With several teams in the Top 25 on a bye and very few ranked matchups on the slate, Week 7 of college football looked like it might be a return to normalcy after a wild Week 6. The Purdue Boilermakers decided against that.
In one of the major upsets of the 2021 season, the Boilermakers marched into Iowa City as a double-digit underdog and left with a 24-7 statement victory over the No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes. The Purdue offense wouldn’t let the Iowa defense off the field, and when the lead stretched to 17 points in the fourth quarter, it felt as though the Hawkeyes didn’t have a path back into the game.
Other than the surprise in the Big Ten, Week 7 went mostly as predicted. The top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs put together another complete performance, this time muscling past previously unbeaten Kentucky Wildcats in the second half to prevail 30-13.
Alabama bounced back as it typically does following a conference loss. The Crimson Tide rolled to a 49-9 win at Mississippi State to firmly enter their name back into the College Football Playoff picture.
The Cincinnati Bearcats climbed all the way to No. 2 this week — their highest Power Rankings spot this season — while the Oklahoma Sooners kept their perfect record unblemished with a new starting quarterback.
Despite the amount of parity this season, it does appear a top four is starting to solidify. But if this season has taught us anything, it’s that we don’t truly know what’s next. Ask the Hawkeyes.
With that being said, let’s get into this week’s Power Rankings.
1. Georgia Bulldogs (7-0)
After being ranked No. 1 in the AP top 25 poll in season for the first time since 1982, the Bulldogs had their toughest test since the opener against Kentucky — at least for a half. After leading only 14-7 after two quarters, Georgia’s defense and special teams took over for a 30-13 victory to move to 7-0. Quarterback Stetson Bennett III started for the third straight game and played very well, completing 14-of-20 passes for 250 yards with three touchdowns. At this point, it’s going to be difficult for UGA coach Kirby Smart to take him off the field once former starter JT Daniels returns from a muscle injury. Tight end Brock Bowers, a true freshman from Napa Valley, Calif., had five catches for 101 yards with two scores. He has emerged as a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Georgia has a week off next before taking on rival Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 30.– Mark Schlabach
2. Cincinnati Bearcats (6-0)
The Bearcats’ path to maintaining playoff relevancy requires dominance of inferior AAC opponents the rest of the way. A team that had some slow starts earlier this season clearly isn’t messing around now. Cincinnati stormed out to a 35-0 lead against UCF, as Jerome Ford and the run game really got going. Ford’s 189-yard, four-touchdown performance is a very promising sign for an offense that, at times, has been too reliant on chunk plays in the pass game. The Bearcats’ defense held UCF to only 14 first downs, 296 yards and 4.6 yards per play. Quarterback Desmond Ridder didn’t have a notable performance (13-of-23 passing, 140 yards, one touchdown), but Cincinnati didn’t need much help because of the performance by its run game and defense. — Adam Rittenberg
3. Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1)
After giving up 41 points at 6.5 yards per play in their upset loss to Texas A&M last week, a re-focused Crimson Tide defense took out some frustration on Mississippi State in a 49-9 win in Starkville. They allowed 4.0 yards per play and sacked MSU quarterback Will Rodgers seven times, and Jordan Battle took an interception back for a touchdown in the first quarter. The defense set the tone early, and the Bama offense eased into fifth gear. Bryce Young threw for 348 yards in just 28 passes, and the Tide scored 28 points in the second half to cruise. — Connelly
4. Oklahoma Sooners (7-0)
The start of the Caleb Williams era couldn’t have gone much smoother for Lincoln Riley. Williams completed 13 of 15 passes for 261 yards against TCU, averaging 20.1 yards per completion in the first half alone against a pretty good defensive coach in Gary Patterson. As the Sooners went to work with Kennedy Brooks, who finished with 153 yards on 7.7 yards a carry, Williams ended the game accounting for 361 yards and five touchdowns in front of a home crowd that enthusiastically cheered his every move. The Sooners’ defense struggled again as it did with Texas, giving up 519 yards to the Horned Frogs, but that’s not what OU fans will remember from this one. — Dave Wilson
5. Michigan Wolverines (6-0)
The Wolverines had a bye this week and coach Jim Harbaugh said it’s coming at a good time for his team to get some rest and prepare for the second half of the schedule. Michigan had an emotional comeback win against Nebraska and now gets some time to heal before taking on Northwestern. The team is ultimately gearing up for its game against in-state rival Michigan State in East Lansing. If Michigan gets past Northwestern unscathed, it has a chance to go 8-0 with a win against the Spartans. — Tom VanHaaren
6. Ohio State Buckeyes (5-1)
The Buckeyes had a bye week, but probably would’ve preferred to play given the momentum they have started in the past two games. The team looked more like what we expected to see this season in its 66-17 win over Maryland on Oct. 9. Quarterback C.J. Stroud looked more comfortable and more in control than he did in the beginning of the season and threw for 406 yards and five touchdowns against the Terps. The defense has progressed over the last few weeks as well, and it is coming at a great time with Penn State only two weeks out. — VanHaaren
7. Michigan State Spartans (7-0)
Good defense and good fortune kept MSU perfect on the season after a very sloppy performance at Indiana. Quarterback Payton Thorne averaged just 4.8 yards per attempt with two interceptions, including an end zone pick late in the fourth quarter when MSU needed to run clock. Fortunately, Thorne and the offense received enough help from the defense, which recorded three takeaways, returning one for a touchdown, and allowed only one touchdown on seven drives that reached Spartan territory. MSU didn’t generate much pressure and had some issues on third down (8 of 20 conversions allowed), but made plays when it needed them. The Spartans won despite nearly as many penalties (12) as first downs (14), and only 241 total yards. They’ll need to be sharper down the stretch, beginning Oct. 30 against Michigan. — Rittenberg
8. Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-0)
With eight minutes left in the second quarter, Texas was driving with designs on taking a 24-3 lead. That’s when Jason Taylor II intercepted Longhorns QB Casey Thompson and ran it back 85 yards for a touchdown, going into halftime down 17-13 instead of being in a huge hole. It’s the type of play the Cowboys have made all season, with a defense capable of keeping them in any game. They’ve outscored opponents by just 42 points all season — or seven points per game — the 3rd-lowest differential by a team that won each of its first six games since the AP poll began in 1936. The defense closed out the game by stuffing Thompson on a fourth-and-three run with 3:12 left, then intercepting Thompson again with 1:57 remaining. Utah State transfer Jaylen Warren wore the Longhorns out, finishing with 193 yards on 33 carries, 154 of those in the second-half rally. — Wilson
9. Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1)
The Nittany Lions got a week of rest with a bye after an emotional loss to Iowa on the road. Quarterback Sean Clifford missed most of the second half against Iowa with an injury and his status going forward is still up in the air. Clifford was not at practice on Wednesday, but coach James Franklin didn’t give an update on a timeline of when Clifford might return. Having a week off might do the team well if they have to play another game, or more, without the starting quarterback. — VanHaaren
10. Iowa Hawkeyes (6-1)
Despite a 6-0 start and a No. 2 ranking, the Hawkeyes knew they couldn’t overcome a flat performance, especially against a team (Purdue) and a player (wide receiver David Bell) who had their number. Iowa not only started poorly on offense (not surprising) but had no answers for the Boilers on defense (much more surprising). Bell added 240 receiving yards to his staggering career total against Iowa (545 yards on 36 receptions). The Boilers ended the Hawkeyes’ perfect season and even drank their beer. Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras had an implosion game (four interceptions), and top running back Tyler Goodson only received 12 carries in the loss. Perhaps most jarring, Iowa’s stout defense couldn’t get off the field, allowing Purdue to convert nine of 16 third-down chances. — Rittenberg
11. Oregon Ducks (5-1)
The late Friday night time slot seems to always fit Pac-12 After Dark madness like a glove, and Cal traveling to No. 9 Oregon was no exception. It didn’t matter that the Bears were 1-4 with their sole win coming against an FCS opponent, or that Oregon was looking for a rebound after a bye week following a bad loss to Stanford. Chaos was in order. Oregon escaped with a 24-17 victory, but continued looking like a ghost of the team that upset Ohio State in Week 2. The offense with Anthony Brown under center (90th nationally in passing) seems to have hit its ceiling if not its floor too. Surviving and advancing is never a bad result, but when it comes to the playoff chase, Oregon is lacking in not just style points, but convincing victories. — Paolo Uggetti
12. Ole Miss Rebels (5-1)
It took four and a half hours, a career night from Matt Corral, 977 combined yards from scrimmage, a couple of huge late defensive stops and a long stoppage due to Tennessee fans throwing objects onto the field — including a golf ball that nearly hit Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin. Then it took one MORE stop and a near-game-winner thrown by Tennessee backup quarterback Joe Milton III. But … after all that … Ole Miss is 5-1 after a 31-26 win in Knoxville. Indeed, Corral outdueled Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker — he nearly became the first SEC quarterback since Johnny Manziel to both throw and rush for 200 yards in the same game — and despite scoring only once in the second half, the Rebels made an early lead hold up. — Connelly
13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-1)
The Irish were one of the many top 25 teams with a bye, giving the team an extra week to prepare for USC. The Irish are coming off of a three-point win against Virginia Tech and a loss to Cincinnati the week prior. The team has quite a bit to work on, including figuring out the quarterback situation. Jack Coan and Tyler Buchner split snaps against Virginia Tech and the uncertainty around which quarterback gives the team the best chance to win remains. The offensive line has been a concern, but the unit is coming off one of its best performances against the Hokies, so driving that momentum forward will be a big key for Notre Dame’s offense. — VanHaaren
14. Kentucky Wildcats (6-1)
The Wildcats put up a valiant fight against the Bulldogs for two quarters, but couldn’t muster much offense in the final two quarters and lost for the first time this season. Kentucky had a good game plan on offense and controlled time of possession in the first half. But much of its production came on trick plays and throwbacks, and the Bulldogs’ stingy defense adjusted at the half. The Wildcats had a few too many dropped passes to give Georgia a real scare. Kentucky can take consolation in that it is the first team this season to score two touchdowns against the Bulldogs. Quarterback Will Levis threw for 192 yards with two touchdowns, but didn’t get much help at all from the running game. Georgia limited the Wildcats to 51 yards on 27 carries. Kentucky gets a week off before playing at Mississippi State on Oct. 30 .– Schlabach
15. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-0)
The Demon Deacons had an open date to prepare for the second half of the season, where they will see their strength of schedule grow much stronger. But given the 6-0 start, Wake Forest knows what it takes to play in tight games that go down to the wire if that is what it takes. Wake Forest has used great balance on offense and a veteran team to get to this point. One big key as well — Wake Forest has been able to stay relatively healthy for the first half of the season, too. – Andrea Adelson
16. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (6-0)
The Chanticleers had an open date and extra time to prepare for Appalachian State next Wednesday in a big Sun Belt game. Coastal Carolina has won 11 straight conference games going back to 2019. The last time out, the Chants posted 685 yards — their second-most in a single game in school history, and Grayson McCall had a career-high 365 yards. — Adelson
17. Texas A&M Aggies (5-2)
There would be no Bama hangover for Jimbo Fisher’s team, which followed its upset win over the top-ranked Crimson Tide with a mostly stress-free victory at Missouri. The Aggies led 21-0 after the first quarter, outgaining the Tigers 184-49. Although Texas A&M isn’t the first team to capitalize on Missouri’s nation-worst run defense, Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane did their part with 292 combined rushing yards and three touchdowns. Zach Calzada didn’t really resemble the quarterback who shined against Alabama — he completed 13 of 25 passes for 148 yards with a touchdown and an interception — but Texas A&M had more than enough to win easily. Coordinator Mike Elko’s defense responded from its most difficult test against Alabama to limit Missouri’s downfield passing game and record two interceptions against Connor Bazelak. — Rittenberg
18. NC State Wolfpack (6-1)
The Wolfpack broke the game open in the second half against Boston College, capitalizing on multiple mistakes, including a muffed snap on a punt and an interception. They also did a nice job slowing down the BC running game, making it a non-factor when they jumped out to such a big lead. Quarterback Devin Leary threw three touchdown passes, and receiver Emeka Emezie became the all-time leading receiver in school history. It was a big road win for a team that struggled the last time it played away from home in a loss to Mississippi State. — Adelson
19. SMU Mustangs (6-0)
The 6-0 Mustangs will stay undefeated for at least one more week after a bye. For the third straight season, SMU started 5-0 or better, and entered the Top 25 for the first time last week since climbing as high as No. 16 last season. Sonny Dykes’ quarterback, Tanner Mordecai, an Oklahoma transfer, leads the country with 26 touchdown passes. The Mustangs escaped against Louisiana Tech with a win on a Hail Mary and beat Navy in Annapolis last weekend for SMU’s first win there in 23 years. The Mustangs keep it lively, and may not have played a complete game yet in Dykes’ eyes. — Wilson
20. Baylor Bears (6-1)
Two weeks ago, Dave Aranda’s Bears lost their first game of the season, a frustrating 24-14 defeat at Oklahoma State. They have responded with fury. A week after pummeling West Virginia by 25 points, they beat a ranked BYU, 38-24, in Waco. BYU’s offense had its explosive moments, but the Bears did whatever they wanted offensively: Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner rushed 38 times for 283 yards and three scores, while Gerry Bohanon threw 231 yards and a touchdown. The Bears led by three early in the second half but went on a 21-3 run to put away their future Big 12 rivals. — Connelly
21. San Diego State Aztecs (6-0)
It wasn’t pretty, but the Aztecs stayed undefeated in an absolute slog of a game against San Jose State Friday night. This was supposed to be the start of SDSU’s toughest stretch this season, and it certainly fit the bill. Both teams struggled to do anything but punt the ball to each other and hit a couple of field goals through four quarters. The Aztec defense lived up to its top-10 reputation, while the Aztec offense also lived up to its reputation — in this case, 93rd in the nation — by recording 240 total yards, including overtime. The 6-6 deadlock needed not one, but two extra periods to determine a winner. There, both teams finally decided to explore the confines of the end zone, and it was an Aztec interception followed by their second touchdown that ended up barely keeping their 6-0 undefeated season alive. — Uggetti
22. Auburn Tigers (5-2)
The Tigers return to the rankings following a 38-23 grind of a victory over Arkansas. Bo Nix was 21-for-26 for 292 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and his 23-yard touchdown run with 2:30 left put away a key win. Arkansas outgained the Tigers, 460-427, and created more scoring chances, but the Tiger defense forced two turnovers on downs and two field goal attempts, recovered a fumble in the end zone and held the Razorbacks to 35 fourth-quarter yards. Big plays made the difference, and Auburn made more of them. — Connelly
23. Pittsburgh Panthers (5-1)
There is no question that the Panthers are now the overwhelming favorite to win the ACC Coastal Division after handling Virginia Tech, 28-7, on the road. Pitt is the only undefeated team remaining in the Coastal and now has the tiebreaker over the Hokies, the next closest team in the division standings. Kenny Pickett went 22-of-37 for 203 yards with two touchdowns, but the bigger development was the way Pitt ran the ball — giving the Panthers the type of balance that makes them harder to defend. Israel Abanikanda had 140 yards rushing in the win. — Adelson
24. UTSA Roadrunners (7-0)
It happened. It finally happened. The UTSA Roadrunners climbed into the Power Rankings top 25 after a 45-0 rout of Rice — holding the Owls to just 102 yards on offense — to improve to 7-0 on the season. In just their tenth season of football, the Roadrunners have been one of the best stories of the 2021 season. The seven-game win streak to start the season is the longest in program history and the Roadrunners have a favorable schedule the rest of the way. The only question left is how long can they stretch the streak? — Shea Carlson
25. Clemson Tigers (4-2)
The good news is Clemson beat Syracuse. The bad news is the open date did not exactly get the Tigers’ offense back on track. Clemson has yet to score 20 or more points against a Power 5 opponent this season, managing 17 in the victory. D.J. Uiagalelei threw for 181 yards and was off on many of his throws, but his receivers did not exactly help, with a myriad of drops of their own. At this point in the season, it seems clear Clemson is going to win games on the back of its defense, which was stellar once again. — Adelson
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