Tuesday September 14th, 2010

NCAA Football Power Rankings
21Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: 16
The Bulldogs have a choice this weekend. They can prove they belong in the Top 25 and in the race for the SEC East title, or they can dig themselves a deep 0-2 conference hole. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett will test through the air a Georgia defense that got shredded on the ground by South Carolina's Lattimore last week. The good news for Georgia: Redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray acquitted himself well in his first SEC road game -- even without leading receiver A.J. Green. Unless the NCAA softens Green's suspension this week, the Dawgs won't have him Saturday, either.
Last game: Lost to South Carolina, 17-6
Next game: Saturday vs. Arkansas
22USC Trojans
Last Week: 21
USC's defense didn't get toasted by Virginia the way it did at Hawaii, but Virginia's offense isn't very good. Meanwhile, USC's offense failed to light up the scoreboard against a mediocre-at-best defense missing its best cornerback. Those are both bad signs. Fortunately for the Trojans, they are better than South Dakota, which beat Minnesota last week. But if the Trojans struggle with the Gophers, they won't be ranked next week.
Last game: Beat Virginia, 17-14
Next game: Saturday at Minnesota
23Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Last Week: 15
Like their counterparts in the Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate rivalry, the Yellow Jackets stand at a crossroads this week. They dropped a game they shouldn't have in Lawrence, but -- unlike Georgia's loss at South Carolina -- it wasn't a conference game. This week, Georgia Tech heads to Chapel Hill for a game that looked like a potential loss before NCAA investigators developed a taste for vinegar-based barbecue. Though the Tar Heels have begun to get more players cleared, they still may be depleted. If Georgia Tech can win, it would grab an early edge in the ACC Coastal Division race. A loss would put Tech into must-win mode for the rest of the season.
Last game: Lost to Kansas, 28-25
Next game: Saturday at North Carolina
24LSU Tigers
Last Week: --
I know I wrote last week that LSU should win a few SEC games before it deserved a ranking, but in looking at the teams outside the Top 25, I couldn't think of one the Tigers wouldn't be favored against. This team has top 10 talent, but it still must translate that talent into points and tackles. That's the maddening thing about LSU. I can envision the Tigers whipping Mississippi State this week, but I can just as easily envision the Bulldogs leaving Tiger Stadium with a win. LSU will have to erase that nagging suspicion before it rises to a place in the poll more commensurate with the talent on the roster.
Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 27-3
Next game: Saturday vs. Mississippi State
25Missouri Tigers
Last Week: --
The Tigers are best known for their passing attack, but a creative halftime adjustment by defensive coordinator Dave Steckel in the season-opening win against Illinois might have everyone watching Missouri's defense. After Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase moved Illinois efficiently in the first half, Steckel removed his defensive tackles and slid ends Aldon Smith and Jacquies Smith inside. Steckel then replaced the ends with their backups, Michael Sam and Brad Madison. The foursome of ends shut down Illinois, and Aldon Smith came up with an unlikely nickname for the package: Candy. Why? Because the results were so sweet. If Candy keeps producing sweetness, Missouri could rise higher in the rankings.
Last game: Beat McNeese State, 50-6
Next game: Saturday vs. San Diego State

Next five: North Carolina, Houston, West Virginia, Kansas State, Florida State

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

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