Louisville reenters top five of Power Rankings after Week 8

0:50 | College Football
Unranked Penn State knocks off No. 2 Ohio State in front of 'white out' crowd
Monday October 24th, 2016

Saturday was a perfect example of the wonderful volatility of college football. My colleague Gabriel Baumgaertner described the day as “sleepy” before Penn State upset Ohio State and sent 107,000 crazed fans rushing onto the Beaver Stadium field, Oklahoma and Texas Tech combined for more yards than anyone ever in a single game, Leonard Fournette once again hit Peak Fournette and Washington State-Arizona State brought us that #Pac12AfterDark goodness.

Other major storylines included West Virginia continuing its ascent into College Football Playoff contender status, Houston continuing its descent from said status, Alabama running away from Texas A&M, Auburn’s remarkable dismantling of Arkansas and tons more.

Five teams from last week’s rankings lost and three dropped out, paving the way for the debut of Penn State and the returns of Washington State and Virginia Tech.

Before we get into a jam-packed Week 9, here’s how the pecking order shakes out following Week 8:    

• STAPLES: Penn State turning the corner under James Franklin

  • 1
    1Alabama Crimson Tide
    last week: 1
    record: 8–0
    When Texas A&M took a one-point lead in the third quarter of Saturday’s game, Alabama looked vulnerable. Was the Crimson Tide on upset alert? Of course not. Twenty unanswered points, including a 30-yard fumble return by Jonathan Allen, helped Alabama put away Texas A&M in convincing fashion and remind the country that it’s the Tide at the top, and everyone else far below.

    Last week: Beat Texas A&M 33–14
    Next week: Off

  • 2
    2Clemson Tigers
    last week: 3
    record: 7–0
    Clemson comes off a bye and slides into the No. 2 spot vacated by Ohio State. The Tigers travel to Florida State on Saturday night, their biggest remaining challenge by a wide, wide margin. Taking care of business in Tallahassee—no sure bet, especially considering the Seminoles are also well-rested following their own bye—would situate the Tigers quite nicely for a playoff spot.

    Last week: Off
    Next week: Saturday at Florida State

  • 3
    3Washington Huskies
    last week: 4
    record: 7–0
    Chris Petersen said it best following Washington’s win over Oregon State on Saturday: “As we head down the stretch here it’s not always going to be like this with the teams we have coming.” The Huskies have been thoroughly convincing in living up to the incredible hype surrounding them, but their schedule (and the remarkable collapse of Stanford) has certainly paid them favors. Now, three of their five remaining games are on the road, beginning with the next two at Utah and Cal.

    Last week: Beat Oregon State 41–17
    Next week: Saturday at Utah

  • 4
    4Michigan Wolverines
    last week: 5
    record: 7–0
    As expected, Michigan cruised by Illinois and remains on pace for a season-defining clash with Ohio State in the regular-season finale. Next up is a trip to Michigan State, where the Wolverines can avenge last season’s nightmare of a loss to the Spartans.

    Last week: Beat Illinois 41–8
    Next week: Saturday at Michigan State

  • 5
    5Louisville Cardinals
    last week: 7
    record: 6–1
    Four first-half touchdowns for Lamar Jackson set a school single-season record and further bolstered his Heisman candidacy as Louisville dismantled an NC State team that took Clemson to overtime on the road the week prior. Especially considering Houston’s fall from grace, Louisville’s remaining schedule is very welcoming. However, the Cardinals will still need help to get back into the race for a playoff spot.

    Last week: Beat NC State 54–13
    Next week: Saturday at Virginia

    College Football
    Penn State shakes up playoff race with stunning upset of Ohio State

  • 6
    6Ohio St. Buckeyes
    last week: 2
    record: 6–1
    A blocked field goal and punt made the difference in Ohio State’s stunning loss at Penn State, as the Buckeyes otherwise outgained the Nittany Lions 413–276 and held them to just two third-down conversions all night. Credit Penn State for executing and hounding J.T. Barrett all night, but how far can you drop Ohio State when it came two plays short of likely pulling out yet another difficult Big Ten road game? The common refrain coming out of the weekend is that the Buckeyes can still reach the playoff by winning out, but doing so entail would knocking off unbeaten Nebraska in two weeks and Michigan at the end of November.

    Last week: Lost to Penn State 24–21
    Next week: Saturday vs. Northwestern

  • 7
    7Nebraska Cornhuskers
    last week: 8
    record: 7–0
    Nebraska allowed Purdue to take a lead into halftime before putting up 17 unanswered points, setting the stage for a colossal next two weeks with trips to Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Cornhuskers have been knocked for their schedule all season long, and rightfully so as the Oregon win continues to lose shine by the week. Beginning with Saturday’s trip to Madison, we’re about to find out just how good the Huskers are.

    Last week: Beat Purdue 27–14
    Next week: Saturday at Wisconsin

  • 8
    8West Virginia Mountaineers
    last week: 12
    record: 6–0
    The Mountaineers continued to prove they’re for real by routing TCU in their biggest test of the season. West Virginia held the Horned Frogs to 2-of-11 on third down and forced three turnovers; on offense Skyler Howard threw four touchdown passes. WVU remained behind Baylor in both polls despite boasting a considerably more impressive résumé than its 6–0 counterpart, so it will be fascinating to see where the two stand when they meet in the regular-season finale Dec. 3 (both will face Oklahoma first).

    Last week: Beat TCU 34–10
    Next week: Saturday at Oklahoma State

  • 9
    9Texas A&M Aggies
    last week: 6
    record: 6–1
    How far can you drop a team for losing to the 2016 powerhouse edition of Alabama in Tuscaloosa? The Aggies had their worst offensive outing of the season by far and still managed to seize a lead in the third quarter, however brief it held. They also held the Tide to their lowest scoring output of the season, for whatever it’s worth. Texas A&M will have to win out to maintain any hopes of a New Year’s Six bowl berth, but that’s manageable considering its two toughest remaining games are Ole Miss and LSU, both at home.

    Last week: Lost to Alabama 33–14
    Next week: Saturday vs. New Mexico State

    College Football
    No. 1 Alabama reveals it doesn't need to be perfect to stomp No. 6 Texas A&M

  • 10
    10Wisconsin Badgers
    last week: 10
    record: 5–2
    Wisconsin’s defense lived up to its billing in an intensely physical road win over Iowa, likely knocking one contender out of the picture in the Big Ten West. The Badgers face yet another strong opponent as part of their extraordinarily difficult early-season schedule on Saturday against Nebraska. If they pick up another major win, it’s easy to see Wisconsin entering the regular season-ending Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe vs. Minnesota still a two-loss team.

    Last week: Beat Iowa 17–9
    Next week: Saturday vs. Nebraska

  • 11
    11Baylor Bears
    last week: 9
    record: 6–0
    Baylor comes off its second bye of the season for a road matchup against freefalling Texas squad. The Bears’ soft schedule will finally kick up a notch the following week, with a meeting with TCU preceding a trip to Oklahoma. That season-ending venture to West Virginia looms as well.
    Last week: Off
    Next week: Saturday at Texas

  • 12
    12Florida St. Seminoles
    last week: 13
    record: 5–2
    Winners of two straight and with a chance to continue getting healthy during a bye week, the Seminoles enter Saturday night’s matchup with Clemson riding considerable momentum. Quarterback Deondre Francois will have to keep Florida State’s offense moving to take the pressure off star running back Dalvin Cook, though Clemson hasn’t won in Tallahassee since 2006.

    Last week: Off
    Next week: Saturday vs. Clemson

  • 13
    13Boise St. Broncos
    last week: 14
    record: 7–0
    With Houston fading, Boise State seems well situated to represent the Group of Five in a New Year’s Six Bowl. A Saturday night game at 5–2 Wyoming could be tricky, but the Broncos are soaring after passing for 442 yards against BYU.

    Last week: Beat BYU 28–27
    Next week: Saturday at Wyoming

    College Football
    Auburn offense finds identity in blowout win over Arkansas

  • 14
    14Auburn Tigers
    last week: 22
    record: 5–2
    Auburn’s 56–3 beatdown of Arkansas was one of the most stunning outcomes of the season. Freshman Eli Stove dashed 78 yards for a touchdown on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage, part of a dominant effort on the ground in which the Tigers set an SEC regular-season record with 543 rushing yards. Putting things bluntly after the game, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said, “We played a complete game.” Saturday’s trip to Ole Miss should be the Tigers’ most difficult game until the Nov. 26 trip to Alabama. At the rate they’re improving, who knows how good the Tigers will be by then?

    Last week: Beat Arkansas 56–3
    Next week: Saturday at Ole Miss

  • 15
    15Oklahoma Sooners
    last week: 15
    record: 5–2
    Whew. Oklahoma and Texas Tech set a new NCAA record for combined yards with 1,708 (an even 854 apiece) in the Sooners’ 66–59 win in Lubbock on Saturday. Not even a 31-carry, 263-yard effort from running back Joe Mixon could take much of the offensive workload off of quarterback Baker Mayfield, who completed 27 of 36 passes for 545 yards and seven touchdowns. His arm surely feels better than Texas Tech counterpart Patrick Mahomes’s; He attempted 88 passes in a losing effort. The Sooners will get some relief in facing Kansas and Iowa State next before a pair of Big 12-defining matchups against Baylor and West Virginia.

    Last week: Beat Texas Tech 66–59
    Next week: Saturday vs. Kansas

    College Football
    Week 8 takeaways: Eight biggest things we learned Saturday

  • 16
    16Florida Gators
    last week: 16
    record: 5–1
    Florida comes off its bye in decent shape as the only one-loss team in the SEC East. The offense is well rested and should improve, as Luke Del Rio continues to work his way back from the knee injury that kept him out a month. The sophomore quarterback threw three interceptions in his first game back against Missouri two weeks ago, and things certainly won’t be any easier against rival Georgia.

    Last week: Off
    Next week: Saturday vs. Georgia

  • 17
    17Utah Utes
    last week: 18
    record: 7–1
    Joe Williams’ return from a brief retirement continues to power Utah’s offense, as the senior rushed for a school-record 332 yards with four touchdowns as Utah held off UCLA on Saturday in Los Angeles. Defensively, the Utes need answers after seeing Bruins backup quarterback Mike Fafaul go 40-of-70 for 464 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. Kyle Whittingham’s squad will need to find them quickly as Washington comes to town next.

    Last week: Beat UCLA 52–45
    Next week: Saturday vs. Washington

  • 18
    18Tennessee Volunteers
    last week: 19
    record: 5–2
    The Vols surely enjoyed their bye week following consecutive losses to Texas A&M and Alabama. One of the more banged-up teams in college football before the week off, Tennessee begins what should be a manageable slate the rest of the season on Saturday at South Carolina. With those two conference losses, the Vols will need help to climb to the top of the SEC East.

    Last week: Off
    Next week: Saturday at South Carolina

  • 19
    19LSU Tigers
    last week: 25
    record: 5–2
    LSU’s topsy-turvy season continued to blossom on Saturday against Ole Miss, as Leonard Fournette returned to form by setting the Tigers’ single-game rushing record on his first eight carries. He finished with 284 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries, putting the Ed Orgeron-led Tigers in the “SEC teams besides Alabama nobody wants to play” category alongside Auburn. Fittingly, LSU hosts Alabama after this week’s bye.

  • 20
    20Western Michigan Broncos
    last week: 20
    record: 8–0
    Western Michigan continues to push Boise State for that Group of Five New Year’s Six bowl berth, winning its first eight games for the first time since 1941. P.J. Fleck’s Broncos played their first-ever home game as a nationally ranked team and survived a solid effort from Eastern Michigan, riding a 398-yard, three-touchdown passing effort from Zach Terrell. WMU’s next two games both come on the road, in primetime, on national television. Buckle up, Broncos.

    Last week: Beat Eastern Michigan 45–31
    Next week: Off

  • 21
    21Colorado Buffaloes
    last week: 24
    record: 6–2
    Colorado has its first taste of bowl eligibility under Mike MacIntyre, making an ugly 10–5 win over Stanford a bit easier to digest. The Buffaloes missed three field goals and allowed six sacks, but forced Stanford into four turnovers. The Pac-12 remains eventful as ever, but Colorado appears on track to face Utah in the regular-season finale with the Pac-12 South title on the line.

    Last week: Beat Stanford 10–5
    Next week: Off

  • 22
    22North Carolina Tar Heels
    last week: 23
    record: 6–2
    North Carolina needed a win vs. Virginia to keep pace in the ACC Coastal Division and Mitch Trubisky delivered, efficiently passing for 310 yards and three touchdowns. The loss to Virginia Tech earlier this month still stings, but UNC has three more conference games to see how things shake out.

    Last week: Beat Virginia 35–14
    Next week: Off

  • 23
    23Washington St. Cougars
    last week: NR
    record: 5–2
    After a slow start, Washington State rode Luke Falk and a 100-yard kickoff return by Robert Taylor to a win over Arizona State. The post-game exchange of unpleasantries between Mike Leach and Todd Graham cemented the game’s #Pac12AfterDark worthiness, capping a highly eventful day of football. The Cougars have three manageable matchups before ending Pac-12 play against Colorado and Washington.

    Last week: Beat Arizona State 37–32
    Next week: Saturday at Oregon State

  • 24
    24Penn St. Nittany Lions
    last week: NR
    record: 5–2
    Just like that, Penn State is a top-25 team for the first time since 2011. James Franklin’s Nittany Lions are 5-2 with a riveting win over Ohio State after going 14–12 over the first pair of seasons under his watch. PSU has a soft schedule to end the season (thanks largely to the continued implosions of Iowa and Michigan State), but surely has improvements to make in order to capitalize. Trace McSorley went just 8-of-23 with the Nittany Lions’ rushing attack averaging 3.3 yards per carry and the offense going just 2-of-13 on third downs. If not for the constant defensive pressure on J.T. Barrett and the blocked punt and field goal, Penn State probably wouldn’t have pulled the upset.

    Last week: Beat Ohio State 24–21
    Next week: Saturday at Purdue

  • 25
    25Virginia Tech Hokies
    last week: NR
    record: 5–2
    Virginia Tech rebounded from its stunning loss to Syracuse on a short turnaround, riding a balanced offensive attack and aggressive defensive front (eight sacks minus Ken Ekanem and Nigel Williams) to a win over Miami. Next up is another Thursday-night showcase, this time in a critical matchup at Pitt. The Panthers have played tough football all season long and are coming off a bye.

    Last week: Beat Miami 37–16
    Next week: Thursday at Pitt

Dropped out: Houston, Arkansas, Ole Miss
Next five: Navy, Houston, Oklahoma State, San Diego State, USC

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