NCF Nation: power rankings 090313

SEC Power Rankings: Week 1

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
9:00
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The first week of college football is in the books, and it's time to see where we think all 14 SEC teams stack up in our weekly power rankings:

1. Alabama (1-0; LW: 1): OK, Alabama isn't perfect. Contrary to what AJ McCarron said, the offensive line looked ugly for most of the night in Alabama's win over Virginia Tech. It has to get better in a hurry. But when your defense and special teams are clicking like they were on Saturday, who needs offense?

2. South Carolina (1-0; LW: 4): Two players I've been saying to keep an eye on since the spring: Mike Davis and Shaq Roland. Both looked pretty good, especially Davis, in that opening win, and both will be fun to watch this weekend. The defensive front looked great, but can someone please give Jadeveon Clowney some vitamin C and an extra Gatorade?

3. LSU (1-0; LW: 6): Don't sleep on these Tigers. They're undervalued, but were very impressive in their 37-27 victory over a ranked TCU team in their own backyard. The defense still looks fast, and the offense racked up nearly 450 yards behind some explosive plays. The return of running back Jeremy Hill should make this team even better.

4. Texas A&M (1-0; LW: 2): Johnny Manziel looked good when he was actually playing football Saturday. He went through his progressions and didn't think "run" first. But his antics have to stop (just ask Kevin Sumlin), and that defense has to get much, much, MUCH better before Alabama rolls into town in two weeks.

5. Florida (1-0; LW: 5): It doesn't look like the Gators will miss much of a beat defensively after they suffocated Toledo and that uptempo offense. The offense? Well, it did look more polished and the passing game actually moved down the field, but the Gators were very vanilla. Expect that to change against Miami.

6. Georgia (0-1; LW: 3): We knew the defense would struggle against Clemson's high-octane offense, but the Bulldogs looked really bad in the tackling department. This group has to go back to the basics, and that isn't a good thing with physical South Carolina coming to town this weekend. Also, that offensive line has to protect Aaron Murray better because Todd Gurley can't do it all himself on offense.

7. Ole Miss (1-0; LW: 8): The future certainly looks bright in Oxford, Miss., but this program is hoping the present is just as bright. The Rebels kicked off the college football season with an electric, back-and-forth win over Vanderbilt. This offense looks built to go the distance, but depth is still a major concern. Health is key.

8. Vanderbilt (0-1; LW: 7): The Commodores lost a heartbreaker to the Rebels at home, but this team still looks as explosive as it was last year. The defense has some things to clean up, but defensive coordinator Bob Shoop should make sure that happens. Jordan Matthews has star status, but not having Chris Boyd on the other side of him hurts the offense.

9. Auburn (1-0; LW: 9): The Tigers had quite a fun opener. Both the offense and defense were up and down, but it had to be nice for Gus Malzahn to see his running game put up 295 yards on Washington State. The pass defense has some work to do and injuries won't help.

10. Missouri (1-0; LW: 11): The 58-point, 694-yard performance from the Tigers' offense looked more like what people in Columbia, Mo., expected to see more often last year. Granted, it was against Murray State, but that sort of outing will build some confidence within this group. It was good to see James Franklin and Henry Josey on the field and healthy again.

11. Arkansas (1-0; LW: 13): By looking at the box score, you'd think Bobby Petrino's offense was back in Fayetteville, Ark., after the Hogs put up 522 yards on Louisiana-Lafayette. The Hogs could run and pass, and the defense held the Ragin' Cajuns to just 274 yards. The Hogs still have a couple of cupcakes to face before things get interesting at Rutgers.

12. Tennessee (1-0; LW: 12): We really don't know what to take from Tennessee's thumping of a very overmatched Austin Peay team, but the Vols looked to have some real legs in the running game. How long that will last is a mystery, but it was a good start. Things get tougher this weekend when Western Kentucky and Bobby Petrino visit Rocky Top.

13. Mississippi State (0-1; LW: 10): That was a bad offensive performance by the Bulldogs in their 21-3 loss to Oklahoma State. Mississippi State was 2-for-16 on third downs and Tyler Russell threw for only 133 yards against a defense that ranked 113th nationally in pass defense last year. The Bulldogs held the Cowboys to just 146 passing yards, but allowed nearly 286 rushing yards.

14. Kentucky (0-1; LW: 14): That was not the opener Mark Stoops wanted or needed. The Wildcats looked overmatched against Western Kentucky and are still struggling mightily to find playmakers in the passing game. What had to really upset Stoops was that his defensive line, which was supposed to be this team's best unit, didn't get enough pressure up front and allowed the Hilltoppers to rush for more than 200 yards.

Pac-12 power rankings: Week 1

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
9:00
AM ET
If you don't like where you are in the power rankings, play better.

Yeah... talking to you, Oregon State.

See last week's power rankings here.

1. Stanford: Thought about moving Oregon up just because Stanford didn't play, but the Cardinal's opponent on Saturday -- boredom -- was better than the Ducks' (Nicholls State). San Jose State is not a foe to take lightly.

2. Oregon: The Ducks did what they were supposed to do: dominate in every way. Now things ramp up over the next two weeks, starting with a looooong trip to Virginia, which beat BYU in its opener.

3. Washington: The Huskies move up from No. 6 after turning in the conference's first win over a ranked nonconference foe. Now can they remain at these lofty heights after they take a week off?

4. UCLA: The Bruins posted a quality win over Nevada, so the big debate this week was whether the Bruins should be No. 3. Arguable. But if you look at the schedule, UCLA has a perfect trip on Sept. 14 to establish itself high up in the early conference pecking order: at Nebraska on Sept. 14.

5. Arizona State: The Sun Devils fell from No. 3 because they didn't play. Sorry. That's how the power rankings work. Things move around every week. A win over Sacramento State won't reveal much, either. But thereafter things get interesting, starting with Wisconsin on Sept. 14.

6. USC: The win at Hawaii wasn't very revealing. The defense looks better than in 2012, but the lack of clarity at QB is an issue, and it will remain so until coach Lane Kiffin decides the Maxwell Smart intrigue he is generating around the position isn't worth it.

7. Utah: The Utes move up two spots with a quality victory over Utah State. There are still plenty of questions -- injuries to WR Kenneth Scott and LB Brian Blechen are big -- but the improvement of QB Travis Wilson is grounds for optimism. While the Utes shouldn't overlook Weber State, Oregon State's visit on Sept. 14, which now seems much more winnable, could become the linchpin for both teams' season.

8. Arizona: The Wildcats pretty much did what everyone expected against Northern Arizona. Now they head to UNLV, a slightly tougher test, as it's never easy to win on the road, particularly with a new starting QB. Still, we won't know who Arizona is until it visits Washington on Sept. 28.

9. California: Cal had its chances against Northwestern, and freshman QB Jared Goff certainly flashed promise, but a pair of pick-sixes did in the Bears. The Bears defense, though missing a handful of starters, was a bit of a disappointment, as was the O-line, which yielded four sacks and didn't run block very well after the first drive. Cal has Portland State before Ohio State comes to town on Sept. 14.

10. Washington State: The Cougars surely have a lot of regrets from their Auburn trip. It was a game they could have won, if not for a few mistakes. Winning at USC on Saturday would be a red-letter victory Mike Leach could hang his hat on. That said -- and you know Leach and his players would never say this -- another competitive performance could be enough for this team to buy into its improvement.

11. Colorado: Buffs, congrats on rising from the basement. That was a quality win over Colorado State. Now don't blow it by overlooking Central Arkansas.

12. Oregon State: Bad Beavers! Bad! Very bad. We projected a 7-0 start. Now, with the defensive showing against Eastern Washington, we have no idea. The first step toward redemption is taking out frustrations on Hawaii.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 1

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
9:00
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Clemson stole the show in Week 1, solidifying its hold on the top spot, but it was Virginia that made the most noise by knocking off BYU. Here's how the power rankings shake out after the first round of games.

1. Clemson (1-0, 0-0 ACC; LW No. 1): They are who we thought they were. Tajh Boyd and the Tigers proved they were every bit the national championship contender with a huge win over Georgia on Saturday, and while a handful of significant obstacles remain, Clemson is clearly in control of its destiny from here. Boyd was the star, but the Tigers should be thrilled, too, to see a rejuvenated Sammy Watkins, a disruptive Vic Beasley and a punishing running performance by Roderick McDowell.

2. Florida State (1-0, 1-0 ACC; LW No. 2): If Boyd set the bar for ACC quarterbacks on Saturday, Jameis Winston eagerly leapt over it Monday. The much-hyped freshman had a debut for the ages against Pitt, completing 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four TDs, while rushing for another. Jimbo Fisher spent the offseason trying to quiet the buzz around his QB, but it's only getting louder.

3. Miami (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 3): This just in: Duke Johnson is pretty darned good. The Miami sophomore stole the show in a 34-6 win, burnishing the hopes that Miami has finally turned things around. That theory will be put to the test this week though, when SEC foe Florida comes to town. The Hurricanes have won 11 of the past 15 games against Florida, but this marks only the second time the two schools have faced off since 2004.

4. Georgia Tech (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 6): It's hard to take too much from a big win over Elon, but it's also hard to find any faults after one week for the Yellow Jackets. Vad Lee looked good, the running game didn't miss a beat, the defense was impressive, and the end result was the largest margin of victory for an ACC team in history.

5. Virginia Tech (0-1, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 5): This was one of those good news-bad news games for the Hokies. The good news was, the defense looked great, holding the two-time defending champs to only 206 yards of offense (and sending Alabama fans into panic mode in the process). The bad news is, Virginia Tech still got smoked thanks to repeated special-teams breakdowns and a woeful performance by the passing game. Logan Thomas struggled mightily, and the receiving corps looks dreadful. But hey, at least they don't have to play Alabama again.

6. Virginia (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 13): The task is daunting in Week 2, when the Cavaliers host Oregon, but for now, fans should bask in the beauty of a tremendous defensive performance in a win over BYU -- easily the second-best win of the week for an ACC team. Anthony Harris was the star with 11 tackles, a sack, a blocked punt and an interception that set up the winning score, but he was just one of five UVA defenders with double-digit tackles in the game.

7. North Carolina (0-1, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 4): The good news is, North Carolina largely contained Jadeveon Clowney -- even if a few pundits chalked it up to the South Carolina defender's condition or apathy. Beyond that, however, it wasn't much of a debut for the Heels, who were burned by big plays and never really recovered from an early 14-0 hole.

8. Maryland (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 9): Well, it looks as though the Terrapins found their quarterback. C.J. Brown turned in a dominant performance in his return from an ACL injury that forced him to miss all of 2012. He accounted for five first-half touchdowns, while throwing for nearly 300 yards and running for more than 100. With a relatively manageable schedule ahead, it's not impossible to think Maryland could be riding high at 4-0 when it heads to Florida State on Oct. 5.

9. NC State (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 8): Dave Doeren's Wolfpack did a nice job in thumping a Louisiana Tech team that didn't figure to be a pushover. The key was the time of possession, where NC State held a whopping 30-minute edge, keeping Louisiana Tech's offense off the field. The only downside was the loss of starting QB Brandon Mitchell, which is why the Wolfpack drop a spot behind the suddenly QB-stacked Terrapins.

10. Duke (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 12): No Sean Renfree? No Connor Vernon? No problem for the Blue Devils in their 2013 debut. A 45-0 win over NC Central was hardly a major test, but Duke looked good in all phases of the game -- outgaining NC Central by nearly 300 yards and racking up a 76-yard punt return TD from super sophomore Jamison Crowder.

11. Wake Forest (1-0, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 7): The Deacons won easily, so why the drop in the Power Rankings? Mostly, it's splitting hairs. The early struggles against Presbyterian weren't exactly inspiring, and with a cluster of teams in the middle of the pack, Wake Forest simply was the least impressive of a group that mostly looked pretty good.

12. Pittsburgh (0-1, 0-1 ACC, LW No. 10): It's hard to say whether Pittsburgh was that bad or Winston was that good. Either way, the result was a blowout in the Panthers’ ACC debut. Pitt should be encouraged that it moved the ball relatively well against an athletic FSU defense, and the Panthers appear to have some legitimate playmakers.

13. Syracuse (0-1, 0-0 ACC, LW No. 11): It was obvious Scott Shafer was going to have to do some rebuilding in 2013, but a 23-17 loss to start the season against Penn State only underscored how far the Orange have to go. Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen was supposed to be an answer at QB, but he didn't look good (16-of-37 for 189 yards and two INTs). This week's game against Northwestern won't get any easier.

14. Boston College (1-0, 0-0, LW No. 14): Sure, the Eagles won. That's worth celebrating. But they struggled early against Villanova, and it's clear Steve Addazio still has his work cut out for him. Make it two in a row this week against Wake Forest, however, and BC is guaranteed to climb out of the basement.

Big 12 power rankings: Week 1

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
9:00
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The season's first weekend is behind us and we know more about these teams than we did a week ago. There's been some moment in the power rankings, which will likely become a weekly occurrence with the Big 12 race so wide open this season.

1. Oklahoma State (1-0, last week 1): The Cowboys' defense was impressive in the season-opening 21-3 win against Mississippi State, recording three sacks and grabbing two interceptions. Defense has always been the question mark in Stillwater. If OSU’s defense continues to rise under new defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, the Cowboys will be tough to beat.

2. Oklahoma (1-0, last week 3): As impressive as OSU’s defense was, the Sooners’ D might have been even more eye-opening. The Sooners looked fast, physical and aggressive as they shut out a quality Louisiana-Monroe team. Add a solid debut from redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight, and OU continues to make a case to sit atop this list. West Virginia comes to town this week to start the Sooners’ Big 12 schedule.

3. Texas (1-0, last week 4): The Longhorns scored 42 points and gained 459 yards in the second half, averaging 10.67 yards per play, after a relatively slow start against New Mexico State. It was a pretty dominating performance in the game’s final 30 minutes. All the skill-position talent on the roster was on full display against the Aggies. This week’s trip to Provo, Utah will be a stern test for the Longhorns.

4. Baylor (1-0, last week 5): Easily the Big 12’s most impressive team in Week 1 -- against Wofford. Nonetheless, the Bears looked to be in midseason form offensively and had a strong defensive showing against their FCS opponent. Quarterback Bryce Petty looks as good as advertised, and Lache Seastrunk continued to make game-altering plays. They looked every bit like a Big 12 title contender.

5. TCU (0-1, last week 2): Is it fair to drop TCU three spots after a hard-fought loss to SEC power LSU? No, not really, but a loss is a loss. Nonetheless, there’s no major difference between OSU, OU, UT, BU and TCU. All five squads could win this league without it being considered a big surprise. The Horned Frogs lost, but there were some reasons to be encouraged, particularly the explosive performance from running back B.J. Catalon.

6. Texas Tech (1-0, last week 8): The Red Raiders ride the arm of Baker Mayfield to sixth on this list after the walk-on true freshman passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns (and added a rushing TD) to earn Big 12 offensive player of the week honors. It's clear Kliff Kingsbury has brought enthusiasm and excitement to his alma mater.

7. West Virginia (1-0, last week 7): The Mountaineers escaped with a 24-17 win against William & Mary but were far from impressive. But a win is a win, and WVU has the chance to impress when they visit Norman, Okla. this Saturday to face the Sooners. Win against OU and all is forgotten.

8. Kansas State (0-1, last week 6): Everyone knows what happened to the Wildcats on Friday. Nobody seems to know why. KSU’s loss to North Dakota State was the story of the weekend, and it’s become clear the Wildcats aren’t on the level of last year’s squad. Anyone believing KSU should be higher on this list need only to watch NDSU’s final drive to secure the upset.

9. Iowa State (0-1, last week 9): The other Big 12 team to start with a loss to an FCS team, the Cyclones will have to regroup quickly. ISU’s defense was nonexistent in allowing 457 yards in a 28-20 loss to Northern Iowa. A bye week comes at a good time for the Cyclones, who need to shore up a defense that was solid in 2012.

10. Kansas (0-0, last week 10): The Jayhawks will finally kick off their 2013 season against South Dakota on Saturday as the Jake Heaps era begins in Lawrence, Kan.
After several mostly speculative versions of the Big Ten power rankings, we finally had a chance to evaluate these teams in games. The Week 1 competition mostly wasn't great, and the Big Ten's overall performance left something to be desired. We'll learn a lot more about most of these teams in the coming weeks.

We try to keep these rankings consistent with our ESPN.com national power rankings, so Ohio State remains No. 1, ahead of Michigan, even though the Wolverines looked more impressive against their MAC opponent than Ohio State did. But a Michigan win against Notre Dame this week could change things.

Wisconsin and Nebraska trade places in the rankings, and so do Penn State and Michigan State.

Here's one last look at the preseason power rankings.

Let's get to the rundown ...

1. Ohio State (1-0, preseason: 1): The Buckeyes had a flawless record in 2012, but they were a flawed team. They still are, and they showed some warts during the final three quarters of a 40-20 win against a plucky Buffalo squad. Quarterback Braxton Miller has improved and has a much better supporting cast, including running back Jordan Hall, but the Buckeyes need to take better care of the ball. A soft schedule should give Ohio State's young defense time to develop.

2. Michigan (1-0, preseason: 2): This year's opener went just a tad better than last year's for Brady Hoke's Wolverines. Michigan made big plays in all three phases and received contributions from many different players, delivering the most impressive debut in the league. Quarterback Devin Gardner (162 pass yards, 52 rush yards, three total touchdowns, two interceptions) can build off of this performance before facing a talented Notre Dame defense under the lights next week.

3. Northwestern (1-0, preseason: 3): The Wildcats remain in the three hole but solidified themselves after a resilient performance on the road against Cal. They played most of the game without their dynamic backfield of quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark, which fundamentally changed the offense. Thanks to unlikely heroes such as linebacker Collin Ellis and running back Treyvon Green, Northwestern remained perfect in openers under Pat Fitzgerald. Up next, Syracuse.

4. Wisconsin (1-0, preseason: 5): Fortunately, Wisconsin's next three openers (LSU twice, Alabama) will provide a lot more clues about the Badgers than Saturday's laugher against FBS bottom-feeder UMass. But you play the team across the field, and to Wisconsin's credit, it completely dismantled the Minutemen on both sides of the ball. The three-headed rushing attack of James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement sparkled, combining for 388 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries.

5. Nebraska (1-0, preseason: 4): The concerns about Nebraska's young defense weren't merely confirmed in the opener against Wyoming. They grew. Nebraska surrendered 35 first downs and 602 yards and nearly blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead before surviving 37-34. Coach Bo Pelini didn't sound too discouraged Monday, but defensive coordinator John Papuchis said the defense has "nowhere to go but up." Nebraska needs a crisper performance this week against Southern Miss.

6. Penn State (1-0, preseason: 7): Like Northwestern, Penn State fought through some adversity to beat another major-conference team away from its home stadium. Freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg backed up the hype for the most part, and tackle DaQuan Jones and safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong sparked the defense. The Lions must get better on third down (1-of-15) before Central Florida comes to town in Week 3.

7. Michigan State (1-0, preseason: 6): As dominant as the Spartan Dawgs were against Western Michigan -- and could be the entire season -- the big concern here is an offense that appears to have regressed, if that's even possible. The quarterbacks remain the focus, but Michigan State isn't getting enough from any part of its offense. If things don't change, expect another season of games that can go either way. MSU has a chance to get well this week against slumping South Florida.

8. Minnesota (1-0, preseason: 8): Credit defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman and the Gophers for making big plays in all three phases in their opener against UNLV. But the 51-23 final score masked some of the issues Jerry Kill's team must address before the competition level improves. Minnesota needs a more physical effort from its offensive line, and it has to get off the field on defense after allowing UNLV to go 4-for-4 on fourth down. The Gophers need to clean things up this week on the road against New Mexico State.

9. Indiana (1-0, preseason: 9): A loaded Hoosiers offense set a Memorial Stadium record with 73 points against Indiana State, and Indiana has multiple weapons at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. But we've seen big offense from Indiana before. Can the Hoosiers' defense improve enough to boost the win total to bowl eligibility? IU's discipline will be tested this week against Navy's tricky triple-option offense.

10. Iowa (0-1, preseason: 11): Yes, the Hawkeyes actually move up a spot despite a loss (it has more to do with Purdue's plunge). Iowa in some ways looked like a better team against Northern Illinois, surviving a sluggish start to take control behind quarterback Jake Rudock, linebacker Christian Kirksey and a physical defense. But breakdowns on both sides of the ball doomed Iowa down the stretch, and Rudock's interception led to NIU's game-winning field goal. Iowa really needed a win and must regroup this week against Missouri State.

11. Illinois (1-0, preseason: 12): Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase looks much more comfortable in Bill Cubit's offense and threw for a career-high 416 yards and two touchdowns against Southern Illinois. That's the good news. Illinois still has many areas to fix, especially on defense after nearly blowing a 22-point third-quarter lead. We'll learn a lot more about this team the next two weeks against Cincinnati and Washington.

12. Purdue (0-1, preseason: 10): What a mess. Nothing went right for the Boilers in coach Darrell Hazell's debut. The defense couldn't get off of the field on third down or fourth down. Rob Henry struggled and the offense committed three turnovers. Aside from a Cincinnati special-teams blunder, Saturday was a nightmare for the Boilers, who fell 42-7. Fortunately, Indiana State is next, but there's a lot of work to do.

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