Power Poll: Challengers to conference thrones are established
You know about Georgia as a challenger to Bama in the SEC. But what about OU in the Big 12? Or even Washington in the Pac-12? Could happen.
Five weeks in and a set of challengers. You know, the teams-most-likely-to … upset favored conference champs.
Start with No. 7 Georgia, which makes the biggest jump in this week's Power Poll. The Bulldogs moved up four spots after that Air Show in Athens. OK, maybe there were a few running plays but something has changed fundamentally about the SEC now that shootouts are becoming common.
Georgia's 44-41 nip/tuck win against LSU now means the two biggest games in the SEC this season have totaled 176 points. That's an average of 44 points per team if you throw in Alabama-Texas A&M.
In the process, the Dawgs established themselves as the SEC East favorite. They've beaten South Carolina and have Driskel-less Florida next month. If they pull that off, that would likely lead to three consecutive SEC title games for the Dawgs. Too soon to speculate?
There's a different look for No. 11 Oklahoma. The Sooners took that newly shored-up defense to Notre Dame and promptly picked off three Tommy Rees passes. The doubt about who was going to take control of an open Big 12 may have cleared up.
It sure doesn't look like preseason Big 12 favorite (No. 23) Oklahoma State, whose loss at West Virginia has to be placed in the "horrible" category.
Nothing changed much with No. 9 Florida State. As the Noles fell behind Boston College 17-3, Twitter lit up with references to FSU's annual upset loss to at least one ACC slug. Then Jameis Winston and the Noles rallied. Actually, Winston mostly. His most significant throw of the day was an end-of-first-half 55-yard Hail Mary that broke a tie at 17.
FSU still looks like it has the goods to remain undefeated until the Oct. 19 game at No. 5 Clemson. Forget game of the century, the ACC would just like to have a champion with some national juice come January.
In the Pac-12, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Stanford are running even after blowout wins. One of them -- at least -- won't be playing in the conference title game. But about No. 15 Washington? The Huskies disposed of Arizona with extreme prejudice and now get the Cardinal and the Ducks back to back. It seems the road to ... wherever the Pac-12 title game will be played ... may just go through Seattle.
In its 17th consecutive win, No. 4 Ohio State looked vulnerable against Wisconsin. But now that the Buckeyes essentially have a two-game lead over the Badgers in the Big Ten Leaders Division, it's hard to imagine Ohio State not getting to the conference title game.
We'd love for that game to be a rematch with No. 16 Michigan. But since the Wolverines had the week off, why not dream a little bit and consider unranked Iowa as a foe from the Legends Division? The Hawkeyes are 4-1 (tied for its best start since 2009) after winning at Minnesota.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1): Back to basics against Ole Miss. Tide defense posts their sixth shutout in last 19 games. "It'll be huge for the confidence of our players," Nick Saban said. And demoralizing for the rest of the country.
2. Oregon Ducks (2): Ducks roll over Cal but D'Anthony Thomas leaves early with what looked like a rolled ankle.
3. Stanford Cardinal (3): So much for Washington State upset talk. The Pac-12 North beginning to look like SEC West. Cardinal one of three division teams ranked in Power Poll top 15.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes (4): No quarterback controversy here. Braxton Miller ties a career high with four touchdown passes against Wisconsin.
5. Clemson Tigers (5): Tajh Boyd becomes the second ACC passer to account for 100 total touchdowns in wipeout of Wake.
6. Texas A&M Aggies (6): Is Johnny Football cutting his own throat when it comes to the Heisman? Mike Evans -- third nationally in receiving yards per game -- catches six passes for 116 yards in shootout win over Arkansas. Manziel accounts for only 320 yards in total offense.
7. Georgia Bulldogs (11): No Todd Gurley in the second half (ankle)? No problem. Aaron Murray wins the big one. You're welcome to columnists everywhere looking for an angle on Saturday.
8. LSU Tigers (7): And it only gets tougher. Tigers still have to play at least three ranked teams -- Florida, Alabama, Texas A&M -- on the schedule.
9. Florida State Seminoles (8): When did BC wake up from its long slumber? Winston throws four touchdowns in a closer-than-you-thought win over feisty Eagles.
10. UCLA Bruins (9): Coming off a bye week, are Brett Hundley and the rest of the Bruins facing a trap game Thursday at Utah?
11. Oklahoma Sooners (13): The House of Stoops has house in order. Turnover Tommy (Rees) throws three picks. Sooners roll at ND. Seems like we have a Big 12 leader in the clubhouse.
12. Baylor Bears (12): After bye week, a suddenly dangerous Big 12 opener looms against West Virginia.
13. Louisville Cardinals (10): The body bags just keep lining. Up next on the Cardinals' easy schedule: Temple.
14. Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes (14): Look who's 4-0 for the first time since 2004. Now comes the hard part: Staying unbeaten in the ACC. Questions about Stephen Morris' tweaked ankle.
15. Washington Huskies (16): Bishop Sankey carries for 40 times in the rain in rout of Arizona. Stanford next. Hide the squeamish. It's going to be a ground war.
16. Michigan Wolverines (17): The Wolverines were less than impressive last time out (squeaker at UConn, Sept. 21). Big Ten play opens this week against Minnesota.
17. South Carolina Gamecocks (18): With Connor Shaw (shoulder) knocked out against Central Florida, Steve Spurrier wisely leans on Mike Davis (167 yards).
18. Northwestern Wildcats (19): After third 4-0 start in four years, Ohio State and national cable network attention come to town.
19. North Dakota State (20): Shutout of South Dakota State keeps Bison playing a Bohl game each week.
20. Florida Gators (21): The sun'll come up tomorrow, Gators. Tyler Murphy looks solid in 27th straight over Kentucky.
21. Fresno State Bulldogs (23): Up 42-3 in the third quarter, Bulldogs allow Hawaii to score touchdowns on five straight possessions. Rainbow Warriors potential game-winning drive fizzles after interception at Fresno 40.
22. Arizona State Sun Devils (NR): Todd Graham will be forever known as the man who put Lane Kiffin in his place -- out of work at USC.
23. Oklahoma State Cowboys (13): Mike Gundy's to-do list after bad loss to West Virginia starts with the special teams.
24. Texas Tech Red Raiders (25): From high plains to Great Plains, following bye week Red Raiders head to Kansas.
25. Northern Illinois Huskies (NR): Huskies now "leading" the Big Ten after wins over Iowa and Purdue.
Also receiving love: USC alumni everywhere, Maryland, Illinois, Central Florida, Virginia Tech, Houston, Missouri.
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A decision in either direction would help the NCAA move forward in Sin City