Through the first two weeks of the season, a few things are clear: Alabama is rolling over any and every opponent in its path and not stopping anytime soon; Clemson’s vaunted defensive line can be neutralized by shrewd play-calling and a special quarterback; several name programs that were expected to play a starring role in how the national championship picture plays out (Florida State, Texas, Arizona) are struggling mightily to stay afloat.
Week 3 offers a chance to learn much more about some of the nation’s top contenders, as Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Boise State face stiff challenges away from home. Meanwhile, Auburn and Washington take on feisty conference opponents.
Now, let’s get to the rankings—with remarks on only the teams that played Power 5 competition for now until the stream of non-conference cupcakes dies down:
1. Alabama (2–0)
Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat Arkansas State, 57–7
Next week: at Ole Miss
2. Georgia (2–0, 1–0 SEC)
Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat South Carolina, 41–17
Next week: vs. Middle Tennessee
Even though it’s early September, the SEC East can almost be called at this point. Georgia showed it is still the class of the division with a thorough beatdown of the Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium. Jake Fromm was his steady self with 194 passing yards and Georgia’s stable of running backs galloped for 271 en route to a fourth straight win over South Carolina. The Bulldogs’s remaining SEC regular season tests come from West foes LSU and Auburn later in the season.
3. Clemson (2–0)
Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat Texas A&M, 28–26
Next week: vs. Georgia Southern
Clemson knows it was lucky to escape College Station with a win, as Aggies QB Kellen Mond sliced up the Tigers’ secondary for 430 yards and three touchdowns. Texas A&M had to throw it because its running game was non-existent.
4. Ohio State (1–0)
Previous ranking: 4
This week: Beat Rutgers, 52–3
Next week: vs. TCU in Arlington, Texas
The Buckeyes’ 900th win in school history came at the expense of the lowly Scarlet Knights, whom Ohio State has now scored 166 points against in the teams’ last three meetings. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins and his backup Tate Martell combined to go 30-of-33 for 354 yards and five touchdowns. On the other side, Rutgers managed a measly 134 total yards of offense. Expect a much stiffer test against TCU.
5. Wisconsin (2–0)
Previous ranking: 5
This week: Beat New Mexico, 45–14
Next week: vs. BYU
6. Auburn (1–0)
Previous ranking: 6
This week: Beat Alabama State, 63–9
Next week: vs. LSU
7. Oklahoma (2–0)
Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat UCLA, 49–21
Next week: at Iowa State
Kyler Murray lit up the Bruins’ defense for 306 yards through the air and 69 on the ground, but the Sooners’ running game took a huge hit with the news that leading rusher Rodney Anderson is out for the season after sustaining a knee injury in the second quarter on Saturday. Despite giving up some garbage-time touchdowns, Oklahoma’s improved defense continues to attack, recording six sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
8. Penn State: (2–0)
Previous ranking: 9
This week: Beat Pittsburgh, 51–6
Next week: vs. Kent State
In a muddy mess at Heinz Field, Penn State went all out to rub in it against their in-state rival, scoring 37 points after halftime. It may be a minor cause for concern that Pittsburgh ran for 245 yards, but the Nittany Lions were stout against the pass and came up with four sacks. Miles Sanders had a career-high 118 rushing yards and Trace McSorley threw two touchdowns.
9. Notre Dame (2–0)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: Beat Ball State, 24–16
Next week: vs. Vanderbilt
10. Stanford (2–0, 1–0 Pac–12)
Previous ranking: 11
This week: Beat USC, 17–3
Next week: vs. UC Davis
After being shut down by San Diego State in Week 1, Bryce Love emerged once again, running for 137 yards and a touchdown against the Trojans. But the story of the win over USC was the defense, which is stingy enough to carry the Cardinal to a conference title.
11. Washington (1–1)
Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat North Dakota, 45–3
Next week: at Utah
12. Mississippi State (2–0)
Previous ranking: 12
This week: Beat Kansas State, 31–10
Next week: vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Mississippi State used a punishing ground game and big plays to dispatch a sloppy Kansas State team. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald played his first game after a season-opening suspension and tossed two touchdown passes. Sophomore running back Kylin Hill pounded his way to 211 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and added another receiving score. The Bulldogs limited the Wildcats to only 213 yards of total offense en route to their first road win against a non-SEC Power 5 opponent since 1995.
13. Virginia Tech (2–0, 1–0 ACC)
Previous ranking: 13
This week: Beat William & Mary, 62–17
Next week: vs. East Carolina
14. TCU (2–0)
Previous ranking: 14
This week: Beat SMU, 42–12
Next week: vs. Ohio State at Arlington, Texas
15. Michigan (1–1)
Previous ranking: 15
This week: Beat Western Michigan, 49–3
Next week: vs. SMU
16. LSU (2–0)
Previous ranking: 18
This week: Beat Southeastern Louisiana, 31–0
Next week: at Auburn
17. West Virginia (2–0)
Previous ranking: 19
This week: Beat Youngstown State, 52–17
Next week: at NC State
18. UCF (2–0, 1–0 AAC)
Previous ranking: 20
This week: Beat South Carolina State, 38–0
Next week: at North Carolina
19. Oklahoma State (2–0)
Previous ranking: 21
This week: Beat South Alabama, 55–13
Next week: vs. Boise State
20. Boise State (2–0)
Previous ranking: 22
This week: Beat UConn, 62–7
Next week: at Oklahoma State
21. Miami (FL) (1–1)
Previous ranking: 23
This week: Beat Savannah State, 77–0
Next week: at Toledo
22. Michigan State (1–1)
Previous ranking: 16
This week: Lost to Arizona State, 16–13
Next week: Off; at Indiana Sept. 22.
The Herm Edwards experiment in Tempe seems to be working for now as Arizona State rallied from 10 points down at the start of the fourth quarter to beat the Spartans. Michigan State blew its opportunity for touchdowns, getting inside the Sun Devil five-yard line twice and only coming away with a field goal. Michigan State’s running game is still nowhere to be found, averaging just 2.3 yards a carry.
23. USC (1–1, 0–1 Pac–12)
Previous ranking: 17
This week: Lost to Stanford, 17–3
Next week: at Texas
Among the myriad problems for USC is the offensive consistency under freshman quarterback Daniels, who threw two interceptions in Palo Alto. The Trojans put themselves in position but couldn’t score a touchdown, only the third time that has happened in the last 25 years. A big game looms next week at Texas, whom last year’s team only survived in double overtime.
24. Houston (2–0)
Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat Arizona, 45–18
Next week: at Texas Tech
The Cougars gave Kevin Sumlin a rude homecoming and officially ended any Heisman talk for Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate, who threw two interceptions and got most of his 341 passing yards in garbage time. D’Eriq King passed for a career-high 246 yards and four touchdowns as Houston raced out to a 38–0 lead. Ed Oliver had a slow game compared to his standards, finishing with five tackles and one pass defensed.
25. Oregon (2–0)
Previous ranking: 25
This week: Beat Portland State, 62–14
Next week: vs. San Jose State
By conference: SEC (5), Big Ten (5), Big 12 (4), Pac-12 (4), ACC (3), AAC (2), Independent (1), Mountain West (1).
Dropped Out: South Carolina.
Maybe next week: Duke, Boston College, Utah, Arizona State.