NCF Nation: power-rankings-091911

ACC Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 19, 2011
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

As we head into Week 4, one big question looms: North Carolina or Georgia Tech? In this week’s bowl projections, I gave the nod to UNC only because the Tar Heels earned their first conference win in the Coastal Division, but this debate will be settled on the field this weekend when the two teams meet. There were a few other tweaks this week, including at the bottom, where Duke leapfrogged BC with its narrow win this past weekend. Here’s a look at your ACC power rankings heading into Week 4:

1. Florida State (2-1, 0-0 ACC; Last Week No. 1): The Seminoles put together a much more respectable performance against Oklahoma than they did a year ago, despite Saturday’s 23-13 loss. Florida State almost beat the No. 1 team in the nation with its backup quarterback and took some positives out of that game heading into this weekend’s key Atlantic Division matchup at Clemson.

2. Virginia Tech (3-0, 0-0; LW: No. 2): This team hasn’t looked as good as its record might indicate, and this position could be more of a rental property than a permanent residence. The Hokies continue to take care of business, though, and the defense has looked outstanding in all three games. Saturday’s game at Marshall is the last chance to iron out any lingering concerns before Clemson comes to town to start ACC play.

3. Clemson (3-0, 0-0; LW: No. 6): The Tigers got a boost in the rankings this week thanks to an impressive 38-24 win over defending national champion and No. 21-ranked Auburn. They’re off to a 3-0 start and have knocked off one of a string of three ranked opponents. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has looked better every week, and it should be a great matchup against the FSU D on Saturday.

4. North Carolina (3-0, 1-0 ACC; LW No. 5): The Tar Heels get bumped up for correcting their mistakes from Week 2 to Week 3, and beating Virginia for their first Coastal Division win. UNC cut down on both turnovers and penalties, and is off to a 3-0 start under coach Everett Withers heading into the showdown with the Yellow Jackets.

5. Georgia Tech (3-0, 0-0; LW: No. 3): Georgia Tech didn’t get penalized this week for winning, rather other teams were rewarded for beating better competition. The Yellow Jackets might be the best team in the Coastal Division, but so far they’ve rolled over inferior opponents. Can they maintain that success against the UNC D?

6. Miami (1-1, 0-1; LW: No. 7): I’m usually a big proponent of head-to-head results being reflected in the ranking, but Miami earned some bonus points for beating a ranked Ohio State team on Saturday while the Terps came up short against West Virginia. If the Canes continue to play solid defense and run the ball like they did against the Buckeyes, they could still be a factor in the ACC race.

7. Maryland (1-1, 1-0; LW: No. 4): The Terps had a chance to make a statement and continue the success of their win over Miami, but couldn’t get it done against West Virginia. The Terps couldn’t stop quarterback Geno Smith, and three turnovers and seven penalties didn’t help.

8. Wake Forest (2-1, 1-0; LW: No. 8): The Demon Deacons remain status quo after their convincing 48-5 win over Gardner-Webb, and they could further improve their stock and bowl hopes with a road win over a downtrodden Boston College team this weekend. Quarterback Tanner Price has had the passing game clicking and should be another challenge for the Eagles’ defense.

9. NC State (2-1, 0-1; LW: No. 9): Injuries to the defense continue to pile up, but NC State rebounded from its loss to Wake Forest with a win over South Alabama. This week’s game at Cincinnati will present a bigger challenge, though, and could reveal more about the Wolfpack’s bowl hopes this season.

10. Virginia (2-1, 0-1; LW: No. 10: The Cavaliers went 1-1 in their back-to-back road trips, losing the more important game to UNC to start behind in the Coastal Division standings. The Hoos moved the ball, but they also squandered opportunities and couldn’t stop the Tar Heels’ running game. UVA fans should expect a win this weekend, though, against Southern Miss.

11. Duke (1-2, 1-0, LW: No. 12): We’re not talking bowl game again for these guys until they win a few more games, but the win over BC at least got the Blue Devils off to a good start in the ACC standings.

12. Boston College (0-3, 0-1; LW: No. 11): The Eagles are off to their worst start since 1991, when they finished 4-7 under Tom Coughlin. No, the season isn’t over yet, but it feels as if BC’s ship has already sunk.

SEC power rankings: Week 4

September, 19, 2011
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

The big mover this week in the SEC power rankings is Vanderbilt, which is 3-0 for only the fifth time in the past 60 years.

The top three, though, remain the same:

1. LSU (3-0, 1-0): The question you’re starting to hear more and more about the Tigers is: Can they win a national championship with that offense? Obviously, we’re going to find out. But here’s a thought: Maybe their offense is playing to a defense that’s absolutely good enough to win a national title. LSU has already won two games away from home against nationally ranked foes.

2. Alabama (3-0): The Crimson Tide get their second big test this coming weekend when Arkansas comes to town. The Hogs have the kind of offensive weapons that will give any defense fits. Alabama’s another team that has a national championship-caliber defense. Moving the ball against the Tide has been like trying to move it against a brick wall. Opponents are averaging just 2.52 yards per play against them, which leads the country.

3. Arkansas (3-0): Coach Bobby Petrino wasn’t real thrilled with the way the Hogs finished the game last week. After getting up 24-0, they turned sloppy in the second half and beat Troy 38-28. They held several banged-up starters out of the game, including receiver Jarius Wright and defensive end Jake Bequette. They’re going to need everybody to be healthy and need some big plays from their defense to win Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

4. South Carolina (3-0, 1-0): The Gamecocks either like living dangerously or still have some serious kinks to work out, because they’ve come a little bit closer to losing every week. They were extremely fortunate to survive last week against Navy in a 24-21 win at home and simply aren’t playing up to their talent level. At least, not yet. It’s a good thing they have Marcus Lattimore on their side.

5. Florida (3-0, 1-0): The Gators make a move into the top 5 this week after dispatching Tennessee 33-23 last week. It was Florida’s seventh straight win against Tennessee and Will Muschamp’s first SEC win as a head coach. The Gators are the real deal in their defensive front seven and should only get better. There’s work to do in the secondary. On offense, Chris Rainey is one of the most dynamic players in college football right now. Good luck in trying to catch him once he gets a step.

6. Vanderbilt (3-0, 1-0): What a fantastic job first-year coach James Franklin and his staff have done to this point with a group of players who genuinely believe that they can have a big season. It gets a lot tougher from here. The next three games are against South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia, but the Commodores’ defense is playing lights out. They already have 10 interceptions this season.

7. Tennessee (2-1, 0-1): The Vols now have a week off to think about all the things they didn’t do well last week in a 33-23 loss to Florida, which has to be paying taxes in the state of Tennessee by now. The Gators have won seven in a row and 15 of the past 19 in a rivalry that hasn’t been much of one. The loss was one thing for the Vols, but they also lost their sensational sophomore receiver, Justin Hunter, for the season with a torn ACL.

8. Auburn (2-1, 1-0): If you like hard-nosed, stingy defense, be sure and steer clear of watching the Tigers play. They were abysmal on defense last week in a 38-24 loss at Clemson and have now given up 1,603 yards and 110 points in three games. They should be able to blow off some steam this Saturday against Florida Atlantic. But after that, they’re in for a rough ride unless they get a lot better on defense.

9. Georgia (1-2, 0-1): As disappointing as Georgia’s 0-2 start was, the Eastern Division looks as wide open as it ever did. There simply doesn’t appear to be a great team in the East. So here’s Georgia’s chance to get back into the race this week with a trip to Ole Miss. This is a game Georgia needs to win big and breathe new life into the entire Bulldog Nation. We won’t even broach the idea of what a loss to the Rebels would mean for Mark Richt and that Georgia program.

10. Mississippi State (1-2, 0-2): The Bulldogs are better than they’ve played to this point, and the season’s not lost. But they need to get busy in a hurry and could use a winning streak going into that bye week on Oct. 22. There was a lot of talk in Starkville this offseason about taking that next step. To do that, the Bulldogs are going to have to start winning some games in the West. They’re now 2-10 under Dan Mullen against Western Division teams.

11. Kentucky (2-1): There’s no getting around the Wildcats’ offensive struggles. They’re going to have a hard time scoring against anybody right now, and this is when the schedule starts to take on some teeth with three straight games against Florida, LSU and South Carolina. The 24-17 loss to Louisville last week not only ended the Wildcats’ four-game winning streak in the series, but now makes it an uphill climb for Kentucky to get back to a bowl game for a sixth straight season.

12. Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1): The Rebels were so close in that opener against BYU. Now, three games in, there’s no telling what might happen. All bets are off following an embarrassing 30-7 loss to Vanderbilt last week, and coach Houston Nutt understands what he’s up against, especially coming off last season’s 4-8 finish. The Rebels get Georgia at home this weekend and need a win in the worst way.

Pac-12 power rankings: Week 4

September, 19, 2011
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

If you don't like where you are in the power rankings, play better.

See last week's power rankings here.

1. Stanford: The Cardinal was dominant in its first legitimate test of the season, winning its now-nation-leading 11th in a row, but the loss of linebacker Shayne Skov to a knee injury could prove costly.

2. Oregon: The Ducks did what they needed to do: Completely outclass Missouri State in a fairly entertaining -- "Wow, did you see that!" -- way.

3. USC: The Trojans finally flexed their muscles for four quarters. When they do that, they are a top-15 perhaps even top-10 team. So will they do that at Arizona State on Saturday?

4. Arizona State: Sure, the Sun Devils blew a game they should have won at Illinois. But they still have the best nonconference win -- against Missouri -- of any team in the conference. The Sun Devils and Utah have established themselves as the teams to beat in the South Division (Trojans ineligible).

5. Utah: The Utes opened up a can of whup-butt at BYU in a blowout shocker. Got to like the killer instinct on both sides of the ball. The Utes played hard until the very end, even though the game was out of hand in the third quarter.

5. California: We still don't know who the Bears are. We should get a better idea during their visit to Washington on Saturday. The winner pushes into the No. 3 slot in the North Division.

6. Washington: Boy, that third quarter at Nebraska. Yucky. Huskies fans, you can get mad about the officiating -- it should be reprimanded this week -- but your chief concern should be the defense.

8. Arizona: Look, this is a horrible schedule for a team that could have used a soft start to the season -- look longingly at Stanford's slate -- but the Wildcats still flashed just enough potential to suggest this team is good enough to get to a bowl game. But only if the locker room holds together until Week 6.

9. Washington State: Wow, rough a punter and everything goes splat. It appears that the Cougars will have to settled for "better" rather than "magical." But how good will better be? And will it be good enough to save Paul Wulff's job?

10. Colorado: Colorado took control of Colorado State and showed signs of life on both sides of the ball. You ask, Buffs, why are you below WSU? Well, did you see what UNLV did to Hawaii?

11. UCLA: There was some thought of dumping the Bruins into the basement because they don't have the excuses -- injuries -- Oregon State does. But UCLA does have a win and hasn't lost to an FCS team and hasn't been shut out. And the Bruins and Beavers play the Desperation Bowl on Saturday.

12. Oregon State: The good news is the Beavers didn't lose this weekend. The better news is some guys -- tight end Joe Halahuni and, maybe, receiver James Rodgers -- are getting healthy.
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

It's shuffling time once again in the power rankings as two ranked Big Ten teams (Michigan State and Ohio State) suffered humbling losses Saturday. Wisconsin continues to look dominant, although the competition level will increase substantially in October. Nebraska is at the top as well, but surprisingly because of its offense more than its defense.

Illinois and Michigan State are rising, while the bottom half of the league remains more or less intact.

Let's get to it.

1. Wisconsin (3-0): The Badgers look like they can do some special things this season, as quarterback Russell Wilson is exceeding all expectations in the first three games. Northern Illinois could be a solid team, but Wisconsin totally outclassed the Huskies at Soldier Field. We'll learn a lot more about Bret Bielema's squad in October, but the early returns are good.

2. Nebraska (3-0): It's not the winning formula many of us envisioned for the Huskers, but they're finding a way to get things done. Nebraska ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring offense (44.3 ppg) and third in total offense (422 ypg). The Huskers have delivered strong second-half performances on offense the past two weeks. The defense, meanwhile, needs to tighten up significantly before the Oct. 1 trip to Wisconsin.

3. Illinois (3-0): Surprised to see the Illini here? They deserve it after a gutsy performance against Arizona State fueled by a pressuring defense. The schedule sets up extremely well for Ron Zook's crew, and if young defenders like linebacker Jonathan Brown continue to make strides, Illinois will be a contender in the Leaders Division.

4. Michigan (3-0): The 2011 Wolverines look a lot like previous versions, and time will tell if their formula for success will work against better Big Ten teams. The good news is the schedule sets up well for Michigan, which could be 6-0 when it visits in-state rival Michigan State on Oct. 15. Quarterback Denard Robinson remains extremely dangerous as a runner, but he'll have to make strides as a passer in league play.

5. Michigan State (2-1): Perhaps Michigan State caught Notre Dame at the wrong time, as the Fighting Irish shouldn't have started 0-2. On the flip side, a 31-13 loss exposed Michigan State's weakness along the offensive line. If the Spartans can't run the ball on the road, it'll be a long season. The encouraging thing is Michigan State only allowed 275 and boasts some nice pieces on defense.

6. Ohio State (2-1): Holy Buckeye, this isn't good. Week 6 can't come soon enough for Luke Fickell's squad, which needs any reinforcements it can get for an anemic offense that completed just four passes for 35 yards in Saturday night's loss to Miami. Ohio State's offensive staff needs some answers before a tough opening stretch to begin Big Ten play (Michigan State, Nebraska, Illinois).

7. Penn State (2-1): The defense can carry this team at times, perhaps even to several Big Ten wins this fall. Penn State received huge performances from LB Michael Mauti, DE Sean Stanley and others against Temple. But the offensive struggles remain and it's hard to know where Penn State should go at the quarterback position as both Matthew McGloin and Rob Bolden have had their ups and downs.

8. Iowa (2-1): If Iowa ends up winning eight to 10 games, it will point to the comeback against Pitt as the turning point. QB James Vandenberg certainly grew up a bit in the fourth quarter. But Pitt has a penchant for falling apart, and Iowa still has a lot to address in the next two weeks. The receiver position could be a strength for the Hawkeyes as Keenan Davis looked very impressive Saturday.

9. Northwestern (2-1): The wait for Dan Persa likely is nearing an end, but Northwestern couldn't avoid a very humbling loss along the way. Northwestern's defense couldn't slow down Army, but the Wildcats would have won the game with greater consistency in the passing game. Persa's return should provide a confidence boost, but Northwestern remains too reliant on its quarterback play.

10. Purdue (2-1): After sweating out the first two games, the Boilers got a breather against FCS Southeast Missouri State and flexed their muscles on offense. Quarterbacks Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve combined to complete 21 of 25 pass attempts, and Akeem Shavers rushed for two touchdowns while the defense posted its first shutout since 2004. Purdue now has an open week before hosting Notre Dame.

11. Minnesota (1-2): MarQueis Gray had a historic day at quarterback as Minnesota gave Jerry Kill his first win as its coach. The Gophers also got a boost on special teams with a punt block returned for a touchdown. Pass defense remains a significant concern as Minnesota is surrendering more than 300 yards per game through the air.

12. Indiana (1-2): Like Minnesota, Indiana also got in the victories column for the first time Saturday. And like the Gophers, the Hoosiers received a big performance from a quarterback as sophomore Ed Wright-Baker completed 21 of 27 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. D'Angelo Roberts sparked the rushing attack 102 yards and a touchdown. Indiana now must show it can win on the road as it visits North Texas.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 4

September, 19, 2011
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Well done across the Big 12, but still some movement after a 9-1 weekend for Big 12 teams. Bound to be some complaints for not moving up after great weeks, but look around, Big 12 fans: Everybody but the Jayhawks (and Oklahoma State's sleep cycles) had a great week.

1. Oklahoma (2-0, last week: 1): Oklahoma got Travis Lewis back, and the Sooners are on track for a national title through two weeks. The defense was tough throughout the night, and offensively, OU made plays when it had to after momentum had turned in a hostile environment. Big gut-check, and an impressive night.

2. Oklahoma State (3-0, LW: 2): OSU's offense is chugging along, but next week's trip to College Station should be a classic. OSU spent its Saturday night eating PB&J in the locker room before a 12:15 a.m. kickoff and a 3:36 a.m. finish against Tulsa. Don't expect OSU to use a 6 a.m. arrival back in Stillwater on Sunday morning as an excuse, though.

3. Texas A&M (2-0, LW: 3): The Aggies have been solid in both outings, but their first big test will be coming to Kyle Field next week. Last year's game was a classic, but A&M missed out on a chance to play for the Big 12 title with a loss. This time, Ryan Tannehill will get his shot at the Cowboys.

4. Baylor (2-0, LW: 4): I told you it was possible for Robert Griffin III to get better, and he's playing some of the best football of anyone in the country through two games. Baylor will likely be favored in its next three games before traveling to Kyle Field, but could the No. 17 Bears sneak into the top 10 by then?

5. Texas (3-0, LW: 5): Texas played its best game of the year on the road against UCLA, and just like it has every game this year, dominated the second half. Case McCoy is earning a bit more time than the more mobile David Ash, but that might fluctuate as games progress. Malcolm Brown is the real deal.

6. Missouri (2-1, LW: 6): Missouri got fewer votes in the polls than Iowa State this week, and based on the Cyclones' 3-0 record, that's probably fair, but Missouri still looks like the more complete team. Additionally, the Tigers are a 49-yard field goal from probably being in the top 15. That's telling if you ask me.

7. Iowa State (3-0, LW: 7): Iowa State has shown a flare for the dramatic, but heading into the bye week, the Cyclones are riding high. Three weeks, three fourth-quarter combacks. They've come against Northern Iowa, Iowa and UConn, but we'll learn a bit more about the Cyclones when they play Texas on Oct. 1.

8. Texas Tech (2-0, LW: 8): Tech looked good against New Mexico, but you don't move up in the power rankings by thrashing a team that's won two games in just over two seasons, no matter how accurate the quarterback is. Texas Tech might be better than Iowa State, Missouri, Texas or even Baylor. But we won't know for a few weeks. Thus, here the Red Raiders sit.

9. Kansas State (2-0, LW: 10): Kansas State looked pretty good against a weak Kent State team, much better than it did against Eastern Kentucky in the opener. that sentence again. Time to strap up with a trip to Miami on the way this week.

10. Kansas (2-1, LW: 9): Welcome back. Your dreams were your ticket out (of the basement). Welcome back, to that same place you laughed about (when Kansas State was here). The defense has a long way to go.

Big East Power Rankings

September, 19, 2011
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Not a bad week on the field for the Big East, with wins over the SEC and ACC. Where does everyone shake out this week?

1. West Virginia (3-0). The Mountaineers got the fast start coach Dana Holgorsen wanted, though they did not end so fast in a 37-31 win over Maryland. Still, getting three players over 100 yards receiving is pretty impressive, and Geno Smith continues to shine. But the biggest test is Saturday against LSU.

2. USF (3-0). The Bulls had an easy go of it with Florida A&M, winning 70-17. They should not have much trouble this Saturday with UTEP.

3. Louisville (2-1). Beating in-state rival Kentucky for the first time in five years with an impressive performance from offense and defense boosts the Cardinals out of the basement. Yes, they lost to FIU -- but the Panthers are now receiving votes in both polls. That is a solid team.

4. Syracuse (2-1). The Orange lost to a far better team in USC. Still, they do have a win over an AQ team this year, which is more than the bottom four teams can say.

5. Pitt (2-1). The Panthers blew a 24-3 lead in a loss to Iowa. No wins over AQ opponents. They get downgraded.

6. Cincinnati (2-1). The Bearcats have had no trouble with Austin Peay and Akron. But what happens against NC State on Thursday night?

7. Rutgers (1-1). Bye week leaves the Scarlet Knights here, but plenty of time to move up.

8. UConn (1-2). The Huskies are the only losing team in the Big East and have blown two fourth-quarter leads against Vanderbilt and Iowa State.