1. Alabama (7-0) Last Game: W 44-13 @ Tennessee; Next Game: vs Mississippi State
Previous Rank: 1
A.J. McCarron threw for 306 yards and four touchdowns, including two to superstar freshman Amari Cooper, to lead the Crimson Tide to an easy victory over fading Tennessee. Cooper had seven catches for 162 yards and classmate T.J. Yeldon had 129 rushing yards and two scores of his own. Alabama held the Vols to a 2-13 performance on 3rd down and forced a pair of turnovers. Unbeaten Mississippi State visits Tuscaloosa next week for another challenge to the undisputed #1 team in the land.
2. Oregon (7-0) Last Game: W 43-21 @ Arizona State; Next Game: vs Colorado
Previous Rank: 2
An inauspicious start turned into a typical laugher for the Ducks as they erupted for 43 points in an 18 minute stretch of the 1st half to overwhelm the Sun Devils. After fumbling on their second offensive play and allowing a touchdown pass on the next snap, Oregon rebounded quickly and suffocated the Devils behind standout efforts from senior running back Kenjon Barner (143 yards, 3 touchdowns) and freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota. The cool Hawaiian had a passing, rushing and receiving touchdown for Oregon as he continued a strong campaign. Oregon has a virtual bye as Colorado visits Autzen Stadium this week before the big showdown at the Coliseum against USC November 3rd.
3. Florida (7-0) Last Game: W 44-11 vs #7 South Carolina; Next Game: vs Georgia (Jacksonville, FL)
Previous Rank: 3
The Gators proved that they are for real as they demolished SEC East rival South Carolina behind four Jeff Driskel touchdown passes. The Gators struggled offensively with only 183 yards but forced four Gamecock turnovers, allowing them to cash in on short fields repeatedly. Stellar defense and timely special teams have been the name of the game for the Gators this season but it remains to be seen if they will be able to continue to win with poor offensive performances. Driskel passed for only 93 yards and Mike Gillislee led Florida with 19 carries for 37 yards. Georgia presents a potentially bigger problem than either LSU or South Carolina with their dynamic offense meeting in Jacksonville this weekend.
4. Notre Dame (7-0) Last Game: W 17-14 vs BYU; Next Game: @ Oklahoma
Previous Rank: 4
The Irish haven’t been sexy but they’ve been winning, led by Manti Te’o and a surprisingly stout defense. Notre Dame bounced back from a 14-7 deficit after surrendering a pair of BYU touchdowns in a two-minute span in the 2nd quarter. They took the lead for good on George Atkinson’s 2-yard touchdown run with 12:52 remaining. The Irish were paced by a career-high 143 rushing yards by Theo Riddick and senior Cierre Wood contributed 114 yards on the ground. Tommy Rees started hot in place of the injured Everett Golson but cooled off considerably and then let his running game carry the load to fend off the Cougars. A trip to Oklahoma could decide whether Notre Dame is a true national title contender. Get past the Sooners and they are virtually assured of a BCS berth, although that will not be the height of their aspirations.
5. Kansas State (7-0) Last Game: W 55-14 vs #13 West Virginia; Next Game: vs Texas Tech
Previous Rank: 5
Bill Snyder’s crew continues to surprise the college football world and Collin Klein has emerged as the Heisman favorite midway through the season. Klein accounted for seven touchdowns, including four on the ground, to lead the Wildcats to an easy victory over West Virginia and former Heisman frontrunner Geno Smith. Klein was spectacular, completing 19-21 passes for 323 yards and three scores while adding four short touchdown runs. The Wildcats piled up leads of 24-0 early and 52-7 through three quarters in the romp. Many who had doubted Kansas State before have become convinced of their legitimacy through seven games but the always tough Texas Tech Red Raiders could catch the Wildcats napping this week if they do not have their offense firing on all cylinders.
6. Oregon State (6-0) Last Game: W 21-7 vs Utah; Next Game: @ Washington
Previous Rank: 6
It wasn’t pretty but the Beavers overcome a second game without injured starting quarterback Sean Mannion as they moved to 6-0 for the first time since 1907. Oregon State forced two 1st half turnovers that led to their touchdowns as Storm Woods converted both turnovers into short scoring runs before adding a third to ice the game in the 4th quarter. The Beavers struggled offensively a week after backup quarterback Cody Vaz led them to a surprising 42-24 win over BYU. Vaz finished with only 174 yards passing and Woods ran 17 times for 47 yards but most importantly, the Beavers won the turnover battle 4-0 and converted those turnovers into points. Oregon State travels to Seattle to face a wounded Washington team this week before the slate of games gets noticeably tougher to close the season.
7. LSU (7-1) Last Game: W 24-19 @ #18 Texas A&M; Next Game: vs Alabama November 3rd
Previous Rank: 7
LSU overcame an early 12-0 deficit and the defense held star Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel mostly in check as they rallied for a key win over Texas A&M. The Tigers forced five turnovers, including three Manziel interceptions and got a career-high 127 yards rushing from Jeremy Hill as they amassed 219 yards on the ground. Manziel was also held to a season-low 27 yards on the ground on 17 carries as he was consistently harassed by the stout LSU defensive line. The Tigers scored twice in the final 1:49 of the 1st half to regain the momentum as they reeled off 24 consecutive points and held the Aggies’ rally off in the final minutes. LSU has a week off before hosting Alabama with the SEC West title on the line.
8. Oklahoma (5-1) Last Game: W 52-7 vs Kansas; Next Game: vs Notre Dame
Previous Rank: 8
Landry Jones threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns and the Sooners had both a punt return and kickoff return for a touchdown as they steamrolled the Jayhawks. Jones had a pair of touchdown passes and Justin Brown contributed a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown to build a 38-0 halftime lead. Roy Finch then returned the 2nd half kickoff 100 yards for the score in a game that was as lopsided as the final score would indicate. Oklahoma forced three turnovers and completely dominated despite Kansas holding the ball for over 40 minutes. They were unable to make any dents on the scoreboard until a James Sims 1-yard touchdown run with 3:11 remaining in the game. The Sooners have momentum on their side as they welcome Notre Dame to Norman for a huge showdown this week.
9. USC (6-1) Last Game: W 50-6 vs Colorado; Next Game: @ Arizona
Previous Rank: 9
Matt Barkley broke the Pac-12 record for career touchdowns and played a near-perfect game with 19 completions on 20 attempts for 298 yards and six touchdowns against the woeful Buffaloes. Robert Woods caught four of those touchdown passes, also a school record, while moving into 1st place on the school’s all-time receptions list. Marquise Lee and Xavier Grimble also caught touchdown passes and the defense forced six Colorado turnovers while only allowing a pair of Will Oliver field goals for the Buffaloes. USC faces a revitalized Arizona offense this week before welcoming Oregon to Los Angeles in the Pac-12 game of the year.
10. Florida State (7-1) Last Game: W 33-20 @ Miami; Next Game: vs Duke
Previous Rank: 10
The Seminoles overcame a sloppy first half in which they were flagged for nine penalties and fumbled four times, losing two, to eventually pull away from Miami for a big ACC win. Devonta Freeman had two 4th quarter touchdown runs and Dustin Hopkins kicked four field goals as the Seminoles blew open a close game with 17 unanswered points in the final quarter. The Seminoles had 447 yards of offense but also had 121 yards in penalties but it was enough to hold back gimpy Miami quarterback Stephen Morris and an anemic Hurricanes running game. Miami finished with just 29 yards on the ground against 218 for Florida State. Scrappy Duke comes to Tallahassee this week before Florida State hits the road for its final two conference games in advance of their annual showdown with Florida to close the season.