Thanks to Alabama–LSU, we were guaranteed some movement this week in the top four of the Top 10 (Plus One). We got that, and we also realized the gap between No. 1 and everyone else might be even bigger than we realized.
1. Alabama (9–0)
Last week: 1
Last game: Beat LSU, 29–0
Next game: Saturday vs. Mississippi State
The Crimson Tide looked somewhat mortal on offense for once, but we’ve spent so much time talking about Tua Tagovailoa & Co. that we forgot that, historically, the trademark of Nick Saban’s Alabama teams has been the defense. LSU players aren’t likely to forget that after getting smothered by Tide defenders on Saturday.
2. Clemson (9–0)
Last week: 3
Last game: Beat Louisville, 77–16
Next game: Saturday at Boston College
I’m sorry. I had kept Notre Dame here for a while, but Clemson looks like the only team in America capable of going toe-to-toe with Alabama. So now the Tigers get to wear orange jerseys in our theoretical playoff matchup here.
Clemson may have ended Bobby Petrino on Saturday. On Saturday, they’ll face what might be the last semblance of a challenge they’ll see in ACC play.
3. Notre Dame (9–0)
Last week: 2
Last game: Beat Northwestern, 31–21
Next game: Saturday vs. Florida State
The Fighting Irish manufactured a touchdown drive—with a beautiful playcall for an Ian Book naked bootleg for the capper—when they absolutely needed one late in Saturday’s fourth quarter. Now Notre Dame will make its final appearance at home against a Florida State team that has a puncher’s chance because of its athletes. But the Seminoles will likely struggle to block the Fighting Irish.
4. Michigan (8–1)
Last week: 5
Last game: Beat Penn State, 42–7
Next game: Saturday at Rutgers
The Wolverines continued their revenge tour by thoroughly dominating a team that dominated them last year. Penn State may have been banged up, but the fact that Michigan held the Nittany Lions scoreless until garbage time suggests this defense might have leveled up even higher as this season has progressed.
5. Georgia (8–1)
Last week: 6
Last game: Beat Kentucky, 34–17
Next game: Saturday vs. Auburn
The Bulldogs locked down a spot in the SEC title game by dominating Kentucky on the ground. Georgia rushers rolled up 331 yards and averaged 6.6 yards a carry. Meanwhile, Georgia’s defense held Kentucky—a team with a good offensive line and one great tailback—to 2.4 yards a carry. The Bulldogs need to be careful this week against an Auburn team that will come in confident after a comeback in the final-minutes against Texas A&M.
6. Oklahoma (8–1)
Last week: 7
Last game: Beat Texas Tech, 51–46
Next game: Saturday vs. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray threw two early interceptions and the Red Raiders cashed both in for touchdowns. Then the Sooners began fighting back. Sometimes it’s enough to just get out of Lubbock with a win. But that probably doesn’t happen if the game in Morgantown starts the same way.
7. West Virginia (7–1)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Texas, 42–41
Next game: Saturday vs. TCU
I think they left out one of the words Dana Holgorsen said here.
8. UCF (8–0)
Last week: 9
Last game: Beat Temple, 52–40
Next game: Saturday vs. Navy
The Knights confirmed whatever you believe about them in their win against Temple on Thursday. But the fact is they could beat a lot of the teams on this list on a given day.
9. Washington State (8–1)
Last week: 9
Last game: Beat Cal, 19–13
Next game: Saturday at Colorado
The Cougars barely survived again, but they keep surviving. A Mike Leach Rose Bowl seems entirely possible. Here’s another possibility thanks to this week’s Pac-12 results: A Mike Leach-Herm Edwards matchup in the Pac-12 title game.
10. LSU (7–2)
Last week: 4
Last game: Lost to Alabama, 29–0
Next game: Saturday vs. Arkansas
The Tigers getting whipped by Alabama shows the talent gap between those two programs. But guess what? Every program except Clemson has a gap as large or larger when compared to the Crimson Tide. LSU would still beat almost everyone else if it played them on a neutral field.
Plus One: Missouri (5–4)
Last game: Beat Florida, 38–17
Next game: Saturday vs. Vanderbilt
Congratulations to the Tigers on their first SEC win. This was as much a progression to the mean as Florida’s performance was a regression to the mean. Missouri hadn’t really been that bad, and Florida hadn’t really been that good. And the Tigers’ schedule sets up for some more happy days to come.