- Upset-minded teams like Iowa State may not be playoff contenders themselves, but as they continue to win they're having a major impact on how their conferences look.
Before the College Football Playoff committee reveals its Top 25 on Tuesday, two conferences are already sweating because their teams will be nowhere near the top of the standings. After another crazy Saturday, the Big 12 and Pac-12 are dangerously close to missing the playoff altogether.
Iowa State’s sudden emergence as a giant-killer could spell doom for the Big 12, but things will get back to normal if the Cyclones stumble against West Virginia or Oklahoma State in their next two games. Saturday’s Bedlam contest is a playoff elimination game, and TCU still has to travel to Norman to play Oklahoma.
The Pac-12 standings are a similarly jumbled mess: USC, Stanford, Washington and Arizona all have one conference loss, with the Trojans and Arizona’s eliminator coming up on Saturday. The Huskies’ path back to the playoff includes games against Stanford and Washington State; taking both will be no easy task. The Cardinal have the best chance to make a statement with Washington State, Washington and Notre Dame left to play.
Now on to this week’s Power Rankings:
1. Alabama (8–0, 5–0 SEC)
Previous ranking: 1
This week: Off
Next week: vs. LSU
The Crimson Tide are sitting pretty atop the rankings, and from the looks of it, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Alabama next takes on LSU, which it has owned lately, having won six straight in the series.
2. Georgia (8–0, 5–0 SEC)
Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat Florida, 42–7
Next week: vs. South Carolina
Georgia’s beatdown of Florida was so dominating that the Bulldogs only needed four completed passes to do it, speeding up Jim McElwain’s departure with each successive touchdown. UGA can put the SEC East to bed in the next two weeks, but Kirby Smart has bigger goals.
3. Ohio State (7–1, 5–0 Big Ten)
Previous ranking: 4
This week: Beat Penn State, 39–38
Next week: at Iowa
J.T. Barrett threw a touchdown pass with less than two minutes remaining to lead the Buckeyes back from a 15-point third-quarter deficit and reclaim Ohio State’s place in the national title conversation. Barrett threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns and added 95 yards on the ground. He has thrown for 22 touchdowns and no interceptions since the Buckeyes’ 31–16 loss to Oklahoma on Sept. 9.
4. Wisconsin (8–0, 5–0 Big Ten)
Previous ranking: 6
This week: Beat Illinois, 24–10
Next week: at Indiana
The Badgers are one of the least impressive 8–0 teams in recent memory, but they keep on beating whoever’s in front of them. Freshman sensation Jonathan Taylor had 73 yards before leaving with an injury and Alex Hornibrook threw for only 135 yards, his fourth game of this season throwing for 200 yards or less. The defense continued to play well with three turnovers, five sacks and nine tackles for loss.
5. Oklahoma (7–1, 4–1 Big 12)
Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Texas Tech, 49–27
Next week: at Oklahoma State
Baker Mayfield passed for 282 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Sooners, who remain in the thick of the Big 12 race. While the Sooners amassed 617 yards of offense with 336 yards rushing, the defense continues to be the story. Oklahoma allowed 200 yards to Texas Tech in the first quarter before settling in and only giving up seven points in the second half.
6. Clemson (7–1, 5–1 ACC)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: Beat Georgia Tech, 24–10
Next week: at North Carolina State
Clemson bounced back from its loss to Syracuse two weeks ago by grounding Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack. Quarterback Kelly Bryant looked good after being injured in that loss, throwing for 207 yards and two touchdowns and adding 67 yards rushing Clemson can virtually wrap up the ACC Atlantic next week with a victory over NC State. Every other team in the division has at least two losses.
7. Penn State (7–1, 4–1 Big Ten)
Previous ranking: 2
Last week: Lost to Ohio State, 39–38
Next week: at Michigan State
Penn State knows it let a big opportunity slip out of its fingers, blowing an 18-point lead on the road. Saquon Barkley had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 36-yard touchdown run but was fairly quiet otherwise, carrying the ball 21 times for only 44 yards. The Buckeyes' talented defensive line spent most of the afternoon in the Penn State backfield, racking up 13 tackles for loss.
8. Notre Dame (7–1)
Previous ranking: 11
This week: Beat NC State, 35–14
Next game: vs. Wake Forest
The Fighting Irish just may take their new ground-and-pound philosophy all the way to the College Football Playoff. Josh Adams ran for 202 yards and Notre Dame won its sixth straight game since its Week 2 loss to Georgia. Brandon Wimbush threw for two touchdowns in Saturday’s win over NC State, and the Irish scored the game’s final 21 points thanks to a long Adams touchdown run and a pick-six. More tests lie ahead in November with Miami, Navy and Stanford coming up.
9. Miami, FL (7–0, 5–0 ACC)
Previous ranking: 9
This week: Beat North Carolina, 24–19
Next week: vs. Virginia Tech
The Hurricanes don’t have many believers in their national championship aspirations, and the way they played on Saturday won’t change any minds. Malik Rosier threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns for Miami, which was actually outgained (but aided by four North Carolina turnovers) and had trouble putting away a one-win team playing with its third-string quarterback. The Hurricanes have a two-game division lead with three conference games remaining.
10. Oklahoma State (7–1, 4–1 Big 12)
Previous ranking: 10
Last week: Beat West Virginia, 50–39
Next week: vs. Oklahoma
Mason Rudolph threw for 216 yards and three scores and added another touchdown on the ground to hold off West Virginia and remain in the Big 12 race. The defense was the story of the game, as the Cowboys intercepted West Virginia quarterback Will Grier four times. The Cowboys’ offense turned each of those turnovers into points. Running back J.D. King had 142 of Oklahoma State’s 246 yards on the ground.
11. Virginia Tech (7–1, 3–1 ACC)
This week: Beat Duke, 24–3
Next week: at Miami
Virginia Tech remains in control of its own destiny in the ACC Coastal after a three-touchdown win over the Blue Devils. Redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson continues to play efficient, mistake-free football for the Hokies, throwing for 200 yards and a touchdown.
12. TCU (7–1, 4–1 Big 12)
Previous ranking: 5
This week: Lost to Iowa State, 14–7
Next game: vs. Texas
The Big 12’s best chance at playoff spot might have went out the window with TCU’s upset loss to Iowa State. While there is still a month left to play, there are four teams at the top of the conference standings. Kenny Hill was picked off twice and also lost a fumble, and the Horned Frogs could only muster 305 yards against the Cyclones. The defense played good enough to win, as Iowa State recorded a season-low 255 offensive yards.
13. Washington (7–1, 3–1 Pac–12)
Previous ranking: 14
This week: Beat UCLA, 44–23
Next week: vs. Oregon
Quarterback Jake Browning was hardly needed as the Huskies used a punishing ground game to dispatch the hapless Bruins. Myles Gaskin ran for 169 yards, and Lavon Coleman added 94 yards and three touchdowns as Washington racked up 333 yards on the ground against the nation’s worst rush defense. Browning only put the ball in the air 11 times and finished with a career-low 98 yards.
14. UCF (7–0, 4–0 AAC)
Previous ranking: 17
This week: Beat Austin Peay, 73–33
Next week: at SMU
The Knights are 7–0 for the first time in school history thanks to a blowout win over FCS Austin Peay. McKenzie Milton completed 24 of his 26 pass attempts for 275 yards and three touchdowns in helping UCF score a school-record 73 points. The Knights now find themselves alone in first place in the AAC East thanks to South Florida’s first defeat.
15. Stanford (6–2, 5–1 Pac–12)
Previous ranking: 18
This week: Beat Oregon State, 15–14
Next week: at Washington State
Stanford barely kept its conference title dreams alive with a lackluster, last-second victory over Oregon State. Playing without FBS rushing leader Bryce Love, who was sidelined with an ankle injury, Stanford had just 222 yards of offense. That output won’t cut it at all against their next two opponents: Washington State and Washington.
16. Auburn (6–2, 4–1 SEC)
This week: Off
Next week: at Texas A&M
The Tigers head into November with a chance to make some noise and disrupt the SEC standings. After their trip to Texas A&M, they face the top two teams in the nation: first a date with Georgia on Nov. 11, followed by the season-ending Iron Bowl against Alabama two weeks later.
17. USC (7–2, 5–1 Pac–12)
This week: Beat Arizona State, 48–17
Next week: vs. Arizona
USC got back to looking like the team most expected it to be in an easy rout of Arizona State. Ronald Jones rushed for 216 yards and two touchdowns, and Sam Darnold passed for 266 yards and three touchdowns for the Trojans, who totaled 607 yards of offense. Darnold did lose one fumble but otherwise played a clean game. The Pac-12 South title will come down to next week’s game against Arizona, which has lost to USC four straight times.
18. Memphis (7–1, 4–1 AAC)
Previous ranking: 21
This week: Beat Tulane, 56–26
Next week: at Tulsa
Riley Ferguson had five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) and 298 yards through the air as part of Memphis’s 556 yards of offense. A spot in the AAC championship game is there for the taking for the Tigers with Tulsa, division co-leader SMU and East Carolina left on the schedule.
19. NC State (6–2, 4–0 ACC)
Previous ranking: 15
This week: Lost to Notre Dame, 35–14
Next week: vs. Clemson
The Wolfpack’s offense decided to sputter at the wrong time against Notre Dame, gaining only 263 yards in a 21-point loss. The game’s lone turnover proved costly when Julian Love took a wayward Ryan Finley pass 69 yards to the house to tamp down NC State’s comeback hopes. The Wolfpack still have everything in front of them in the ACC and could take a commanding two-game lead in the Atlantic with a victory at home against Clemson next week.
20. Iowa State (6–2, 4–1 Big 12)
Previous ranking: 22
This week: Beat TCU, 14–7
Next week: at West Virginia
The surprising Cyclones, who look nothing like the team that lost to Iowa and Texas earlier in the season, continue to be the talk of college football with another upset of a top-five team. With victories over TCU and Oklahoma, Iowa State will be in the conference title game if it wins out. That is no easy task as it faces a trip to West Virginia next week and a home date with Oklahoma State the following Saturday.
21. LSU (6–2, 3–1 SEC)
Previous ranking: 23
This week: Off
Next week: at Alabama
LSU’s season could basically be saved with a victory over rival Alabama, which has beaten the Tigers in each of the last six years. After rushing for less than 100 yards in his previous four games, Tigers running back Derrius Guice broke out for 276 yards against Ole Miss. LSU will need that kind of performance to beat the Crimson Tide.
22. Mississippi State (6–2, 3–2 SEC)
Previous ranking: 24
This week: Beat Texas A&M, 35–14
Next week: vs. UMass
Nick Fitzgerald passed for 141 yards and two touchdowns and added 105 yards rushing and a score to lead Mississippi State to its third straight win. The Bulldogs used the ground game to control the clock, and when A&M did have the ball, three turnovers thwarted any comeback attempt from a 21-point deficit.
23. Michigan (6–2, 3–2 Big Ten)
Previous ranking: —
This week: Beat Rutgers, 35–14
Next week: vs. Minnesota
Quarterback Brandon Peters came off the bench for Michigan in the first half and provided a much-needed spark to a stagnant offense. Peters completed 10 of 14 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown as the Wolverines scored each of the first three drives he led in place of ineffective starter John O’Korn. The Wolverines had a season-high 471 yards of total offense.
24. Arizona (6–2, 4–1 Pac–12)
Previous ranking: —
This week: Beat Washington State, 58–37
Next week: at USC
Khalil Tate continued his best Pat White impression at the helm of Rich Rodriguez’s offense, throwing for 275 yards and running for 146 against Washington State. J.J. Taylor added 152 yards on the ground as the Wildcats withstood a furious Washington State passing attack that threw it 84 times for 602 yards in an attempt to keep up with Tate.
25. Washington State (6–2, 4–2 Pac–12)
Previous ranking: 13
Last week: Lost to Arizona, 58–37
Next week: vs. Stanford
Washington State didn’t help itself in Tucson, throwing four interceptions and going 4 of 18 on third downs. Mike Leach pulled starting quarterback Luke Falk, but that didn’t address the problem of the Wildcats running wild over the Cougars' defense as Washington State was blown out on the road for the second time this season.
Out: South Florida, West Virginia, Texas A&M. Maybe next week: Kentucky, South Carolina.