College football conference power rankings

While there wasn’t a lot of drama this past week in college football, losses by Oklahoma State and Kansas State did shake up the Big 12.

What will be the long-term fallout? We don’t know, of course, but more than any other Power 5 conference, the Big 12 appears to be wide open.

Here’s how the hierarchy for each conference sits through nine weeks of the season.

SEC

The sixth week of the SEC season went pretty much according to the script, with the exception of an all-out brawl between Florida and Missouri.

But don’t let those halftime fireworks let you lose focus of what happened on the field in Gainesville on Saturday night. The Gators, despite losing an entire week of practice and playing without three starters in their secondary and their starting kicker, handled their business.

And now we’re left with the matchup we’ve all been waiting for: Florida vs. Georgia.

All that’s stake is the SEC East and a shot at competing for the College Football Playoff.

If you’re a Florida fan, you have to be feeling good about your offense, led by quarterback Kyle Trask, tight end Kyle Pitts and wideout Kadarius Toney. You have to worry about your defense, which got off to a horrible to start the season, but it started showing signs of life against Missouri — and that’s something.

But if you’re a Georgia fan, you’re skeptical of that progress. You’re feeling good about your own defense, which is among the best in the country, and you’re feeling great about your ability to run the ball with James White behind that big offensive line. Whether quarterback Stetson Bennett and the passing game can hold their own is another question — one that could decide the outcome of Saturday’s game.

1. Alabama
2. Georgia
3. Texas A&M
4. Florida
5. Auburn
6. Arkansas
7. Missouri
8. LSU
9. South Carolina
10. Ole Miss
12. Kentucky
12. Tennessee
13. Mississippi State
14. Vanderbilt

Big Ten

We learned quite a bit in two weeks of Big Ten play. Michigan’s struggles against Michigan State and Minnesota’s second loss of the season tells us a lot about both of those programs.

Northwestern and Indiana are both off to 2-0 starts, revealing they are both improved from last season.

If there is any constant in the conference right now, it’s Ohio State. The Buckeyes beat Penn State on the road, and quarterback Justin Fields looks even better than he did a year ago.

Here are your latest Big Ten power rankings:

1. Ohio State
2. Wisconsin
3. Indiana
4. Penn State
5. Northwestern
6. Michigan State
7. Purdue
8. Michigan
9. Iowa
10. Nebraska
11. Maryland
12. Rutgers
13. Minnesota
14. Illinois

Big 12

What to make of the Big 12 as we head into November?

The two teams at the top of the conference coming into the weekend — Oklahoma State and Kansas State — both lost. The Cowboys dropped one they’d love to have back, an overtime home loss to Texas where the Pokes turned it over four times and had multiple major special-teams miscues while K-State was thoroughly beaten by West Virginia.

Still, both of those squads — as well as Iowa State, which dismissed Kansas on Saturday — are in good position, each with one conference loss. All three are squarely in the mix for a Big 12 title game berth.

So are two familiar names, Oklahoma and Texas. The Sooners have quietly won three in a row after an 0-2 start in league play and the Longhorns’ win in Stillwater was huge for Tom Herman & Co., keeping them just a game in the loss column behind those at the top. And a hat tip to Neal Brown, who has done a stellar job with the Mountaineers. The job he stepped into wasn’t easy, but the progress being shown in Year 2 is good as they are a game back in the loss column from the top three. The Mountaineers outplayed the Wildcats and have a huge one coming up at Texas.

1. Oklahoma State
2. Iowa State
3. Oklahoma
4. Texas
5. West Virginia
6. Kansas State
7. TCU
8. Texas Tech
9. Baylor
10. Kansas

ACC

Just when you thought Clemson might finally lose a game because Trevor Lawrence had to sit out, in saunters true freshman D.J. Uiagalelei. What did we see? Yet another in a long line of self-assured, uber-talented quarterbacks who simply know how to win big games.

Uiagalelei and Travis Etienne led the largest home comeback in school history in their 34-28 win over Boston College — setting the stage for its showdown with No. 4 Notre Dame on Saturday. Lawrence won’t be able to play against the Irish after testing positive for the coronavirus, but anyone who thinks the odds are suddenly in the Irish’s favor might want to watch the second half of the game against the Eagles.

It should be an entertaining game, especially considering the College Football Playoff stakes. But beyond those two teams, the biggest story was No. 15 North Carolina’s 44-41 loss to Virginia. The Tar Heels have lost their only two games to teams with losing records, somewhat inexplicable considering their talent and expectations.

1. Clemson
2. Notre Dame
3. Miami
4. Virginia Tech
5. North Carolina
6. Wake Forest
7. Boston College
8. Virginia
9. NC State
10. Pitt
11. Louisville
12. Duke
13. Florida State
14. Georgia Tech
15. Syracuse

Group of 5/independents

Cincinnati continues to dominate. The Bearcats blew by Memphis 49-10 Saturday to maintain a firm grip at the top of the American and on the New Year’s Six bid. With one top-six team losing Saturday, Cincinnati will certainly be discussion fodder for some when it comes to playoff talk, even though it likely remains a long shot for them based on the committee’s history of ranking Group of 5 teams.

Still, the way the Bearcats are playing now is impressive. The same applies to BYU, which made quick work of Western Kentucky Saturday. Quarterback Zach Wilson continued his strong play to keep his name in the Heisman conversation. Coastal Carolina also won big, cruising by Georgia State 51-0 behind a 5-TD day from Grayson McCall.

Boise State won without starting QB Hank Bachmeier. USC transfer Jack Sears started and was fantastic, accounting for four TDs to take the Broncos to their second win, setting up a huge showdown Friday night with BYU. SMU had a nice bounce back win against Navy.

And we welcome Tulsa into the party. The Golden Hurricane is the only other unbeaten team in the American other than Cincinnati.

1. Cincinnati
2. BYU
3. Coastal Carolina
4. Boise State
5. Liberty
6. Marshall
7. SMU
8. Army
9. Louisiana
10. Tulsa

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