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  • No changes at the top after a Saturday devoid of the wild upsets we saw in Week 7, but a handful of unbeaten teams made the case that they're here to stay.
By Bruce Feldman
October 22, 2017

No. 1 looked like No. 1 in Week 8, as Alabama covered the biggest spread in the history of its rivalry with Tennessee. Nick Saban’s team is steam-rolling its way to the SEC Title Game, nearly outgaining the beleaguered Vols by a 6-to-1 ratio, 604 yards to 108. It feels like a stretch to say anyone else is within sniffing distance of the Tide right now, but Penn State did make a nice statement against Michigan, blistering what was the nation’s stingiest defense for 506 yards and 42 points.

Where does the rest of the nation stand after Week 8? My top 10 teams as the release of the first College Football Playoff rankings draws closer at the end of October:

1. Alabama: The Tide drilled Tennessee 45–7, as former walk-on turned No. 1 corner Levi Wallace had three tackles for loss for a defense that still has not allowed a first half touchdown in SEC play this season. They’ll be off next week getting ready for an LSU team that has crept back into the Top 25.

2. Penn State: Michigan came into the weekend leading the nation in total defense, allowing just 224 yards per game—no opponent had gained more than 278 on the Wolverines this season. The Nittany Lions rolled up 303 on them in the first half alone, en route to a 42–13 blowout, fitting payback for last year’s 49–10 drubbing in Ann Arbor. Things get much tougher now though with next week’s trip to Columbus; the Buckeyes are coming off a bye week.

Feldman's Heisman FiveOrder SI's special issue: Penn State: 25 Years in the Big Ten

3. Georgia: With a big rivalry game against Florida on deck, the Bulldogs were off this week. Their road win at Notre Dame is looking better and better by the week, and their blowout win over Mississippi State has also regained some of its shine.

4. TCU: Kansas unsurprisingly wasn’t much of a challenge for the Horned Frogs, who moved to 7–0 with a 43–0 win at home, holding the Jayhawks to 21 total yards. TCU has two nice wins through eight weeks, at Oklahoma State and against West Virginia. Next week’s game at Iowa State, which will be followed by games against Texas and at Oklahoma, suddenly seems a lot more challenging after the Cyclones rolled past Texas Tech.

5. Wisconsin: Another week, another pick-six for the Badgers’ defense: T.J. Edwards’s 54-yard return in the first quarter against Maryland was the Badgers’ fourth of the year. That’s the most they have recorded in a season since at least 1950. Wisconsin’s defense surrendered just one touchdown on three Maryland trips inside the red zone. On the season, the Badgers have given up just six touchdowns on 22 opponent red-zone trips.

6. Miami: Like the Badgers, the Hurricanes don’t have a real signature win yet, but they keep winning. Miami’s defense forced Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey into four interceptions, doubling his season total in the Hurricanes’ 29–19 win. Miami is on an 11-game winning streak, the program’s longest in 15 years.

7. Clemson: Dabo Swinney’s team was off getting ready for the Georgia Tech offense a week after being knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by Syracuse. I’ve bumped Miami above them after the Canes held off the Orange.

8. Notre Dame: A staff shakeup has paid off nicely for head coach Brian Kelly. His team has 17 takeaways through seven games—three more than they had all of last season—thanks in large part to new defensive coordinator Mike Elko. However, the real star for the Irish in Saturday night’s demolition of USC was a ground game that mauled its way to almost 400 yards. Speedy quarterback Brandon Wimbush continues to blossom, posting his third 100-yard rushing game of the season and improving his touchdown-to-interception ratio to 8–2. The only thing standing in the way of a spotless record is that one-point loss to Georgia in Week 2. With a difficult schedule remaining, the Irish control their own path to the playoff.

9. Oklahoma: There’s no shame in having your hands full with Kansas State in Manhattan. Baker Mayfield was superb again, going 32 of 41 for 410 yards and two touchdowns through the air and running for a season-high 69 yards and two more scores, as Oklahoma rallied from a 14-point deficit to pull out a 42–35 win at Kansas State. The Sooners’ D was shaky, giving up 316 yards in the first half (9.6 yards per play), but it only allowed 96 yards in the second (4.2 per play).

10. Ohio State: Things are about to get interesting for the Buckeyes, who were off this week. Penn State will be greeted in Columbus by an Ohio State team looking for revenge after last year’s upset loss in Happy Valley. Since their Week 2 loss to Oklahoma, the Buckeyes have averaged over 53 points per game, but they haven’t faced anyone close to top-10 caliber in that stretch.

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