It’s a common thread among college football fans: Don’t sleep on a “weak” slate of games because there are bound to be insane finishes, bizarre statlines and countless other sorts of excitement to redeem the low expectations.
Week 2 supplied just that. Louisville began the action Friday by dropping 62 points at Syracuse thanks to five more Lamar Jackson touchdowns. Clemson struggled to put away Troy, leaving many to wonder why the Tigers seem to be starting so slow this season. Houston survived a weather delay of more than three hours to rout Lamar. Arkansas knocked off TCU on the road in double overtime. Tennessee spotted Virginia Tech 14 points in front of the biggest crowd in NCAA history before running away with a 21-point win. Oh yes, and Oklahoma State lost on a Hail Mary to Central Michigan that never should’ve been allowed to happen in the first place.
You get the message.
This all leads to a good amount of movement in this week’s Power Rankings, with the normal caveat of there being very little actual separation between certain teams grouped closely together. Two games remains a very small sample size, and with conference play still not fully here yet, we’re left to go out on a few limbs when slotting certain teams.
11ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Another solid outing from Alabama… another disappointed Nick Saban? It’s clear Saban has set the bar incredibly high for the Tide this year, as after the 28-point win over Western Kentucky, he said, “I don’t know I’ve ever been this disappointed after winning a game, maybe ever.” It seems ludicrous, considering Alabama is far and away the country’s top team, but the most likely reasoning is Saban being intent on making sure his team survives Saturday’s trip to Ole Miss. The Rebels, of course, have knocked off the Tide in each of the past two seasons.
Previous rank: 1
Last week: Beat Western Kentucky 38–10
Next week: Saturday at Ole Miss
22FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
After its historic Week 1 comeback vs. Ole Miss, things were much easier for Florida State against Charleston Southern. Deondre Francois was impressive once again, though Charleston Southern had 14 players suspended due to a bizarre bookstore scandal, effectively eliminating any chance the Buccaneers had of competing with the Seminoles. It wasn’t all great for Florida State—star defensive back Derwin James was carted off in the third quarter with an apparent knee injury.
Previous rank: 3
Last week: Beat Charleston Southern 52–8
Next week: Saturday at Louisville
Michigan has won its first two games by a combined score of 114–17 over a pair of wildly overmatched teams. That’s allowed Wilton Speight to settle in at quarterback as the redshirt junior tossed four touchdowns and threw for 312 yards Saturday. The Wolverines shouldn’t really be challenged until they host Wisconsin on Oct. 1.
Previous rank: 4
Last week: Beat UCF 51–14
Next week: Saturday vs. Colorado
44Ohio State Buckeyes
It’s a shame we have to wait until the regular-season finale to see Ohio State face Michigan. At this very early juncture, the talent gap between these teams seems indiscernible. Like the Wolverines, the Buckeyes have put up insane numbers against two hapless opponents to the tune of a 125–13 margin. The Buckeyes will finally a face legitimate test Saturday at Oklahoma.
Previous rank: 5
Last week: Beat Tulsa 48–3
Next week: Saturday at Oklahoma
Clemson looks like it’s still warming up to the 2016 season, following up Week 1’s six-point win over Auburn with a sluggish six-point win against Troy. Deshaun Watson and the Tigers offense get one more chance for a tuneup vs. South Carolina State before beginning ACC play with a trip to Georgia Tech followed by a matchup with high-flying Louisville.
Previous rank: 2
Last week: Beat Troy 30–24
Next week: Saturday vs. South Carolina State
Houston endured a three-hour-plus rain delay to rout Lamar 42–0, maintaining its status as one of the darlings of the early college football season. The Cougars did so without Greg Ward Jr., who was nursing a shoulder injury. Tom Herman expects to have his quarterback back—along with running back Duke Catalon—for Thursday’s trip to Cincinnati.
Previous rank: 6
Last week: Beat Lamar 42–0
Next week: Thursday at Cincinnati
Another program riding a heavy dose of hype early on, Washington doesn’t have the benefit of a landmark win yet—and its non-conference slate will remain soft. Wait until Pac-12 play to get a full read on the Huskies; first comes a trip to Arizona, and then a meeting with Stanford six days later.
Previous rank: 7
Last week: Beat Idaho 59–14
Next week: Saturday vs. Portland State
A bye week affords Stanford extra prep time for USC, which rebounded from its Week 1 embarrassment at the hands of Alabama with a 45–7 win over Utah State. The Cardinal won the last two against the Trojans (putting up 41 points in each, most recently in last season’s Pac-12 championship game), and this one is also at home.
Previous rank: 8
Last week: Bye
Next week: Saturday vs. USC
99Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State was also off this weekend ahead of a marquee matchup at Notre Dame on Saturday. The two schools haven’t played since 2013, so Notre Dame’s three-game winning streak in the series doesn’t mean a whole lot.
Previous rank: 9
Last week: Bye
Next week: Saturday at Notre Dame
As expected Wisconsin followed up its Week 1 upset of LSU with a much more dominant showing vs. Akron. A balanced attack (294 rushing yards, 292 passing) led to the Badgers’ first game with more than 290 yards rushing and passing since 1996. While the Zips may not be the toughest overall competition, they ranked No. 2 in the country in rushing defense last year. This week’s date with Georgia State should allow for an even more impressive result before Wisconsin enters arguably the toughest start to conference play of anyone in the country: at Michigan State, at Michigan, vs. Ohio State, at Iowa, vs. Nebraska.
Previous rank: 19
Last week: Beat Akron 54–10
Next week: Saturday vs. Georgia State
Iowa dismantled hated rival Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium, allowing only a first-quarter field goal to the Cyclones and holding them to 3 of 15 on third downs. Iowa gets North Dakota State next before starting Big Ten play at Rutgers, Northwestern, Minnesota and Purdue before it gets its shot at Wisconsin in Iowa City.
Previous rank: 11
Last week: Beat Iowa State 42–3
Next week: Saturday vs. North Dakota State
The Lamar Jackson Ridiculous Numbers Tour continued in Louisville’s 62–28 thrashing of Syracuse as he followed up his eight total touchdowns in the opener vs. Charlotte with five more (one passing, four rushing) and garnered himself some considerable early-season Heisman Trophy hype. Of course, the Cardinals’ first two opponents have nothing on Florida State, which comes to Louisville on Saturday for one of the biggest matchups of the early season.
Previous rank: 13
Last week: Beat Syracuse 62–28
Next week: Saturday vs. Florida State
Oklahoma cruised by Louisiana-Monroe as Baker Mayfield tossed three touchdowns in one half and the Sooners’ vaunted rushing attack amassed 288 yards (with a healthy assist from freshman running back Abdul Adams sandwiched in the box score between Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine). The Sooners’ path to the College Football Playoff was derailed in their season-opening defeat to Houston, and a loss to Ohio State on Saturday would probably eliminate that possibility altogether.
Previous rank: 10
Last week: Beat Louisiana-Monroe 59–17
Next week: Saturday vs. Ohio State
After spotting Virginia Tech 14 first-quarter points at Bristol Motor Speedway in front of 156,990 fans, Tennessee got serious with 24 second-quarter points and 31 unanswered before the Hokies scored again with a field goal late in the third quarter. After the Vols struggled with Appalachian State in the opener, another slow start had critics ready to pounce. The finish Saturday was a promising development, but Tennessee still needs to develop a consistent passing game and resoundingly put away Ohio in order to fully justify this ranking before SEC play starts with a matchup vs. Florida.
Previous rank: 12
Last week: Beat Virginia Tech 45–24
Next week: Saturday vs. Ohio
Texas blew by UTEP, continuing a promising start to Charlie Strong’s third season at the helm. Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele was impressive once again, going 22 of 27 for 244 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. We’ll find out if Texas really is back soon enough, as the Longhorns get Cal and Oklahoma State on the road next (with a bye in between) before the Red River Showdown with Oklahoma on Oct. 8 in Dallas. For now, it seems Texas was widely underappreciated entering the season.
Previous rank: 25
Last week: Beat UTEP 41–7
Next week: Saturday at Cal
1616Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M crushed poor Prairie View A&M 67–0, building on the Aggies’ season-opening overtime win vs. UCLA. A challenging trip to Auburn is next up, however; it will be fascinating to see how Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight fares against a Tigers defense that largely contained Deshaun Watson.
Previous rank: 21
Last week: Beat Prarie View A&M 67–0
Next week: Saturday at Auburn
1717Notre Dame Fighiting Irish
After its crushing loss to Texas, Notre Dame found a much-needed bounceback effort against Nevada. DeShone Kizer completed 15 of 18 passes with two touchdowns and one interception, while Josh Adams rushed 10 times for 106 yards. The Irish did lose cornerback Shaun Crawford for the season with an Achilles injury, further limiting an already weakened secondary. Saturday’s game against Michigan State will likely decide the outlook for Notre Dame’s season considering its soft schedule from October onward.
Previous rank: Unranked
Last week: Beat Nevada 39–10
Next week: Saturday vs. Michigan State
It counts as a win, but holding off Nicholls by only two points at home? That’s pretty rough early-season shape. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason was an uninspiring 11 of 20 for 204 yards with one touchdown and one interception while star running back Nick Chubb had little room to operate and was held to 80 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Georgia will need to rediscover the form that led it to a season-opening win over North Carolina when it kicks off its SEC slate at Missouri on Saturday.
Previous rank: 14
Last week: Beat Nichols 26–24
Next week: Saturday at Missouri
1919Ole Miss Rebels
The good news for Ole Miss: It rebounded from the collapse vs. Florida State with a solid win over Wofford. The bad news: Alabama’s up next, followed by a talented but mercurial Georgia team. At least both games are at home (plus the Memphis contest a week later) before trips to Arkansas and LSU.
Previous rank: 16
Last week: Beat Wofford 38–13
Next week: Saturday vs. Wofford
Oregon’s offense has looked solid in rolling up 97 points through two games, with Dakota Prukop putting together another three-touchdown, zero-interception outing against Virginia and Royce Freeman rushing 21 times for 207 yards and two scores. Still, the defense needs work for the Ducks to be taken seriously. Up next is Nebraska, which has hung 95 points up on the board so far this season.
Previous rank: 17
Last week: Beat Virginia 44–26
Next week: Saturday at Nebraska
SMU played Baylor tight to a 6–6 game at halftime, but three interceptions tilted the game in the Bears’ favor. Still, Baylor committed 14 penalties and struggled to build a steady passing game with Seth Russell at quarterback. Next up is Rice before Big 12 play begins, but Baylor doesn’t play a currently ranked team until Texas on Oct. 29.
Previous rank: Unranked
Last week: Beat SMU 40–13
Next week: Friday at Rice
LSU picked up its first win but needed backup quarterback Danny Etling to take over for the embattled Brandon Harris on the Tigers’ third possession. Leonard Fournette did not play, but sophomore Derrius Guice has proven himself as more than capable as he rushed for 155 yards on 19 carries. Even if Etling is solid enough to keep LSU in contention in the SEC West (far from a sure bet), it’s remarkable how the Tigers continue to have trouble on offense despite their massive stockpile of talent.
Previous rank: 20
Last week: Beat Jacksonville State 34–13
Next week: Saturday vs. Mississippi State
Arkansas debuts in the rankings after knocking off TCU in double overtime on the road. The Razorbacks surprised much of the college football world by bucking recent history and securing a big non-conference win, but credit the Hogs for overcoming TCU’s 21-point fourth quarter. Having won its first two games for the first time since 2013, will Arkansas continue its upward trajectory under Bret Bielema?
Previous rank: Unranked
Last week: Beat TCU 41–38 (2OT)
Next week: Saturday vs. Texas State
Florida won its 30th consecutive game against Kentucky in dominant fashion, out-gaining the hapless Wildcats 564–149 while converting 14 of 20 third-down attempts. The Gators have looked sound but won’t face their first true competition until their trip to Tennessee in two weeks.
Previous rank: Unranked
Last week: Beat Kentucky 45–7
Next week: Saturday vs. North Texas
2525Boise State Broncos
Boise State won its 34th consecutive regular-season, non-conference home game by knocking off Washington State despite being outscored 21–7 from late in the third quarter onward. The Broncos are firmly on the edge of the rankings, but a win at Oregon State in two weeks could help them climb.
Previous rank: 23
Last week: Beat Washington State 31–28
Next week: Bye
Dropped out: Oklahoma State, TCU, Miami, San Diego State
Next five: San Diego State, Miami, Utah, TCU, North Carolina