The Pac 12 was the center of the college football world this past weekend, and its three biggest games all turned into blowouts dominated the road team. On a related note, I'm done acting like I have any idea what's going on west of the Rockies. The top 9 consists of the same teams as last week, but some shuffling took place as some performed better than others. We are also starting to have our doubts about the Big Ten's top two.
1. Ohio State (Last Week: 1)
Another ho-hum win for the Buckeyes, who continue to look like something less than a No. 1 team. They have a suddenly interesting trip to Indiana this weekend, and it would serve them well to win convincingly. Ohio State's grip on the top spot is still strong, but we may start to see the gap shrink should the unconvincing wins continue into Big Ten play.
2. Michigan State (Last Week: 2)
In that same vein, it's high time we start wondering about Michigan State. The Spartans led Central Michigan by just a touchdown well into the fourth quarter before pulling away. The one Sparty win we were impressed with (Oregon) is significantly devalued after the Ducks were smacked by Utah in a 42-point home loss. Does anybody really think Michigan State looks like a playoff team right now?
3. Ole Miss (Last Week: T3)
It was hard not to expect a bit of a letdown after knocking off Alabama in Tuscaloosa a week prior, and sure enough the Rebels had trouble putting away Vanderbilt. But, hey, essentially every other top-10 team at least one questionable performance on the resume, so let's give Ole Miss a chance to notch another road win at Florida before we criticize too harshly.
4. TCU (Last Week: T3)
If you missed it, take a look. TCU was milliseconds away from its first loss, but an incredible catch and toe-tap of a tipped pass in the back of the end zone kept the Frogs undefeated for now. But as the defense loses more and more players, this becomes a team that has to outscore people like it did in the 55-52 win over Texas Tech. This version of TCU will not finish the season undefeated, no matter how dynamic the offense might be.
5. Baylor (Last Week: 5)
I never thought I would give Baylor any credit considering its schedule is so pathetic, but at least the Bears are soundly beating the teams they should—which is more than we can say for a lot of the teams up here. I would expect them to take care of a despondent Texas Tech team this week as they enter Big 12 play and begin to face real opponents.
6. Notre Dame (Last Week: 6)
The Irish have a few nice wins and perhaps have a case for being higher in the poll, but pulling off a road win at Clemson could easily vault Notre Dame to where it wants to be. This is the Irish's toughest test of the season, and a victory would make an undefeated run seem a lot more likely.
7. UCLA (Last Week: 9)
It's well known that I am not the biggest UCLA proponent by any means, but even I will give credit where it's due. The Bruins have finally legitimized their ranking in my eyes with their road dismantling of Arizona. I still think Josh Rosen's youth will cost them at some point as it nearly did against BYU, but right now you can't knock UCLA's position in the poll.
8. Georgia (Last Week: 7)
I love Georgia's running game (original viewpoint there), but quarterback Greyson Lambert is going to have to show me he can get the job done against a defense with a pulse before I consider the Bulldogs a true playoff threat. Beat Alabama, then we'll talk.
9. LSU (Last Week: 8)
Not as dominant a win as most probably expected against Syracuse, but Fournette and Co. took care of business in what was a strange game schedule-wise. An equally puzzling date with Eastern Michigan awaits.
10. Utah (Last Week: 18)
NEVER MIND. I called the Utes overrated again last week (because I truly believed they were) but they emphatically stomped on that notion by dismantling Oregon in one of the most unexpected results in recent college football history. It's hard to view Utah as anything other than legitimate after its 62-20 blowout win over the Ducks, but you also have to wonder if Oregon is trending downward quickly. Utah can't afford to rest on its laurels, however, as upstart Cal is coming to town this week.
11. Florida State (Last Week: 10)
The Seminoles had a week off to try to work out the kinks and get a virtual week off against Wake Forest to see if they figured anything out.
12. Clemson (Last Week: 11)
Outsiders are understandably skeptical about Clemson as a contender, but the Tigers can end all doubt if they take down Notre Dame this weekend. All things considered, you could argue it's the biggest game in Death Valley's history. Let's see if Clemson is ready for prime time.
13. Alabama (Last Week: 12)
We have reached the Tide's playoff reckoning, early as it may be. You probably can't rule the perennial SEC heavyweight out with two losses to top-10 teams, but it would take some pretty interesting circumstances for Alabama to creep back into playoff consideration if it loses to the Dawgs this weekend. It's a tough one to pick, but I think the Tide pulls out a close win because -- more than anything else -- I can't trust Mark Richt in a game of this magnitude.
14. Texas A&M (Last Week: 14)
The Aggies looked shaky against Arkansas, outlasting the Hogs in overtime. A revitalized Mississippi State comes calling this week, and A&M will have to return to form if it wants to remain undefeated.
15. Oklahoma (Last Week: 15)
The Sooners are likely in for a shoot out against newly ranked West Virginia, and their defense will have to play better than it did against Tulsa to hold off the Mountaineers at home.
16. Northwestern (Last Week: 17)
Again, nobody here is going to tout Northwestern as a playoff threat - especially after they had to overcome a halftime deficit to top Ball State by all of five points. But at least ... they won ... I guess? The Wildcats' game against Minnesota this week should be interesting, albeit ugly, and a win would have them at 5-0 traveling to Michigan.
17. USC (Last Week: 19)
The Trojans bounced back impressively in a decisive road win against Arizona State (who is failing spectacularly to meet its own expectations) and get a week off before a Thursday matchup with Washington.
18. Stanford (Last Week: 21)
The Cardinal kept things moving in the right direction with a road win at Oregon State and host beaten down Arizona this week. It's still hard to explain this team's performance against Northwestern to open the season, and it's largely the reason anybody is taking the Wildcats seriously.
19. Wisconsin (Last Week: T22)
Sconny hosts undefeated Iowa in an under-the-radar matchup where the Badgers aim to prove they can beat a real team. I'll take Hawkeyes in a road upset.
20. Oklahoma State (Last Week: 24)
It's still hard for me to completely buy in to Oklahoma State, which squeaked by Texas as a direct result of this.
21. Mississippi State (Last Week: NR)
The Bulldogs re-enter the poll thanks to a win over Auburn, which will sound less and less cool as it continues to become a feather in the cap of every SEC West team this season. Beating A&M on the road this week would raise some eyebrows, but I wouldn't count on it.
22. Michigan (Last Week: NR)
All hail Harbaugh! Michigan has made its long-awaited return to the top 25, and I admit it's not outlandish. The Wolverines destroyed BYU in what I would argue was the second most surprising game of the weekend, and that lone loss on the road to Utah all of a sudden looks very forgivable.
23. West Virginia (Last Week: NR)
Maryland isn't very good, but I didn't exactly foresee West Virginia drilling the Terrapins 45-6. We'll see if the Mountaineer offense will continue to shine and, perhaps more impotantly, if that defense can hold up against Oklahoma's high-flying attack this week.
24. California (Last Week: NR)
The Bears' offense is humming behind top NFL prospect Jared Goff, but that defense couldn't stop the STS staff with Dr. QT throwing bubble screens to Kraken every play. Any game Cal plays in is guaranteed to be a shootout, but if it can keep outscoring teams, who knows?
25. Florida (Last Week: NR)
It was a popular sentiment that Tennessee was going to be the team that challenged Georgia in the SEC East this season, but after the Gators ripped out Rocky Top's heart in a 28-27 win, is Jim McElwain's squad actually the real threat? Florida has a massive opportunity this weekend when Ole Miss travels to The Swamp, and there is much more to gain than to lose.