By Andy Staples
October 08, 2013
Georgia escaped with an overtime win at Tennessee, but it suffered several key injuries in the process.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
NCAA Football Power Rankings
1 Alabama Crimson Tide
Las week: 1
The Ha Ha Clinton-Dix issue is another in a series of out-of-his-control incidents that drive Nick Saban batty. Fortunately for Saban, the Crimson Tide's schedule over the next few weeks won't require his full powers. Unless Tennessee (Oct. 26) can work whatever dark magic it worked against Georgia and the Crimson Tide's skill players all fall clutching their knees, Alabama shouldn't play a losable game until Nov. 9 when LSU comes to Tuscaloosa.

Last game: Beat Georgia State, 45-3
Next game: Saturday at Kentucky
2 Oregon Ducks
Last week: 2
The Ducks are about to get their first real test. Washington played toe-to-toe with Stanford but made a few too many mistakes. If the Huskies get those tightened up, they should be able to hang with Oregon -- at least for a little while. No one has come close to the Ducks all year, and Oregon may be so finely tuned on offense that no defense can keep up. If De'Anthony Thomas is either out or slowed because of his ankle injury, however, Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson and his teammates could make things quite interesting. Coordinator Nick Aliotti's defense will get challenged by Keith Price, Bishop Sankey and the rest of a Huskies' offense that rolled up 489 yards on Stanford. Now, we begin to find out how good Oregon actually is.

Last game: Beat Colorado, 57-16
Next game: Saturday at Washington
3 Clemson Tigers
Last week: 3
Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said on Saturday that he regretted his profane outburst near the end of last week's first half when Clemson coach Dabo Swinney left his offense on the field for a fourth-down play near the goal line. Shafer should feel bad. Not for the profanity. He's a football coach, after all. He should feel bad for expecting any kind of mercy in the first half of a conference game. If Shafer doesn't think his team can handle a half without getting the pat-on-the-head, good-job-good-effort treatment from the opponent, maybe he should ask his president to move the Orange to a different league. As for Clemson, the Tigers look like a much different team than they did at this point last year. No longer do quarterback Tajh Boyd and the offense have to win track meets against every opponent. The defense is pulling its weight. That unit should get a challenge this week from a Boston College offense that had some success against Florida State earlier this month. Then it can begin preparation for the visit from Jameis Winston and the Seminoles on Oct. 19.

Last game: Beat Syracuse, 49-14
Next game: Saturday vs. Boston College
4 Stanford Cardinal
Last week: 4
After a scare at home against Washington, the Cardinal should be wary of this trip to Salt Lake City. There, they'll find a 3-2 host desperate for a conference win. The Utes lost in overtime to Oregon State. They hung in the game against UCLA until the final minute. For the Utes, this season could turn awful with a few more near-misses. But beating Stanford would make everyone forget the close losses, and Utah quarterback Travis Wilson is a good enough dual-threat athlete to make things interesting. The Cardinal weren't dominant on the ground against Washington, but they should find running easier against the Utes. UCLA was playing true freshmen at right guard and right tackle, and the Bruins still managed to move the ball on the ground in the second half even when Utah's blitzing made throwing nearly impossible. If Stanford stays heavy and pounds the Utes inside, the Cardinal should be able to grind out a road win.

Last game: Beat Washington, 31-28
Next game: Saturday at Utah
5 Florida State Seminoles
Last week: 9
Let the hype for Game of the Year of the Decade of the Century 2013 Edition Version 2.0 begin. On Saturday, Florida State looked like the best team in the country. The defense dominated. The offense showed off its wealth of playmakers. Quarterback Winston looked like a Heisman Trophy candidate. If the Seminoles -- who had some iffy moments at Boston College a week earlier -- were just ramping up to optimum levels before beginning preparation for Clemson, then excellent planning, Jimbo Fisher. Here's an interesting sportswriter bar argument that came up this week. We can probably agree that Oregon and Stanford give the Pac-12 the nation's best conference tandem. Would Clemson and Florida State give the ACC the No. 2 pairing ahead of the SEC's Alabama and Georgia? Only one of those teams has a loss, and it's Georgia at Clemson. A week from Saturday, either Florida State or Clemson will have a loss as well. The other will be aiming at the national title.

Last game: Beat Maryland, 63-0
Next game: Oct. 19 at Clemson
6 Ohio State Buckeyes
Last week: 5
The Buckeyes were far from perfect, but they survived their trip to Evanston. Now, things get pretty easy. It's quite telling that Ohio State's best opponent between now and Michigan on Nov. 30 is probably Indiana.

Last game: Beat Northwestern, 40-30
Next game: Oct. 19 vs. Iowa
7 Georgia Bulldogs
Last week: 6
Before last year, Georgia had a few promising seasons derailed by awful injury luck along the offensive line. That group is relatively healthy for the Bulldogs in 2013, but the skill positions are falling apart. On Saturday, Georgia lost tailback Keith Marshall (knee), receiver Michael Bennett (knee) and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley (knee) in rapid succession. Georgia coach Mark Richt said on Sunday that Marshall and Scott-Wesley are done for the season. Bennett has an arthroscopic procedure scheduled for Tuesday to determine the extent of the damage to his knee. Star tailback Todd Gurley (ankle) missed the Tennessee game and is currently day-to-day. Quarterback Aaron Murray and a cast of backups won in overtime against an inspired Tennessee team, but the injuries certainly put a damper on the Bulldogs' prospects going forward. The defense, which remains fairly healthy, will have to pick up the slack. That could be an issue. The Bulldogs couldn't stop the Volunteers late; only a freshman mistake by Tennessee receiver Pig Howard allowed Georgia to win in the first overtime. With Missouri and its vastly improved offense coming to Athens, Georgia's defense has to get better. Either that, or the Bulldogs will need some medical miracles to get their offensive stars back on the field.

Last game: Beat Tennessee, 34-31 (OT)
Next game: Saturday vs. Missouri
8 LSU Tigers
Last week: 7
LSU Tigers (5-1)
Now, we finally get to see if the entire SEC has shifted into a high-scoring, pitch-and-catch league. Florida's defense has held 13 consecutive conference opponents to 21 points or fewer. The Tigers have gained more than 400 yards in each of their first six games for the first time in school history. If LSU can move the ball and score against the Gators, there probably isn't a defense in the country that can slow the Tigers. But if this turns into one of those defensive slugfests for which the league became known in the previous five seasons, the result will come down to whether LSU's young defense can stop an opportunistic Florida offense that has gotten better since Tyler Murphy replaced the injured Jeff Driskel at quarterback.

Last game: Beat Mississippi State, 59-26
Next game: Saturday vs. Florida
9 Texas A&M Aggies
Last week: 8
Some days, everything goes against a team, and the team manages to pull off a victory anyway. That was Texas A&M at Ole Miss last year. The Aggies struggled for three quarters. Then, backed up on his own goal line, Johnny Manziel unleashed a miracle toss to Mike Evans that gave Texas A&M life. Because the SEC is using another bridge schedule, the Aggies have to return to Oxford again this season. Ole Miss is smarting from consecutive road losses, but unless Texas A&M's defense got a lot better during the bye week, the Rebels should be able to score enough to make this interesting. Johnny Football and the offense will have to keep scoring in bunches.

Last game: Beat Arkansas, 45-33
Next game: Saturday at Ole Miss
10 Baylor Bears
Last week: 11
So far, Baylor's punishment of opposing defenses has stopped only when coach Art Briles has elected to ease off the gas pedal. We wondered what would happen when the Bears played an AQ opponent, and now we know. The West Virginia defense that allowed 16 points in a loss at Oklahoma and 21 points in a win over Oklahoma State probably might have given up 100 against Baylor had Briles not gone to the bench fairly early. At halftime, the Bears had 56 points and 617 yards of offense. Kansas State's Bill Snyder seems like the kind of defensive mastermind who might devise some scheme to slow Baylor's offense. But if he can't, can anyone?

Last game: Beat West Virginia, 73-42
Next game: Saturday at Kansas State
11 Louisville Cardinals
Last week: 10
This is a tricky spot for the Cardinals. They play their most talented opponent of the season on a very short week. The good news? Rutgers is coming off a triple-overtime win at SMU, so the Scarlet Knights will be a little more beat up coming into the game than usual. Plus, it's at Louisville. If the Cardinals can get through their next two games -- UCF comes to Louisville a week from Friday -- prepare for a lot of politicking. Because at that point, Louisville will probably go undefeated.

Last game: Beat Temple, 30-7
Next game: Thursday vs. Rutgers
12 Miami Hurricanes
Last week: 12
The Hurricanes get a bye before the always-tricky road-favorite-on-a-Thursday visit to Chapel Hill. They'll make that trip with a versatile offensive line at full strength. Right tackle Seantrel Henderson was suspended for the Georgia Tech game, forcing several position switches that the Hurricanes handled very well. Brandon Linder played guard and tackle. Jared Wheeler, who had been starting at center, played both guard positions. Meanwhile, Shane McDermott returned at center after missing games with a foot injury. Al Golden said Henderson will be back in good standing this week, and the coach said Henderson would answer suspension-related questions later this week. The line as a whole has already answered almost every question. It's probably the strongest group on the team.

Last game: Beat Georgia Tech, 45-30
Next game: Oct. 17 at North Carolina
13 South Carolina Gamecocks
Last week: 13
The Jadeveon Clowney situation has become a distraction the Gamecocks didn't need. Given Georgia's injury situation, South Carolina still has a chance to sneak back into the SEC East race, but the Gamecocks will have to figure out what's going on with their star defensive end first. Citing rib pain, Clowney ruled himself out of Saturday's game against Kentucky. The (formerly) presumed top pick in the 2014 NFL draft has seen his production drop severely this season as a result of a host of injuries and illnesses. His decision on Saturday -- which was not preceded by a medical opinion, Spurrier said -- only muddied the situation. Spurrier said he'll make Clowney available to the media this week to discuss his health. This seems like a psychological ploy by the coach to shame Clowney into playing if he's healthy. "Usually, the doctor or the trainer comes and tells you a guy will be out," Spurrier told reporters during a Sunday conference call. "That did not happen [Saturday]. ... On the other side, if a player's in pain, I don't want him to play. None of us do." If Clowney is concerned about further injury lowering his draft stock, then he shouldn't play. But he also will have to consider the possibility that choosing not to play may have the same consequence. NFL personnel people may question his competitiveness should he decide to shut it down. They would probably point out that playing in the NFL also carries a risk of injury that can jeopardize future earnings. It's a tough spot for Clowney and the Gamecocks. They'll need to figure it out soon.

Last game: Beat Kentucky, 35-28
Next game: Saturday at Arkansas
14 UCLA Bruins
Last week: 14
UCLA's defense feasted on tipped balls on Thursday, and the Bruins will get a lot more chances to tip passes when the Bears come to the Rose Bowl this Saturday. Six interceptions kept UCLA in the game at Utah as the offense adjusted to the absence of starting left tackle Torian White, who broke his ankle against the Utes. Linebacker Anthony Barr was his usual disruptive self, racking up three tackles for loss, including two sacks. Meanwhile, true freshman linebacker Myles Jack broke up two passes and made the game-clinching interception.

Last game: Beat Utah, 34-27
Next game: Saturday vs. Cal
15 Washington Huskies
Last week: 15
The Huskies are on the verge of elite status, but the only way to join the club is to beat an elite opponent. Washington came close on Saturday at Stanford, but it couldn't quite finish the job. The Huskies left Palo Alto upset that a replay official's review ended their final offensive drive, and the most positive way to use that anger would be to funnel it into a great week of practice before the Oregon game. Had the Huskies been able to beat up on a few inferior opponents between Stanford and Oregon, they may have forgotten how close they were against the Cardinal. This week, they'll be well aware. That awareness should translate into a shoulder chip the size of Mount Rainier, which the Huskies will need if they hope to hang with the Ducks.

Last game: Lost to Stanford, 31-28
Next game: Saturday vs. Oregon
16 Northwestern Wildcats
Last week: 16
Like Washington, Northwestern has no time to dwell on an opportunity missed. The Wildcats also need to channel their frustration over the loss to Ohio State into a good week of practice. Camp Randall Stadium can be quite unkind to an unprepared visitor, and the Wildcats -- who received the toughest Big Ten schedule draw of the contenders in the Legends Division -- can't afford to take a second conference loss in two weeks.

Last game: Lost to Ohio State, 40-30
Next game: Saturday at Wisconsin
17 Oklahoma Sooners
Last week: 18
The Sooners' defense put together a masterpiece in Saturday's first half. TCU didn't even cross midfield until the third quarter, and Oklahoma held the Horned Frogs to 210 yards for the game. Unfortunately, linebacker Corey Nelson will miss the rest of the season after suffering a partially torn pectoral muscle (ouch). Still, the improvement of this group is one of the most pleasant surprises of the year in the Big 12. However, until Brennan Clay's breakout run in the fourth quarter, the Sooners' offense struggled with TCU's excellent defense. Fortunately for Oklahoma, it will face a defense on Saturday that has been incapable of stopping the Sooners in the past two seasons. Not that it matters to Oklahoma in a micro sense -- it matters a great deal in a macro one -- but another blowout loss to the Sooners could mean the end for coach Mack Brown at Texas.

Last game: Beat TCU, 20-17
Next game: Saturday vs. Texas in Dallas
18 Florida Gators
Last week: 19
With so much drama unfolding in the rest of the SEC East, the Gators have to feel better about their long-term chances. Though it was only against Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas, Florida's offense has looked much smoother with Murphy at quarterback. Now comes the real test. LSU's defense isn't what it was in 2011 and 2012, but it doesn't have to be because LSU's offense is so good this season. Meanwhile, Florida's defense appears to be quite dominant. The Gators should be able to slow LSU's offense a bit. It will be up to Murphy and company to determine whether Florida can compete.

Last game: Beat Arkansas, 30-10
Next game: Saturday at LSU
19 Texas Tech Red Raiders
Last week: 21
A potential quarterback controversy in Lubbock hasn't materialized because starter Baker Mayfield keeps getting hurt, and backup Davis Webb keeps coming in and playing well. The two quarterbacks combined to help the Red Raiders score 54 consecutive points at Kansas on Saturday. The game was competitive for a half, but Texas Tech blew it open in the third quarter. Mayfield twisted his knee and came out near the end of the third, and Webb threw two touchdown passes in relief. This week, the Red Raiders will face an Iowa State team probably still steaming about getting hosed by Big 12 officials at the end of the Texas game.

Last game: Beat Kansas, 54-16
Next game: Saturday vs. Iowa State
20 Fresno State Bulldogs
Last week: 22
The Bulldogs sailed smoothly into the bye week, dominating Idaho a week after nearly collapsing against Hawaii. Looking at the remainder of the schedule, Fresno State can certainly finish undefeated. Does that mean the Bulldogs will bust the BCS? That depends. Finishing higher than one of the BCS league champs is Fresno State's best bet, and unlike past years, every BCS league has at least one very good team. The Bulldogs may need Louisville to lose. So they'll likely be watching closely on Thursday when the Cardinals face Rutgers -- which lost a thriller at Fresno State in Week 1.

Last game: Beat Idaho, 61-14
Next game: Oct. 19 vs. UNLV
21 Michigan Wolverines
Last week: 25
The Wolverines finally dispatched an inferior opponent without fourth-quarter drama, and the news got even better on Monday. Linebacker Jake Ryan, who tore his ACL during spring practice, has been cleared by doctors to play. He might make his 2013 debut on Saturday in State College. That would be a big boost for a defense that must go the rest of the way without tackle Ondre Pipkins, who is out with a torn ACL.

Last game: Beat Minnesota, 42-13
Next game: Saturday at Penn State
22 Missouri Tigers
Last Week: NR
What made us finally notice Missouri's massive improvement this week? Last week's demolition of Vanderbilt, certainly. But another factor was Indiana's romp against Penn State on Saturday. The Hoosiers started the season as a trendy pick to be the most improved team in the Big Ten and promptly lost to Navy. But if it turns out those original predictions were correct, then Missouri's easy win in Bloomington on Sept. 21 looks even better. The Tigers are the only undefeated team left in the SEC East, but they'll have to be really improved if they plan to stay that way. They head to Athens to face wounded Georgia this week. Then they host Florida and South Carolina in consecutive weeks. Even a 1-2 mark in that stretch would suggest the Tigers are headed in the right direction. If they can do better, then they would come out of that gauntlet in the hunt for the division title.

Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 51-28
Next game: Saturday at Georgia
23 Auburn Tigers
Last week: NR
Missouri's turnaround is impressive, but Auburn's is unbelievable. The Tigers were historically awful last year, and now they're already competitive again. Auburn's only loss is a non-blowout at LSU, and its season-opening win against Washington State looks decent given the Cougars improvement. Will Auburn compete for the SEC West title this year? Probably not. Is the day Auburn competes for that title again too far away? Not anymore, thanks to Gus Malzahn.

Last game: Beat Ole Miss, 30-22
Next game: Saturday vs. Western Carolina
24 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Last week: NR
The mysterious defense-like substance the Cornhuskers put on the field at Memorial Stadium on Saturday suggests improvements were made during the bye week. That is extremely encouraging for a team that already had a very good offense -- seemingly regardless of its quarterback. Coach Bo Pelini has said Taylor Martinez will be the starter when he's healthy, and backup Tommy Armstrong Jr. has offered no resistance to the idea of Martinez getting his job back. Besides, having two capable quarterbacks is a good problem. Even more promising is the improvement of the defense. Illinois isn't exactly an offensive juggernaut, but the Illini are better than last year. Nebraska held Illinois to 4.7 yards a play. In their first four games, the Blackshirts allowed 6.6 yards a play. That's a major step in the right direction, and if Nebraska can keep getting better, the Cornhuskers can compete for the Legends Division title.

Last game: Beat Illinois, 39-19
Next game: Saturday at Purdue
25 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last Week: NR
Why are the Fighting Irish here with two losses? They've played one of the nation's toughest schedules, and their only losses have come to higher-ranked teams that have a combined record of 10-0. Saturday's win against Arizona State was big to stave off any schedule-induced panic. Notre Dame should be favored in every game between now and its Nov. 30 visit to Stanford. If the Irish can avoid surprises, they can turn in a pretty good season.

Last game: Beat Arizona State, 37-34
Next game: Oct. 19 vs. USC

Next five: Virginia Tech, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois

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

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