NCF Nation: power rankings 10
Posted by ESPN.com Chris Low
Florida made its most convincing argument yet to take over the top spot in the SEC power rankings. In fact, the Gators have made a pretty convincing argument the last three times they've taken the field. Their 49-10 dismantling of Georgia last Saturday was the most complete performance by an SEC team this season. But as good as Florida has been, Alabama's still the team to beat in the SEC and still the only unbeaten team. Therefore, the Crimson Tide head to Baton Rouge this weekend on top of the SEC power rankings for the sixth straight week:
1. Alabama: There was no letdown in the Crimson Tide last week in their 35-0 rout of outmanned Arkansas State. And once again, even without nose tackle Terrence Cody, Alabama's defense was on top of its game. The Crimson Tide have allowed just 9 points in their past two games. Everybody keeps asking how good these guys are. Well, we've already seen them go to Georgia and destroy the Bulldogs. They get a chance to make another statement this Saturday at LSU.
2. Florida: The Gators are putting all three phases of the game together right now. They've scored 201 points in their last four games. Their defense has held the opposition to 9 points or less in three of the last four games, and there's nobody in the country more sound on special teams than the Gators. They have that look of a championship football team right now and are playing with a ton of confidence in all three phases of the game.
3. Georgia: It's a pretty safe bet that Georgia's going to be tagged with the underachiever/overrated label this season. Florida's a very good team, but there's no way the Gators should be able to embarrass the Bulldogs the way they did last weekend in Jacksonville. Georgia has been exposed defensively against the three best offensive teams it's faced (Alabama, LSU and Florida), and it's looking like the Bulldogs will be spending their holidays in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl after starting the season ranked No. 1 nationally.
4. LSU: It's not been the kind of season the defending national champions had hoped for, but the Tigers get a chance to do something about that this weekend when No. 1 Alabama and Nick Saban come to town. A win over the Crimson Tide would ease a lot of the pain from the blowout losses earlier this season to Florida and Georgia. The Tigers' defense has been spotty, and redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee has now thrown five interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns this season.
5. South Carolina: The Gamecocks would love to have back that loss to Vanderbilt the second week of the season. They polished off Tennessee last weekend and have quietly been one of the best defenses in the league all season. The Gamecocks (6-3, 3-3 SEC) have a chance to do something that's only been done at South Carolina twice in school history -- and that's win more than eight games in a season. They close against Arkansas, Florida and Clemson and will also play in a bowl game.
6. Vanderbilt: Slotting the No. 6 team was difficult this week. Vanderbilt was idle, and Ole Miss is probably playing better at this point. But the Commodores do have the head-to-head victory over the Rebels in Oxford, so that was good enough to keep Vanderbilt in the top half of the conference. But the margin right now between Vanderbilt and Ole Miss is pretty slim. The Commodores (5-3, 3-2 SEC) are still looking for that sixth win to become bowl eligible. They've lost three in a row, and it doesn't get any easier this week when Florida comes to town.
7. Ole Miss: The Rebels won their second in a row this season last Saturday with a 17-7 victory over Auburn. That's significant because it was the first time the Rebels had won consecutive games in a season since David Cutcliffe's last year in Oxford in 2004 when they beat Arkansas State and South Carolina in back-to-back weeks. It was the first time since the 2003 season when the Rebels shared the Western Division crown that they had won SEC games in back-to-back weeks.
8. Kentucky: It's a been a rough last few weeks for the Wildcats, but they're bowl eligible after squeezing past Mississippi State, 14-13, last weekend. Injuries have really taken their toll on the Wildcats, but they deserve some props for hanging in there and finding a way to win two of the last three weeks. Kentucky (6-3, 2-3 SEC) has Georgia, Vanderbilt and Tennessee remaining. The last time the Wildcats went to three straight bowls was 1949-51 when Bear Bryant was their coach, so this is far from an every-year occurrence.
9. Arkansas: The team making the biggest move this week is Arkansas, which knocked off No. 18 and previously unbeaten Tulsa last weekend. The Razorbacks (4-5, 1-4 SEC) are one of the youngest teams in the country. They're playing 16 true freshmen, but they've gotten better the last few weeks and had chances to beat both Kentucky and Ole Miss. They put it all together against Tulsa with big plays in the kicking game and senior quarterback Casey Dick having a huge day.
10. Auburn: The season gets a little longer each week for Auburn and Tommy Tuberville. The Tigers (4-5, 2-4 SEC) lost 17-7 at Ole Miss last weekend, their fourth straight loss. Quarterback Kodi Burns threw three interceptions, and the offense continued to struggle. Tuberville insisted afterward that there was no quit in his team, but the Tigers are on a collision course with their first losing season under Tuberville since his first year on the Plains in 1999. Tuberville, despite his success over the long haul, is answering more and more questions about his job security.
11. Tennessee: As it turns out, the South Carolina loss last weekend was the final nail for Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer. He will not return next season as the Vols' coach after more than 30 years at his alma mater as a player, assistant coach and head coach. The Vols (3-6, 1-5 SEC) are in danger of having their second losing season in the last four years, which is what ultimately got Fulmer. That and a sagging offense. It just never clicked under first-year coordinator Dave Clawson this season.
12. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (3-6, 1-4 SEC) move into the bottom spot after losing at home to Kentucky last weekend. Special teams blunders killed Sylvester Croom's club against the Wildcats. The lingering problem all season, though, has been an offense that's never found any kind of identity and hasn't been able to consistently drive the ball all season. Last year's eight-win season and Liberty Bowl win seem like a distant memory.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are my rankings for this week:
1. Texas Tech -- Clear path to the national title game if it keeps winning. But that's a big if considering the Red Raiders' difficult closing schedule.
2. Texas -- Will Blake Gideon go down in history as this generation's Craig Curry after his critical dropped interception against Tech?
3. Oklahoma -- Not a good sign for the Sooners when they beat Nebraska by 34 points and still fall two places in the BCS standings.
4. Oklahoma State -- Haven't beaten Tech in Lubbock since 1944, although Cowboys did notch ties there in 1954 and 1956.
5. Missouri -- Near catastrophe in Waco averted by big defensive play by Brock Christopher. The Tigers still have the clearest path to the Big 12 title game among North contenders.
6. Kansas -- Jayhawks' North Division title hopes will depend on getting their first victory in Lincoln since 1968. This is probably the best Kansas team in recent memory to go there -- but that's some serious historical baggage.
7. Nebraska -- Uncharacteristic mistakes from Joe Ganz doomed the Cornhuskers early in Norman. But their bowl hopes remain strong -- particularly if they can knock off Kansas this week.
8. Texas A&M -- Modest two-game winning streak heading into game against Oklahoma. The Aggies have always played Bob Stoops closely there with all games settled by a touchdown or less since 2000.
9. Colorado -- Offensively-challenged Buffaloes have scored only 31 points in their last three games. And it won't get any easier with Rodney Stewart out for the regular season with a broken leg.
10. Baylor -- Two near-misses against Nebraska and Missouri probably won't prepare them much for a trip to an angry Texas team this week in Austin.
11. Kansas State -- It will be interesting if those "Save Ron Prince" chants that echoed through Memorial Stadium last week are heeded by the KSU administrators who will decide his job.
12. Iowa State -- Leonard Johnson's record-breaking kick-return performance at Oklahoma State was the lone bright spot in Cyclones' blowout loss. And he did have nine returns.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
No change at the top with both Penn State and Ohio State idle on Saturday, but there's plenty of movement in the Big Ten's midsection. My sense is that the top three teams -- Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan State -- will remain in place for a while. But there could be a lot more shuffling in the league's next tier.
1. Penn State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) -- The Nittany Lions are the class of the Big Ten and need three wins for an undefeated season and a possible trip to the national title game. A road trip to Iowa looks easier after the Hawkeyes' mistake-ridden loss to Illinois, but Penn State might need wins and style points to make it to Miami.
2. Ohio State (7-2, 4-1) -- The Buckeyes' blowout win at Michigan State keeps them here, but they need to figure out an offensive identity in the final three weeks. It will be interesting to see how freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor responds to his first brush with failure when the Buckeyes travel to Northwestern. Three wins could still get Ohio State into a BCS bowl.
3. Michigan State (8-2, 5-1) -- A come-from-behind win against Wisconsin puts the Spartans in their rightful place behind Penn State and Ohio State. Mark Dantonio's team is positioned well for a New Year's Day bowl, at the very least. If Michigan State wins out and there's a three-way tie for the Big Ten lead, the Spartans would get the BCS berth because they played no FCS opponents.
4. Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) -- A new starting offensive backfield didn't deter Northwestern, which showed its resiliency in a road win against Minnesota. The Wildcats shut out the Gophers in the second half and backup quarterback Mike Kafka ran for 217 yards. Northwestern always struggles with Ohio State, but it could pick up wins against Michigan and Illinois to finish out a strong season.
5. Minnesota (7-2, 3-2) -- This is a critical juncture for the Gophers, who have been prone to late-season collapses triggered by last-minute losses. Minnesota finishes with three winnable trophy games against rivals Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. Nine or 10 wins is still possible, but Minnesota's leadership and poise will be tested after the Northwestern loss.
6. Illinois (5-4, 3-3) -- Who knows what to make of this team? It's unbelievably talented, but unbelievably inconsistent. Illinois pulled out a must-win game against Iowa, and the secondary stepped up big to force three turnovers. But the Illini have won consecutive games only once this season, and they next travel to Detroit to face 7-2 Western Michigan.
7. Iowa (5-4, 2-3) -- The Hawkeyes drop a spot after another close loss. For a while, fans could argue that Iowa was one of the best three-loss teams around. It's pretty clear the Hawkeyes are simply not clutch. Since 2005, Iowa has lost nine consecutive games by three points or fewer. The Hawkeyes could be battling Wisconsin and Illinois for the league's final bowl spot.
8. Wisconsin (4-5, 1-5) -- Here's another team that has lost its magic in close games. For the third time this season, Wisconsin blew a fourth-quarter lead and fell at Michigan State. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on head coach Bret Bielema eventually led to a defensive collapse in the final nine minutes. Wisconsin still could go a bowl game, but it would be a poor consolation prize for a team that entered the season with BCS hopes.
9. Purdue (3-6, 1-4) -- The Boilermakers won the basement battle and did it in classic Joe Tiller fashion, with offense and creative play-calling in the fourth quarter. Trips to Michigan State and Iowa likely will take Purdue out of bowl contention, but the future looks bright with Justin Siller at quarterback.
10. Indiana (3-6, 1-4) -- After making strides on defense the week before against Northwestern, the Hoosiers backslid yet again. Injuries are part of the problem, but besides middle linebacker and blog favorite Matt Mayberry, few players have made significant strides on that side of the ball. Indiana finishes its once-promising eight-game home schedule Saturday against slumping Wisconsin.
11. Michigan (2-7, 1-4) -- You read it right. Rich Rodriguez might get Michigan to the top eventually, but right now the Wolverines are in the cellar. The offensive struggles have been well documented, but arguably a bigger disappointment is a defense that slipped to 96th nationally in scoring (30.9 ppg) after Saturday's loss to Purdue. A 2-10 season is possible.
We're getting into crunch time here as the season winds down. There are now three unbeatens after Tulsa lost to Arkansas and there's a possibility that that number could be reduced to one before the weekend. Both Ball State and Utah have tough games on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. It's definitely going to be an interesting week.
1. Utah: The Utes had a surprisingly difficult time with New Mexico, but pulled through to remain undefeated. Ironically, BYU also struggled against New Mexico prior to its mid-week game against TCU.
2. TCU: There is no hotter team in the Mountain West than TCU right now, and it's clicking on both offense and defense. It didn't have the same hiccup against UNLV that it did against Colorado State (the game before the BYU game), which is probably a good sign for TCU fans.
3. Boise State: The Broncos have the best chance of being the BCS buster simply because of their schedule. They would really need to have an off day to lose a game here on out. Although, don't discount this weekend's opponent -- Utah State. The Aggies have given their last couple opponents all they could handle.
4. Ball State: Now we get to see what Ball State is all about. The Cardinals have the unfortunate pleasure of playing the best of the MAC at the end of the season, but it will truly test their mettle. Wins over Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Central Michigan, the top teams in the MAC West, will lend big credibility to their undefeated record.
5. BYU: The Cougars showed a little hangover this weekend, but got that fixed and worked out a win. This week's game against San Diego State should do wonders for building up the Cougars' confidence heading into games against Air Force and Utah.
6. Central Michigan: The Chippewas stepped out of conference play this week and got a huge win over Indiana. While Indiana is just 3-6 on the season, it was the Chippewas' first win over a BCS program since 1992 and they did it with their backup quarterback. Brian Brunner has been phenomenal this year and his play should create some quarterback controversy.
7. Navy: What a huge come-from-behind win over Temple this past weekend to gain bowl eligibility. The Midshipmen rallied from 20 points down and added yet another amazing moment to coach Ken Niumatalolo's first full season. The Midshipmen wrapped up their sixth consecutive bowl berth.
8. Air Force: Quietly Air Force continues to pile up wins and stay in the top half of the Mountain West standings. The Falcons can still play spoilers to the great seasons of BYU and TCU in the last two weeks of the season. The Falcons also worked their way into a share of the Commander In Chief Trophy if Army can defeat Navy at the end of the year.
9. Northern Illinois: Similar to Air Force, Northern Illinois has been winning with little fanfare, but will take center stage against No. 17 Ball State on Wednesday. A win by the Huskies would not only ruin the Cardinals' perfect season, but also give the Huskies bowl eligibility and keep them in the hunt for the MAC West title.
10. Tulsa: Saturday's loss to Arkansas knocked Tulsa out of BCS bowl contention and put a damper on what is shaping up to be one of the best seasons in school history. The Golden Hurricane are still on course to win C-USA West and probably the C-USA title overall.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Picking the No. 1 team in the ACC right now is like trying to find the best looking Christmas tree -- it's still too early. This list took me longer than it has all season, but here's the final version:
1. Georgia Tech (7-2, 4-2) -- They're back, and this time they're bowl eligible. The Yellow Jackets have an offense nobody wants to face and a defense that can force mistakes. Just ask last week's No. 1 team.
2. Florida State (6-2, 3-2) -- It's not like the Seminoles got blown away by Georgia Tech, they just couldn't stop the triple option and made one very, very costly mistake. In the end zone.
3. Maryland (6-2, 3-1) -- The Terps remain stagnant after their bye week and have to earn their place over FSU in the power rankings, despite their automatic boost in the conference standings.
4. Miami (6-3, 3-2) -- The Hurricanes snapped Virginia's four-game winning streak and won their third straight ACC game for the first time since 2005. The Canes are on a four-game winning streak and Bill Young has the defense playing much better.
5. North Carolina (6-2, 2-2) -- This isn't punishment for not playing, it's Miami's reward for winning four straight. Every team UNC has beaten -- Connecticut, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Boston College -- has proceeded to lose except Miami.
6. Virginia (5-4, 3-2) -- The Cavaliers had a chance to tighten their grasp on the Coastal Division lead. Instead, they're now lumped in with everyone else.
7. Wake Forest (5-3, 3-2) -- The Demon Deacons finally got big plays in all three phases of the game. Now their challenge is to keep it up while hoping Maryland loses.
8. Boston College (5-3, 2-3) -- The Eagles' deficiencies on offense finally caught up to them, and they almost played themselves out of the Atlantic Division race. Almost.
9. Virginia Tech (5-3, 2-2) -- The Hokies had the weekend off and remain in the same spot heading into Thursday night's game against Maryland.
10. Clemson (4-4, 2-3) -- The Tigers moved up a notch from last week after their road win over BC. They got a solid effort from their defense and were able to move the ball, but Cullen Harper has to cut down on the mistakes.
11. Duke (4-4, 1-3) -- The Blue Devils didn't quit, but it just wasn't enough against Wake. They've lost three of their past four and are still looking for that elusive ACC road win.
12. NC State (2-6, 0-4) -- Their place this year is about the only thing that's certain in the league. That doesn't mean, though, that the Wolfpack won't crash somebody's party this month.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Finally, there is clarity.
I've complained the past couple weeks about how hard it is to rank the teams in this league. This week, it actually seems pretty easy. Which can only mean another shakeup is coming. But here's how I see things right now:
1. West Virginia (6-2, 3-0): Even with only one good half of football in each of the past two games, the Mountaineers look better than anyone else in the Big East right now. If they take care of Cincinnati at home this week, Pittsburgh may be the only team that can catch them.
2. Pittsburgh (6-2, 2-1): The Panthers are 4-0 on the road but just 2-2 at home. Not good news, since Louisville comes to Heinz Field this week. But this is good news: Dave Wannstedt has pronounced quarterback Bill Stull healthy and ready to play. And LeSean McCoy keeps running like Tony Dorsett.
3. Cincinnati (6-2, 2-1): The next three weeks will determine this team's legacy. After going to Morgantown this Saturday, the Bearcats travel to Louisville, an annual thorn in their side. Then Pittsburgh comes to Nippert Stadium. Win all three, and a BCS game will await.
4. Connecticut (6-3, 2-2): The Huskies get a bye week to figure out why they keep making mistakes in big games (five turnovers against West Virginia, three at North Carolina, plus missed kicks and a safety at Rutgers). They also need to straighten out their passing game and find a replacement for cornerback/receiver/kick returner Darius Butler, who's out with a knee injury. That's a lot of work to do. But with two struggling teams -- Syracuse and South Florida -- up next, UConn can still finish the season strong.
5. Rutgers (3-5, 2-2): The Scarlet Knights probably would have preferred to play last weekend and build on the momentum of their two-game win streak rather than have a bye. With Syracuse, South Florida, Army and Louisville left, seven wins is not out of the realm of possibility.
6. Louisville (5-3, 1-2): At least the Cardinals don't have to play Syracuse again until next year. Some of the players admitted they relaxed early on in the 28-21 loss on Saturday, which is disappointing to hear from a team that doesn't have much margin for error. That defeat basically negated the South Florida win, which doesn't look that impressive anymore anyway.
7. South Florida (6-3, 1-3): The same team that held the top spot in these rankings much of this season slides all the way to seventh after losing three of its last four. The Bulls have a week off to lick their wounds and then get two straight home games to try and right the ship.
8. Syracuse (2-6, 1-3): No one thought Greg Robinson would make it this long, and if the Orange can find a way to knock off Rutgers this week, he may last past Thanksgiving. New offensive coordinator Mitch Browning has really brought vibrancy the running game; Curtis Brinkley set a school record this weekend with his fifth straight 100-yard game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Sorting out the Pac-10 pecking order after 10 weeks.
1. USC: The Trojans not only have the best defense in the country -- No. 1 in scoring and total defense -- the unit is starting to enter the historical discussion. USC has pitched three shutouts and has allowed seven TDs in eight games. The rest of the nation quakes in fear that somehow USC will work its way back into the BCS title picture. Up next: California.
2. Oregon State: The Beavers showed some grit in beating a feisty Arizona State team with backup quarterback Sean Canfield stepping in for Lyle Moevao, who's questionable for the visit to UCLA with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Now can they win on the road and keep their Rose Bowl dreams alive?
3. Arizona: The Wildcats will get their sixth win and earn bowl eligibility this weekend at Washington State and thereby dump a significant weight off their collective shoulders. The program hasn't played in a bowl game since 1998 and that was the preseason measure for whether Mike Stoops gets to keep his job. Now, will that satisfy them, or do they want more?
4. California: A nice win over Oregon bounced the Bears back into the national polls, but it will be another brief stay unless they notch the big upset at USC on Saturday. Cal has the defense to keep the Trojans in check, but can the offense score? And, speaking of offense, will it be Nate Longshore or will Kevin Riley return from the concussion that knocked him out of the Oregon game?
5. Oregon: When the Ducks make mistakes, they don't mess around. An interception and a fumbled punt forced Cal to drive all of nine total yards for two touchdowns. Guessing watching that game film won't be terribly fun. But they need to regroup quickly. Stanford and its power running game comes to town with intentions of securing bowl eligibility with a sixth win.
6. Stanford: Passing? We don't need no stinkin' passing! It appears Stanford has decided it's a power running team, period, and it will only throw if necessary or to change the pace. The Cardinal threw just 13 passes while blanking Washington State, 58-0. They might need to throw the ball, however, to secure that vital sixth victory at Oregon.
7. UCLA: Oregon State is coming to town, potentially without its starting quarterback. Upset opportunity? The chances of that depend greatly on whether the Bruins used their off week to hone some consistency out of quarterback Kevin Craft.
8. Arizona State: It's always darkest before the dawn Sun Devils! Or in this case, it's a six-game losing streak for the first time since 1929 before consecutive games with Washington and Washington State turn those frowns upside down! Starting with this weekend's visit to gloomy Seattle, the Sun Devils could start a run toward -- egad! -- potential bowl eligibility.
9. Washington: Since losing to Stanford 35-28 on Sept. 27, the Huskies haven't been within three touchdowns of an opponent. Fighting for Tyrone Willingham? Not happening. Surrender Huskies? Looks like it.
10. Washington State: We'll just let the AP story from the Cougs' 58-zip loss to Stanford speak for us:
The Cougars were shut out for the second straight game after going 280 straight contests scoring at least once. That streak ended two weeks ago in a 69-0 loss to Southern California and Washington State has now been outscored 172-0 since late in the first half against Oregon State on Oct. 11.
The Cougars set a single-season record for most points allowed in Pac-10 play at 350, surpassing the 2001 California team that gave up 333 points in conference action.