NCF Nation: power rankings 3
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
For the first time in history, according to research done by the SEC, the league has five teams ranked in the top 10 of the latest Associated Press poll. That's pretty heady stuff, although what transpired this past weekend makes it difficult to pick out the strongest team of those five. I've waffled between Florida and Georgia up until this point. Maybe I'm not giving LSU enough love. The Tigers are loaded. They just haven't played anybody. Even though Georgia was fortunate to escape at South Carolina, I'm going to keep the Bulldogs No. 1. Florida and LSU both get chances to lay claim to that spot with tough SEC road tests this weekend. And don't look now, but Vanderbilt is 3-0 headed to Ole Miss on Saturday:
1. Georgia: The Bulldogs survived in Columbia thanks to defense and special teams. The biggest play of the whole game might have been Brian Mimbs' 77-yard punt. For this to be a special season, Georgia has to do a better job of protecting quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was knocked around by the Gamecocks.
2. Florida: No team in the league has more guys on its roster who scare opposing defensive coordinators to death when they get their hands on the ball in the open field. The Gators also have the franchise -- Tim Tebow. They just don't have a running back, which means Tebow remains the running game for now.
3. LSU: We know the Tigers have what it takes to win a championship on the offensive line and defensive line. Their defense is out of sight, and they have playmakers all over the place on offense. It comes down to the quarterbacks. A win at Auburn pushes LSU into contention for the top spot.
4. Alabama: Now that was more like it. Alabama rebounded from its lethargic effort against Tulane with a thorough 41-7 whipping of Western Kentucky. The younger players continue to gain experience, and the offensive line welcomed back Andre Smith. We see how kind the road is the Tide the next two weeks with games at Arkansas and Georgia.
5. Auburn: What a defense. The Tigers are everything you want in a defense -- fast, swarming and experienced. The only problem is that it looks like the defense is going to have to carry this team. How many games can you win in this league 3-2?
6. Vanderbilt: The Commodores have moved to 3-0 with sound, disciplined play across the board. They're faster than they have been on defense, opportunistic on special teams and better than anybody could have imagined on offense. With the Ole Miss trip looming, 4-0 doesn't sound that farfetched.
7. Kentucky: Rich Brooks sort of saw this coming. Remember how displeased he was with practice last week? He'd be sick to his stomach if Robbie McAtee hadn't saved the game by tackling the Middle Tennessee player at the 1 after the Blue Raiders connected on a Hail Mary pass at the end of the game.
8. Ole Miss: Jevan Snead is still one of the best three or four quarterbacks in this league, even though he didn't play like it in Ole Miss' 34-10 win over Samford last Saturday. It's not surprising that the Rebels would be a little flat coming off such a heartbreaking loss at Wake Forest. The real season starts now, though.
9. South Carolina: Seeing Steve Spurrier with an offense this ordinary is weird, to say the least. The Gamecocks don't have much of a running game, and their passing game without star receiver Kenny McKinley lacks much downfield pop. But the Gamecocks can play defense and will be in every game they play because of their "D."
10. Tennessee: The Vols drop this week, not because of anything they did in their 35-3 win over UAB, but because of what BYU did to UCLA in a 59-0 drubbing. How in the name of Gen. Robert R. Neyland could Tennessee lose that game to UCLA? The Vols are more talented than they're playing. They will need their best game -- by far -- to knock off Florida.
11. Arkansas: The Hogs move out of the cellar even though they didn't play a game. They can thank Mississippi State's offense for that. Arkansas' game with Texas was postponed until Sept. 27 because of Hurricane Ike.
12. Miss. State: How bad has Mississippi State been on offense? The 3-2 debacle against Auburn last Saturday was not a new phenomenon. This is the same team that has scored 17 or fewer points in five of its last seven games dating back to last season. It's a shame, too, because the Bulldogs are good on defense.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The rankings didn't change much the first two weeks as Big Ten teams beat inferior opponents and avoided embarrassing losses. Week 3 provided opportunities to flourish or flop, and Big Ten teams certainly did both.
Both Ohio State and Wisconsin headed to California with something to prove, and only the Badgers reached their goal. They get rewarded in the rankings, while the Buckeyes pay the price for a miserable performance.
1. Wisconsin -- This team had the guts to play Fresno State on the road and emerged with a hard-fought win that drew national attention. Despite some early health questions, Wisconsin has established itself as a legitimate top 10 squad that likely gets over the BCS hump if it holds serve at home against Ohio State, Penn State and Illinois.
2. Penn State -- The Lions have a gripe to be ranked higher in the polls, but they get their due here. Sure, the competition has been shoddy, but Penn State has won its three games by an average of 43 points and is the only FBS team averaging more than 260 rushing yards and 270 passing yards a game. We'll get a better read on this team soon, but the early returns look good.
3. Ohio State -- The Buckeyes still might be the Big Ten's best team, but they haven't shown it so far. A respectable effort without Chris "Beanie" Wells against USC would have kept Ohio State ahead of Penn State, but getting outclassed in every area merits a drop. A senior-laden Buckeyes team has more questions than anyone could have imagined at this early juncture.
4. Illinois -- Consistency continues to elude the Illini, who are struggling to get strong efforts on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Juice Williams struggled Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette after two stellar games, but the defense came up big to erase some earlier problems. A bye week probably comes at a decent time for Illinois, which must regroup before visiting Penn State.
5. Michigan State -- A downpour couldn't stop the Spartans, who finally got the defensive performance they had been looking for against Florida Atlantic. The soggy conditions put a asterisk next to Saturday's shutout, but Michigan State has rebounded well from its opening loss, thanks in large part to running back Javon Ringer. A win this week against Notre Dame would push the Spartans higher in the rankings.
6. Iowa -- Coach Kirk Ferentz is still looking for a quarterback, but he has found a strong defense that could take Iowa a long way this fall. The Hawkeyes have allowed just two field goals in three games -- Iowa State also scored on a safety on Saturday -- and six different defenders already have interceptions. A road game at Pitt provides a good barometer for this team.
7. Northwestern -- The program scored a coup by landing veteran defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, who has made an immediate impact. A usually porous defense has led the way in all three Wildcats victories. Northwestern will need more polished play from quarterback C.J. Bacher and the offense in the coming weeks, but the defense doesn't seem to be a major detriment any longer.
8. Indiana -- No movement for the Hoosiers after a bye, but the mystery about this team ends in six days against Ball State. Indiana has played easily the league's weakest schedule and looked great, but it's impossible to get a read until Nate Davis and a high-powered Cardinals offense come to Bloomington.
9. Michigan -- Getting to a bowl game could be a chore for Michigan, which was a total mess in a potential swing game at Notre Dame. Instead of limiting mistakes and letting a veteran defense lead the way, the Wolverines had seven fumbles (four lost) and two interceptions against the Irish. Freshman Sam McGuffie was a bright spot, but the execution needs to improve on both sides before Wisconsin visits the Big House on Sept. 27.
10. Purdue -- The Boilermakers would have made a major move had they finished off Oregon, but I have a hard time rewarding a moral victory for a team that has had way too many of them. The Ducks appeared to give this game away numerous times and Purdue's defense showed signs of marked improvement, but the Boilers fell short in another big game. Fortunately, they get several more chances for redemption.
11. Minnesota -- A 3-0 start nearly gets the Gophers out of the cellar, but I need to see more this week against Florida Atlantic. Minnesota needed two and a half quarters to pull away from Montana State on Saturday, though DeLeon Eskridge might have established himself as the team's featured back. A strong defensive performance against the Owls should answer some lingering questions.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
At this point it looks like USC and everyone else, though Oregon remains a strong No. 2.
1. USC: Two games. Two dominating performances. You tell me: Where are the weaknesses? I watched practice all last week and resisted drinking the punch. Every time I thought, "This is a really, really good looking team." I said: "Wait. Don't drink the punch!" After Saturday? Give me a double.
2. Oregon: I don't hold the Ducks struggles at Purdue against them. I saw a good team playing badly but finding a way to get it done on the road against a solid team. That's good coaching and mental toughness. I'd feel better, though, if a Ducks QB could stay healthy.
3. California: If I could, I'd skip a few spots and rank the rest of the conference Nos. 92-99. The Bears jump Arizona State because they played at 9 a.m. on the road against a BCS team and decided to fight back in the fourth quarter. But that 3-4 defense sure looked terrible.
4. Arizona State: Many members of the national sports media were cursing the Sun Devils in the Coliseum press box Saturday. They were hoping for a nice weekend of fun and frolic in Tempe with Georgia coming to town. Now, many won't make the trip after the Sun Devils threw up on themselves in the fourth quarter against UNLV.
5. Arizona: I don't know why I keep thinking the Wildcats are good. Maybe I just enjoy email telling me I'm stupid. If they lose at UCLA on Saturday, I'm guessing it's time to abandon the thinning numbers on the bandwagon and starting putting the thermometer back on Mike Stoops' stool.
6. UCLA: The Bruins now have a magnificent win and a dreadful loss on their resume under Rick Neuheisel. It's possible that Arizona's visit this weekend sets a tone for the rest of the season. Or the Bruins may just keep being inconsistent. FYI: UCLA now ranks 119th in the nation in rushing with 19 yards per game (0.81 per carry). Yes, that's last -- by a wide margin (over 15 yards per game less than 118th San Diego State).
7. Stanford: The glow from the victory over Oregon State is fading. The fourth-quarter flop vs. TCU looked like the old, feckless Cardinal. It's a must-win this weekend against San Jose State.
8. Oregon State: The good news is the Beavers came home and posted a decisive win. The bad news is their next visitor is USC on Thursday, Sept. 25.
9. Washington: A 55-14 loss looks bad, but the Sooners could have scored 100. Tyrone Willingham has a bye week to try and stop the leaking, but it may be too late. Of course, it's worth noting that, other than a Nov. 1 visit to USC, no one else on the schedule will be as good as Oregon, BYU and Oklahoma.
10. Washington State: The joke before the Baylor visit was the game was to decide which is the worst BCS team. After the Cougars lost 45-17, we may have an answer to who that is.
1. South Florida (3-0): I now have little doubt that the Bulls are the Big East's best team. The question is: can they be the most consistent?
2. Connecticut (3-0): The Huskies should be 4-0 heading into their conference opener at Louisville. Will that be enough for them to crack the Top 25?
3. West Virginia (1-1): The Mountaineers will have had almost two weeks to fix their problems before taking on Colorado on Thursday night in Boulder. This is a good time for Bill Stewart and his staff to show what they're made of.
4. Cincinnati (1-1): Normally one of the most open coaches around, Brian Kelly closed practice last week as he tried to prepare his team to deal without injured quarterback Dustin Grutza. With the next four games coming against Miami (Ohio), Akron, Marshall and struggling Rutgers, the Bearcats should manage just fine.
5. Pittsburgh (1-1): The Panthers' opening loss to Bowling Green looks even worse now that the Falcons followed that up with double-digit defeats at the hands of Minnesota and Boise State. If Pitt doesn't come out with a strong effort against Iowa, all the hopes for a breakthrough season will be officially forgotten.
6. Louisville (1-1): Wednesday's game against Kansas State is critical for the Cardinals, who already lost their first swing game against an FBS team in the opener against Kentucky. Louisville can't leave too many victories on the table and still hope to go bowling this year.
7. Rutgers (0-2): There's nothing really to like about what Rutgers has done the first two games. The Scarlet Knights have two softies coming up in Navy and Morgan State. They'd better find some answers before opening Big East play in Morgantown Oct. 4.
8. Syracuse (0-3): Only because there's no place lower than No. 8 to put the Orange.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are my Big 12 conference rankings for this week:
1. Oklahoma -- Making it look easy after outscoring opponents, 164-42, so far this season.
2. Missouri -- Defense played tough down the stretch vs. Nevada despite early sputters.
3. Texas -- Facing a scheduling gauntlet because of Hurricane Ike.
4. Texas Tech -- Sure it was SMU. But the Red Raiders finally played defense like advertised.
5. Kansas -- You've got to admire Todd Reesing's moxie, but maybe not as much his passing arm.
6. Oklahoma State -- "Greatest Show on Earth" has blistered opponents by run and pass.
7. Nebraska -- Just like the old days with Cornhuskers' tough-minded mentality.
8. Kansas State -- Rare chance in national spotlight for Wildcats against Louisville.
9. Colorado -- West Virginia looms as biggest game in Dan Hawkins' coaching tenure there.
10. Baylor -- Robert Griffin playing even better than expected after strong early start.
11. Texas A&M -- Stephen McGee's condition still iffy heading into the Miami game.
12. Iowa State -- Red zone and special teams woes were too great to overcome against Iowa.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Hey look, it's the week of the Atlantic Division ...
Wake Forest (2-0) -- The Demon Deacons had the week off, but when it comes to being tested, these guys proved their worth in the first two weeks. Can they do it again on the road against FSU?
Clemson (2-1) -- This team is still regrouping, and injuries haven't helped, but the Tigers should be 3-1 heading into their Sept. 27 game against Maryland.
Maryland (2-1) -- The Terps looked like that ACC dark horse in their upset of No. 23-ranked Cal, as they're the only team in the league with a win over a top 25 team. The only problem with Maryland is you never know which personality is going to show up.
Florida State (2-0) -- Yes, the Seminoles have played much weaker opponents, but, man, have they looked good winning. Still too soon, though, to give these guys too much credit.
North Carolina (2-0) -- The Tar Heels got a ground-breaking road win they can build on against Rutgers but have an important Coastal Division matchup this weekend against the Hokies.
Miami (0-1) -- The Hurricanes shouldn't be punished for having the week off, but the above three teams looked too impressive this past weekend to ignore.
Virginia Tech (2-1) -- The Hokies finally seem to have a sense of direction now that Tyrod Taylor has been named starting quarterback, but the win over the Yellow Jackets was partly a gift.
Georgia Tech (2-1) -- This is still a good football team oozing with potential, but the turnovers and penalties have got to stop. The Yellow Jackets beat themselves against Virginia Tech.
Boston College (1-1) -- The loss of defensive end Alex Albright to a season-ending neck injury was a huge blow -- he might have been their best pass rusher -- and there is some uncertainty at quarterback.
Duke (2-1) -- A third win against Virginia is suddenly not just possible, but expected. The more the Blue Devils win, the more you have to ask why not again?
NC State (1-2) -- This team just has no offense, and No. 15 East Carolina, this season's Mighty Mites, are rolling into town. The streak of no offensive touchdowns for 13 quarters might continue.
Virginia (1-2) -- Are there still questions about this ranking? The Cavaliers have so many problems Al Groh started the bye week with a Sunday practice.
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
1. East Carolina: The Pirates struggled a bit with Tulane, but it overcame turnovers to remain undefeated and get its first C-USA win under its belt. No other non-BCS has defeated two ranked BCS teams this year.
2. BYU: The historic and convincing win over UCLA shows the Cougars are no slouch, and they won't face another test for the next couple weeks with Wyoming and Utah State next on the schedule.
3. Utah: The Utes handled Utah State, as expected, but the schedule takes a unexpected turn when they travel to 3-0 Air Force, which is becoming quite the sleeper in the Mountain West.
4. Ball State: Move over Central Michigan because the top floor of the MAC just got a little crowded. Most people knew the Cardinals would be good, but they are clicking on all cylinders right now.
5. Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane were off this week, but turn around and host a New Mexico squad that notched its first win of the season against Arizona on Saturday.
6. TCU: The Horned Frogs were one of four Mountain West teams that took down a Pac-10 opponent. They have a cross-town battle with SMU this weekend and should handle the game easily if they're not looking ahead to No. 2 Oklahoma.
7. Boise State: With Fresno State out as a BCS buster, the WAC torch is passed to the Broncos, who have a tough test against No. 17 Oregon this weekend in Eugene. Since becoming a I-A school, Boise State has not beaten a nonconference BCS team on the road.
8. Fresno State: While a loss is still a loss, Fresno State lost to No. 10 Wisconsin, not some random team with no credentials. The Bulldogs may be out of the BCS busting business, but they still have a chance to notch their first outright WAC title.
9. Air Force: Until Saturday's 31-28 win over Houston, Air Force hadn't beaten a formidable opponent, but now the Falcons are starting to raise some eyebrows. It hosts a tough Utah team this weekend, which will be the real test of whether AFA is a team to watch.
10. Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles took out undefeated Arkansas State and now have their eyes set on their first Conference USA game against Marshall. Don't sleep on Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have played well even in defeat.