NCF Nation: power rankings 5

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are my Big 12 power rankings for this week.

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners are the nation's No. 1 team, even after struggling running the ball and covering kicks against TCU.

2. Missouri: Looking for a statement game in Lincoln, where the Tigers haven't won since 1978.

3. Texas: Can't fly under the radar any more after Colt McCoy's binge and rapid defensive improvement.

4. Texas Tech: Red Raiders' surprising running game could flourish against weak KSU rush defense.

5. Kansas: Lack of running game remains huge concern heading into conference play

6. Oklahoma State: Offense is sizzling, but defense remains a mystery. We're about to find out quickly.

7. Nebraska: Anger management might be advisable for Pelini, particularly as his defense prepares for Missouri onslaught.

8. Colorado: Special teams meltdowns and Cody Hawkins' struggles cost them dearly against Florida State.

9. Kansas State: Recent defensive woes aren't a good sign with conference play approaching.

10. Baylor: Have matched up well with Oklahoma in recent seasons -- and that was before Robert Griffin arrived.

11. Iowa State: QB Austen Arnaud poised to seize the starting job after strong work in recent games.

12. Texas A&M: So that's what Jorvorskie Lane looks like. We were wondering after the first few weeks of the season.

Big Ten power rankings

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
11:24
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Penn State has been the league's most impressive team all season. Now it's safe to say the Nittany Lions are also the Big Ten's best squad. As you'll see below, Wisconsin's second-half meltdown at Michigan had consequences, and there's a bit of shuffling in the bottom half after some surprising performances (Michigan) and some disappointing ones (Purdue).

Unlike other BCS conferences, the Big Ten doesn't appear to have any terrible teams, so expect plenty of movement the rest of the season.

1. Penn State -- The Nittany Lions got some good news Thursday when Oregon State, a team they crushed Sept. 6, upset top-ranked USC. Things got better Saturday night after Penn State introduced itself to adversity for the first time this season and overcame it thanks to explosive play by Derrick Williams, Evan Royster and Daryll Clark. So far H and D have been the call letters in State College. They could soon be replaced by B, C and S.

2. Ohio State -- America's most over-publicized big toe has healed, and maybe so has Ohio State after a rocky start. An offensive backfield of freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor and a healthy Chris "Beanie" Wells got off to a strong start against Minnesota. Wells clearly provides an emotional boost for the offense, which was admittedly lackluster during non-league play. A road win against Wisconsin could spur Ohio State for a league title run.

3. Wisconsin -- The power run game went powerless, a physical defense lost its edge and the Badgers saw a 19-point halftime lead evaporate at Michigan Stadium. With both Penn State and Ohio State coming to Madison, Wisconsin looked to be in the driver's seat for the Big Ten title, but it began a rough stretch on a sour note. The good news is the Badgers can vault back on top the rankings by holding serve at Camp Randall Stadium, where they have never lost under coach Bret Bielema.

4. Michigan State -- The Spartans survived a wild game at Indiana and won their fourth straight. Coach Mark Dantonio certainly can't be happy with his defense giving up 473 yards, but Michigan State got a much-needed boost from senior quarterback Brian Hoyer, who threw two touchdowns and established an option besides Javon Ringer. Wins against slumping Iowa and undefeated Northwestern would put the Spartans in the league title discussion when Ohio State visits Spartan Stadium on Oct. 18.

5. Northwestern -- Respect is hard to come by for Northwestern, but the program's first 5-0 start since 1962 will gain notice around the league. Opportunistic play lifted the Wildcats past Iowa, and a slumping offense gained confidence behind quarterback C.J. Bacher in the second half. With home games against Michigan State and Purdue followed by trips to Indiana and Minnesota, Northwestern could continue to sneak up on the league.

6. Illinois -- Both Illini losses have come against top 10 teams (Missouri and Penn State), and wideout Rejus Benn did all he could to keep the team close against the Lions on Saturday night. But the defense just isn't the same without All-American J Leman in the middle, and a veteran line pegged to be the team's strength has underperformed. Illinois has some work to do to get back in the first tier.

7. Michigan -- I was ready to put Michigan at the bottom of the rankings after watching its first-half performance against Wisconsin. But quarterback Steven Threet never lost confidence and ignited the offense late in the third quarter. The Wolverines' offense limited mistakes and began utilizing all of its weapons in mounting the biggest comeback in Michigan Stadium history. But the real reason the Wolverines aren't several spots lower is a defense that shines in pressure situations.

8. Iowa -- The Hawkeyes identified their quarterback in sophomore Ricky Stanzi, but a five-turnover disaster against Northwestern left them with another loss. Saturday's trip to Michigan State is a must-win for Iowa and head coach Kirk Ferentz, who can't afford problems on the field after so many off-field issues. This is a good team with a solid defense and a dynamic running back (Shonn Greene), but it needs to start playing to its potential.

9. Minnesota -- It's still hard to get a good read on Minnesota. The Gophers are definitely better on defense, but they struggled to contain Wells and Pryor. Turnovers were a problem for the first time this season, as they were throughout 2007. Minnesota must show better discipline this week in a crucial home matchup against Indiana. The Gophers are ahead of the Hoosiers for now, but they need a win to stay that way.

10. Purdue -- The Boilers' defense really misses Jason Werner, but they had held things together until a disastrous third quarter against Notre Dame. Quarterback Curtis Painter always will put up big numbers, but the offense struggled in the red zone and lacks its usual weapons. Things don't get any easier for Purdue, which hosts high-powered Penn State this week before visiting Ohio State.

11. Indiana -- The Hoosiers did some good things against a superior opponent (Michigan State), but their defense simply isn't consistent enough. A 2-2 start with four home games to begin the season isn't what head coach Bill Lynch had in mind. The Hoosiers now travel to Minnesota for a crucial game that could make break their hopes for another bowl run.

Pac-10 power rankings

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
11:15
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

1. USC: The Trojans lost at Oregon State and looked bad doing it, but no team in the nation would answer this question in the affirmative (including the Beavers): Who wants to play USC next weekend?

2. Oregon State: This is a "right now" ranking (I'm pretending the mess at Penn State was a "back-then" mishap) and the Beavers could quickly lose all their momentum by falling short Thursday at Utah. But the performance against the Trojans was a thing of beauty.

3. Oregon: If I were a betting man, I'd still pick the Ducks to finish second in the Pac-10, whether that means they're a two-loss team sniffing the top-10 or a three- or four-loss mediocre team.

4. California: Colorado State made things really easy on the Bears this past weekend, but the Cal offense wasn't exactly making like rolling thunder and Jahvid Best's dislocated elbow is even more troubling. Moreover, quarterback Kevin Riley seems out of sorts and there's just a hint of senior Nate Longshore getting back into the picture.

5. Arizona: The Wildcats should improve to 4-1 this weekend after a visit from woeful Washington. Or maybe they will find a way to blow their positive momentum. It's still too early in a promising season to know for sure.

6. Arizona State: The Sun Devils might be grumpy about getting dumped to sixth. Well, all they've got to do is win at California and the Power Rankings will love them again.

7. Stanford: Beating San Jose State and Washington on consecutive weekends is one thing, but winning at Notre Dame -- even this present mediocre incarnation of Notre Dame -- is something else.

8. UCLA: The Bruins are probably thinking, "Thankfully, there's Washington and Washington State." Still, there was just a hint in the performance against Fresno State that a couple of teams ahead of UCLA may not want to write in a "W" just yet.

9. Washington: The loss to Stanford dropped the Huskies to 0-4 and it cost them their best player, quarterback Jake Locker. It's hard to find any optimistic spin, which likely means Tyrone Willingham won't be the coach in 2009.

10. Washington State: It's growing increasingly likely that the Cougars only victory this year came a week ago against Portland State. A second straight opponent scoring 60-plus points in front of the home fans is never a good way to inspire hope.

Alabama rolls into the top spot

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
11:05
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Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

This is when it gets good. This is when this poll probably starts changing every week. The SEC beats up on itself. That's what this conference does. I may be wrong, but I really don't see any SEC teams unbeaten at season's end. The league is too deep and too balanced. That said, we have a new No. 1 this week rolling into that top spot:

1. Alabama: It's probably a stretch at this point to stay that Alabama is the best team or even the strongest team in the conference. The Crimson Tide are thin in some areas and still really young. But winning the way they did last Saturday at Georgia and already having two top 10 wins ... it's a no-brainer to put the Tide No. 1 in this week's poll. Roll Tide!

2. LSU: The defending national champion Tigers are probably saying: What about us? We've yet to lose this season and also went to a top 10 team's house (Auburn) and won. Ultimately, it's a debate that will be settled on the field, but the Tigers' defense didn't look quite as dominant last Saturday in a 34-24 home win over Mississippi State. It looks like Jarrett Lee will be the quarterback of record the rest of the way.

3. Georgia: There's no getting around the fact how thoroughly the Bulldogs were whipped on both lines of scrimmage. But in terms of still being alive in the Eastern Division race, nothing has changed. It's still out there for them if they can shore up some things and take care of business the rest of the way. The off date this coming Saturday comes at a good time, because several key players are banged up.

4. Florida: After being so good in special teams all year long, Florida was upset last Saturday at home thanks in part to the simplest of special teams plays. The Gators had a potentially game-tying extra point blocked late and fell, 31-30, to Ole Miss. That's not their biggest problem, though. They still don't have a running game outside of quarterback Tim Tebow, who was held to 7 yards on 15 carries against the Rebels.

5. Vanderbilt: Has Vanderbilt arrived or what? ESPN's College GameDay is coming to Vanderbilt this week to do its show live from campus. The unbeaten Commodores are nationally ranked for the first time in nearly 25 years. They were off last week, which was good for quarterback Chris Nickson to rest his shoulder that was injured in the Ole Miss game. The Auburn game will tell us a lot more about this club.

6. Auburn: The offense is still not right, and it looks like both Chris Todd and Kodi Burns are still going to share the quarterback duties. But Todd's throwing shoulder is clearly not 100 percent, which means Burns might get even more opportunities. They know how to play defense at Auburn, though, and that always gives you a chance.

7. Ole Miss: Houston Nutt's bunch was close at Wake Forest a few weeks ago and then came home and turned the ball over six times in a loss to Vanderbilt. The 31-30 win over Florida last week illustrates how capable this team is, especially now that Greg Hardy andPeria Jerry are back healthy in the defensive line. This is a team nobody will want to play down the stretch.

8. Kentucky: Of all the teams in the league, Kentucky's the hardest to get a true read on at this point. We think they're pretty good on defense, and we think they're growing on offense. We'll find out for sure this weekend when they travel to Alabama. But in drilling Western Kentucky 41-3 last Saturday to remain unbeaten, Kentucky kept its third different opponent out of the end zone. The Wildcats have given up just two touchdowns all season.

9. South Carolina: It sounds like it's Stephen Garcia's job. The redshirt freshman quarterback played pretty well in South Carolina's 26-13 win over UAB last week and was particularly impressive running the ball. He had a team-high 86 rushing yards, the most for a South Carolina quarterback in six years. The Gamecocks face a key test at Ole Miss next week if they're going to get to eight wins.

10. Tennessee: Talk about a dangerous game for Tennessee. The 1-3 Vols are teetering emotionally and opening up their quarterback competition. They come back home this week to a stadium that won't be close to being full and face a Northern Illinois team more than capable of springing the upset. It's been a while since Tennessee has been this anemic in the passing game.

11. Miss. State: Despite another loss to fall to 1-4 and 0-2 in the conference, Mississippi State moves out of the bottom spot thanks to a spirited effort at LSU. The Bulldogs, starting Tyson Lee at quarterback, played some of their best offense of the season in a 34-24 loss to the defending national champions. With Sylvester Croom running the show, this is a team that will keep fighting.

12. Arkansas: The past two weeks have been about as ugly as it gets for Arkansas. The Hogs were flattened 52-10 by longtime rival Texas last Saturday, only a week after being routed 49-14 by Alabama. The Hogs didn't score an offensive touchdown against the Longhorns. Their only touchdown came on a fumble return by the defense late in the game. It doesn't get any easier, either. They travel to Florida this Saturday.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 6

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
11:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

1. Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0 ACC) -- You have to give it to the Hokies. Regardless of how they're doing it, they keep winning, and right now they're leading the Coastal Division with wins over Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

2. Maryland (4-1, 1-0) -- The odds of the Terps being 5-1 heading into their home game against Wake Forest are very good. Virginia is up next on the list, but the Terps have to be careful not to look past Charlottesville right now.

3. Georgia Tech (3-1, 1-1) -- Considering the ongoing plotline between Miami and North Carolina, (who's hot, who's not?), the Yellow Jackets' accomplishments and potential earned them this spot even though they didn't play.

4. Wake Forest (3-1, 1-0) -- The Demon Deacons should have beaten Navy. It's a good thing they don't play Georgia Tech. They've only lost one game, but if they couldn't stop the Midshipmen, how are they going to stop Clemson?

5. Clemson (3-2, 1-1) -- These guys didn't lose their talent, just a league game. After watching the Tigers' first drive against Maryland, the potential to run the ball down opponents' throats is clearly there. The staff just has use it more than 10 times a half.

6. Florida State (3-1, 0-1) -- They just won their first game of the season against an FBS team. Let's wait until they get another one before we declare the Seminoles one of the better teams in the league. And back-to-back games with over 100 yards in penalties can't become a trend.

7. North Carolina (3-1, 1-1) -- Up and down. It wasn't exactly a dominating win against Miami, but it was a gritty come-from-behind road win against a Coastal Division opponent. This offense suits backup quarterback Cam Sexton better than the previous staff's, but can he keep it up?

8. Miami (2-2, 0-1) -- Yes, you have to give credit to UNC, but Miami should have won this game at home. The Canes blew a 14-point lead against a backup quarterback. The Hurricanes' defense can't allow Florida State as many big plays this weekend.

9. Duke (3-1, 1-0) -- Get used to it. The Blue Devils have won three games, including an ACC win, and at least on paper are just as much in the mix for the Coastal Division as anyone. Their upcoming game against Georgia Tech actually carries some weight.

10. Boston College (3-1, 0-1) -- The Eagles still need to win a conference game against an opponent with a winning record before they move up, and the fact that their starting quarterback threw just six passes on Saturday could be indicative of a problem.

11. NC State (2-3, 0-1) -- There were no miracles against South Florida. Bottom line: The Wolfpack need starting quarterback Russell Wilson to win. It's an unfortunate season for these guys, considering injuries are out of their control.

12. Virginia (1-3, 0-1) -- They scored just three points against Duke. Considering nothing went right in the second half at Wallace Wade Stadium, why should we expect anything will go right in the second half of the season?

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

The top two and the bottom two are painfully obvious at this point. The middle four? Anybody's guess.

1. South Florida (5-0): The short turnaround between Saturday's win at N.C. State and Thursday's conference opener versus Pittsburgh could be tough on a team dealing with injuries. If the Bulls really are the league's heavyweight, though, they should handle it.

2. Connecticut (5-0, 1-0): The normally subdued Randy Edsall was positively giddy after his team pulled off the road win at Louisville on Friday night. And rightly so. The Huskies have a tricky assignment this week at North Carolina, but if they can get past that challenge, they very well could be 8-0 heading into November.

3. Pittsburgh (3-1, 1-0): The Panthers haven't been overly impressive, but they continue to improve and have now won three in a row. They have a chance to make a statement Thursday night in Tampa.

4. West Virginia (2-2): The offense is starting to come along, but lost in all that handwringing has been the play of the defense. After surrendering two quick touchdowns in the first five minutes at Colorado, the Mountaineers have allowed just two field goals since, and one came in overtime.

5. Cincinnati (3-1): The Bearcats drop two spots from last week after slinking past Akron, 17-15, and losing their second starting quarterback of the season when Tony Pike broke his arm. Brian Kelly will deserve league coach of the year consideration if he can keep this team afloat through the injuries.

6. Louisville (2-2, 0-1): The Cardinals needed to make hay in the early portion of their schedule, because it only gets tougher on the back end. A 2-2 start is therefore a disappointment. But with Syracuse, Rutgers, Middle Tennessee and Memphis still to come, they should find enough wins for bowl eligibility.

7. Rutgers (1-3): Greg Schiano still had plenty of criticism for his team after its 38-0 win over Morgan State. At least the Scarlet Knights got in the win column -- and out of the power rankings basement.

8. Syracuse (1-4, 0-1): The Orange probably had their best overall game against Pittsburgh and looked pretty good for two and a half quarters. But they still fell to 2-20 in Big East play under coach Greg Robinson.

Notre Dame enters power rankings

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
10:50
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Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

1. BYU: The Cougars couldn't have picked a better week to take off. Without lifting a finger, the Cougars moved up in the polls and continued their stranglehold on the coveted BCS spot.

2. Utah: The Utes hold on to the second spot after a win over Weber State, but this weekend's game against Oregon State will present an unexpected nonconference challenge, the Utes' first since Michigan.

3. Boise State: The Broncos are still basking in their win over Oregon and should continue their winning ways against Louisiana State this weekend. After all, Boise State rarely loses at home.

4. Ball State: The Cardinals still aren't getting the love nationally, but this is a good team and proved this weekend that it doesn't rely on one player. Running back MiQuale Lewis might be one of the best in the country.

5. Tulsa: David Johnson is just sick. He has 16 touchdowns in the past three games and 19 overall to lead the nation. This weekend's game against Rice might break a scoring record.

6. Fresno State: The Bulldogs got a huge win over UCLA this weekend and continue to quietly build their case for a BCS game. Obviously, a lot of things would have to happen, but Fresno State is not out of the race just yet.

7. Western Michigan: While the focus has been on Ball State, Western Michigan has quietly put together a nice season so far. The win over Temple keeps the Broncos even with Ball State and Central Michigan for first in the MAC West.

8. TCU: It's hard to penalize a non-BCS team -- or any team -- for losing to the No. 1 team in the country. It wasn't a great showing for TCU, but the Horned Frogs are still a team with which to reckon.

9. Air Force: Close loss to Utah aside, the Falcons have proven that they want a piece of the Mountain West action. They'll fight for the Commander In Chief Trophy this weekend, which has eluded them since 2002.

10. Notre Dame: OK, I'll bite. Notre Dame was impressive in its win against Purdue this weekend and have proven that it's a long way from last year's team. The schedule isn't difficult, so the Irish could keep rolling.

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