- College football reporter
- Joined ESPN.com in 2007
- Graduate of the University of Tennessee
The first College Football Playoff selection committee rankings will be unveiled Tuesday night, and there’s not much suspense on who the top four teams will be.
But in the latest ESPN Power Rankings, non-Power 5 stalwarts BYU at No. 7 and Cincinnati at No. 8 continue to hold steady in the top 10. And the big riser this week was Northwestern, which beat Wisconsin 17-7 to remain unbeaten and vault all the way up to No. 10.
Then again, everybody had Ohio State and Northwestern being the Big Ten’s only unbeaten teams at this point, right?
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0)
There might have been a little rust for Alabama after a three-week layoff, but the Crimson Tide proved yet again how explosive they are Saturday by racing past Kentucky for a 63-3 blowout victory. Alabama led 7-3 entering the second quarter, but from there it was a Crimson Tide onslaught. Alabama was playing its first game since beating Mississippi State 41-0 back on Oct. 31. The Crimson Tide have now won 55 of their past 60 games against SEC opponents going back to the start of the 2014 season.
Up next: vs. Auburn (Saturday, TBA)
2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-0)
The Fighting Irish had an open date this weekend and remain in good shape to make the College Football Playoff if they can win their final three ACC regular-season games. Even a loss, especially if it’s close, in a rematch with Clemson in the ACC championship game would keep Notre Dame squarely in the playoff picture. The Irish have been plenty explosive offensively this season and have scored more than 40 points in five of their eight games.
Up next: at North Carolina (Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
3. Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0)
The Buckeyes overcame two early interceptions by Justin Fields to jump out to a 35-7 third-quarter lead over Indiana and were seemingly on their way to another easy victory. But Indiana had other ideas, and Ohio State had to hold off a frantic rally by the previously unbeaten Hoosiers to win 42-35 in the Buckeyes’ closest game of the season. Master Teague rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns, and Ohio State has now won 19 consecutive games against Big Ten opponents and 56 of its past 60 games against league foes going back to the start of the 2014 season.
Up next: at Illinois (Saturday, TBA)
4. Clemson Tigers (7-1)
The Tigers will have to wait a little longer before getting the sour taste of the Notre Dame loss out of their mouths. Their game Saturday with Florida State was postponed after the teams’ medical personnel could not mutually agree on moving forward with the game. Clemson’s most recent outing was a 47-40 loss in two overtimes to Notre Dame at Nov. 7. The Tigers’ next scheduled game is this coming Saturday at home against Pittsburgh, which would make it three weeks since the Tigers previously played.
Up next: vs. Pittsburgh (Saturday, TBA)
5. Texas A&M Aggies (5-1)
For the second consecutive week, Texas A&M was unable to play because of contact-tracing issues within its program. Its game a week earlier with Tennessee was already rescheduled for Dec. 12, which means Saturday’s scheduled game with Ole Miss will likely be played on Dec. 19 assuming the Aggies aren’t in the SEC championship game. They need to play all 10 of their games, though, and be 9-1 if they’re going to have a chance to sneak into the College Football Playoff in that No. 4 spot as a non-conference champion.
Up next: vs. LSU (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
6. Florida Gators (6-1)
For the first time all season, Florida quarterback Kyle Trask didn’t throw at least four touchdown passes in a game, but he still threw three to go along with 383 yards in the Gators’ 38-17 victory Saturday over Vanderbilt. Florida has scored 38 or more points in all seven of its games this season, and with a four-game winning streak, moved a step closer to the SEC Eastern Division title and a potential shot at Alabama in the SEC championship game.
Up next: vs. Kentucky (Saturday, noon ET, ESPN)
7. BYU Cougars (9-0)
Zach Wilson and BYU made quick work of North Alabama on Saturday, as Wilson threw four touchdown passes in the first half en route to a 66-14 romp. The Cougars have been dominant all season and aren’t scheduled play again until Dec. 12, when they face San Diego State at home. They would like to add another game before then, possibly against a Pac-12 team, which would help BYU’s résumé for the season. BYU has won its past four games by a total of 155 points and held all four of its opponents in those games to 17 or fewer points.
Up next: vs. San Diego State (Dec. 12, TBA)
8. Cincinnati Bearcats (8-0)
The Bearcats passed their toughest test yet Saturday in their quest for an unbeaten season. They came back from an early 14-3 deficit and then a 25-22 deficit entering the fourth quarter to win 36-33 on the road at UCF. Desmond Ridder passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more, and it will be interesting to see where Cincinnati lands in the College Football Playoff selection committee’s first rankings that are set to be released Tuesday night.
Up next: at Temple (Saturday, TBA)
9. Miami Hurricanes (7-1)
It’s been a tough week off the field for the Hurricanes. First, their game Saturday against Georgia Tech was postponed to Dec. 19 (as long as Miami isn’t playing in the ACC championship game that day) because of positive COVID-19 tests and subsequent quarantining within the Miami program. Then later in the week, Miami coach Manny Diaz announced that he had tested positive and would self-isolate. The Hurricanes aren’t scheduled to play again until Dec. 5 when they travel to Wake Forest, which will be a three-week break.
Up next: at Wake Forest (Dec. 5, TBA)
10. Northwestern Wildcats (5-0)
Only two Big Ten teams are unbeaten at this point. Everybody expected Ohio State to be one of those, but Northwestern has come out of the shadows to be the other. The Wildcats forced five turnovers Saturday and beat Wisconsin 17-7. It was Northwestern’s first win over a top-10 opponent since 2011, and the Wildcats’ defense was once again the catalyst. They haven’t allowed more than 20 points in any of their five games this season, and looking at their remaining schedule, they have a real chance to finish the regular season unbeaten.
Up next: at Michigan State (Saturday, TBA)
11. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (8-0)
The drought against Appalachian State is over for Coastal Carolina, and the Chanticleers made a little history Saturday with a come-from-behind 34-23 victory over the Mountaineers. It was Coastal Carolina’s first win over Appalachian State in seven tries, and the Chanticleers also became the first Sun Belt team to start a season 8-0. After trailing 17-9 at the half, Coastal Carolina mixed the running and passing of Grayson McCall with some stingy defense to keep one of college football’s best turnaround stories going. The Chants were 5-7 last season.
Up next: at Texas State (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
12. USC Trojans (3-0)
Playing against their third straight opponent that was making its season debut, the Trojans put together their most impressive performance of the season in a 33-17 victory against Utah. That bar wasn’t very high, though, after USC needed late touchdowns to escape in its first two games and never found a rhythm offensively against Utah. USC is scheduled to Colorado next weekend in a key game between the two remaining undefeated teams in the Pac-12 South.
Up next: Colorado (Saturday, TBA)
13. Indiana Hoosiers (4-1)
It might have been a loss, but this clearly isn’t your father’s or even your grandfather’s Indiana football team. The Hoosiers fell behind 35-7 in the third quarter Saturday at Ohio State, but battled back on the road to make it a game before falling 42-35. Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. outplayed Justin Fields and passed for 491 yards and five touchdowns, three of those going to Ty Fryfogle. Even so, the Hoosiers lost for the 26th straight time to the Buckeyes.
Up next: vs. Maryland (Saturday, TBA)
14. Iowa State Cyclones (6-2)
Brock Purdy threw three touchdown passes in the first half Saturday to steer Iowa State to a 35-0 halftime lead, and the Cyclones posted a convincing 45-0 blowout victory over Kansas State. It was Iowa State’s third straight win and sets up a key showdown with Texas on Friday. A win would put the Cyclones, 6-1 in league play, in great shape to play in the Big 12 championship game.
Up next: at Texas (Friday, noon ET, ABC)
15. Oklahoma Sooners (6-2)
Remember when everybody was asking what was wrong with the Sooners after they lost two of their first three games to start the season? Suddenly, Oklahoma has won five straight, the latest a 41-13 Bedlam trouncing of rival Oklahoma State on Saturday, and the Sooners are right back in the middle of the Big 12 race. They extended their winning streak over the Cowboys to six games, and it was the 14th OU victory in the 16 seasons Mike Gundy has been Oklahoma State’s coach.
Up next: at West Virginia (Saturday, TBA)
16. Georgia Bulldogs (5-2)
Better later than never, but try telling that to Georgia fans right now. JT Daniels finally got his shot at quarterback and passed for 401 yards and four touchdowns in Georgia’s 31-24 victory Saturday night over Mississippi State. Daniels was the third different quarterback to start for the Dawgs this season. Here’s betting the transfer from USC will remain the starter going forward. Georgia was never able to pull away in the game despite Mississippi State being down to just 49 scholarship players because of COVID-19 issues.
Up next: at South Carolina (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
17. Oregon Ducks (3-0)
Sophomore quarterback Tyler Shough and the Oregon offense continued to roll it up, and the Ducks stayed unbeaten Saturday with a 38-35 victory over UCLA. Shough passed for 334 yards and three touchdowns and has thrown seven touchdown passes in his past two games. The Ducks caught a break with the Bruins playing without several players because of COVID-19 protocol and contact tracing, including starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
Up next: at Oregon State (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
18. Wisconsin Badgers (2-1)
The Badgers won’t have to look very hard to figure out how they lost their first game of the season, but it won’t make Saturday’s 17-7 loss at Northwestern any less difficult to stomach. Wisconsin turned the ball over five times, including three interceptions by Graham Mertz, and was shut out in the second half. The Badgers held the Wildcats to 24 rushing yards and outgained the Wildcats by more than 100 yards, but were swamped by mistakes.
Up next: vs. Minnesota (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
19. Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (7-1)
The Ragin’ Cajuns’ nonconference game Saturday against Central Arkansas was canceled because of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing within Louisiana’s team. Since a 30-27 loss to Coastal Carolina on Oct. 14, Louisiana has won four consecutive games and is on track to potentially get another shot at the Chanticleers in the Sun Belt championship game on Dec. 19.
Up next: Louisiana-Monroe (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
20. Marshall Thundering Herd (7-0)
The Thundering Herd’s game Saturday with Charlotte was postponed because of COVID-19 issues within the Charlotte program. It’s the fourth Marshall game that has been altered by the coronavirus this season. The Herd haven’t allowed more than 17 points in any of their games this season and remain Conference USA’s only unbeaten team in league play.
Up next: vs. Rice (Dec. 5, TBA)
21. Texas Longhorns (5-2)
The Longhorns’ game Saturday with Kansas was postponed until Dec. 12 because of a combination of COVID-19 issues and injuries within the Kansas program. Texas will have gone 20 days without playing a game when it takes on Iowa State the day after Thanksgiving. The Longhorns have won three straight games after losing in back-to-back weeks to TCU and Oklahoma. A victory over the Cyclones would keep them in the thick of the Big 12 race.
Up next: vs. Iowa State (Friday, noon ET, ABC)
22. Auburn Tigers (5-2)
Not much went right for the Tigers early on Saturday. They fell behind 10-0 and top rusher Tank Bigsby went down with an injury, but they reeled off 27 unanswered points to win 30-17 over Tennessee at home. Auburn has now won three straight games after that head-scratching loss to South Carolina back on Oct. 17 and could really make amends for that loss to the Gamecocks with an Iron Bowl victory over rival Alabama this coming Saturday.
Up next: at Alabama (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
23. Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-2)
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the game Saturday epitomized the Bedlam rivalry. It hasn’t been much of a rivalry lately, and Oklahoma State’s 41-13 loss to Oklahoma wasn’t much of a game. The Cowboys have now lost six straight in the series and were never really in it after falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter. Oklahoma State’s defense had shown improvement for much of the season. But in the Cowboys’ two losses, they’ve given up more than 40 points in both games.
Up next: vs. Texas Tech (Saturday, TBA)
24. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (5-1)
The Golden Hurricane won their fifth straight game Thursday, but needed a Hail Mary and then a pick-six to do it. They beat Tulane 30-24 in two overtimes after trailing 14-0 in the fourth quarter. Third-team quarterback Davis Brin hit JuanCarlos Santana with a touchdown pass on the final play of regulation to force overtime, and then Zaven Collins picked off a pass and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown to win it for Tulsa. It was the Golden Hurricane’s third straight comeback win.
Up next: at Houston (Saturday, TBA)
25. Liberty Flames (8-1)
Two weeks ago, Liberty walked away with the biggest win in school history on a last-second field goal to beat Virginia Tech. On Saturday, the Flames had a chance to do it again, but this time Alex Barbir’s 39-yard field goal attempt was blocked, and Liberty dropped a heartbreaking 15-14 loss to NC State. The Flames, off to the best start in school history, were trying to make it 3-0 this season against ACC opponents. They still have a chance to win 10 games in only their second full season at the FBS level.
Up next: vs. UMass (Friday, noon ET, ESPN3)
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