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  • For the second straight year, Ohio State lost on the road to an unranked team to give it the boot from this week's Top 10. But the Buckeyes aren't the only ones who need to make some fixes.
By Andy Staples
October 21, 2018

A perplexed Urban Meyer glumly answered questions following Ohio State’s 49–20 loss to Purdue that shook up the rankings and eliminated any margin for error the Buckeyes had. “The glaring shortcomings that we have,” Meyer told reporters, “were exposed.”

Every team on the list below save one has had weaknesses exposed in one way or another already this season. The problem is only a team that can shore up its weaknesses is going to have a chance to beat the team that doesn’t appear to have any. Ohio State’s defense entered Saturday ranked No. 99 in the nation in number of plays of 20 yards or more allowed with 35. The Buckeyes allowed eight more of those plays Saturday. Meanwhile, on offense, Ohio State turned five red zone trips into two field goals and nothing more. The Buckeyes abandoned the run, throwing 73 times and rushing 25.

Ohio State isn’t out of the playoff race. While this loss, like a 31-point loss at Iowa last year, will be used to mark down the Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff selection committee meeting room, Ohio State likely can make the playoff by winning the remainder of its games. But here’s the problem: If the Buckeyes don’t fix the issues that festered all season before exploding in West Lafayette on Saturday, they stand no chance of winning the remainder of their games.

The teams below No. 1 on this list—with the possible exception of No. 3, which may have things figured out—will all need to make corrections if they hope to be in the top four come Dec. 2. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, aren’t on this list. (But they’re certainly welcome to play their way back on it.)

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1. Alabama (8–0)
Last week: 1
Last game: Beat Tennessee, 58–21
Next game: Nov. 3 at LSU

We’re officially out of superlatives to describe the ways Alabama demolishes opponents. So please enjoy two beautiful Tua Tagovailoa throws followed by multiple images of Butch Jones.

2. Notre Dame (7–0)
Last week: 2
Last game: Beat Pittsburgh, 19–14
Next game: Saturday vs. Navy in San Diego

The Fighting Irish had the week off, but their season-opening win against Michigan keeps looking better. Notre Dame will be favored in every game from this point forward, but it’s still incredibly difficult to go undefeated.

3. Clemson (7–0)
Last week: 5
Last game: Beat NC State, 41–7
Next game: Saturday at Florida State

The Tigers finally flexed. What we saw Saturday at Memorial Stadium was the team we’ve been waiting to see all season. Notre Dame is ranked higher because it still has the better collection of wins, but this version of Clemson might be the only team in the country that can challenge Alabama. In Saturday’s first half, quarterback Trevor Lawrence showed why he won the starting job after the Georgia Tech game. Meanwhile, Clemson’s defense finally shut down a quality passing attack. Clemson only had one sack, but the Tigers pressured Ryan Finley and covered well enough to hold the Wolfpack to an average of 5.5 yards per pass attempt. Up next is a Florida State team that was awful to start the season but has gotten better and may still be dangerous due to the sheer amount of raw talent on the roster.

4. LSU (7–1)
Last week: 4
Last game: Beat Mississippi State, 19–3
Next game: Nov. 3 at Alabama

The Tigers’ inability to punch the ball in against the Bulldogs—except when Michael Divinity’s first-quarter interception set them up at the Mississippi State three-yard line—portends ill tidings when LSU faces Alabama. This isn’t 2011. Field goals won’t beat Tua and the Tide. But if LSU can find the end zone and pull the upset, the Tigers will be No. 1 in these rankings in two weeks.

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5. Michigan (7–1)
Last week: 6
Last game: Beat Michigan State, 21–7
Next game: Nov. 3 vs. Penn State

Jim Harbaugh is speaking plainly and calling out his rivals again, which suggests he is gaining confidence in this team.

Harbaugh has good reason to be confident in this team. And the Wolverines sound confident after taking a win in a series Michigan State has dominated this decade.

But they’ll need to use this open date to regroup. They look like the best team in the Big Ten right now, but they play two more extremely losable games in the regular season. And the first one is Nov. 3 in The Big House.

6. Texas (6–1)
Last week: 7
Last game: Beat Baylor, 23–17
Next game: Saturday at Oklahoma State

Is Texas good enough to be here? We’ll see. But the win against Oklahoma looked even better after the Sooners crushed TCU. Texas will be tested very soon—though that might not happen in Stillwater.

7. Oklahoma (6–1)
Last week: 8
Last game: Beat TCU, 52–27
Next game: Saturday vs. Kansas State

The revamped Sooners defense played much better Saturday, allowing only five yards a play (as opposed to 6.7 in the loss to Texas). Most of TCU’s success came immediately after the switch to backup quarterback Michael Collins, but then the Sooners adjusted. Meanwhile, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray continued to put up video game numbers. He completed 19 of 24 passes for 213 yards and four touchdowns. Kennedy Brooks ran for 168 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown and Trey Sermon ran for 110 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns.

8. Florida (6–1)
Last week: 9
Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 37–27
Next game: Saturday vs. Georgia in Jacksonville

The Gators still need Kentucky to lose, but that won’t matter if they can’t win at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. They must beat the Bulldogs to have any hope of winning the SEC East. If they play the way they did against LSU, they can. If they play the way they did against Kentucky, they won’t.

9. Kentucky (6–1)
Last week: 10
Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 14–7
Next game: Saturday at Missouri

Yes, the Wildcats struggled at home against Vanderbilt. So did another team on this list. (Sorry to bring that up, Notre Dame.) Sometimes, a good team just needs to gut out a win. If Kentucky has any lingering issues—throwing the ball, for example; Terry Wilson was 3 of 9 for 18 yards on Saturday—the Wildcats risk getting exposed in the next two weeks. Kentucky hits the road next to face a Missouri team that bounced back from a loss at Alabama by crushing Memphis. After that, the Wildcats host Georgia in a game that could ultimately determine the SEC East title.

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10. Washington State (6–1)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Oregon, 34–20
Next game: Saturday at Stanford

There was nothing fluky about the way the Cougars beat the Ducks. Sure, Gardner Minshew threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns, but the most impressive performance came from a defense that shut out Oregon in the first half and limited the Ducks to 58 yards on 24 carries. The Ducks’ offense only works if it can run the ball, and the Cougars took that away. At the moment, the road to the Pac-12 North title goes through Pullman. But a trip to Palo Alto this week means Washington State can’t celebrate long.

Plus One: Purdue (4–3)
Last game: Beat Ohio State, 49–20
Next game: Saturday at Michigan State

Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm never took his foot off the gas Saturday, turning a shocking upset into a complete beatdown. Don’t look now, but Purdue is 3–1 in Big Ten play with games against West Division frontrunners Iowa and Wisconsin to come. Those losses to Eastern Michigan and Missouri—myteamisbetterthanyourteam.com says Boiler Up—may have been frustrating, but they did’t hurt Purdue in the Big Ten standings. If the Boilermakers can replicate the way they played Saturday, they can beat the current best of the West. But it will be up to Brohm, his staff and the players to come back to earth after pulling off the stunner. 

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