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  • While Alabama and Clemson have been liquefying everyone in their path, the next tier of teams has been busy making statements.
By Scooby Axson
November 05, 2018

As the weeks roll by, the separation between the nation’s top teams and everyone else is starting to become very clear. Another weekend of total upheaval reigned supreme on these power rankings, in which 10 teams lost, making way for four new teams ahead of Week 11’s action.

Among the winners in the race to catch Alabama and Clemson is Michigan, fresh off a destruction of Penn State, and West Virginia, which thanks to a gutsy two-point conversion call is certainly making the Big 12 race interesting, especially given defending champion Oklahoma’s issues on one side of the ball.

But the top spot, as ever, belongs to the Crimson Tide, who had little problem shutting up the Death Valley crowd with a 29–0 thrashing of LSU, locking in an SEC title battle with Georgia. It is totally possible that if Alabama doesn’t claim the crown in Atlanta it will have done enough elsewhere to have already clinched its bid for the final four. (Sound familiar?)

Now, let’s get to the rankings:

1. Alabama (9–0, 6–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat LSU, 29–0
Next week: vs. Mississippi State

Alabama showed us what we already knew: It is the best team in college football and it’s not really close. The Crimson Tide cruised to the SEC West title and a rematch with Georgia as Tua Tagovailoa threw for 295 yards with two touchdowns, tossing his first interception of the season along the way. He also saw his first action in a fourth quarter all year, but by that time, the score was already out of hand.

2. Clemson (9–0, 6–0 ACC)

Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat Louisville, 77–16
Next week: at Boston College

Louisville didn’t put up much of a fight, but Clemson continued to roll thanks to Travis Etienne’s 153 rushing yards. Nine different Tigers scored touchdowns, including 6'4", 350-pound defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, who rumbled in for a two-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter. Clemson will win the ACC Atlantic division for the fourth straight season with a victory at Boston College next week.

3. Notre Dame (9–0)

Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat Northwestern, 31–21
Next week: vs. Florida State

Ian Book threw for 343 yards and, after the Wildcats cut the lead to three points, shut the door with a 23-yard touchdown run to keep the Irish alive and well in the playoff hunt. Notre Dame’s season-opening victory over Michigan looms larger each week.

Will any of Notre Dame’s potential trap games actually turn into trap games?

4. Michigan (8–1, 6–0 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 4
This week: Beat Penn State, 42–7
Next week: at Rutgers

Out for blood after getting embarrassed in State College last year, Michigan put together another sublime performance to stake its claim as the nation’s best defense. Shea Patterson had 144 yards and two passing touchdowns, while Karan Higdon ran for 132 yards, his seventh straight 100-yard rushing game. The Wolverines held their opponent to a season-low in yards for the seventh time this season and had four sacks and two interceptions, with one returned for a touchdown.

5. Georgia (8–1, 6–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 6
This week: Beat Kentucky, 31–17
Next week: vs. Auburn

Georgia wrapped up the SEC East by punishing Kentucky on the ground and holding the Wildcats’ running game in check. D’Andre Swift ran for 156 yards and two highlight-reel touchdown runs, and backfield mate Elijah Holyfield chipped in with a career-best 115 yards. The Bulldogs have now swept their fellow division opponents for the second straight year.

6. Oklahoma (8–1, 5–1 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Texas Tech, 51–46
Next week: vs. Oklahoma State

Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray had 460 total yards and four touchdowns, but two costly turnovers led to 14 early Texas Tech points and forced Oklahoma to rally in order to secure its seventh-straight win over the Red Raiders for the seventh straight time. Running back Trey Sermon had a career-high 206 yards and three rushing touchdowns. The Sooners’ much-maligned defense got a break when Texas Tech starting quarterback Alan Bowman didn’t play in the second half; Bowman suffered a reocurrence of the partially collapsed lung that sidelined him earlier this year after shredding the Sooners for 227 yards and two touchdowns.

7. UCF (8–0, 5–0 AAC)

Previous ranking: 8
This week: Beat Temple, 52­–40
Next week: vs. Navy

O.K., we all get it. Winning 21 games in a row is really difficult in any sport. But UCF’s playoff hopes are going to be based on perception with how it continues to stack up victories and not anything else. McKenzie Milton threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns after missing one week with a shoulder injury, and the Knights ran for another 318 yards. Temple had the ball for 38 minutes but was done in by two turnovers and 14 penalties.

8. West Virginia (7–1, 6–1 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 12
This week: Beat Texas, 42–41
Next week: vs. TCU

The Mountaineers stay at the forefront of the Big 12 race thanks to the guts of head coach Dana Holgorsen. Will Grier’s two-point conversion scamper with 16 seconds left dealt Texas its second straight conference loss. Grier threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns, matching his season high with 28 completions. In case you weren’t sure it was a Big 12 game, the teams combined for 1,098 yards and 56 first downs.

9. Ohio State (8–1, 5–1 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Beat Nebraska, 36–31
Next week: at Michigan State

Sophomore back J.K. Dobbins broke out of a prolonged slump, rushing for 163 yards and three touchdowns to help the Buckeyes fend off a scare from Nebraska and keep their postseason hopes alive. Dobbins went over the 100-yard mark for the first time since Week 3 against TCU. Dwayne Haskins had 252 yards and two touchdowns. The Buckeyes defense had a week off to prepare and still gave up 450 yards to Nebraska.

10. Washington State (8–1, 5–1 Pac-12)

Previous ranking: 11
This week: Beat California, 19–13
Next week: at Colorado

The Cougars needed all 60 minutes to keep their playoff and Pac-12 title aspirations alive. Gardner Minshew continued his magical run after arriving in Pullman as a grad transfer this summer, throwing a go-ahead 10-yard touchdown pass to Easop Winston Jr. with 32 seconds left. Minshew, who leads the nation in total offense, had 334 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Washington State can wrap up the Pac-12 North with victories in its next three games.

11. LSU (7–2, 4–2 SEC)

Previous ranking: 5
This week: Lost to Alabama, 29–0
Next week: at Arkansas

It’s no secret that the main issue LSU has had over the years is getting decent, even competent, quarterback play. The Tigers got neither Saturday from Joe Burrow, who was chased and harassed all night by the swarming Alabama defense. Running for a total of 12 yards and converting five of 16 third downs didn’t help LSU's cause either.

12. Boston College (7–2, 4–1 ACC)

Previous ranking: 18
This week: Beat Virginia Tech, 31–21
Next week: vs. Clemson

Boston College, who is off to its best start since 2007, has a chance to make its biggest statement in years when Clemson and College GameDay come to town this week after sending to Hokies to their third straight home loss. The ACC’s leading rusher AJ Dillon ran for 96 yards and a touchdown, and his backup Travis Levy added 75 yards and two touchdowns.

13. Kentucky (7–2, 5–2 SEC)

Previous ranking: 10
This week: Lost to Georgia, 31–17
Next week: at Tennessee

Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson knew the game might come down to him and recovered from a lackluster start to throw for 226 yards and a score, but the running game that sustains the UK offense was held in check—Benny Snell Jr. got a tough 73 yards on 20 carries. Although they are out of the SEC East race, the Wildcats are still in position to play for a major bowl if they continue to win.

14. Mississippi State (6–3, 2–3 SEC)

Previous ranking: 20
This week: Beat Louisiana Tech, 45–3
Next week: at Alabama

15. Michigan State (6–3, 4–2 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 21
This week: Beat Maryland, 24–3
Next week: vs. Ohio State

Maryland’s trying week come to an unceremonious end with a lackluster loss to Michigan State days after DJ Durkin was fired. Connor Heyward had 157 yards rushing and two touchdowns for the Spartans, who earned the 700th win in school history. Maryland could only muster nine first downs, 100 yards on offense and went 3 for 15 on third down.

Heisman Trophy Watch: Will Grier Stuns Texas, States Case to Join Top Tier

16. Syracuse (7–2, 4–2 ACC)

Previous ranking: 22
This week: Beat Wake Forest, 41–24
Next week: vs. Louisville

Eric Dungey had 157 yards passing and added 119 yards on the ground to help Syracuse snap an eight-game road losing streak in conference play and earn its first win as a ranked team since the 2001 season. After trailing by 10, the Orange stormed back with 28 unanswered points and cruised from there. The defense chipped in with six sacks, giving it 26 for the season, 10 more than it had in all of 2017.

17. Texas (6–3, 4–2 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 14
This week: Lost to West Virginia, 42–41
Next week: at Texas Tech

The Longhorns’ Big 12 title hopes are on life support after West Virginia drove 75 yards in two minutes for the go-ahead touchdown and two-point try. While Texas did have a season-high 520 yards on offense, it also gave up 578 yards to the Mountaineers. Sam Ehlinger threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns in the loss and added 52 yards on the ground.

18. Penn State (6–3, 3–3 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 13
This week: Lost to Michigan, 42–7
Next week: vs. Wisconsin

There isn’t much positive to take away from this beatdown as Penn State was dominated in every phase of the game. A decent bowl game is still salvageable, especially if the Big Ten sends two teams to New Year’s Six bowls, and to do that the Nittany Lions must win their final three games, starting with Wisconsin on Saturday. Penn State had 186 yards of total offense and turned it over three times, including its eighth fumble lost in nine games.

19. Washington (7–3, 5–2 Pac-12)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat Stanford, 27–23
Next week: Bye; next game Nov. 17 vs. Oregon State

Myles Gaskin came back from a two-game absence because of a shoulder injury and ran for 148 yards and a score. Washington, who ran its home winning streak to 13 games, kept its Pac-12 North and Rose Bowl hopes alive after almost blowing a 21–0 lead. Quarterback Jake Browning came back from his brief benching last week to throw for 194 yards and a touchdown

20. Utah (6–3, 4–3 Pac-12)

Previous ranking: 16
This week: Lost to Arizona State, 38–20
Next week: vs. Oregon

No one seems to want to grab hold of the Pac-12 South, and now Utah’s problems run deeper than just losing to Arizona State. Starting quarterback Tyler Huntley is out for rest of the season with a broken collarbone, so it will be up to backup Jason Shelley to pick up the pieces. Utah had its four-game win streak snapped and are now tied with Arizona and USC for the division lead.

21. Army (7–2)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat Air Force, 17–14
Next week: vs. Lafayette

22. Florida (6–3, 4–3 SEC)

Previous ranking: 17
This week: Lost to Missouri, 38–17
Next week: vs. South Carolina

The Gators went from throttling LSU and looking like a possible SEC contender a few weeks ago to the punchless team we’ve seen in years past, and their lack of explosive plays can be blamed—they had just two plays of over 20 yards or more. Feleipe Franks was benched in favor of backup quarterback Kyle Trask with Florida down by 25 points. Missouri finally got its first SEC win of the year behind Drew Lock’s 250 yards and three touchdowns.

23. Fresno State (8–1, 5–0 MWC)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat UNLV, 48–3
Next week: at Boise State

24. NC State (6–2, 3–2 ACC)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat Florida State, 47–28
Next week: vs. Wake Forest

The Wolfpack got back on track and snapped a two-game losing streak by easily beating a reeling Florida State squad, whose winning-season and bowl streaks are in serious jeopardy. Ryan Finley had 240 yards and three touchdowns, and the Wolfpack shut down the Seminoles’ running game (20 carries, 24 yards) and did just enough to slow down backup quarterback James Blackman, who torched their defense for 421 yards and four touchdowns in his first start of the year.

25. Utah State (8­–1, 5–0 MWC)

Previous ranking: 25
This week: Beat Hawai’i, 56–17
Next week: vs. San Diego State

By conference: SEC (6), Big Ten (4), ACC (4), Big 12 (3), Pac-12 (3), AAC (1), Independent (2), MWC (2).

Dropped Out: Texas A&M, Northwestern, Houston, Iowa.

Maybe next week: UAB, Oregon, Iowa State, Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Buffalo.

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