Michigan State claims No. 1 in college football Power Rankings after Week 3

1:29 | College Football
College football power rankings from Week 3
Tuesday September 22nd, 2015

Week 3 was equal parts wonderful and perplexing. Ohio State nearly lost to Northern Illinois? Alabama did lose to Ole Miss? Stanford beat USC? These were all incredibly exciting games to watch, but they provided little clarity for how the rest of the season will play out. As Andy Staples noted in Punt, Pass & Pork, we may actually know less now about this year’s College Football Playoff race than we thought we did before the season began.

But as the season currently stands, one thing seems clear: the Buckeyes have not validated their status as the top team in country. No team seemed particularly keen on claiming the top spot Saturday—the Crimson Tide certainly would have moved to No. 1 had they beaten the Rebels—but three weeks in, it’s hard to make an argument that Ohio State has outplayed its Big Ten rivals, Michigan State. So congratulations, Sparty, don’t blow it.

College football Power Rankings
  • 1
    1Michigan State Spartans
    last week:3
    The Spartans have been the most consistently impressive team so far this season, with special emphasis on consistent—that’s what sets them apart right now. A week after an emotional win over Oregon, Michigan State bent but didn’t break against Air Force’s option attack.
    Last week: Beat Air Force 35–21
    Next week: Saturday vs. Central Michigan

  • 2
    2Ohio State Buckeyes
    last week:1
    The general assumption was that while quarterback battles that linger into the season are generally problematic, Ohio State’s was an exception because its top two signal callers are so gifted. But after both Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett ineffectively moved the ball Saturday against Northern Illinois, maybe it’s not that simple. The Buckeyes are still the most talented team in the country, but until they show they’ve figured out how to utilize that talent, they don’t deserve to be No. 1.
    Last week: Beat Northern Illinois 20–13
    Next week: Saturday vs. Western Michigan

  • 3
    3UCLA Bruins
    last week:4
    A game like Saturday’s was inevitable for UCLA. A true freshman quarterback, even one as prodigious as Josh Rosen, was bound to produce a dud eventually. If the Bruins were to contend for a Pac-12 title and a playoff spot, they’d need to prove they could still beat good teams even when that happened. Now we know they can because tailback Paul Perkins looks like a Heisman candidate.
    Last week: Beat BYU 24–23
    Next week: Saturday vs. Arizona

  • 4
    4Ole Miss Rebels
    last week: 8
    record: 3–0
    Sure, the Rebels caught some breaks Saturday—Alabama’s two fumbled kick returns, Chad Kelly’s blind heave touchdown to Quincy Adeboyejo—but every time the Tide seemed to find their footing and appeared poised to take control of the game, Ole Miss responded. To do that on the road against the then-No. 2 team in the country shows that the Rebels can’t be dismissed.
    Last week: Beat Alabama 43–37
    Next week: Saturday vs. Vanderbilt

  • 5
    5Baylor Bears
    last week: 5
    record: 2–0
    Baylor was on a bye in Week 3, which it hopefully used to put to rest its trend this season of starting games slowly. The Bears won’t be seriously tested for a while, but they’ll eventually need to fix that.
    Last week: Bye week
    Next week: Saturday vs. Rice

  • 6
    6Notre Dame Fighting Irish
    last week: 11
    record: 3–0
    It was a bit hasty to drop the Fighting Irish to No. 11 last week after Malik Zaire’s injury. The offense showed balance with DeShone Kizer at quarterback, and C.J. Prosise demolished Georgia Tech for 198 yards on the ground. Plus Notre Dame’s front seven is among the nation’s best, as it proved by smothering the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense. I’m not ready to move the Irish back into the top four, but they remain strong playoff contenders.
    Last week: Beat Georgia Tech 30–22
    Next week: Saturday vs. UMass

  • 7
    7TCU Horned Frogs
    last week: 6
    record: 3–0
    The Horned Frogs have lost six starters from a defense that was already inexperienced after returning just five starters from last season. Only one of those six is expected back this season. SMU’s offense has definitely improved with the hiring of Chad Morris, but if TCU gave up 37 points to the Mustangs—and leading by only five midway through the fourth quarter—it’s hard to see the Frogs ever stopping Baylor or Oklahoma.
    Last week: Beat SMU 56–37
    Next week: Saturday at Texas Tech

  • 8
    8LSU Tigers
    last week: 16
    record: 2–0
    Heisman races aren’t won in September, but Leonard Fournette looks capable of carrying the Tigers to an SEC title after back-to-back weeks of dominant performances against SEC West opponents. LSU’s run defense deserves plenty of credit, too; it held Mississippi State to 1.7 yards per carry in Week 2 and, apart from Jeremy Johnson’s 65-yard QB draw, limited Auburn to 2.6 yards per rush.
    Last week: Beat Auburn 45–21
    Next week: Saturday at Syracuse

  • 9
    9Georgia Bulldogs
    last week: 14
    record: 3–0
    Saturday’s 52–20 beatdown of South Carolina revealed more about the Gamecocks than it did about the Bulldogs, but Greyson Lambert’s rebound from a subpar outing against Vanderbilt was very encouraging—he set an NCAA record by completing 24 of 25 passes. Also, any team that can embarrass a conference opponent like Georgia’s Sony Michel did deserves some serious praise.

    Last week: Beat South Carolina 52–20
    Next week: Saturday vs. Southern

  • 10
    10Florida State Seminoles
    last week: 10
    record: 3–0
    The Seminoles shut out Boston College 14–0 a week after the Eagles shut out Howard 76–0. By the transitive property, Florida State should beat Howard 90–minus-57.
    Last week: Beat Boston College 14–0
    Next week: Bye week

  • 11
    11Oklahoma Sooners
    last week: 13
    record: 3–0
    Giving up 603 yards and 38 points to Tulsa is a bit troubling, but it’s hard to be too worried for the Sooners when a) the Golden Hurricane’s offense is pretty good, and b) Oklahoma scored 52 points and gained 773 yards. The Lincoln Riley-Baker Mayfield pairing is looking quite dangerous, and running back Samaje Perine bounced back from a rough first two weeks with 152 yards on 22 carries.
    Last week: Beat Tulsa 52–38
    Next week: Bye week

  • 12
    12Clemson Tigers
    last week: 9
    record: 3–0
    Thursday’s matchup with Louisville validated pretty much every preseason expectation for the Tigers. Deshaun Watson remains dynamic after tearing his ACL but will make some mistakes this season—like his two interceptions vs. the Cardinals—due to increased pressure behind a rebuilt offensive line. On defense, Clemson still has the talent to dominant, as it did Thursday, sacking Kyle Bolin five times and holding Louisville to 19 rushing yards.
    Last week: Beat Louisville 20–17
    Next week: Bye week

  • 13
    13Alabama Crimson Tide
    last week: 2
    record: 2–1
    Alabama beat itself Saturday, as it’s nearly impossible to take down a quality team while losing the turnover battle 5–0. Those turnovers led directly to 24 Ole Miss points, including 17 in the first half. The good news for the Crimson Tide is they know first hand a loss to the Rebels won't end their playoff chances. Alabama still controls its postseason fate, though its margin for error is now gone.
    Last week: Lost to Ole Miss 43–37
    Next week: Saturday vs. Louisiana-Monroe

  • 14
    14Oregon Ducks
    last week: 15
    record: 2–1
    Losing to the No. 1 team on the road by three points is about as good of a loss as can be, so the Ducks should definitely hope Michigan State stays near the top of the polls. Oregon's beatdown of Georgia State didn’t tell us much, but its matchup with Utah this weekend will.
    Last week: Beat Georgia State 61–28
    Next week: Saturday vs. Utah

  • 15
    15Texas A&M Aggies
    last week: 18
    record: 3–0
    The Aggies’ offense looks balanced and dangerous. Quarterback Kyle Allen picked apart Nevada through the air for 270 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, while running back Tra Carson gained 137 yards on 22 carries. One negative for Texas A&M: Before the season, the Aggies looked to have gotten a relatively easy schedule because Alabama and Auburn came to College Station and Texas A&M’s only divisional road games were at Ole Miss and LSU. Now that the Rebels and Tigers look to be the toughest teams in the division, that schedule doesn’t seem quite so beneficial.
    Last week: Beat Nevada 44–27
    Next week: Saturday vs. Arkansas (in Arlington, Texas)

  • 16
    16Arizona Wildcats
    last week: 21
    record: 3–0
    The Wildcats hope to have star linebacker Scooby Wright back by Saturday’s Pac-12 South showdown with UCLA. That’d be pretty fortunate as Wright has only missed comfortable nonconference wins over Nevada and Northern Arizona. With no byes and only conference games remaining, Arizona faces a daunting stretch over the next nine weeks. Hopefully they enjoyed Saturday’s 77–13 rout of the Lumberjacks; things will never be that simple again in 2015.
    Last week: Beat Northern Arizona 77–13
    Next week: Saturday vs. UCLA

  • 17
    17Northwestern Wildcats
    last week: 22
    record: 3–0
    The Wildcats got two big boosts in Week 3. First, they took down Duke in Durham, sparked by a 98-yard kick return from Solomon Vault. Then Stanford scored 41 points in its upset of USC, casting Northwestern’s total shutdown of the Cardinal’s offense in new light. Through three weeks the Wildcats have allowed just one touchdown and yielded a nation-low 5.3 points per game, but redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson has passed for just 327 yards so far. If the defense slips, Northwestern will likely fall with it.
    Last week: Beat Duke 19–10
    Next week: Saturday vs. Ball State

  • 18
    18Utah Utes
    last week: 20
    record: 3–0
    The Utes will go as far as running back Devontae Booker can take them. With starting quarterback Travis Wilson out, Booker carried the load for Utah on Saturday, rushing for 156 yards and two scores vs. Fresno State. The Utes’ defense has done its part, too, allowing just 3.5 yards per carry this season.
    Last week: Beat Fresno State 45–24
    Next week: Saturday at Oregon

  • 19
    19Wisconsin Badgers
    last week: 25
    record: 2–1
    Since losing to Alabama in Week 1, Wisconsin has allowed only three points. Granted the Badgers have played Miami (Ohio) and Troy, but that kind of lockdown defense is still worthy of noticing. Plus, it’s not like the rest of Wisconsin’s schedule is filled with offensive powerhouses.
    Last week: Beat Troy 28–3
    Next week: Saturday vs. Hawaii

  • 20
    20Stanford Cardinal
    last week: NR
    record: 2–1
    Expectations have swung wildly for Stanford from the preseason to now. Originally considered the top contender to knock off Oregon in the Pac-12 North, the Cardinal looked too inept offensively to pose much of a threat during their 16–6 loss to Northwestern. But after outpacing USC 41–31 in the Coliseum, maybe Stanford is dangerous after all. It comes down to which Kevin Hogan we see the rest of the way: the one who threw for 155 yards with an interception against the Wildcats or the one who completed 78.3% of his passes for 279 yards with two touchdowns vs. the Trojans.
    Last week: Beat USC 41–31
    Next week: Friday at Oregon State

  • 21
    21USC Trojans
    last week: 7
    record: 2–1
    Had the Trojans lost a low-scoring, ugly affair in which a staunch Stanford defense forced Cody Kessler into mistakes, that would have been somewhat understandable. Losing because they gave up 41 points to the Cardinal is more troubling. If Stanford can break 40, how many points will Arizona, Oregon and UCLA put up?
    Last week: Lost to Stanford 41–31
    Next week: Saturday at Arizona State

  • 22
    22Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
    last week: 12
    record: 2–1
    The Yellow Jackets’ offensive struggles against Notre Dame can be explained by a ferocious Irish front seven that swarmed to the ball and to the pitch, closing down all options in Georgia Tech’s running game. Few other defenses will be able to match that. But for the second straight year, the Yellow Jackets look vulnerable defensively. They won’t win an ACC title allowing 8.1 yards per pass attempt and 6.7 yards per carry.
    Last week: Lost to Notre Dame 30–22
    Next week: Saturday at Duke

  • 23
    23Oklahoma State Cowboys
    last week: 23
    record: 3–0
    I dogged the Cowboys last week for their running game, and they came through Saturday, albeit against UTSA. Running back Chris Carson raced past the Roadrunners for 104 yards on 17 carries. UTSA’s seven turnovers made Oklahoma State’s win light work, but it’s a positive sign to see all aspects of the offense firing.
    Last week: Beat UTSA 69–14
    Next week: Saturday at Texas

  • 24
    24BYU Cougars
    last week: 17
    record: 2–1
    The Cougars couldn’t make it three miracles in a row but still put up a solid fight against an elite Power Five team. The schedule gets much easier from here, as after a challenge from Michigan this weekend, BYU should be a clear favorite in every game until Missouri on Nov. 14. It won’t face a rushing threat as dangerous as Perkins again all season.
    Last week: Lost to UCLA 24–23
    Next week: Saturday at Michigan

  • 25
    25West Virginia Mountaineers
    last week: NR
    record: 2–0
    The quality of competition makes West Virginia still very much a wildcard at this point, but the early returns on new quarterback Skyler Howard (37 of 51 for 622 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions) have been very positive. If Howard can keep Dana Holgorsen’s offense humming, the Mountaineers finally have the defense to compete in the Big 12. Trips to Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU don’t help their cause, though.
    Last week: Bye week
    Next week: Saturday vs. Maryland

Dropped out: Auburn, Missouri
Next five: Mississippi State, Missouri, NC State, Cal, Houston

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