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  • It was a banner week for Clemson and Mississippi State—but not so much for the likes of LSU, Stanford and UCLA as they tumbled out of our top 25.
By Scooby Axson
September 17, 2017

It was hard to figure out the best 25 teams in the nation after Week 3, as some (UCLA, Stanford, LSU, Tennessee), did everything they could to play themselves out of the national title picture in September while others (most of the top 10) took care of business while preparing for conference play to get going.

Expect minimal movement after Week 4 as well, as there are only two games between teams that both appear in this week’s Power Rankings. The Big 12 picture could shift as TCU goes on the road to take on Oklahoma State, and the SEC could learn a little more about Alabama’s best competition when Georgia and surprising Mississippi State meet in Athens.

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Now on to this week’s Top 25:

1. Alabama (3–0)

Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat Colorado State, 43–21
Next week: at Vanderbilt

At least for one week, Nick Saban doesn’t have to answer questions about his quarterback throwing the ball down the field. Jalen Hurts threw for a season-high 248 yards and two touchdowns and added 103 rushing yards and a score as Alabama won its 67th straight game over an unranked opponent.

2. Oklahoma (3–0)

Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat Tulane, 56–14
Next week: at Baylor

Baker Mayfield racked up another 331 yards and four touchdowns as the Sooners won their 13th straight game, which is the nation’s longest winning streak. Oklahoma starts conference play next week and may have found its go-to receivers in CeeDee Lamb (four catches, 131 yards) and Marquise Brown (six receptions, 155 yards, one TD).

3. Clemson (3–0, 1–0 ACC)

Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Louisville, 47–21
Next week: vs. Boston College

If Kelly Bryant’s name wasn’t mentioned in the early-season Heisman discussion, maybe now is the time to throw it in. Bryant shredded the Louisville defense for 320 yards and the Tigers gave defending Heisman winner Lamar Jackson fits. Clemson is building a strong case for the top spot on these rankings, and the rest of the schedule only presents a few potential speed bumps to a third straight conference title.

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4. Oklahoma State (3–0)

Previous ranking: 5
Last week: Beat Pittsburgh, 59–21
Next week: vs. TCU

In what amounted to a virtual 7-on-7 practice against Pittsburgh, Oklahoma State used an outstanding performance by Mason Rudolph (20 for 28, 423 yards, five TDs) to cruise to an easy victory. Four Cowboys receivers had over 100 yards receiving. If the rest of the country doesn’t know about this offense by now, they have certainly been put on notice.

5. USC (3–0, 1–0 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat Texas, 27–24 (2OT)
Next week: at California

USC, which won its 12th straight game, had all sorts of fits with a scrappy Texas defense that came to play. Neither team did much running the ball, and a week after gaining 307 yards against Stanford, USC’s ground game came to a screeching halt, gaining only 71 yards on the Longhorns. Sam Darnold threw for 396 yards and three touchdowns and was aided by four Texas turnovers.

6. Penn State (3–0)

Previous ranking: 4
Last week: Beat Georgia State, 56–0
Next week: at Iowa

Penn State made quick work of Georgia State, rolling up over 500 yards of offense in just over 21 minutes of possession. Saquon Barkley only had 42 rushing yards, but he recorded 142 has a receiver, including an 85-yard catch-and-run TD in the first quarter that essentially put the game away. Trace McSorley threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns, and the defense forced five Georgia State turnovers.

7. Washington (3–0)

Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Fresno State, 48–16
Next week: at Colorado

Teams continue to punt to Dante Pettis for some reason. The Huskies’ top receiver returned a punt for a touchdown in his third straight game, trying the NCAA career record for punt-return touchdowns and helping Washington rout Fresno State. Pettis also had five catches for 92 yards, hauling in three of Jake Browning’s four touchdown passes. Worth watching as the schedule gets tougher: The Huskies gained only 92 yards on the ground.

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8. Florida State (0–1)

Previous ranking: 8
This week: Game vs. Miami postponed
Next week: vs. NC State

After almost three weeks of waiting to play a football game because of Hurricane Irma, the Seminoles get back at it this week against the Wolfpack, whom they have beaten four straight times.

9. Ohio State (2­–1, 1–0 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Beat Army, 38–7
Next week: vs. UNLV

With some margin for error against a service academy, Ohio State made a concerted effort to throw the ball down the field with some efficiency after the previous week’s debacle against Oklahoma, and it worked as J.T. Barrett completed 25 passes and threw two touchdowns. Freshman J.K. Dobbins ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns, which was playing Army for the first time in its history.

10. Michigan (3–0)

Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat Air Force, 29–13
Next week: vs. Purdue

For those waiting for the big Michigan offensive explosion, go ahead and keep waiting. As long as the defense plays the way it does, the offense can continue to do the bare minimum and come away with victories. The Wolverines’ red-zone efficiency is dreadful, but Quinn Nordin kicked five field goals to at least salvage points in scoring position.

11. Georgia (3–0)

Previous ranking: 12
This week: Beat Samford, 42–14
Next week: vs. Mississippi State

Georgia wide receiver Terry Godwin caught two touchdown passes to go along with Nick Chubb running for 131 yards as the Bulldogs completed their early non-conference schedule with a cakewalk over Samford. With true freshman Jake Fromm making his second start at QB, Georgia had no interest in throwing the ball, only taking to the air 15 times and running the ball 54 times.

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12. Wisconsin (3–0)

Previous ranking: 13
This week: Beat BYU, 40–6
Next week: Off; next game Sept. 30 vs. Northwestern

Alex Hornibook completed 18 of his 19 pass attempts for 256 yards with four touchdowns to lead the Badgers—who scored on each of their first half possessions—to an easy victory over a struggling BYU squad. Freshman Jonathan Taylor continues to be a spark on the ground, putting up 128 yards on the Cougars.

13. Virginia Tech (3–0)

Previous ranking: 16
This week: Beat East Carolina, 64–17
Next week: vs. Old Dominion

Virginia Tech redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson threw for 372 yards and five touchdowns as the Hokies continued to roll through their non-conference schedule. The Hokies have won their first three games of the season for the first time in six seasons, locking that milestone up by scoring the last 57 points against East Carolina. Cam Phillips caught a school-record 14 passes, including three of Jackson’s touchdown passes.

14. Mississippi State (4–0, 1–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat LSU, 37–7
Next week: at Georgia

Not sure what was more impressive—the victory over LSU or the way Mississippi State dominated every aspect of the game. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald accounted for four touchdowns (two rushing, two throwing), but this victory was as much about the Tigers’ implosion as it was about the Bulldogs’ rise. LSU was penalized nine times, two players were ejected for targeting and the offense, especially the passing game, was pedestrian—and that’s being kind—against Mississippi State defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s unit.

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15. TCU (3–0)

Previous ranking: 24
This week: Beat SMU, 56–36
Next game: at Oklahoma State

Kenny Hill threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns, and while the Horned Frogs’ defense gave up 463 yards, it did hold SMU star receiver Courtland Sutton to just one catch. Next week, TCU finds out if it belongs among the Big 12’s elite with a trip to Stillwater.

16. Miami (1–0)

Previous ranking: 18
This week: Game at Florida State postponed
Next week: vs. Toledo

The Hurricanes have moved their operations to Orlando and practiced this week for the first time in two weeks. Their first opponent back, Toledo, survived a 54–51 shootout against Tulsa and could be one of the Group of Five’s strongest teams.

17. Washington State (3–0, 1–0 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 20
This week: Beat Oregon State, 52–23
Next week: vs. Nevada

The Washington State of old finally showed up as Luke Falk threw for 394 yards and six touchdowns to tie a school record and send Oregon State to its 14th straight road loss. The Cougars went back to their bread and butter, throwing it 58 times and running it 16.

18. Florida (1–1, 1–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 25
This week: Beat Tennessee, 26–20
Next game: at Kentucky

While its not recommended to blow 10-point fourth-quarter leads, Florida found just enough offense to get it done by way of the Hail Mary. That 63-yard heave to Tyrie Cleveland was the highlight of Feleipe Franks’s 212 yards on 28 attempts, a good enough performance to propel the Gators to their 12th victory over the Volunteers in their last 13 matchups.

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19. Utah (3–0)

Previous ranking: 23
This week: Beat San Jose State, 54–16
Next game: at Arizona

Pac-12 defenses now have a new quarterback-wide receiver combo to worry about. Tyler Huntley threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns against the Spartans, with Oregon transfer Darren Carrington hauling in nine passes for 153 yards and three scores. The defense also came to play, getting five sacks, forcing five turnovers and limiting San Jose State to 30 yards rushing.

20. Auburn (2–1)

Previous ranking: 19
This week: Beat Mercer 24–14
Next week: at Missouri

You would think Auburn would have no trouble with FCS Mercer, especially when Jarrett Stidham threw for 364 yards. But Stidham had zero touchdowns on 32 completed passes and the Tigers were in a very giving mood on Saturday, turning the ball over five times on four lost fumbles and an interception. There should be some concern with the stagnant running game, which averaged only 3.4 yards a carry.

21. South Florida (3–0)

Previous ranking: 22
Last week: Beat Illinois, 47–23
Next week: vs. Temple

Friday night’s win over Illinois was a sloppy affair, which should have USF concerned moving forward. The Bulls had some serious breakdowns on special teams and committed 16 penalties, but they also rolled up 680 yards of offense and had 38 first downs. South Florida will be favored in their rest of its games, so it needs to continue to pile up stats and do a better job of passing the eye test if it wants to be the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six representative.

22. Kansas State (2–1)

Previous ranking: 15
This week: Lost to Vanderbilt, 14–7
Next week: Off; next game Sept. 30 vs. Baylor

Commodores quarterback Kyle Shurmur​’s two-yard run with less than nine minutes left proved to be the winning score, as Vanderbilt broke through with an upset thanks to a stellar defensive effort against Jesse Ertz and the Wildcats’ unconventional offense. Kansas State had two scores wiped out (one by replay, one by penalty) and could never get the offense going in the right direction. The Wildcats did themselves no favors by throwing for only 76 yards.

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23. Louisville (2–1, 1–1 ACC)

Previous ranking: 14
This week: Lost to Clemson, 47–21
Next week: vs. Kent State

Lamar Jackson just didn’t have enough against an aggressive Clemson defense, though he threw for over 300 yards with help from some productive drives after the Cardinals were already down by three touchdowns. While Jackson’s campaign to be a back-to-back Heisman winner took a hit, he has plenty of opportunities to pad his stats, starting next week against the Golden Flashes, which are giving up 493 yards a game.

24. San Diego State (3–0)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat Stanford, 20–17
Next week: at Air Force

The lights went out in the fourth quarter in San Diego, and so did Stanford’s chances at making the College Football Playoff. The Aztecs got 175 yards from Rashaad Penny, the nation’s leading rusher through three weeks, and overcame another outstanding performance from Stanford back Bryce Love, who rumbled for 184 yards. The Aztecs have made it their business to beat teams from the Pac-12, earning their third straight win over members of the West Coast’s premier conference.

25. West Virginia (2–1)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat Delaware State, 59–16
Next game: at Kansas

Because West Virginia has had its way with East Carolina and Delaware State (the latter of whom hasn’t won a game in over a year) in the last two weeks, there is no way to tell how good this team can be. Expect the same next week against Big 12 bottom-feeder Kansas before the Mountaineers crank up conference play against TCU.

Fell out: LSU, UCLA, Stanford. Maybe next week: Memphis, Duke, Oregon, Colorado, Vanderbilt.

By conference: SEC (5), Big 12 (5), ACC (5), Pac-12 (4), Big Ten (4), AAC (1), MWC (1).

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