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  • Chaos reigned in Week 7, but Alabama remained as strong as ever, as did the team that looks like the Crimson Tide's most formidable challenger in the second half of the season.
By Scooby Axson
October 15, 2018

No one seems to want to stay in the top 10 of the Power Rankings (Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State are the only teams to have been there every week so far), and there’s no better sign that the college football chaos we’ve come to know and love has taken hold of the 2018 season. Any team that has two or more losses can start planning for bowl games that are not on Dec. 29.

The team outside of Alabama that has looked the most impressive is LSU, which now sports wins over Miami, Auburn and Georgia. The first two have fallen off since they ran into the Tigers but were considered serious contenders before then, and after the humbling of Georgia in Death Valley last Saturday, all eyes are pointed toward Baton Rouge as the whispers grow louder that Alabama's five-game winning streak over LSU could be at risk this season. The eye test tells us that with a dominant defense and a steadily improving offense, the Tigers now have the best possible chance to challenge the Crimson Tide.

We will all find out on Nov. 3 under the lights at Death Valley—LSU just has to handle its business at home against Mississippi State next week.

Now, let’s get to the rankings:

College Football
Nothing Went to Script on a Weird Day for the Top 25 in Week 7

1. Alabama (7–0, 4–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat Missouri, 39–10
Next week: at Tennessee

Just like any team, Alabama is a few injuries away from a potential disaster, but Tua Tagovailoa’s knee (re-)injury doesn’t appear to be serious. Tagovailoa threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns before exiting and apparently could have come back into the game if the score had been a little closer.

2. Ohio State (7–0, 4–0 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat Minnesota, 30–14
Next week: at Purdue

The concern about the Buckeyes’ running game is real, as Ohio State gained only 92 yards on 32 carries against Minnesota, a week after averaging 3.21 yards per carry in a win over Indiana. Dwayne Haskins continued to impress and strengthen his Heisman campaign, throwing for 412 yards and three touchdowns in becoming the first Ohio State quarterback to put up 400 yards twice in his career.

3. Notre Dame (7–0)

Previous ranking: 4
This week: Beat Pittsburgh, 19–14
Next week: Bye; next game Oct. 27 vs. Navy in San Diego

The Irish kept their playoff hopes alive by squeaking out a win against perennial spoiler Pitt. Ian Book threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Miles Boykin with less than six minutes remaining that provided the winning margin. Notre Dame’s trickiest road swing of the season is coming up at the end of the month: a long flight to San Diego to play always dangerous Navy, followed by a short drive up to Chicago to play resurgent Northwestern.

4. Clemson (6–0, 3–0 ACC)

Previous ranking: 5
This week: Bye
Next week: vs. NC State

5. Michigan (6–1, 4–0 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Beat Wisconsin, 38–13
Next week: at Michigan State

That Jim Harbaugh hot seat talk in Ann Arbor feels like ancient history after the Wolverines pummeled Wisconsin and kept pace with Ohio State in the Big Ten East. Shea Patterson had 214 total yards, and the nation’s top defense lived up to its billing, allowing 283 yards and 11 first downs and picking off Badgers QB Alex Hornibrook twice. The Wolverines’ offense went full Wisconsin, racking up 320 yards on ground and holding the ball for 37 minutes.

6. LSU (6–1, 3–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 11
This week: Beat Georgia, 36–16
Next week: vs. Mississippi State

The Tigers bounced back in a big way from their first loss of the season, thrashing the Bulldogs at every turn. LSU swarmed Georgia’s receivers and barely gave Jake Fromm any time to complete a pass. A victory over Mississippi State would set up an SEC West death match on Nov. 3 against top-ranked Alabama.

College Football
Ed Orgeron's Fourth-Down Gambles Key LSU's Emotional, Statement Win Over Georgia

7. UCF (6–0, 3–0 AAC)

Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat Memphis, 31–30
Next week: at East Carolina

The Knights extended their nation-leading winning streak to 19 games and kept their New Year’s Six bowl hopes alive with a thrilling comeback victory against Memphis. McKenzie Milton threw for 296 yards with a touchdown and also had a short touchdown run as UCF overcame 12 penalties and an outstanding performance by Memphis running back Darrell Henderson, who ran for 199 yards and a touchdown, with 115 of those coming in the first quarter.

8. Georgia (6–1, 4–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 2
This week: Lost to LSU, 36–16
Next week: Bye; next game Oct. 27 vs. Florida at Jacksonville

While Georgia has spent the better part of the season on cruise control, it might be time to speed up the integration of freshman quarterback Justin Fields within the offense. Fromm was picked off twice and generally couldn’t get the Bulldogs going. But Fromm wasn’t the reason the defense was steamrolled for 275 yards on the ground.

9. Texas (6–1, 4–0 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 12
This week: Beat Baylor, 23–17
Next week: Bye; next game Oct. 27 at Oklahoma State

After Texas lost starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger to a shoulder injury, backup Shane Buechele helped the Longhorns to their sixth straight win. Aside from a run of 17 points over the final four minutes of the first half, the offense was mostly bogged down, being held to 150 total yards and no points in the final two quarters.

10. Oklahoma (5–1, 2–1 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 14
This week: Bye
Next week: at TCU

11. Oregon (5–1, 2–1 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 21
This week: Beat Washington, 30–27 in OT
Next week: at Washington State

Oregon did itself a big favor in its quest for a Pac–12 championship; any other lofty goals (i.e. the playoff) are still a ways away. Quarterback Justin Herbert extended a streak of 21 straight games with a TD pass and did not turn the ball over against Washington’s stingy defense, and running back CJ Verdell gained for 111 yards and two scores to cause some serious chaos in the biggest race out west.

College Football
Oregon Raises the Ceiling of Its Season With OT Win Over Washington

12. Washington (5–2, 3–1 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 7
This week: Lost to Oregon, 30–27 in OT
Next week:  vs. Colorado

The Huskies’ title hopes are non-existent for now after their loss in Eugene and an Auburn loss to Tennessee that makes their first setback of the season look worse. What has worked for Washington most of the season is running the football effectively so that quarterback Jake Browning can find targets downfield. While the Huskies outgained Oregon on the day, the defense did not get enough stops when it needed to, allowing multiple fourth-down conversions that kept drives going.

13. Florida (6–1, 4–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 16
This week: Beat Vanderbilt, 37–27
Next week: Bye; next game Oct. 27 vs. Georgia at Jacksonville

The Gators gained a season-high 576 yards on 92 plays while converting 12 third-down attempts to beat Vanderbilt for the 27th time in the last 28 meetings. Feleipe Franks had 284 yards and two touchdowns, but most of the damage was done on the ground, where Florida’s 292 yards on 63 carries marked its best single-game rushing output in almost four years.

14. Texas A&M (5–2, 3–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 18
This week: Beat South Carolina, 26–23
Next week: Bye; next game Oct. 27 at Mississippi State

Don’t look now, but the Aggies are still in the thick of the SEC West conversation. Kellen Mond threw for 353 yards as Texas A&M won its fifth straight over South Carolina. Texas A&M held the ball for 41 minutes and only allowed South Carolina to run 53 offensive plays.

15. Penn State (4–2, 1–2 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 6
This week: Lost to Michigan State, 21–17
Next week: at Indiana

The Nittany Lions’ title hopes have fallen apart thanks to two blown opportunities at home. Michigan State played without running back LJ Scott and wide receiver Cody White but still made enough plays by holding the ball for 35 minutes and having Brian Lewerke throw the ball 52 times. Aside from Miles Sanders’s 162 rushing yards, Penn State was held to 397 yards of offense, its second-lowest total of the year.

16. Kentucky (5–1, 3–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 19
This week: Bye
Next week:  vs. Vanderbilt

17. West Virginia (5–1, 3–1 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 8
This week: Lost to Iowa State, 30–14
Next week: Bye; next game Oct. 25 vs. Baylor

Will Grier and West Virginia put up their worst offensive performance of the year in Ames, gaining only 152 yards and throwing serious doubt onto their Big 12 title hopes and Grier's Heisman Trophy chances. The Mountaineers were also ripped apart on the defensive side, namely by Cyclones running back David Montgomery, who ran for 189 yards, and freshman quarterback Brock Purdy, who threw three touchdowns in Iowa State’s second straight win against a Top 25 team.

College Football
West Virginia and Will Grier Fall Victim to Iowa State's Giant-Killing Magic

18. Wisconsin (4–2, 2–1 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 13
This week: Lost to Michigan, 38–13
Next week: vs. Illinois

The way the Badgers are built, there was always going to be a point when the offense would fail to score enough and the defense would struggled to get stops. That time came on Saturday, as running back Jonathan Taylor was bottled up by his standards, and Alex Hornibrook was forced to try to win the game with his arm. All is not lost with Wisconsin, though, as it still controls its own fate in a bunched-up Big Ten West.

19. Mississippi State (4–2, 1–2 SEC)

Previous ranking: 22
This week: Bye
Next week: at LSU

20. North Carolina State (5–0, 2–0 ACC)

Previous ranking: 23
This week: Bye
Next week: at Clemson

21. Cincinnati (6–0, 3–0 AAC)

Previous ranking: 25
This week: Bye
Next week: at Temple

22. Duke (5–1, 1–1 ACC)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat Georgia Tech, 28–14
Next week: vs. Virginia

A week after Georgia Tech ripped Louisville for 542 yards on the ground, the Blue Devils held the nation’s top rushing offense to just 229 yards. The Yellow Jackets also had trouble holding onto the ball, losing three fumbles. Duke quarterback Daniel Jones threw three touchdowns in the third quarter to keep the Blue Devils within striking distance of the ACC Coastal’s top spot.

23. South Florida (6–0, 2–0 AAC)

Previous ranking: 24
This week: Beat Tulsa, 25–24
Next week: vs. UConn

24. Colorado (5–1, 2–1 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 17
This week: Lost to USC, 31–20
Next week: at Washington

This is crunch time for the Buffaloes, as their typically stout offense was completely shut down by USC, and they have another daunting road trip to Washington next week. Star Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault had nine catches for 72 yards before leaving with an injury. The Buffaloes have still never beaten the Trojans, who now control the Pac-12 South.

25. Miami (FL) (5–2, 2–1 ACC)

Previous ranking: 15
This week: Lost to Virginia, 16–13
Next week: Bye; next game Oct. 26 at Boston College

The Hurricanes can use their week off to figure out their increasingly unstable quarterback situation. N’Kosi Perry played the first four series before he was picked off twice in his first six passes and subsequently benched. Malik Rosier, who won the starting job out of fall camp, relieved Perry. Miami was unable to take advantage of a shutdown effort from its defense that included three turnovers and four sacks.

By conference: SEC (7), Big Ten (4), ACC (4), Big 12 (3), Pac-12 (3), AAC (3), Independent (1).

Dropped Out: Auburn.

Maybe next week: Iowa, Washington State, Utah State, Houston, Stanford.

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