NCF Nation: Power rankings 100112

ACC power rankings: Week 6

October, 1, 2012
Hello, Duke ...

1. Florida State (5-0, 2-0 ACC) – There wasn’t anything spectacular about the Noles’ 30-17 road win over South Florida, but it didn’t matter. FSU won its first road game, avoided a letdown and is still undefeated. FSU will have a difficult trip to NC State this weekend, but likely got a good wake-up call from the Bulls.

2. Clemson (4-1, 1-1) – One week after a disappointing loss to Florida State, the Tigers avoided an upset at Boston College despite a respectable performance from the Eagles’ offense. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver DeAndre Hopkins stole the show again without Sammy Watkins in the lineup.

3. Miami (4-1, 3-0) – The Hurricanes are a scrappy young team that keeps finding ways to win. They’re in the midst of a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2009, and quarterback Stephen Morris seems like he can’t miss in each of the past two games.

4. Virginia Tech (3-2, 1-0) – Ugh. This game could have gone either way in the end, and just when it looked like the Hokies were going to win it, Cincinnati’s Munchie Legaux threw the game-winning touchdown pass with 13 seconds remaining. The Hokies are now 0-2 against the Big East this year.

5. Duke (4-1, 1-0) – It’s time to give the Blue Devils some credit. You could even argue they deserve to be ranked above Virginia Tech at this point, but I'm still not sold on that move. Duke has a better overall record than the Hokies, and right now, the Blue Devils have got a more potent offense. Duke is off to its best start since 1994, the last time the program went to a bowl game.

6. NC State (3-2, 0-1) – The Pack had 14 penalties for 100 yards. Six turnovers. Repeat: Six turnovers. Did Miami win, or was NC State its toughest opponent?

7. Wake Forest (3-2, 1-2) – The Deacs’ 12-game winning streak over Duke came to an end, and star receiver Michael Campanaro injured his hand in the process. It was a rough weekend for Wake Forest, which is going to need its best effort the rest of the season to get to a bowl game.

8. North Carolina (3-2, 0-1) – If the Tar Heels weren’t playing a winless Idaho team that is statistically one of the worst programs in the country, their 66-0 win might mean something. Instead, it was more of a glorified practice before the heart of their league schedule begins. We still don’t know if this team is the one we saw in the first half against Louisville (not good) or the second half (much better).

9. Georgia Tech (2-3, 1-2) – The loss to Middle Tennessee was like a black X on Paul Johnson’s résumé. For the second straight weekend, the Jackets lost at home. They looked unenthused. There was no sense of urgency. And the defense was an open door. Johnson has to make the bleeding stop quickly before this season becomes a disaster.

10. Virginia (2-3, 0-1) – The Hoos’ loss to Louisiana Tech wasn’t entirely unexpected considering La Tech had gone on the road and beaten Illinois the previous week and was scoring more than 50 points per game. It still wasn’t good, though, for UVa or for the ACC. Virginia needs to put an end to the turnovers and figure out if it’s sticking with Michael Rocco at quarterback.

11. Maryland (2-2, 0-0) – The Terps had a bye week but will host Wake Forest this weekend in their first league game of the season. The Deacs are coming off a tough, emotional home loss to Duke and now have to travel to face a team that had a week to prepare.

12. Boston College (1-3, 0-2) – The bend-but-don’t-break defensive strategy broke against Clemson’s uber-talented offense, and the Eagles have now lost back-to-back games. It’s not going to get any easier, as the next three games are on the road.

Big 12 power rankings: Week 6

October, 1, 2012
Whole lot of fun this past weekend in the Big 12, with three of the four games coming down to the final possession. That's more like it.

Here's how I slot the league after five weeks.

1. Kansas State (4-0, 1-0, last week: 1) The Wildcats were off, but next week should be interesting. I'd argue Bill Snyder enjoys beating no team more than rival Kansas, and the Sunflower Showdown will be on in Manhattan this weekend.

2. West Virginia (4-0, 1-0, last week: 2) Geno Smith broke records and the hearts of Baylor's defensive backs on Saturday, but you have to be concerned a bit about the defense. Smith is out in front of the rest of the Heisman field by about a miles after throwing 20 touchdowns without his first interception. A much tougher Texas secondary and defensive line awaits in Austin this week.

3. Texas (4-0, 1-0, last week: 3) The Longhorns logged a huge win, but there's nowhere for them to go in these power rankings. WVU has looked pretty great every week, and hasn't allowed any room for the Longhorns to pass. We'll settle this on the field in a mammoth showdown between top-11 teams in Austin this week. Texas has tackling issues and didn't run the ball well until the final quarter at Texas, but can Jordan Hicks and Malcolm Brown getting healthy change that?

4. Oklahoma (2-1, 0-1, last week: 4) The Sooners were off this week, but a big test awaits in Lubbock. Oklahoma hasn't won there since 2003 and Texas Tech infamously ended OU's "Chase for 8" title run a year ago -- beginning the Sooners' gradual descent to the Insight Bowl. The Red Raiders, meanwhile, are undefeated and have a lot to prove. The Sooners do too, but this should be a great matchup that perhaps gets overlooked on the national scene with WVU-Texas and Georgia-South Carolina on the slate.

5. TCU (4-0, 1-0, last week: 5) I'm starting to wonder if TCU is in this spot on reputation alone. There's something to be said for winning despite playing sloppy, but TCU has been really, really sloppy. The rain was a factor, and SMU is a huge rivalry game, but the Frogs managed only 156 yards on offense. At West Virginia or Baylor, they call that a first quarter. The Frogs get a hungry, talented Iowa State team in Fort Worth this week.

6. Baylor (3-1, 0-1, last week: 6) You're kidding me if you think the Bears deserve to drop for going on the road and losing by seven to a top-10 team. Would any of the three teams below them have done any better? Doubtful at best. It's a tough loss for the Bears, but they're resilient, and dropping out of the top 25 for that seems a little unfair to me. The defense has a lot to work on, and the coverage was awful at times, but you can't ignore the offense. In that environment, it's really hard to score 63 points. I don't really care what the defense does.

7. Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0, last week: 8) Texas Tech got a huge road win on Saturday night, but let's still have a little perspective: The Red Raiders beat the No. 9 team in the league by 11 points in a game that was probably a touch closer than that. The defense is vastly improved and looked good on Saturday night. How much improved? We'll get a better idea this week when the Red Raiders host Oklahoma. Plenty of upward mobility is possible in both the polls -- Tech debuted at No. 24 in the coaches poll -- but the media remains unconvinced.

8. Oklahoma State (2-2, 0-1, last week: 7) Oklahoma State's two losses aren't that bad really, but two losses is a lot more than zero losses. OSU looks likely to rebound, but for now, you've got to slot them below Texas Tech. The Red Raiders haven't been tested like Oklahoma State has, but though it's unfair to say OSU failed its tests, they certainly didn't pass them. The Cowboys didn't have much of a dropoff with J.W. Walsh, who might be the league's best backup quarterback. The Cowboys are off this week before traveling to Kansas. Will Wes Lunt be back by then? My guess is yes, but OSU will be fine if he's not.

9. Iowa State (3-1, 0-1, last week: 9) The Cyclones couldn't make it three in a row against Texas Tech, but Iowa State may quietly have a case as the Big 12's best defense. We'll find out if that's the case as the season goes along, but they slowed a healthy, productive Tech offense in a big way. TCU this week in Fort Worth presents a different challenge, but Iowa State will have a chance to impress against a top-15 team it's definitely capable of beating.

10. Kansas (1-3, 0-1, last week: 10) KU was off this week, but the Jayhawks get back in action with a trip to Manhattan against K-State. The Wildcats have lit up the Jayhawks for 59 points in blowout wins in each of the past two seasons. How much better is Dave Campo's defense? This week will be a good measuring stick.

Big East power rankings

October, 1, 2012
A little movement at the top of the power rankings after Week 5.

1. Rutgers (4-0): The Scarlet Knights were off last week, and remain in the top spot with what I think is the best defense in the Big East and an improving offense.

2. Cincinnati (3-0): I moved the Bearcats up for a few reasons. First, they have a win over a ranked team -- Virginia Tech was No. 25 in the coaches' poll last week. Second, they have a conference win over an improving Pitt team. Third, they have looked better than Louisville has in the past three weeks.

3. Louisville (5-0): I understand the weather conditions were terrible in Hattiesburg, and Louisville is thankful it came out with a victory. But the Cardinals trailed for a majority of the game and have shown a lack of a killer instinct in three straight games now. When I do these rankings, I factor in how each team looks week to week. Louisville still has a great team but has not played up to its potential.

4. Pitt (2-2): The Panthers were off last week and travel to Syracuse on Friday night in the final Big East meeting between the schools.

5. UConn (3-2): Somebody has to be here so it may as well be the Huskies, who at least have a winning record. But they won ugly once again this past weekend against Buffalo. At least it wasn't another loss to a MAC team.

6. USF (2-3): The Bulls have now lost three straight, though they did give Florida State all it could handle.

7. Syracuse (1-3): Coach Doug Marrone has taken responsibility for his team's lackluster start. We'll see if any changes made during the bye week help against Pitt.

8. Temple (1-2): The Owls also were off last week and play USF on Saturday in their first Big East game since 2004.
The Big Ten still is a mostly muddled mess after the first Saturday of league play. While Penn State made a statement and Iowa showed it shouldn't be counted out, few other squads looked truly impressive in Week 5. Wisconsin looked better than it has but still fell at Nebraska, and while Michigan State came close against Ohio State, the Spartans still haven't turned the corner on offense.

There's no shuffling at the top and very little separation throughout the rankings. Although both Wisconsin and Michigan State fall, while Penn State rises, you can slide a sheet of paper between these teams. Ohio State remains at the top but will be tested this week by Nebraska.

Let's get to the rundown ...

1. Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten, last week: 1): It's not easy to overcome three turnovers on the road, but the Buckeyes received enough magic from quarterback Braxton Miller and solid play along both lines at Michigan State. Linebacker Etienne Sabino stepped up in a big way for the defense. Urban Meyer's team has its flaws, but it can still win a lot of games in a flawed Big Ten. Ohio State showed it can win a big road game. Nebraska provides a nice test this week.

2. Nebraska (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten, last week: 2): After a miserable start against Wisconsin, Nebraska rallied from 17 points down in the third quarter to record a win it absolutely had to have. It tied the second-largest comeback in team history, and provided Taylor Martinez and the offense some confidence heading to Ohio State. The Huskers are loaded with offensive weapons and received terrific linebacker play from Will Compton, Alonzo Whaley and Sean Fisher. They still put the ball on the ground too much, though, and can't afford another slow start in Columbus.

3. Northwestern (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten, last week: 3): Thanks to Kain Colter, Northwestern remained perfect on the season and starts 5-0 for the third time in five years. The concern is that the Wildcats once again couldn't finish off a team after storming out to a 27-0 lead. No lead is truly safe with Northwestern, and while the defense has been very good most of the season, it needs to limit bad quarters like the third on Saturday. This is a young, maturing team that continues to win, but the tests get tougher beginning this week at red-hot Penn State.

4. Michigan (2-2, last week: 5): In this year's sputtering Big Ten, sometimes it pays off not to play. Michigan moves up in the rankings after Purdue struggled to hold off Marshall on Saturday. There's not much separating the Wolverines and the Boilers, and we'll find out the superior team this week when they meet at Ross-Ade Stadium. Michigan's defense took a nice step at Notre Dame, but as usual, the team's fortunes likely rest on how quarterback Denard Robinson performs.

5. Purdue (3-1, last week: 4): After storming out to a 42-14 halftime lead, Purdue had to hold on to win a shootout against Marshall and thus drop a spot. Although the Boilers won't face another passing offense quite like Marshall's this season, they have to be a bit concerned about their defense, which surrendered 439 passing yards and 534 total yards. Purdue faces another spread-ish offense -- and certainly a spread-ish quarterback in Michigan's Robinson -- this week in West Lafayette. The Michigan game begins a defining stretch for Danny Hope's crew.

6. Penn State (3-2, 1-0, last week: 9): The Big Ten's hottest team makes the biggest move of the week, rising three spots after another impressive win against Illinois. Linebacker Michael Mauti is leading a revived defense, while quarterback Matt McGloin continues to perform well in the new offense. You can't say enough about the job Bill O'Brien has done in his first season as Lions coach. Penn State faces its biggest test since the season opener this week against Northwestern before a challenging stretch with three of four on the road.

7. Michigan State (3-2, 0-1, last week: 5): The Spartans lost to Ohio State by only a point and were burned by a premature whistle that killed a potential fumble return for a touchdown. Then again, Michigan State had numerous opportunities to beat Ohio State and held a plus-3 turnover margin on its home field. The offense simply isn't coming together well enough, as good passing Saturday was offset by an invisible Le'Veon Bell. We still think the Spartans can make a run for the Big Ten title, but they haven't looked impressive in the early going.

8. Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1, last week: 8): For a half and change, it looked like Wisconsin would make a major move up the power rankings. The Badgers came out hot against Nebraska and took a big lead behind the inspired play of linebacker Chris Borland and the poise of quarterback Joel Stave in his first career road start. But the same problem that plagued the Badgers in the first four weeks -- flimsy offensive line play -- coupled with a defense that couldn't keep pace with Martinez led to a crushing defeat. Wisconsin still can take some pluses from Saturday night. It needs to take another step this week against Illinois before next week's showdown at Purdue.

9. Iowa (3-2, 1-0, last week: 11): Besides maybe Illinois, no team needed a win in Week 5 more than the Hawkeyes, and they delivered in a big way. Iowa took control from the get-go against Minnesota and brought home the bacon to fill its long-empty trophy case. Running back Mark Weisman continues to be one of the Big Ten's best early season stories, and the Hawkeyes' defense responded well from a poor performance against Central Michigan, receiving great play from the linebackers. An open week comes at a good time before Iowa resumes play at Michigan State.

10. Minnesota (4-1, 0-1, last week: 7): Week 5 brought a reality check of sorts for Minnesota, which never really challenged Iowa and lost the Floyd of Rosedale for the first time since 2009. As coach Jerry Kill said Sunday, the Gophers really need top quarterback MarQueis Gray (ankle) to get healthy, as backup Max Shortell had three interceptions at Iowa. More unsettling was the play of Minnesota's defense, which couldn't stop Weisman. The Gophers can regroup during the bye week before their league home opener against Northwestern.

11. Indiana (2-2, 0-1, last week: 10): Credit the Hoosiers for fighting back at Northwestern and making it a one-possession game in the fourth quarter. Indiana has some serious talent at wide receiver with Kofi Hughes and Cody Latimer, both of whom made circus catches Saturday. The Hoosiers also saw some good signs in their run game. But again, the defense continues to struggle mightily, surrendering more than 700 yards to the Wildcats. Until IU can defend like a Big Ten team, it won't win a Big Ten game.

12. Illinois (2-3, 0-1, last week: 12): Oy vey. If we could drop Illinois to 13th, we would. Tim Beckman's program is in complete disarray just five weeks into his first season. From the turnovers to the special teams miscues to a supposedly elite defense showing cracks each week, Illinois is in a tailspin. The Illini really needed to build some confidence at home. Instead, they're going to have to get it together on the road against Wisconsin and then Michigan. There's a lot of talent in Champaign, but once again, it doesn't seem to matter.

Pac-12 power rankings: Week 6

October, 1, 2012
If you don't like where you are in the power rankings, play better.

See last week's power rankings here.

1. Oregon: The win over Washington State wasn't always pretty, particularly in the first half, but good teams know how to win ugly when everything isn't clicking. And the third-quarter assertion of will was impressive. The beloved Washington Huskies come to town Saturday for the annual snugglefest.

2. Oregon State: Not sure any team in the country can claim three better wins than the Beavers. A rejuvenated running game provides a nice complement to QB Sean Mannion and a potent downfield passing attack. Back home Saturday to host Washington State.

3. Washington: We still don't know how to define the Huskies. The 41-3 loss at LSU was bad. The 17-13 win over Stanford was a surprising -- and impressive -- reversal. The defensive revival will be tested in Autzen Stadium.

4. Stanford: The Cardinal offense wilted against Washington. It probably needs to rediscover its mojo quickly because Arizona is coming to town and the Wildcats can score points (as long as they aren't playing Oregon).

5. USC: Shhh. It's USC. Seems like everyone has forgotten about the Trojans. Might be a mistake. Headed to Utah on Thursday.

6. UCLA: The Bruins bounced back from their loss to Oregon State with a workmanlike domination of Colorado. They can make California even more miserable on Saturday.

7. Arizona State: The Sun Devils took another step forward with their first win at California since 1997. QB Taylor Kelly showed poise on the road, and the attacking defense keeps making plays. Arizona State is off this week, then has a visit to Colorado on Oct. 11.

8. Arizona: The Wildcats fought hard before yielding to Oregon State, but they are banged up and thin. The visit to Stanford, a team that will be highly motivated to reassert its physical style, could be taxing.

9. Utah: The Utes had an extra week to lick their wounds in advance of the USC visit. The season, however, could be transformed with a win over the Trojans. Along those lines ... how's John White's ankle?

10. California: It doesn't get any easier for the 1-4 Bears with UCLA coming to town. Problems start with the offensive line, then go to QB Zach Maynard missing the mark.

11. Colorado: It's back down to earth against UCLA. Buffs are off this week before Arizona State comes to town.

12. Washington State: The Cougars showed fight against Oregon, making a game of it at halftime. The third quarter provided a reality check. A visit to Oregon State is up next; maybe the Cougs can catch the Beavers resting on their laurels?

SEC power rankings: Week 6

October, 1, 2012
Separation Saturday is approaching in the SEC ... but here are where our power rankings look to start the week:

1. Alabama (5-0; LW: 1): The Crimson Tide's offense didn't look great against Ole Miss and the defense actually gave up two touchdowns, but Alabama left the weekend with a 19-point win. Alabama looked a little lethargic out on the field, but the Rebels put up a better fight than most expected. This team has talked about cleaning up execution issues on offense and will get an extra week to do that with the bye here.

2. LSU (5-0; LW: 2): The Tigers are skating on thin ice in our power rankings. The previous week's sluggish win over Auburn was one thing, but the Tigers really struggled against Towson. What was most surprising about LSU's performance was how poorly the Tigers defended the run, as Towson gained 188 yards on the ground. One positive was that we finally saw more of a downfield passing game from Zach Mettenberger, and Odell Beckham Jr. stepped up in a big way at receiver.

3. Georgia (5-0; LW: 3): The Bulldogs could be considered 2b after the way LSU played, but Georgia's defense really struggled against Tennessee. We all knew the Vols had the potential to hurt this group, but Georgia's defense was absolutely gutted for 478 yards and gave up 37 of the Vols' 44 points. Things have to be cleaned up, but with the way that offense is playing, it's going to be tough for teams to keep up in a shootout with the Dawgs.

4. South Carolina (5-0; LW: 4): The Gamecocks gave their fans a bit of a scare after being down 10 to Kentucky at the half Saturday. All was forgiven after a dominating second half during which South Carolina outscored the Wildcats 31-0. Connor Shaw continues to throw the ball with splendid accuracy, while Marcus Lattimore is looking stronger and stronger out there. However, the Gamecocks can't afford a sluggish start against Georgia this weekend.

5. Florida (4-0; LW: 5): The Gators were off this weekend, so players got some much-needed rest and time to heal. It also gave Florida a little extra time to scout No. 4 LSU, which travels to the Swamp on Saturday. Florida has to feel a little more confident about this weekend after watching another ugly win by LSU. But expect the intensity to be way up for the Tigers. Saturday should be pretty fun to watch.

6. Mississippi State (4-0; LW: 6): The Bulldogs were on their bye over the weekend. Quietly, the Bulldogs have had a very impressive start to the season. Their past two games should have been won by bigger margins, but this team is still undefeated and has the potential to be a 6-1 or 7-0 team heading into the last weekend of the month. On the season, only five teams have trailed for less time than Mississippi State.

7. Texas A&M (3-1; LW: 8): The Aggies just keep pounding away on offense. Johnny Manziel and his crew walked all over Arkansas' defense, racking up 716 yards of offense and 58 points in their blowout win against the reeling Razorbacks. We know that Texas A&M can score points and generate a lot of yards, but we saw a little too much bend out of A&M's defense against the Hogs, as they surrendered 515 yards to Arkansas.

8. Tennessee (3-2; LW: 7): We saw a lot more fight out of Tennessee when Georgia went up 17 in the second quarter. The Vols had a couple of real chances to win in Athens, Ga., over the weekend, but late turnovers doomed them. Cue the questions surrounding Tyler Bray in big games. The defense looked overwhelmed and lost at times, but this team can take solace in one thing: It appears Tennessee has found a real SEC running back in Rajion Neal.

9. Missouri (3-2; LW: 9): James Franklin was better throwing the ball on Saturday, but this team has some offensive issues. The Tigers converted just 1 of 11 third downs and were outgained 395-346 against UCF on Saturday. Kendial Lawrence rushed for 104 yards, but Mizzou finished the day with a total of 89 rushing yards, thanks to Franklin's minus-18 yards on the ground. There are just too many athletes on this offense for the Tigers not to be explosive. Right now, they are hurting to find consistent firepower.

10. Ole Miss (3-2; LW: 10): Yes, the Rebels lost, but it's clear this team is more invested and tougher than the past two teams Ole Miss has thrown out there. The Rebels gave Alabama a little bit of a challenge and made it to the end zone twice against Alabama's vaunted defense. This team has to clean up a lot on defense, but that offense has the ability to carry this team to a few more wins this season ... maybe even a bowl berth.

11. Auburn (1-3; LW: 11): The good news for the Tigers is that they got to rest this weekend. The hope is that Auburn's defense takes the momentum it gained from its performance against LSU into this weekend's key game against Arkansas. Arkansas can move the ball, and Auburn's defense struggled mightily for most of September. This is a must-win for both teams and with the way Arkansas' defense has played, Auburn has to feel more comfortable with what its struggling offense can do.

12. Vanderbilt (1-3; LW: 13): The Commodores were off as well, and extra time had to be devoted to tweaking some of the offense. Vandy enters its game at Missouri with the SEC's No. 11 offense and we haven't seen the kind of explosion we saw last year. It doesn't help that there's a quarterback controversy in Nashville. Despite what happened in the Georgia game, the Commodores still own one of the league's top defensive units and provide a tough matchup for Missouri this weekend.

13. Arkansas (1-4; LW: 12): Things just get worse and worse for the Razorbacks. If Tyler Wilson thought his team quit against Alabama, you have to wonder how he feels after the way his Hogs were run out of College Station, Texas, over the weekend. That defense is dreadful and this team is just lost. The offense put up a lot of yards against Texas A&M, but couldn't finish drives and never developed any consistency running the ball. Losing to Auburn this weekend would pretty much end any ounce of hope for a bowl game this year.

14. Kentucky (1-4; LW: 14): For two quarters, Kentucky was on top of the world. Then, things fell apart, and South Carolina scored 31 straight points on the Wildcats. Things just aren't clicking for the Wildcats, and quarterback Maxwell Smith is injured again. This time, he has an ankle injury. This offense just can't do much unless he's in, and he can't stay healthy. The defense has to get tougher, as well. Joker Phillips' hot seat in Kentucky isn't cooling off one bit.