The first round of the College Football Playoff rankings dropped on Tuesday and the annual poll appeared to motivate teams across the country — just not the ones you think.
College Football’s Week 10 was filled with upsets, close calls and previously undefeated records crumbling as underdogs took over the sport Saturday.
Purdue shocked the college football landscape for the second time this season with a 40-29 victory against No. 3 Michigan State while No. 9 Wake Forest’s unbeaten run to start the season ended at 8-0 following a 58-55 loss at North Carolina.
Other top-10 teams were lucky to survive upset bids from rivals as Alabama escaped a LSU with nothing to lose, 20-14, and Cincinnati mustered two separate goal-line stands late in the game to hold on against Tulsa, 28-20, and remain undefeated.
Oregon also overcame a lackluster first half to beat rival Washington and keep its spot in the CFP rankings safe for now. Other rated teams weren’t so lucky. Mississippi State, Kentucky and Minnesota all lost to unranked opponents and the Power Rankings got arguably the biggest shuffle of the season this week.
With the results behind us and the next round of CFP rankings just a few days away, it’s the perfect time to check out this week’s Power Rankings.
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels finally returned to action, but not as the No. 1 Bulldogs’ starter. Former walk-on Stetson Bennett started for the fifth straight game, leading Georgia to a 43-6 rout of Missouri at home. Bennett completed 13 of 19 passes for 255 yards with two touchdowns. He improved to 9-2 as a starter, including a 6-0 mark this season. Daniels, who injured his lat muscle more than a month ago, saw action for the first time in five games. He threw for 82 yards with one touchdown and one interception on 7-for-11 passing. The Bulldogs piled up 505 yards of offense, including 377 passing. Sophomore receiver Jermaine Burton, who has been slowed by injuries this season, had a big day with three catches for 76 yards with one score.
“I think Missouri came into this game, and their game plan was to not let us run the ball,” Bennett said. “They were popping backers and had low safeties and were trying to stop our run game. When they do that, we have to be explosive to make them back up. If they do not, that is how we score points.” — Mark Schlabach
The Bulldogs post 34 unanswered points in the 43-6 rout of Missouri to remain unbeaten.
Nothing about Alabama’s 20-14 win over LSU on Saturday night was pretty. The offensive line was a mess of penalties and missed blocks. Quarterback Bryce Young was sacked four times, and the running game couldn’t get going as Brian Robinson Jr. rushed for only 18 yards on 12 carries. The defense gave up too many big plays early in the game, breathing life into a depleted rival. Rather than make quick work of a team it was favored to beat by four touchdowns, the Crimson Tide let the Tigers hang around until the very end, the win secured only after a Hail Mary came up short with no time remaining. — Alex Scarborough
The Bearcats aren’t racking up the style points, but they keep winning. They needed a pair of goal-line stands in the final minutes Saturday to hold off Tulsa for a 28-20 victory at home and remain unbeaten. Cincinnati jumped out to a 14-0 lead early and built what seemed to be a comfortable lead in the third quarter. But the Bearcats had trouble stopping the run (allowing 297 yards) and had to come up with huge stops at the end with their back to the goal line to win the game. — Chris Low
The No. 4 team in the country has had its fair share of close calls this season. But could they escape another close game and do it on a rainy night in Stok–ehh, Seattle? Washington clearly arrived on their home turf motivated to back up the strange verbal jousting that had gone on between head coach Jimmy Lake and Oregon over the last week. But whatever fuel Lake’s words provided was gone about halfway through Saturday’s game. After being held to three points for most of the first half, Oregon realized its winning recipe was to just run the ball over and over (329 total rushing yards) and away from any Pac-12 after dark shenanigans that could have derailed their season. The 26-16 final is nothing to write to the committee about, but being one of the first four teams in from the first week of the rankings, means all the Ducks have to do is keep winning. — Paolo Uggetti
Quarterback C.J. Stroud threw for 405 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-17 win over Nebraska, but it is safe to say the Buckeyes had a disjointed performance on offense — a continuing concern as the season moves down the stretch. Ohio State could not get its running game going until late in the game. TreVeyon Henderson was held to 92 yards on the day, and the Buckeyes settled for far too many field goals — four, in fact, which ended up being the difference in the game. Perhaps the brightest spot is the continued improvement on defense, which has made significant strides since the loss to Oregon. Nebraska had only 361 yards of total offense, and went 2-of-13 on third down. — Andrea Adelson
The Sooners had a bye week after coming in at No. 8 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. It’s a tough pill to swallow for a team that’s won 17 straight games, but the Sooners know this season is all that counts. OU was able to spend part of its week off watching its next opponent, Baylor, give up 461 passing yards and 70 rushing yards to first-time starter Chandler Morris and TCU. — Dave Wilson
The Spartans were 8-0 coming into the game against Purdue with hopes of making the College Football Playoff at the end of the season. After an emotional, hard-fought game against Michigan, the Spartans lost 40-29 to the Boilermakers. Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell threw for 536 yards, which was the fifth-most passing yards in a game in Big Ten History. Michigan State tried to come back late in the game, but O’Connell and Purdue’s offense could not be stopped. Running back Kenneth Walker III was held to 136 yards and one touchdown in the loss and Michigan State now has to pick up the pieces from this loss with a shot at still winning the conference. — Tom VanHaaren
The Irish were able to hold Navy to just 184 total yards in the 34-6 win. Navy had only 166 yards rushing while Notre Dame had 430 total yards, 269 coming from Jack Coan through the air. Kyren Williams was able to run two touchdowns in and help Notre Dame improve to 8-1 on the season with the lone loss coming to Cincinnati. Receiver Kevin Austin Jr. had 139 receiving yards and a touchdown in what ended up being a rout for the Irish. — Tom VanHaaren
Michigan bounced back after its loss to Michigan State with a 29-7 win over Indiana at home to get back on track before a tough finish to its schedule. Michigan’s defense was able to hold Indiana to just 195 total yards of offense and only one touchdown. Michigan running back Blake Corum was knocked out of the game with an apparent leg injury, but Hassan Haskins took the load and had 162 rushing yards on 25 carries (a career high) and one touchdown. Indiana was dealing with injuries across the board, but this was a needed win for Michigan as Penn State and Ohio State are both lurking in the next three weeks. — Tom VanHaaren
There were no offensive touchdowns, and the starting quarterbacks combined to complete only 50% of their passes. There were certainly elements of an all-defense battle in Texas A&M’s win over Auburn, but the superior team was never in question. The Aggies averaged 6.4 yards per play to Auburn’s 3.2, and Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane combined to rush 31 times for 210 yards. A&M outscored the Tigers 17-0 after halftime to cruise to a 20-3 win, and the only reason it was that close was that the Aggies had to settle for five field goal attempts. Quarterback Zach Calzada appeared to suffer a pretty bad shoulder injury in the third quarter but returned to finish the game. — Bill Connelly
Oklahoma State has been winning with defense all year, but the Cowboys painted a defensive masterpiece in Morgantown on Saturday. They sacked West Virginia quarterbacks eight times and allowed just 2.3 yards per play in a 24-3 victory. WVU didn’t top 100 total yards until midway through the fourth quarter, and when they did, OSU quickly picked off a pass. Cowboy quarterback Spencer Sanders threw two touchdowns to Tay Martin and completed 21 of 31 overall, and that was all the offense the Pokes needed. This team has embraced winning ugly, and it was all sorts of ugly in West Virginia. — Bill Connelly
The Cowboys beat the Mountaineers to improve to 8-1, their best record through nine games since 2015.
Wake Forest was hoping to crack the top-four in the College Football Playoff rankings after debuting at No. 9 at 8-0. A loss this week to North Carolina derailed those efforts, though, as the Demon Deacons fell 58-55 to the Tar Heels. It was a back-and-forth game that had Wake up 31-24 at the half and saw multiple lead changes. Quarterback Sam Hartman had 398 yards and five touchdowns through the air and 78 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The 55 points wasn’t enough to overcome the North Carolina ground game that had 336 yards and six touchdowns, led by Ty Chandler, who had four of the six. Despite the one loss, Wake Forest still has N.C. State, Clemson and Boston College to finish out the season. — Tom VanHaaren
It wasn’t as easy as it looked like it would be as they were rolling to a 24-0 halftime lead, but Lane Kiffin’s Rebels held Liberty at bay and cruised, 27-14. Quarterback Matt Corral played with an injured ankle and without regulars on the offensive line and receiving corps, but he completed 20 of 27 passes for 324 yards and a touchdown. Two early Jerrion Ealy touchdown runs — one from 70 yards out — gave the Rebels an early edge. While Malik Willis and the Liberty offense were eventually able to find some traction, three interceptions kept the game from getting too close. The Rebels prevailed over former head coach Hugh Freeze and his Flames. — Bill Connelly
By the end of the season, it’s very much within the realm of possibility that the highest-ranked team in Texas will reside in San Antonio. UTSA turned in another dominant showing with a 44-23 rout of UTEP to further its case for a top-25 spot after getting snubbed by the College Football Playoff selection committee in the initial rankings on Tuesday. Sincere McCormick ran for 169 yards on 21 carries, including a 75-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. — Kyle Bonagura
A week after entering the rankings, Houston flirted with disaster, giving up two 100-yard kickoff returns for a touchdown to upset-minded USF. But the Cougars’ offense is humming along. They dispatched the Bulls behind Clayton Tune (21-of-26 for 385 yards and three TDs), two 100-yard rushers (Ta’Zhawn Henry had a 97-yard TD run and ended with 130 yards on 10 carries and Alton McCaskill added 125 on 22) and Nathaniel Dell caught eight passes for 164 yards and a TD. Sure, the defense is a concern, but 647 total yards will do the trick most days. — Dave Wilson
The Cougars got a nice bump from the playoff committee on Tuesday that put them in the top-15, and on Saturday they responded accordingly. Against 1-6 Idaho State, they didn’t hesitate to put the game away early. In just a quarter and a half, they scored touchdowns on their first five possessions and took a 35-0 lead. By the time the game wrapped with a 59-14 final score, BYU had amassed nearly 1,000 total yards on offense while the defense forced 10 punts, two turnovers and only allowed Idaho State to pick up one of 12 third-down opportunities. With a handful of teams losing ahead of them, a dominant win like this one is sure to keep bumping the Cougars up the rankings. — Paolo Uggetti
After doing some very Pitt things early on at Duke, the Panthers righted themselves and pulled away behind quarterback Kenny Pickett. The senior passed for 413 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first Pitt quarterback ever to record consecutive 3,000-yard passing seasons. Pickett also tied Alex Van Pelt’s team record with his 14th game of 300 pass yards or more. Pitt used a 23-point second quarter to take control and had 220 rush yards and three touchdowns against a hapless Duke defense. The Panthers have scored 50 points or more four times in the same season for the first time since 1905. They remain atop the ACC’s Coastal Division heading into their most important stretch of the season. — Adam Rittenberg
The Bears were hit hard by an emotional TCU team that was playing its first game in 21 years without Gary Patterson on the sideline. Baylor’s defense was shredded by first-time starter Chandler Morris, who had 531 yards of total offense despite his offense being down to just one scholarship running back. Another area of concern was the two interceptions thrown by Gerry Bohanon, meaning he’s thrown five picks in the past three games after none in the first six. Baylor has now lost six of its last seven to TCU. — Dave Wilson
Quarterback Devin Leary has been a difference maker in the Wolfpack’s 7-2 start. Against Florida State, Leary threw for 314 yards and four touchdown passes — the first NC State quarterback with 300 passing yards, and four passing touchdowns in consecutive games since Russell Wilson in 2009. The NC State defense, sound for the majority of the season, held the ACC’s No. 2 rushing offense to just 38 yards on the ground. This is the first time since 2002 that NC State has beaten Clemson and Florida State in the same season. That also happens to be the Wolfpack’s last 11-win season. — Andrea Adelson
It wasn’t pretty, but it was a conference win for Iowa. It featured all the standards of a Hawkeyes victory this season but with the caveat of backup quarterback Alex Padilla coming in and leading three scoring drives. Iowa led Northwestern 14-3 at the half and survived being outscored 9-3 over the final two quarters to leave Evanston with a 17-12 win behind a dominant defense and just enough points early on. Despite the victory, Iowa is still on the outside looking in in the Big Ten’s West Division after a couple crucial conference losses. — Shea Carlson
Even without star quarterback Grayson McCall, the Chanticleers won comfortably, 28-8, against struggling Georgia Southern. McCall was ruled out indefinitely prior to the game with what the school described as an “upper body injury.” His replacement, Bryce Carpenter, threw for just 85 yards, but they didn’t need much from the passing game as Carpenter (44 yards), Shermari Jones (96 yards) and Braydon Bennett (78 yards) were effective rushing the ball. The Chanticleers limited Georgia Southern to 233 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers. — Kyle Bonagura
The Badgers’ 1-3 start continues to fade farther into the distance as the Big Ten West Division title comes further into view. Wisconsin employed an increasingly familiar formula — suffocating defense and a run-driven offense — to easily put Rutgers away by halftime on the road. The Badgers continue to flip their turnover margin, recording three first-half takeaways, including a Caesar Williams interception return for a touchdown. Freshman Braelon Allen recorded another 100-yard rushing performance, and quarterback Graham Mertz had his best game of the season with 240 pass yards and three touchdowns. Other than a leg injury to running back Chez Mellusi, Wisconsin had a very good day in extending its win streak to five. — Adam Rittenberg
Graham Mertz tosses three touchdown passes leading Wisconsin to the dominant win over Rutgers.
After two straight awesome performances, Auburn’s Bo Nix suffered through an awful afternoon in a 20-3 loss at Texas A&M. Against a stout Aggie secondary, Nix completed 20 of 41 passes for 153 yards, was intercepted, sacked four times, and had a fumble that was returned for the game’s only touchdown. Tank Bigsby managed only 69 yards on 15 carries, and after an early field goal drive, the Tigers finished just one more drive inside the Aggie 40. They were outscored 17-0 after halftime. The forgettable performance all but eliminates Auburn from SEC West contention. — Bill Connelly
The 52-7 final score accurately depicts the fact that Utah dominated Stanford, but it could have been much worse. Utah led 38-0 at halftime in one of the most dominant halves of football between any teams in college football this season. The Utes ran for 336 yards and outgained the Cardinal 440-28 in the first half. It was just the third time since 2004 a Power 5 team had been outgained by 400-plus yards in a half and the first time since 2013. Three Utes (Tavion Thomas, Micah Bernard and TJ Pledger) finished with over 100 yards rushing. — Kyle Bonagura
The Nittany Lions ended their three-game losing streak at Maryland, overcoming a slow start on offense to pull away in the second half. Penn State used a familiar formula of Sean Clifford‘s passing, Jahan Dotson‘s receiving and incredible red-zone defense. Clifford had 363 passing yards and three touchdowns, finding Dotson 11 times for 242 yards and three touchdowns. Neither team rushed the ball well, but Penn State converted 10 of 18 opportunities on third down. The Lions defense also stepped up, as cornerback Ji’Ayir Brown sealed the win with an 87-yard interception return for a touchdown with less than three minutes to play. — Adam Rittenberg