Utah holds on to No. 1 spot in college football midseason Power Rankings

3:32 | College Football
Power Rankings: Texas A&M, Ole Miss drop after Week 7
Tuesday October 20th, 2015

We’re well past the point in the season where we know absolutely nothing. We’ve learned some things through seven weeks—even if what we’ve learned has only revealed more that we don’t know.

Still, as we enter the part of the season when we begin projecting College Football Playoff brackets with some serious consideration, it’s undeniable that things will change. At this point last year, the top four teams in the AP poll were Mississippi State, Florida State, Ole Miss and Baylor. Although the Seminoles held on to make the playoff, their fellow semifinalists were ranked No. 7 (Alabama), No. 9 (Oregon) and No. 13 (Ohio State).

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So we can say with some confidence that the teams that will make the playoff this year likely reside in the current top 25, possibly even the top 15—though given the shakiness nearly every team has shown this season I wouldn’t rule out teams in the low 20s. Beyond that level of certainty, not much else is clear.

On to the second half! But for now, here’s the midseason top 25:

•​ NADKARNI: Three thoughts on AP poll after Week 7 | Complete AP Top 25

College football Power Rankings
  • 1
    1Utah Utes
    last week: 1
    record: 6–0
    Utah takes the title as the most impressive team of the first half. The Utes also got a monkey off their back, snapping an 11-game losing streak to Arizona State on Saturday. While Devontae Booker’s success this season (991 total yards, 4.9 yards per carry, eight touchdowns) was expected, Utah has shown much better balance with quarterback Travis Wilson’s rise. He had his best game of the season against the Sun Devils, completing 26 of 36 passes for 297 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
    Last week: Beat Arizona State 34–18
    Next week: Saturday at USC

  • 2
    2Clemson Tigers
    last week: 2
    record: 6–0
    The Tigers’ offense appears to have hit its stride as Deshaun Watson picked apart a Boston College defense that ranks fifth in yards allowed per play. Clemson’s win over Notre Dame remains one of the better victories of the season; that’s a key part of what separates the Tigers from most of the other undefeated teams.
    Last week: Beat Boston College 34–17
    Next week: Saturday at Miami

  • 3
    3Baylor Bears
    last week: 3
    record: 6–0
    West Virginia’s defense seemed tough through the first few weeks of the season, but Seth Russell, Corey Coleman and the Bears made it look like an FCS unit. Baylor has yet to score fewer than 56 points in a game, and quite frankly, it’s hard to imagine Art Briles’s squad doing so. Still, no matter the margin, without slipups from Clemson or Utah, I can’t move the Bears any higher until they start facing tougher tests in November.
    Last week: Beat West Virginia 62–38
    Next week: Saturday vs. Iowa State

  • 4
    4LSU Tigers
    last week: 4
    record: 6–0
    LSU is the class of the SEC, and now the Tigers have the marquee win to back it up. Critical to their continuing success is the development of Brandon Harris, who had his second productive game Saturday, this time against Florida’s highly touted secondary. With Leonard Fournette’s brilliance and a defense allowing 4.5 yards per play, Harris could complete the puzzle for the Tigers if he can continue playing mistake-free football—he hasn’t thrown a pick all season.
    Last week: Beat Florida 35–28
    Next week: Saturday vs. Western Kentucky

  • 5
    5Alabama Crimson Tide
    last week: 6
    record: 6–1
    So Alabama suffered an early-season loss to Ole Miss and rebounded by midseason with a thumping of Texas A&M. This sounds familiar. Blake Sims showed more in the first half of 2014 than Jake Coker has this year, but a defense that looked very vulnerable after the loss to the Rebels has improved dramatically, including four interceptions against the Aggies. Eddie Jackson looks much more natural at safety after switching over from cornerback and Minkah Fitzpatrick has become an instant playmaker as a true freshman.
    Last week: Beat Texas A&M 41–23
    Next week: Saturday vs. Tennessee

  • 6
    6TCU Horned Frogs
    last week: 8
    record: 7–0
    A calamitous first quarter vs. Iowa State quickly gave way to the blowout it was supposed to be thanks to the magnificent talent of Trevone Boykin and Josh Doctson. I still have concerns about the ability of the Horned Frogs’ defense to hold up against the better teams of the Big 12, but it’s hard to doubt a squad with the firepower TCU has.
    Last week: Beat Iowa State 45–21
    Next week: Bye week

  • 7
    7Ohio State Buckeyes
    last week: 10
    record: 7–0
    This is the true upset of the year: The armchair coaches of the college football world appear to have bested Urban Meyer in determining who should start at quarterback for Ohio State. As Cardale Jones struggled with his accuracy again vs. Penn State, J.T. Barrett shined when finally allowed to play in more than just red-zone packages. The Buckeyes looked like the defending national champs with Barrett under center.
    Last week: Beat Penn State 38–10
    Next week: Saturday at Rutgers

  • 8
    8Michigan State Spartans
    last week: 11
    record: 7–0
    A road win over their in-state rivals was an ideal rebound for the Spartans from lackluster performances against Purdue and Rutgers. Quarterback Connor Cook came through on the big stage against a great defense (328 yards passing, one touchdown), and now Michigan State finally has a win of note after the Spartans’ triumph over Oregon lost its prestige.
    Last week: Beat Michigan 27–23
    Next week: Saturday vs. Indiana

  • 9
    9Florida Gators
    last week: 5
    record: 6–1
    Their unbeaten mark is gone, but Saturday’s defeat to LSU showed all is not lost for the Gators with Will Grier’s suspension. Treon Harris did his part to keep the offense going Saturday, and Jim McElwain is furthering his reputation as an offensive genius. It took a fake field goal to sink Florida in Death Valley, so the Gators still look like favorites to win the SEC East.
    Last week: Lost to LSU 35–28
    Next week: Bye week

  • 10
    10Iowa Hawkeyes
    last week: 14
    record: 7–0
    Saturday’s matchup with Northwestern could have easily turned sour for Iowa when star running back Jordan Canzeri left the game in the first quarter with a leg injury and quarterback C.J. Beathard hobbled through a lower body injury. Instead backup running back Akrum Wadley demolished a Wildcats defense that had been stout against the run earlier this season, racing past Northwestern for 204 yards and four scores in a 40–10 rout. Can the Hawkeyes make it to 12–0? They’ve run through the tougher portion of their schedule already.
    Last week: Beat Northwestern 40–10
    Next week: Bye week

  • 11
    11Oklahoma State Cowboys
    last week: 13
    record: 6–0
    The other surprise undefeated team, Oklahoma State had a bye week this week. Unlike Iowa, the Cowboys face an arduous path to get to 12–0. Such is the life of teams with a full round-robin conference schedule.
    Last week: Bye week
    Next week: Saturday vs. Kansas

  • 12
    12Florida State Seminoles
    last week: 16
    record: 6–0
    A banged-up Dalvin Cook can still run for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Just think about what he’s capable of this season if he gets fully healthy. Still, we always knew Cook was sensational, so perhaps the bigger fear for Seminoles foes is if Everett Golson continues to progress. The Notre Dame transfer threw for a season-high 372 yards with three touchdowns against Louisville and did so without resorting to the risky decision-making that made him a turnover liability for the Fighting Irish.
    Last week: Beat Louisville 41–21
    Next week: Saturday at Georgia Tech

  • 13
    13Stanford Cardinal
    last week: 18
    record: 5–1
    Maybe it was Week 1 jitters. Maybe it was the 9 a.m. Pacific time (11 a.m. Central time) kickoff. I’m grasping at straws to explain how Stanford looked so horrid in its 16–6 loss to the Northwestern. Few teams have looked better in Weeks 2 through 7 than the Cardinal, who demolished UCLA 56–35 on Thursday. The only problem in Palo Alto is that loss to the Wildcats is starting to become an anchor now that Northwestern has been routed in consecutive weeks.
    Last week: Beat UCLA 56–35
    Next week: Saturday vs. Washington

  • 14
    14Notre Dame Fighting Irish
    last week: 15
    record: 6–1
    USC may be dysfunctional this season, but the Trojans remain talented. So Notre Dame’s ability to rally back after blowing a 24–10 lead with 17 fourth quarter points still speaks to why they can contend for a playoff spot. C.J. Prosise is one of only seven running backs with over 900 rushing yards, and quarterback DeShone Kizer should only get stronger as he gains more experience. He had his first game without an interception Saturday after taking over as the starter.
    Last week: Beat USC 41–31
    Next week: Bye week

  • 15
    15Texas A&M Aggies
    last week: 7
    record: 5–1
    The good news is Kyle Allen throw for four touchdowns against Alabama. If only three of them hadn’t been pick-six touchdowns for the Crimson Tide. It’s hard to know what the second half of the season will hold for the Aggies; they’ve beaten two lower-tier SEC West teams and an average Pac-12 team but got thoroughly bludgeoned in their one true test of the season so far. The silver lining is that Alabama’s defense might be the best in the country right now.
    Last week: Lost to Alabama 41–23
    Next week: Saturday at Ole Miss

  • 16
    16Michigan Wolverines
    last week: 9
    record: 5–2
    The actual difference between the Wolverines winning and losing Saturday was a fluke play. Still as freakish as that final play may have been, it allowed the better team to actually win the game. Michigan State outgained Michigan by 156 yards, never turned the ball over and held the Wolverines to four of 15 in third-down conversions. Regardless of whether Blake O’Neill got that punt off or recognized he should have just fallen on the fumble, Michigan deserved to lose for the second time this season.
    Last week: Lost to Michigan State 27–23
    Next week: Bye week

  • 17
    17Memphis Tigers
    last week: NR
    record: 6–0
    I had held off on including Memphis in my top 25 in recent weeks because while the offense has been worthy of being ranked for some time now, the defense didn’t look anywhere close. That changed Saturday, when the Tigers held Ole Miss to 40 rushing yards and a four-of-13 third-down conversion rate. Memphis won the battle in the trenches, racking up seven tackles for loss. Now with seemingly the full package, Justin Fuente’s squad can make serious run at an undefeated season, an achievement worthy of acclaim given the strength of the American Athletic Conference.
    Last week: Beat Ole Miss 37–24
    Next week: Friday at Tulsa

  • 18
    18Oklahoma Sooners
    last week: 20
    record: 5–1
    How do you rebound from an embarrassing loss to your downtrodden rival? By pulverizing Kansas State in ways even exaggerated headlines about media takedowns can’t capture.
    Last week: Beat Kansas State 55–0
    Next week: Saturday vs. Texas Tech

  • 19
    19Houston Cougars
    last week: 21
    record: 6–0
    The Cougars continue to demolish everyone in their path, beating Tulane 42–7 for their fourth victory by more than 20 points this season. Their Nov. 14 showdown with Memphis will likely have a New Year’s Six bowl berth on the line.
    Last week: Beat Tulane 42–7
    Next week: Saturday at UCF

  • 20
    20California Golden Bears
    last week: 22
    record: 5–1
    Cal failed its toughest test of the season in Week 6 at Utah but has three other wins over Power Five foes, albeit all by narrow margins. Thursday’s trip to UCLA should reveal if the Bears can pose a threat to Stanford in the Pac-12 North.
    Last week: Bye week
    Next week: Thursday at UCLA

  • 21
    21Pittsburgh Panthers
    last week: NR
    record: 5–1
    With three conference wins and only a loss to Iowa in Iowa City on a last-second field goal, Pittsburgh just might be the best team in a mediocre ACC Coastal Division. Pat Narduzzi has the Panthers playing solid defense—they allow just 4.6 yards per play—and they’re smart with the ball. Quarterback Nathan Peterman has thrown just three interceptions this season.
    Last week: Beat Georgia Tech 31–28
    Next week: Saturday at Syracuse

  • 22
    22Toledo Rockets
    last week: 24
    record: 6–0
    It was against 1–6 Eastern Michigan, so take it for what you will (though LSU struggled against the Eagles for three quarters). But after giving up two first-quarter field goals, Toledo rattled off 56 straight points en route to their sixth win of the season. The Rockets have two wins over Power Five teams, and their 13.2 points allowed per game ranks seventh in the country.
    Last week: Beat Eastern Michigan 63–20
    Next week: Saturday at UMass

  • 23
    23Duke Blue Devils
    last week: 25
    record: 5–1
    Duke has the defense to contend for a division title—led by All-America safety Jeremy Cash, the Blue Devils tie with Michigan for the top scoring defense in the country. It’s the offense, specifically a 101st ranked passing offense (5.9 yards per attempt), that could keep David Cutcliffe’s squad from its second ACC title game appearance in three years.
    Last week: Bye week
    Next week: Saturday at Virginia Tech

  • 24
    24Temple Owls
    last week: NR
    record: 6–0
    The third ranked team from the American this week, Temple has proven it can go on the road and win, picking up three victories outside of Lincoln Financial Field. The Owls got a bit sloppy this week and required 16 fourth-quarter points to put away winless UCF at home.
    Last week: Beat UCF 30–16
    Next week: Thursday at East Carolina

  • 25
    25Ole Miss Rebels
    last week: 12
    record: 5–2
    The Rebels still hold arguably the strongest win of the season by beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa. It makes it all the more jarring watching them get completely outplayed for the second time this season. The return of offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil for Saturday’s must-win matchup with Texas A&M should definitely help Ole Miss get back on track. The Rebels are still in decent position to win the SEC West as one of their losses is out of conference and they hold the tiebreaker over the Crimson Tide. Still, Ole Miss’s defense must be much better situationally; it ranks 100th in the FBS in third-down-conversion percentage allowed.
    Last week: Lost to Memphis 37–24
    Next week: Saturday vs. Texas A&M

Dropped out: Northwestern, UCLA, Boise State
Next five: Northwestern, North Carolina, Mississippi State, Wisconsin, UCLA

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