Mark SchlabachESPN Senior Writer
The final Saturday of September brought early clarity to the College Football Playoff race.
Ohio State took early control of the Big Ten by coming from behind — again — to knock off Penn State 27-26 in the final minutes.
Notre Dame, with its new quarterback and running back, rolled past Stanford 38-17, its second victory over a ranked opponent in the first month of the season.
And Clemson found out how scary life might be without quarterback Kelly Bryant, who left the team earlier this week, in a 27-23 win over Syracuse. New starter Trevor Lawrence suffered an apparent concussion in the first half, and backup Chase Brice had to lead the Tigers to a 10-point comeback in the fourth quarter to avoid losing to Syracuse for the second season in a row.
As a result, Notre Dame moves back into the top four spots of the Power Rankings, dropping the Tigers outside the top four.
Remember, the Power Rankings are about how you look and who you play each week. Forget the body of work or the brand name. These rankings drip with recency bias.
Here are the rankings after Week 5:
1. Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
Week 5 result: Defeated Louisiana 56-14
What’s next: at Arkansas (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Crimson Tide demolished another overmatched opponent — and coach Nick Saban defeated another of his former assistants. Alabama led 49-0 at the half and scored more than 45 points for the fifth straight game for the first time in school history. Saban improved to 14-0 against his former assistant coaches; Ragin’ Cajuns coach Billy Napier was the Tide’s receivers coach from 2013 to 2016.
2. Ohio State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten)
Week 5 result: Defeated Penn State 27-26
What’s next: vs. Indiana (Saturday, TBA)
For the second season in a row, the Buckeyes came back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to stun the Nittany Lions. It was Ohio State’s second impressive victory over a ranked opponent away from home (it won 40-28 over TCU in Arlington, Texas), and the win at Happy Valley leaves the Buckeyes as the Big Ten’s lone remaining unbeaten team. It also gives OSU a coveted head-to-head tiebreaker over Penn State in the rugged Big Ten East. After beating Penn State, ESPN’s Playoff Projector gives the Buckeyes a 74 percent chance of making the CFP.
3. Notre Dame (5-0)
Week 5 result: Defeated Stanford 38-17
What’s next: at Virginia Tech (Saturday, TBA)
Don’t look now, but the Fighting Irish look like a serious contender for one of the four CFP spots. The Irish’s 21-point victory over the Cardinal is their biggest margin of victory against a top-10 opponent since beating No. 5 USC 38-10 in 1995. Former backup quarterback Ian Book has thrown six touchdown passes in the last two games, and senior Dexter Williams — who didn’t play in the first four games — ran for 161 yards with one score against Stanford. Notre Dame will probably be heavily favored in its final seven games; none of its remaining opponents are currently ranked in the AP Top 25.
4. Georgia (5-0, 3-0 SEC)
Week 5 result: Defeated Tennessee 38-12
What’s next: vs. Vanderbilt (Saturday, TBA)
The Bulldogs outgained the Volunteers 410-209 in total yardage, held them to 66 rushing yards and controlled the ball for nearly 38 minutes. But Georgia still didn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders. The Bulldogs fumbled the ball four times and recovered every one of them, including tight end Isaac Nauta’s 31-yard run for a touchdown. UGA’s offensive line will have to play much better to win at LSU in two weeks.
5. Clemson (5-0, 2-0 ACC)
Week 5 result: Defeated Syracuse 27-23
What’s next: at Wake Forest (Saturday, TBA)
The Tigers survived their worst nightmare by scoring two touchdowns in the final 12 minutes to hold off the Orange, who were looking for their second big upset of Clemson in as many seasons. After senior quarterback Kelly Bryant lost the starting job and left the team earlier this week, freshman Trevor Lawrence suffered an apparent concussion late in the second quarter of his first start. The Tigers relied mightily on tailback Travis Etienne, who ran for a career-high 203 yards with three touchdowns.
6. LSU (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
Week 5 result: Defeated Ole Miss 45-16
What’s next: at Florida (Saturday, TBA)
The Tigers’ unexpected renaissance under coach Ed Orgeron continued Saturday night, as they blasted Ole Miss at home. The Tigers piled up more than 500 yards of offense, and Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow continued to be the answer at quarterback, passing for 292 yards with three touchdowns and running for 96 with one score. Now, the Tigers’ real challenge begins — they play at Florida next week and then have consecutive home games against Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama.
7. Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0 Big 12)
Week 5 result: Defeated Baylor 66-33
What’s next: vs. Texas in Dallas (Saturday, TBA)
Quarterback Kyler Murray didn’t start against Baylor because he was tardy for Friday’s practice. It’s a good thing for the Bears he didn’t. Murray became the third player in Big 12 history to pass for six touchdowns and run for one in the same game, joining Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell (2008) and B.J. Symons (2003). Murray finished 17-for-21 passing with 432 yards with six touchdowns and 45 rushing yards with one score.
8. West Virginia (4-0, 2-0 Big 12)
Week 5 result: Defeated Texas Tech 42-34
What’s next: vs. Kansas (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, TBA)
The Mountaineers’ Big 12 road opener was probably closer than coach Dana Holgorsen wanted, but quarterback Will Grier kept his Heisman Trophy hopes alive with another big performance. He completed 27 of 41 passes for 370 yards with three touchdowns. West Virginia’s defense played well early and struggled late. The Mountaineers held Red Raiders quarterback Alan Bowman to 123 yards on 9-for-20 passing and knocked him out of the game in the first half.
9. Penn State (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten)
Week 5 result: Lost to Ohio State 27-26
What’s next: vs. Michigan State (Oct. 13, TBA)
The Nittany Lions squandered a golden opportunity to take control of the Big Ten East, falling to Ohio State in the final minutes for the second season in a row. Quarterback Trace McSorley did everything he could, setting a PSU single-game record with 461 yards of total offense. He ran for 175 yards, second-most in a game by a Penn State quarterback and the most since Eugene “Shorty” Miller had 250 against Carnegie Tech in 1913.
10. Auburn (4-1, 1-1 SEC)
Week 5 result: Defeated Southern Miss 24-13
What’s next: at Mississippi State (Saturday, TBA)
Auburn fans had to sit through a nearly three-hour rain delay at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday — and it wasn’t too exciting watching the Tigers play, either. Auburn was good enough to improve to 37-1 in its last 38 nonconference home games, but its offense left a lot to be desired. The Tigers averaged only 2.7 yards on 36 rushing attempts, allowed three sacks, and 99 of quarterback Jarrett Stidham’s 245 passing yards came on two plays.
11. Washington (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12)
Week 5 result: Defeated BYU 35-7
What’s next: at UCLA (Saturday, TBA)
With Stanford’s loss at Notre Dame, the Huskies once again look like the Pac-12’s best chance at earning a CFP berth. Washington completely dominated a BYU team that won at Wisconsin two weeks ago, holding the Cougars to only seven first downs, 34 rushing yards and 194 yards of total offense. The Huskies came within 41 seconds of their first shutout of a ranked opponent since blanking No. 5 USC in 1990.
12. Stanford (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12)
Week 5 result: Lost to Notre Dame 38-17
What’s next: vs. Utah (Saturday, TBA)
The Cardinal lost more than their three-game winning streak over Notre Dame on Saturday night. Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Love injured his left ankle, which bothered him throughout the 2017 season, and left the game early in the fourth quarter. He had rushed for 73 yards on 13 carries, with a 39-yard touchdown before he was hurt. Love didn’t play two weeks ago against FCS foe UC Davis and has gained more than 100 yards in only one of the four games in which he has played this season.
13. Michigan (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten)
Week 5 result: Defeated Northwestern 20-17
What’s next: vs. Maryland (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ABC)
It wasn’t pretty, but the Wolverines came from 17 points behind to win on the road, matching the third-biggest comeback in school history. After surrendering 17 points and 130 yards on the Wildcats’ first three possessions, Michigan’s defense allowed only 72 yards the rest of the game. The Wolverines had six sacks and gave up only 28 rushing yards on 34 attempts.
14. Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten)
Week 5 result: Open date
What’s next: vs. Nebraska (Saturday, TBA)
The Badgers got an extra week of preparation before trying to add to new Nebraska coach Scott Frost’s misery. Wisconsin tailback Jonathan Taylor ran for 249 yards in a 38-17 win in Lincoln, Nebraska, last season. The Badgers will be trying for their sixth straight victory over the Cornhuskers, who have dropped six of seven games against Wisconsin since joining the Big Ten in 2011.
15. Miami (4-1, 1-0 ACC)
Week 5 result: Defeated North Carolina 47-10
What’s next: vs. Florida State (Saturday, TBA)
Miami’s defense continued its torrid play under coordinator Manny Diaz, tying a school record with three defensive touchdowns in a 37-point rout of the reeling Tar Heels on Thursday night. Romeo Finley and Joe Jackson returned interceptions for scores, and Jonathan Garvin scored on a fumble return. The Hurricanes forced six turnovers and held UNC to 114 passing yards. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Miami defense stopped the Tar Heels for zero or negative yards on 32 of 75 plays (43.6 percent).
16. UCF (4-0, 1-0 AAC)
Week 5 result: Defeated Pittsburgh 45-14
What’s next: vs. SMU (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
The Knights won their 17th consecutive game, the longest current winning streak in the FBS, and scored at least 45 points for the 11th time since the start of the 2017 season. UCF piled up 568 yards of offense; quarterback McKenzie Milton passed for 328 yards with four touchdowns. The Panthers are the third Power 5 opponent to fall to UCF in the past two seasons; UCF beat Maryland and Auburn last season.
17. Oregon (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12)
Week 5 result: Defeated California 42-24
What’s next: vs. Washington (Oct. 13, TBA)
The Ducks took out their frustration from last week’s collapse against Stanford by defeating the Bears on the road. Quarterback Justin Herbert was very efficient again, completing 16 of 22 passes for 225 yards with two touchdowns. Oregon gets an extra week to prepare for its Oct. 13 home game against Washington, which might go a long way in deciding the Pac-12 North title.
18. Texas (4-1, 2-0 Big 12)
Week 5 result: Defeated Kansas State 19-14
What’s next: vs. Oklahoma in Dallas (Saturday, TBA)
The Longhorns roll into next week’s showdown against Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry riding a four-game winning streak, their longest since 2013. Texas was good enough to end its five-game losing streak at Kansas State, but there are plenty of questions about its offense heading into Dallas. The Longhorns had only one offensive touchdown — they also scored on a safety and 90-yard punt return — and averaged only 6 yards per pass attempt. OU has won six of the last eight games in the series, including a 29-24 victory in 2017.
19. Kentucky (5-0, 3-0 SEC)
Week 5 result: Defeated South Carolina 24-10
What’s next: at Texas A&M (Saturday, TBA)
OK, it’s time to admit that the Wildcats might be good. With their fifth straight victory over South Carolina, the Wildcats improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2007. Kentucky is 3-0 in the SEC for the first time since 1977, when it finished undefeated in conference play. Kentucky’s defense was the difference against South Carolina, forcing four turnovers and limiting the Gamecocks to only 9 passing yards in the first half.
20. Colorado (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
Week 5 result: Defeated UCLA 38-16
What’s next: vs. Arizona State (Saturday, TBA)
The Buffaloes are 4-0 for the first time since 1998 after stampeding past the winless Bruins on Friday night. Colorado quarterback Steven Montez was nearly perfect against UCLA, completing 22 of 26 passes for 237 yards with one touchdown and running for two more scores. Sophomore Laviska Shenault Jr., who looks like the best receiver in the FBS, caught 10 passes or more for the third time in four games. He had a career-high 12 catches for 126 yards with one touchdown.
21. Syracuse (4-1, 1-1 ACC)
Week 5 result: Lost to Clemson 27-23
What’s next: at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 12:20 p.m. ET, ACCN)
The Orange had a golden opportunity to upset Clemson for the second season in a row and improve to 5-0 for the first time since 1987, but Syracuse couldn’t finish the deal on the road. Despite the loss, Syracuse still looks like one of the ACC’s three best teams, along with Clemson and Miami. Quarterback Eric Dungey had 250 passing yards and ran for two touchdowns in the loss.
22. Michigan State (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten)
Week 5 result: Defeated Central Michigan 31-20
What’s next: vs. Northwestern (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, TBA)
The Spartans took care of business against their directional neighbors, but they’ll have to improve to become a real factor in the Big Ten title race. Playing without injured tailback L.J. Scott (ankle) for the second straight game, Michigan State averaged only 3.4 yards on 47 rushing attempts.
23. Virginia Tech (3-1, 2-0 ACC)
Week 5 result: Defeated Duke 31-14
What’s next: vs. Notre Dame (Saturday, TBA)
The Hokies bounced back from their embarrassing 49-35 loss at Old Dominion last week by upsetting the No. 22-ranked Blue Devils on the road. Kansas transfer Ryan Willis, making his first start for the Hokies in place of injured Josh Jackson, passed for 332 yards with three touchdowns. After last week’s debacle, it was a good step back in the right direction.
24. Florida (4-1, 2-1 SEC)
Week 5 result: Defeated Mississippi State 13-6
What’s next: vs. LSU (Saturday, TBA)
The Gators are far from a finished product under first-year coach Dan Mullen, especially on offense, but they’re making strides every week. Florida won its third straight after losing to Kentucky for the first time in 32 games, and Saturday night’s victory was extra special for Mullen in his return to Mississippi State, where he coached for nine seasons. Florida’s defense held the Bulldogs to 202 total yards, including 98 passing, and Mississippi State went only 2-for-12 on third down.
25. Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1 Big 12)
Week 5 result: Defeated Kansas 48-28
What’s next: vs. Iowa State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, TBA)
The Pokes rebounded from a 24-point loss at Texas Tech last week by rolling past the Jayhawks. Quarterback Taylor Cornelius had 312 passing yards with four touchdowns, and Justin Hill ran for 189 yards, as OSU found its offensive groove early and often. They’ll have a chance to gain some momentum before hosting Texas on Oct. 27.