College football Power Rankings after Week 9


The last October weekend of the college football season looked ripe for upsets. And we got them — just not where we thought.

Oklahoma State traveled to Manhattan to take on Kansas State in what was supposed to be a battle for the inside track to the Big 12 championship game. Instead, it turned into the Wildcats’ best performance of the season and the Cowboys’ worst outing in decades. K-State handed coach Mike Gundy & Co. a 48-0 defeat to firmly plant itself in the conference title race.

In similar fashion, Louisville used a dominant third quarter to rout a top-10 Wake Forest team 48-21 in another surprising outcome. The Demon Deacons would’ve needed a lot of help to reach the ACC title game, but with a second loss, their chances are all but over.

Elsewhere, Notre Dame upset a ranked Syracuse team on the road, while Cincinnati and South Carolina fell out of the top 25 following losses to unranked opponents.

There was plenty of turnover in the rankings this week despite the top teams continuing to hold serve, so it’s a perfect time to check out this week’s Power Rankings.


Ohio State coach Ryan Day came away from Happy Valley thrilled with his team’s fourth-quarter effort. Defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau delivered one of the best single-game performances in team history (two interceptions, one pick-six, two sacks, a strip sack and recovery, and a tipped pass that led to another interception), however, and quarterback C.J. Stroud, wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., running back TreVeyon Henderson and the offense came alive in the final nine minutes. The first three quarters included several Buckeyes blunders, though, especially with the run offense and execution in key situations. Ohio State passed its first major road test, though, and displayed the toughness Day craves and demands of his best teams. — Adam Rittenberg

Up next: at Northwestern (Saturday, noon ET, ABC/ESPN app)


Another week, another offensive show for Tennessee. The Vols jumped on Kentucky in the first half with a couple of long Hendon Hooker touchdown passes and cruised to a 44-6 victory over a Wildcats team that managed just one TD. The Vols (8-0) have scored more than 40 points in their past four games, and they again had their way with a Kentucky defense that did its best to help the Wildcats hang around. But Tennessee’s defense intercepted Kentucky quarterback Will Levis three times and played one of its most complete games of the season in a sold-out Neyland Stadium. Tennessee has now won 35 of the past 38 meetings in the series. — Chris Low

Up next: at Georgia (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)


The Bulldogs avoided a slow start, which has plagued them at times this season, and jumped out to a 28-3 lead at the half against Florida in Jacksonville. Then a sloppy third quarter, in which Georgia turned the ball over twice and gave up a 78-yard touchdown pass on a busted coverage, allowed the Gators to cut its lead to 28-20. The Bulldogs answered the call again, scoring touchdowns on each of their next two possessions for a 42-20 victory. It was Georgia’s fifth win against Florida in the past six meetings. Georgia will have to clean things up before next week’s showdown against No. 3 Tennessee at Sanford Stadium that might decide which team wins the SEC East. — Mark Schlabach

Up next: vs. Tennessee (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

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Brock Bowers makes the juggling catch and takes it 73 yards for the Georgia touchdown to pad its lead to 21-0.


Michigan beat Michigan State 29-7 in Jim Harbaugh’s first win over Mel Tucker in the last three years. Running back Blake Corum led the way for the Wolverines, rushing for 177 yards, which is the most by a Michigan player against Michigan State since Mike Hart had 218 in 2005. The Wolverines defense held Michigan State’s offense to just 63 yards in the second half and pulled away, scoring 16 points over the final two quarters. Michigan moved to 8-0 on the season with Rutgers up next. — Tom VanHaaren

Up next: at Rutgers (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)


The Tigers had an open date to begin preparing for Notre Dame and get rested for what they hope will be a run to another College Football Playoff appearance. Clemson played eight straight games before its bye week, but it has yet to put together a complete game from both its offense and defense. DJ Uiagalelei remains the starter despite getting benched in Clemson’s comeback win over Syracuse, and all eyes will be on his performance next Saturday in South Bend, Indiana. — Andrea Adelson

Up next: at Notre Dame (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)


Absorb some punches then finish strong. It’s the TCU way this year, and the Horned Frogs finished strong enough to take down West Virginia 41-31 in Morgantown on Saturday. As has become customary, they did it with big plays. Five different players scored touchdowns of 29 yards or more — Taye Barber, Quentin Johnston and Savion Williams through the air; Kendre Miller and Emani Bailey on the ground — and TCU scored 34 of its 41 points in the second and fourth quarters. The Frogs are now 8-0 for the first time since 2015, and they should have a pretty small number next to their name (fifth? sixth? seventh?) in this week’s first College Football Playoff rankings. — Bill Connelly

Up next: vs. Texas Tech (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)


Losing that heartbreaking game at Tennessee still stings for a team with championship aspirations. But with that said, the past two weeks have given Alabama an excellent opportunity to bounce back — first by dominating Mississippi State at home last weekend then by taking this past week off to regroup and recover ahead of a pivotal game at LSU. Going to Tiger Stadium will test an Alabama team that has struggled in difficult environments, including with penalties and dropped passes. — Alex Scarborough

Up next: at LSU (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN app)


Seven straight wins. Seven straight games with at least 41 points. And it could — should? — have been even more against Cal in Berkeley on Saturday, where the Ducks turned it over on downs twice in the red zone in a 42-24 victory. The Golden Bears had not allowed more than 31 points in a game all season and came into the contest giving up an average of just 22.6 points. Oregon quarterback Bo Nix surpassed the 400-yard passing mark for the second time this year to go along with three passing touchdowns and three rushing scores. — Kyle Bonagura

Up next: at Colorado (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN app)


Down a handful of starters, including wide receiver Jordan Addison and veteran offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees, Southern California was able to outlast Arizona in a shootout thanks to a five-touchdown, 411-yard passing performance from quarterback Caleb Williams. The Wildcats’ own offensive firepower (543 total offensive yards) highlighted once again the improvement that USC’s defense (though hampered by injuries) needs to make in order to get the Trojans to an elite level this season and beyond. — Paolo Uggetti

Up next: vs. Cal (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN app)


The only reason Stanford held a lead at one point during Saturday’s matchup at the Rose Bowl was because the Cardinal started with the ball and kicked a field goal. It was all Bruins for the next four quarters as they bounced back from their first loss of the season against Oregon with a resounding victory over Stanford thanks, in large part, to running back Zach Charbonnet‘s sixth game this season with 100 rushing yards or more. — Uggetti

Up next: at Arizona State (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, FS1)


The Rebs’ running game returned in a big way, racking up 391 yards en route to a 31-28 win at Texas A&M. Quinshon Judkins continued to lead the offense with an eye-popping 205 yards on 34 carries. But what made this game different was the return of Zach Evans, who was sorely missed during last week’s loss at LSU. Evans’ burst, which is a nice change from the bruising style of Judkins, came in handy against the Aggies, as Evans racked up 105 yards on 10 touches (eight carries, two receptions). — Alex Scarborough

Up next: BYE

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Quinshon Judkins rushes for 205 yards and a touchdown, setting the Rebels’ record for freshman rushing TDs, in a 31-28 win at Texas A&M.


Possibly the surprise of the week in college football came when Utah initially trotted its offense onto the field at Washington State on Thursday. The Utes were without running back Tavion Thomas, as expected, but quarterback Cam Rising remained on the sideline, with Bryson Barnes in his place. Barnes filled in admirably, but for Rising to be unavailable after trying to give it a go in warm-ups put the Utes in a tough spot. “He just didn’t feel like he was right. It was Cam’s decision,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “If Cam says he can’t play, he can’t play.” Still, the Utes left Pullman with a 21-17 win, and they remain in the thick of the Pac-12 title hunt. — Bonagura

Up next: vs. Arizona (Saturday, TBD)


The Wildcats delivered one of the most improbable scorelines of the season with a 48-0 decision over an Oklahoma State team that was averaging 44.7 points. It was Kansas State’s biggest shutout win against a top-10 team since 1966. Will Howard, starting for an injured Adrian Martinez, threw for 296 yards and four scores, and Deuce Vaughn ran for another 158 yards. Everything clicked for a preseason Big 12 sleeper, and now the Wildcats are legit contenders. — Wilson

Up next: vs. Texas (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, FS1)


The Illini are 7-1 on the season after beating Nebraska handily. Running back Chase Brown went over the 100-yard rushing mark for the eighth time this season, which hasn’t happened for a Big Ten ball carrier since Ezekiel Elliott had 10 straight 100-yard outings in 2015. Brown also had a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same half, and he is one of only two FBS players this season to do so (Bijan Robinson, Texas). With the win, it’s only the sixth time that Illinois has started the season 7-1 or better through eight games and the first time since 2001. — VanHaaren

Up next: vs. Michigan State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)


When Pittsburgh scored to make it 24-14 early in the third quarter, it looked like the Tar Heels’ unbeaten ACC season would go up in smoke. Instead, QB Drake Maye took over, leading Carolina to 28 unanswered points to win, 42-24. Maye finished 34 of 44 for 388 yards and five touchdowns in a performance that will keep the Heels in the AP Top 25. It was Carolina’s fourth straight win, heading into a pair of road games against Virginia and Wake Forest. — Bonagura

Up next: at Virginia (Saturday, noon ET, ACC Network/ESPN app)


Whatever could’ve gone wrong did for the Cowboys in a blowout loss to Kansas State. Spencer Sanders completed just 50% of his passes, threw an interception, and got injured in the fourth quarter. OSU got shut out for the first time since 2009 and suffered their worst loss under Mike Gundy in 18 seasons. All in a game that was could determine who has the inside track for the Big 12 title game. Gundy took the blame for the loss and said he apologized to his team for a lack of preparation. The Cowboys will have to right the ship quickly to stay in the unpredictable Big 12 race. — Dave Wilson

Up next: at Kansas (Saturday, TBD)


The Nittany Lions looked like the better team for much of Saturday’s game, playing much sounder defensively than they had two weeks earlier at Michigan. But familiar errors surfaced in crunch time, especially for senior quarterback Sean Clifford, whose three interceptions and a lost fumble blighted an otherwise strong performance (371 passing yards, three touchdowns). Penn State’s defense struggled with Buckeyes wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. (10 receptions, 185 yards) but handled the run well, and it can build off of its performance entering November, when the team should be favored in every game. — Rittenberg

Up next: at Indiana (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN app)


All of a sudden, LSU is 6-2 (4-1 in the SEC) and playing its best football of the season coming off a bye week. Coach Brian Kelly said back in September the team was still learning to play together, and that collaboration has been paying dividends lately, especially on offense. Quarterback Jayden Daniels has accounted for 11 touchdowns over the past two games, a 45-20 home win versus Ole Miss and a 45-35 victory at Florida. Daniels looks more comfortable in the offense, and his ability to run the ball has made it especially difficult on opposing defenses. — Low

Up next: vs. Alabama (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN app)


There is only one way to describe what happened to the Demon Deacons at Louisville: nightmare. Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman turned the ball over six times in the third quarter — including two pick-sixes — turning a 14-13 halftime lead into an embarrassing blowout loss. Hartman did not play in the fourth quarter, and Wake Forest finished with eight turnovers in all, its most since a loss at Florida State in 2013. The Demon Deacons have made incredible progress as a program — with consecutive seasons ranked as a top-10 team — but what happened against Louisville is extremely uncharacteristic. Wake Forest had five total turnovers in total before Saturday. — Andrea Adelson

Up next: at NC State (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ACC Network/ESPN app)

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Kei’trel Clark gets the pick and takes it 46 yards to the end zone for a Louisville touchdown.


A four-game winning streak had Tulane heading into its open week on a high. Since losing to Southern Miss on Sept. 24, the Green Wave have averaged 33.5 points over those four victories, and it has led to the Tulane being the only 4-0 team in AAC play. Behind junior quarterback Michael Pratt (1,718 passing yards, 12 TDs, 67.5% completion rate), its offense has been balanced throughout the first eight games (252.6 passing yards, 158.1 rushing yards), helping to engineer a turnaround from last season’s 2-10 record. Tulane’s defense has been stingy, as well, permitting 17.4 points (first in AAC) and 313.6 yards per game (second in AAC). — Baumgartner

Up next: at Tulsa (Saturday, noon ET, ESPNU/ESPN app)


All seemed lost 2½ quarters into the Wolfpack’s game against visiting Virginia Tech. But after NC State turned to freshman quarterback MJ Morris in the first half to find some answers, he responded, leading the Wolfpack from an 18-point deficit to a 22-21 win to clinch bowl eligibility. With Devin Leary sidelined for the season, the Wolfpack first called on transfer Jack Chambers to lead the offense. But Morris appears to be the player to lead the Wolfpack for the remainder of the season after going 20-of-29 passing for 265 yards and three touchdowns. — Adelson

Up next: vs. Wake Forest (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ACC Network/ESPN app)


Notre Dame safety Brandon Joseph’s pick-six of junior quarterback Garrett Shrader on Syracuse’s first play from scrimmage was a harbinger of the rough day at the office to come. The Orange, who fell 41-24 to the Fighting Irish, managed a season-low 286 total yards (73 in first half) and rushed for just 68 yards (38 in first half) in a second straight loss after a 6-0 start. Shrader (5 of 14 passing, 35 yards, one touchdown, one interception) was lost in the second quarter due to a lower-leg injury late and sat out the second half. The Orange were tied with Iowa State for sixth in scoring defense at 15.1 points per game coming in, but they surrendered a season-high 41 points. — Baumgartner

Up next: at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network/ESPN app)


The bye week allows us to take stock of what’s becoming an increasingly solid program under Jonathan Smith. This season, the Beavers have won every game they were supposed to on their schedule; and their only losses came against USC and Utah, two of the best teams in the Pac-12. In the case of the USC contest, the Beavers were one stop away from victory. Given that this is a team that won only one game in 2017 and hadn’t been to bowl games in back-to-back seasons since 2012 and 2013, it is safe to say it’s been another successful season, with plenty more to play for. — Uggetti

Up next: at Washington (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN app)


UCF snapped Cincinnati‘s 19-game AAC winning streak on Saturday behind an extremely balanced offensive attack en route to a 25-21 decision. The Knights churned out 505 total yards, including 258 on the ground, on an afternoon that saw senior quarterback John Rhys Plumlee exit following a hard hit in the second quarter. Junior RJ Harvey‘s 17-yard touchdown run with 48 seconds left in regulation sealed the win. He finished with 18 carries for 84 yards and two scores. — Baumgartner

Up next: at Memphis (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPN app)


Liberty enjoyed a bye week after moving to 7-1 with a blowout of BYU last week. The biggest news of the week: Coach Hugh Freeze’s lucrative contract extension that runs through the 2030 season. He is now 33-12 with the Flames, 25-7 since the start of 2020 and 7-1 a year after losing star quarterback Malik Willis to the pros. The offense has been inconsistent but explosive, and an aggressive defense ranks 22nd in points allowed per drive. This is a well-rounded program, one that has a chance to wreck Arkansas‘ homecoming next Saturday. — Connelly

Up next: at Arkansas (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN app)



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