It took until Week 8, but we’ve finally had our first shot of chaos into the national playoff picture. Thanks to an amazing performance in Happy Valley, the Ohio State Buckeyes took their first loss of the year at the hands of Penn State just a week after barely escaping Madison with a win.
We also saw the end of Houston, who tripped up against lil’ ol’ SMU. See ya later, Cougars, it’s been fun having you around.
Chaos is the God we pray to in college football, a God that will always find ways to remind us there’s no such thing as order in a sport with 128 teams fighting for just four spots. While we may have started looking ahead to November, trying to figure out how 11 unbeaten teams would sort themselves out in only four weeks, it’s good to remember that there are no free weeks for anybody.
So! October must rolls on with one more week to add some madness into the season, and with it, the Power Rankings. This week we say hello to Virginia Tech, LSU, Auburn, Navy, and San Diego State and so long to Iowa, USF, TCU, and Arkansas. Sorry Razorbacks, we hear Fayetteville is nice, but you’ve got to play a little better than that to stick around these parts.
Happy Halloween all! Your goal for this year is to make your costume even scarier than Leonard Fournette running at you at full speed.
1. Alabama (8-0)
Last week: 1
Last game: Beat Texas A&M, 33-14
Next up: Nov. 5 at LSU
We said it last week, but thanks for proving it, ‘Bama. There’s no stopping them this year. We can get our hopes up that their next game is on the road at LSU, or that Auburn is coming into form at just the right time to maybe be a threat in the Iron Bowl, but we all know the truth: there’s no stopping a team who has athletes like this:
That’s Crimson Tide defensive end Jonathan Allen, all 265 listed pounds of him lined up as an interior lineman, grabbing a bouncing ball, stepping over the quarterback and running it back 38 yards.
2. Clemson (7-0)
Last week: 3
Last game: Beat NC State, 24-17
Next up: Saturday at Florida State
This game was set up to be the de facto ACC championship over the summer, but now it’s just another example of why it’s a ridiculous idea to have preseason polls in the first place. Clemson has to face a Seminoles squad that’s coming off a bye, but if there’s any championship pedigree in the Tigers, they’ll treat this like just another Saturday night and not let the fact that they haven’t won at Doak in over ten years rattle them.
3. Michigan (7-0)
Last week: 5
Last game: Beat Illinois, 41-8
Next up: Saturday at Michigan State
Look who’s on top in the Big Ten! Thanks to Penn State, Michigan advances to the No. 3 spot in the Power Rankings with a rivalry game on tap at East Lansing this weekend to look forward to. Considering Michigan State was also a preseason darling, it’s easy to find a way to bet the underdog in this game but don’t do it. Harbaugh has shown he’s all business this year. And with Ohio State taking a loss last weekend, he knows now is his time to take control of the conference.
If you’re still thinking of taking the home team, let Karan Higdon show you why that’s a bad idea:
4. Washington (7-0)
Last week: 4
Last game: Beat Oregon State, 41-17
Next up: Saturday at Utah
Like Michigan above, Washington showed a professional ruthlessness this past weekend in its 41-17 victory over Oregon State. A potential trap game ahead of their trip to Provo this weekend was no trouble for Chris Petersen’s Huskies.
5. Ohio State (6-1)
Last week: 3
Last game: Lost to Penn State, 24-21
Next up: Saturday vs. Northwestern
Ah, the magic of night games.
Penn State beat Ohio State the only way it ever could, keeping the game just close enough for a moment of magic. That magic came in the form of a blocked field goal late in the 4th that was returned for a touchdown:
The sad truth of all this is that Ohio State will get another chance. This is a great win for Penn State, but we all know Ohio State’s playoff chances will still most likely come down to the Michigan game. For the next decade, it’ll be fun every year to think about who benefits from the playoffs, and this year it’s the Buckeyes. If only the top two were to make it to the title game, they might have seen their shot go up in white smoke on Saturday, but thanks to the Playoff committee they’ve still got a shot at a title with one loss.
6. Louisville (6-1)
Last week: 7
Last game: Beat NC State, 54-13
Next up: Saturday vs. Virginia
Louisville went up 44-0 in the first half, so please don’t hold those 13 points against the Cardinals. Lamar Jackson was back to his Heisman candidate self throwing for 355 yards and three touchdowns while also running one in.
And they looked even looked cooler than usual in their glow in the dark cleats … at noon.
7. West Virginia (6-0)
Last week: 14
Last game: Beat TCU, 34-10
Next up: Saturday at Oklahoma State
OK West Virginia, we’re believers, this defense is legit.
As the sole team in the Big 12 actually fielding a defense this season, you have to think this gives the Mountaineers a strong advantage in the rest of their games, Cotton.
On the other side of the ball, it helps to have the magic hands of Jovan Durante too. Honestly, if you’re a neutral fan who’s just looking for a fun team to watch that can cause some chaos in the Playoff rankings, the Mountaineers might just be for you.
8. Nebraska (7-0)
Last week: 8
Last game: Beat Purdue, 27-14
Next up: Saturday at Wisconsin
Fun fact: you don’t know a single person who watched that Purdue game this weekend. Go ahead, ask everyone you know, nobody did. Who’s to say they even played? Maybe they just decided on an appropriate score to report and then everyone went to a corn maze.
9. Baylor (6-0)
Last week: 9
Last game: Beat Kansas, 49-7
Next up: Saturday at Texas
If it’s possible for a 49-7 score to be generous to Kansas, consider this it. Moving on to this week, Baylor’s got a great chance to give Charlie Strong one of his final losses as a Texas head coach. The writing has been on the wall for a few weeks now, but any decent athletic program knows that there’s no point in waiting to fire your head coach until the end of the season. You’ve got recruits coming to games, and they want to know who will and won’t be there next season. Frankly the most surprising thing is that Texas, arguably the largest athletic department in the country, doesn’t seem to know how to pull the cord. But Baylor hanging 50-plus on the Longhorns should provide some direction, and in turn, give the Bears a big recruiting edge in the Lone Star State.
10. Boise State (7-0)
Last week: 11
Last game: Beat BYU, 28-27
Next up: Saturday at Wyoming
You probably don’t know anyone that watched Boise-BYU this week either and that, dear reader, is a damn shame. This was a wild one, with Boise crushing BYU in every stat that matters but the scoreboard. It had pick sixes!
It had fake punts from your own five-yard line that went about as well as you’d expect!
It had blocked field goals to hang on for the win!
And on this note, Matthew Zemek at USports had an interesting point, because the block didn’t actually give Boise a sure win. BYU had drove to within field goal range with 20 seconds left and decided, just in case of a bad snap or anything else, to kick the field goal on second down. Boise State blocked it, and got such good penetration in the line that it was blocked behind the line of scrimmage. The ball went back, recovered by BYU, and the clock stopped.
According to the rules, that just means it’s third down for BYU from where they recovered it, and they also get the benefit of a free clock stoppage. Because of the lost yardage, however, BYU was forced to throw for the hail mary instead of going for another kick, but it does make you wonder: if this kick was blocked at the 15 or 10 yard line, does it seem fair that BYU gets another chance to take the kick? Sure, you might say it takes a very specific set of events: not 4th down, blocked behind the line of scrimmage, and recovered by the kicking team, but it seems to me like if it can happen once, it can happen again and shouldn’t be rewarded next time just because it happens a little closer to the end zone.
11. Wisconsin (5-2)
Last week: 12
Last game: Beat Iowa, 17-9
Next up: Saturday vs. Nebraska
Wisconsin did just enough to avoid collapsing after taking Ohio State down to the wire, winning at Iowa by eight points. Some of you more astute readers might realize that counts as a one-score game, but Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz apparently … didn’t?
Congratulations, readers, you’re qualified to be a Division 1 head football coach.
12. Oklahoma (5-2)
Last week: 15
Last game: Beat Texas Tech, 66-59
Next up: Saturday vs. Kansas
Hope you took the over! This game was like you and your little brother playing on the lowest NCAA setting after you’ve had a video game for years. Records were broken and set that have no business ever approaching the level of an FBS college football game:
If you’ve got an hour to kill, you can watch a condensed game below, but maybe consider that before you press play. It’s an hour. And this is the condensed version. (Though a fun game to play is click anywhere along the video timeline, and drink if the first play you see isn’t a touchdown. Again, just for clarity: drink if it is NOT a touchdown. We here at the Power Rankings don’t want to be responsible for you if you play it the other way.
13. Texas A&M (6-1)
Last week: 6
Last game: Lost to Alabama, 33-14
Next up: Saturday vs. New Mexico State
It’s okay, Texas A&M. We would’ve lost to Alabama too. You gave it a real shot, and we’re all still proud of you.
14. Utah (7-1)
Last week: 17
Last game: Beat UCLA, 52-45
Next up: Saturday vs. Washington
Running back Joe Williams ran for 322 yards and four touchdowns in Utah’s win against UCLA, a stat made all the more incredible when you hear that Williams technically “retired” just two games into this season due to some health concerns. While he apparently got healthy, the Utah backfield fell apart, and Williams was convinced to come back a couple weeks ago.
Honestly, if I skip the gym a week, I’m gassed, I don’t know how you take a month off of football and come back capable of something like this.
15. Florida (5-1)
Last week: 13
Last game: Beat Missouri, 40-14
Next up: Saturday vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville, Fla.)
Yeah, yeah, everyone beats Missouri, Florida. The bigger question is what becomes of the World’s Biggest Cocktail party game this Saturday in Jacksonville. With Alabama and, to a lesser extent, Auburn and LSU being the class of the SEC in recent years, this game just doesn’t feel like it has the same ring as it used to. While it still occasionally determines the winner of the SEC East, these days that more often means it determines which sacrificial lamb gets fed to the SEC West champ on their way to a national title.
16. North Carolina (6-2)
Last week: 19
Last game: Beat Virginia, 35-14
Next up: Nov. 5 vs. Georgia Tech
I’ll admit it, I can be a bit of an ACC homer. But North Carolina is shockingly underrated in the rest of the world’s polls, sitting at 21 and 20 in the AP and Coaches’ poll, respectively. They’re leading the ACC Coastal with a great chance at winning out, and while Virginia Tech has a game in hand and beat them head-to-head, the Tar Heels have an easier path to the end of the season.
17. Auburn (5-2)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Arkansas, 56-3
Next up: Saturday at Ole Miss
WHERE THE HECK DID AUBURN COME FROM?!
This is what hammering Arkansas can do for you, Auburn, you get noticed and invited to all the best parties. Rushing for 545 yards is insane, especially on a team as big as Arkansas.
In all seriousness, Auburn is starting to have a season like they did in 2013. And before you laugh your head off at that, let me explain.
No, they haven’t won games through sheer miracles. But they didn’t make the AP poll until week seven that year, sneaking in slowly after an early season loss to LSU. They then just, well, won, over and over and over again, sometimes in spectacular fashion. But at the end of the season, the Tigers were left standing at the top of the SEC.
Now this doesn’t mean I expect them to beat ‘Bama in the Iron Bowl, or even make it to that point without an additional loss. I’m just saying it kind of feels the same.
18. Florida State (5-2)
Last week: 16
Last game: Beat Wake Forest, 17-6
Next up: Saturday vs. Clemson
Nothing to say about that Wake Forest game, so again, I’ll just remind the Seminoles, the Tigers, and everyone else that Clemson hasn’t won inside Doak Campbell since 2006…and it’s Halloween weekend…oooooOOOOOoooo….spooooooookyyyyyyy.
19. LSU (5-2)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Ole Miss, 38-21
Next up: Nov. 5 vs. Alabama
Like Auburn, here comes LSU creeping back into the rankings. Sure, it might be a bit of SEC bias, as SEC teams beat other SEC teams that people assume are good because they’re in the SEC. It’s a pretty silly cycle, I know, but it’s hard to argue that LSU isn’t playing better football since Les Miles was shown the door.
It could also just be that we’re super happy to see Leonard Fournette back on the field after a month away due to some injuries, though some defenders would probably be better off if he stayed on the sideline.
20. Navy (5-1)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Memphis, 42-28
Next up: Friday at South Florida
South Florida is the biggest hurdle left on the Midshipmen’s conference schedule, and even the Notre Dame game isn’t looking too difficult this year, meaning Navy is looking great to finish the year with a conference title and some rivalry wins.
21. Tennessee (5-2)
Last week: 21
Last game: Lost to Alabama, 49-10
Next up: Saturday at South Carolina
Time to get back on the horse, Volunteers. You’ve got plenty to play for in an SEC East division where you’ve beaten the current leaders head to head.
22. Colorado (6-2)
Last week: 24
Last game: Beat Stanford, 10-5
Next up: Nov. 3 vs. UCLA
Colorado kept up with Utah at the top of the Pac-12 South, and winning a game by a baseball score was a pretty nice ode to the World Series.
23. Virginia Tech (5-2)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Miami, 37-16
Next up: Thursday at Pitt
Welcome to the Power Rankings to you too, Hokies! We talked about it already with North Carolina, but you’re in a great spot to make the ACC Championship in your first year under head coach Justin Fuente, which would be a great way to kick off a new era of Hokie football.
24. San Diego State (6-1)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat San Jose State, 42-3
Next up: Friday at Utah State
25. Oklahoma State (5-2)
Last week: 22
Last game: Beat Kansas, 44-20
Next up: Saturday vs. West Virginia
Heads up, Cowboys, in case you didn’t hear: West Virginia plays defense, an evolutionary remnant of their time spent in the Big East. You might have some real work to do this Saturday.
Next Five: Houston, TCU, Penn State, Western Michigan and pumpkin beers.
Urban Meyer once said that the games that people remember are played in November. By the end of the season, who knows, he may be right, and this slip against Penn State is nothing more than one blemish on an otherwise Playoff-caliber resume. But with one week left in October and every undefeated team playing their next game on the road, we’re betting this isn’t the last October Surprise we’ll see.
Tell, ’em, Pennsylvania’s best: