By Andy Staples
September 07, 2010
NCAA Football Power Rankings
21 USC Trojans
Last Week: 19
The first Disgrace to the University winner comes from a Trojans fan. I won't reveal the author here, but Brian in Pittsburgh knows who he is. Here's his e-mail, unedited: "Why leave our USC? I understand you can't put them on your AP poll, but these are Power Rankings. They are playing the games this year so it's not fair to act like they just simply don't exist. Why follow the AP rules for this when it undermines the integrity of you naming the best 25? Please, please don't tell me it's just because it is easier for you..." Brian makes some great points, but his e-mail has two issues. First, The Associated Press has no rule against ranking teams on NCAA probation. Second, I ranked USC No. 19 in my preseason power rankings and on my preseason AP ballot.
Last game: Beat Hawaii, 49-36
Next game: Saturday vs. Virginia
22 Auburn Tigers
Last Week: 25
A giant, blinking TRAP sign should appear beside the next game on Auburn's schedule. The Tigers looked good in their opener. Quarterback Cameron Newton looked like a force of nature. But strange things happen on Thursday night -- especially to road favorites. Usually, the host school is making a rare appearance in a featured national television game. That makes the players and the crowd more intense. Add a short week of practice, and that takes away part of the favorite's schematic advantage and makes the game much more about big plays and momentum. The gap between the haves and the have-nots in the SEC West is paper thin. If Auburn can escape Starkville with a win of any kind, the Tigers should be ecstatic.
Last game: Beat Arkansas State, 52-26
Next game: Thursday at Mississippi State
23 Brigham Young Cougars
Last Week: --
Maybe the Mountain West brass knew something was up in Provo, because making the Cougars open conference play in Week 2 at Air Force could be considered a near-sufficient punishment for BYU abandoning the conference and going independent. After spending the preseason preparing to stop the possible No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL draft (Washington quarterback Jake Locker), the Cougars must switch gears and prepare for the Falcons' option. BYU players can't afford to be caught looking ahead to a revenge game against Florida State in Tallahassee in Week 3. Air Force will present enough problems by itself.
Last game: Beat Washington, 23-17
Next game: Saturday at Air Force
24 West Virginia Mountaineers
Last Week: --
This one could be a trap for the Mountaineers. Marshall will have had eight days to prepare for the Friends of Coal Bowl. West Virginia will have had six. Marshall's first-year coach (Doc Holliday) was the associate head coach at West Virginia and knows the Mountaineers' personnel intimately. Marshall got embarrassed by Ohio State, and the best way to reclaim some pride is to win state bragging rights at home on national television. Despite all that, West Virginia is better. If the Mountaineers play to their potential, they'll win.
Last game: Beat Coastal Carolina, 31-0
Next game: Friday at Marshall
25 South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: --
When he coached at Florida, Steve Spurrier loved little more than beating Georgia, the rival that was the bane of his existence as a Florida player in the '60s. At the helm of the Gators, Spurrier went 11-1 against the Bulldogs. At South Carolina, the Ball Coach is 1-4 against Georgia, but he knows a win this year could open a path to the SEC East title that has eluded the Gamecocks since they joined the league in 1992. Win or lose, Saturday's game probably will be close; in the five years Spurrier has coached at South Carolina, four meetings with Georgia have been decided by seven or fewer points.
Last game: Beat Southern Miss, 41-13
Next game: Saturday vs. Georgia

(A note about this last spot: After watching Saturday's barnburner, I was sorely tempted to rank North Carolina solely for the guts the Tar Heels showed in the Georgia Dome. Even if all the guys under NCAA investigation don't come back, North Carolina has a scrappy team that can still win a lot of games. Unfortunately, the Tar Heels still lost to LSU, so it wouldn't be fair to rank them ahead of the Tigers. As for LSU, there is no way I'm ranking a team that needed two dropped touchdown passes to beat a basketball school playing its JV defense. Sorry. Win some SEC games and we'll talk.)

Next five: Arizona, LSU, North Carolina, Houston, Kansas State

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

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