College Football Power Rankings Week 9: Clemson Is Keeping Hope Alive


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Ah, Halloween weekend. The one weekend a year where acting like somebody we’re not is welcomed, and not just a terrified facade we’re putting up just to make it through the day.

For some teams, it was a chance to act like they belonged with the best, for at least a few hours (lookin’ at you, Virginia!). For others, it was a chance to show off their best asset and hope it would be enough — that’s you, FSU with Dalvin Cook.

We entered the weekend with nine undefeated teams but as always, football has a way of sorting itself out. Down went West Virginia, Baylor, Nebraska and Boise State, leaving just Alabama, Michigan, Clemson, Washington and — hey, look at you, Western Michigan! — still standing. Boise State’s exit was especially cruel, coming in the form of a safety with just over a minute left against Wyoming:

The first Playoff rankings of the season come out Tuesday night, and so the jockeying has officially begun. Seems awfully nice and tidy right now, doesn’t it? Four undefeated teams from four of the five Power conferences, with the Big 12 having beaten itself out. Why, they could end the season right now and I think we’d all be pretty happy with our top four in a Playoff.

But that’s not the way it works folks. It’s the first day of November and there are still four more weeks of mayhem to go. Saddle up and ride, cowboys and girls, these are the POWER RANKINGS!

(Opening Credits)

1. Alabama (8-0)
Last week: 1
Last game: Beat Texas A&M, 33-14
Next up: Saturday at LSU

Destiny had a bye this weekend, but no doubt Saban’s team was prepping for LSU and Leonard Fournette by replacing their tackling dummies with entire refrigerators. ESPN College Gameday announced they’d be making their way to Baton Rouge for Saturday night’s showdown, so you should make your plans now for Saturday night.

But with a few undefeated teams losing this weekend, you can bet Saban has his squad laser-focused and odds are you’ll be free to enjoy the rest of your evening by halftime.

2. Michigan (8-0)
Last week: 3
Last game: Beat Michigan State, 32-23
Next up: Saturday vs. Maryland

You might not remember that Michigan State was a preseason top-15 ranked team, especially after they quickly started dropping games and entered this weekend 2-5. But maybe, just maybe, at home, against a rival, they could find some magi-

-oh ok. Probably not then. Pretty hard to upset a team that’s got a guy like this:

A road game at Iowa is about the only thing resembling a speed bump on the Wolverines’ trail to The Game, meaning the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is about to matter more than it has in years. Maybe the most interesting thing in Ann Arbor for the next month will be seeing if Peppers can become the first defensive player to make an inarguable case for the Heisman since Michigan’s own Charles Woodson in 1997.

3. Washington (8-0)
Last week: 4
Last game: Beat Utah, 31-24
Next up: Saturday at California

Time to move you into the Top 3 and into that east coast limelight, Huskies. And yet as great as you’ve been, it’s pretty shocking to see that you’re still not free and clear in your own division. Washington State is also sitting atop the Pac-12 North at 5-0, meaning the Apple Cup, a rivalry game that is annually one of the most meaningless games in the country…actually has real meaning this year!

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4. Clemson (8-0)
Last week: 2
Last game: Beat Florida State, 37-34
Next up: Saturday vs. Syracuse

Week 9 began with nine unbeaten teams across the FBS, and with all playing their next game on the road, the dominoes were ready to fall. And four did! But despite Dalvin Cook and the rest of the Seminoles’ best efforts, the Clemson Tigers stayed on the right side of the line, keeping right on schedule for a trip to the ACC Championship and a return to the College Football Playoff.

5. Ohio State (7-1)
Last week: 5
Last game: Beat Northwestern, 24-20
Next up: Saturday vs. Nebraska

Yikes, Ohio State — you almost let Penn State beat ya twice!

Better take a deep breath before this weekend, Buckeyes, because Nebraska will be coming off a loss of their own and looking to take a marquee trophy to regain their confidence.

6. Louisville (7-1)
Last week: 6
Last game: Beat Virginia, 32-25
Next up: Saturday at Boston College

Speaking of teams making it a lot harder on themselves than it needed to be, Louisville had to slug it out against Virginia on Saturday and only the Heismanic (that’s a word, I swear!) performance of Lamar Jackson saved the day. 451 yards and four touchdowns, with the final, game-winning score coming with 18 seconds left:

Louisville is probably on the outside looking in when the initial Playoff rankings are released, and they’ll need to get back to steamrolling teams like Virginia if they want the committee to overlook their loss to Clemson.

7. Wisconsin (6-2)
Last week: 11
Last game: Beat Nebraska, 23-17 (OT)
Next up: Saturday at Northwestern

We say again, Wisconsin is going to wind up the best two-loss team you’ve ever seen. They outlasted the Cornhuskers at home on Saturday in overtime, giving Nebraska their first loss of the year.

But good Lord, Badgers, you’ve got to do better on the Halloween costumes. That is not cool!

8. Auburn (6-2)
Last week: 17
Last game: Beat Ole Miss, 40-29
Next up: Saturday vs. Vanderbilt

Hey, how’d Auburn get up to the Top-10 so fast?! BECAUSE THIS IS THE POWER RANKINGS, THAT’S WHY, AND WHAT’S MORE POWERFUL THAN THIS?!?

Truth be told, anyone that can finally kill the myth that Ole Miss is actually any good this year has my heart.

9. Florida (6-1)
Last week: 15
Last game: Beat Georgia, 24-10
Next up: Saturday at Arkansas

Same thing as Auburn — Gata might not be that good, but they keep winning, with their only loss on the year that historic collapse against Tennessee. The win against Georgia was a win, at least, which is perhaps even being too generous to the actual game.

The best parts were outside the stadium, honestly, with showdowns like…

Man vs. Pole!

Teens vs. Cops!

And last but not least, and ok, this was inside the stadium and at least vaguely football-related, QB vs. Pylon!

10. Nebraska (7-1)
Last week: 8
Last game: Lost to Wisconsin, 23-17 (OT)
Next up: Saturday at Ohio State

Wait, wait, Nebraska, don’t fade back into the background yet! You’ve still got a game coming up this weekend that could really make some noise, so we need you guys focused and working hard for one more week, then you can fade off into the Foster Farms Bowl or wherever the heck it is you Big Ten also-rans vacation in December.

11. Texas A&M (7-1)
Last week: 13
Last game: Beat New Mexico State, 52-10
Next up: Saturday at Mississippi State

Hope you enjoyed your Southwestern vacation, Aggies, it’s back to the SEC grind now. The Aggies are another team, like Louisville, that might find themselves on the outside and need some chaos to get in. With games left against Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas San-Antonio, and home vs. LSU, there’s a very good chance Kevin Sumlin’s team is stuck outside the Playoffs at 11-1 with their sole loss coming to the best team in the country. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
12. Penn State (6-2)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Purdue, 62-24
Next up: Saturday vs. Iowa

Welcome to the heart of the Power Rankings, Penn State! You were on the outside looking in, even after your huge upset of Ohio State, but after stomping Purdue we’re willing to take a flyer and see if you’ve turned a page like Saquon Barkley turns a corner.

You’ve got four very winnable games left in the conference, and with a little luck, who knows — maybe you can sneak in the Big Ten championship. In any case, this year is shaping up to be a heck of turnaround from last year’s 7-6.

13. Oklahoma (6-2)
Last week: 12
Last game: Beat Kansas, 56-3
Next up: Thursday at Iowa State

With the losses of West Virginia and Baylor, Oklahoma now gets the title of highest-ranked Big 12 team that has absolutely zero chance of making the Playoff.

14. South Florida (7-2)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Navy, 52-45
Next up: Nov. 12 at Memphis

So long Navy! It was fun seeing you outlast Houston but the Bulls are better than most give them credit for. The score may look close but the Bulls were up 28-0 in the first quarter and Navy only closed to within one score on the last play of the game. Interestingly enough the Midshipmen missed three two-point conversions in their attempted comeback, so I guess there’s something to work on in practice.

15. Western Michigan (8-0)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat Eastern Michigan, 45-31
Next up: Tuesday at Ball State

Welcome back to the club to you too, Western Michigan! With Boise State dropping a stunner to Wyoming, you’re the remaining undefeated team outside the Power 5 conferences which means you get the shot for a New Year’s Day bowl and some national recognition.

16. Utah (7-2)
Last week: 14
Last game: Lost to Washington, 31-24
Next up: Nov. 10 at Arizona State

Way to take the Huskies to the wire, Utah. But stay focused, you’ve got an end of season date with Colorado that may decide the Pac-12 South and let you get another crack at Washington in the conference championship game.

17. LSU (5-2)
Last week: 19
Last game: Beat Ole Miss, 38-21
Next up: Saturday vs. Alabama

Consider yourselves lucky, Tigers, you didn’t even play and somehow moved up thanks to some embarrassing slip-ups by the likes of Boise and Baylor. If you want to stick around, you know what you’ve got to do this weekend.

(But giving ‘Bama some bulletin board material is not a great way of going about that, FYI.)

18. Colorado (6-2)
Last week: 22
Last game: Beat Stanford, 10-5
Next up: Thursday vs. UCLA

Same with you, Buffaloes, you got a nice bump without any work of your own. But it’s back to the Pac-12 race this week and with it a real shot at the Pac-12 championship game. Quite a season for a team that hasn’t even made a bowl game since 2007!

19. Virginia Tech (6-2)
Last week: 23
Last game: Beat Pitt, 39-36
Next up: Saturday at Duke

Hey man, anything that gets Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi complaining up a storm like this is a-ok in our book:

Good news, Pat — if the rumors are true, you’ll be on your way to Indiana soon and a job at Purdue!

As for you, Hokies, you’re one step closer to an ACC Coastal title and a spot in the championship game. With the tiebreaker over UNC, you’re just a Duke, Virginia, and Georgia Tech win away.

20. Oklahoma State (6-2)
Last week: 25
Last game: Beat West Virginia, 37-20
Next up: Saturday at Kansas State

Way to go, Oklahoma State, now nobody from the Big 12 gets to go to the Playoff.

21. North Carolina (6-2)
Last week: 16
Last game: Beat Virginia, 35-14
Next up: Saturday vs. Georgia Tech

North Carolina gets the unlucky drop despite only a bye thanks to Virginia Tech’s win. With an early season loss to the Hokies on the record, UNC is playing out the string mostly for pride unless the Hokies drop one. But considering how well Virginia played Louisville this weekend, a rivalry victory for the ‘Hoos isn’t totally out of the question.

22. West Virginia (6-1)
Last week: 7
Last game: Lost to Oklahoma State, 37-20
Next up: Saturday vs. Kansas

Wait, wait, I thought you had a defense, Mountaineers? Where’d it go??

23. Baylor (6-1)
Last week: 9
Last game: Lost to Texas, 35-34
Next up: Saturday vs. TCU

WHEW.

https://twitter.com/NicoleAuerbach/status/792514309205200896

24. Florida State (5-3)
Last week: 18
Last game: Lost to Clemson, 37-34
Next up: Saturday at NC State

The Florida State Dalvin Cooks played Clemson down to the wire, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Sure looked real pretty though!

25. Houston (7-2)
Last week: Unranked
Last game: Beat UCF, 31-24
Next up: November 12 vs. Tulane

Sure, why not Houston, I mean if you want to start a comeback tour this is one way to do it:

Next Five: Washington State, Boise State, Navy, San Diego State, and pumpkin carving.

One month to go, everybody. The night games will be getting colder, the day games grayer, and the gameday chili pots will be coming out in full force. We’ll see you in Death Valley this Saturday for LSU and Alabama, where the universe will either be upended or confirmed to be exactly what we believe it is.

To whichever teams find themselves on top of the initial Playoff rankings, we say this: enjoy your time at the top. But know that nothing lasts forever, even … well, you know the rest.

(End Credits)

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