By Stewart Mandel
September 24, 2008

There's been no shortage of discussion about the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 teams recently. This is a big week for two teams at the bottom of my top 10.

On dueling networks Saturday night, No. 9 Penn State hosts Illinois in its Big Ten opener while No. 10 Alabama visits No. 3 Georgia. Obviously, the SEC game will take on much greater national interest, and rightfully so. If the Bulldogs prevail, there will be serious sentiment among voters to move them back into the top two. But it's also the Crimson Tide's first showcase opportunity since their season-opening rout of Clemson. If Nick Saban's team pulls off the upset in Athens, we'll have to rethink the already crowded SEC pecking order in the top 10.

Meanwhile, Penn State has risen up my rankings on the strength of four consecutive lopsided victories -- but they've admittedly come against some of the worst competition imaginable (Coastal Carolina, Oregon State, Syracuse and Temple). It's time to see how the Spread HD fares against a semi-decent defense and, perhaps more important, whether the Nittany Lions' defense can shut down Juice Williams & Co.

Expect some movement in this poll next week.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
Got a different view than Stew?
1 USC Trojans
Last Week: 1
The Trojans' last two trips to Corvallis have not been pleasant -- a 28-20 squeaker in 2004 and their first Pac-10 loss in three years in 2006. Does Thursday night's return carry upset potential? No, not really.
Last game: Beat Ohio State, 35-3.
Next game: Thursday at Oregon State.
2 Oklahoma Sooners
Last Week: 2
It seems far too early to be worrying about style points, but with a host of SEC teams breathing down the Sooners' necks, it would be in their best interest to score another blowout Saturday. The fact that TCU is now ranked certainly helps.
Last game: Beat Washington, 55-14.
Next game: Saturday vs. TCU.
3 Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: 3
The Dawgs are breaking out their black jerseys for Saturday night's game, and the atmosphere at Sanford Stadium should be electrifying. I'll be most curious to see how Georgia's offensive line handles massive Alabama DT Terrence Cody.
Last game: Beat Arizona State, 27-10.
Next game: Saturday vs. Alabama.
4 LSU Tigers
Last Week: 4
LSU Tigers (3-0)
How's that for answering your biggest question mark? QB Jarrett Lee's remarkable second-half performance against Auburn, combined with the continued dominance of RB Charles Scott, means LSU is right back in the national-title mix.
Last game: Beat Auburn, 26-21.
Next game: Saturday vs. Mississippi State.
5 Florida Gators
Last Week: 6
It's beginning to look like the Gators' defense is for real. First they held much-improved Miami to a field goal. Against Tennessee, they limited RBs Arian Foster and Montario Hardesty to a combined 52 yards on 19 carries.
Last game: Beat Tennessee, 30-6.
Next game: Saturday vs. Ole Miss.
6 Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 4
Playing three straight patsies caused the Tigers to get lapped by LSU and Florida following their significant conference victories. Otherwise, it's hard to find fault with Chase Daniel's latest masterpiece: 36-of-43 for 439 yards.
Last game: Beat Buffalo, 42-21.
Next game: Oct. 4 at Nebraska.
7 Texas Longhorns
Last Week: 7
Colt McCoy turned out arguably the finest performance of his career Saturday against Rice, going 19-of-23 for 329 yards and four touchdowns while rushing eight times for 83 yards and a score. He's currently the nation's third-rated passer.
Last game: Beat Rice, 52-10.
Next game: Saturday vs. Arkansas.
8 Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 8
While Michigan is unlikely to challenge the Badgers offensively, Saturday's Big Ten opener will be an important test for Wisconsin's offense after a bare-minimum showing at Fresno State. Look for QB Allan Evridge to do more in the passing game.
Last game: Beat Fresno State, 13-10.
Next game: Saturday at Michigan.
9 Penn State Nittany Lions
Last Week: 9
Penn State's coaches weren't thrilled with Saturday's 45-3 rout of Temple. The Nittany Lions fumbled four times in the first half (but didn't lose any) and allowed 221 yards in kick returns. The latter is the bigger concern heading into conference play.
Last game: Beat Temple, 45-3.
Next game: Saturday vs. Illinois.
10 Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: 12
The Tide's running game continues to be surprisingly dominant. Led by Glen Coffee's 10-carry, 162-yard day, 'Bama rolled up 328 yards on the ground against Arkansas. The Tide rank 14th nationally in rushing offense (236.8 yards per game).
Last game: Beat Arkansas, 49-14.
Next game: Saturday at Georgia.
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Got a different view than Stew?

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