College Football Power Rankings, Week 5: Clemson Is Now Watching The Throne

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People argued for years that college football didn’t need a playoff system because “the regular season is essentially a playoff.” Most of these people were paid to say that, of course, paid by ridiculous bowls that thought they wouldn’t exist if the Playoff arrived. But what everyone else always knew was that even if you have a Playoff, it’s not going to let everybody in, so elimination games will still be played across America all fall. This weekend, Clemson-Louisville was one such game and it lived up to its billing and then some.

We don’t want to knock your win, Michigan, trust us: We believe in Wisconsin and recognize that was a tough game. But if we can, we’d like to pull a Kanye and say that while your fistfight with the Badgers was impressive in its own Big Ten way, Clemson’s was the most impressive of the weekend.

Another de facto elimination game? Friday night’s Pac-12 showdown between Washington and Stanford, which unfortunately did not live up to its billing. Washington stomped the heck out of Stanford and we’re now all living in a world in which the Huskies, not the Ducks, nor the Cardinal, nor the Trojans, are the kings of the West coast.

As far as the Power Rankings go? So long, Florida State, it’s been fun and all but if we’re being honest, come November we probably won’t even admit to people we ever had you in the Top 5. It’s not you, it’s me. Well, more specifically, my inability to respect someone that can’t hold onto a lead for the last 25 seconds of a game. We’re also waving goodbye to Michigan State. Sparty, if you didn’t get the message via the end credits last week, we’re through too. And Arizona State? Lovely having you stop by, but thanks for leaving all the booze.

Welcome Clemson, you’ve been sniffing around the top all season long and now it’s your time to shine. This one’s for you, Crazy Eyed Tiger, these are the POWER RANKINGS.

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1. Clemson (5-0)
Last week: 5
Last game: Beat Louisville, 42-36
Next up: Friday at Boston College

As we mentioned, this was billed as the Saturday Night Special heading into the weekend and it did not disappoint. Under the lights in Death Valley, Louisville played like a team confident in their ability and unafraid to topple the defending ACC champion. Clemson played like a team hell-bent on stopping America’s September Sweetheart, Lamar Jackson. Sure, there were turnovers, but this was the rare game that looked more like two very good teams causing havoc on each other rather than two bad teams trying to give the game away. Deshaun Watson threw for five touchdowns (in the rare Heisman-caliber, three interception performance) while Lamar Jackson threw for one and ran in two. Here, here, just … just watch it all.

Come December, I’m putting a rematch of these two teams on my Christmas list.

2. Alabama (5-0)
Last week: 2
Last game: Beat Kentucky, 34-6
Next up: Saturday at Arkansas

Beating Kentucky ain’t ever anything to crow about, ‘Bama. We’re looking forward to this week’s game though. As we said last week, if there’s anyone in the SEC that can compete purely on the scale against the Crimson Tide, it’s the Razorbacks. (Unfortunately for Arkansas, Alabama can also beat you with straight speed, but hey, road games are tough.)

3. Ohio State (4-0)
Last week: 3
Last game: Beat Rutgers, 58-0
Next up: Saturday vs. Indiana

What’d we say last week? Oh yeah: “Ohio State will be floating somewhere in this 2-5 range the next couple of weeks, as they face Rutgers and then Indiana, neither of whom are expected to challenge the Buckeyes. We’ll catch up with them after their Oct. 15 game against Wisconsin which may prove to be their toughest test of the season so far.”

But keep making guys miss like this, Buckeyes, and we’ll keeing tuning in anyway:

4. Michigan (5-0)
Last week: 1
Last game: Beat Wisconsin, 14-7
Next up: Saturday at Rutgers

Well, somebody finally challenged Michigan, but the Wolverines showed they have what it takes to scratch out a win through pure grit, determination, and also a bit of finesse:

Look, we here at the Power Rankings tried real hard to convince you last week that Michigan is legit. Most of you laughed, and sure, it’d be crazy to crown them champions over someone like Alabama before they’ve played anyone real. But Wisconsin is a fair test, and while the Wolverines offense finally sputtered out for the first time all season, their defense proved it’s able to carry the load when necessary. We’re telling you, this is a team rounding into form right on schedule to knock the Buckeyes off their Big Ten throne.

5. Washington (5-0)
Last week: 9
Last game: Beat Stanford, 44-6
Next up: Saturday at Oregon

Washington, we’re sorry. You can’t even get top billing in the Power Rankings as the game of the weekend even when you blow out Stanford. Truthfully, while Clemson-Louisville was probably the most exciting game of the weekend to a neutral viewer, Washington’s destruction of Stanford was easily the most impressive.

It’s easy to say that Stanford was overrated, but that’s just wrong. It’s pretty crazy to say that anyone was overrating a team with one of the best players in the country on it. As for that “best player in the country?” Christian McCaffrey had just 49 yards thanks to a stifling Washington defense.

On a personal note, we here at the Power Rankings have fond memories of Chris Petersen taking Boise State as close to the top of the mountain as they could get. Their win against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl is one of the best games we’ve ever watched, and quite frankly we’re real excited to see him get the chance to win a major conference and potentially a shot at a national title.

6. Louisville (4-1)
Last week: 4
Last game: Lost to Clemson, 42-36
Next up: Oct. 14 vs. Duke

Louisville now has to hope for some ACC havoc, or more likely, that Playoff voters will be willing to overlook their lack of a conference or even division title come December. The good news? We’ve been here before, when LSU-Alabama was billed as the “Game of the Century” in 2011. LSU won and went on to win the SEC Championship. Nevertheless, Alabama continued to win out, and at the end of the year, LSU and Alabama were ranked 1 & 2 and faced off for the National Championship. That was with only two open slots too! Surely voters can find plenty of reasons to give two of four Playoff spots to the ACC if you win out.

Oh, right, the bad news? Well, that second game was absolutely terrible for viewers in 2011. LSU won the first one, 9-6, in a defensive slugfest. And Alabama won the rematch in the title game 21-0. So the fans lost, but you’ve already shown voters what they can expect when Clemson and Louisville match up and we’re betting they’ll want to see more.

7. Texas A&M (5-0)
Last week: 7
Last game: Beat South Carolina, 24-13
Next up: Saturday vs. Tennessee

The Aggies keep on keepin’ on. They’ll have to play the full 60 this weekend if they want to knock off Tennessee, however.

8. Houston (4-0)
Last week: 8
Last game: Beat Connecticut, 42-14
Next up: Saturday at Navy

Yeah, yeah, Houston beat Connecticut. Tom Herman’s team is right on track.

9. Tennessee (5-0)
Last week: 10
Last game: Beat Georgia, 34-31
Next up: Saturday at Texas A&M

Notice when we said Texas A&M will have to play the full 60 to take down the Volunteers? That’s called foreshadowing! First, Georgia takes a late lead…

But then…

The Volunteers are looking like the 2014 Seminoles with their ability to pull a win out at the very last second. Let’s just hope that if they do make it to the Playoffs, things turn out a little bit better than it did for the ‘Noles.

10. Baylor (5-0)
Last week: 15
Last game: Beat Iowa State, 45-42
Next up: Oct. 15 vs Kansas

Don’t look now, but Baylor’s got the only chance of the Big 12 getting a Playoff team. Might the Bears manage to run the table and force some very hard decisions on the Playoff committee?

11. Miami (4-0)
Last week: 16
Last game: Beat Georgia Tech, 35-21
Next up: Saturday vs Florida State

For the past several years, the division of choice in the ACC has been the Atlantic, with Florida State and Clemson battling for top honors. While those two, plus Louisville, have been getting all the talk so far this year, Miami has quietly gone undefeated in the Coastal and has a real chance to knock off the rival Seminoles for the first time since 2009 this weekend. Mark Richt sure knows how to right a ship, ya’ll.
12. UNC (4-1)
Last week: 22
Last game: Beat Florida State, 37-35
Next up: Saturday vs. Virginia Tech

Also in the Coastal division? The Tar Heels, who ended Florida State’s 22-game home winning streak, the longest active streak in the nation. The Tar Heels opened up a huge lead to start the game but saw the Seminoles battle back and almost steal it by scoring a touchdown with 23 seconds left. But a couple of plays and one terribly timed pass interference penalty later, kicker Nick Weiler lined up to win the game with a 54-yard field goal and an ACC giant was felled.

13. Stanford (3-1)
Last week: 6
Last game: Lost to Washington, 44-6
Next up: Saturday vs. Washington State

Oof. You got to admit, this was a shocker. A close loss? Sure, that would have made some sense. But Washington just pushed a team that usually prides itself on its running ability all over the field. A one yard per rush average just isn’t going to get it done in the Pac-12 or anywhere. Nor will it help if, on the other side of the ball, you’re getting pushed down like a child. Washington made Stanford look like me playing offensive line!

14. Nebraska (5-0)
Last week: 14
Last game: Beat Illinois, 31-16
Next up: Oct. 15 at Indiana

Nebraska gets a bye after a routine conference win against Illinois. The biggest question facing the Cornhuskers right now is what to do with their time: Do they start prepping for Wisconsin and Ohio State at the end of the month, knowing their next two games are conference lightweights Indiana and Purdue?

15. Florida (4-1)
Last week: 24
Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 13-6
Next up: Saturday vs. LSU

It should be no big surprise that LSU’s firing of Les Miles has drastically changed the outlook of this game. While the Tigers are struggling, interim head coach Ed Orgeron is a motivator if not the nation’s best tactician. He’s already got them a pretty significant dead cat (sorry) bounce win against Missouri on the back of 634 yards of offense, who’s to say he can’t motivate LSU to a win in the Swamp?

16. Wisconsin (4-1)
Last week: 11
Last game: Beat by Michigan, 14-7
Next up: Oct. 15 vs. Ohio State

Tough loss, Badgers. But you can turn it all around with an upset against Ohio State in two weeks. You control your fate in the West division, and knocking off the Buckeyes will go a long way toward getting the Playoff committee to take you seriously.

17. Boise State (4-0)
Last week: 25
Last game: Beat Utah State, 21-10
Next up: Friday at New Mexico

Boise State’s got a pretty easy schedule this year. They’re probably not Playoff material, but wouldn’t you like to know for sure? As long as they don’t stumble they could find themselves in a great Bowl game with a chance to win over a whole new class of recruits by knocking off another blue blood.

“Boy, sure wish someone would invite me to their Power Five confer–hey, where’d you all go?”

18. Arkansas (4-1)
Last week: 18
Last game: Beat Alcorn State, 52-10
Next up: Saturday vs. Alabama

You don’t have to write your own Power Rankings to know that Alabama poses a huge threat to the Razorbacks this weekend. And Alcorn State, well, they didn’t. So instead, use your time to read about Bret Bielema taking care of one of his players after last week’s win.

19. Colorado (4-1)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Oregon State, 47-6
Next up: Saturday at USC

Colorado’s only got one tough loss so far against Michigan, and they won’t face Washington until a possible Pac-12 Championship game. We’re probably getting ahead of ourselves here, with USC this weekend and Stanford later this month, but don’t sleep on the Buffaloes.

20. Oklahoma (2-2)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat TCU, 52-46
Next up: Saturday vs. Texas (at the Cotton Bowl)

Well way to go Oklahoma, now nobody from the Big 12 is going to the Playoffs. You all got to stop eating each other! At least you gave us a flea flicker this week:

21. TCU (3-2)
Last week: 20
Last game: Lost to Oklahoma, 52-46
Next up: Saturday at Kansas

So much for climbing out of that early season September loss, eh TCU?

22. Texas (2-2)
Last week: 19
Last game: Lost to Oklahoma State, 49-31
Next up: Saturday vs. Oklahoma (at the Cotton Bowl)

Seriously, if you haven’t picked up on it, there’s a reason you’re all bunched back here together. Look, honestly, we should be loving the Big 12 this year, knowing every game will be a race to 50 points. And we do, as completely neutral viewers! But if you ever want to get your conference back on the level with the other Big Four, you’ve got to get a bell cow and let them lead the way for a couple of years.

Also, you’re only ranked here so we’d have an excuse to link to Martin Rickman’s awesome piece about being at the Texas State Fair last year for the Red River Shootout. Eat up, Longhorns, it’s about the best you have to look forward to for the rest of the season.

23. Utah (4-1)
Last week: 13
Last game: Lost to Cal, 28-23
Next up: Saturday vs. Arizona

I’m guessing this is the point of the year when Utah drops back off the map with consecutive conference losses on their way to an 8-4 finish that you’re not surprised at all about?

24. Ole Miss (3-2)
Last week: 17
Last game: Beat Memphis, 48-28
Next up: Oct. 15 at Arkansas

Yup, big drop for Ole Miss even after a victory. If you don’t like it, Rebels, don’t lose two of your first five games next time, and maybe we’ll still consider you a real contender.

25. Western Michigan (5-0)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Central Michigan, 49-10
Next up: Saturday vs. Northern Illinois

Welcome, Western Michigan! Don’t worry, we really believe in you! This most definitely wasn’t a ploy for a major school currently looking for a head coach to try and chat up yours. Also, football should start settling who kicks off with Rock, Paper, Scissors. If it’s good enough to settle an NCAA lacrosse game, it’s good enough for us, dammit.

Next Five: Florida State, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State and thinking of a kick-ass Halloween costume with plenty of time to implement it.

Heck of a weekend, Week 5. Here’s hoping we get a Clemson-Louisville sequel before the season is out because baby, if we could turn back time, we’re betting James Quick would find that extra yard:

And if you think you could have done better, try getting 80,000 strangers together and see if you can even catch the dang ball in this environment:

See you next time, take it away Cher!

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