Top teams have separated from pack (cont.)

Tuesday September 21st, 2010
NCAA Football Power Rankings
11 Florida Gators
Last Week: 11
Gators coach Urban Meyer pretty much summed it up after Florida's win in Knoxville last weekend: "That was kind of who we are right now," Meyer said after Florida's offense struggled through the first half before finally finding some semblance of a groove in the third quarter. Florida's defense is good enough that the offense can get away with the sluggishness, but eventually the Gators will face a team with enough offensive weapons to test that defense. At that point, Florida will need quarterback John Brantley and company to provide a more immediate contribution. The obvious answer is that Florida will face such an offense in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 2, but the Gators may not have to wait that long. Kentucky has receiver Randall Cobb, one of the nation's most dynamic playmakers, and tailback Derrick Locke, who has averaged 124 yards per game this season.
Last game: Beat Tennessee, 31-17
Next game: Saturday vs. Kentucky
12 Utah Utes
Last Week: 12
Utah Utes (3-0)
Backup quarterback Terrance Cain set a school record for completion percentage in the Utes' win at New Mexico last week, and now Coach Kyle Whittingham faces a quandary. If starter Jordan Wynn is ready to return from a sprained thumb, does Whittingham play Wynn, or does he stick with Cain against San Jose State and give Wynn the bye week to recover? It may sound awkward, but being forced to decide between two capable quarterbacks is a good problem to have.
Last game: Beat New Mexico, 56-14
Next game: Saturday vs. San Jose State
13 South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: 13
The Gamecocks rose in the rankings based on a blowout of Southern Miss in the season opener and a win against a Georgia team that may not be very good. This week, we'll see if South Carolina deserves to be ranked this high. A trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium will test the Gamecocks, and Auburn's defense should provide an excellent measuring stick for freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore, who plowed through Georgia's D for 182 yards.
Last game: Beat Furman, 38-19
Next game: Saturday at Auburn
14 Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: 18
I've been one of the slowest to climb on the Arkansas bandwagon. At the moment, I have the Razorbacks one notch below South Carolina because the Gamecocks notched a more dominant win against Georgia. But if Arkansas can beat Alabama this week, I'll believe, and next week's ranking will reflect that. That's a big if, though.
Last game: Beat Georgia, 31-24
Next game: Saturday vs. Alabama
15 Stanford Cardinal
Last Week: 16
Poor Brian Kelly. First, the new Notre Dame coach got Shoelaced. Next, he got beat on a fake field goal in overtime. Now, he's going to get smashed by Stanford, which fittingly wore black to bury Wake Forest last week. About the only thing that might stop the Cardinal is jetlag. The 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff at Notre Dame is almost eight hours earlier than Stanford's 11:25 p.m. ET kickoff against the Demon Deacons.
Last game: Beat Wake Forest, 68-24
Next game: Stanford at Notre Dame
16 Iowa Hawkeyes
Last Week: 7
The Hawkeyes are probably too low here, but they'll move back up if they prove the Arizona loss was an anomaly -- or if the Wildcats prove they're just awesome. Still, Arizona's six-sack performance exposed flaws in Iowa's offensive line that must be fixed. Either that, or Ricky Stanzi needs to take out a bigger insurance policy.
Last game: Lost to Arizona, 34-27
Next game: Saturday vs. Ball State
17 LSU Tigers
Last Week: 24
LSU Tigers (3-0)
I've been hard on the Tigers all season, and I'm beginning to feel like one of those coaches who continuously rips the star player because he isn't reaching his potential -- even though he's still one of the best players on the field. LSU has gotten better each week, and it's time to accept the Tigers for what they are instead of punishing them for not reaching their ceiling. Besides, they still could reach that ceiling, and that could make the SEC West race very, very interesting.
Last game: Beat Mississippi State, 29-7
Next game: Saturday vs. West Virginia
18 Auburn Tigers
Last Week: 20
Georgia isn't the only SEC team missing an important player with the initials A.J. and a colorful last name. Auburn lost right tackle A.J. Greene for the season to a broken ankle suffered against Clemson. Left tackle Lee Ziemba played a week after injuring his right knee against Mississippi State, so he may not be at full strength when South Carolina arrives on the Plains. That could mean more pressure on quarterback Cam Newton, who may have to run more than he would like. Of course, it's not necessarily a bad thing to have a 6-foot-5, 250-pounder with speed running the ball.
Last game: Beat Clemson, 27-24 (OT)
Next game: Saturday vs. South Carolina
19 Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes
Last Week: 14
Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon banned his players from Twitter last week. It might be more effective to ban his players from committing turnovers. In Pittsburgh, Miami will face a team dotted with excellent athletes (tailback Dion Lewis and receiver Jonathan Baldwin, for example) that really, really needs a high-profile win on a national stage to earn back the respect it lost in an out-of-conference defeat earlier this season. Come to think of it, that sounds an awful lot like the Hurricanes, too.
Last game: Lost to Ohio State, 36-24
Next game: Thursday at Pittsburgh
20 Penn St. Nittany Lions
Last Week: 15
Temple coach Al Golden may as well be interviewing for his shot to replace Joe Paterno on Saturday. The Owls will give Golden everything, but it probably won't be enough against a Nittany Lions team that still needs to find its identity before it hits the Big Ten schedule.
Last game: Beat Kent State, 24-0
Next game: Saturday vs. Temple
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