College football power rankings Rough week to be in the top 10

The first Saturday of October brought the first major shakeup to the top 10, with LSU, Oklahoma, and Auburn all losing away from the cozy confines of their home stadiums.

A notable exception to that chaos was Notre Dame, which went on the road and beat ranked Virginia Tech. As a result, we’ve kept the Fighting Irish ahead of Clemson and Georgia in the Power Rankings.

Texas, Florida, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State also made their own big leaps in the poll after knocking off ranked conference opponents.

Just a sign of things to come, surely.

Here are the rankings after Week 6:

Lamical Perine scores in Florida’s win over LSU. Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

1. Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC)

Week 6 result: Defeated Arkansas 65-31
What’s next: vs. Missouri (7 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN)

Nick Saban might have experienced his platonic ideal of football in the Crimson Tide’s 34-point road rout of Arkansas: a dominating win with plenty to complain about. Alabama hadn’t surrendered this many points in 20 games, dating back to the 2017 national title game loss to Clemson. “I don’t think that you really beat the other team when you give up 31 points, like we did today,” Saban said afterward. The Razorbacks might beg to differ, given that the Tide have never looked better on offense. Well, at least since 1945, the last time Alabama scored 60 points or more twice in conference play.

2. Ohio State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten)

Week 6 result: Defeated Indiana 49-26
What’s next: vs. Minnesota (12 p.m. Saturday, TV TBA)

A slow start should’ve been expected after last week’s thriller at Penn State. Additionally, Indiana putting a scare into Ohio State has almost become an annual tradition: This was the sixth time in their past seven games that the Hoosiers beat the spread (26.5 points). The Buckeyes took the lead for good late in the second quarter and finally pulled away early in the fourth. Dwayne Haskins kept himself in Heisman Trophy contention, throwing for six touchdowns — tying a school record — and 455 yards in a game which Ohio State clearly needed him to provide a spark.

3. Notre Dame (6-0)

Week 6 result: Defeated Virginia Tech 45-23
What’s next: vs. Pittsburgh (2:30 p.m. Saturday, NBC)

At this point, it’s clear quarterback Ian Book is the difference between Notre Dame being merely good and being a playoff contender. How much of a difference has he made? The Fighting Irish had been held under 30 points in seven straight games before Book entered the lineup. Now they’ve scored 30 or more points in each of his three starts. With defenses finally having to respect the pass, Dexter Williams (178 yards, three TDs) was able to run wild against the Hokies on Saturday. Now boasting wins over Michigan, Stanford and Virginia Tech, Notre Dame has a résumé that compares favorably with almost anyone else’s in the nation.

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

Week 6 result: Defeated Wake Forest 63-3
What’s next: Open week

Trevor Lawrence made an anticlimactic return to the lineup after suffering an injury in last week’s near-upset against Syracuse. Clemson barely needed the heralded freshman quarterback in this runaway against the Demon Deacons, rolling to 63 points — its second-highest total in an ACC game — and pitching a first-half shutout for the third time this season. Three Clemson running backs cracked 100 yards rushing for the first time in 12 years. All in all, the Tigers caught a breather heading into their bye week before a big Atlantic Division game against undefeated NC State on Oct. 20.

5. Georgia (6-0, 4-0 SEC)

Week 6 result: Defeated Vanderbilt 41-13
What’s next: at LSU (3:30 p.m. Saturday, TV TBA)

The Bulldogs cruised again Saturday, with Jake Fromm throwing for 276 yards and three touchdowns, and Georgia’s deep pool of running backs averaging over 7 yards per carry. Expect this to be the last laugher they’ll have for a while. Georgia will face its first real test of the season next Saturday at LSU, after an opening slate that didn’t include a single ranked team. The Tigers’ loss at Florida takes a little steam out of what would’ve been a titanic showdown between a pair of Top 5 teams, but nothing this fall has prepared the Bulldogs for the atmosphere they’ll be entering in Death Valley.

6. Washington (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12)

Week 6 result: Defeated UCLA 31-24
What’s next: at Oregon (3:30 p.m. Saturday)

The winless Bruins kept things close deep into the fourth quarter. But Washington turned again to their senior stars, Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin, for the game-clinching 12-play, 81-yard touchdown drive. That scare from UCLA might have been a timely one for the Huskies, as they visit Oregon next week for a game that could settle (or unsettle) the order atop the Pac-12 North. And Oregon’s Justin Herbert will almost certainly pose more of a challenge than UCLA freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson (27-of-38 for 272 yards and two TDs) did Saturday.

7. Penn State (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten)

Week 6 result: open week
What’s next: vs. Michigan State (3:30 p.m. Saturday, TV TBA)

The Nittany Lions got a timely week off to recover from their heartbreaking home loss to Ohio State. By sitting this week out, they got to watch three more Top 10 teams lose (LSU, Oklahoma and Auburn) and witness the rebirth of their playoff aspirations. Trace McSorley and Penn State still have a lot to play, for but their margin is thinner than ever before. The second half of their season will start next Saturday with reeling Michigan State, which is coming off a 29-19 loss to Northwestern. And even if the Nittany Lions make it through Sparty, Indiana and Iowa, a road game at Michigan and then Wisconsin awaits them.

8. West Virginia (5-0, 3-0 Big 12)

Week 6 result: Defeated Kansas 38-22
What’s next: at Iowa State (7 p.m. Saturday, TV TBA)

It’s possible Kansas is much improved, but West Virginia didn’t look like Top 10 material in putting away the perennial league doormat. Will Grier’s shaky outing was a big part of the Mountaineers’ uneven performance, with his three interceptions equaling his total from the first four games combined. Grier also had his fourth game this season with four touchdown passes, tied for most in the FBS. The Mountaineers’ toughest games remain ahead of them, starting with a road trip to Iowa State next week. So it’ll become clear soon enough if Grier and the Neers are for real.

9. LSU (5-1, 2-1 SEC)

Week 6 result: Lost to Florida 28-19
What’s next: vs. Georgia (3:30 p.m. Saturday, TV TBA)

Losing in The Swamp is nothing to be ashamed of, or even unexpected, but the Tigers’ sputtering offense looked awfully familiar to those who believed they had finally had solved those problems. Other than a 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game, LSU reverted to the sort of offense that has held it back against elite teams in the past. Joe Burrow was sacked five times and picked a terrible time for his first interception this season, a pick-six with 1:45 left in the contest that all but sealed LSU’s fate. Worse, Florida cracked 200 yards rushing, which has been an ominous sign over the past four years: The Tigers are 0-5 when allowing 200 or more yards on the ground. And it only gets tougher from here. Next up: Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama come to Tiger Stadium.

10. Michigan (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten)

Week 6 result: Defeated Maryland 42-21
What’s next: vs. Wisconsin (7:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC)

After giving up a kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter, the Wolverines gradually seized back control. Karan Higdon had his fourth straight game with at least 100 rushing yards — the longest streak by a Michigan player in eight years — and they held Maryland to 44 yards of offense after three quarters. The Wolverines more than doubled Maryland in yards (465-220) and first downs (24-11), and they held the ball for 11 more minutes. It’s exactly the kind of win Jim Harbaugh would’ve scripted as Michigan hits a grueling three-game stretch, with two home games against Wisconsin and Penn State sandwiched around a road trip to Michigan State.

11. UCF (5-0, 2-0 American)

Week 6 result: Defeated SMU 48-20
What’s next: at Memphis (3:30 p.m. Saturday)

If the Knights keep the nation’s longest winning streak alive another couple of weeks, they’ll almost certainly break into the Top 10. But there’s not much to learn from a four-touchdown win over SMU at this point in the season; the closest of the Mustangs’ four losses is 23 points. McKenzie Milton now ranks fifth in AAC history with 61 career passing touchdowns, after adding two more to his total. The most important task for UCF is making sure Milton is healthy for season-ending games against Cincinnati and USF. That shouldn’t be a problem, as Adrian Killins Jr. (113 yards rushing, one TD) and Otis Anderson (74 yards, two TDs) seem more than capable of carrying some of the load.

12. Wisconsin (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten)

Week 6 result: Defeated Nebraska 41-24
What’s next: at Michigan (7:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC)

Jonathan Taylor rolled to his fifth career 200-yard rushing game, helping the Badgers pound winless Nebraska into submission. But it was a much-closer-than-expected win for Wisconsin. It’s difficult to tell whether that’s because Wisconsin isn’t quite as dominant as expected or because it was holding back with Michigan looming next Saturday? Regardless, the game at Ann Arbor will be both a litmus test and an elimination game for the Badgers. They’ll go into the make-or-break game down safety Scott Nelson for the first half following his ejection for targeting late in the third quarter. That could be a big loss.

13. Texas (5-1, 3-0 Big 12)

Week 6 result: Defeated No. 7 Oklahoma 48-45
What’s next: vs. Baylor (3:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN)

This feels a little different than when Tyrone Swoopes dove into the end zone against Notre Dame, doesn’t it? Tom Herman appears on the cusp of building something that could last for a while, winning outright as an underdog in nine of 13 games in his career. Part of that is Sam Ehlinger is turning into a quarterback to build a program around, totaling 386 yards of offense and scoring five touchdowns — and joining Vince Young and Cedric Benson as the only Texas players to tally that many against a ranked opponent over the past 15 seasons. Ehlinger, Herman and the Horns won’t get to be underdogs too many more times going forward.

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

Week 6 result: Lost to Texas 48-45
What’s next: Open week

Kyler Murray finally couldn’t bail out Mike Stoops anymore. The Sooners’ longtime defensive coordinator probably won’t have many fans left in Norman after allowing Texas to score a series-record 48 points. But the Red River Showdown was actually the culmination of the defense’s steady collapse, starting with surprisingly sloppy performances against Army and Baylor. The loss not only hurts the Sooners’ chances of making the College Football Playoff, but it makes it even more likely the Big 12 gets shut out of the final four completely. Their loss dropped the conference’s chances from 23 percent to 14 percent, according to the Playoff Predictor.

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

Week 6 result: Defeated LSU 28-19
What’s next: at Vanderbilt (12 p.m. Saturday, ESPN)

Dan Mullen wore a visor, beat a Top 5 opponent and had The Swamp as loud and crowded as ever. Forgive Gators fans if Saturday felt a little familiar. In fact, Mullen pulled off what no first-year Florida coach has done since Steve Spurrier: beat LSU. And the Gators did it with defense, tallying five sacks and creating three turnovers against a Tigers team that had allowed eight sacks and committed three turnovers in all of their previous games combined. If the Gators can avoid a slip-up against Vanderbilt next week, they’ll have a big opportunity to truly measure their progress against rival Georgia.

16. Miami (5-1, 2-0 ACC)

Week 6 result: Defeated Florida State 28-27
What’s next: at Virginia (7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2)

The worst Florida State team in recent memory pushed the Hurricanes to the limit, forcing them to pull off their biggest comeback ever in this rivalry. Credit the Turnover Chain: Down 27-7 in the third quarter, Miami clearly fed off the energy of the crowd following a Gerald Willis III fumble recovery that led to two touchdowns in a span of 42 seconds. Redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry’s second start left a lot to be desired despite his four touchdown passes. He completed only 13 of 32 pass attempts, and his slow start played no small role in Miami’s big early hole. Perry will have to be much better if Miami is to maintain its role as the favorite in the Coastal Division.

17. Colorado (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12)

Week 6 result: Defeated Arizona State 28-21
What’s next: at USC (10:30 p.m. Saturday, FS1)

Colorado’s first 5-0 start in 20 years didn’t come easy. Laviska Shenault Jr.’s third touchdown broke a 21-21 tie late in the third quarter, and the Buffaloes held the ball for 12:34 of the fourth, putting together clock-burning drives of 11 and 13 plays that would’ve made Bill McCartney proud. Now, the Buffaloes are one win from clearing up any doubts about whether they’re the favorites in the Pac-12 South.

18. Oregon (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12)

Week 6 result: open week
What’s next: vs. Washington (3:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC/ESPN2)

Few teams have looked better than the Ducks did in the first three quarters against Stanford. Few teams have looked more out of sorts than the Ducks did in that disastrous fourth quarter that led to their overtime defeat. Which team will show up when the first-place Huskies come to Autzen Stadium on Saturday? It’s not hard to envision Justin Herbert having some success against that Washington secondary only a week after UCLA’s freshman quarterback put up nearly 300 yards on it. But the Ducks will have to avoid the crushing turnovers and penalties that doomed them in the loss to Stanford during their only real competitive game of the season.

19. Texas A&M (4-2, 2-1 SEC)

Week 6 result: Defeated Kentucky 20-14
What’s next: at South Carolina (3:30 p.m. Saturday, SEC Network)

Are Texas AND Texas A&M back? Trayveon Williams pounded out 138 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime, lifting the Aggies to the most important win (thus far) of Jimbo Fisher’s first year in College Station. It’s worth remembering that the Aggies’ only two losses this season came against possibly the two best teams in college football (Alabama and Clemson). Texas A&M staked its claim to a Top 25 return with a dominating defensive performance against early-season darling Kentucky. Since joining the SEC in 2012, two of the Aggies’ three best defensive performances against conference opponents have come in the past two weeks. It’s looking like the Aggies will be a factor in the SEC West down the stretch.

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

Week 6 result: Lost to Texas A&M 20-14
What’s next: Open week

This was all new for Kentucky: talk of the Top 10 and SEC East title contention and being favored in an incredibly difficult road game at Kyle Field. The Wildcats put up a good fight, taking the contest into overtime, but they simply didn’t have enough offense to pull it off. Kentucky didn’t run a single offensive play in Texas A&M territory in regulation and was held to 178 yards. That kind of offense would’ve cost them eventually, but it caught up with them against the Aggies. Now it’s time to see if the Wildcats can bounce back from a tough loss with very winnable games against Vanderbilt and Missouri before they host Georgia on Nov. 3.

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

Week 6 result: Defeated Auburn 23-9
What’s next: Open week

Nick Fitzgerald clearly outplayed Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, rushing for 195 yards and two touchdowns and helping the Bulldogs bounce back from a loss against Florida last week. Fitzgerald and Kylin Hill (126 yards) contributed to a punishing offensive effort that provided Mississippi State with a nearly 24-minute time of possession advantage. But closing out a brutal four-game stretch of Kentucky, Florida and Auburn with a game at LSU might be a little too much for the Bulldogs.

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

Week 6 result: Defeated Boston College 28-23
What’s next: Open week

The Wolfpack nearly blew a 28-3 third quarter lead, committed four turnovers and had two kicks blocked, including a punt Boston College recovered for a touchdown. But no matter how it looked, they pulled out the win for the program’s first 5-0 start since 2002. The common denominator between that team and this one? Dependable quarterback play. Ryan Finley is obviously no Philip Rivers, but he threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns — as well as two interceptions — to give NC State just enough cushion against an overmatched defense. He’ll need to cut down on those turnovers for the Wolfpack to have a chance at Clemson in two weeks.

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

Week 6 result: Defeated Tulane 37-21
What’s next: Open week

It’s hard to say what this 6-0 start, the first since Butch Jones’ final season there in 2012, means for Cincinnati; the opponents they’ve played have a combined record of 10-21. But it’s clear Luke Fickell, a co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State for more than a decade, has built a defense that is the foundation of his program. The Bearcats entered Saturday with a defense that was allowing only 276 yards per game, good for second in the nation, behind Clemson. They improved on those numbers against Tulane, holding the Green Wave to 266.

24. Auburn (4-2, 1-2 SEC)

Week 6 result: Lost to Mississippi State 23-9
What’s next: vs. Tennessee (12 p.m. Saturday, TV TBA)

Unless there’s some improbable chaos ahead, the Tigers aren’t repeating as SEC West champions this fall. Mississippi State ground their title hopes to dust Saturday, rushing for 349 yards and holding the ball for almost 42 minutes. Jarrett Stidham and the Auburn offense failed to get much going in the remaining 18:07. Stidham completed only half of his 38 pass attempts for 214 yards, and the Tigers converted just three of its 14 third downs and rushed for only 90 yards. Auburn will have some time to figure it out, as it should be favored the next couple of weeks against Tennessee and Ole Miss. But the season could get ugly late if the offense can’t fix its issues.

25. South Florida (5-0, 1-0 American)

Week 6 result: Defeated Massachusetts 58-42
What’s next: at Tulsa (7 p.m. Friday, ESPN)

Jordan Cronkrite ran for three touchdowns in a 28-point third quarter, part of a school- and American Athletic Conference-record 302-yard rushing performance that broke open a close game for the unbeaten Bulls. This is the second straight year head coach Charlie Strong has USF off to a 5-0 start. But it’s tough to know what to make of that because the combined record of their opponents is 14-13, with four of those wins coming from FCS Elon. The Bulls’ mettle probably won’t be seriously tested until late in the month, with a game at Houston on Oct. 27.

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