NCF Nation: Power rankings 091012

SEC power rankings: Week 3

September, 10, 2012
Another week has gone by and there is even more movement in our power rankings.

The top two teams are still the same, but we have a new No. 3 and there are some changes through the middle (LW: Last week's ranking):

1. Alabama (2-0; LW: 1): Despite what Nick Saban might have told the media, his team deserves all the praise it's getting. The Crimson Tide destroyed a ranked Michigan team in a neutral environment and then shut out a very, very overmatched Western Kentucky team. It could have been much worse in Tuscaloosa over the weekend if Saban didn't take his foot off the gas.

2. LSU (2-0; LW: 2): The Tigers haven't been very flashy, but they haven't needed to. LSU is giving up just 201 yards a game and only 3.47 yards per play. Washington was just another victim when it came to the Tigers' ferocious running game, which has averaged 279 yards in the first two games. LSU hasn't really been tested, but there's no denying that this team is good and should only get better.

3. Georgia (2-0, 1-0; LW: 4): The Bulldogs got a big win in Missouri over the weekend. This team's resiliency has been questioned in the past, but it played at its best in Columbia, Mo., with its back against the wall. Once the Bulldogs get back to full strength on defense, we'll really see how much talent Mark Richt is working with in Athens.

4. South Carolina (2-0, 1-0; LW: 5): Connor Shaw was out and Marcus Lattimore failed to eclipse the 50-yard rushing mark, but the Gamecocks had absolutely no problem overwhelming East Carolina. Dylan Thompson filled in well for Shaw, passing for 330 yards and three touchdowns, while the defense shut down the run. The secondary still has some issues to work out, though.

5. Tennessee (2-0; LW: 6): We're still not sure just how good Tennessee is, but it sure is fun watching that offense. Yes, the quality of opponents can be questioned, but both the offense and defense have looked very good, and there is finally quality depth in Knoxville. Tyler Bray continues to impress with his arm, and he has plenty of weapons to work with. He and his team get a real test Saturday against No. 18 Florida at home.

6. Florida (2-0, 1-0; LW: 7): The Gators squeaked out a win that probably wouldn't have come in the two years prior. It wasn't very pretty overall, but Florida was very impressive after all those second-half adjustments against Texas A&M. This team is tougher and looks more like the physical team Will Muschamp wants. Saturday's trip to Knoxville could really set the tone for the Gators moving forward.

7. Mississippi State (2-0, 1-0; LW: 8): Dan Mullen finally got a win over an SEC West opponent not named Ole Miss with that 28-10 win against Auburn over the weekend. Now, it's all about capitalizing on the weekend's success. The defense totally dominated the Tigers' offense, while Tyler Russell looked as poised as ever. If this team continues to play like it has in the first two weeks, Mississippi State could be 6-1 or 7-0 heading into the Alabama game in late October.

8. Arkansas (1-1; LW: 3): The Razorbacks took a major tumble because of their 34-31 overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe. After Tyler Wilson went down late in the second quarter, Arkansas had nothing going for itself. The defense was shredded by the Warhawks and the offensive line did a poor job of protecting all night. We found out there's a lot more missing in Fayetteville than just Bobby Petrino. Now, Wilson's health is an issue ...

9. Missouri (1-1, 0-1; LW: 9): No one can say the Tigers didn't play a tough SEC opener against Georgia. The Tigers hung with the Bulldogs for the better part of three quarters, but ran out of gas in the fourth. This team has a lot of talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball, but it has to be more conditioned to play four quarters in this league. You better believe this team is itching to get back on the field.

10. Texas A&M (0-1; LW: 10): Like Mizzou, the Aggies didn't have enough second-half steam. After leading 17-10 over Florida at halftime, Texas A&M was shut out 10-0 in the second half. This team has the talent up front on offense and defense to compete in this league, but the running game has to generate more between the tackles and have the stamina to compete for four quarters.

11. Ole Miss (2-0; LW: 13): The Rebels have won two straight for the first time since October 2010. The offense is tops in the SEC, averaging 551.5 yards per game. This team is actually fun to watch. OK, so the first two opponents weren't exactly hefty, but they were big wins for a program that has struggled so much recently. Saturday, No. 14 Texas rolls into the Grove.

12. Auburn (0-2; LW: 11): There has to be a lot of concern on the Plains. While the Tigers have a lot of young talent, they're also prone to a lot of mistakes and inefficiency. Kiehl Frazier was turned strictly into a pocket passer -- which Scot Loeffler would eventually like -- and he was completely ineffective against Mississippi State. The offensive line doesn't have much push, and the defense has major tackling issues. If Auburn isn't careful, it could find itself fighting for a bowl berth.

13. Kentucky (1-1; LW: 14): Saturday's 47-14 win against Kent State was huge. If the Wildcats are going to make it back to the postseason, they will need to win the remainder of their nonconference games after dropping the opener to Louisville. Maxwell Smith was also very impressive, passing for 354 yards and four touchdowns. The defense needs to continue to grow before SEC play and will get a chance to fine-tune things against Western Kentucky on Saturday.

14. Vanderbilt (0-2, 0-1; LW: 12): The Commodores suffered a bad loss at Northwestern over the weekend. This offense was supposed to be more explosive this year, but we just haven't seen it. Zac Stacy, who was the top rusher coming back in the SEC this year, has just 84 yards in two games and Vandy's offense ranks 13th in the SEC in total offense. The Commodores are 113th nationally in rushing yards and 112th in scoring.
We're required by law to call these power rankings, but there wasn't much power in the Big Ten during Week 2. It was a miserable week for the league, no matter how you spin it.

What we do know -- and perhaps all we know -- is that Michigan State clearly looks like the class of the conference. The Spartans handled their business in Week 2, which few Big Ten teams can say. Nebraska and Wisconsin tumble in the rankings, along with Iowa, which can't find the end zone. Northwestern makes a move in the right direction after its defense-driven win against Vanderbilt.

The rankings are beginning to shift from what we thought these teams were to what they are at the present moment. For most of the season, the power rankings are a snapshot of how the teams are performing in real time.

Let's get to the rundown ...

1. Michigan State (2-0, last week's ranking: 1): The Spartans got the bounce-back performance they needed from quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who had two touchdown passes and no interceptions against Central Michigan. Spurred by another stifling defensive performance, Michigan State should have had a shutout. Another big-time home showdown awaits Mark Dantonio's crew as rival Notre Dame visits East Lansing.

2. Ohio State (2-0, last week: 5): After cruising in Week 1, the Buckeyes faced a much better test from UCF and had to work hard to shake free of the Knights. Quarterback Braxton Miller looks like a superstar in Urban Meyer's offense, but he needs some help around him. Ohio State's defense had its struggles at times against UCF's offense, but timely turnovers generated by the secondary helped save the day. This team is a work in progress, but the future looks very promising.

3. Michigan (1-1, last week: 3): Typically a six-point home win against Air Force results in a drop in the rankings, but Michigan holds at No. 3 because so many of its Big Ten brethren stumbled. The Wolverines resembled their 2010 version at times Saturday, as Denard Robinson carried the team on his shoulders and fast feet, while the defense endured more than a few breakdowns against a tricky opponent. Greg Mattison's unit eventually made enough plays to win, but Michigan will need to be better as several tough road games (Notre Dame, Purdue) are on the horizon.

4. Nebraska (1-1, last week: 2): It's tough to know where the Huskers are after a woeful defensive performance at UCLA that left coach Bo Pelini "embarrassed." We still like Big Red's offense enough to keep the team here, as Taylor Martinez, Ameer Abdullah and others continue to gash opposing defenses. Still, Saturday's loss brought back all the questions about consistency and poise that have dogged Pelini during most of his tenure. Nebraska certainly didn't look like a team that will be returning to Pasadena on Jan. 1.

5. Northwestern (2-0, last week: 9): Other than Michigan State, Northwestern has the Big Ten's best résumé through the first two weeks. The Wildcats have beaten two major-conference foes (Syracuse and Vanderbilt), won both on the road and at home and delivered in different ways. Saturday night's defense-driven win is a significant step for a team that has struggled mightily on defense the past two years. Pat Fitzgerald's quarterback rotation of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian also seems to be working. Northwestern is by no means a finished product, but things are coming together for a young team faster than expected.

6. Purdue (1-1, last week: 6): The Boilers had the best of the Big Ten's six losses Saturday and gave Notre Dame all it could handle in a game that went down to the final seconds. After some early struggles, quarterback Caleb TerBush relieved the injured Robert Marve and made some big throws on the game-tying touchdown drive, while Purdue sacked Irish quarterbacks five times. The defense couldn't get the stops it needed on the final drive, but Purdue showed it can be a major factor in a completely wide-open Leaders Division.

7. Wisconsin (1-1, last week: 4): No loss stunned the Big Ten community more than Wisconsin's at Oregon State, and the only thing more surprising about the loss was how it happened. Wisconsin's anemic offensive performance has sparked a panic in America's dairyland, and for good reason. Although the Badgers have a new offensive staff, they boast a Heisman Trophy finalist in Montee Ball and an always formidable offensive line. To nearly be shut out by a midlevel Pac-12 team is inexcusable. Bret Bielema's team faces its first real crisis since the 2008 season.

8. Minnesota (2-0, last week: 11): There was no FCS disaster in Gopher Country this year as Minnesota made quick work of New Hampshire. The Gophers' defense continues to impress, especially up front, where end D.L. Wilhite (2.5 tackles for loss, forced fumble) and tackle Ra'Shede Hageman (2 sacks) delivered another outstanding performance. Senior quarterback MarQueis Gray settled down nicely and broke off a 75-yard touchdown. The competition will get better in the coming weeks, but the Gophers certainly look like an improved team.

9. Illinois (1-1, last week: 7): It's never easy to win on the road without your starting quarterback, and Illinois undoubtedly missed the injured Nathan Scheelhaase on Saturday night. But the Illini defense was supposed to keep the team afloat. Instead, it caved against the Sun Devils, surrendering 45 points, 26 first downs and 510 total yards. It's unacceptable for a unit that likes to consider itself among the nation's elite. The Illini never challenged Arizona State, and while Josh Ferguson's performance (14 carries, 101 yards) is a nice building block, the team still lacks threats in the pass game.

10. Iowa (1-1, last week: 8): We were tempted to drop Iowa even more after a pathetic offensive performance against rival Iowa State at home. The Hawkeyes failed to score a touchdown and have a grand total of one in the first two games under coordinator Greg Davis. Only six other FBS teams have that sorry distinction. Senior quarterback James Vandenberg has struggled, and so have his pass-catching targets. Although the competition has been decent, Iowa will face tougher teams in Big Ten play and must find some sort of identity in a hurry.

11. Penn State (0-2, last week: 10): The Lions have played one of the tougher schedules in the league and shown some good things, including an inspired defensive performance for 58 minutes Saturday at Virginia. But this sport is about getting wins and converting opportunities, and Penn State has done neither in its first two games. It's hard to lose when you're plus-four in turnover margin, but Penn State once again couldn't finish drives and kicker Sam Ficken had a day he'd like to forget in Charlottesville. Penn State has the potential to turn things around, but confidence has to be an issue for a team living under a dark cloud.

12. Indiana (2-0, last week: 12): Hoosiers fans, it's nothing personal. We realize Indiana is 2-0 and looked very good in Saturday's road win against Massachusetts. The reason IU is still here is because the competition level hasn't provided a sufficient gauge of the team through the first two weeks. We believe if the Hoosiers played Penn State or Iowa right now, especially without top quarterback Tre Roberson, they would lose. Indiana will change our opinion in a hurry if it keeps winning, and the competition gets better soon, beginning Saturday night as Ball State visits Bloomington.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 10, 2012
Not as much moving and shaking as you'd think after the reigning Big 12 champs lose. Basically, the Cowboys slipped to the bottom of the pile of teams who could be Big 12 contenders. Iowa State and Texas Tech are a coin flip for now, but Texas Tech's style points keep the Cyclones from jumping over the Red Raiders after a good win at Iowa, but an ugly win.

Here's how the Big 12 sits after two weeks of games.

1. West Virginia (1-0, last week: 1) West Virginia had to feel a little restless sitting around on Saturday after a strong opener. Oh, well. James Madison awaits at the Redskins' stadium in Landover, Md., this week.

2. Oklahoma (2-0, last week: 2) The Sooners got it rolling a little bit in the 69-13 win over Florida A&M, but these FCS games don't mean much. The Sooners weren't moving in this week's Power Rankings. The Sept. 22 date against Kansas State just got reaaaaaal interesting. OU may need every bit of the next two weeks to prepare.

3. Kansas State (2-0, last week: 3) The Wildcats were the Big 12's most impressive team on Saturday, treating Miami like an also-ran and completely dominating from start to finish. That's what happens when you win the battle on both lines of scrimmage and win the turnover battle 3-1. Kansas State outrushed Miami 288-40.

4. Texas (2-0, last week: 5) New Mexico's not a very good team, but Texas has to feel pretty good about pitching a shutout after giving up 17 to Wyoming last week. Most important: Another game, another night without a turnover for David Ash, who threw two touchdown passes and ran for a 49-yard score to get UT on the board in its 45-0 win. Good signs all around for the fellas in burnt orange.

5. Baylor (1-0, last week: 6) Baylor moves up a spot thanks to Oklahoma State, but a semi-intriguing FCS game awaits in Waco. In-state opponent Sam Houston State is heading to town, but the Bearkats played for a national title a year ago. Smart money says BU rolls, but don't be surprised if this game is tight for a little bit. SHSU has a lot of confidence.

6. TCU (1-0, last week: 7) Good debut all around for the Frogs. Not much to pick on after a dominant 56-0 win over Grambling that could have been much worse. No incompletions for two different QBs and a shutout? Oklahoma State proved last night it doesn't mean much, but you couldn't ask for more from the Frogs, who looked solid.

7. Oklahoma State (1-1, last week: 4) That was a shocker. Can't watch that game and still believe Oklahoma State won't take a big step back. Hard to beat the same team three times in 16 games, but that was a different Arizona team, and the Cowboys looked wholly unprepared to defend the zone read. If Oklahoma State can't stop the run and can't throw the ball without turning it over (Wes Lunt's fault or the receivers' fault, it doesn't matter much in the end), it's in for another rude awakening when Texas arrives on Sept. 29. The Pokes get two weeks to prepare after hosting Louisiana-Lafayette next week.

8. Texas Tech (2-0, last week: 8) Really nice win in a tough spot for the Red Raiders. Cody Davis started it off right with the pick-six, and Seth Doege got off to a nice start, too, tossing a pair of TDs to Darrin Moore in the game's first 10 minutes. Tech controlled it from there and kept pushing for a nice snowball effect on the Bobcats, who looked overmatched from the start. Tech's receivers are as deep as advertised, and man, Jakeem Grant is slippery. His 42-yard catch was one of the highlights of the weekend.

9. Iowa State (2-0, last week: 9) I hear you, Cyclones. Tulsa and Iowa are better than the two teams Texas Tech beat. Yes. But man, Iowa State can look bad at times. More often, it look determined, with a defense that has turned the game in two consecutive weeks. Both times, it was a huge play from Jake Knott. Texas Tech hasn't done enough to allow the Cyclones to leap over them, but making it to 2-0 at this point is no small accomplishment. Only Western Illinois stands between Iowa State and Texas Tech on Sept. 29, so we'll settle this debate on the field then.

10. Kansas (1-1, last week: 10) Losing to Rice? Seriously? KU's got a talent upgrade, but that game was marked by the attributes of a team that still needs to learn how to win. Losing to Rice is one thing, but blowing a 24-13 lead to the Owls in Lawrence in just more than 15 minutes? Good grief. Long way to go for KU. I tweeted it yesterday, but right now, the Big 12's top nine teams are playing pretty good football. Kansas continues to be the exception for two-plus seasons now. Only one way to go from here for KU, though.

Big East power rankings: Week 3

September, 10, 2012
Some surprising results this weekend have led to a shift in the power rankings. But not at the top.

1. Louisville (2-0). Teddy Bridgewater is turning some heads across the nation and that can only be a good thing for the Big East. Bridgewater had the first 300-yard passing game of his career, and the Cardinals beat Missouri State. A big test awaits Saturday against North Carolina. Previous ranking: 1.

2. Cincinnati (1-0). The Bearcats had to wait a week to get their season started, and when they did, they were just about perfect in a win over Pitt. The defensive front was as ferocious as last season, Ralph David Abernathy IV is going to be a breakout star this year, and it is just fun to watch Munchie Legaux run. I am still wondering, though: Is Cincinnati THAT good or Pitt THAT bad? Previous ranking: 5.

3. USF (2-0). OK, seriously. For three and a half quarters, the Bulls deserved to lose at Nevada, where the Wolf Pack racked up 549 total yards and led for all but the final 38 seconds of the game. That makes one lackluster showing against Chattanooga and one near-loss to Nevada. Gotta drop you. Previous ranking: 2.

4. Rutgers (2-0). The defense has been as good as we thought it would be. But major questions remain about an offense that has been stagnant in two games. Jawan Jamison is the only bright spot. We'll see if everybody comes to life in Tampa on Thursday night. Previous ranking: 3.

5. Syracuse (0-2). The Orange are the best 0-2 team in the nation and have looked stronger in defeat than the teams down below. They should have beaten Northwestern, and they played USC close in what has to be the toughest opening two-game stretch for any team from an AQ conference. Previous ranking: 7.

6. UConn (1-1). If the Huskies had any semblance of an offense, they would have beaten NC State. But they don't, and they look like they are going to have major problems if they don't fix the offensive line and figure out how to get Chandler Whitmer to cut down on the mistakes. Previous ranking: 5.

7. Temple (1-1). Worst performance of any Big East team Saturday. Nobody expected Temple to lose to Maryland. Nobody. Previous ranking: 6.

8. Pitt (0-2). The Panthers have looked like one of the worst teams in football in consecutive games. This is how bad it is for Pitt: Ray Graham actually played a whale of a game against Cincinnati with 154 total yards, and that still was not nearly enough to keep his team competitive. Previous ranking: 8.

ACC power rankings: Week 3

September, 10, 2012
Once again, the middle of the pack in the ACC is clear as mud. It’s still a little bit too early to tell how this pecking order is going to shake out in November, but the top of the conference remains the same. Congrats to Maryland for getting a small promotion.

1. Florida State (2-0, 0-0; LW: No. 1): The Seminoles enter Week 3 with a firm grasp on the top spot after a 55-0 drubbing of Savannah State. That went about as expected, as the Noles outscored their FCS opponents 124-3 in the first two weeks. FSU will finally be tested this weekend against a Wake Forest team confident from its win over UNC.

2. Clemson (2-0, 0-0; LW: No. 2): The Tigers left no doubt they were the better team in a convincing win over Ball State. The offense continues to flourish, and it should get even better this weekend against Furman with the return of suspended receiver Sammy Watkins.

3. Virginia Tech (2-0, 1-0 ACC; LW: No. 3): The Hokies took care of business in a 42-7 win over Austin Peay, and they’ve got a small but important lead in the Coastal Division standings. Virginia Tech will travel to Pitt this weekend for a sneak peak at the ACC’s next member.

4. Wake Forest (2-0, 1-0; LW: No. 7): A conference win over a solid North Carolina team was enough for this boost. Tanner Price scored on a 1-yard sneak with 2:09 left to beat the Tar Heels 28-27, and receiver Michael Campanaro had a career-high 13 catches for 164 yards. Can they keep it up against FSU?

5. Virginia (2-0, 0-0; LW: No. 8): It wasn’t a pretty 17-16 win over Penn State, as four turnovers and 10 penalties were costly, but it’s another 2-0 start for Mike London, and they’ll need all the momentum they can get heading into a tough three-week stretch.

6. North Carolina (1-1, 0-1; LW: No. 4): The Tar Heels are clearly less effective when running back Giovani Bernard is on the sideline with an undisclosed injury. Coach Larry Fedora told reporters this week that he’s not concerned about Bernard’s availability for Saturday’s game at Louisville.

7. Georgia Tech (1-1, 0-1); LW: No. 5): The Jackets’ conference loss is what’s hurting them the most right now on this list, plus they need to show more offensively against somebody other than Presbyterian. They’re good enough to do that, and Saturday’s game against Virginia will determine who takes the lead in next week’s power rankings.

8. NC State (1-1, 0-0; LW: No. 6): Anyone else not convinced in this team despite Saturday’s 10-7 win over UConn? Mike Glennon was sacked six times and the Pack were held to 54 rushing yards. Expectations were higher for this veteran offensive line.

9. Miami (1-1, 1-0; LW: No. 9): Both Duke and Miami lost to ranked opponents this past weekend, and could very well be tied for this spot with the way their defenses played Saturday. The Canes at least have an ACC win on the road, though. They should have a chance to correct some mistakes against Bethune-Cookman this weekend, and it’s the only breather they have.

10. Duke (1-1, 0-0; LW: No. 10): Last year’s home game against Stanford was a better performance for the Blue Devils. Duke was held to 27 rushing yards and had three turnovers in a 50-13 loss. The Blue Devils should rebound this week against NC Central.

11. Maryland (2-0, 0-0; LW: No. 12): That’s right, Maryland is undefeated. Never saw that coming after quarterback C.J. Brown suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Terps surprised Temple on the road, and have a chance to start 3-0 with a win this weekend over Randy Edsall’s former team, Connecticut.

12. Boston College (1-1, 0-1; LW: No. 11): The Eagles bounced back from their loss to Miami with a 34-3 drubbing of Maine, but that’s what they were supposed to do. We’ll find out how much progress they’ve really made when they travel to Northwestern -- a team they lost at home to a year ago.

Pac-12 power rankings: Week 3

September, 10, 2012
Last week's power rankings called the theme of this past weekend: "OK, but let's see what you do Saturday."

Lots of teams came through. Big. Some, however, didn't. That is reflected here. All complaints should be filed with "Kevin Gemmell."

You can review the Week 2 power rankings here.

1. USC: The Trojans' trip east to play Syracuse got a little weird with an evacuated stadium and everything, but there was never a moment when it even seemed reasonable to say, "Hey, the Orange have a chance!"

2. Oregon: A potential season-ending knee injury to safety John Boyett is a big -- and sad -- blow, and things didn't go as smoothly on offense as the opening weekend. But there still remains a wide gap between the top two teams here and the rest of the conference, even with the nice work yesterday.

3. Stanford: Stanford still hasn't beaten anyone, unlike the three teams directly below them. But they did enough while dominating Duke to suggest they are still the team most likely to break up the Trojans-Ducks marriage. Of course, we'll get a good feel for the Cardinal when the Trojans visit Saturday.

4. UCLA: Love the offense. It -- QB Brett Hundley! and RB Johnathan Franklin! -- is putting up ludicrous numbers. But what elevates the Bruins here is their second-half adjustments on defense. Gave up just six points to Nebraska after the break after shutting out Rice.

5. Arizona: That was not a bad Oklahoma State defense the Wildcats ran over. It's clear the Wildcats will be able to score in bunches. If they protect the football and get just enough defense, this is a bowl team. Maybe a good bowl team.

6. Oregon State: Here's a prediction: No other team will shut down Wisconsin this year like the Beavers did. Just a hunch, so we'll see. Loved how Sean Mannion handled himself. He could have gotten frustrated and tried to force things. He didn't. Sometimes 10 points is enough, and recognizing that is QB Zen.

7. Arizona State: The Sun Devils delivered another butt-kicking, albeit to a team without its starting QB. What was most impressive, though, was how easily the Sun Devils dominated the Illinois defense, which was supposed to be good. And just one penalty, one that was taken on purpose! Who are these guys?

8. Washington: Even worse than taking a beating at LSU is the injuries piling up. The challenge for coach Steve Sarkisian and QB Keith Price is keeping this team focused, positive and together during this early-season gauntlet.

9. Utah: The Utes' 12-game winning streak against Utah State -- all decided by at least 15 points -- is over. While the health of QB Jordan Wynn is the big question heading into the Holy War against BYU, the bigger problem may be poor offensive line play.

10. California: The jury is still out on the Bears, so the visit to Ohio State feels like a good measuring stick. After the Pac-12 went 3-0 -- with two underdogs winning -- against the Big Ten this past weekend, it's up to the Bears to extend the winning streak. Or, failing that, turn in a respectable performance that reveals some spine.

11. Washington State: We still don't know the Cougs. The good news is their next two opponents, UNLV and Colorado, lost to FCS teams over the weekend. They should be 3-1 heading to Seattle to play Oregon on Sept. 29.

12. Colorado: The Pac-12 blog doesn't like to be negative. We may snark a bit, but we don't like to throw an all-consuming blanket of pessimism over a team. So, in the interest of being positive, we will predict that at some point this season the Buffs will win a game. Maybe.