By Andy Staples
September 13, 2011

Ah, Week 3. After two weeks of consuming mostly cupcakes, teams finally enter the portion of the schedule that carries more weight. It's a little like how the summer blockbuster season (explosions, points, mindless entertainment) gives way to the close-of-the-year glut of Oscar bait at the Cineplex. So in honor of most of college football tackling heavier themes beginning this week, the teams profiled in today's Power Rankings will be paired with Best Picture winners.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1 Oklahoma Sooners
Last Week: 1
The Godfather: The SEC has not officially extended an unconditional invitation to Texas A&M, but on Monday night it unofficially extended a middle finger in the general direction of legal threats from Baylor. That makes Oklahoma Michael Corleone after the baptism scene. Close the door on Kay, because it's time for the Sooners to make a big decision that could alter the landscape of college sports. On the field, the Sooners could also grab most of the first-place poll votes for themselves by beating Florida State in Tallahassee. It doesn't have to be as convincing as last year, when Oklahoma had to call off the dogs, but a good win would cement the Sooners' place atop the polls heading into conference play.
Last game: Beat Tulsa, 47-14
Next Game: Saturday at Florida State
2 LSU Tigers
Last Week: 2
LSU Tigers (2-0)
A Beautiful Mind: Somewhere in Baton Rouge, there is a room where the original versions of this play and this play and the clock management strategies for this play and this play are tacked to a wall that looks a lot like this one. Like John Nash, Les Miles operates on a higher plane than the rest of us. Don't try to understand it. Merely appreciate it.
Last game: Beat Northwestern State, 49-3
Next game: Thursday at Mississippi State
3 Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: 3
Forrest Gump: Gump played for the Crimson Tide from 1962-64, the first in a line of great backs that includes Major Ogilvie, Bobby Humphrey, Shaun Alexander, Mark Ingram and now Trent Richardson. Given Gump's blazing speed and slender physique, he probably would have played receiver today. In fact, a player with Gump-like speed down the sideline might be the only thing this current Crimson Tide team is missing. Another great deep threat would keep secondaries from smothering Marquis Maze and probably would keep defenses from stacking the box against Richardson. OK, OK. I know Gump is fictional and didn't actually play at Alabama, but here's a fun fact: In the film, Gump wore No. 44. The Alabama player who wore No. 44 during those years? Future Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews.
Last game: Beat Penn State, 27-11
Next game: Saturday vs. North Texas
4 Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 4
The Departed: Martin Scorcese didn't win his first Best Picture Oscar until he adapted a film from Hong Kong called Infernal Affairs for the American screen. Bret Bielema might win his first outright Big Ten title -- they're nothing but outright with the new format -- by adapting a quarterback from N.C. State for the Midwestern game. If this happens, The Dropkick Murphys will record I'm Shipping Up To Madison for the title sequence to the Badgers' 2011 highlight video. I tie sailor's knots/and I lost my brats/sipping on some Beast Light/I lost my brats/Shipping up to Madison, Whoa-oh-oh...
Last game: Beat Oregon State, 35-0
Next game: Saturday vs. Northern Illinois in Chicago
5 Stanford Cardinal
Last Week: 5
West Side Story: Stanford coach David Shaw once told The San Francisco Chronicle "We're a lot more than just Andrew Luck and the Luckettes." But what if the Cardinal weren't? What if they were a stage ensemble led by the tall, athletic, sometimes-hirsute son of West Virginia's athletic director? They could make a dynamite West Side Story. Luck could lead the Jets against linebacker Shayne Skov's Sharks. Receiver Chis Owusu could play Tony, and the Cardinal's trio of jumbo tight ends (Zach Ertz, Coby Fleener and Levine Toilolo) would make fine Jets enforcers.
Last game: Beat Duke, 44-14
Next game: Saturday at Arizona
6 Florida St. Seminoles
Last Week: 6
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: It's debatable whether Return of the King was the best film to hit theaters in 2003. Mystic River and Lost In Translation made fairly good cases as well. The Oscar for the final installment of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy was really a celebration of that film and the previous two, which also were excellent. Florida State's lofty ranking at the moment is a celebration of its past -- those of us who vote in polls never could accept when the Seminoles were down because they had been so dominant for so long -- and a projection of its future based on recruiting hype. Saturday, the Seminoles can justify that ranking with an Oscar-caliber performance against Oklahoma. Tallahassee may be buzzing about freshman studs such as defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, but we've only seen them against Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern. Play great against the Sooners, and we'll believe the hype.
Last game: Beat Charleston Southern, 62-10
Next game: Saturday vs. Oklahoma
7 Boise St. Broncos
Last Week: 12
Braveheart: People covered in blue fighting against the establishment? Sounds about right. I had the Broncos ranked way too low last week. It's always dangerous to use the transitive property to rank teams, but we've only got two weeks of games to use for these rankings, so here goes. Boise State dominated Georgia in Week 1 in Atlanta. South Carolina squeaked by Georgia in Week 2 in Athens. Therefore, Boise State should be ranked higher than South Carolina. South Carolina, in turn, should be ranked higher than Virginia Tech, which previously held this spot. South Carolina hung 56 on East Carolina in Week 1, while Virginia Tech narrowly escaped the Pirates in Week 2. So South Carolina should be ranked ahead of Virginia Tech. Since Boise State should be ranked ahead of South Carolina, Boise State also should be ranked ahead of Virginia Tech. The transitive property becomes less useful as the résumés diversify, but at the moment it's pretty much all we have.
Last game: Beat Georgia, 35-21
Next game: Friday at Toledo
8 Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: 8
Mutiny on the Bounty: In the Aggies' eyes, Texas is Captain Bligh. The SEC is Tahiti. So Texas A&M has taken command of its Bounty and steered it toward Tahiti, which for the purposes of this updated version is an office in downtown Birmingham, Ala. Will Texas A&M reach the island before next season? SEC commissioner Mike Slive seems to think so. In the meantime, the Aggies would love to win the Big 12 in their final spin through the league. They have the talent, but the sledding is tough. After a cupcake (Idaho) on Saturday, the slog begins with a visit from Oklahoma State on Sept. 24.
Last game: Beat SMU, 46-14
Next game: Saturday vs. Idaho
9 Oregon Ducks
Last Week: 9
Amadeus: The best exchange in the Mozart epic comes early, when a young Wolfie is playing a work commissioned by Emperor Joseph II. These lines might not be historically accurate, but they worked perfectly in the film.

Emperor Joseph II: My dear young man, don't take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many notes. That's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.

Mozart: Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?

In Eugene, maestro Chip Kelly has what many coaches would consider too many playmakers. Adding freshman De'Anthony Thomas to a backfield group that already includes LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner would have most coaches wondering how to keep everyone happy with only one football. Not Kelly, who simply runs more plays.
Last game: Beat Nevada, 69-20
Next game: Saturday vs. Missouri State

10 Oklahoma St. Cowboys
Last Week: 11
Unforgiven: Receiver Justin Blackmon is the Schofield Kid. Quarterback Brandon Weeden is the old-timer gunslinger William Munny, recruited by the Kid for one last job. In the film, the Kid and Munny hunt the cowboys who maimed a prostitute in order to collect a bounty provided by the hookers-with-hearts-of-gold of Big Whiskey, Wyoming. On the field, Blackmon and Weeden will try to navigate one of college football's most brutal schedules and win the Big 12 title. I know, I know. That's two Brandon-Weeden-is-old jokes in two weeks. Sorry, but the guy is 49 days older than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Last game: Beat Arizona, 37-14
Next game: Saturday at Tulsa
11 South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: 10
Gladiator: Would a more convincing win in Athens have given everyone a little more confidence that the Gamecocks deserve to be ranked this high? Absolutely. But as Maximus asked the crowd in the arena: Were you not entertained? After his two-touchdown performance between the hedges, South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram might need a Heisman campaign. Or maybe the Gamecocks could plug freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who is living up to impossibly optimistic recruiting hype. By the way, if this week's theme had been classic novels, South Carolina -- which plays Navy Saturday -- would have been 1984. We'll now give South Carolina fans a moment to rock back and forth and quietly weep at the memory of the 1984 Navy game. Certainly the Chicken Curse won't use the Midshipmen as its vessels this year, right?
Last game: Beat Georgia, 45-42
Next game: Saturday vs. Navy
12 Virginia Tech Hokies
Last Week: 7
Shakespeare in Love: Upon the first viewing, Shakespeare in Love seems like an excellent flick. A repeat viewing usually prompts the same two questions.

1. "This won Best Picture?"
2. "She named her kid Apple?"

Granted, it was only Appalachian State, but the Hokies looked in Week 1 like a team that would hammer inferior opponents -- which pretty much meant everyone on the regular-season schedule. Then Virginia Tech struggled against East Carolina, an ugly second viewing that reminded everyone it won't be so easy for the Hokies to win a fourth Virginia Tech Conference title in five seasons.
Last game: Beat East Carolina, 17-10
Next game: Saturday vs. Arkansas State
13 Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: 14
The Greatest Show on Earth: Come one, come all! Ringmaster Bobby Petrino has assembled for you the finest collection of receiving talent from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Marvel at the aerial acrobatics of Greg Childs, Jarius Wright and Joe Adams! Watch quarterback Tyler Wilson crack a 175 efficiency rating! Arkansas gets one more warm-up (against Troy) before heading to Tuscaloosa for the ultimate test of its offensive capabilities. Until that warm-up begins, raise the big-top and listen to the customers as Adams runs back a punt for a touchdown in the season opener against Missouri State.
Last game: Beat New Mexico, 52-3
Next game: Saturday vs. Troy

14 Michigan St. Spartans
Last Week: 16
The Best Years of Our Lives: In a pivotal moment in the 1946 veterans-adjusting-to-the-homefront film, Fred gets fired from his job as a drug store soda jerk while defending friend Homer, who was paralyzed during World War II. That's the type of thing good teammates do for one another. Last week, I mentioned the tale of Spartans lineman Arthur Ray Jr., who finally got his first start in the season opener after spending the past few years beating bone cancer. I didn't mention senior Joel Foreman, an All-Big Ten caliber lineman who gave up his starting spot for Ray. For being a great teammate, Foreman deserves a round of applause.
Last game: Beat Florida Atlantic, 44-0
Next game: Saturday at Notre Dame
15 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Last Week: 13
Patton: Admit it. You'd pay 11 bucks to see Bo Pelini in the title role for this scene alone.
Last game: Beat Fresno State, 42-29
Next game: Saturday vs. Washington

16 Ohio St. Buckeyes
Last Week: 15
Crash: Crash falls into the same category as Shakespeare In Love. It seemed great on the first viewing. Not so great on the second. Ditto for the Buckeyes. It might be that Toledo is better than usual and had a great day -- we'll know more about the Rockets when they host Boise State on Friday -- or it could be that Ohio State has some kinks that must be worked out in the absence of several key players serving NCAA suspensions. Speaking of NCAA suspensions, Ohio State travels to Miami this week, where the Hurricanes will get five starters back, including quarterback Jacory Harris, receiver Travis Benjamin and linebacker Sean Spence. Miami almost won at Maryland while missing eight starters. After an open date, the Hurricanes should be quite dangerous.
Last game: Beat Toledo, 27-22
Next game: Saturday at Miami
17 West Virginia Mountaineers
Last Week: 17
Midnight Cowboy: Coach Dana Holgorsen has the look of a man who might quit his dead end job as a dishwasher in Texas, dress as a cowboy and move to New York to become a professional hustler. Holgorsen's hustle of choice is making scoreboards explode, so he quit his job in Texas and -- after a brief stop in Oklahoma -- moved to Morgantown. The Mountaineers needed a half to get rolling last week against Norfolk State, but they scored 45 second-half points and cruised to a win. Can the offense keep humming this week at Maryland? Maybe, but the fans cheering that offense will have to mind their choice of attire lest they offend the athletic director.
Last game: Beat Norfolk State, 55-12
Next game: Saturday at Maryland
18 Baylor Bears
Last Week: 19
The Godfather Part II: On the field, Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III is playing like Michael Corleone at the height of his powers. With lieutenants such as tailback Terrance Ganaway (120 rushing yards and a touchdown against TCU), Griffin doesn't have to run his empire by himself. In the off-field realignment saga, Baylor is clearly Fredo, working behind the scenes to hamstring the more powerful players. At this point, the others will decide whether Baylor remains in the family or goes fishing on Lake Tahoe.
Last game: Beat TCU, 50-48
Next game: Saturday vs. Stephen F. Austin
19 Arizona St. Sun Devils
Last Week: 20
The French Connection: Watching quarterback Brock Osweiler pilot the Sun Devils down the field against Missouri felt a little like watching Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle commandeering a car and tearing up the streets and train tracks of New York.
Last game: Beat Missouri, 37-30 (OT)
Next game: Saturday at Illinois
20 Florida Gators
Last Week: 22
My Fair Lady: Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is Henry Higgins. The Gators' offense is Eliza Doolittle, a spread scheme that plays with a cockney accent. (Minus quarterback John Brantley, a pro-style peg who was jammed into a spread-shaped hole last season.) With no time to recruit the players to run his offense, Weis must make do with the players he inherited. Tiny Chris Rainey shredded Florida Atlantic and UAB, but the start of the SEC schedule is typically when Florida's pipsqueak backs lose their effectiveness. It's no accident that Florida's best runner in the Urban Meyer era was Tim Tebow. It will be up to Weis to create a passable offense that allows Brantley to distribute the ball through the air and allows Rainey and fellow back Jeff Demps to get the ball in space so they don't get killed trying to run between the tackles against much bigger defenders who run almost as fast as they do.
Last game: Beat Alabama-Birmingham, 39-0
Next game: Saturday vs. Tennessee
21 Auburn Tigers
Last Week: 25
The Sting: Coordinator Gus Malzahn's offense works like a great caper movie. In The Sting, a black-gloved man with a gun follows Robert Redford's Johnny Hooker. We are meant to think the gloved man is an assassin hired to kill Hooker. Instead, in a crucial scene, we learn the man is an assassin hired to kill Hooker's assassin. Malzahn, meanwhile, takes a screenwriter's approach to disguising runs as passes. Opposing defenses still haven't figured out that when the offensive line pass-sets and the back stays home -- ostensibly to block -- that Malzahn may have quarterback Barrett Trotter sneak up behind the back, reach over his shoulder and plant the ball in his stomach. With everyone watching for the pass, the back has a five-yard head start before the first defender can reach him. Of course, when Malzahn doesn't want to call a play-action run, he isn't opposed to calling the Statue of Liberty -- the ultimate offensive con.
Last game: Beat Mississippi State, 41-34
Next game: Saturday at Clemson
22 South Florida Bulls
Last Week: 23
Oliver!: Like Oliver Twist, the Bulls want more. USF has rocketed up the polls before -- only to land with a sickening thud. This year, Skip Holtz has a team capable of challenging for the Big East title. The nonconference win against Notre Dame in the opener will look fairly good or fairly ho-hum depending on what the Fighting Irish do against Michigan State Saturday. Meanwhile, USF quarterback B.J. Daniels will try to build on the 359-yard day he had against Ball State as the Bulls play cannon fodder for the next two weeks before opening conference play at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29.
Last game: Beat Ball State, 37-7
Next game: Saturday vs. Florida A&M
23 TCU Horned Frogs
Last Week: 24
Gandhi: Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson could have caused a lot more trouble as his undefeated teams got shut out of the national title race in recent years. Instead, he chose a non-violent solution. Patterson didn't starve himself like Gandhi did. Instead, TCU achieved its goal of earning an invitation to a BCS automatic qualifying conference by eating the lunch of nearly every team on the schedule. TCU's bounceback win against Air Force last week -- without star back Ed Wesley or linebacker Tanner Brock -- proves the Frogs haven't gone soft since getting invited to the Big East.
Last game: Beat Air Force, 35-19
Next game: Saturday vs. Louisiana-Monroe
24 Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 21
Hamlet: Many thanks to blogging queen Holly Anderson for this comparison. Holly pointed out that Tigers coach Gary Pinkel is Hamlet and Missouri kicker Grant Ressel is Ophelia. In Hamlet, Ophelia is driven mad by the title character's mind games. She wanders the halls singing bawdy songs and generally making everyone wonder if she's all there. If Ressel is wandering the halls of Missouri's football complex this week singing nonsensical songs, who could blame him? After all, Pinkel iced Ressel with two timeouts as Ressel tried to line up a potential game-winning field goal. Now, I understand that icing the kicker doesn't really exist. (In their excellent Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won, SI's L. Jon Wertheim and co-author Tobias Moskowitz prove this empirically.) Still, two timeouts? Really? Alas, poor James Franklin. I knew him, T.J. Moe.
Last game: Lost to Arizona State, 37-30 (OT)
Next game: Saturday vs. Western Illinois
25 UCF Knights
Last Week: --
Rocky: TCU already has a place in an AQ league. The Horned Frogs are buying Uncle Paulie a robot for his birthday. Boise State has gotten so good that the Broncos are getting ready for the second Clubber Lang fight. Meanwhile, in Orlando, UCF is still punching sides of beef and running up museum steps. The Knights' defense was ferocious Saturday, limiting Boston College to 141 yards of offense. This week, UCF faces Florida International and stud receiver T.Y. Hilton. The winner will get the belt as the next up-and-coming underdog.
Last game: Beat Boston College, 30-3
Next game: Saturday at Florida International

Next five: Maryland, Mississippi State, USC, Michigan, Illinois

Andy Staples' Power Rankings also serve as his ballot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

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