NCF Nation: Power-rankings-101711

ACC power rankings: Week 8

October, 17, 2011
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

No change at the top, status quo at the bottom. In between? Every day I’m shufflin’ …

1. Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC; LW: No. 1) – Maryland gave Clemson its best shot, but the Tigers escaped College Park with a win thanks in large part to a record-setting performance by freshman receiver Sammy Watkins. It was not, however, a banner day for the defense. It was a close call, but Clemson still stands alone in the ACC and is one of 10 undefeated teams remaining in the country.

2. Virginia Tech (6-1, 2-1; LW: No. 3) – Welcome back, Hokies. Virginia’s upset of Georgia Tech gave the Hokies a boost in the conference race, but Virginia Tech has done a good job of helping itself lately. Quarterback Logan Thomas had another impressive performance in the win over Wake Forest, and the offense seems to have finally found its groove over the past two weekends.

3. Georgia Tech (6-1, 3-1; LW: No. 2) – This team has shown some vulnerabilities all season, and Virginia’s running game took advantage of one of them on Saturday. That loss didn’t undo the Jackets, it just leveled the playing field a bit more in the Coastal Division race.

4. Miami (3-3, 1-2; LW: No. 6) – Quarterback Jacory Harris has now gone three consecutive games without an interception, and the Canes seem to have new life. Miami has yet to put together back-to-back wins, but could be catching a Georgia Tech team when it’s down this weekend.

5. Wake Forest (4-2, 3-1; LW: No. 4) – The Deacs’ four-game winning streak came to a screeching halt against Virginia Tech, as the defense couldn’t find an answer for Logan Thomas or David Wilson. Wake now has back-to-back road trips against in-state opponents Duke and North Carolina, and is still in good shape with only one conference loss.

6. North Carolina (5-2, 1-2; LW: No. 5) – The Tar Heels have lost the two games that matter most so far, to division opponents Georgia Tech and Miami. It’s not going to get any easier this week at No. 7 Clemson. The Tar Heels are 5-2, but they’ve still got a lot to prove.

7. Florida State (3-3, 1-2; LW: No. 7) – The Seminoles took their frustrations out on Duke in a 41-16 romp over the Blue Devils and earned their first conference victory and snapped a three-game losing streak. After three consecutive road games, the Noles finally return home this weekend against a struggling Maryland team.

8. Virginia (4-2, 1-1; LW: No. 10) – The win over then-No. 12 Georgia Tech was monumental for coach Mike London and his program, but the challenge for Virginia now is to build on it -- something the Cavaliers weren’t able to do after last year’s upset of Miami. This team has a chance to become bowl-eligible, but it needs to take advantage of a home game against a struggling NC State team this weekend.

9. Maryland (2-4, 1-2; LW: No. 8 ) – It was an all-out effort by the Terps and an outstanding performance by quarterback C.J. Brown, but it wasn’t enough to knock off Clemson. Maryland has now lost four of its past five, and its bowl hopes seem grim. The outlook doesn’t look much brighter this weekend with a road trip to Tallahassee looming.

10. Duke (3-3, 1-1; LW: No. 9) – The Blue Devils’ three-game winning streak ran into a brick wall over the weekend against Florida State. Historically, the upcoming matchup with Wake Forest has been lopsided in the Deacs’ favor, but it’s been an entertaining series in recent years. Duke will have to get a faster start offensively, though, if it’s going to hang with Tanner Price & Co.

11. NC State (3-3, 0-2; LW: No. 11) – The Wolfpack had a bye week to heal and regroup, and they needed it -- just as much as Boston College. The problem is, NC State has back-to-back road games, and Virginia has confidence and momentum after its upset of Georgia Tech. Opportunities for bowl eligibility are getting slim.

12. Boston College (1-5, 0-3; LW: No. 12) – Coach Frank Spaziani is right: His team has shown some improvement week to week, but BC fans are ready for it to show up in the win column. That will be easier said than done, though, with back-to-back road trips, starting this weekend in Blacksburg.

SEC power rankings: Week 8

October, 17, 2011
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Hey, what do you know? The first BCS standings of the 2011 season look exactly like this week’s SEC power rankings at the top.

It’s still LSU and Alabama and then everybody else:

1. LSU (7-0, 4-0): For perspective on how well the Tigers have it rolling right now, they steamrolled Tennessee 38-7 in Neyland Stadium last Saturday, one of the Vols’ worst home beatings ever, and LSU coach Les Miles said afterward, “It wasn’t our best game, certainly, but we did the things we needed to do to secure victory.” It’s the same thing the Tigers have been doing all season, controlling the game with a punishing running attack on offense and then turning around and punishing opposing offenses with a suffocating defense. That’s seven straight wins by double digits, and LSU heads back home this week to face Auburn after debuting as the No. 1 team in the first installment of the BCS standings.

2. Alabama (7-0, 4-0): The way the Crimson Tide are running through foes, it’s hard to imagine them being second to anybody. Checking in at No. 2 in the first BCS standings, they’ve won their four SEC games by a combined margin of 162-31 and are coming off a 52-7 pasting of Ole Miss on the road. It’s difficult to see anybody beating this team right now. That is, unless it’s LSU. We won’t have to guess much longer. Their Nov. 5 matchup is fast approaching. But Alabama still has Tennessee at home this week before turning its attention to LSU. The Crimson Tide might be known for their defense, but they’re also demonstrating that they can be plenty explosive on offense. And the guy wearing No. 3 on offense for the Tide ain’t half bad.

3. Arkansas (5-1, 1-1): The Hogs were the third SEC team in the top 10 of the first BCS standings. They were No. 9, which seems like a long way back. But if they keep winning, who knows what can happen? Coming off an open date, Arkansas travels to Ole Miss this week and has a very manageable schedule the rest of the way. The Hogs should also be as healthy as they’ve been after seeing several starters sidelined, including senior defensive end Jake Bequette, for much of the first half of the season. There’s a lot of momentum in the program right now, especially with the way junior quarterback Tyler Wilson is playing, and a second straight BCS bowl berth will be at stake over these next six weeks.

4. Auburn (5-2, 3-1): The Tigers might have one more loss than South Carolina, but they also beat the Gamecocks in Columbia and are coming off an impressive defensive performance in a 17-6 win at home against Florida. Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof and his staff deserve some props, because that defense has made considerable strides since those first few weeks of the season. The quarterback picture is unclear heading into the LSU trip this week, although Clint Moseley replaced Barrett Trotter in the Florida game and is likely the guy going forward. Either way, the Tigers continue to find ways to win and have been the SEC team that has done more with less, especially when you consider how inexperienced they were coming into the season.

5. South Carolina (6-1, 4-1): The Gamecocks can only hope they don’t have many more weeks like last week. Fifth-year senior quarterback Stephen Garcia was kicked off the team. Coach Steve Spurrier unloaded on a local columnist and was skewered for it nationally, and then star running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 14-12 win at Mississippi State. Nothing has come easy for South Carolina this season, and it hasn’t always been pretty. The offense (other than the Kentucky game) has sort of puttered along, and it will really be a challenge now that Lattimore is out. Nonetheless, the Gamecocks control their own destiny in the Eastern Division race and are playing their best defense of the season. In their past four games, they’ve given up a total of 34 points. They’re one of four teams in the league off this week.

6. Georgia (5-2, 4-1): While it’s South Carolina that holds the head-to-head tiebreaker and controls its own destiny in the East race, Georgia might have the clearest path to the division title. The Bulldogs survived last week in a harrowing 33-28 win against Vanderbilt and have now won five straight games since opening the season with back-to-back losses. They get a week off before their Oct. 29 showdown with archrival Florida, which should ensure getting some of their best players back, including linebacker Alec Ogletree and freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell. The start to the season was disappointing, but this is right where the Bulldogs wanted to be going into late October. They’ve fought their way back into the race. Now, we’ll see if they can finish the deal.

7. Florida (4-3, 2-3): After three straight losses to Top 25 opponents, the Gators get a week off. The even better news for them is that they hope to get senior quarterback John Brantley back in time for the Georgia game on Oct. 29. Brantley suffered a high ankle sprain in the Alabama game, and Florida’s offense has been dreadful ever since. The Gators have gone three straight games now without rushing for 100 yards and are still looking for an identity in a lot of different areas. The defense played better in the 17-6 loss to Auburn, but Florida made a ton of mistakes on special teams and still has a ways to go before climbing back into elite status in this league.

8. Tennessee (3-3, 0-3): There’s not a lot guaranteed for the Vols the rest of the way other than the fact that they’re going to have to scratch and claw just to finish .500 or better. It doesn’t look like sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray will be back during the regular season, as the plan now is for him to have surgery on his broken thumb. The Vols will need to get more out of backup quarterback Matt Simms and the passing game from here on out, but this next one could be even uglier than the 38-7 home loss to LSU last week. The Vols travel to Alabama looking to snap an eight-game losing streak against nationally ranked foes.

9. Vanderbilt (3-3, 1-3): The Commodores fought the whole game last week and nearly pulled off a big upset against Georgia. After the game, first-year coach James Franklin was still fighting mad as he and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham almost came to blows. Franklin said this version of Vanderbilt isn’t going to “sit back and take it anymore.” It was a big step in the right direction offensively for Vanderbilt, which tried a little bit of everything in piling up 349 total yards and scoring 28 points. Next up is Army at home, a must-win for the Commodores if they’re going to be bowl-eligible this season.

10. Mississippi State (3-4, 0-4): The Bulldogs have Ole Miss and Kentucky to thank, or they’d be even lower in these rankings. Once ranked as high as No. 16 in the national polls this season, Mississippi State is still looking for its first SEC win. The consensus among the players coming out of last Saturday’s 14-12 home loss to South Carolina was that the Bulldogs weren’t that far away from being a good football team. That might be, but their record is a long way from being where everybody in Starkville thought it was going to be at this point.

11. Ole Miss (2-4, 0-3): It just keeps getting worse for the Rebels. They were flattened 52-7 last Saturday at home by Alabama, their 11th SEC loss in their past 12 games dating to the 2009 season. If that’s not enough, they also lost two more key defensive players. Cornerback Marcus Temple and end Wayne Dorsey, both seniors, suffered season-ending injuries against the Crimson Tide. Ole Miss has scored just three offensive touchdowns in its three SEC losses this season.

12. Kentucky (2-4, 0-3): For the first time in a while, the Wildcats aren’t coming off a loss. That’s because they were off last week, a much-needed open date after four straight losses and a glut of injuries. The Wildcats are still searching for anything to get them going offensively. Coach Joker Phillips hopes to have a few more guys closer to 100 percent this Saturday against Jacksonville State. In the meantime, he doesn’t have to worry about his job. Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said last week that Phillips would “absolutely” be back next season as coach.

Big East power rankings: Week 8

October, 17, 2011
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Just a little bit of reshuffling in the power rankings for Week 8.

1. West Virginia (5-1, 1-0). The Mountaineers were off, but remain at the top of the power rankings with the hands down, unquestioned best offense in the Big East.

2. Cincinnati (5-1, 1-0). Tough call here between the Bearcats and Scarlet Knights. Cincinnati has not beaten a team with a winning record, and got clobbered by a pretty mediocre Tennessee team. But I give the Bearcats the edge because I think they have a better offense.

3. Rutgers (5-1, 2-0). Defense and special teams came up huge once again, and now Rutgers is one win away from becoming bowl eligible.

4. Syracuse (4-2, 0-1). The Orange were on a bye as they prepare to host West Virginia on Friday. Their wins might not be pretty this season, but they do have two against teams with winning records, and their two losses are to teams that are a combined 10-2 (USC, Rutgers).

5. USF (4-2, 0-2). USF started the season 4-0 but has dropped two conference games to teams with losing records (Pitt, UConn). That is not going to get you into the top half of the power rankings.

6. UConn (3-4, 1-1). The Huskies and Pitt have strikingly similar resumes. Both have wins against Buffalo, an FCS opponent and USF. Both have pretty ineffective offenses -- neither scored an offensive touchdown Sunday. The Huskies get the edge this week because they won.

7. Pitt (3-4, 1-1). Did this team really beat USF 44-17? How on earth did the Panthers score 44 points? We were told that was a breakthrough performance for the offense, but they have regressed since then, scoring 10 offensive points in two straight losses. They're lucky they are not at the bottom this week.

8. Louisville (2-4, 0-1). The Cardinals are giving it that old college try. They just can't run. Or pass. Or block. Or score. Or take advantage of opportunities to win. It's too bad, because one of the best defenses in the league is being overshadowed.
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Week 7 brought some definition in the Big Ten. Michigan State established itself as the team to beat in the Legends division. Both Michigan and Illinois showed their strong starts were largely the byproduct of favorable schedules. Wisconsin continued to dominate and look like the Big Ten's best team by far. Penn State? The Nittany Lions found another way to win.

We have a better idea of who these teams are. Not surprisingly, there was some significant shuffling in this week's power rankings.

Let's get to them ...

1. Wisconsin (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten): After a tune-up against Indiana, the Badgers finally get ready for their first true road game of the season. It comes at a place (Spartan Stadium) where they've lost three straight contests and against an opponent (Michigan State) playing at a very high level, especially on defense. The cakewalks likely are over for Russell Wilson & Co., and we'll learn a lot about Wisconsin's ability to stay poised under pressure on Saturday night.

2. Michigan State (5-1, 2-0): Mark Dantonio's team affirmed itself as the best in the state and the best in the Legends Division with a convincing victory against archrival Michigan. Michigan State is halfway through a brutal October slate at 2-0, and has Wisconsin coming to its house, where the Badgers have struggled in recent years. The nation's No. 2 defense continues to punish people and capitalize on opportunities, while Edwin Baker sparked a rushing attack that Dantonio wants to define his program. Michigan State can make a national statement this week by upsetting Wisconsin.

3. Nebraska (5-1, 1-1): Bo Pelini's team got a breather in Week 7 after a potentially season-saving comeback against Ohio State. But the bye week also brought some bad news as star DT Jared Crick was ruled out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Crick's injury is a blow to a Nebraska defense that needs to regroup for the second half of the season. Nebraska looks to boost its play against Minnesota before a huge Legends Division showdown against Michigan State.

4. Penn State (6-1, 3-0): Who needs a quarterback? Penn State has won six games and put itself right in the mix in the Leaders Division without settling on a signal-caller. The Lions continue to play opportunistic defense, recording three takeaways Saturday against Purdue to bring their season total to 17, tied for 10th-most nationally. They also held a decided edge on special teams. You have to wonder how long the formula will succeed without a quarterback emerging. But for now, Penn State is in great shape.

5. Michigan (6-1, 2-1): Brady Hoke warned us that Michigan hadn't arrived, and he proved prophetic as the Wolverines' weaknesses on both sides of the ball caught up with them in East Lansing. After a strong start, Michigan struggled to generate a passing attack and couldn't stop Spartans playmakers like Baker and wide receiver Keshawn Martin. Denard Robinson completed just 9 of 24 pass attempts on a windy day, and coordinator Al Borges got too cute with a critical fourth-down call late in the game. Michigan tries to regroup in the bye week before hosting Purdue.

6. Ohio State (4-3, 1-2): Football might be a passing game these days, but Ohio State defied the theory Saturday at Illinois. The Buckeyes completed just one pass, albeit a touchdown from Braxton Miller to Jake Stoneburner, in a 17-7 win fueled by the old-fashioned values of punishing defense, takeaways and a run game boosted by the return of Dan Herron. If a defense led by linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins replicates its performance, Ohio State will be tough to beat. The Buckeyes get a much-needed bye before hosting Wisconsin.

7. Illinois (6-1, 2-1): The Illini take the biggest tumble in the power rankings, although it's hard to rank them ahead of an Ohio State team that beat them by double digits in Champaign. Although Illinois' defense continued to receive strong individual performances from Whitney Mercilus, Jonathan Brown and others, the offense took more than 50 minutes to get off of the mat against Ohio State. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase seemed jittery and didn't get enough help from his supporting cast as Illinois fell for the first time.

8. Iowa (4-2, 1-1): After failing to score a touchdown against Penn State, Iowa scored five against Northwestern and exploded for 24 fourth-quarter points to defeat its recent nemesis for the first time since 2007. Running back Marcus Coker emerged with 124 yards and two touchdowns, and the Hawkeyes capitalized on a shaky Northwestern defense and got a defensive touchdown of their own. They now have a chance to go on a roll as they face Indiana and Minnesota the next two weeks.

9. Purdue (3-3, 1-1): The Boilers are a few plays away from being a 5-1 team, but their inability to avoid major mistakes at the wrong times continues to hold them back. Saturday's loss at Penn State was filled with what-might-have-beens, as Purdue outplayed the Lions for stretches and put itself in position for a defining road win. Whether it's penalties or turnovers or special-teams blunders, the Boilers are holding themselves back from taking the next step as a program.

10. Northwestern (2-4, 0-3): There's still half a season to play, but Northwestern has been the Big Ten's biggest disappointment. The Wildcats' defense seemingly has regressed after collapsing late last season, and a program known for finishing games and being clutch is repeatedly melting down in the fourth quarter. Coach Pat Fitzgerald admitted after the Iowa loss that defenders aren't on the same page and said the coaches must do better going forward. This week's home game against Penn State is an absolute must-win if Northwestern intends to continue its streak of postseason appearances.

11. Indiana (1-6, 0-3): Halloween isn't for another couple of weeks, but Indiana already has visited its house of horrors at Camp Randall Stadium. Though Saturday's beating wasn't quite as bad as last year's 83-20 debacle, Indiana won't be pining for a trip to Madison any time soon. The Hoosiers defense looked overmatched -- as many units do -- against Wilson and Wisconsin's high-powered offense. Quarterback Edward Wright-Baker struggled and the offense did little outside of a long touchdown run from RB Stephen Houston.

12. Minnesota (1-5, 0-2): The bye week came at a good time for Minnesota, which has lost its first two Big Ten contests by a combined score of 103-17. Quarterback Marqueis Gray should be fully healthy after dealing with a toe injury, and Minnesota will need a much better effort from the offense to keep pace with a high-powered Nebraska attack this week. The Gophers' Big Ten home schedule is extremely challenging as Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois visit TCF Bank Stadium.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 8

October, 17, 2011
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Here's how the Big 12 stands after seven weeks of football:

1. Oklahoma (6-0, 3-0 in Big 12, last week: 1): It’s hard to believe a 30-point win on the road in conference can be underwhelming, but I suppose that’s where the Sooners sit after winning seven Big 12 titles in the past decade and talking up the prospect of winning a national title. The offense was sloppy early, but played well in the second half behind a dominant defensive performance to run away from Kansas late.

2. Oklahoma State (6-0, 3-0, LW: 2): The Cowboys went on the road and beat Texas for the second consecutive season. Nobody’s done that since the Sooners a century ago. Granted, the list of teams that played in Austin in two consecutive years is probably a short one, but for now, we’re still on track for an undefeated Bedlam in December.

3. Kansas State (6-0, 3-0, LW: 3): The defense is making plays, the Wildcats are winning on special teams and Collin Klein is still bulling his way through defenses. Next week is the Sunflower Showdown, but the national spotlight in a home game against Oklahoma awaits if K-State takes care of business.

4. Texas A&M (4-2, 2-1, LW: 4): The Aggies are looking like themselves and beat Baylor convincingly with their best performance of the season. No second-half struggles this time. The pass defense is still suspect, but A&M got big stops when needed and the offense has been as advertised for most of this year.

5. Baylor (4-2, 1-2, LW: 5): Robert Griffin III threw for a career-high 430 yards and looked great for most of Saturday, save for a lack of execution in the red zone early in the fourth quarter. The Bears’ defense, though? Not much better than last year’s seven-win team. Can't give up 55 points and expect to win, and Texas A&M is only one of a handful of elite offenses across the top of the Big 12.

6. Texas Tech (4-2, 1-2, LW: 6): The Red Raiders got their chance after snagging an onside kick against Kansas State, but a halftime lead turned into a failed fourth-quarter comeback in Lubbock all too quickly. A painful loss, but no reason to fall in the power rankings. Now, a trip to Norman, which has been a nightmare for Tech in recent years.

7. Missouri (3-3, 1-2, LW: 8): Missouri is back to .500, but still has plenty of difficult games ahead. First up: Oklahoma State in Columbia this week. The Cowboys have won eight consecutive road games and need a ninth to continue a dream season. Will a fast-improving James Franklin derail it?

8. Texas (4-2, 1-2, LW: 7): Texas looks like it found its quarterback in David Ash, but the true freshman will have to grow up quickly if Texas is going to look much different than its 2010 team. Four wins are on the board, but the Longhorns haven’t dealt with conference play well. Texas is 1-7 in its last eight Big 12 games and hasn’t won a Big 12 game at home since Nov. 21, 2009. The Longhorns went into free fall from No. 11 to out of the Top 25 in two weeks.

9. Iowa State (3-3, 0-3, LW: 9): Iowa State’s taken a pair of beatings on the road in consecutive weeks and benched quarterback Steele Jantz late against Missouri. The defense is banged-up and the offense sputtered on Saturday. Three consecutive losses sting and won't get any easier with a hot Texas A&M team on its way to Ames.

10. Kansas (2-4, 0-3, LW: 10): KU played its best game of the season on Saturday, but still lost at home by 30. That’s both very good and very bad, but the Jayhawks have a long way to go before even becoming a fringe bowl team. It will start with defense, which played with a ton of effort in the first half, but could only hold a big-time attack like Oklahoma's for a portion of the game. Now, it's time for the Jayhawks' shot at rivalry redemption at home against Kansas State, which beat KU 59-7 last year.

Pac-12 power rankings: Week 7

October, 17, 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. Oregon: The Ducks retake the top spot after an impressive win against Arizona State. Need to get healthy.

2. Stanford: The Cardinal have an opportunity to notch a quality win against Washington on Saturday, which might help in the beauty contest we call the BCS standings.

3. Washington: The Huskies have a chance for a landmark victory against Stanford, one that would reconfigure the North Division race and provide the proverbial, "We're baaaaack!" to the college football nation.

4. Arizona State: There was little to suggest from a highly competitive game at Oregon that the Sun Devils can't play with anyone.

5. USC: Trojans continue to linger, winning games but not many admirers. But if they win at Notre Dame, national folks will be forced to take notice, though most likely not without giving in to their apparently inexorable urges to tweak Lane Kiffin.

6. UCLA: The Bruins play at Arizona on Thursday night after a bye week. And, yes, beating a team that just fired its coach makes this a must-win for Rick Neuheisel. The potential parallel is too difficult to ignore.

7. Washington State: In the first half against Stanford, the Cougars showed how much they have improved. In the second half, they revealed how far they still have to go. And beating Oregon State on Saturday is critical for bowl hopes and coach Paul Wulff.

8. Utah: The Utes are 0-3 in Pac-12 play but have two of the better nonconference wins -- at BYU, at Pittsburgh -- in the conference. It's cool how coach Kyle Whittingham read the Pac-12 blog last week and then told his players to stop turning the ball over five times per game, as they had done the previous two weeks. Coach, that's the sort of advice you get from an AQ conference blogger.

9. California: It feels like the Bears' chances for a successful season might hang on beating Utah at home on Saturday. Neither team wants to start 0-4 in Pac-12 play, but Jeff Tedford and the Bears have been doing this a bit longer.

10. Oregon State: At 1-5, salvaging a respectable season is a more reasonable goal than a bowl game. Losing a second consecutive year to Washington State probably wouldn't go over well about the Beavers faithful.

11. Colorado: The cold reality has set in: The Buffs don't have enough horses to compete in the Pac-12 at present. One word: Recruiting. Another word: Recruiting.

12. Arizona: The Wildcats have had a bye week to digest the sudden termination of coach Mike Stoops. It will be interesting to see how they react against UCLA on Thursday. Will they be energized or will they look uninterested?