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  • With only two teams among the top 14 of this week's Power Rankings, the SEC is on shaky ground behind powerhouse Alabama and surging Georgia.
By Scooby Axson
October 02, 2017

Outside of Alabama and Georgia, is there much to talk about when it comes to the Southeastern Conference? True to the league’s recent reputation, it has three teams that rank in the top 10 in scoring defense through five weeks, but its claim to being the best conference in college football is long gone.

The only other undefeated teams in conference play besides Alabama and Georgia are Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M, and those three have done little to suggest they have a chance to play for the title in Atlanta on Dec. 2.

Florida continues to slide by without anything that resembles an offense that could compete for championship. The reins are now in the hands of quarterback Feleipe Franks, who started the first three games of the season before being benched in favor of Luke Del Rio, then re-entered Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt after Del Rio suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

Auburn looks to have the best chance to dethrone Alabama in the wake of an impressive win against a suddenly slumping Mississippi State team, but the Tigers won’t play another home game until a huge matchup against Georgia on Nov. 11.

Texas A&M has rebounded nicely from its collapse in the season opener against UCLA, escaping with wins against Arkansas and South Carolina to cool the seat of coach Kevin Sumlin. The Aggies will be tested this weekend when Alabama comes to town.

Now on to this week’s Top 25:

1. Alabama (5–0, 2–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat Ole Miss, 66–3
Next week: at Texas A&M

There isn’t much left to say about Alabama, who has turned every team on its schedule into a personal punching bag. The Rebels, the most recent SEC team to have beaten Alabama (back in 2015), found themselves down 35–3 at halftime on Saturday. Quarterback Jalen Hurts had 297 yards as part of a 613-yard effort by the Tide offense.

2. Clemson (5–0, 3–0 ACC)

Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat Virginia Tech, 31–1
Next week: vs. Wake Forest

Clemson’s third victory over a top-15 team in September has the Tigers set up to roll through the remainder of their ACC schedule. Usually careful with the ball, the Hokies turned it over three times, mistakes that Clemson has been forcing its opponents to make all season. Clemson ranks in the top 20 in five major defensive categories.

3. Oklahoma (4–0, 1–0 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 2
This week: Off
Next week: vs. Iowa State

Oklahoma’s use of time during its bye week should have focused on two things: shoring up its secondary and building off its renewed interest in running the football. Both improvements will bode well as the Sooners move further into Big 12 play.

4. Penn State (5–0, 2–0 Big 10)

Previous ranking: 4
Last week: Beat Indiana, 45–14
Next week: at Northwestern

Although Penn State earned an easy victory over Indiana, it’s clear the Nittany Lions won’t be allowed to ride their superstar to a repeat Big Ten East title. Saquon Barkley returned the opening kickoff for a score and also threw a touchdown pass, but he didn’t have any running room all day, finishing with 56 yards on 20 carries. DaeSean Hamilton caught three touchdown passes from Trace McSorley, who threw for 315 yards but was sacked five times.

5. Washington (5–0, 2–0 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 6
This week: Beat Oregon State, 42–7
Next week: vs. California

The Huskies broke open a close game against struggling Oregon State in the third quarter by scoring three touchdowns and limiting the Beavers’ already undermanned offense to eight first downs and 184 total yards. Jake Browning had 293 yards and three touchdowns, each of them to wideout Dante Pettis. Oregon State is allowing an average of 50 points a game in its four losses this season.

6. Georgia (5–0, 2–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Tennessee, 41–0
Next week: at Vanderbilt

The absolute shellacking of Tennessee might say more about the state of the Volunteers than it does about the Bulldogs, who shut down a rudderless offense and created four turnovers. Georgia’s running backs did whatever they wanted without much resistance, and Jake Fromm only had to put the ball in the air 15 times. Georgia’s next big test comes at the end of the month against Florida.

7. Ohio State (4­–1, 2–0 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 8
This week: Beat Rutgers, 56–0
Next week: vs. Maryland

The Buckeyes, who beat Rutgers 58–0 last year, repeated that dominant performance in embarrassing the Scarlet Knights, who have lost 16 straight conference games. J.T. Barrett’s 275 yards through the air made him Ohio State’s all-time passing leader, with 7,622 yards. The Buckeyes have two slightly more difficult but still manageable games (Maryland, at Nebraska) before they face defending conference champion Penn State on Oct. 28.

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8. TCU (4–0, 1–0 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Off
Next game: vs. West Virginia

The Horned Frogs’ statement to the rest of the Big 12 was profound after a 13–point victory over Oklahoma State in Stillwater. To sustain that momentum, Gary Patterson’s group will have to continue to be sharp on the offensive end with quarterback Kenny Hill playing efficient, mistake-free football.

9. Michigan (4–0, 1–0 Big 10)

Previous ranking: 10
This week: Off
Next week: vs. Michigan State

Michigan spent much of its bye week in a back-and-forth with Purdue over the allegedly outdated facilities at the Boilermakers’ Ross-Ade Stadium. (Jim Harbaugh’s next road trip? Indiana on Oct. 14.) Regardless, that stingy Wolverines defense has them in prime position once their Big Ten schedule gets real.

10. Wisconsin (4–0, 1–0 Big 10)

Previous ranking: 11
This week: Beat Northwestern, 33–24
Next week: at Nebraska

Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw for 197 yards and a touchdown but was picked off twice, and freshman Jonathan Taylor ran for 80 yards and two scores in an ugly, turnover-filled victory over Northwestern. The Badgers, who only gave up 244 yards, are in firm control of the Big Ten West and are the division’s only team without a loss.

11. Washington State (5–0, 2–0 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 15
This week: Beat USC, 30–27
Next week: at Oregon

What in the world is happening on the palouse? Washington State has a defense to go along with its Air Raid, and in beating USC and snapping its 13–game winning streak, the Cougars have thrown themselves into the thick of the College Football Playoff discussion.

Luke Falk, who broke the Pac-12’s all-time completions record, threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns, and the running game picked up a respectable 122 yards on the strength of a big night from Jamal Morrow.

12. USC (4–1, 2–1 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 5
This week: Lost to Washington State, 30–27
Next week: vs. Oregon State

The Trojans suffered a rash of injuries and ran into a team that cashed in on their mistakes. USC tried to do what it could in the limited time it had the ball, but Sam Darnold’s two turnovers, especially the fumble that killed a last-minute drive, sealed the Trojans’ fate.

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13. Miami (FL) (3–0, 1–0 ACC)

Previous ranking: 13
This week: Beat Duke, 31–6
Next week: at Florida State

The Hurricanes’ defense starred on Friday night—ridiculous, unnecessary turnover chain aside—completely stifling Duke’s offense, especially the passing game. Miami recorded five sacks and 11 tackles for loss in a dominant performance. Duke quarterback Daniel Jones only managed 166 yards on 41 passing attempts and the Blue Devils converted only five of their 19 third downs. Miami’s favorable home schedule could have it looking at an ACC title bid.

14. Oklahoma State (4–1, 1–1 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 14
Last week: Beat Texas Tech, 41–34
Next week: Off; next game Oct. 14 vs. Baylor

Mason Rudolph’s 16-yard scamper with just over a minute left helped the Cowboys avoid a second straight loss and keep their playoff dreams alive. Rudolph threw for 376 yards, James Washington had 127 receiving yards and Justice Hill ran for a career-high 164 yards to help pace the Cowboys, who held the prolific Tech offense to 384 total yards.

15. Auburn (4–1, 2­–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: 17
This week: Beat Mississippi State, 49–10
Next week: vs. Ole Miss

After thrashing Mississippi State, Auburn might be the team that everyone expected it to be in the preseason after all. The Tigers used a balanced attack (244 rushing yards, 267 passing), led by quarterback Jarrett Stidham and lead back Kerryon Johnson, who had 113 yards and three touchdowns. The Bulldogs, after getting off to an impressive 3–0 start, have been blown out two weeks in a row to essentially end any hope of a division title.

16. Florida (3–1, 3–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: 16
This week: Beat Vanderbilt, 38–24
Next game: vs. LSU

Florida’s streak of scoring in 365 straight games continued with its victory over a game Vanderbilt squad coming off a 59–0 beatdown at the hands of Alabama. The Gators will have to go the rest of the season with Week 1 starter Feleipe Franks, who was pulled in last week’s win over Kentucky but replaced Luke Del Rio after he injured his non-throwing shoulder. Malik Davis rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and Lamical Perine added three rushing touchdowns.

17. Utah (4–0, 1–0 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 18
This week: Off
Next game: vs. Stanford

Utah doesn’t have a quarterback controversy, but backup Troy Williams, who started 13 games last year, can certainly keep the offense moving if Tyler Huntley misses significant time due to an arm injury suffered in a victory over Arizona. The quarterback position may be the least of the Utes’ concerns as Bryce Love and Stanford pay a visit to Salt Lake City this week.

18. South Florida (5–0, 2–0 AAC)

Previous ranking: 19
Last week: Beat East Carolina, 61–31
Next week: Off; next game Oct. 14 vs. Cincinnati

This is how bad East Carolina has been this season: The 575 yards of total offense that the Pirates yielded to South Florida were the least they have given up all year. Quinton Flowers threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns and added another score on the ground for the Bulls, who ran for 390 yards and won their school-record 10th straight game.

19. Louisville (4–1, 1–1 ACC)

Previous ranking: 20
This week: Beat Murray State, 55–10
Next week: at NC State

Lamar Jackson had another stat-stuffing performance, throwing for 249 yards and three touchdowns and adding 100 yards rushing and another score in Louisville’s scrimmage against Murray State. The Racers gained a grand total of 80 yards, had five first downs and averaged three yards per passing attempt.

20. Virginia Tech (4–1, 0–1 ACC)

Previous ranking: 12
This week: Lost to Clemson, 31–17
Next week: at Boston College

The Hokies’ loss to Clemson was their fifth straight in the series. Josh Jackson threw for 251 yards and a touchdown, but was picked off twice, including a third-quarter pick-six by Dorian O’Daniel that put the game out of reach.

21. San Diego State (5–0, 1–0 MWC)

Previous ranking: 22
This week: Beat Northern Illinois, 34–28
Next week: at UNLV

The Aztecs haven’t started a season this well since the Ford administration. Christian Chapman had two touchdown passes, and Heisman dark horse Rashaad Penny ran for 107 yards and had to leave the game after being deliberately poked in the eye. San Diego State used a kickoff return touchdown to open the game and four turnovers, including a six-pick, to hold off Northern Illinois. The thick of a manageable Mountain West schedule awaits.

22. Kansas State (3–1, 1–0 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 21
This week: Beat Baylor, 33–20
Next week: at Texas

Kansas State can afford to have an inefficient passing offense against the likes of Baylor, but it better find a passing game in a hurry with Texas, TCU and Oklahoma coming up on the schedule in the next three weeks. For now, Jesse Ertz’s 214 total yards were good enough to get past Baylor, which has lost 10 of its last 11 games.

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23. West Virginia (3–1, 1­–0 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 24
This week: Off
Next game: at TCU

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen spent part of the bye week commenting on the states of various visitors locker rooms. He gave this week’s opponent TCU no bulletin board material, calling the visitors’ locker room at Amon G. Carter Stadium one of the best in the Big 12. The teams have split the last four meetings.

24. Notre Dame (4–1)

Previous ranking: 25
This week: Beat Miami (OH), 52–17
Next game: at North Carolina

Brandon Wimbush’s four touchdowns led the Irish, and running back Josh Adams ran for 159 yards and two scores on only eight carries, all in the first quarter, before leaving the game with an injury. Wimbush completed seven of his 18 passes, but three of them went for touchdowns. The much-improved Irish defense has now forced 11 turnovers this season after totaling just 14 a season ago.

25. Central Florida (3–0, 1–0 AAC)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat Memphis, 40–13
Next week: at Cincinnati

You’re running out of time to hop on the UCF bandwagon. McKenzie Milton threw for 253 yards and added 88 yards on the ground as the Knights racked up 603 total yards in handing Memphis its first defeat of the year. The Knights’ defense forced four turnovers and completely shut down an offense that had scored at least 37 points in its previous three games.

Out: Mississippi State. Maybe next week: Troy, Stanford, NC State.

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