NCF Nation: power rankings 102912

SEC power rankings: Week 10

October, 29, 2012
Our No. 1 continues to widen its lead, but the weekend brought some movement after that:

1. Alabama (8-0; last week: 1): A highly ranked Mississippi State team walked into Tuscaloosa, and it meant nothing to Alabama. The Crimson Tide dominated both sides of the ball and built such a nice lead in the first half that it seemed like Alabama was in cruise control in the second half. This team doesn't just continue to pull away from the rest of the SEC, it keeps pulling away from the rest of the country.

2. LSU (7-1; LW: 3): The Tigers were off and got a little more time to prepare for Game 3 with Alabama. LSU should have used the extra time to really work with its passing game. Zach Mettenberger will have his hands very full with Alabama's defense, so its important that he look much more comfortable in LSU's pocket. That defense has been great all year, and it might have the best chance of slowing Alabama's balanced attack.

3. Georgia (7-1; LW:4): I guess all that hot seat talk surrounding Mark Richt will temporarily die down after a huge win over Florida. The Bulldogs are now in control of the SEC East with two conference games remaining. The offense took a couple of steps back against the Gators, but the defense was tremendous. Players say that's the defense you should expect to see for the rest of the year, and if that's the case, the Dawgs will have no problem taking home the East title for the second straight season.

4. Florida (7-1; LW: 2): It's clear that Florida is in desperate need of offensive playmakers. Right now Jeff Driskel, Mike Gillislee and Jordan Reed need a lot of help, but if no one else has stepped up now, can it happen in November? The defense shouldn't hang its head after its performance against Georgia. This unit is still one of the best in the country, but it needs more support from the offense going forward.

5. South Carolina (7-2; LW: 6): The Gamecocks won a shootout with Tennessee over the weekend, but it came at a costly price, as running back Marcus Lattimore went down with a devastating knee injury. The diagnosis is that he hyperextended his knee and injured several ligaments. The hope is that he can make a return to the football field. Your heart really hurts for such a great player and person.

6. Texas A&M (6-2; LW: 7): The Aggies rebounded quite nicely against Auburn, running up 63 points and nearly 700 yards of offense. Johnny Manziel got back to looking like Johnny Football by churning out a ton of yards and scoring five total touchdowns. This team has been a pleasant surprise in the SEC, and it could take a bigger step forward with a good performance against a tough Mississippi State team this weekend. A&M has struggled against good defenses in the second halves of games, so this is a chance to get some redemption in that area.

7. Mississippi State (7-1; LW: 5): A lot of people are questioning just how good this team is after it was blown out of Tuscaloosa over the weekend. That softer early schedule is getting scrutinized even more now. But the Bulldogs still possess solid talent on both offense and defense, they just had to go through the buzz saw that is Alabama. Another tough challenge awaits with the Aggies visiting Starkville this weekend.

8. Ole Miss (5-3; LW: 8): After a very solid performance in their three-point win over Arkansas on the road, the Rebels are a win away from being bowl-eligible for the first time since 2009. They are also a win away from matching their win total over the past two years. It's clear that Ole Miss got it right with coach Hugh Freeze, who has completely transformed the culture at Ole Miss. We know this team can move the ball, but the defense is starting to look better each week and forced some big turnovers against the Hogs on Saturday.

9. Vanderbilt (4-4; LW: 10): The Commodores took care of business with a blowout win over hapless Massachusetts and are now two wins away from being bowl-eligible for the second straight year. Running back Zac Stacy went down with an injury in the first quarter Saturday, but coach James Franklin said the injury wasn't too serious. The offense was extremely balanced and very explosive over the weekend. The hope is that kind of play translates to the month of November.

10. Missouri (4-4; LW: 12): After a very rough start to their SEC career, the Tigers finally got their first conference victory with a 33-10 win over Kentucky. Outside of a solid day from running back Kendial Lawrence, the offense continued to really struggle, but the defense helped a lot with three forced fumbles. A bowl is still in reach for Mizzou, but it has a tough November, starting with a trip to Gainesville to face the Gators.

11. Arkansas (3-5; LW: 9): Any bowl hopes the Razorbacks had are likely gone now after that tough loss to Ole Miss. With the November the Hogs have lined up, Saturday was a must-win. It's been a very trying season for this program, and right when it seemed like the Hogs were gaining momentum, they fell right back down with a crushing loss to the Rebels. We'll really see how much pride this team has in the coming weeks.

12. Tennessee (3-5; LW: 11): Another shootout results in another loss for the Vols. This defense has just been picked apart and gutted all year, and it was the same case against a South Carolina team that was eaten up by Florida's defense the week before. The Vols made a nice comeback late, but a fumble by Tyler Bray deep in South Carolina territory ruined the chance of a comeback win. Things are at a boiling point in Knoxville when it comes to Derek Dooley's job, and you can expect to hear a ton of chatter surrounding him and his job.

13. Auburn (1-7; LW: 13): Well, the good news from the Tigers' 40-point loss to Texas A&M is that Auburn might have finally found its quarterback in true freshman Jonathan Wallace. He completed six of his nine pass attempts for 122 yards and two touchdowns. But that really was the only real good news from the weekend. The fans really made a strong statement on the Plains by leaving the stadium pretty bare. Like Dooley, Gene Chizik is feeling a lot of heat surrounding his job, and that pregame message to fans and students from president Jay Gogue only amplified that.

14. Kentucky (1-8; LW: 14): The defense made things tough on Missouri on Saturday, but the offense just continued to sputter along with only 179 total yards. The young working parts are getting a ton of experience this season, but they are finding out just how tough it is to play in this league. Joker Phillips is feeling the heat when it comes to his job, but he has had to deal with a laundry list of injuries and a ton of young players in his third year as the Wildcats' head coach.

Big East power rankings: Week 10

October, 29, 2012
Time to re-rank 'em!

1. Louisville (8-0, 3-0). The Cardinals are the only ranked, unbeaten team left in the Big East. The No. 1 spot is yours, Cards. Now try not to break anything.

2. Rutgers (7-1, 4-0). That was a really bad loss to Kent State. The Scarlet Knights doomed themselves with seven turnovers, including six interceptions from Gary Nova. But they stay in the top two. Nowhere to really drop them.

3. Cincinnati (5-2, 1-1). The Bearcats showed an incredible amount of heart in nearly beating Louisville. But they have dropped two straight and have to find a way to get better play out of Munchie Legaux.

4. Syracuse (4-4, 3-1). The Orange may well end up being the biggest surprise in the Big East after winning their second straight game. But they came 3 seconds from losing to USF. The big test is this weekend at Cincinnati.

5. Pitt (4-4, 1-3). The Panthers won their first Big East game and second straight overall, but they get to follow that up with a trip to Notre Dame next week.

6. Temple (3-4, 2-2). The Owls lost by 30 points to Pitt, but are still better than UConn and USF.

7. USF (2-6, 0-4). The Bulls lost yet another heartbreaker, but they didn't get beaten by the Orange nearly as badly as UConn did.

8. UConn (3-5, 0-3). The Huskies can prove they are better than USF in their head-to-head matchup Saturday in Tampa.

Pac-12 power rankings: Week 10

October, 29, 2012
If you don't like where you are in the power rankings, play better.

See last week's power rankings here.

This feels like an odd one.

1. Oregon: The Ducks showed seemingly effortless brilliance in a dominant victory over Colorado, but it wasn't a good weekend for the Ducks. They don't want the distance between themselves and everyone else to appear this vast. They want the conference to look strong, top to bottom. Losses by USC and Oregon State dinged the Ducks' BCS standing in terms of potential strength of schedule ratings down the road. And Kansas State and Notre Dame both posted impressive wins.

2. Oregon State: Picking the No. 2 team here wasn't easy. Stanford was considered, but the Cardinal barely slipped by Washington State at home. And the Beavers still have only one loss. The power rankings looks more at the short term, but the big picture keeps the Beavers here. By a thread. It feels like the visit from Arizona State will be a tester, particularly when there are now quarterback questions.

3. Stanford: The Cardinal muddled through a win against Washington State. They very well may muddle through a visit to Colorado on Saturday. The visit from Oregon State on Nov. 10 will begin a home stretch that will reveal just who Stanford is in 2012 (at Oregon on Nov. 17, at UCLA on Nov. 24).

4. Arizona: Matt Scott and Rich Rodriguez are making beautiful music together, but somebody needs to tip their cap to Wildcats defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. He's put together an opportunistic defense that just finds a way to do well with some questionable parts. Sure, USC had huge numbers. But the Wildcats also got stops that proved critical.

5. USC: The idea that the Trojans would fall into the middle of the Pac-12 power rankings never occurred to the Pac-12 blog in the preseason. What's notable is the sloppiness: turnovers and penalties. Sure, other teams have penalties. But the Trojans seem to get lots of penalties of choice -- personal fouls, taunting, lining up wrong.

6. Washington: There are two Huskies teams. The one that plays at home is worthy of a national ranking. The one that plays on the road is worthy of mockery. The next step for coach Steve Sarkisian is to make the Huskies into a team that plays like it's at home even when it's not. Up next is a Friday visit to flagging California.

7. UCLA: The win at Arizona State -- a clutch comeback one, no less -- feels like a potential corner-turner for the Bruins. Recall the horrid performance at California? That brought up some old UCLA bugaboos about road games. This win canceled those out nicely. Let's ask it ... maybe Jim Mora is the guy to actually end the football monopoly in L.A. Of course, the visit from Arizona on Saturday will provide a huge measuring stick in the South Division. The Bruins control their own destiny. If they win out, they go to the Pac-12 title game.

8. Arizona State: The schedule is getting tougher, and the Sun Devils are taking some hits. There was plenty of good to take away from the 45-43 loss to UCLA, but not so much on the defensive side of the ball. The Sun Devils could quickly right things if they can win at Oregon State.

9. Utah: Hard to say whether the blowout win over California was about the Utes finding their mojo after another 0-4 Pac-12 start -- just like last year -- or whether it was just a Cal team waving the white flag on its season. Maybe a little of both. But if the Utes can hold serve at home against Washington State, they will need to win just two of their final three to become bowl eligible. And one of those games is with Colorado.

10. Washington State: The Cougars were close at Stanford, but isn't being close what we sorta celebrated last year? The good news is how much better the defense is playing. The bad news is ... 10 sacks surrendered. And you got to see just how tough QB Jeff Tuel is. Getting hit that much and still playing well, passing for 401 yards and two touchdowns with no help from a running game.

11. California: Hey, Cal? Are you quitting on yourselves and coach Jeff Tedford? The performance at Utah suggests so.

12. Colorado: There is some good news. There are only four more games this season.

Big 12 power rankings: Week 10

October, 29, 2012
We've officially got just one month left in the season. Better make these last few weeks count. Here's how I slot the Big 12 heading into the last month of the 2012 season.

1. Kansas State (8-0, 5-0 Big 12, last week: 1) Another week, another blowout win over a top-15 opponent. Kansas State is disposing of all comers, and next week, it's Oklahoma State's chance. For now, K-State is a team playing high-level football and, barring a mistake-laden performance, nobody's beating these guys the rest of the way.

2. Oklahoma (5-2, 3-1, last week: 2) Oklahoma lost at home ... again. But how about some perspective? Both losses were tight in the fourth quarter and could have gone either way, though the Sooners were outplayed in both games. Still, both Notre Dame and Kansas State are among six remaining undefeateds, and one is very likely to play for a national title.

3. Texas Tech (6-2, 3-2, last week: 3) The Red Raiders took a whipping in Manhattan, but they're not the only ones Kansas State has made look very, very average. Texas Tech outplayed the Wildcats for a half, but moves on to play a Texas team that seems to always find a way to get the best of the Red Raiders. The last time Tech beat the Horns? The Harrell-to-Crabtree play that reigns as the best in Big 12 history.

4. Oklahoma State (5-2, 3-1, last week: 7) OSU makes a jump with a really nice victory over a good TCU team, its second in two weeks by three touchdowns. The Cowboys and K-State are the only teams in the Big 12 who still control their Big 12 title destiny. The schedule ahead is brutal, but can OSU make it happen?

5. West Virginia (5-2, 2-2, last week: 4) The Mountaineers -- off last weekend and jumped by an improving Cowboys team -- need a win badly. They haven't had one in almost a month. TCU comes to town this week.

6. Texas (6-2, 3-2, last week: 5) Oh, Texas. The Longhorns are looking more and more like early-season fool's gold. What the heck is going on in Austin? The Longhorns have narrow wins in consecutive weeks over Baylor and Kansas, who have a combined zero Big 12 wins. A victory over Tech this week in Lubbock would go a long way to proving Texas is no fraud.

7. Iowa State (5-3, 2-3, last week: 8) The postseason is so close the Cyclones can touch it. ISU still gets to play Kansas in two weeks, but this week, Oklahoma comes to Ames. The last time an Oklahoma team came to Jack Trice Stadium ... this happened. The Sooners will be angry, though. Texas Tech knows all about that.

8. TCU (5-3, 2-3, last week: 6) The Frogs are young, and as such, you can expect inconsistency. Navigating a new league only exacerbates that. Saturday's game was a microcosm of those woes. TCU jumped out to a 14-0 lead, then was outscored by the reigning Big 12 champs 36-0 the rest of the way. Yikes.

9. Baylor (3-4, 0-4, last week: 9) Baylor felt very confident about being able to keep it going this season, despite all the losses on offense. That's not looking like the case, and a trip to a bowl game is looking dicey. The bright side, if there is one: The Bears likely don't have to worry about Arkansas or any other SEC teams coming to poach Art Briles at season's end. He's got the program going in the right direction, big picture.

10. Kansas (1-7, 0-5, last week: 10) So, so close. I doubt this loss was more painful than the overtime loss to Baylor last season, when the Jayhawks led 24-3 with 11 minutes to play. Still, that late field goal felt like a game winner. Texas QB Case McCoy made sure it wasn't. Kansas' defense is better, and James Sims is trying to carry the Jayhawks, but the offense has to find some consistency in the passing game. Sims might be the league's most underrated player.

ACC power rankings: Week 10

October, 29, 2012
For all of the chaos that goes on in a season, Florida State and Clemson have maintained their spots at the top through the first two months of the season. The last, of course, is the most important. As we head into November, here's how the ACC stacks up:

1. Florida State (8-1, 5-1 ACC; LW: No. 1) –The Noles cruised past Coastal Division leader Duke 48-7, but the continued fumbles are a reason for concern. FSU fumbled four times Saturday and six times the previous week against Miami. Still, FSU has won three straight since its loss to NC State and remains the team to beat in the ACC.

2. Clemson (7-1, 4-1; LW: No. 2) – The Tigers had a record-setting day in the 42-13 win over Wake Forest on Thursday night. Receiver Sammy Watkins had a breakout game, quarterback Tajh Boyd further boosted his Heisman résumé, and the defense took yet another step forward.

3. North Carolina (6-3, 3-2; LW: No. 5) – Running back Giovani Bernard had a performance good enough to catapult him into the Heisman discussion if anyone was paying attention. Bernard and Co. ended a streak of five straight losses to rival NC State with his 74-yard punt return for a touchdown with 13 seconds remaining.

4. Virginia Tech (4-4, 2-2; LW: No. 7) – The Hokies had a much-needed bye week, as they enter the Miami game having lost three of their past four games. Virginia Tech’s defense has played its best football in the past two games against Duke and Clemson, despite the loss to the Tigers. They’ll need more from the offense, though, to win the division.

5. Duke (6-3, 3-2; LW: No. 4) – Not much went right for the Blue Devils in the loss to FSU, but they’re still right where they want to be -- relevant in the ACC race. Quarterback Sean Renfree was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a head injury. It won’t get any easier this week against Clemson.

6. Miami (4-4, 3-2; LW: No. 6) – The Canes had the bye week to prepare for the critical Coastal Division game against Virginia Tech on Thursday night. They needed the break, as the team has lost three straight, had off-field distractions, and been banged up. Running back Eduardo Clements suffered a season-ending injury, according to the Miami Herald.

7. NC State (5-3, 2-2; LW: No. 3) – Quarterback Mike Glennon threw for a career-high 467 yards and five touchdowns -- and still lost. NC State lost control of its destiny in the Atlantic Division race because it now has two league losses while FSU and Clemson have only one.

8. Maryland (4-4, 2-2; LW: No. 8) – The Terps came up short on the road in the final minute of a 20-17 loss to Boston College. Considering Maryland was down to its fourth-string quarterback, it’s remarkable it was winning the game in the fourth quarter with true freshman quarterback Caleb Rowe. Their bowl chances took a big hit, though, with the loss.

9. Wake Forest (4-4, 2-4; LW: No. 9) – The Deacs had no answer for Clemson on Thursday and couldn’t keep pace with the Tigers’ up-tempo offense. The Demon Deacons had minus-23 yards rushing in the first half. They've played two Top 25 teams and have been outscored 94-13 while allowing 1,146 total yards.

10. Georgia Tech (3-5, 2-3; LW: No. 10) – The Yellow Jackets were beaten soundly in a 41-17 home loss to BYU. The defense allowed 411 total yards, and the offense was 0-for-10 on third-down conversions and held without an offensive touchdown for the first time since Dec. 31, 2008 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

11. Boston College (2-6, 1-4; LW: No. 12) – The Eagles are out of the gutter after their first ACC win of the season -- something the Hoos have yet to attain. BC quarterback Chase Rettig completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Johnathan Coleman with 52 seconds left to give Boston College the 20-17 win over Maryland.

12. Virginia (2-6, 0-4; LW: No. 11) – The Hoos had a bye week to prepare for a trip to NC State, and have lost six straight games. There have been problems in all three phases of the game as UVa is looking to win its first ACC game of the season.
There's no more debate. Quarterback Braxton Miller and the Ohio State Buckeyes made sure everyone knows they're the best team in the Big Ten.

The so-called Ineligi-bowl on Saturday night in State College paired the top two teams in the most recent power rankings. Penn State came in brimming with confidence following five straight wins, but it missed several big opportunities early in the game. Ohio State took over behind Miller and a surprisingly good defense, showing that it remains the class of the Big Ten.

Nebraska moves up to the No. 2 spot after keeping Michigan out of the end zone, while Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa all drop. Wisconsin looks very shaky without top quarterback Joel Stave, and Iowa is a mess after being outclassed for the second straight week. Aside from Wisconsin's and Iowa's drops, and Minnesota's and Indiana's rises, there's not a ton of movement. Purdue and Illinois remain at the bottom of the barrel.

As a reminder, the power rankings are a snapshot of a team's current state -- how it is performing in real time. Injuries are considered.

Here's the rundown ...

1. Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten, last week: 1): The Buckeyes have the Big Ten's best player in Miller and the league's best team, period. They racked up 234 rush yards and three touchdowns against a stout Penn State defense and controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Ohio State's defense had one of its best efforts, keeping Penn State out of the end zone for more than three quarters. Urban Meyer's squad had looked shaky the previous two weeks, but it cranked things up in the second and third quarters and never looked back. A perfect season seems much more realistic with three games to play.

2. Nebraska (6-2, 3-1, last week: 5): Three weeks after being crushed by Ohio State in Columbus, Nebraska has new life and control of the Legends Division. The Huskers have regained their swagger on defense and capitalized on a Denard Robinson-less Michigan team in the second half Saturday night, allowing just 52 yards. Nebraska has survived almost two full Big Ten games without top running back Rex Burkhead, who should be back this week at Michigan State. Bo Pelini challenged his team to win out after Ohio State, and the players have responded. Another test awaits this week against the Spartans.

3. Penn State (5-3, 3-1, last week: 2): Bill O'Brien's team had been efficient and opportunistic in its first three Big Ten games. The Lions were neither against Ohio State, failing to build a bigger first-half lead and making too many mistakes in the middle part of the game. Penn State had too many penalties, not enough third-down conversions, not enough in the run game and not enough third-down stops against Ohio State. The Lions took a big step up in class but couldn't match the Buckeyes despite an electric atmosphere in State College. They aim to get back in the win column this week at Purdue.

4. Michigan (5-3, 3-1, last week: 3): No Robinson equaled big, big problems for Michigan against Nebraska. Backup quarterback Russell Bellomy struggled mightily, and Michigan could have a tough time in the coming weeks if No. 16 doesn't return to the field. The defense still performed well against Nebraska, at least until the fourth quarter, but Michigan is too invested in Robinson on offense and has very few answers without him. The Jug Game becomes a lot more interesting as Michigan visits a Minnesota team coming off of its best performance in Big Ten play.

5. Northwestern (7-2, 3-2, last week: 6): After three very shaky weeks on offense, Northwestern finally established its identity behind junior quarterback Kain Colter and the option game. Iowa had no answers for Colter and the Wildcats' ground attack, as Northwestern piled up 349 rush yards, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. Northwestern's defense once again allowed some yards but limited points and big plays, making Iowa work for every point it scored. Pat Fitzgerald's team got through October, a month when it typically struggles, at 2-2, and enters November with some momentum.

6. Michigan State (5-4, 2-3, last week: 7): There's new life in Sparta as Michigan State's beleaguered offense showed up just in time and helped the Spartans rally past Wisconsin in Madison. Pat Narduzzi's defense has been elite for most of the season but cranked things up a notch at Camp Randall Stadium, limiting Wisconsin to 10 first downs and 19 net rushing yards, and racking up five sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Defensive end William Gholston finally had a breakout game, and linebacker Max Bullough and others were fabulous. The Spartans now return home to play the spoiler role as they host Legends Division front-runner Nebraska.

7. Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2, last week: 4): The Badgers lost their first home game since 2009 and also their top quarterback, Stave, to injury. All the mojo generated from three consecutive impressive wins is gone, as Wisconsin's offense reverted to its early September form under backup Danny O'Brien. Wisconsin still has the inside track to represent the Leaders Division in Indianapolis, but Indiana is now in the running, too, and the Badgers must get things together offensively during a much-needed open week before heading to Bloomington.

8. Minnesota (5-3, 1-3, last week: 10): The future is now, and his name is Philip Nelson. Minnesota's freshman quarterback dazzled before the home faithful Saturday against Purdue, firing three first-half touchdown passes and finishing with 246 pass yards, 37 rush yards and no interceptions. With Nelson at the controls, Minnesota scored more points (44) against Purdue than it had in its first three Big Ten contests (39). An improved defense shut down Purdue until garbage time and received a nice lift from cornerback Michael Carter. Minnesota looks to make a major statement and regain the Little Brown Jug this week against Michigan.

9. Indiana (3-5, 1-3, last week: 11): Kevin Wilson and his team finally celebrated a Big Ten win Saturday, and several more could be coming in the next few weeks. Indiana -- yes, Indiana -- controls its own fate in the Leaders Division and has two huge home games coming up against Iowa and then Wisconsin, the only other team that can represent the Leaders in Indianapolis. The Hoosiers made fewer mistakes than Illinois, received a nice lift from their defense at times and seemed to identify their top quarterback in freshman Nate Sudfeld. IU has been in every game this season and could be tough to beat down the stretch.

10. Iowa (4-4, 2-2, last week: 8): The frustration is mounting in Hawkeye Country as Iowa received a thorough beating for the second straight week. The Hawkeyes lost by only 11 at Northwestern, but they never stopped the Wildcats' rushing attack and couldn't attack a shorthanded secondary down the field. The offense piled up 336 yards but couldn't translate them into nearly enough points. A bigger concern is a defense that has surrendered 937 yards the past two weeks. If Iowa can't rebound this week against Indiana, it could be staring at a bowl-less season.

11. Purdue (3-5, 0-4, last week: 11): The Boilers' season is on life support, and Danny Hope's tenure as head coach could be, too. Billed by Hope as his best team, Purdue hasn't shown up for three of its first four Big Ten contests. The Boilers' defense, featuring several future NFL players, let Minnesota's Nelson have his way with them Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. Caleb TerBush clearly isn't the answer at quarterback, but it has taken too long for Hope to figure that out. Purdue has replaced Michigan State as the Big Ten's biggest disappointment, and it'll be tough for the Boilers to get bowl-eligible with four games to play.

12. Illinois (2-6, 0-4, last week: 12): Illinois had more first downs (23-14) and total yards (372-292) than Indiana, and held the ball for more than 33 minutes Saturday. But a flurry of mistakes -- penalties, turnovers, sacks, you name it -- allowed Indiana to score 24 of the game's final 27 points. Nathan Scheelhaase did some good things and Donovonn Young (124 rush yards) provided a boost in the ground game, but Illinois makes far too many errors to win games right now. It only gets tougher for Tim Beckman's crew as it heads to Columbus.