NCF Nation: power rankings 9
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
There's no question this week about the top spot, and that's despite dominant performances from Florida and Georgia. Alabama played what coach Nick Saban called the Crimson Tide's most complete game since the opener against Clemson in burying Tennessee 29-9 last Saturday at Neyland Stadium, which took on a distinctive shade of crimson late in the fourth quarter. By some estimates, there were more than 25,000 Alabama fans in the stands. Think the Tide Nation is fired up about this football team? Here's a look at this week's SEC power rankings:
1. Alabama: Even without injured nose tackle Terrence Cody, the Alabama defense was dominant and held Tennessee to a meaningless touchdown in the fourth quarter and 36 rushing yards. His numbers aren't staggering, but senior quarterback John Parker Wilson has done a fabulous job of managing this offense. He's playing exactly the way Saban wants him to play and has made very few poor decisions this season.
2. Florida: The Gators have it going on in all three phases right now. They're always going to generate a few plays on special teams under Urban Meyer. But the key to their success has been figuring out how to incorporate Jeffrey Demps and Chris Rainey into the offense. That's made all the difference in the world. You could make a case that Florida is playing better than anyone in the league right now. The Gators get a chance to prove that this Saturday against Georgia.
3. Georgia: After doing just enough to get by offensively and leaving a bunch of points on the field the last few weeks, Georgia had that breakout game last weekend the Bulldog Nation has been eagerly awaiting. The Bulldogs blasted LSU, 52-38, with Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and A.J. Green all having big days. The unsung hero of this team right now, though, is the offensive line. The Bulldogs, playing with three freshmen, have weathered injuries and constant shuffling to become a solid unit up front.
4. LSU: The Tigers stay No. 4 by default. Everybody else right behind them lost. And even though they've been blown out by Georgia and Florida and given up an embarrassing 103 points along the way, they're still one of the most talented teams in the league. Mistakes at the quarterback position cost the Tigers big time against the Bulldogs, and what has happened to their defense?
5. South Carolina: I'm breaking one of my rules by moving South Carolina ahead of Vanderbilt, which beat the Gamecocks earlier this season. But the Commodores were so awful in losing to Duke this past weekend that I can't in good conscience keep them fifth. The Gamecocks, who were off, have played better the last month and have a great chance to get to eight wins.
6. Vanderbilt: This is a shaky No. 6 for the Commodores, who've now lost three in row. Two of those losses were bad ones, too. Their problem right now is they can't consistently move the ball and score. Their 10-7 loss to Duke was a blow to their bowl chances, but not the end of the world. They still have some games remaining they can win and get a much-needed open date this weekend.
7. Ole Miss: The Rebels are that team in the SEC with a ho-hum record (4-4, 2-3 SEC), but significantly better than that record suggests. They're two crippling fumbles away from being 6-2 after holding on to win in the "Houston Nutt Bowl" last Saturday against Arkansas. It's a team that's still learning how to win, but six or seven wins and a bowl game look realistic this season.
8. Kentucky: All of a sudden, Kentucky is reeling. The Wildcats' kicking game was a disaster last Saturday and opened the floodgates for Florida to pin a 63-5 whipping on them at the Swamp. Several defensive starters either didn't play or were playing at far less than 100 percent, but this is a team that needs to be careful now if it's serious about going to a bowl. The game this week at Mississippi State looms large in that quest.
9. Auburn: It just keeps getting worse for Auburn and Tommy Tuberville. The 34-17 loss to West Virginia last Thursday night might have been the Tigers' worst yet. They gave up 31 unanswered points, and there were telltale signs in the second half that it's going to be a long finish to the season. You wonder if the players on this team (especially those on defense) have reached the point where they've had enough?
10. Tennessee: Like Tommy Tuberville, Phillip Fulmer continues to dig himself a hole that gets deeper by the week. Once again, the Vols had a rival team come to their stadium, and once again they were never really in the game in the second half. It's the worst Tennessee has been on offense in nearly 30 years. In the loss to Alabama, the Vols couldn't score a touchdown from the 5 after getting a special teams gift.
11. Arkansas: Bobby Petrino's bunch is getting better. You can see the future for the Hogs, but that still doesn't make the last two losses any easier. Arkansas had chances to win them both and just couldn't do it. Getting over that hump is hard when you're playing so many freshmen. Still, don't be surprised if the Hogs (3-5, 1-4 SEC) win again this season.
12. Mississippi State: The 31-22 win over Middle Tennessee wasn't enough to lift the Bulldogs out of the cellar. They will get another chance to pry themselves out of the bottom spot this coming Saturday against Kentucky. The Bulldogs continue to fight and play hard under Sylvester Croom, but there's no getting around the fact that this is an offense that needs revamping.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten hierarchy is beginning to clear up. It wouldn't surprise me if the rundown below remains more or less the same at the end of the season. Then again, college football wouldn't be so great without surprises, so things could change.
1. Penn State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) -- The Nittany Lions cleared their biggest hurdle to date and won in Ohio Stadium for the first time as a member of the Big Ten. Adversity arrived and Penn State found a different way to win, relying on a dominant defensive performance and poised play from backup quarterback Pat Devlin in the fourth quarter. The Lions are in prime position for a national title run heading into the bye week.
2. Ohio State (7-2, 4-1) -- Head coach Jim Tressel got beat at his own game, as a tightly contested contest characterized by hard-hitting defense, field position and special teams went to Penn State following Terrelle Pryor's fourth-quarter fumble. Ohio State's defense continues to play well, but an underachieving offensive line has held back this team.
3. Minnesota (7-1, 3-1) -- Opportunistic defense continues to spark Minnesota's renaissance under Tim Brewster. The Gophers forced four turnovers and held Purdue to 109 passing yards in Saturday's victory. They enter a manageable closing stretch with a chance to reach a New Year's Day bowl game after going 1-11 last season.
4. Michigan State (7-2, 4-1) -- Little brother no more, the Spartans traveled to Ann Arbor and won in Michigan Stadium for the first time since 1990. They overcame a disappointing effort last week and a bad call that gave Michigan a first-quarter touchdown, and they rallied to score the game's final 21 points. A New Year's Day bowl remains possible entering the final three games.
5. Iowa (5-3, 2-2) -- The idle Hawkeyes move up a spot and can continue to climb with a road win against Illinois this week. Shonn Greene faces a vulnerable run defense and can fuel his long-shot Heisman Trophy campaign. Iowa needs a win to become bowl eligible and two to secure a postseason spot. With Penn State and Minnesota left on the schedule, Saturday's game is huge.
6. Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) -- Disaster struck for the Wildcats at Indiana, as they lost an extremely winnable game and saw their starting offensive backfield go down with injuries. Running back Tyrell Sutton will undergo wrist surgery this week and likely miss the rest of the season. Quarterback C.J. Bacher also could miss time with a hamstring injury. The defense needs to step up to avoid a major slide.
7. Wisconsin (4-4, 1-4) -- The bleeding finally stopped in Madison as Wisconsin ended its four-game losing streak with an impressive performance against Illinois. Quarterback Dustin Sherer stepped up in his second career start, and the defense intercepted Juice Williams three times. The season-ending loss of star tight end/H-back Travis Beckum puts a damper on things, but Wisconsin should be able to get bowl eligible.
8. Illinois (4-4, 2-3) -- Head coach Ron Zook would certainly take consistency over talent right now. Despite playmakers on both sides of the ball, Illinois has become the Big Ten's biggest mystery: great one week, terrible the next. To be fair, the Illini were facing a desperate Wisconsin team Saturday, but turnovers and spotty run defense led to a loss. Saturday's game against Iowa is critical.
9. Michigan (2-6, 1-3) -- This is an atypical year for Michigan, but the team keeps delivering typical performances: solid for a half or three quarters, but never for an entire game. The Wolverines squandered a second-half lead and saw their hope for a winning season fade away. Another loss will ensure a losing season and no bowl for the first time since 1974.
10. Indiana (3-5, 1-4) -- Credit the Hoosiers for being opportunistic against Northwestern and pulling out a nice upset. Backup quarterback Ben Chappell avoided major mistakes and the defense prevented big plays. Northwestern gift-wrapped this one to a certain extent, but Indiana had a solid game plan on both sides of the ball and picked up its first league win.
11. Purdue (2-6, 0-4) -- You have to feel for Joe Tiller, who could endure his worst season at Purdue in his final year as Boilermakers coach. More disturbing is the fact that Tiller's trademark offense has been the primary reason for the team's struggles. Purdue had its lowest passing total (109) yards in Tiller's 12 seasons as coach and dropped its fifth straight game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Sorting out the Pac-10 pecking order after nine weeks.
1. USC: The defense was completely dominant against Arizona, but the offense was lacking in a 17-10 win. If the Trojans have title game aspirations, they probably need to do more than just win -- they need to win big. With Washington coming to town, that's sure to happen.
2. Oregon: The Ducks leap over their bucktoothed neighbors due to a resounding domination of Arizona State that may have resolved the quarterback quandary with Jeremiah Masoli earning top billing over Justin Roper. Huge showdown at California on Saturday figures to eliminate at least one team from the Holiday Bowl hunt.
3. Oregon State: Now the Beavers, coming out of a bye week, get to play host to the wounded Sun Devils, who looked, er, marooned against the Ducks. OSU fans are eager to remind you that they alone now control their Pac-10 destiny -- win out, and the Beavers go to the Rose Bowl.
4. Arizona: Though this reasoning might not work in the Wildcats' locker room, there were a lot of positives to take from the 17-10 loss to USC. Hey, they scored as many points against USC as the potent Ducks and their defense put the clamps on the Trojans better than anyone has. The big question is the next step, and the Wildcats get some time to think about it. They have a bye, and then they'll pick up their sixth victory at Washington State on Nov. 8 and earn bowl eligibility.
5. California: California's solid win over UCLA signaled that the Bears will be in the fight for the long haul. And it helps that they've probably resolved their quarterback issues with Kevin Riley earning the starting job. With Oregon coming to town, a national ranking is likely at stake.
6. Stanford: Coming out of a bye week, Stanford will pick up its fifth win with Washington State coming to Palo Alto. Guess here is that the Cardinal might run for 300-plus yards with their power attack against the woeful Cougars. That will leave the Cardinal needing one more win to earn bowl eligibility with a rugged remaining schedule: at Oregon, USC and at Cal.
7. UCLA: One step forward, one step back. The Bruins need more consistency out of quarterback Kevin Craft and it's not certain that he will be able to give it to them this season. But what would really help is if the team could get healthy. This week's bye should help both issues, as coaches figure to give backup Chris Forcier another look.
8. Arizona State: Fair to say the Sun Devils are in full crisis mode. An ugly monochromatic uniform gimmick didn't work against Oregon, and it's unlikely a running game will suddenly appear in time to help the cause at Oregon State. Even reliable things like Rudy Carpenter and the defense faltered in the 54-20 drubbing at home. At least the Sun Devils have the state of Washington to look forward to on the schedule.
9. Washington: The Huskies seemed to wave a white flag on the season against Notre Dame. There was nothing encouraging in a performance that surely was galling for Tyrone Willingham. What's left to say? This is a terrible team showing little resolve that likely won't even raise its fists for a fight until the Apple Cup on Nov. 22.
10. Washington State: Washington State moved up this week -- from 11 to 10. Bye weeks are powerful things. The bad news is the Cougars have to play again on Saturday, this time losing at Stanford.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are my rankings for this week.
1. Texas -- Facing their biggest challenge of their recent gauntlet Saturday in Lubbock.
2. Oklahoma -- Stoops, Venables struggle early in Manhattan return, but persevere thanks to huge offensive game and second-half adjustments.
3. Texas Tech -- Red Raiders' defensive improvements are biggest reason they have legitimate upset hopes against Texas.
4. Oklahoma State -- Gundy blaming himself for play-calling gaffes that left them just short against Texas.
5. Missouri -- Clearest path to North title after confidence-boosting shutout against Colorado.
6. Nebraska -- Resilient Cornhuskers can prove their North Division title legitimacy Saturday at Oklahoma.
7. Kansas -- Where have you gone Bill Young? Jayhawks have been gashed 1,230 yards and 108 points in the last two weeks.
8. Kansas State -- Wildcats showed some first-half bounce, but as expected, their defense couldn't come close to stopping Oklahoma.
9. Colorado -- Shutout at Missouri underscores serious offensive problems facing the Buffaloes.
10. Baylor -- Robert Griffin had several nice runs against Nebraska, but it wasn't nearly enough.
11. Texas A&M -- Aggies have allowed at least 35 points in each of their last four games. That's happened only once before in the 114-season history of the program.
12. Iowa State -- Have the Cyclones hit rock bottom? Chizik is 5-15 since arriving, including current six-game losing streak.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
1. Florida State (6-1, 3-1 ACC) -- Welcome to the top, Noles. FSU is the only team remaining in the league with one overall loss, and they have won four straight since the Sept. 20 loss to Wake Forest.
2. Virginia (5-3, 3-1) -- Convinced yet? They've won four straight, including Saturday's road win at Georgia Tech. Quarterback Marc Verica is improving every week, and even the Yellow Jackets couldn't stop tailback Cedric Peerman.
3. Maryland (6-2, 3-1) -- The Terps' win over NC State proved they're taking every opponent seriously now. They're in a tie with FSU for first place in the Atlantic Division, but unlike the Seminoles haven't lost to anyone in their division yet.
4. North Carolina (6-2, 2-2) -- They're ba-ack. And this time they're bowl eligible. If the Tar Heels finish the season the way they finished off the Eagles, they could cause even more chaos in the Coastal.
5. Boston College (5-2, 2-2) -- The turnovers were bound to catch up with them some time, and North Carolina took advantage of it. Four of their five remaining games are against Atlantic Division opponents, though, so opportunities are still there.
6. Georgia Tech (6-2, 3-2) -- The loss to Virginia was a big blow to their chances of winning the Coastal Division, and the Jackets still need one more win to become bowl-eligible for the first time under Paul Johnson.
7. Miami (5-3, 2-2) -- The Hurricanes have won three straight and have a chance this weekend to crash Virginia's party. If they manage the road win, they'll help themselves and half the Coastal Division.
8. Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2) -- First they tried to spread it out. Then they tried to run, run, run. And run some more. Neither has worked. And yet they're holding that win over FSU like an old grudge.
9. Virginia Tech (5-3, 2-2) -- Things don't look so good for the Hokies. Their top two quarterbacks are wearing protective boots this week and their third-string quarterback, Cory Holt, had not taken a significant snap in his five-year career until he had to on Saturday.
10. Duke (4-3, 1-2) -- The Blue Devils got a road win against an SEC team, but need to play the same way against their conference opponents. A win over Wake this week looks possible.
11. Clemson (3-4, 1-3) -- Even during their bye week the Tigers got hurt, losing starting guard Barry Humphries. If Clemson is going to have any shot at a bowl game, it has to start winning now.
12. NC State (2-6, 0-4) -- As long as this team doesn't sulk, it will remain competitive. The Pack has lost three of its past four games by less than 10 points.
I spent a couple of hours parsing the Geneva Conventions to see if there were any provisions preventing such cruelty. Then I considered drawing names out of a hat or having my dog, Mini, choose teams by which biscuit she went to first. Seriously, how do you logically rank the teams in the Big East right now? Here is my best effort at providing some order.
1. West Virginia (5-2, 2-0): This one was fairly straightforward, as the Mountaineers earned the top perch with their fourth straight victory and clearly their best performance of the year in beating Auburn, 34-17. The question is, was that a one-time wonder, or has West Virginia truly turned the corner?
2. Connecticut (6-2, 2-1): Barely edged out my initial choice for the No. 2 spot, "Vacant." Look, I have no idea who the second-best team in this league is right now, and neither does anyone else. South Florida and Pittsburgh get bumped down for their losses this weekend, so UConn rises after a impressive 40-16 rout of Cincinnati. And this sets up a 1-2 battle between the Huskies and Mountaineers on Saturday in East Hartford.
3. Pittsburgh (5-2, 2-1): A terrible loss to Rutgers on Saturday probably should have sunk the Panthers even lower than this. But Pittsburgh still is in control of its destiny in the Big East -- if it can figure out what the heck just went wrong. Injuries to quarterback Bill Stull and center Robb Houser are problematic, too.
4. Louisville (5-2, 1-1): The addition of a healthy Scott Long makes a huge difference in the Cardinals' offense. If they can get by Syracuse this week -- which is no given after last year -- they will have matched last year's win total.
5. South Florida (6-2, 1-2): The Bulls are the only Big East team in the Top 25 of either major poll and yet check in No. 5 in my power rankings. Well, I see some serious flaws in this team, and the 1-2 start is going to make it awfully difficult for South Florida to contend for the league championship. It doesn't help that the Bulls' marquee victim, Kansas, got destroyed at home by Texas Tech. Thursday's game at Cincinnati looms as a must-win.
6. Rutgers (3-5, 2-2): A five-win season looks certain, with more than that possible. No one would have believed that two weeks ago. Credit Greg Schiano for sticking by his guys as fans called for major roster overhauls. If, that is, the Scarlet Knights can keep this up.
7. Cincinnati (5-2, 1-1): The Bearcats are way too talented to be this low. But a dreadful offense that has gone 0-for-25 on third downs while averaging 13 points the past two games pulls them down like an anchor. Everything went wrong in a show-me game at Connecticut, where Cincinnati committed six turnovers. But the way this league is going, the Bearcats could be at the top of these power rankings next week.
8. Syracuse (1-6, 0-3): Ah, good old dependable Syracuse. Thanks for giving me one sure thing every week.
It is amazing to me that we're nine weeks into the season and there are still eight unbeaten teams remaining in the FBS. Even more amazing is that four of those teams are from the non-BCS. Even if it doesn't end this way, it's been a heck of a run.
1. Utah: Even idle the Utes command respect for the season they've put together so far. They've moved up to 10th in the BCS standings and continue to lead the non-BCS pack in the race to the automatic bid.
2. TCU: The offense is starting to catch up with the defense, which makes this TCU team a lot scarier than it was three weeks ago. You can see the confidence starting to grow for the Horned Frogs. Just don't look past UNLV this weekend.
3. Boise State: It's smooth sailing from here on out for Boise State. All it has to do is keep doing what it's been doing and hope for a Utah loss. I honestly believe Boise State is going to share the top 12 with another team when it's all said and done.
4. Tulsa: After a shaky first half, the Golden Hurricane rallied to move to 8-0. Unfortunately for them, the BCS standings came out before the game and the Golden Hurricane were jumped. They'll need to beat Arkansas to jump up with the other non-BCS big boys and give themselves a chance at the automatic bid.
5. Ball State: The Cardinals are rolling into another bye week as they gear up for a brutal stretch to end the season. It's going to be difficult to stay undefeated when three of the last four games are against Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Western Michigan, the other top teams in the MAC West.
6. BYU: The Cougars showed a little hangover this weekend, but got that rectified and worked out a win. The next two weeks against Colorado State and San Diego State should be wins, and should do wonders for building up the Cougars confidence heading into games against Air Force and Utah.
7. Notre Dame: It wasn't pretty, but the Irish got a much-needed road win and are a game away from the Gator Bowl. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen looked a little rusty after the week off, but against Washington it didn't matter. It will matter this week against a Pitt team that will be fired up after last week's loss to Rutgers.
8. Central Michigan: The Chippewas keep rolling in MAC play and are on a collision course with Ball State near the end of the season. This weekend's game against Indiana is significant because quarterback Dan LeFevour has never defeated a BCS team. Indiana would be a perfect chance to get one.
9. Navy: Fans had been clamoring for backup quarterback Ricky Dobbs and when he finally got into the game, he didn't disappoint. Dobbs rushed for 224 yards and four touchdowns as Navy played its entire 34-7 win over SMU without attempting a pass.
10. Air Force: The Navy game was a bad loss because of all the mistakes the Falcons made, but the way they've rebounded has been nice. Air Force has wedged itself between the perceived "big three" in the Mountain West and are angling to grab second like it did a year ago.