NCF Nation: power rankings 092412

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 24, 2012
As expected, we've got a big shake-up in the Big 12 Power Rankings after Kansas State's upset. The Big 12 race is even more wide open now, but we've got a brand-new squad at No. 1.

Without further ado, get your Wabash Cannonballs on, folks.

1. Kansas State (4-0, 1-0, last week: 4) The Wildcats take over the No. 1 spot and have the best two wins of any team in the Big 12. K-State edged Oklahoma in Norman on Saturday and blew out Miami. When K-State plays like that, it's nearly impossible to beat. Controlled game plan. No big mistakes.

2. West Virginia (3-0, last week: 1) Don't fret, West Virginia. The 'Eers are much flashier than K-State, but are they better? The truth is we have no idea, and we'll find out in the weeks to come. Still, for now, there's no debate: Kansas State has beaten better teams than West Virginia and looked pretty good doing it. WVU is prepping for a hyped home game versus Baylor to start the Big 12 era.

3. Texas (3-0, last week: 3) Texas was idle this week, but the Longhorns get to spend the next week waiting to see which Oklahoma State quarterback they'll see. In the meantime, they've got plenty to work on in Austin. Can David Ash keep it up, and can the defense fix its out-of-character tackling woes?

4. Oklahoma (2-1, 0-1, last week: 2) The overreaction in Oklahoma is on. Yes, Oklahoma didn't look very good. Yes, Landry Jones made a lot of big mistakes. But hey, Kansas State is pretty good, and the Wildcats won by five in a game that came down pretty close to the wire. With a late defensive stop, this could have ended very differently. The mood in Soonerville is somber, but the Big 12 race is still wide open. You can't count OU out because of one game just yet. Like coaches always say: "It's never as good as you think, and it's never as bad as you think." That goes for K-State, too.

5. TCU (3-0, 1-0, last week: 6) Virginia's just OK, but if TCU can fix its red zone turnover issues, it'll be a force. The defense has already exceeded expectations, giving up a garbage-time touchdown as its first of the season. The offense is banged up in the running game, but Brandon Carter is the league's breakout star so far this season. For now, give me the Frogs back over the Bears.

6. Baylor (3-0, last week: 5) You can look at that Monroe win in one of two ways: Did Baylor have any business going down two touchdowns? Were you more impressed by Baylor's poise in the comeback, unfazed by a hyped crowd and a pretty good team? Either way, the Bears are undefeated and we'll get a good idea of just how good they are next week in Morgantown.

7. Oklahoma State (2-1, last week: 7) OSU's already got a loss, and Arizona lost a bit of its sheen with a 49-0 loss at Oregon. That's bad news for the Pokes' fortunes. Still, they get a big chance to get back on the national radar with a prime-time game against Texas this week, the first time Texas has visited Stillwater since 2009.

8. Texas Tech (3-0, last week: 8) Texas Tech blew out three bad teams to start its season. The wins looked good, but we still have no idea how good this team is. The Red Raiders got a week off to prepare for Iowa State, but a win there would be a good start toward proving Tech is back. Tommy Tuberville is 0-2 against the Cyclones, including a 41-7 embarrassment in Lubbock a year ago.

9. Iowa State (3-0, last week: 9) Iowa State is doing it ugly, but 3-0 is 3-0, and that doesn't happen very often in Ames. Iowa State is knocking on the door of the top 25, and gets to host Texas Tech next week, a team it's proven it can beat. Will the Cyclones do it again?

10. Kansas (1-3, 0-1, last week: 10) KU blew yet another fourth-quarter lead, and could still easily be 3-1. As the Big 12 tide rises and the nine teams above the Jayhawks play better and better ball, KU looks like it's spinning its wheels a little bit. Somehow, the gap between KU and the rest of the Big 12 seems to be widening a bit. We'll see in conference play. KU is off this week before traveling to Manhattan for a rivalry game against the red-hot Wildcats.

SEC power rankings: Week 5

September, 24, 2012
Another week and it still remains pretty clear Alabama is top dog in the SEC and nationally.

But has our No. 2 team fallen after a sloppy win on the road?

1. Alabama (4-0; LW: 1): I feel like a broken record, but Alabama dominated yet again Saturday. It's hard to find any real weaknesses in this team. Although the backups did give up a touchdown to Florida Atlantic, so there's that.

2. LSU (4-0; LW: 2): The Tigers looked pretty sloppy offensively in a tough 12-10 win against Auburn Saturday. LSU probably will have its name dragged through the mud after its play this weekend, but all good teams have those hiccup games. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has to play better, but the defense still looks extremely dominant. The goal now is to not let that hiccup bleed into future games.

3. Georgia (4-0; LW: 3): This Bulldogs offense has been really fun to watch through the first four weeks. Quarterback Aaron Murray has looked like a real Heisman candidate at times, while freshman running back Todd Gurley just gets better every time he gets on the field. Georgia completely overwhelmed Vanderbilt and heads into a fun showdown with Tennessee with a load of confidence.

4. South Carolina (4-0; LW: 4): Connor Shaw has proven he's a true player for the Gamecocks. He battled through a hairline fracture in his throwing shoulder to complete 20-of-21 passes in a blowout win against Missouri. You're starting to see more balance from this Gamecocks offense and that will be very important as SEC play continues. The defensive front is also getting stronger each week.

5. Florida (4-0; LW: 5): The Gators seem to be growing up with each week. After back-to-back tough road wins, Florida shut out Kentucky at home and now has two weeks to prepare for LSU. This really has become more of the blue-collar team Will Muschamp wants, but we'll really find out how tough Florida is when LSU ventures into the Swamp.

6. Mississippi State (4-0; LW: 6): Dan Mullen wasn't exactly pleased with the effort the Bulldogs gave in their lackluster 30-10 win against South Alabama, but a win is a win these days. This team can't be too happy with the way it has played in the past two weeks, but it's still undefeated. It's obvious players are losing focus against lesser opponents, and that should change with SEC play starting back up next week.

7. Tennessee (3-1; LW: 7): There were some tense moments in the Vols' win over Akron Saturday, but the second half belonged to Tennessee. Tyler Bray showed off that cannon of a right arm, passing for 401 yards and four touchdowns. The running game also got going with Rajion Neal rushing for a career-high 151 yards. The key for this team is to duplicate those kinds of efforts against SEC opponents.

8. Texas A&M (2-1; LW: 9): Man, the Aggies know how to use that football, right? In the past two games (both wins), A&M has averaged 526.5 yards and 59 points. Sure, you can point your nose up at the competition, but those are pretty good numbers for a team dealing with a brand new coaching staff and philosophy. Let's see how this offense performs with the SEC slate coming up.

9. Missouri (2-2; LW:8): The Tigers just didn't put up much of a fight against South Carolina. Both the offensive and defensive lines got pushed around and it's looking more and more like the size up front is an issue for this team. Mizzou has too much talent offensively not to get the ball moving, but the Tigers failed to get big plays against South Carolina. You have to wonder what sort of offensive changes might come heading into the Central Florida game.

10. Ole Miss (3-1; LW: 11): The Rebels really rebounded from that Texas blowout with a 39-point shutout of Tulane. Through four games, Ole Miss is third in the SEC in total offense (488 yards per game) and is averaging 36.8 points per game. This team has to cut down on the turnovers and the defense still needs some work, but the product on the field is much better than it has been the past two years.

11. Auburn (1-3; LW: 10): The Tigers suffered a tough loss at home to LSU over the weekend. It was a game in which Auburn played its toughest ball of the season, but just didn't have anything going on offense. Like, absolutely nothing. The defense made strides, but the offense is still a major concern. Defense wins championships, but you have to put points on the board and move the ball, and Auburn has issues doing both, scoring only 20 points in two SEC games.

12. Arkansas (1-3; LW: 12): Things just aren't working in Fayetteville, Ark. Tyler Wilson returned against Rutgers, but he couldn't help a defense that gave up 525 yards in the loss to the Scarlet Knights. Arkansas has now lost three straight -- all in the state of Arkansas -- and it's fair to say that leadership is lacking inside that locker room. There shouldn't be any smiling this week as the Hogs prepare for Texas A&M.

13. Vanderbilt (1-3; LW: 13): The Commodores had nothing in the tank against Georgia. For a team that is supposed to have a different attitude, Vandy lacked any form of passion in its 45-point loss to the Bulldogs. The defense was shredded and the offense just never got into rhythm. This team is also dealing with quarterback issues. You never know who is going to be throwing the ball for the Commodores, and that's not a good thing.

14. Kentucky (1-3; LW: 14): Nothing seems to be going right for the Wildcats. Maxwell Smith missed Saturday's loss to Florida with a bum shoulder and Morgan Newton did noting to help in Smith's place. Kentucky's offense has lacked any sort of consistency this season and the defense has been walked over. The bad news is that things get a lot tougher for the Wildcats with the teeth of the schedule coming up.

ACC power rankings: Week 5

September, 24, 2012
What a great showing by Florida State and Clemson in Tallahassee on Saturday night. The Atlantic Division remains the stronger of the two, and the Coastal is pure confusion right now. The only thing we know for sure after Week 4 is that Florida State is once again the team to beat in the ACC. The top is the same. The bottom is the same. The middle? Good luck trying to figure out that mess. Here’s a shot at it:

1. Florida State (4-0, 2-0 ACC; LW: No. 1) -- Quarterback EJ Manuel threw for more than 300 yards and ran for more than 100 yards, putting himself in the Heisman race and his team in contention for a national title. This group showed a maturity and focus it lacked in the past and was able to come from behind to beat Clemson 49-37 for the lead in the Atlantic Division standings.

2. Clemson (3-1, 0-1; LW: No. 2) -- The defending ACC champs lost control of their own destiny and now need Florida State to lose twice in order to get back into the Atlantic Division race. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris called a heckuva game, but FSU’s defense got better pressure on quarterback Tajh Boyd in the second half.

3. Virginia Tech (3-1, 1-0; LW: No. 4) -- After an embarrassing Week 3 performance against Pitt, the Hokies did what they always do and rebounded the following Saturday. Bud Foster’s defense clamped down and shut out Bowling Green 37-0. Now Virginia Tech needs to avoid another loss to a Big East team as it travels to Landover, Md., to face Cincinnati in FedEx Field.

4. Miami (3-1, 2-0; LW: No. 9) -- Not even coach Al Golden knows what to expect with such a young team, but one thing was clear in the road win over Georgia Tech -- his players believe in him and want to win for him. Don’t look now, but the baby Canes have a chance to win the division. How about a Miami-FSU title game?

5. NC State (3-1, 0-0; LW: No. 5) -- The Wolfpack made sure there was no sense of a letdown in their 52-14 win against The Citadel. The Pack will travel to Miami on Saturday for their first ACC game and they have won three straight.

6. Wake Forest (3-1, 1-1; LW: No. 6) -- The Deacs got into a shootout with Army, but they also got their ground game going in the 49-37 win. The next task will be to hold off a hungry Duke team trying to snap a 12-game losing streak against Wake Forest. The Deacs will need to find some defense this week.

7. North Carolina (2-2, 0-1; LW: No. 7) -- The Tar Heels avoided a second loss to an in-state opponent and the defense led the way in a 27-6 win over East Carolina. Gio Bernard made his comeback from a knee injury with two touchdowns.

8. Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-2; LW: No. 3) -- This was a bad, bad loss for coach Paul Johnson. At home, no less. With two losses to Coastal Division opponents, the Jackets are going to need some major help getting back in the ACC race. They’ll also need some fourth-quarter defense.

9. Duke (3-1, 0-0; LW: No. 10) -- The Blue Devils haven’t even played a league game yet, so you can’t count them out of the Coastal Division race, either. So far they’re on track to get to a bowl game, but they’re going to have to show they can win in their conference, too.

10. Virginia (2-2, 0-1; LW: No. 8) -- The Cavaliers couldn’t pull off the upset on the road to TCU, and now they could have a quarterback controversy between Phillip Sims and Michael Rocco. Rocco threw two interceptions and no touchdowns and the Hoos had four turnovers.

11. Maryland (2-2, 0-0; LW: No. 11) -- The Terps’ defense deserves more credit than it has received, and Maryland gave a gritty effort against West Virginia. It wasn’t enough for the upset, but Maryland hasn’t even begun conference play yet. The season is just beginning in College Park and the Terps have a bye week to get ready for Wake Forest.

12. Boston College (1-2, 0-1; LW: No. 12) -- The Eagles had a bye week, but the situation still looks grim for coach Frank Spaziani. They’ll either get Clemson’s best shot this weekend, or they’ll catch the Tigers when they’re down.
It was another rough Saturday around most of the Big Ten, and as a result, there's a lot of shuffling in the power rankings. Ohio State remains at the top, mainly because it hasn't lost a game, while Nebraska moves into the No. 2 hole. The high-powered Huskers could be the Big Ten's best team, although they've yet to prove it against quality competition. The Michigan schools both take a tumble, and while Michigan State won Saturday, we're not impressed with the Spartans right now. There's very little separating teams 3-6, and we expect more movement in the coming weeks.

Illinois and Iowa both imploded Saturday, and both teams pay the price this week.

Let's get to it …

1. Ohio State (4-0, last week: 1): Someone needs to be at the top of this weak conference, and the Buckeyes continue to win, albeit in unimpressive fashion. Ohio State overcame special-teams breakdowns, penalties and some more shaky defense to beat UAB on Saturday. The good news is quarterback Braxton Miller can take over games when he wants to, and he'll be the best player on the field in many Big Ten games. Ohio State's offense faces by far its toughest test this week as it opens Big Ten play on the road at Michigan State, which nearly held the Buckeyes scoreless last year in Columbus.

2. Nebraska (3-1, last week: 4): We didn't learn a whole lot about Nebraska against a completely overmatched Idaho State team. It's pretty clear, though, that the Huskers boast plenty of weapons on offense, perhaps more than any other Big Ten team. Rex Burkhead's return only strengthens an already dynamic backfield. The Huskers now prepare for the one they've been waiting for, a chance to avenge last year's blowout loss at Wisconsin. After beating up on inferior competition, Taylor Martinez and the Huskers take aim at the Badgers.

3. Northwestern (4-0, last week: 5): This is the only Big Ten team that truly aced its nonconference exam, and it gets rewarded. After recording wins against Big East, SEC and ACC foes, Northwestern took a step down in class and made quick work of FCS South Dakota. Pat Fitzgerald's team has built its identity on running the ball with Venric Mark and others, and stopping the run. Northwestern still needs more from its quarterbacks in the passing game, and its secondary will be tested in the coming weeks as Big Ten play begins, but you have to like where this team is right now.

4. Purdue (2-1, last week: 6): The Boilers are here mainly because they looked much better against Notre Dame than either Michigan State or Michigan did. Purdue's crew had an open week before rounding out the nonconference slate this coming Saturday against Marshall. Michigan and Purdue will be the last Big Ten teams to open league play Oct. 6, but we'll get a very good read on Danny Hope's squad as it starts off with the Wolverines, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Quarterback Robert Marve returned to practice last week despite a partially torn ACL. It will be interesting to see if the star-crossed quarterback can help Purdue make a run for the Leaders division title.

5. Michigan State (3-1, last week: 3): It has been a rough two weeks in Sparta. Saturday was supposed to be the get-well game for Andrew Maxwell, Le'Veon Bell and the Michigan State offense. Instead, the Spartans went more than three quarters without reaching the end zone against one of the worst defenses in the FBS. Coach Mark Dantonio clearly wasn't happy afterward. Although Bell continues to be a workhorse, Michigan State's offensive issues remain heading into the Big Ten season. Fortunately, the Spartans' defense still can take them a long way this fall.

6. Michigan (2-2, last week: 2): A four-spot drop might seem harsh, but as stated earlier, there's not much separating No. 3 from No. 6. And Michigan really hasn't proven much in the first four weeks, falling to two Top 10 teams, squeaking by Air Force and pounding UMass. The Wolverines showed some promising signs against Notre Dame, particularly on defense and the way the offensive line blocked in the second half. But Denard Robinson's extreme play -- very good or very bad -- caught up with Michigan, which still puts too much of its fate on No. 16.

7. Minnesota (4-0, last week: 7): We understand why Gophers fans might be ticked off their team didn't move up after improving to 4-0. We both were really impressed with Minnesota on Saturday night, especially the defense facing a dynamic quarterback in Ryan Nassib. The Gophers should have won by more than seven and enter Big Ten play with a ton of confidence. We're still looking to see how Minnesota performs against better competition, and while Iowa is struggling right now, the Gophers haven't won at Kinnick Stadium since 1999. If they do, they'll move up the power rankings (and maybe into the national rankings).

8. Wisconsin (3-1, last week: 11): Bret Bielema's team took a step on the field -- and up the power rankings -- Saturday against UTEP. It was far from a spotless performance, and Wisconsin must be better this week at Nebraska, but the Badgers can feel a bit better about themselves, especially on offense. Quarterback Joel Stave looked good in his first career start, and he certainly benefited from the return of star receiver Jared Abbrederis. The Badgers ran the ball well despite losing Montee Ball to a head injury. They'll need to take a much bigger step against the revenge-minded Huskers.

9. Penn State (2-2, last week: 10): While some Big Ten teams easily could have worse records, Penn State is a kick away from being 3-1 with its only loss to a very good Ohio team. Quarterback Matt McGloin continues to surge under the tutelage of new coach Bill O'Brien, passing for a career-high 318 yards in Saturday's win against Temple. The defense is keeping opponents out of the end zone, and linebacker Michael Mauti is playing at an All-Big Ten level. The run game remains a concern, but Penn State is a confident team entering Big Ten play and will be extremely fired up to face Illinois and poacher coach Tim Beckman this week.

10. Indiana (2-1, last week: 12): An open week seemed to come at a good time for the Hoosiers, who lost a heartbreaker to Ball State on Sept. 15 after a 2-0 start. The Ball State loss actually is looking better and better. The week also gave top quarterback Cameron Coffman some additional time to heal from a hip pointer that forced him out of the Ball State game. Indiana aims for its first Big Ten victory since 2010 as it visits Northwestern on Saturday. Coffman and his receivers should be able to move the ball against the Wildcats, but can IU stop anyone on defense?

11. Iowa (2-2, last week: 9): This is the punishment spot in the power rankings. Wisconsin found itself here after Week 3, and Iowa drops down to No. 11 after an inexplicable loss to a weak Central Michigan team at Kinnick Stadium. Thanks to Mark Weisman, the Hawkeyes seemingly have remedied their offense, but their defense looked terrible Saturday, and they couldn't avoid the penalty flag. They also need to work on defending the onside kick. A very rough start for Kirk Ferentz's crew as Minnesota comes to town looking to keep Floyd for the third straight year.

12. Illinois (2-2, last week: 8): It's a close call between Illinois and Iowa for the cellar, but at least Iowa's losses have been competitive. Beckman's Illini were blown out for the second time in three weeks by an up-tempo, spread-offense team. While the Arizona State debacle could be somewhat excused after a long trip, Illinois' performance Saturday night against Louisiana Tech on its home field is downright embarrassing. Illinois' defensive struggles are almost as surprising as Wisconsin's offensive struggles, and the Illini still don't have an identity on offense.

Big East power rankings

September, 24, 2012
Major changes in the Big East power rankings after four weeks.

1. Rutgers (4-0). The Scarlet Knights have the most impressive wins of any team in the conference. While USF and Arkansas may not be as strong as we thought they would be headed into the year, they are two very talented teams. Rutgers deserves major credit for winning three road games -- including the one against the Razorbacks. I count the victories over USF and Arkansas as two quality wins, and that gives them the boost ahead of preseason favorite Louisville this week.

2. Louisville (4-0). At this point, I think an argument could be made to put Louisville or Cincinnati in the No. 1 spot. The difference between the three are about as wide as a nose hair. Now that I have given you that imagery, I have Louisville with one quality win, against North Carolina. Sorry, folks, Kentucky is way worse than Arkansas and that game was at home. The Cards have looked shaky the past two weeks, hence the drop.

3. Cincinnati (2-0). We will know way more about the Bearcats after their game Saturday against Virginia Tech. We just do not have as much of a body of work to judge this team because they have played only twice -- a great win over Pitt, and a sloppy win over an FCS team. Stay tuned.

4. Pitt (2-2). Who would have thought two weeks ago that the No. 8 team in the power rankings would jump into the top half? Not me. The Panthers appear to be on the comeback trail with two straight wins and have looked way better of late than the group down below.

5. UConn (2-2). Seriously, the bottom four teams have a lot of explaining to do, and a lot of improving to do if they want to jump into the top four spots. The Huskies looked terrible in their loss to Western Michigan, but they do have a win over a team from an automatic qualifying conference (Maryland). That gives them the edge in the rankings over the bottom three.

6. USF (2-2). The Bulls have a victory over an FCS team and a last-second win over Nevada. They have not looked impressive at any point during the season, and have got to be the biggest disappointment in the Big East through the first four weeks of the season. They would be ranked lower if not for Temple and Syracuse, who have played worse.

7. Syracuse (1-3). At one point, I called Syracuse the best 0-2 team in America. At this point, they are pretty much a team deserving of its record, after an uninspired performance in a loss to Minnesota.

8. Temple (1-2). The Owls took Penn State to the wire last year and nearly won. This year, they were not even competitive against a team not nearly as good as last year's version. Their only win is over FCS Villanova.

Pac-12 power rankings: Week 5

September, 24, 2012
When you beat ranked teams, you move up. Unless you are already on top.

See last week's power rankings here.

1. Oregon: The Ducks faced their first foe with a pulse -- a ranked one, no less -- and rolled 49-zip. They moved up to No. 2 in both national polls. 'Nuff said.

2. Stanford: The Cardinal got to relax on their bye weekend and dwell on how great it is to beat USC four times in a row. "Oh," coach David Shaw said, "we don't care about that, Ted, Kevin!" Pause, grin. "Four times!" A visit to Washington on Thursday might be interesting, at least if the series' recent history of Stanford domination is ignored.

3. Oregon State: Lookie here! The Beavers surge into third. Why are they ahead of USC? Well, consider the résumé: Unbeaten with two wins over ranked teams. And to be good, you've got to feel good, and the Beavers surely feel better than the Trojans today. And, hey, who doesn't after an In-N-Out burger.

4. USC: The Trojans got the running game and defense going against California. In the preseason, I didn't think I'd type this: But what about the passing game?

5. UCLA: Anyone else notice that 3-1 Nebraska is ranked ahead of the 3-1 Bruins? Anyone remember where the Cornhuskers' "1" came from? Yeah, go figure. Did the Huskers' wins over Arkansas State and Idaho State really prove something? The Bruins, however, do face their first adversity of the season after losing at home to Oregon State.

6. Arizona State: Speaking of bouncing back, the Sun Devils certainly did that with an utter domination of Utah in every phase. Now can they duplicate that disciplined, complete effort on the road? That's the next step to measure this weekend at California, a team that figures to be plenty motivated.

7. Arizona: Well, you could call it the most competitive 49-0 defeat in history ... would that help? And here's a guess that the Wildcats do a little red zone work this week at practice. It would appear they will be challenged by a very good Oregon State defense on Saturday.

8. Washington: The Huskies' early schedule gauntlet turns to its Stanford chapter. A win at home -- well, in CenturyLink Field, the Seattle Seahawks' home -- would go a long way toward signaling the Huskies are turning a corner. Sure QB Keith Price will raise an eyebrow at the way Stanford's defense rolled USC's offensive line and made Matt Barkley miserable.

9. California: The 1-3 start was what most expected. But the next three games -- all winnable -- likely will provide a good guess at the overall trajectory of the season. A quality win at home over Arizona State might inspire some cautious optimism among the worried Berkeley faithful.

10. Utah: Man, you Utah fans were in a Twitter panic on Saturday, with a bad loss to Arizona State knocking thoughts of challenging for the South Division title off the table. It feels like a good time for a bye week. Only problem is the next three games look far more formidable than they did in the preseason, when all the focus was on USC's visit on Thursday, Oct. 4. Now road trips to UCLA and Oregon State on back-to-back weekends are reasons for worry.

11. Colorado: Buffalo fans, take a moment and breathe. Then look down. Wave. Of course, you're thirsty after scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter at Washington State to end fears of a winless season. Go ahead. Make a demand, like the winner you are. You've earned it. "Hey, Cougs! Can you bring me a cold beverage from the basement -- that's the BASEMENT -- refrigerator?"

12. Washington State: "Burp."