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College football Power Rankings: Can anyone challenge Alabama?

Oct 16, 2018

  • Andrea AdelsonESPN Staff Writer
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    • ACC reporter.
    • Joined ESPN.com in 2010.
    • Graduate of the University of Florida.

Most everyone agrees Alabama has looked like the most dominant team in college football through the first half of the season. The big question is: Who is capable of challenging the Crimson Tide?

We got a few more answers on a chaotic Saturday in which four teams ranked in the AP top 10 lost: Georgia, West Virginia, Washington and Penn State.

Let’s start with the most significant development first: Washington fell in overtime to Oregon, and with that, the Pac-12’s College Football Playoff hopes took a serious dive, too. The Ducks would need to run the table and get a lot of help to even have a shot at the top four.

Penn State now has two losses, and its playoff hopes are essentially over, too.

Over in the Big 12, every team has at least one loss.

That brings us to Georgia, which was not even competitive in the most highly anticipated game of the day against LSU. It was a bad look for sure, but the Bulldogs’ playoff hopes aren’t ruined. If they run the table and win the SEC, they are most likely in.

But the same goes for resurgent LSU, a team many were ready to bury after losing on the road at Florida last week. The Tigers dominated Georgia in every way, and their résumé also features wins over Miami and Auburn — who were also ranked in the top 10 at the time they played.

So as you take a look through these Power Rankings, remember, this is a “What have you done for me lately?” kinda world, and what these teams did in Week 7 takes precedence.


1. Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC)

Week 7 result: defeated Missouri 39-10

What’s next: at Tennessee (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

The Tide rolled again, only this time they got quite a scare when Tua Tagovailoa went down in the third quarter after aggravating his sprained knee. Alabama didn’t need him to finish out its win over Missouri, but his health is the only major question mark about this team as it moves forward.


2. Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten)

Week 7 result: defeated Minnesota 30-14

What’s next: at Purdue (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

The Buckeyes weren’t dominant, and there is reason for disappointment. Ohio State couldn’t run the way it wants to (92 total yards), and the defense gave up too many big plays. As Urban Meyer said after the game, “We’re going to have to get some things fixed.”


3. Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC)

Week 7 result: open week

What’s next: vs. NC State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

The Tigers were off this weekend but benefit from the Georgia loss. Their strength of schedule doesn’t quite compare to that of Ohio State or Notre Dame, but they have an opportunity to change that Saturday with a big home game against undefeated NC State.


4. Notre Dame (7-0)

Week 7 result: defeated Pitt 19-14

What’s next: open week

Pitt gave the Fighting Irish all they could handle, playing ball-control offense while the defense flustered QB Ian Book. Pitt led well into the third quarter before Notre Dame did just enough to rally back. Pitt did an excellent job slowing down the Irish running game, and that’s no doubt something the Irish will work on during this coming open week.


5. LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC)

Week 7 result: defeated Georgia 36-16

What’s next: vs. Mississippi State (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

What a way to rebound from such a disappointing road loss to Florida, beating Georgia in every way. The story of this win revolves around the way the Tigers played in the trenches, where they slowed down Georgia’s powerful run game while clearing the way for 275 yards rushing. Despite the loss to Florida, the Tigers have the most impressive wins of any team in the country.


6. Michigan (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten)

Week 7 result: defeated Wisconsin 38-13

What’s next: at Michigan State (Saturday, noon ET)

Jim Harbaugh has taken plenty of heat for failing to win the big game at Michigan, so yes, it’s a big deal the Wolverines beat Wisconsin — especially the way they did. They dominated the game, racking up 320 yards on the ground. So that has to lift their confidence as they go into another big game next weekend against Michigan State.


7. Texas (6-1, 4-0 Big 12)

Week 7 result: defeated Baylor 23-17

What’s next: open week

Adversity emerged early in Texas’ game against Baylor when starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger went out with a shoulder injury. Shane Buechele came in to replace him, and the Longhorns struggled to gain a rhythm on offense. But the defense came up big, especially late, to help them hold on for their sixth straight win.


8. Florida (6-1, 4-1 SEC)

Week 7 result: defeated Vanderbilt 37-27

What’s next: open week

Many wondered how the Gators would respond on the road with an early kickoff, coming off such a big win. The answer early against Vanderbilt: not well. But after a heated altercation between the coaches cleared the benches, Florida seemed to wake up. The Gators are riding high going into their open week, with Georgia on the horizon.


9. UCF (6-0, 3-0 American)

Week 7 result: defeated Memphis 31-30

What’s next: at ECU (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The Knights were outplayed in the first half against Memphis and rallied to win their 19th straight, the nation’s longest winning streak. It’s the first time during the streak UCF won by less than a touchdown. But McKenzie Milton said afterward it was important to show that he and his teammates know how to respond when things aren’t going their way.


10. Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC)

Week 7 result: lost to LSU 36-16

What’s next: open week

The Bulldogs were completely out of sorts on offense, as Jake Fromm could never get comfortable and the run game never got going. You have to wonder why Kirby Smart never went to Justin Fields for a change. Now Georgia has to win out to have any realistic shot at making the College Football Playoff.


11. Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12)

Week 7 result: open week

What’s next: at TCU (Saturday, noon ET, ABC)

Coach Lincoln Riley fired defensive coordinator Mike Stoops after the loss to Texas, so the Sooners have had the off week to work under new coordinator Ruffin McNeill. The game at TCU is their first chance to show how much improvement we can expect.


12. Oregon (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12)

Week 7 result: defeated Washington 30-27 (OT)

What’s next: at Washington State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET)

There’s no doubt Oregon needed its overtime win over Washington not only to reassert itself in its division, but to show its worth on a national level, too. QB Justin Herbert deserves a little of the spotlight — he has been terrific all season. It’s hard not to think about what could have been when you look back to the Stanford loss.


13. West Virginia (5-1, 3-1 Big 12)

Week 7 result: lost to Iowa State 30-14

What’s next: open week

It was as dreadful as it looked for the Mountaineers, who managed just 152 yards in a loss to Iowa State. Heisman candidate Will Grier threw for only 100 yards, and after an open date, the most difficult part of the schedule is ahead.


14. Texas A&M (5-2, 3-1 SEC)

Week 7 result: defeated South Carolina 26-23

What’s next: open week

The only losses the Aggies have on the season? Alabama and Clemson, two of the top four teams in the country. Jimbo Fisher has done a good job in Year 1 transforming the Aggies into a more confident, physical team. Even after blowing a 16-0 lead to South Carolina, they didn’t fold and made enough plays to win.


15. Kentucky (5-1, 3-1 SEC)

Week 7 result: open week

What’s next: vs. Vanderbilt (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)

The Wildcats had a week off to put their heartbreaking overtime loss to Texas A&M behind them, and they still have a shot at winning the East. They get back to it against Vanderbilt, which nearly upset Florida on Saturday.


16. NC State (5-0, 2-0 ACC)

Week 7 result: open week

What’s next: at Clemson (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

The Wolfpack had the weekend off, but it’s fair to ask how much we know about this team heading into their matchup next week against Clemson. Their nonconference game against West Virginia was canceled because of Hurricane Florence; their best win is against Boston College.


17. Penn State (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten)

Week 7 result: lost to Michigan State 21-17

What’s next: at Indiana (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

There might not be a team in the country with more heartbreaking losses than Penn State, after the Nittany Lions lost fourth-quarter leads to both Ohio State and Michigan State. The loss to the Spartans was all the more painful considering the way the Spartans had struggled up to this point in the season.


18. Washington (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12)

Week 7 result: lost to Oregon 30-27 (OT)

What’s next: vs. Colorado (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

The Huskies had their chances to put away Oregon but instead lost in overtime, essentially seeing their College Football Playoff chances vanish. It was a deeply disappointing performance, not only because of its Pac-12 implications, but because they lost to the rival Ducks for the first time in three seasons.


19. Duke (5-1, 1-1 ACC)

Week 7 result: defeated Georgia Tech 28-14

What’s next: vs. Virginia (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET)

The Blue Devils decisively beat Georgia Tech on Saturday, giving them four wins against Power 5 opponents and another victory over Army. Yes, they looked off their game in a loss to Virginia Tech, but it’s hard to overlook the quality of the opponents they’ve beaten to date.


20. Mississippi State (4-2, 1-2 SEC)

Week 7 result: open week

What’s next: at LSU (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Even though the Bulldogs were off, Week 7 didn’t do them too many favors. That’s because their biggest win, against Auburn, doesn’t look as good after the Tigers lost to Tennessee. Still, the success of their season could come down to the next two weekends, with games against LSU and Texas A&M.


21. Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten)

Week 7 result: lost to Michigan 38-13

What’s next: vs. Illinois (Saturday, noon ET)

When the season started, there was some talk that Wisconsin could be a legit College Football Playoff contender, but the first half has been a disappointment. Still, this is a team that controls its destiny in the Big Ten West.


22. Iowa (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten)

Week 7 result: defeated Indiana 42-16

What’s next: vs. Maryland (Saturday, noon ET, ESPN2)

The Hawkeyes easily handled Indiana and have now racked up over 400 yards of offense in four straight games. Quarterback Nate Stanley has done a nice job leading that group. Iowa’s only loss came against Wisconsin, but the next few weeks get tougher with games against Maryland, Penn State and Purdue upcoming.


23. Cincinnati (6-0, 2-0 American)

Week 7 result: open week

What’s next: at Temple (Saturday, noon ET, ESPNU)

The resurgent Bearcats had an off week, but their undefeated start has certainly helped the American Athletic Conference in its quest to gain more national respect. Luke Fickell has done a nice job bringing this program back. Next up is a tough division game at Temple.


24. Utah State (5-1, 2-0 in Mountain West)

Week 7 result: defeated UNLV 59-28

What’s next: at Wyoming (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET)

Since nearly upsetting Michigan State in Week 1, the Aggies have reeled off five straight wins. In all five of those wins, they have scored 40 or more points. And as of right now, it’s Utah State that sits alone atop the Mountain Division standings in the Mountain West.


25. Washington State (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12)

Week 7 result: open week

What’s next: vs. Oregon (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET)

The Cougars watched as Washington lost, opening up the Pac-12 North. They are one of four North teams with only one loss in conference play, making this next three-game stretch against Oregon, Stanford and Cal all the more critical. If Washington State wins them all, it controls its Pac-12 championship game destiny.

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