned this week to the pre-noon Pacific Time kickoff that caused them big problems at Northwestern in Week 1. This time they were ready to play. Kevin Hogan moved the ball efficiently, completing 17 of 23 passes, and Christian McCaffrey continued to work his name into the Heisman conversation with 147 rushing yards and a passing touchdown.
     
    Last week: Beat Colorado 42-10
    Next week: Saturday vs. Oregon
     

  • 11
    11Utah Utes
     
    last week: 12
    record: 8–1
    Effectively aggressive defense can mask a bad offense, and that’s what the Utes needed to avoid a loss that would have ended any hope of making the playoff. Utah turned the ball over three times vs. Washington but forced four turnovers itself, including a 54-yard scoop-and-score by linebacker Gionni Paul, to escape Seattle with a win.
     
    Last week: Beat Washington 34-23
    Next week: Saturday at Arizona

  • 12
    12TCU Horned Frogs
     
    last week: 7
    record: 8–1
    The Big 12’s November battle royale claimed its first victim in the Horned Frogs, who are now left with a 20-point loss and no wins over ranked teams to help offset that loss. Where things could get really interesting in the conference is if TCU bounces back to take down Oklahoma and Baylor, particularly if Oklahoma State drops a game too.
     
    Last week: Lost to Oklahoma State 49-29
    Next week: Saturday vs. Kansas

  • 13
    13Michigan State Spartans
     
    last week: 8
    record: 8–1
    Another week, another refereeing controversy in college football. Did Nebraska receiver Brandon Reilly step out of bounds on his own on his game-winning 30-yard touchdown grab? It certainly looks like it, though don’t expect much sympathy from Michigan tight end Jake Butt’s Twitter account.
     

     
    Last week: Lost to Nebraska 39-38
    Next week: Saturday vs. Maryland

  • 14
    14Michigan Wolverines
     
    last week: 16
    record: 7–2
    Although Michigan State’s loss is a huge boost to Michigan’s chances of winning the Big Ten, it actually hurts the Wolverines for now. (They still move up in this week’s rankings because of Memphis and Ole Miss’s losses.) Now both of the teams Michigan fell to have losses of their own.
     
    Last week: Beat Rutgers 49-16
    Next week: Saturday at Indiana

  • 15
    15Oklahoma Sooners
     
    last week: 17
    record: 8–1
    It’s easy to forget that amid the many shootouts in the Big 12, one of its top contenders actually boasts one of the best defenses in the country. Led by linebacker Eric Striker and defensive linemen Charles Walker and Charles Tapper, the Sooners rank third in the country in yards allowed per play and second in sacks per game.
     
    Last week: Beat Iowa State 52-16
    Next week: Saturday at Baylor
     

  • 16
    16North Carolina Tar Heels
     
    last week: 20
    record: 8–1
    Maybe the ACC title game won’t be such a cakewalk for Clemson. The Tar Heels hung 66 points on Duke to take control of the ACC Coastal. Only Baylor averages more yards per play than North Carolina (7.6), and after throwing three interceptions in a now-astounding loss to South Carolina, quarterback Marquise Williams has tossed just four the rest of the season.
     
    Last week: Beat Duke 66-31
    Next week: Saturday vs. Miami

  • 17
    17Houston Cougars
     
    last week: 18
    record: 9–0
    Memphis’s loss moves Houston into the driver’s seat to claim the Group of Five’s berth in a New Year’s Six bowl. The Cougars barely held off Cincinnati on Saturday, their first close game in eight weeks. The road only gets tougher with Memphis, UConn, Navy and the American Athletic Conference title game still to play.
     
    Last week: Beat Cincinnati 33-30
    Next week: Saturday vs. Memphis

  • 18
    18Northwestern Wildcats
     
    last week: 22
    record: 7–2
    The Wildcats blew a 20–7 halftime lead to Penn State before kicker Jack Mitchell set aside two earlier misses to hit a game-winning 35-yard field goal. Mitchell’s kick likely elicited cheers in Iowa City and Palo Alto; both Stanford and Iowa’s playoff chances hinge to some degree on Northwestern remaining relevant.
     
    Last week: Beat Penn State 23-21
    Next week: Saturday vs. Purdue

  • 19
    19Temple Owls
     
    last week: 24
    record: 8–1
    The Owls avoided a letdown in their first game after their heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame, though it took a shootout with 1–8 SMU to get the win. The normally stout Temple defense might have had an off day, but luckily P.J. Walker (four touchdown passes) and the offense stepped to cover the slack.
     
    Last week: Beat SMU 60-40
    Next week: Saturday at South Florida

  • 20
    20Navy Midshipmen
     
    last week: NR
    record: 7–1
    Welcome Navy to the New Year’s Six bowl race and the top 25. 374 yards rushing and three Memphis turnovers helped the Midshipmen down the formerly unbeaten Tigers. It’s not surprising to see Navy’s triple-option offense near the top of the national list in rushing offense, but the Midshipmen’s plus-12 turnover margin, up from minus-11 last year, has helped make the difference.
     
    Last week: Beat Memphis 45-20
    Next week: Saturday vs. SMU
     

  • 21
    21Wisconsin Badgers
     
    last week: 25
    record: 8–2
    For a team with two losses, it’s hard to do much better than falling to the No. 2 and No. 5 teams in these rankings. It’s Wisconsin’s eight wins that don’t add much value, especially when the Badgers gain just 94 yards of offense in the first half against a Maryland team that lacks a victory over a Power Five foe.
     
    Last week: Beat Maryland 31-24
    Next week: Bye week

  • 22
    22Memphis Tigers
     
    last week: 13
    record: 8–1
    The Tigers’ dark-horse playoff hopes, if they ever existed, ended with their 45–20 defeat to Navy. But with trips to Houston and Temple in the next two weeks, Memphis could still earn a New Year’s Six bowl bid—if it can keep from sulking for too long.
     
    Last week: Lost to Navy 45-20
    Next week: Saturday at Houston

  • 23
    23Mississippi State Bulldogs
     
    last week: NR
    record: 7–2
    In case you’ve forgotten, that Dak Prescott is pretty good. He may not have been able to engineer a magical season like last year, but he’s still the best quarterback in the SEC. In his latest work, Prescott threw for 303 yards and four touchdowns while avoiding an interception for the eighth game this season.
     
    Last week: Beat Missouri 31-13
    Next week: Saturday vs. Alabama

  • 24
    24Florida State Seminoles
     
    last week: 21
    record: 7–2
    The Seminoles impressed by hanging with Clemson for most of the game. Eventually the Tigers overwhelmed Florida State with their strength and skill, but the ‘Noles certainly made them earn the win. Not bad for a program in a rebuilding year.
     
    Last week: Lost to Clemson 23-13
    Next week: Saturday vs. NC State

  • 25
    25Toledo Rockets
     
    last week: 19
    record: 7–1
    A one-loss Group of Five team with a home defeat whose best victory over a Power Five foe is a 5–4 squad hardly screams top 25 worthy. But none of the teams below have any better cases, so...
     
    Last week: Lost to Northern Illinois 32-27
    Next week: Tuesday at Central Michigan

Dropped out: Ole Miss, Texas A&M
Next five: USC, UCLA, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, BYU

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