By Andy Staples
November 01, 2011

The FOOTBALLPOCALYPSE -- read in your best monster-truck show announcer voice -- is upon us.

No. 1 will meet No. 2 in the regular season for the first time in almost five years when LSU and Alabama take the field Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It feels like a national semifinal, and barring a major upset, it probably will be. That's pressure. It's Final Jeopardy, the Showcase Showdown and the Fast Money Round rolled into one.

See where I'm going with this? That's right. It's game show week at the Power Rankings. Time to play the feud...

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1 LSU Tigers
Last Week: 1
LSU Tigers (8-0)
Press Your Luck: The No. 1 team in the nation gets the honor of the finest moment from the finest game show ever produced. Michael Larson was an ice cream truck driver from Ohio who won a spot on Press Your Luck on May 19, 1984. Unbeknownst to game show god Peter Tomarken and the studio audience, Larson had figured out that the game board always moved in one of five patterns. Larson took a Whammy on his first spin, then embarked on a blistering run that ended with him winning $110,237. LSU coach Les Miles has a little Michael Larson in him. If anybody can figure out the patterns of the Alabama defense, it's Miles. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator John Chavis will unleash his hellhounds upon an offense that seems unstoppable. But LSU's might be the one defense that can stop Alabama. With Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu at cornerback, LSU is athletic enough to cover Alabama's receivers one-on-one. That should allow the Tigers to load the box to stop Alabama's rushing juggernaut. That would force Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron to beat LSU with his arm. No team has forced McCarron to do that, so it's not clear whether he can. He might pick LSU apart, or he might fall apart. If it works, LSU can force turnovers and control field position. If it doesn't, the Tigers will get the Whammy, and the Crimson Tide will be No. 1.
Last game: Beat Auburn, 45-10
Next game: Saturday at Alabama

2 Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: 2
The Gong Show: Just as the Chuck Barris-helmed masterpiece allowed contestants to remain on stage as long as they were entertaining, Alabama allows teams a brief amount of time to showcase their talent. Penn State got a quarter. So did Arkansas and Ole Miss. Florida got a half. So did Tennessee. Then, GONG! It's over. The Crimson Tide annihilate the opponent. LSU seems like one of the few acts capable of staying on stage for an entire episode.
Last game: Beat Tennessee, 37-6
Next game: Saturday vs. LSU

3 Oklahoma St. Cowboys
Last Week: 4
Remote Control: A cursory glance at the statistics from Oklahoma State's win against Baylor last week suggests the Cowboys' offense is like the book learning of this Remote Control contestant -- above reproach -- and the Cowboys' defense is like his knowledge of pop culture. (He answered "Brian Murray" when asked to identify the lead singer of Queen.) But even though Oklahoma State allowed Baylor to gain 622 yards, most of those yards came long after the game had been decided. Remember, Oklahoma State led 35-0 at halftime and 49-3 at the end of the third quarter. Don't write off Oklahoma State as a one-phase wonder. Despite the numbers, defensive coordinator Bill Young's crew can play.
Last game: Beat Baylor, 59-24
Next game: Saturday vs. Kansas State

4 Stanford Cardinal
Last Week: 3
Wheel of Fortune: Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck could absolutely do what this plucky Wheel contestant did. In fact, Luck probably could do it with no letters. OK, maybe not. Luck isn't perfect. We learned that Saturday when the pick-six he threw to USC's Nickell Robey almost knocked Stanford from the national title race. But Luck did not go into a shell. He led the Cardinal to a last-minute touchdown and a triple-overtime victory. Vanna would clap for that.
Last game: Beat USC, 56-48 (3OT)
Next game: Saturday at Oregon State

5 Boise St. Broncos
Last Week: 6
The Newlywed Game: If there were a version of The Newlywed Game for coaches and quarterbacks, Chris Petersen and Kellen Moore would destroy everyone. With the possible exception of Luck and Stanford coach David Shaw, no signal-caller is more simpatico with his coach while running the offense. Sometimes, it seems Petersen and Moore have a telepathic connection. They probably even sync two steps ahead like this made-for-one-another couple.
Last game: Beat Air Force, 37-26
Next game: Saturday at UNLV

6 Oregon Ducks
Last Week: 8
Jeopardy: The answer: This group of football players can be perfectly soundtracked by Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. The question: Who are the Oregon Ducks? Courtesy of our friends Dan and Ty at The Solid Verbal, here's Alex calling Oregon's victory against Stanford in 2010. This should be the only time the Ducks consider the Cardinal this week. If they get caught looking ahead to the Nov. 12 showdown that should decide the Pac-12 North, tailback Chris Polk, quarterback Keith Price and the rest of the Huskies could leave Oregon stunned in Seattle. Meanwhile, Alex Trebek has another answer: Bryan Bennett. A possible question: Who is the backup quarterback who may actually be better than the incumbent starter still trying to recover from a knee injury? Chip Kelly may have to go to the judges on that one.
Last game: Beat Washington State, 43-28
Next game: Saturday at Washington

7 Oklahoma Sooners
Last Week: 7
Pictionary: The Sooners fell asleep against Texas Tech. There is no other explanation for that loss. Saturday in the Little Apple, Oklahoma proved that it has awakened. Don't expect Oklahoma to slack off again. The loss of super walk-on tailback Dominique Whaley to a broken ankle will hurt, but the Sooners have enough talent on both sides of the ball to keep winning and become the first one-loss team to jump back in the national title discussion. If the Sooners hit every remaining opponent as hard as Erik Estrada hit Bill Maher during this episode of Pictionary, it won't be the least bit surprising.
Last game: Beat Kansas State, 58-17
Next game: Saturday vs. Texas A&M

8 Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: 9
Win, Lose or Draw: Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino can draw up some beautiful plays. But could he compete on the white board with Burt Reynolds on Win, Lose or Draw? During South Carolina week, the smart money is on Petrino and the Razorbacks. After losing to South Carolina in his first season, Petrino has won his last two against the Gamecocks by a combined 38 points. Arkansas has won four of its past five against South Carolina, and the Gamecocks don't think Missouri -- which probably would be paired with Arkansas as cross-divisional rivals -- can get to the SEC soon enough.
Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 31-28
Next game: Saturday at South Carolina

9 Clemson Tigers
Last Week: 5
The Price Is Right -- Big Wheel: Clemson had its chance. Given the remaining schedule for the remaining undefeated teams, it's entirely possible Clemson could have ended up with a legitimate shot at playing for the national title. But that won't happen now. After Saturday's loss at Georgia Tech, the Tigers had to feel like this poor Price is Right contestant. (I used a few of The Price Is Right's individual games in these rankings. Why? Because it's an all-time classic game show, and because I didn't want anyone inferring any cheap recruits-for-sale jokes because of the title.)
Last game: Lost to Georgia Tech, 31-17
Next game: Nov. 12 vs. Wake Forest

10 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Last Week: 14
Password: Early in Nebraska's impressive win Saturday, Michigan State's punter shanked a ball over the Cornhuskers' sideline. Standing only a few feet from Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, the official closest to the ball marked the spot nowhere near where the ball had actually crossed the sideline. Pelini reacted just as he should have, which is to say Pelini reacted almost exactly like Betty White in this Super Password clip. The Password is AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGGGGGH!
Last game: Beat Michigan State, 24-3
Next game: Saturday vs. Northwestern

11 Virginia Tech Hokies
Last Week: 15
Family Feud: Even though this woman's boneheaded answer gave Richard Dawson a case of the giggles for the rest of the show, her family still took home money. That's how the Hokies feel about their escape from a half-empty Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday. "It's one of those where, thank goodness we got out of here with a win," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer told reporters. "And let's keep moving forward." Up next: a bye week and then a Thursday-night date with Georgia Tech.
Last game: Beat Duke, 14-10
Next game: Nov. 10 at Georgia Tech

12 Michigan St. Spartans
Last Week: 10
Supermarket Sweep: After hearing Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins describe the buffet crawl he led his offensive linemen on this past summer, I'm convinced guard Joel Foreman and company could dominate this classic show. (Hint: They'd go straight for the steak.) But while they're in the aisles, they also should pick up some hangover medication. A week after Rocket helped them beat Wisconsin, the Spartans hadn't awoken after the party. Nebraska made them pay. Sparty should come back to life this week against Minnesota, which is recovering from a hangover of its own.
Last game: Lost to Nebraska, 24-3
Next game: Saturday vs. Minnesota

13 Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 12
The Price is Right -- Showcase Showdown: The Badgers have lost on last-minute Hail Mary passes two weeks in a row. It's tough to find a comparison for that kind of gut punch. This one comes close, though. It's a $1 overbid on a showcase on The Price Is Right. In other words, a bid $1 lower would have won both showcases. Actual retail price? Despair.
Last game: Lost to Ohio State, 33-29
Next game: Saturday vs. Purdue

14 South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: 18
The Price is Right -- Cliffhangers: The Gamecocks remain in control of their destiny in the SEC East race, but as they head to Fayetteville this weekend, it feels as if the mountain climber in the classic Price is Right game is getting dangerously near the precipice. Arkansas carved up South Carolina in Columbia last year. At Tennessee last week, the Gamecocks didn't appear to have much offensive punch in their first game since a knee injury knocked tailback Marcus Lattimore out for the season. South Carolina's improved defense should be able to hold the Razorbacks to less than the 41 they scored last year at Williams-Brice Stadium, but can quarterback Connor Shaw and the offense score enough to keep pace? East rival Georgia is now 5-1 in SEC play with games against Auburn and Kentucky remaining. Both those games are extremely winnable for the Bulldogs, who need just one South Carolina loss to take over first place. If South Carolina can't find a way to win at Arkansas, the Gamecocks' chances of winning the SEC East might fall off the cliff.
Last game: Beat Tennessee, 14-3
Next game: Saturday at Arkansas

15 Michigan Wolverines
Last Week: 19
Scrabble: Michigan defensive end Ryan Van Bergen loves pink. In fact, Van Bergen is looking forward to Saturday, when the Wolverines will dress in Iowa's pink visitor's locker room. "I love the pink locker room," Van Bergen told on Monday. "I've never had an issue with the pink locker room. I think it gives it nice décor, the Feng Shui really feels good before the game. It warms you up. It's very welcoming. I think more teams should go with pink. I have no problem with it. I think it's a great touch. It's better than the off-white jail-cell look." Van Bergen would have loved the televised version of Scrabble, where letters in pink squares were worth the most money.
Last game: Beat Purdue, 36-14
Next game: Saturday at Iowa

16 USC Trojans
Last Week: 17
Hollywood Squares: Attention, Trojans. Your Secret Square is tailback Curtis McNeal. When he is running the ball, the offense moves. When he isn't, it slows considerably. When defenses have to worry about the diminutive McNeal darting into the second level, they can't focus all their attention on Robert Woods and Marqise Lee on the outside. Yes, McNeal fumbled at the end of the Stanford game, but don't stop feeding him the ball. Now watch this clip, in which former Trojans receiver Keyshawn Johnson is not the Secret Square.
Last game: Lost to Stanford, 56-48 (3OT)
Next game: Friday at Colorado

17 Penn St. Nittany Lions
Last Week: 20
Double Dare: How the Nittany Lions reached 8-1 is no mystery. Their offense is anemic, ranking 101st in the nation in yardage. Their quarterback situation remains unsettled. But they have an outstanding defense that ranks fourth in the nation in points allowed, and they have benefitted from a backloaded schedule that allowed them to reach 5-0 in the Big Ten by playing the dregs of the conference. It's not the most ideal way to gain control of the Leaders Division, but control is control. Penn State has two weeks to prepare for Nebraska. If the Nittany Lions can beat the Cornhuskers, they can clinch the division with a win against Ohio State the following week. You read that correctly. A team that can barely move the ball can render the regular-season finale against Wisconsin utterly meaningless. Is it likely that Penn State will win its next two? No. But was it likely that the Nittany Lions would win their past seven? Of course not. No matter what, Penn State will make the Nebraska game a messy physical challenge -- just like the ones on every episode of Nickelodeon's signature game show. Now, sit back and remember a time when Marc Summers was more than the guy on the Food Network who told you how frozen pizzas are made.
Last game: Beat Illinois, 10-7
Next game: Nov. 12 vs. Nebraska

18 Kansas St. Wildcats
Last Week: 11
Hole in the Wall: The Wildcats had a great start, but the folks in the Big 12 office were not kind when they made this season's schedule. Fresh off getting demolished by Oklahoma, Kansas State has to go to Stillwater this weekend. When Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden starts slinging, the Wildcats may resemble this Hole in the Wall contestant. (How this show failed to set ratings record, I'll never know.)
Last game: Lost to Oklahoma, 58-17
Next game: Saturday at Oklahoma State

19 Houston Cougars
Last Week: 21
Tic Tac Dough: Cougars quarterback Case Keenum is the Thom McKee of college football. Who is McKee? He's the Navy lieutenant who captured the nation's imagination in 1980 by winning 88 games on a then-record 46 consecutive episodes of Tic Tac Dough. McKee won $312,700, equal to $1.07 million today. Keenum -- whose college career only feels as if it began in 1980 -- broke the NCAA record for career touchdown passes this past Thursday against Rice. Next up: Former Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang's NCAA record for career passing yards. What else does Keenum have in common with McKee? If another Conference USA team upsets the Cougars, Keenum's historic run will get stopped by the football equivalent of a guy wearing a brown leisure suit.
Last game: Beat Rice, 73-34
Next game: Saturday at UAB

20 Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: 22
The $100,000 Pyramid: No non-football player wore shoulder pads quite as well as Markie Post, and few celebrities helped more game show contestants win money in the '80s than Post, who followed her turn on The Fall Guy with a stellar run on Night Court. Georgia's SEC schedule draw this season is the conference version of drawing Markie Post as a partner on the Pyramid. If the Bulldogs don't win the East division, it's their own fault. No Alabama. No LSU. No Arkansas. True road games against Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Georgia, which has won six in a row and five in a row in SEC play, doesn't face a league opponent this week, but all eyes in Athens will be on Fayetteville, where South Carolina might turn over control of the division to the Dawgs by losing to Arkansas.
Last game: Beat Florida, 24-20
Next game: Saturday vs. New Mexico State

21 Ohio St. Buckeyes
Last Week: --
Dream Job: In 2004, ESPN decided to televise its search for on-air talent. The first winner was Mike Hall, who now talks about Ohio State nearly every day as an anchor for the Big Ten Network. If Ohio State wins its final four games, one of the topics Hall might discuss a lot in the next few months is whether interim coach Luke Fickell should keep the job on a permanent basis. If, after all Ohio State has been through in the past nine months, Fickell leads the Buckeyes to a Leaders Division title, Fickell will deserve a hard look from Ohio State's brass. Fickell has his dream job now, but his contract states that the dream will end on Jan. 31, 2012. If he can lead his team to a 4-0 November, he might hold that job quite a bit longer.
Last game: Beat Wisconsin, 33-29
Next game: Saturday vs. Indiana

22 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Last Week: --
Sale of the Century: Like Sale contestant Alice, who never bought an Instant Bargain, Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson is going to stick to the option come hell or high water. Clinging to the plan is a must when a team runs the option. Option teams face problems when the other team runs so well that it hogs the ball and gives the offense little time to work (as Virginia did) or when an opposing defense is athletic and remains disciplined enough to keep all the big plays bottled up (as Miami did). Clemson did neither, and the Yellow Jackets pulled an upset that put them back in the ACC title race. Next Thursday's matchup with Virginia Tech could decide the Coastal Division.
Last game: Beat Clemson, 31-17
Next game: Nov. 10 vs. Virginia Tech

23 Arizona St. Sun Devils
Last Week: 24
Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?: The Sun Devils probably could use their Phone-A-Friend the way John Carpenter did just before he became the first $1 million winner on Millionaire. "Hi, ASU cheerleaders, we just wanted to let you know you're going to have to work an extra game this season. Why? Because we're going to play in the Pac-12 title game." USC -- which Arizona State already beat -- is ineligible for the title. So a win against UCLA would clinch a spot in the Pac-12 title game for the Sun Devils. Shockingly, UCLA is the only other Pac-12 South team still mathematically alive. Though they're only 4-4, the Bruins have beaten Oregon State, Washington State and Cal and lost to Stanford and Arizona. Arizona State is much, much better than UCLA. But the Sun Devils probably shouldn't make that phone call. Getting cocky worked for Carpenter, but that's only because he knew Richard Nixon had appeared on Laugh-In.
Last game: Beat Colorado, 48-14
Next game: Saturday at UCLA

24 Texas Longhorns
Last Week: 25
The Amazing Race: The Longhorns' freshman tailback duo of Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron would make an exceptional Amazing Race team. Both are fast, strong and agile. Saturday against Kansas marked the first time each player broke the 100-yard mark in the same game. It won't be the last. Texas coach Mack Brown wants his offense led by a power running game, and Brown and Bergeron appear to be the backs that will provide that power. That probably will keep the pair off The Amazing Race for a while. Which is fine. Because running full speed at 300-pound defensive tackles looks safer than some of the competitions on the show.
Last game: Beat Kansas, 43-0
Next game: Saturday vs. Texas Tech

25 TCU Horned Frogs
Last Week: --
Card Sharks: In the big game of conference realignment poker, the Horned Frogs were the luckiest of all. They got out of the Big East before the lawsuits started flying, and they wound up in a geographically sensible (for them) league that will pay them more money than the Big East would. TCU wasn't quite as lucky as Debbie -- the most fortunate contestant in Card Sharks history -- but the Horned Frogs aren't complaining. They aren't complaining on the field, either. TCU has won three in a row, and after a nationally televised thumping of BYU, the Horned Frogs have a tune-up at Wyoming before they head to Boise. There, they'll carry the flag for every power conference school in the nation -- even though they haven't actually joined a power conference yet.
Last game: Beat BYU, 38-28
Next game: Saturday at Wyoming

Next five: Auburn, Washington, Missouri, West Virginia, Cincinnati

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

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