Monday November 7th, 2016

As if we needed any more reasons not to buy too much into the initial rankings from the College Football Playoff committee this season, Week 10 brought us another shakeup with Texas A&M’s stunning loss.

At least none of the five unbeatens fell this week after four went down in Week 9. Five top-25 teams lost, though only Baylor dropped out of the Power Rankings.

As conference races and the playoff picture continues to narrow, here’s a look at college football’s national pecking order.

• STAPLES: The importance of quality QBs for playoff contenders

  • 1
    1Alabama Crimson Tide
     
    last week: 1
    record: 9–0
    No offense, no problem for Alabama, which rode its defense to a win at LSU in its toughest test of the season. Yes, Jalen Hurts’s legs (20 carries, 114 yards, one touchdown) were critical, but the Crimson Tide’s defense held the Tigers to 125 total yards. Next up is the Mississippi State team that just ended Texas A&M’s playoff hopes.​

    Last week: Beat LSU 10–0
    Next week: Saturday vs. Mississippi State


  • 2
    2Clemson Tigers
     
    last week: 2
    record: 9–0
    Clemson cruised by Syracuse, though Deshaun Watson sustained a bruised shoulder in the first half and didn’t return. Presuming the injury doesn’t linger, the Tigers are well situated to return to the playoff. Next up is Pitt, which has lost two straight, followed by Wake Forest and South Carolina.​

    Last week: Beat Syracuse 54–0
    Next week: Saturday vs. Pitt


  • 3
    3Michigan Wolverines
     
    last week: 3
    record: 9–0
    How good are things in Ann Arbor? After Wilton Speight went 19-of-24 for 362 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland, coach Jim Harbaugh said, “That’s the best half of football I’ve ever seen a Michigan quarterback play.” Chalk it up to hyperbole or elation after a 59-3 win in Big Ten play—either way, the Wolverines are rolling. It’d be nice to fast-forward until The Game on Nov. 26 against Ohio State, but the Wolverines’ next two contests shouldn’t be overlooked: at Iowa in primetime and vs. Indiana.​

    Last week: Beat Maryland 59–3
    Next week: Saturday at Iowa


  • 4
    4Washington Huskies
     
    last week: 4
    record: 9–0
    Washington has perhaps the weakest résumé of any top-tier playoff contender, so all the Huskies can do is throttle every team they face from here on out. Hanging 66 points on Cal while Jake Browning throws six touchdown passes is a perfect start, to say the least, and now the competition stiffens a bit with games remaining against an improved USC team, Arizona State and an explosive Washington State squad.​

    Last week: Beat Cal 66–27
    Next week: Saturday vs. USC


  • 5
    5Ohio St. Buckeyes
     
    last week: 7
    record: 8–1
    Poor Nebraska. The Huskers drew an Ohio State team coming off a loss to Penn State and an ugly, four-point win vs. Northwestern. Especially with the game in Columbus, the Buckeyes were bound to come out dead-set on a dominant effort. Sixty-two points and 590 yards later, Ohio State had a win that maintained its playoff hopes. The schedule should get easier before the Michigan game with Maryland and Michigan State up next, though both are on the road.​

    Last week: Beat Nebraska 62–3
    Next week: Saturday at Maryland

    College Football
    With Nebraska rout, OSU clears path for epic showdown with Michigan


  • 6
    6Louisville Cardinals
     
    last week: 5
    record: 8–1
    Lamar Jackson became the first Louisville quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, but that wasn’t the most remarkable highlight of his performance vs. Boston College (the nation’s No. 15 defense, no less). The runaway Heisman favorite scored seven touchdowns (four passing, three rushing) while throwing for 231 yards and running for 185, all despite battling cramps early on. The Cardinals will still need some help from higher-ranked teams to get into the playoff, especially with their Nov. 17 trip to Houston looking much, much less pivotal than it did before the season.​

    Last week: Beat Boston College 52–7
    Next week: Saturday vs. Wake Forest


  • 7
    7Wisconsin Badgers
     
    last week: 8
    record: 7–2
    Wisconsin collected its first win in Evanston since 1999, defeating Northwestern with its patented approach of elite defense, a bruising rushing attack and just enough production from the quarterback position. Remarkably, the Badgers still hold legitimate playoff hopes as they remain on track for a rematch with either Michigan or Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.​

    Last week: Beat Northwestern 21–7
    Next week: Saturday vs. Illinois


  • 8
    8Auburn Tigers
     
    last week: 9
    record: 7–2
    Texas A&M’s loss paves the route to the SEC West title for Auburn, though the Tigers needed an injured Sean White to come off the bench and shake off a surprisingly strong effort from Vanderbilt. Leading rusher Kamryn Pettway also tweaked something in his lower body on a 60-yard run late in the game. Trips to Georgia and Alabama still remain, but Auburn is enjoying its faint playoff hopes.

    Last week: Beat Vanderbilt 23–16
    Next week: Saturday at Georgia


  • 9
    9Oklahoma Sooners
     
    last week: 12
    record: 7–2
    Oklahoma remained the cream of the crowded Big 12 crop despite some limited early struggles against Iowa State, but now the Sooners’ schedule gets daunting with games remaining against Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. At least the Sooners’ passing attack is surging, with Baker Mayfield throwing another four touchdowns and Dede Westbrook recording his sixth consecutive hundred-receiving yard showing.​

    Last week: Beat Iowa State 34–24
    Next week: Saturday vs. Baylor


  • 10
    10Penn StATE Nittany Lions
     
    last week: 21
    record: 7–2
    Suddenly college football’s team of the moment, Penn State climbed into the top 10 after demolishing Iowa. The Nittany Lions’ résumé is of course propped up by the win over Ohio State, but their only losses came by three points to Pitt back in September and at Michigan. Incredibly, Penn State could be a 10-win team this season if it wins out—a legitimate possibility with Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan State remaining on the schedule.​

    Last week: Beat Iowa 41–14
    Next week: Saturday at Indiana

    College Football
    Week 10 Takeaways: Six biggest things we learned Saturday


  • 11
    11Utah Utes
     
    last week: 14
    record: 7–2
    Utah was off this week, so the Utes will have to rebound from their narrow loss to Washington on a Thursday night trip to Arizona State. Wins against the Sun Devils and Oregon a week later could set up a fascinating clash with Colorado in the regular-season finale for the Pac-12 South title.​

    Last week: Off
    Next week: Thursday at Arizona State


  • 12
    12North Carolina Tar Heels
     
    last week: 18
    record: 7–2
    A healthy Elijah Hood makes all the difference for North Carolina, as his 168 rushing yards and three touchdowns showed vs. Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels remain tied atop the ACC Coastal with Virginia Tech, but the Hokies own the tiebreaker because of their Nov. 8 win over North Carolina.​

    Last week: Beat Georgia Tech 48–20
    Next week: Thursday at Duke​


  • 13
    13Texas A&M Aggies
     
    last week: 6
    record: 7–2
    Forget about the playoff: Texas A&M’s loss to Mississippi State eliminates that prospect, and now the Aggies have to worry about Trevor Knight’s shoulder injury. The Aggies allowed 365 rushing yards at a 6.3 YPC clip and managed only 117 rushing yards on a 3.7 YPC average, a disappointing mark for a team bestowed with the final playoff ranking in the first rankings of 2016. The loss creates further separation in the SEC West between Alabama and Auburn, and the rest of the division.​

    Last week: Lost to Mississippi State 35–28
    Next week: Saturday vs. Ole Miss​


  • 14
    14West Virginia Mountaineers
     
    last week: 15
    record: 7–1
    West Virginia overcame its loss to Oklahoma State with a strong showing vs. Kansas, racking up more than 600 yards to keep pace in the Big 12. Those two early byes could come back to bite the Mountaineers, who must face Texas and Iowa State on the road and host Oklahoma and Baylor to conclude the season.​

    Last week: Beat Kansas 48–21
    Next week: Saturday at Texas​


  • 15
    15Colorado Buffaloes
     
    last week: 22
    record: 7–2
    Colorado and UCLA combined for 25 penalties Thursday night, splitting the difference nearly evenly—the Buffs had 12 for 128 yards (including an astounding eight personal-foul penalties), plus four turnovers. That’s a poor showing, even in a win, against a team that’s now lost four straight games. Colorado remains in the driver’s seat of the Pac-12 South, but will finish the regular season with games against Washington State and Utah. Fortunately for the Buffs, both are at home.​

    Last week: Beat UCLA 20–10
    Next week: Saturday at Arizona​

    College Football
    Penn State rises in Week 10 AP Top 25 poll and more thoughts


  • 16
    16Oklahoma St. Cowboys
     
    last week: 23
    record: 7–2
    Oklahoma State remained alive in the Big 12 by overcoming Kansas State on the road, buoyed by Mason Rudolph’s 457 passing yards and five touchdowns and nearly weighed down by his two interceptions, the first of which snapped his streak of 163 pass attempts without one. After hosting Texas Tech, the Cowboys’ regular season comes down to road games at TCU and Oklahoma.​

    Last week: Beat Kansas State 43–37
    Next week: Saturday vs. Texas Tech


  • 17
    17Virginia Tech Hokies
     
    last week: 24
    record: 7–2
    Virginia Tech knocked off Duke in a game where a 75-yard return of a blocked field goal in the second quarter made the difference. Not the most inspiring outcome, but the Hokies nonetheless maintain control of the ACC Coastal with two conference games remaining.​

    Last week: Beat Duke 24–21
    Next week: Saturday vs. Georgia Tech


  • 18
    18Western Michigan Broncos
     
    last week: 16
    record: 9–0
    P.J. Fleck’s squad continues its surge toward a New Year’s Six bowl, riding a stellar outing from wide receiver Corey Davis (12 receptions, 272 yards, three touchdowns). “It’s kind of like The Masters out there when there’s no wind blowing and it’s just a beautiful day, and you’re just feeling really good,” Fleck said afterward of Davis’s outing. If you want to catch the Broncos, they’re on primetime again in their second consecutive Tuesday-night #MACtion contest.​

    Last week: Beat Ball State 52–20
    Next week: Tuesday at Kent State


  • 19
    19LSU Tigers
     
    last week: 13
    record: 6–3
    LSU fought Alabama as hard as expected but managed only 125 total yards. With its restorative three-game winning streak over, how will interim coach Ed Orgeron get the Tigers to bounce back against a season-ending slate of Arkansas on the road, Florida at home and Texas A&M on the road?​

    Last week: Lost to Alabama 10–0
    Next week: Saturday at Arkansas

    College Football
    Alabama's defense shines again as Crimson Tide smother LSU


  • 20
    20Florida St. Seminoles
     
    last week: 19
    record: 6–3
    NC State has played each of its ACC opponents tough except Louisville, and Florida State became the latest example. The Seminoles didn’t lead the Wolfpack until the go-ahead score with 3:09 remaining, but a strong outing from Deondre Francois (22-of-39, 330 yards, one touchdown) provided just enough offense with Dalvin Cook limited to 65 rushing yards.​

    Last week: Beat NC State 24–20
    Next week: Friday vs. Boston College


  • 21
    21Nebraska Cornhuskers
     
    last week: 10
    record: 7–2
    Saturday night’s trip to Columbus was wholly unenjoyable for the Huskers, who not only lost 62–3 to the Buckeyes but had to witness the scary injury to Tommy Armstrong Jr. Fortunately he’s OK. Nebraska has a manageable schedule to finish conference play, but needs a Wisconsin loss to win the Big Ten West.​

    Last week: Lost to Ohio State 62–3
    Next week: Saturday vs. Minnesota​


  • 22
    22Florida Gators
     
    last week: 11
    record: 6–2
    Florida was lifeless against Arkansas, managing only 12 rushing yards on 14 attempts in a game that provided the greatest testament yet to just how far apart the SEC East is from the SEC West.​

    Last week: Lost to Arkansas 31–10
    Next week: Saturday vs. South Carolina

    College Football
    Dismal offense dooms No. 11 Florida at Arkansas, adds to SEC East's woes


  • 23
    23Washington St. Cougars
     
    last week: 25
    record: 7–2
    Washington State hung 69 points on a hapless Arizona team, dropping 24 first-quarter points and never looking back. Luke Falk went 32-of-35 for 311 yards and four touchdowns, while the Cougars’ defense held the Wildcats to 286 total yards and forced three turnovers. WSU has a tough draw to close out the regular season, with its final two games featuring a trip to Colorado and, even if it wins there, a daunting battle for the Pac-12 North against Washington in the Apple Cup.​

    Last week: Beat Arizona 69–7
    Next week: Saturday vs. Cal


  • 24
    24USC Trojans
     
    last week: NR
    record: 6–3
    Clay Helton’s remarkable turnaround at USC continued vs. Oregon, with the Trojans winning their fifth straight and returning to the top 25. Next up? Why, just a trip to Washington.

    Last week: Beat Oregon 45–20
    Next week: Saturday at Washington


  • 25
    25Boise St. Broncos
     
    last week: 20
    record: 8–1
    Boise State recovered from its season-altering loss to Wyoming with a mostly strong showing vs. San José State, save for a sluggish first quarter. The Broncos need help from Wyoming and New Mexico to win the Mountain West’s Mountain division, but an 8–1 start remains impressive nonetheless.​

    Last week: Beat San José State 45–31
    Next week: Saturday at Hawaii

     


Dropped out: Baylor
Next five: Wyoming, Arkansas, Baylor, Navy, San Diego State

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