Week 9 provided a correction of sorts to the Top 10 (Plus One). Florida and Texas felt a little over-ranked, and Georgia had suffered a mighty penalty for its loss at LSU. The Bulldogs dispatched the Gators in Jacksonville, reestablishing Georgia’s Top 10 bona fides. Meanwhile, the Texas defense made an Oklahoma State offense that has struggled for much of the season look more like the offense at rival Oklahoma.
Things were calm at the top of the rankings thanks to two blowouts and three open dates, but someone is guaranteed to move after this week’s games…
1. Alabama (8–0)
Last week: 1
Last game: Beat Tennessee, 58–21
Next game: Saturday at LSU
The Crimson Tide were off this week ahead of the game of the year in the SEC. So here’s video of the time Tua Tagovailoa met Coach O.
2. Notre Dame (8–0)
Last week: 2
Last game: Beat Navy, 44–22
Next game: Saturday at Northwestern
This isn’t the best Navy team, but the ease with which the Fighting Irish dispatched the Midshipmen was still a little shocking. It probably won’t be so easy when Notre Dame travels to Northwestern this week. The Wildcats just beat Wisconsin. They’ve been up and down, but they’ll be up for Notre Dame. So will everyone else remaining on the Irish’s schedule. But that still might not be enough to keep the Irish from going undefeated and making the playoff.
3. Clemson (8–0)
Last week: 3
Last game: Beat Florida State, 59–10
Next game: Saturday vs. Louisville
Clemson appears to have flipped the switch, but I’m keeping the Tigers here for the moment because Notre Dame still has the better collection of wins. But if Clemson keeps destroying teams, I might move the Tigers up—even though the only difference between No. 2 and No. 3 in the playoff is jersey color. Clemson handed Florida State its worst home loss in program history and became the first team since Florida State joined the ACC in 1992 to beat the Seminoles in four consecutive seasons. Next up, the Tigers host a Louisville team that just lost 56–35 at home to Wake Forest. It’s quite possible a few more records get set.
4. LSU (7–1)
Last week: 4
Last game: Beat Mississippi State, 19–3
Next game: Saturday vs. Alabama
LSU players prepared for Alabama while LSU fans put up billboards in Alabama. This one is going to be intense.
5. Michigan (7–1)
Last week: 5
Last game: Beat Michigan State, 21–7
Next game: Saturday vs. Penn State
The Wolverines’ revenge tour continues this week. Last year, Penn State humiliated Michigan in a White Out game. Every criticism of Michigan’s offensive line sprang to life in a nightmare game. Meanwhile, Michigan’s defense got shredded. Penn State is coming off a huge win against Iowa and Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley is banged up. This is Michigan’s chance to show how much has changed in one year.
6. Georgia (7–1)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Florida, 37–16
Next game: Saturday at Kentucky
The Bulldogs got some flaws exposed at LSU, and judging by their performance against Florida, they spent two weeks shoring up those issues. Quarterback Jake Fromm, who played the worst game of his career against LSU, played one of his best against Florida. He was lights-out on third down, and he silenced everyone who was clamoring for freshman Justin Fields to get more time. Now Georgia heads to Lexington for a game that will decide the SEC East title. Kentucky may have the best defense the Bulldogs have seen so far, but Kentucky may struggle to score against Georgia’s defense.
7. Oklahoma (7–1)
Last week: 7
Last game: Beat Kansas State, 51–14
Next game: Saturday at Texas Tech
Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray averaged 14.7 yards per pass attempt against Kansas State, pushing his season average to an absurd 12.7 yards per attempt. To add some perspective, Baker Mayfield, who had one of the best seasons a college quarterback has ever had, averaged 11.5. Any other year, Murray would be running away with the Heisman Trophy. It just so happens that this year Alabama’s Tagovailoa is averaging 13.6 yards per attempt. But don’t give up on Murray yet. Texas Tech’s offense could rope Oklahoma into a face-melter of a shootout, and Murray would get plenty of chances to make magic.
8. Kentucky (7–1)
Last week: 9
Last game: Beat Missouri, 15–14
Next game: Saturday vs. Georgia
This is not a drill. Kentucky will play for the SEC East title on Saturday. No matter what happens, this will be a special, all-time memorable season for Kentucky fans. But earning a trip to Atlanta would be the icing on the cake. Kentucky’s offense will have to be more dynamic than it has been the past two games if the Wildcats hope to beat the Bulldogs, but Kentucky’s defense will almost always ensure the Wildcats have a chance.
9. Washington State (7–1)
Last week: 10
Last game: Beat Stanford, 41–38
Next game: Saturday vs. Cal
The Cougars are the Pac-12’s last hope to make the playoff, which makes me imagine a hologram of commissioner Larry Scott projected by R2-D2 that keeps saying, “Help me, coach Leach. You’re my only hope.” Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew is lighting up Pac-12 defenses, and if this keeps up and some chaos happens elsewhere, then maybe Washington State does have a chance. But it must keep winning, and it will need help. For instance, this week, the Cougars will be big LSU and Penn State fans.
10. UCF (7–0)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat East Carolina, 37–10
Next game: Thursday vs. Temple
The Knights were off Saturday, but since they always complain about Power Five teams moving up in the rankings during bye weeks, I’ll give them the bump up from No. 11 this week. Besides, after the producers of the WatchESPN app used a photo of UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton to advertise Saturday’s South Florida–Houston game, I figured that was enough disrespect for one week. Knights coach Josh Heupel said on Saturday that Milton (shoulder, ankle) is day-to-day but didn’t tip his hand as to whether he expects Milton to play on Thursday against Temple.
Plus One: Syracuse (6–2)
Last game: Beat NC State, 51–41
Next game: Saturday at Wake Forest
The Orange are heading to a bowl game for the first time since 2013 after beating the Wolfpack, but there’s quite a bit of intrigue remaining. Obviously, Syracuse can improve its bowl destination. The Orange could also shake up the Playoff landscape if they beat Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 17. They also will face off with Boston College in their regular-season finale on Nov. 24 in a game that might determine the second-best team in the ACC behind Clemson. If the Orange keep winning, perhaps Mike Francesa will learn who Syracuse coach Dino Babers is.