Week 2 Power Rankings: What Can We Learn About the Top 25 From One Game?

2:16 | College Football
College Football Playoff: Alabama Leads Andy Staples' Top Four
Monday September 4th, 2017

What can be learned after the Week 1 slate of games? Not much, if history is any guide. With most teams handing over big checks to play cupcakes, the first week of the season is often used to work on things before the schedule gets tougher. For the teams that do pay quality competition, it’s dangerous to draw firm conclusions.

Sure, Alabama asserted its dominance, the rest of the Top 10 teams handled their business and some programs inside and outside the Power 5 (UCLA, UNLV, East Carolina) could be in for long, miserable seasons. But one game is still long enough to fall out of the good graces of the Power Rankings.

Let’s focus in on three teams from the Lone Star State, namely Texas, Baylor and Texas A&M, for whom defense was optional this weekend. Texas allowed 51 points to Maryland in its home opener, and although Tom Herman reminded us in his postgame press conference that he didn’t have “fairy dust” to sprinkle on a team that went 5–7 last year, that had already been made clear. The Longhorns lost by 10 points and it could have been worse, had they not scored three non-offensive touchdowns.

Baylor was expected to go through some growing pains this year, breaking in a new coach and a new system while trying to move forward from the sexual assault scandal that has plagued the program for years. But giving up 585 yards to Liberty is not only embarrassing, but downright unacceptable. The Bears better get things fixed in a hurry before conference play: Their first three Big 12 opponents this season are Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.

As for Texas A&M ... there is not much else to be said about blowing a 34-point second half lead, which is the second biggest comeback in college football history.

College Football
Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Teams at the Center of Week 1's Biggest Plot Twists

Now on to this week’s Top 25:

1. Alabama (1–0)

Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat Florida State, 24–7
Next week: vs. Fresno State

Alabama’s reportedly improved passing game really didn’t materialize like it was supposed to against Florida State’s talented secondary, but who cares when you have a defense like that? The Crimson Tide proved once again they are the class of college football, and it’s not really that close. Sharp special teams, a smothering defense and a methodical bludgeoning of opponents with running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough all have Alabama well on its way to a fourth straight playoff trip.

2. Ohio State (1­–0, 1–0 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat Indiana, 49–21
Next week: vs. Oklahoma

The Buckeyes trailed Indiana at halftime after another lackluster offensive start. The much-heralded defense had some issues too, letting Indiana’s taller receivers run up and down the field, although the front seven did stop up the Hoosiers’ ground game, allowing only 17 yards on 27 carries. Eventually Urban Meyer’s crew righted the ship, scoring 28 unanswered points on the strength of 181 rushing yards from freshman J.K. Dobbins and three J.T. Barrett touchdown passes.

3. Penn State (1–0)

Previous ranking: 5
Last week: Beat Akron, 52–0
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh

The defending Big Ten champs did whatever they wanted in an easy thumping of Akron. Heisman candidate Saquon Barkley finished with 172 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards, while Trace McSorley passed for 280. Akron’s Nick Gasser got a workout, punting 11 times.

College Football
The Heisman Five: Saquon Barkley Tops 2017's Candidates After Week 1 Action

4. Oklahoma State (1–0)

Previous ranking: 6
Last week: Beat Tulsa, 59­–24
Next week: at South Alabama

Mason Rudolph (20-of-24, 303 yards, three touchdowns, plus a rushing TD) and James Washington (six catches, 145 yards, two TDs) picked up where they left off last year torching defenses, as the Cowboys rolled up 640 yards of offense against their in-state counterparts. A commitment to running the football paid off to the tune of nine yards a carry. That’s the dimension that really makes this offense scary if it keeps up.

5. USC (1–0)

Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat Western Michigan, 49–31
Next week: vs. Stanford

The Trojans scored 49 points and not one of them came from the arm of Sam Darnold, who threw for at least two touchdowns in each of his previous nine games. While USC needed 28 fourth-quarter points to get by Western Michigan, it has at least found a go-to receiver in Deontay Burnett. Running backs Ronald Jones and Stephen Carr combined for five touchdowns on the ground—no need to choose a backfield favorite at that rate.

College Football
Week 1's Top 10: Alabama Starts Off Playing Like Champs, not Runners-Up

6. Oklahoma (1–0)

Previous ranking: 8
This week: Beat UTEP, 56–7
Next game: at Ohio State

The FBS single-season record holder in passing efficiency was back at it again, as Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield went 19-of-20 for 329 yards and three passing touchdowns on an afternoon when eight different Sooners found the end zone. Of course, the competition will be much stiffer next week with a trip Columbus looming. The Buckeyes will need to look out for tight end Mark Andrews, who put up every one of his seven catches and 134 yards in the first half.

7. Washington (1–0)

Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Rutgers, 30–14
Next week: vs. Montana

The Huskies didn’t look like the team whose Pac-12 title took the nation by storm in 2016, struggling against a spunky Rutgers team that was shut out four times last season. Washington’s offense ran for only 84 yards and held the ball for just under 22 minutes. Washington gets two more virtual scrimmages before opening Pac-12 play against Colorado on Sept. 23.

8. Florida State (0–1)

Previous ranking: 4
Last week: Lost to Alabama, 24–7
Next week: vs. Louisiana-Monroe

Florida State lost more than one game against Alabama—any chance of a playoff appearance likely went out the window with the season-ending knee injury to quarterback Deondre Francois. The Seminoles have plenty of time to reset with freshman James Blackman under center, but first they have to get their running game going and clean up some obvious flaws with their special teams unit.

9. Clemson (1–0)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Beat Kent State, 56–3
Next week: vs. Auburn

An impressive debut for new starting quarterback Kelly Bryant, even if it came against MAC bottom-feeder Kent State: 16-of-22 for 236 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The defense was helped out tremendously by the Golden Flashes, who threw the ball only five times and picked up a grand total of five yards. Their other 44 plays on the ground didn’t do much either, gaining only 2.7 yards per attempt.

10. Michigan (1–0)

Previous ranking: 13
This week: Beat Florida, 33­­–17
Next game: vs. Cincinnati

Remember when Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin committed to the Wolverines after Jim Harbaugh came by for a sleepover? That slumber party paid big dividends as he nailed four field goals (including two from 50-plus) in Week 1. But the defense that lost 10 starters from last year was the real story, allowing just two third down conversions in 13 tries and holding the depleted Gators to 11 yards rushing.

College Football
Michigan Exposed That Florida's Outmatched Offense Needs a QB More Than Ever

11. LSU (1–0)

Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat BYU, 27–0
Next game: vs. Chattanooga

If it seemed like LSU had the ball the entire game against BYU, it’s because it virtually did. That happens when you run the ball nearly 60 times, and only throw when it is absolutely necessary. The Cougars had the ball for just 18:06 of game time, ran 38 plays and didn’t cross midfield the entire night. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ offense used its athletic advantages to gash BYU’s defense for 296 rushing yards.

12. Auburn (1–0)

Previous ranking: 11
This week: Beat Georgia Southern, 41–7
Next game: at Clemson

Jarrett Stidham’s debut with Auburn didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but he did move the offense in a positive way, completing 14 of 24 passes for 185 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for a score and was sacked three times. The defense came to play against the triple option of Georgia Southern, recording five sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

Next week will be the true test of where Stidham is as Auburn hits the road to face the defending national champions.

13. Wisconsin (1–0)

Previous ranking: 12
This week: Beat Utah State, 59–10
Next game: vs. Florida Atlantic

The Badgers got off to an unexpectedly slow start against Utah State, but when they scored the game’s last 59 points en route to an easy victory. It was also a good night for the new-look running game, which gained 245 yards on 45 carries, helping the offense keep the ball for 33 minutes. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was steady and efficient for Wisconsin, throwing for 244 yards and three touchdowns.

14. Georgia (1–0)

Previous ranking: 14

This week: Beat Appalachian State, 31–10

Next game: at Notre Dame

A healthy dose of running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel provided the Bulldogs all the offense they needed against Appalachian State. Chubb had 96 rushing yards and two touchdowns, with Michel adding 87 yards and another score. Georgia enters a key measuring-stick game against Notre Dame without sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason, who injured his knee in the first half. Backup Jake Fromm proved to be a capable replacement, leading three touchdown drives.

15. Stanford (1–0)

Previous ranking: 17
This week: Off
Next game: at USC

After a demolition of Rice in Australia, Stanford got an extra week to prepare for the early season game of year in the Pac-12. This game could go a long way to establishing an early favorite in the conference. Stanford has won six of the last eight meetings between the schools, including three straight.

16. Louisville (1–0)

Previous ranking: 15
This week: Beat Purdue, 35–28
Next game: at North Carolina

Lamar Jackson’s one-man show got off to another stellar start, as the 2016 Heisman winner threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 107 yards. That was the good part for the Cardinals. Now the bad: Louisville turned the ball over three times, including losing two fumbles near the goal line and was penalized 16 times. To compete in the ACC, the Cardinals might want to find another runner besides Jackson, who carried it 22 times.

College Football
Despite Texas A&M's Collapse to UCLA, It's Too Soon to Decide Kevin Sumlin's Fate

17. Kansas State (1–0)

Previous ranking: 16
This week: Beat Central Arkansas, 55–19
Next game: vs. Charlotte

Amid a stress-free season opener, the Wildcats found a cause for concern the rest of the season: the ability to stop the run. Central Arkansas gave Kansas State fits with its option attack, gaining 223 yards and consistently breaking off big gains. For its part, Kansas State gained 186 yards on the ground between seven different ballcarriers. Senior QB Jesse Ertz needed just 16 passes to throw for a career-high 333 yards and four touchdowns, setting the school’s single-game efficiency record.

18. Miami (1–0)

Previous ranking: 18
This week: BeatBethune-Cookman,41–13
Next week: at Arkansas State

Not much can be gained by judging the Hurricanes until they play stiffer competition. For now, they can be excited about the debut of quarterback Malik Rosier, who completed passes to nine different receivers, didn’t turn the ball over and wasn’t sacked. Mark Walton and Travis Homer each went over 100 yards rushing to take control of a sloppy game filled with penalties on both sides.

19. Virginia Tech (1–0)

Previous ranking: 25
This week: Beat West Virginia, 31–24
Next week: vs. Delaware

The Hokies gave up 592 yards and 29 first downs to West Virginia and still won. Redshirt freshman Josh Jackson was the story for Virginia Tech, throwing for 235 yards and running for 101 more as he became the first freshman QB to start Week 1 for the Hokies since Michael Vick.

20. UCLA (1–0)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat Texas A&M, 45–44
Next week: vs. Hawaii

We have seen this script before: Texas A&M gets off to a hot start, only to falter down the stretch amid talks about their head coach being on the hot seat. We’ve just never seen that script play out over the course of one game, which is what happened when the Aggies blew a 34-point lead to UCLA, done in by a fake spike of all things. The hot seat is now a five-alarm fire for coach Kevin Sumlin, all thanks to Josh Rosen’s career night.

College Football
Josh Rosen's Career-Defining Comeback Reminds Us All How Good He Can Be

21. Washington State (1–0)

Previous ranking: 23
This week: Beat Portland State, 31–0
Next game: vs. Boise State

Mike Leach finally won a season opener at Washington State after losing his first five, and he got some revenge on a member of the Big Sky Conference—two of those Week 1 losses came to Eastern Washington and Portland State. Luke Falk threw three touchdowns passes, setting the school career record, and completed his first 20 passes. Even the Cougars’ running backs got in on the action, rushing for 150 yards.

22. South Florida (2–0)

Previous ranking: 19
Last week: Beat Stony Brook, 31–17
This week: at Connecticut

The Bulls have been less than impressive in their two victories, and even though it’s early in the season, perhaps the Group of Five’s best chance for a playoff might lie somewhere other than Tampa. Charlie Strong’s crew had better start cranking out the blowouts and soon, as they only play one Power 5 school the entire season (Illinois). Maybe a New Year’s Six bowl is the ceiling.

23. Utah (1–0)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat North Dakota, 37–16
Next week: at BYU

A new look Utah offense, which focuses on passing the ball, ran 79 plays against North Dakota, up from an average of 74 plays per game a year ago. New starting quarterback Tyler Huntley threw for 227 yards, rushed for 70 more, and scored three times. Oregon transfer Darren Carrington provided the big play receiving threat, finishing with 10 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. Next week for the Utes is the Holy War against BYU—they have won six straight in the series.

24. Boise State (1–0)

Previous ranking: 22
This week: Beat Troy, 24–13
Next game: at Washington State

After creating just nine turnovers last season, Boise State’s defense forced three in Week 1. Troy is no pushover, but the Broncos’ offense will need to get things going with a pair of Power 5 opponents dead ahead.

25. Florida (0–1)

Previous ranking: 20
This week: Lost to Michigan, 33–17
Next game: vs. Northern Colorado

Don’t let the 16-point margin of defeat fool you. Even though that score looks respectable in retrospect, the Gators were absolutely dominated by the Wolverines. The defense did its job in returning two interceptions for touchdowns, but the problem was on the other side of the ball, as has so often been the case in Gainesville of late. Putting up 192 total yards, nine first downs, and six sacks will get you beat by double-digits more than just once, even in the SEC East.

Fell out: Texas, West Virginia. Maybe next week: Tennessee, Maryland, TCU.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.