NCF Nation: power rankings 6
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
No major changes at the top as Oklahoma State nosed past Kansas for fifth place on the conference list. Here are my latest rankings heading into Saturday's games.
1. Oklahoma -- No pre-Red River Rivalry swoon this time around. The top-ranked Sooners are humming heading into their biggest game of the season.
2. Missouri -- Don't pull on Chase Daniel's cape and for goodness sakes, don't spit at him. His performance against Nebraska serves as reminder why he's the most valuable player in the conference.
4. Texas Tech -- Workman-like 30-point road victories don't happen very often for the Red Raiders. But Graham Harrell had his best game of the season against Kansas State and has found some other receivers besides Michael Crabtree to balance his passing attack.
5. Oklahoma State -- Cowboys have scored 50 points in each of their last four games. Their hopes of springing an upset in Columbia will likely depend on hanging another half-a-hundred against Missouri.
6. Kansas -- Jake Sharp is back as the primary rushing threat, but the Jayhawks need much more production if they are going to contend for the North title.
7. Colorado -- The Buffaloes were doomed again by special-teams struggles against Texas. But that still doesn't explain why Josh Smith was taken out of the game for much of the second half. And with Cody Hawkins' struggles, could there be a quarterback controversy looming?
8. Nebraska -- The operative word around Lincoln these days isn't dirty -- it's sloppy. And even bigger concerns are the offensive line's struggles and the lack of athleticism on defense. Both trends were obvious against Missouri.
9. Iowa State -- Strong start against Kansas, but just didn't have enough to finish the job. The performance bodes well for the future, as Austen Arnaud looks like the real deal at quarterback.
10. Baylor -- Fell into an early hole against Oklahoma and couldn't get back into the game. Robert Griffin was effective running the ball (102 yards) but couldn't pass (11-of-26 for 75 passing yards) against Oklahoma's superior athletes. Baylor's game this week against Iowa State could be a track meet.
11. Kansas State -- The most telling sign I noticed Saturday at the Little Apple was apathy. The Wildcats have been gashed for more than 500 yards in three straight games. If they can't win Saturday at A&M, they might not win the rest of the season.
12. Texas A&M -- Turnovers doomed the Aggies early against Oklahoma State and it could really get bad this week if Mike Goodson isn't healthy for Kansas State. This could be Mike Sherman's most important early game, dictating how the rest of the season will play out.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
These were by far the toughest rankings to date, as things get very tricky after the top two.
1. Penn State (6-0, 2-0) -- The Nittany Lions won with their head coach (Joe Paterno) in the press box and their flashy offense struggling to reach the end zone. They didn't earn many style points against Purdue, but a solid defensive performance and smart play by quarterback Daryll Clark keeps Penn State as the team to beat.
2. Ohio State (5-1, 2-0) -- Nothing came easy for the Buckeyes in Camp Randall Stadium, but a gutsy performance by freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, junior running back Chris "Beanie" Wells and several others secured a huge road win. Penn State has looked more impressive this season, but Ohio State is closing the gap thanks to Wells and Pryor.
3. Michigan State (5-1, 2-0) -- The Spartans proved they can win without a Heisman-caliber performance from senior running back Javon Ringer. Quarterback Brian Hoyer stepped up nicely and will need another strong effort on the road this week against undefeated Northwestern. A win against the Wildcats puts the Spartans in the league title mix with Ohio State coming to East Lansing on Oct. 18.
4. Northwestern (5-0, 1-0) -- The idle Wildcats move up a spot and can earn some national respect by beating Michigan State on Saturday at Ryan Field. Northwestern often struggles in highly anticipated games, but the team has a new defensive identity and has had two weeks to prepare for a Michigan State team it should have beaten the last three seasons (NU won twice).
5. Illinois (3-2, 1-1) -- Juice Williams' historic performance at Michigan Stadium and a defensive resurgence following a shaky start boosts Illinois in the rankings. The Illini need Missouri and Penn State to keep winning and to start capitalizing on a favorable upcoming schedule (three of the next four at home).
6. Wisconsin (3-2, 0-2) -- A spirited effort came up short against Ohio State, and the Badgers certainly weren't helped by Illinois exposing a Michigan team that rallied past them on Sept. 27. This is still a solid team, but questions at quarterback and with the running back rotation -- more John Clay, please -- leave Wisconsin staring at an 0-3 start to Big Ten play.
7. Minnesota (5-1, 1-1) -- There's a strong argument that the Gophers are the Big Ten's biggest surprise this season. They're still searching for a true signature victory, but to be a win away from bowl eligibility following a 1-11 season is a tremendous accomplishment for second-year coach Tim Brewster. The competition picks up in the coming weeks, but Minnesota is getting it done.
8. Iowa (3-2, 0-2) -- In most cases, football rewards a team that can rush the ball and stop the run, but Iowa hasn't caught many breaks this season. The Hawkeyes have dropped three consecutive games by a combined nine points. They have a great running back in Shonn Greene and a solid defense, but they just don't know how to finish.
9. Michigan (2-3, 1-1) -- The Wolverines can put together a solid quarter or half, but their warts usually show up during the course of a 60-minute game. The offense went to sleep against Illinois after scoring 14 first-quarter points. More alarming was the inability of the defense to contain Williams and Arrelious Benn. The result is a two-spot drop.
10. Purdue (2-3, 0-1) -- The Boilers executed a solid plan against No. 6 Penn State, controlling the clock and making key defensive stops. But struggles in the kicking game and by senior quarterback Curtis Painter left Purdue with little to show for its efforts. Things don't get much easier for the Boilers the next two weeks with trips to Ohio State and Northwestern.
11. Indiana (2-3, 0-2) -- It's October, and Indiana's only wins have come against Murray State and Western Kentucky. The Hoosiers' defense seemed to pick it up at Minnesota, but the offense stalled. Getting both units to excel at the same time will be key to getting out of the basement. This week's home game against struggling Iowa will be critical.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Vanderbilt's still hanging around in the land of the unbeaten. Alabama didn't look nearly as dominant this week. Florida took a while to get started offensively, while Georgia and LSU were off. Yes, I realize Auburn and Tennessee fans that your offenses have been off all season, but that's another topic. Because LSU didn't play, we're keeping Alabama No. 1 this week in the SEC power rankings. But it's close right now between the Crimson Tide and the Tigers:
1. Alabama: This inconsistency had better stop, or Nick Saban is going to blow a gasket. Alabama sure didn't look like the best team in the SEC in its 17-14 win over Kentucky, but let's give a little credit to the Wildcats. The Crimson Tide managed to win despite three turnovers, 10 penalties for 92 yards and quarterback John Parker Wilson being sacked three times.
2. LSU: On paper, LSU still looks like the most talented team in the league and redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee is playing with a lot of confidence entering this weekend's Florida game. The Tigers just have to go prove it. Their schedule to this point has been fairly soft and they haven't faced any good offenses.
3. Georgia: Will the real Georgia football team stand up? The last time the Bulldogs took the field, they were flattened by Alabama at home. This is a better team than the one that showed up in the first half of that game. The Bulldogs have had a week to shake off the physical and mental effects of that loss and should heal up even more this week against a teetering Tennessee team.
4. Florida: By now, we know that Tim Tebow really isn't Superman. He's still a dynamite college football player, just not Superman. Likewise, Florida's offense is still not clicking the way Urban Meyer wants it to. This would be a good week for everything to click just right. If the Gators can take down LSU at home, they move to the forefront of the Eastern Division race.
5. Vanderbilt: The Vanderbilt players have been in either the library or lab ever since their historic 14-13 win over Auburn on Saturday night, but they're not too covered up with their studies to realize the opportunity that's out there in front of them now. A road win this week at Mississippi State and the Commodores are a real player in the Eastern Division race.
6. Kentucky: The Wildcats actually move up this week on the heels of a loss, one of those "good" losses. Their defense is as advertised and will keep this team in every game it plays this season. Quarterback Mike Hartline is continuing to gain confidence as he passed for 242 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama's defense. Up next is a key home game against South Carolina.
7. Auburn: Where are all those Auburn fans now who were sending snide e-mails to SEC power rankings committee members last week and scolding them about having the audacity to rank Vanderbilt ahead of Auburn? If it were me, I'd be sending e-mails to Tommy Tuberville about having the audacity to put that kind of offense on the field.
8. South Carolina: You've got to love Chris Smelley's wherewithal. He loses the starting quarterback job to Tommy Beecher before the preseason even begins, then relieves Beecher in the first game, then is apparently going to be replaced by Stephen Garcia only to come through and play his best football. The Gamecocks seemed to feed off Smelley and are coming off a key road win at Ole Miss.
9. Ole Miss: Obviously, the Rebels aren't too good at handling prosperity. Just when you think they're healthy and about to break through and go on a little spree, they lose at home to South Carolina. The biggest disappointment for the Rebels was that they couldn't get any pressure on South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley. Ole Miss is too talented up front to be stonewalled like that.
10. Miss. State: The Bulldogs didn't play, but moved up thanks to Tennessee's shaky home effort against Northern Illinois. Here's the other thing: Mississippi State didn't look like a team that was ready to pack it in during its last outing. The Bulldogs hung in there against LSU on the road and are giving some younger players a chance to show what they can do.
11. Tennessee: Given what we've seen from the Vols this season, it's hard to imagine them winning more than a couple of SEC games. Even though Nick Stephens was at least serviceable at quarterback against Northern Illinois, the offense is a shell of what it's traditionally been at Tennessee. And the most indicting thing is that there's plenty of talent on offense.
12. Arkansas: Bobby Petrino said the most important thing for his young Hogs was not to lose sight of the importance of going to the practice field and improving despite what happened the previous week. Well, the Razorbacks were blown out for the third straight week, but Florida didn't pull away until the fourth quarter. The Arkansas defense held its own for the first three quarters. That's at least some progress.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Sorting out the Pac-10 pecking order after six weeks:
1. USC: The Trojans reasserted their dominance with a blowout win over Oregon. The question remaining is can they play to their potential every week? And, if so, will that get them back to the national title game? Up next: Arizona State
2. California: The quarterback switch worked in that Nate Longshore led the Bears to a key conference victory over Arizona State. But the Bears' offense is still looking to find its rhythm. Fortunately for them, the defense is catching on. Up next: A bye week.
3. Oregon: For a quarter and a half, the Ducks looked like every bit the Trojans' match. Then the deluge. The defensive scheme puts a lot of pressure on the secondary, and the Ducks' defensive backs couldn't match up with the USC receivers. Up next: UCLA.
4. Oregon State: The Beavers beat Utah. And then they didn't. For all the good things they've shown this season, including the red-letter win over USC, they presently sit at 2-3. Up next: Washington State.
5. Arizona: Every game is important for a team scrambling to earn its bona fides, but the Wildcats' biggest game of the year may be Saturday at Stanford. A fifth win with six games remaining would virtually guarantee bowl eligibility -- Washington State is still on the slate -- but a loss means the Wildcats head into the toughest part of their schedule with a lot of work left.
6. Arizona State: The Sun Devils, at 2-3, are starting to look like a team that belongs in the bottom half of the conference pecking order, and they will be if Rudy Carpenter's sprained ankle sidelines him.
7. Stanford: Stanford, now 3-3, enters a critical run for its bowl hopes with three winnable games ahead: Arizona, at UCLA and Washington State. Those three games will either separate the Cardinal from the bottom third of the conference or again relegate them to it.
8. UCLA: Can the Bruins win on the road? If they want to move up they must, because four of the next six are on the road, starting at Oregon on Saturday.
9. Washington: Washington finally gets some good news: It's not playing this weekend. Any hopes that new quarterback Ronnie Fouch would create a Cinderella story for the Huskies and embattled coach Tyrone Willingham evaporated quickly in the desert last weekend.
10. Washington State: If there was something positive to take from the 28-3 loss to UCLA, it's that the Cougars looked competitive through the first quarter. They figure to run into a fairly grumpy bunch of Beavers at Oregon State on Saturday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
There shouldn't be too much change in the standings between this week and next, considering half the league is off this weekend and Georgia Tech plays Gardner-Webb.
1. Virginia Tech (5-1, 2-0 ACC) -- The Hokies are going to have to play their way out of the top spot from here on out. While they've continued to win, they've lost key players from the starting lineup each of the past two weeks. Tailback Kenny Lewis Jr., the Hokies' third-leading rusher, ruptured his Achilles against Western Kentucky and will miss the rest of the season.
2. Georgia Tech (4-1, 2-1) -- The Yellow Jackets have grown more confident in their offense each week, and the defense is one of the best in the ACC. Now that receiver Demaryius Thomas is back in the lineup, they've got big-play potential in the passing game. They're ahead of Wake Forest because their lone loss was to the league leader, not Navy.
3. Wake Forest (3-1, 1-0) -- The Demon Deacons moved up a notch during their bye week because Maryland moved down (way down), and because they're still undefeated in the conference heading into Thursday night's game against Clemson.
4. Florida State (4-1, 1-1) -- The Seminoles are poised to make a push in the second half of the season, as long as they don't get in their own way. Christian Ponder and the offensive line grew up quickly against Miami and should only get better each week.
5. North Carolina (4-1, 1-1) -- It's been a group effort, and the Tar Heels should be brimming with confidence heading into the Notre Dame game this weekend. They continue to find ways to win and earned their first ranking since 2001.
6. Boston College (4-1, 1-1) -- The offense caught up to the defense in Saturday's win over NC State, and if the Eagles play that way consistently through the second half of the season, they're in the mix for the Atlantic Division title.
7. Maryland (4-2, 1-1) -- That's it. No more Mrs. Nice Guy. The Terps' loss to Virginia might have been worse than the loss to Middle Tennessee. At least they scored 14 points against the Blue Raiders. Look, they've got a senior-laden team that's underachieving and unprepared. Plenty of blame to go around in College Park.
8. Clemson (3-2, 1-1) -- The Tigers aren't being punished because they didn't play, it's just that Florida State, Boston College and North Carolina earned the right to move up. We'll see how much improvement the preseason favorites made during their bye week on Thursday in Winston-Salem.
9. Miami (2-3, 0-2) -- Yes, the Hurricanes have more overall losses than Duke, but they've also got more overall talent on their roster, and should prove it on Oct. 18. Miami is going through growing pains this season and still has to face Coastal Division opponents Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
10. Duke (3-2, 1-1) -- The Blue Devils failed to translate what they've accomplished at practice onto the field at Georgia Tech, and that's a concern for David Cutcliffe. Duke's biggest test now is how it responds to that loss during the bye week.
11. Virginia (2-3, 1-1) -- The Cavaliers embarrassed Maryland and earned the right to flip-flop with NC State. They gave other teams in the league a reason to be leery and not consider Virginia an automatic 'W' this season.
12. NC State (2-4, 0-2) -- The Wolfpack now hold the dubious distinction of last in the league after failing to beat Boston College with their starting quarterback back in the lineup. This is still a competitive team capable of surprising somebody left on its schedule.
Hoo, boy. This is not an easy week for power rankings in this conference. Ideally, I'd leave the No. 1 spot vacated and have a six-way tie for second. But there's no fun in that. So here goes:
1. Pittsburgh (4-1, 2-0): Yes, the team that lost to Bowling Green at home and trailed Syracuse by double digits in the second half tops my power rankings. Crazy. But you can't put Pitt behind South Florida after it beat the Bulls on the road, or even behind Connecticut after the Huskies got hammered at North Carolina. So here go the Panthers. They are in control of their own destiny in the Big East. Let's see what they can do with it.
2. South Florida (5-1, 0-1): Injuries on the defensive front really hurt the Bulls against Pittsburgh, and a week off could work wonders. I still believe this is the most talented team in the league from top to bottom, but I'm far less confident in that after last week.
T-3. Connecticut (5-1, 1-0): OK, so I'm wussing out and going with a three-way tie here for third. I just don't see much difference between the three, and I simply can't decide who's better. Sue me. UConn was uncharacteristically sloppy at North Carolina, but the Huskies will still have to be reckoned with in league play.
T-3. West Virginia (3-2, 1-0): We're still waiting for that big, breakout offensive game from the Mountaineers. If it doesn't come this week against Syracuse, then they won't be ranked this high next week.
T-3: Cincinnati (4-1): Chazz Anderson managed the game well in his debut at quarterback, but more impressively, the Bearcats put together an outstanding defensive performance and ran the ball better than they have all year at Marshall. We'll find out a lot more about Cincinnati as it gets into Big East play.
6. Louisville (2-2, 0-1): The Cardinals have just as much chance as anybody to win this league if they can cut down on their drive-killing mistakes.
7. Rutgers (1-4, 0-1): How much longer before Greg Schiano cuts bait on this season and starts working in young players for next year?
8. Syracuse (1-4, 0-1): Greg Robinson is still the coach, but a road trip to Morgantown isn't going to help his cause.
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
1. BYU: The Cougars didn't play the most inspired game on Friday, but a win is a win. Things get a little tougher this week against a New Mexico team that prides itself on its running game.
2. Utah: Thursday's win was huge in terms of rankings and confidence. The Utes notched their second win over a BCS team and could say they're one win removed from beating USC.
3. Boise State: The Broncos did exactly what everyone thought they would against Louisiana Tech. This week's game against Southern Miss lost its intrigue after losing two straight.
4. Ball State: The Cardinals finally cracked the Top 25, but there's still not a lot of people who think they're legit. A win over Western Kentucky this weekend won't legitimize them either, but the meat of the schedule is coming.
5. Tulsa: What can you say about a team that consistently blows out its opponents? There is no doubt that Tulsa is one of the best offenses in the country. I think a lot of us wish the Golden Hurricane would play someone.
6. TCU: After losing to Oklahoma, the Horned Frogs rebounded in a huge way against San Diego State. The task now will be to focus on Colorado State and not get caught looking ahead to BYU.
7. Notre Dame: There's no denying that the Irish are getting better, but the schedule takes a sharp turn this week in North Carolina. The Tar Heels have been tough to beat this year and Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen will have to be on.
8. Navy: Few teams have earned a bye week more than the Midshipmen. They've had a triumphant last three weeks by beating Rutgers, Wake Forest and Air Force. They'll welcome the breather.
9. Western Michigan: Western Michigan continues to compile wins and quarterback Tim Hiller continues to be effective. The task will be more difficult this weekend against a Buffalo team that's pretty darn good.
10. Fresno State: Tough and unexpected loss to Hawaii last week. Any talk about Fresno State in the BCS will quiet now, but the Bulldogs can still win the WAC championship -- they'll just have to be perfect from here on out.