Things got a lot more interesting on Saturday afternoon in Week 9, starting with Ohio State’s comeback win over Penn State. Meanwhile, Notre Dame kept rolling with a win over NC State, which adds to the specter of two or possibly three Power 5 conferences getting shut out of the playoff field. Next week things should clear up some in the Big 12 with Bedlam on the docket, in what figures to be a wild shootout sparked by two outstanding QBs in Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph.
1. Alabama: Nick Saban’s team was off before LSU comes to Tuscaloosa next week. The Tigers went toe-to-toe with the Tide for three-plus quarters last year in Baton Rouge, but that group had more veterans on its defense. This year LSU does have running back Derrius Guice healthy, but it’s a stretch to think Tigers quarterback Danny Etling can go on the road and challenge the Alabama defense.
2. Georgia: The SEC may be down, but the SEC East leaders are legit. The Bulldogs have played five conference opponents—four of which have been in the Top 25 at some point—and the closest anyone has gotten is within 25. Oh, and that Week 2 win in South Bend keeps looking better and better.
3. Notre Dame: The Irish just ran through a good NC State team, keeping the Josh Adams train rolling in a 35–14 win. No opponent has scored more than 20 all season on the Irish; last year, eight of their 12 opponents scored more than 21.
4. Oklahoma: The Sooners have trailed in a bunch of games, and their defense has looked shaky almost every time out, but they have the best quarterback in college football and own a road win where they dominated Ohio State.
5. Ohio State: The Buckeyes fought back in a resilient victory over Penn State, and they have run over everyone in their path since the Oklahoma game in Week 2, but I couldn’t put them over the Sooners when both teams have one loss and Oklahoma thumped the Buckeyes at their place.
6. TCU:The Horned Frogs suffered their first loss of the year against a good Iowa State team that now owns two victories over top-five opponents. Their win at Oklahoma State is a very good one, and the win they notched the next week against West Virginia still looks O.K.
7. Penn State: The Nittany Lions had Ohio State on the ropes in Columbus but couldn’t put the Buckeyes away. They have a blowout win over Michigan but not too much else that will win points with people.
8. Clemson: Dabo Swinney got his team rolling again, handling Georgia Tech with a healthy Kelly Bryant shining under center in a rain-soaked 24–10 win. The Tigers’ best win is a two-touchdown victory at Virginia Tech; their win at Louisville looks less significant by the week. Next Saturday they’ll visit an NC State team that is still unbeaten in ACC play but just got drilled at Notre Dame.
9. Wisconsin: The Badgers keep holding serve in moving to 8–0, but they haven’t faced anyone of note yet, and Saturday’s 24–10 road win at Illinois won’t wow anyone. Wisconsin only outgained the lowly Illini 303–286. Next up is a road trip to a mediocre Indiana team.
10. Miami: The Hurricanes are undefeated, but their résumé remains soft: A late escape against Georgia Tech is their only victory over a Power 5 opponent with a winning record, and they had their hands full against a 1–8 North Carolina team on Saturday. We’ll find out a lot more Saturday when the Hokies visit Hard Rock Stadium.