Utah ascends to No. 1 spot in college football Power Rankings after Week 4

1:32 | College Football
Power rankings: Utah at No. 1 after Week 4
Tuesday September 29th, 2015

The season still feels like it’s just getting started, but except for the few teams who had an early bye week, the regular season is already a third of the way over. We have enough games now that we can really begin phasing out preseason expectations from our analysis.

Some results still require considering preseason projections. For example, Alabama’s Week 1 victory over Wisconsin still seems like a decent win more so because of what was expected of Wisconsin before the season than its three wins since then (though the Badgers have won all three of those handily).

But by now, we have some context around most of the meaningful results of the season. And that gives them greater significance. It also explains the new No. 1 squad in this week’s Power Rankings.

•​ NADKARNI: Three thoughts on this week's AP Top 25 | Complete AP poll

College football Power Rankings
  • 1
    1Utah Utes
    last week: 18
    record: 4–0
    Before dismissing this as an overreaction to one game, compare the Utes’ résumé to those of other teams. Their 62–20 thrashing of Oregon is the greatest display of dominance because while Ole Miss, for example, may have beaten a better team (Alabama) on the road, Utah embarrassed the Ducks. The Utes’ 24–17 win over Michigan also bolsters their case in light of the Wolverines’ shutout of BYU.
    Last week: Beat Oregon 62–20
    Next week: Bye week

  • 2
    2UCLA Bruins
    last week: 3
    record: 4–0
    The Bruins offer the closest competition to Utah right now. True freshman quarterback Josh Rosen set aside any concerns of a prolonged slide with his 19-of-28, 284-yard, two-touchdown performance against Arizona. While the run defense showed the effects of the loss of star linebacker Myles Jack, allowing 353 yards on the ground, UCLA still pummeled the Wildcats 56–30. The biggest knock on the Bruins is that we don’t know enough yet about Arizona to know just how good of a road win this was; the Wildcats’ best win to date is over Nevada.
    Last week: Beat Arizona 56–30
    Next week: Saturday vs. Arizona State

  • 3
    3Ohio State Buckeyes
    last week: 2
    record: 4–0
    The Buckeyes’ offense still isn’t fully in sync, but they definitely had their best game running the ball, as Ezekiel Elliott broke out for 124 yards on 16 carries. Ohio State’s defense remains the strength of the team this season. Since a shaky start against Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes have allowed just 8.3 points per game.
    Last week: Beat Western Michigan 38–12
    Next week: Saturday at Indiana

  • 4
    4Michigan State Spartans
    last week: 1
    record: 4–0
    Thirteen fourth-quarter points helped give the Spartans a comfortable margin over Central Michigan, but the Chippewas still outgained them 340–324. That’s the third straight game Michigan State has lost the yardage battle, and while total yardage isn’t the most critical stat, it’s still a concern.
    Last week: Beat Central Michigan 30–10
    Next week: Saturday vs. Purdue

  • 5
    5Ole Miss Rebels
    last week: 4
    record: 4–0
    After the high of taking down Alabama, the Rebels disappointed with a win over Vanderbilt that wasn’t fully decided until Jaylen Walton’s touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. This was clearly Ole Miss’s sloppiest performance of the season, as Chad Kelly tossed two interceptions and the Rebels converted just three of 13 third downs and settled for three red-zone field goals.
    Last week: Beat Vanderbilt 27–16
    Next week: Saturday at Florida

  • 6
    6Baylor Bears
    last week: 5
    record: 3–0
    We’ve made it through the dud of a nonconference schedule the Bears played. Now it’s time to see what they can do against a Texas Tech squad that nearly took down their conference rival Saturday.
    Last week: Beat Rice 70–17
    Next week: Saturday vs. Texas Tech (in Arlington, Texas)

  • 7
    7Notre Dame Fighting Irish
    last week: 6
    record: 4–0
    Saturday wasn’t the Fighting Irish’s cleanest game defensively, as they allowed UMass to throw for 302 yards, but Notre Dame’s offensive line is pummeling opponents. The Irish racked up 457 yards on the ground, and DeShone Kizer completed 15 of 22 pass attempts for 207 yards. Most importantly, Notre Dame survived a game without any more major injuries, which may be its biggest victory of the season.
    Last week: Beat UMass 62–27
    Next week: Saturday at Clemson

  • 8
    8Georgia Bulldogs
    last week: 9
    record: 4–0
    For the second straight week, we can rhetorically ask the question: Which Greyson Lambert incompletion was your favorite? And poor Nick Chubb is racing around defenders but playing the Tevin Coleman to Leonard Fournette’s Melvin Gordon.
    Last week: Beat Southern 48–6
    Next week: Saturday vs. Alabama

  • 9
    9Florida State Seminoles
    last week: 10
    record: 3–0
    An early bye week was beneficial for the Seminoles, who are still breaking in a lot of new pieces, including transfer quarterback Everett Golson. As sensational as running back Dalvin Cook has been, Florida State will almost certainly need more from Golson to win the ACC than the 282 combined passing yards he’s contributed in the past two games.
    Last week: Bye week
    Next week: Saturday at Wake Forest

  • 10
    10Oklahoma Sooners
    last week: 11
    record: 3–0
    Oklahoma has two weeks to prepare for West Virginia after resting this weekend. That extra prep time seems more useful now that the Mountaineers have gotten off to a hot start.
    Last week: Bye week
    Next week: Saturday vs. West Virginia

  • 11
    11TCU Horned Frogs
    last week: 7
    record: 4–0
    The offense is as good as ever, and it still took a volleyball play to get the Horned Frogs past Texas Tech. So what happens when TCU faces a better defense? The plethora of losses on the Horned Frogs’ defense is terribly unfortunate, but at this point TCU looks no better than the third best team in the Big 12.
    Last week: Beat Texas Tech 55–52
    Next week: Saturday vs. Texas

  • 12
    12LSU Tigers
    last week: 8
    record: 3–0
    Leonard Fournette was a human highlight reel again vs. Syracuse, but the Tigers didn’t make it easy on him by committing 14 penalties for 120 yards, including an illegal formation infraction that called back an 87-yard touchdown run by Fournette. LSU can afford that lack of discipline against the Orange but not in its tougher SEC tests. Can we also discuss the Tigers' nonconference schedule? Syracuse and Eastern Michigan? When did LSU join the Big Ten?
    Last week: Beat Syracuse 34–24
    Next week: Saturday vs. Eastern Michigan

  • 13
    13Clemson Tigers
    last week: 12
    record: 3–0
    After its bye week, a Clemson offensive line that looked shaky in the Tigers’ win over Louisville will have its work cut out for it keeping Sheldon Day and Jaylon Smith out of the backfield.
    Last week: Bye week
    Next week: Saturday vs. Notre Dame

  • 14
    14Alabama Crimson Tide
    last week: 13
    record: 3–1
    The Crimson Tide defense rebounded nicely from the 43 points it surrendered to Ole Miss, blanking Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. The same can’t be said of Alabama’s offense. Jake Coker completed 17 of 31 passes for 158 yards, and even the running game had some issues, gaining just 3.9 yards per carry on the Warhawks.
    Last week: Beat Louisiana-Monroe 34–0
    Next week: Saturday at Georgia

  • 15
    15Texas A&M Aggies
    last week: 15
    record: 4–0
    It wasn’t the ass-kicking Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury might have hoped it’d be, but the Aggies survived Arkansas and Kyle Allen looks more and more like the best pure passer in the SEC. The biggest issue is Texas A&M’s rushing attack, which in its two games against Power Five opponents has averaged just 3.7 yards per carry.
    Last week: Beat Arkansas 28–21 in OT
    Next week: Saturday vs. Mississippi State

  • 16
    16Wisconsin Badgers
    last week: 19
    record: 3–1
    The Badgers’ streak of incredible defense since losing to Alabama continues. Wisconsin has surrendered just three points in its past three games, wins over Miami (Ohio), Troy and Hawaii. The competition gets stiffer this week vs. Iowa, but that kind of prolonged shutdown is pretty impressive.
    Last week: Beat Hawaii 28–0
    Next week: Saturday vs. Iowa

  • 17
    17Northwestern Wildcats
    last week: 17
    record: 4–0
    Northwestern’s offense remains a work in progress, with the amount of progress made likely determining if the Wildcats can compete for a Big Ten West title. The more immediate concern is the seven players that left Northwestern’s win over Ball State with injuries. Those injuries hit the defense particularly hard, forcing the Wildcats to use a fourth-string safety.
    Last week: Beat Ball State 24–19
    Next week: Saturday vs. Minnesota

  • 18
    18Stanford Cardinal
    last week: 20
    record: 3–1
    For the third straight week Stanford looked little like the anemic offense that put up just six points in a Week 1 loss to Northwestern. Christian McCaffrey (30 rushes for 206 yards vs. Oregon State) finally contributed the workhorse effort to spur the attack that he was expected to provide. With Oregon’s rapid descent, the Cardinal have quickly moved into the driver seat in the Pac-12 North.
    Last week: Beat Oregon State 42–24
    Next week: Saturday vs. Arizona

  • 19
    19USC Trojans
    last week: 21
    record: 3–1
    The Trojans bounced back nicely from their loss to Stanford a week earlier, especially the offense, which hung more points on Arizona State than Texas A&M did. However, USC’s win doesn’t tell us too much about how it’ll fare against the tougher teams left on its schedule, as the Trojans’ main problem against Stanford was an inability to get to the quarterback. We already knew the Sun Devils’ offensive line was a liability from their game against the Aggies.
    Last week: Beat Arizona State 42–14
    Next week: Bye week

  • 20
    20Florida Gators
    last week: NR
    record: 4–0
    Two conference wins in consecutive weeks show Jim McElwain has the Gators moving in the right direction. Florida’s Week 3 win at Kentucky could prove especially critical as the Wildcats’ victory over Missouri indicates they could be players in the SEC East, too. The Gators aren’t exactly drawing comparisons to offensive powerhouses, but their 5.8 yards per play this season would top every year under Will Muschamp.
    Last week: Beat Tennessee 28–27
    Next week: Saturday vs. Ole Miss

  • 21
    21West Virginia Mountaineers
    last week: 25
    record: 3–0
    After they embarrassed Maryland in Week 4 (including a successful fake punt while up 38–0), the Mountaineers can finally prove they’re a legitimate contender at Oklahoma this weekend. All signs point to yes so far, especially a suddenly dominant defense. West Virginia ranks ninth nationally in yards allowed per play this season.
    Last week: Beat Maryland 45–6
    Next week: Saturday at Oklahoma

  • 22
    22Oklahoma State Cowboys
    last week: 23
    record: 4–0
    The Cowboys became the first team to beat Texas in Austin four consecutive times but revealed some concerns in the process Saturday. Quarterback Mason Rudolph turned the ball over three times, including a fumble Texas returned for a touchdown. Oklahoma State’s running game also struggled in its first real test of the season; even excluding Rudolph’s three sacks, the Cowboys gained just 2.95 yards per carry.
    Last week: Beat Texas 30–27
    Next week: Saturday vs. Kansas State

  • 23
    23Michigan Wolverines
    last week: NR
    record: 3–1
    Utah’s beatdown of Oregon was a double-boon for Wolverines fans. First, it made Michigan’s seven-point defeat to the Utes in Salt Lake City look pretty respectable. And secondly it hurt rival Michigan State, whose three-point win over the Ducks at home now seems like a wasted opportunity to better bolster their résumé. But the Wolverines’ debut in the top 25 has less to do with Utah’s rout than their own—a dominant 31–0 pasting of BYU.
    Last week: Beat BYU 31–0
    Next week: Saturday at Maryland

  • 24
    24Mississippi State Bulldogs
    last week: NR
    record: 3–1
    Amid a down year for star quarterback play, the Bulldogs are a reminder of the value of an elite passer. Auburn successfully took away Mississippi State’s running game, including that of Dak Prescott, but Prescott still managed to move the ball through the air. His two passing touchdowns, combined with a defense that held the Tigers to 4 of 14 on third down, were enough to get the Bulldogs a divisional win.
    Last week: Beat Auburn 17–9
    Next week: Saturday at Texas A&M

  • 25
    25California Golden Bears
    last week: NR
    record: 4–0
    Speaking of star quarterbacks, the Bears have a pretty good one, too. Jared Goff has led Cal to an undefeated start with 1,240 passing yards and an 11-to-3 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio. While Goff has posted huge numbers in prior years, he’s getting much more help from his defense this season. Cal’s 5.6 yards allowed per play is a huge improvement from last year (6.3) and 2013 (6.9). The Bears are also tied for fifth in the country with three takeaways per game this season. Now can they maintain that progress against the strength of the Pac-12?
    Last week: Beat Washington 30–24
    Next week: Saturday vs. Washington State

Dropped out: Oregon, Arizona, Georgia Tech, BYU
Next five: NC State, Houston, Duke, Oregon, Iowa

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