It’s still a week before the end of September and as the season moves along, some things have started to become very clear. The ACC is getting one team in the playoff—that is, unless Clemson somehow loses two games or gets miraculously blown out before December. The Pac-12 will be absent from the playoff festivities and judging by the conference’s play this weekend—and frankly, the past few seasons—the reputation it has as underachievers is well earned.
To recap: After the smoke cleared from the Saturday circus, the Pac-12 is left with one unbeaten team. That team is 4–0 Cal, which hasn’t won or a shared a league title since Marshawn Lynch was truckin’ defenders in 2006.
Utah, once thought to be a playoff darkhorse, lost when it allowed a previously transfer-portal-bound third-string quarterback from USC to light up its defense all night.
And the perhaps the biggest stunner of them all happened in the wee hours of the night up in the Palouse. Previously winless UCLA, last seen getting ran out of the Rose Bowl by Oklahoma, trailed by 32 points in the second half and stormed back to beat Washington State, 67–63. It took a 50-point second half outburst, and victory was still had despite surrendering 732 total yards and nine touchdown passes from Anthony Gordon.
The Cougars certainly helped out by turning the ball over six times, solidifying #Pac12AfterDark cult status and giving another reason for insomniacs to stay to up late.
Now to the rankings:
1. Clemson (4–0, 2–0 ACC)
Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat Charlotte 52–10
Next week: at North Carolina
Clemson played an absurd 110 players during Saturday’s game. Enough said.
2. Alabama (4–0, 1–0 SEC)
Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat Southern Mississippi 49–7
Next week: vs. Ole Miss
Tua Tagovailoa continued his Heisman stat-padding campaign with another wonderful performance, throwing for 293 yards and five touchdowns for the second straight game and doing it in less than three quarters. Tagovailoa is completing 81% of his passes for 1,300 yards with 17 touchdowns and no interceptions this season.
3. Oklahoma (3–0)
Previous ranking: 3
This week: Off
Next week: vs. Texas Tech
4. LSU (4–0, 1–0 SEC)
Previous ranking: 4
This week: Beat Vanderbilt 66–38
Next week: Off; next game Oct. 5 vs. Utah State
Joe Burrow threw for 398 yards and six touchdowns and Ja’Marr Chase, who caught 10 passes for 229 yards and four touchdowns, led the Tigers to a banner day. LSU continues to roll up the yards on all comers, finishing with 599 yards of offense. The 66 points scored are the most LSU, which now leads the nation in scoring offense, has scored in a non-overtime game since the 1991 season.
5. Ohio State (4–0, 1–0 Big Ten)
Previous ranking: 5
This week: Beat Miami (OH) 76–5
Next week: at Nebraska
This is all you need to know about how this game went: touchdown passes of 53, 13, 30, and 10 yards, plus scores of seven and six yards on the ground. Those scores were all by Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and all came in the second quarter.
6. Georgia (4–0, 1–0 SEC)
Previous ranking: 6
This week: Beat Notre Dame 23–17
Next week: Off; next game Oct. 5 at Tennessee
While Georgia didn’t exactly look like the team that took Alabama to the limit the past two seasons, it did enough against Notre Dame to keep its title hopes alive. This kind of victory will go a long way in the playoff committee’s eyes, especially if both teams keep winning. D’Andre Swift ran for 98 yards and the Bulldogs got an efficient steady game from Jake Fromm, who threw for 187 yards and a touchdown.
7. Auburn (4–0, 1–0 SEC)
Previous ranking: 8
This week: Beat Texas A&M 28–20
Next week: vs. Mississippi State
Auburn ran for 193 yards, including a 57-yard run on the game’s fourth play to hold off A&M. Kellen Mond threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns, but the Aggies could only muster 56 yards rushing. The loss drops Texas A&M to 11–15 in conference play at Kyle Field since leaving the Big 12 for the SEC in 2012.
8. Wisconsin (3–0, 1–0 Big 10)
Previous ranking: 16
This week: Beat Michigan 35–14
Next week: vs. Northwestern
It’s time for the Badgers to enter in the playoff discussion. All-American Jonathan Taylor rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns while Jack Coan continued Wisconsin’s tried-and-true method of winning by only throwing the ball 16 times and having no turnovers. The Badgers ran 57 times at six yards a carry and added to their nation-leading time of possession by keeping the ball for 41 minutes.
9. Florida (4–0, 2–0 SEC)
Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat Tennessee 34–3
Next week: vs. Towson
In his first start of any kind since he was a freshman in high school, Kyle Trask had 293 yards and two touchdowns. Florida has now won 14 of the last 15 games against its SEC East rival, winning by an average of almost 15 points a game. The most telling stat, which is a recipe for defeat: Tennessee turned it over four times and only scored three points.
10. Texas (3–1, 1–0 Big 12)
Previous ranking: 14
This week: Beat Oklahoma State 36–30
Next week: Off; next game Oct. 5 at West Virginia
Texas broke a five-game home and four-game overall losing streak to Oklahoma State as Sam Ehlinger had 351 total yards and four passing touchdowns. The Longhorns held the nation’s leading receiver, Tylan Wallace, to 83 yards on five catches. Texas has a road date at West Virginia before its annual showdown with Oklahoma in three weeks.
11. Notre Dame (3–1)
Previous ranking: 7
This week: Lost to Georgia 23–17
Next week: vs. Virginia
The Irish, who have lost 11 in a row to top-five teams, and their playoff hopes take a big hit as they committed 12 penalties and went 4 for 13 on third down. Yet they still had a chance to win the game at the end. Irish quarterback Ian Book, who threw two touchdowns, entered the game third in the nation with 11.8 yards per passing attempt. He finished with 5.9 against Georgia.
12. Penn State (3–0)
Previous ranking: 13
This week: Off
Next week: at Maryland
13. Iowa (3–0, 1–0 Big Ten)
Previous ranking: 15
This week: Off
Next week: vs. Middle Tennessee State
14. Oregon (3–1, 1–0)
Previous ranking: 17
This week: Beat Stanford 21–6
Next week: Off; next game Oct. 5 vs. California
Justin Herbert had three touchdown passes, extending his streak of throwing at least one scoring toss to 32 straight games, and the Ducks used a stifling defense to send Stanford spiraling to another loss. The Cardinal averaged only 3.5 yards a carry and K.J. Costello’s 30 pass attempts went for only 120 yards. Oregon has held its opponents without a touchdown for the third straight game.
15. Washington (3–1, 0–1 Pac–12)
Previous ranking: 21
This week: Beat BYU 45–19
Next week: vs. USC
Jacob Eason threw for 290 yards with three touchdowns and an interception as the Huskies completed their non-conference slate by scoring on offense, defense and special teams in a thorough domination of BYU. Turnovers played a big role as the Huskies scored 14 points off three BYU miscues. Washington has a virtual Pac-12 elimination game next week when USC comes to visit.
16. Utah (3–1, 0–1 Pac–12)
Previous ranking: 11
This week: Lost to USC 30–23
Next week: vs. Washington State
This week’s fraud, outside of Michigan, comes to us courtesy of the Utes. Utah was the preseason pick to win the Pac-12 South, and that could still happen, but its playoff hopes are officially on life support. While the Trojans couldn’t run the ball to save their lives, gaining only 13 yards, third-string QB Matt Fink stole the show, throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns. This slopfest also featured a combined 27 penalties.
17. Boise State (4–0, 1–0 MWC)
Previous ranking: 19
This week: Beat Air Force 30–19
Next week: Off; next game Oct. 5 at UNLV
Despite taking big hits all game, freshman Hank Bachmeier threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns, leading to Boise State to its first 4–0 start since 2016. In all four of its victories the opponent has scored first, but the Broncos won their 116th straight home game when leading after three quarters. Both teams had 355 total yards, but Boise ran for only 95 yards and are averaging just 3.74 per carry this season.
18. Memphis (3–0)
Previous ranking: 20
This week: Off
Next week: vs. Navy
19. Virginia (4–0, 2–0 ACC)
Previous ranking: 22
This week: Beat Old Dominion 28–17
Next week: at Notre Dame
20. Michigan (2–1, 1–1 Big 10)
Previous ranking: 9
This week: Lost to Wisconsin 35–14
Next week: vs. Rutgers
What’s worse than Michigan getting boat raced at Camp Randall was the way it was manhandled at the line of scrimmage. Michigan had the ball for only 18:53 and allowed 359 yards rushing. The Wolverines, who are now 1–6 vs. ranked opponents on road under Jim Harbaugh, failed to convert a single third-down in 10 tries and turned the ball over four times. Jonathan Taylor had 143 of his 203 yards and both of his touchdowns in the first quarter alone.
21. UCF (3–1)
Previous ranking: 12
This week: Lost to Pittsburgh 35–34
Next week: vs. UConn
Any talk of UCF crashing the playoff can now cease, as Pittsburgh ended the Knights 27-game regular-season winning streak in stunning fashion, converting a fourth-and-3 with less than a minute to go with its own “Pitt Special.” UCF had 423 yards of offense, which would be a good day for most teams, but it was 180 below its season average. Dillon Gabriel had two touchdowns and 338 yards, but was also picked off twice.
22. Cal (4–0, 1–0 Pac–12)
Previous ranking: —
This week: Beat Ole Miss 28–20
Next week: vs. Arizona State
Chase Garbers threw for a career-high 357 yards and four touchdowns and the Golden Bears benefited from a controversial ending to improve to 4–0 for the first time in four seasons. Cal is also the first Pac-12 team to win on the road against an SEC team since 2010. The last of Evan Weaver’s 22 tackles stopped Ole Miss short of the goal line and by the end of the night Cal was left as the Pac-12’s lone unbeaten.
23. Kansas State (3–0)
Previous ranking: 25
This week: Off
Next week: at Oklahoma State
24. Michigan State (3–1, 1–0 Big 10)
Previous ranking: —
This week: Beat Northwestern 31–10
Next week: vs. Indiana
Mark Dantonio won his 110th game, becoming the school’s all-time winningest head coach, and snapped a three-game losing streak to Northwestern. Brian Lewerke threw three touchdown scores, including two to Matt Seybert. Even though they gained 337 total yards, the Spartans played the field-position game and got timely stops, including a critical goal-line stand in the fourth quarter.
25. Wake Forest (4–0)
Previous ranking: —
This week: Beat Elon 49–7
Next week: at Boston College
By conference: Big 10 (6), SEC (5), Pac-12 (4), Big 12 (3), ACC (3) AAC (2), MWC (1), Independent (1).
Dropped Out: Texas A&M, Arizona State, Washington State.
Almost famous: USC, Boston College, SMU, Army, Appalachian State, Nebraska.