College football's first Saturday in October was full of close calls and teams who weren't lucky enough to escape the jaws of defeat. Texas beat Iowa State by one point, Rutgers narrowly avoided a loss to SMU in triple overtime and Georgia had its own three-point, overtime scare against the unranked Tennessee Volunteers.
With 126 teams vying for 70 bowl slots, things get dicey every single week. Here are the power rankings that reflect the damage done by the Oct. 5 weekend.
126. Georgia State Panthers (167)
125. Florida International Golden Panthers (159)
124. New Mexico State Aggies (153)
123. Miami Redhawks (149.5)
122. Eastern Michigan Eagles (148.5)
121. Massachusetts Minutemen (147)
120. Western Michigan Broncos (145)
119. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (140.5)
118. UTEP Miners (138)
117. Idaho Vandals (137.5)
116. Temple Owls (133)
115. South Florida Bulls (132.5)
114. Central Michigan Chippewas (132)
113. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (131.5)
112. New Mexico Lobos (129.5)
111. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (127)
110. Akron Zips (123.5)
109. Old Dominion Monarchs (123)
108. Air Force Falcons (119)
107. Army Black Knights (116.5)
106. Hawaii Warriors (116)
105. Kent State Golden Flashes (115.5)
104. Arkansas State Red Wolves (113)
103. UNLV Rebels (111)
102. UAB Blazers (110.5)
101. Florida Atlantic Owls (110)
100. Troy Trojans (108.5)
99. UTSA Roadrunners (108)
98. Purdue Boilermakers (107.5)
97. South Alabama Jaguars (105)
96. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (104.5)
95. Connecticut Huskies (104)
94. Kansas Jayhawks (98.5)
93. Tulane Green Wave (96)
92. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (95)
91. Memphis Tigers (94.5)
90. Buffalo Bulls (94)
89. San Diego State Aztecs (93)
88. SMU Mustangs (91)
87. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (90)
86. Colorado Buffaloes (88)
85. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (87.5)
84. Colorado State Rams (87)
83. Nevada Wolf Pack (86.5)
82. North Texas Mean Green (85.5)
81. Texas State Bobcats (83)
80. Boston College Eagles (82)
79. Kentucky Wildcats (80.5)
78. California Golden Bears (80)
77. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (79)
76. San Jose State Spartans (78.5)
75. Wyoming Cowboys (78)
74. Rice Owls (76.5)
73. Navy Midshipmen (76)
72. Virginia Cavaliers (75.5)
71. Duke Blue Devils (73.5)
70. Ohio Bobcats (73)
69. NC State Wolfpack (72)
68. Toledo Rockets (70)
67. UNC Tar Heels (68.5)
66. Iowa State Cyclones (67)
65. Marshall Thundering Herd (64.5)
64. Bowling Green Falcons (63.5)
63. Cincinnati Bearcats (63)
62. Syracuse Orange (62.5)
61. Pittsburgh Panthers (62)
60. Minnesota Golden Gophers (61.5)
59. Houston Cougars (61)
58. Indiana Hoosiers (60.5)
57. West Virginia Mountaineers (55.5)
56. Arkansas Razorbacks (53.5)
55. Illinois Fighting Illini (53)
54. Kansas State Wildcats (52)
53. Mississippi State Bulldogs (50.5)
52. Tennessee Volunteers (50)
51. Ball State Cardinals (49.75)
Average Rank: 49.5
Despite Texas' 31-30 win over the Iowa State Cyclones, the Longhorns proved that they are in for a long, disappointing season. Texas allowed the mundane Cyclones to score more than 26.3 points—their average earned against Northern Iowa, Iowa and Tulsa, not quality Big 12 competition.
The Longhorns' laundry list of injuries, including linebacker Jordan Hicks and quarterback David Ash, has left them depleted at key positions. This is obviously a terrible blow to any form of postseason hopes, since they had already earned two losses even with those stars healthy.
If the coaching staff can't make up for Ash and Hicks, Texas is toast. Hint for Mack Brown: Don't try to make Case McCoy play like Ash. Let your running backs keep gaining more than five yards per carry to lull defenses into a false sense of security.
After that, McCoy is good enough to make them pay for over-committing to the run.
Average Rank: 47.5
Washington State beat California by 22 points, which was more than title-hunting Ohio State could manage earlier in the season, though the Buckeyes did score more points. The Cougars are off to a 4-2 start for 2013, and they are eyeing a Week 7 match against the Oregon State Beavers.
Connor Halliday has been serviceable as Washington State's quarterback this season, but he's got to learn about ball control. Every stat he has is solid, except his touchdown-to-interception ratio of 13-10.
If Washington State can put him in some low-risk, high-reward situations (e.g., mid-range passes to the sideline), then he can put a cap on the picks and move the Cougars up the standings.
Average Rank: 46
Vanderbilt lost a lot of credibility with its 51-28 loss to the Missouri Tigers (more on the Tigers later) in the James Franklin Bowl. The Commodores have started the season 3-3—which looks decent—but have earned an 0-3 mark against their SEC opponents.
They have three running backs averaging more than four yards per carry (minimum of 10 carries). Maybe it's time the coaches implement a few read-option plays to get those guys into open space.
Plus, that would give the defense practice against the same scheme that's been giving it so much trouble recently.
Average Rank: 45.5
East Carolina took down the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 24-17 on Oct. 5, and that win—though alarmingly close—kept the Pirates' one-loss record intact. They are a formidable foe that has even given the Virginia Tech Hokies a scare, who have also lost just one game—to No. 1 Alabama. There is only one flaw at East Carolina: the secondary.
The secondary has to be the weakest link in their chain. Opposing offenses have drilled the Pirates for 57 passing plays of 10 yards or longer this season, and they've hit them up for 20-plus yards on 19 occasions.
If the Pirates want to move to elite status, tightening the boundaries is the first step in that direction.
Average Rank: 43
USC rested in Week 6, and the Trojans are looking at a Thursday night match against the Arizona Wildcats for Week 7. The Trojans lost their head coach following the complete disaster of a game against Arizona State on Sept. 28, and they haven't been seen since then.
The defense is the strong suit of the team, ranked 36th nationally, and it's allowing just 21.2 points per game. The Trojans should have been proud of that before the 62 points it gave up to the Sun Devils.
If USC is going to sniff a bowl, it has to find its defense. It also has to get a legitimate passer under center. Both Max Wittek and Cody Keesler have combined for six touchdowns and six interceptions.
One of them—but preferably both—needs to get his act together to keep this season from being one of the worst in the FBS. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, get these kids some low-risk plays.
Everybody wants to tag defenses with the brilliant schemes that gash opponents for half the field at a time. News flash: Your quarterbacks aren't Heisman contenders. Let the underclassmen be underclassmen and give them high-efficiency plays.
Call screen passes to offset blitzes and shallow crossing routes to gash soft coverage in the secondary. Anything to get these kids some confidence. Once they are comfortable, move the crossing routes deep.
Average Rank: 41
Iowa's 26-14 loss to Michigan State put it in the also-ran category for the Big Ten this season. The Hawkeyes could not defeat the Spartans, and that doesn't bode well for the meeting with No. 4 Ohio State on Oct. 19.
Even in the loss to Michigan State, though, Iowa's defense proved that it's still the highlight of the program. It held the Spartans below their season average for points scored, but the Hawkeyes offense couldn't do enough to win.
If the Hawkeyes are going to improve their ranking (or even maintain it, for that matter), they need to get into offensive rhythm like they did at the end of the first half against the Spartans. (They scored all 14 of their points during the final five minutes of the second quarter.)
Iowa's leading rusher was quarterback Jake Rudock, who carried the ball three times for 11 yards. The offensive line gave him zero time to throw the ball, and it wasn't any better at blowing holes for the tailbacks to slip through.
You can't do anything without an offensive line, and the coaches have to fix this before the Ohio State game.
Average Rank: 40
Boise State's Week 6 pass kept the Broncos nicely inside the top half of the country, and the Broncos will attempt to improve on their 3-2 record against Utah State on Oct. 12. They are averaging 42.2 points per game, but they are allowing far too many against quality opponents.
They gave up 38 to Washington and 41 to Fresno State. This defense struggles against pass-heavy teams, and Boise needs to figure out how to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks. A pass rush is a great place to start, but the Broncos shouldn't shy away from baiting either.
Drop a couple of guys in the middle of the field, step them up a yard or two on the snap, then have them race back to cover the mid-range receivers. Boise is going to need some sort of plan to take down solid programs like Utah State, Nevada and BYU over the next three weeks.
Average Rank: 39.25
Oregon State passed on Week 6, and the Beavers held onto a 4-1 record during the bye. Their rushing attack has also faltered a lot this season. Even before Storm Woods was taken off the field in an ambulance back on Sept. 14, he was on track for just 700 yards this season. (That's just under 60 yards per game.)
Last season, as a freshman, he rushed for 940 yards and he was the anchor that kept defensive fronts near the line. That, coupled with the huge drop on the defensive side of the ball (the Beavers rank 92nd in the nation), has left Oregon State fighting for victory in the final minutes of nearly every game it's played.
That energy is going to run out sooner or later. If the Beavers can't figure out how to make some defensive adjustments, the rushing attack will have to make up the difference. So far, this tailback corps doesn't look up to the task.
This is another classic case of bait-and-switch. The Beavers need to take a cue from teams like Alabama (and anyone who plays Alabama, focusing on the teams who have snagged interceptions against AJ McCarron) and disguise their defensive coverages.
Hard-counts and other tactics of offensive trickery will expose some of their packages before the snap, but they'll be ahead of the game more often than not.
Average Rank: 39
Georgia Tech's lack of halftime adjustments caused a 45-30 loss to the Miami Hurricanes in Week 6. The Yellow Jackets got out to a 17-7 lead over Miami, but they had lost that lead heading into halftime, and the score was tied at 17.
When the second half kicked off, it was all Miami. A 69-yard pass put them in the lead, and Georgia Tech's inability to stop the run did most of the rest. If the Yellow Jackets are going to get into the Top 25, they have to be able to stop the run.
They have the No. 7 rushing offense in the country. They clearly have the personnel to teach their defense how to contain almost anyone in the country. Now all they have to do is spend one day per week mimicking the upcoming offense's rushing style.
It's not a perfect solution, of course, but it would be better than nothing.
Average Rank: 37.667
BYU's season is off to a good start at 3-2 following a comfortable 17-point win over in-state rival Utah State in Week 6. The Cougars' 13th-ranked ground unit and No. 18 scoring defense can stand up to well over half the country's FBS teams.
The downside for BYU is that quarterback Taysom Hill is not performing as well as he can. This creates the situation where BYU's ground attack is productive because it has to be, not just because it's that good.
Hill has completed just 43.3 percent of his passes this season, and they've resulted in 1,019 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. If he can't get his act together, he'll never take the pressure off the tailbacks and defense.
So what can BYU do about it? Target practice and film room. He needs to be able to identify defensive packages that have led to his picks, and then he can work on making the throws to avoid them.
Average Rank: 37.6
Rutgers flat-out dropped the ball in the fourth quarter of the Oct. 5 match against SMU, allowing a 21-point comeback to force a triple-overtime thriller. The Scarlet Knights pulled away for a 55-52 victory, but they made it extremely difficult on themselves.
The Knights' downfall was the complete lack of passing defense. They allowed the Mustangs to roll up 484 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions on them. It's actually more of a miracle that Rutgers had a lead to begin with.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Rutgers cannot expect to succeed against teams like Louisville if it can't stop a quarterback like Garret Gilbert. (Not that Gilbert is particularly bad, especially if you disregard his four-interception performance against TCU, but he's no Teddy Bridgewater.)
Disguise packages, load the box and focus on the pass rush, do whatever it takes to stop yourselves from giving up 50-plus points. Overtime or not, that's atrocious.
Average Rank: 36.5
In only its third season in the Pac-12, Utah is already contending with the big boys. The Utes fell by just seven points to then-No. 12 UCLA in Week 6, and they even had the game tied early in the fourth quarter.
The Utes are 3-2, and that touchdown loss to UCLA was their worst one of the season so far. (The other loss was a three-pointer to Oregon State in overtime.) Utah's downfall? Turnovers.
It lost six turnovers to the Bruins (all interceptions) while forcing just two. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you what the outcome would have been if the Utes had held onto the ball. If they make one improvement this season, ball security must be it.
It's a great feeling to play toe-to-toe with a national contender, but Travis Wilson needs to get control of his emotions. He's playing excited, and he's making mistakes. You don't toss six picks unless you're making at least one of your mistakes more than once.
Average Rank: 35.5
Penn State's huge loss to Indiana (44-24) on Oct. 5 proved that the Nittany Lions have a lot of work to do to maintain their spot in the Top 40. First and foremost, Indiana was 0-16 against Penn State prior to this match.
The Lions matched up well with Indiana, outgaining the Hoosiers in first downs, third-down efficiency and passing yards. However, Penn State has no recognizable threat at running back.
It gained 70 rushing yards (-50 yards in losses) to Indiana's 150. You don't have to have a nation-leading rushing attack to win football games, but you have to be able to keep defenses off-balance.
As far as the passing game is concerned, Christian Hackenberg has to start developing. He's not consistent, and he's not getting better each week either. His completion percentages in the first five games:
Step 1: The offensive line has to keep him off his back. It cannot be overstated that no quarterback is elite when he's lying on the ground. Without protection, this can only get worse. After that, it's all on Hackenberg.
Average Rank: 34.8
Michigan State pulled out a win over a good-looking Iowa squad even while missing its leading receiver, Kevonte Martin-Manley, for much of the game. The Spartans stood tall on defense (allowed just 14 points) and special teams (successful fourth-quarter fake punt) to bring home the 26-14 victory.
The offense is the Spartans' weakest link. Their aerial unit is bringing in 178.4 yards per game, and that's "good" for 107th in the nation. It hung 277 on the Iowa Hawkeyes, so there is a sign of vast improvement there, but there's still a long way to go—especially on third down.
Michigan State went 6-of-19 on third down. If they can't keep the defense off the field, it will wear out quickly, and second-half comebacks will end up biting Sparty big time. Connor Cook is the biggest single factor in this equation.
He's gone 68-of-125 for 688 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception as of Week 6, and that needs to change. He played his best, understandably, against FCS foe Youngstown State, and he just needs reps to get accustomed to collegiate speed.
Sparty is already doing everything in its power to succeed. The play-calling is far enough outside Cook's comfort zone to stretch him but not so far out as to put him in unwinnable situations. The coaches at Michigan State are doing an excellent job, and unless someone figures out time travel, this is the best situation the Spartans can be in right now.
Average Rank: 34.5
TCU gave a Top 25 team (Oklahoma) one of the biggest scares of the weekend outside of the Georgia-Tennessee game. The Horned Frogs fell 20-17, due to a first-half performance that they'd rather forget.
TCU earned zero first downs in the first two quarters, and it didn't move the chains even once until the third quarter was nearly halfway over. The Frogs have averaged just over 300 yards of total offense per game this season, and they are No. 101 in passing and No. 97 in rushing yardage as of the end of Week 6.
Despite these gross shortcomings, TCU has not been beaten by more than 10 points this season. It doesn't need to find the next Manning to start winning. It just needs to move the chains every once in a while.
This offensive line is young, inexperienced and just not good enough to compete in the Big 12...yet. Two experienced linemen left the program during the offseason, and what you're seeing on the field is growing pains.
Average Rank: 32.2
Nebraska has stumbled on its near-perfect recipe for success during Taylor Martinez's absence (turf toe). In the past two games, Tommy Armstrong Jr. has gone 20-of-28 for 304 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
He isn't the rushing threat that Martinez is, but Ameer Abdullah just hung 225 rushing yards on the Illini during the Week 6 'Huskers win. Armstrong is definitely mobile enough to keep plays alive and move the chains if necessary, so don't go thinking that there's a night-and-day difference between Martinez and him.
Nebraska has the ninth-ranked rushing offense in the country; a dual-threat quarterback is redundant. Armstrong is a freshman quarterback who is performing nearly as well as a senior.
It's time to keep him on the field and let him develop. If you have two signal-callers at equal skill levels, always play the younger one. He has more time left for improvement.
After all, it's the perfect time to give him practice. With Purdue and Minnesota (both last in their divisions) up next, Nebraska will be able to make up for his youthful mistakes.
Average Rank: 32
Arizona was off for the Oct. 5 festivities, and the Wildcats entered that bye at 3-1. Washington's performance in that lone loss showed that the Wildcats' defensive weakness is against the run. Washington running back Bishop Sankey had a school-record 40 carries against Arizona for 161 yards and a touchdown.
The Wildcats are going to face two of the top three rushing attacks in the conference (Oregon, Arizona and UCLA) before the season is over, so putting a tourniquet on this would is an absolute must.
There is no way that Arizona can fight for the conference title, or even the divisional one, without figuring out how to get bodies on the football.
On the other side of the ball, the onus is on the offensive line. B.J. Denker is completing 50 percent of his passes, and he's notched a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2-2. Denker may or may not be the future of Arizona football, but it's hard to tell when he's throwing balls away or taking hits every other drive.
Average Rank: 31.5
Utah State is a Top 40 team in all four major categories; that's the good news. The terrible news is that starting quarterback Chuckie Keeton is out for the season after a leg injury in the first quarter of the game against BYU.
The Aggies' constraint is now the quarterback position. With Craig Harrison slated to start, the Aggies are going to have to do some major damage control.
Hopefully, there was a contingency plan already in place before the injury, as it is a constant threat to have any of your players knocked off the depth chart. The quarterback transition, in particular, needs to be as seamless as possible.
The bright side is that Harrison led his junior college to a bowl victory behind a 50 percent completion mark in 2011. At least he's not going to be a liability; the coaches just need to call some relatively basic plays to help him succeed.
Utah State's 26th-ranked defense will make up the difference in most games, although the Week 7 battle with perennial MWC champion Boise State is nerve-wracking.
Average Rank: 30
Fresno State leisurely strolled past Idaho 61-14 and is heading for a potential BCS match at the end of the season. Prior to that game, Boise State had exposed Fresno State's run game.
This is the one offensive area in which Fresno needs to improve in order to compete for a BCS berth. On defense, the story is completely different. The Bulldogs are allowing 33.4 points per game, and that includes monster letdowns against Hawaii, Rutgers and to a lesser degree, Cal-Poly.
The offense takes care of business through the air, and that's a personal preference. If the Bulldogs want to do it that way, then more power to them. However, if you can't stop the other team from scoring, there's nothing to debate on the other side.
Fresno's defense needs to play like it does on third and fourth downs in every situation. The talent is there; it's just a matter of the coaches finding ways to motivate the Bulldogs...and keep them off the Internet.
Average Rank: 29.75
The Auburn Tigers upset Ole Miss 30-22 on Oct. 5, and that put a huge damper on the Rebels' bid for a top-three finish in the SEC West. Their biggest issue so far is starting slowly.
The Rebels have trailed at the end of every second quarter, except against Southeast Missouri State (FCS). Here are the by-half point totals for each game:
|Opponent||1st Half||2nd Half|
Ole Miss obviously knows how to win, because it is winning. What's baffling is how the team looks like it's never seen game tape when it takes the field. It's almost as if it's learning every opponent from scratch from opening kickoff.
The Rebels need to get into the film room and watch recent games by their upcoming opponents. If they are already doing that (surely they are), then the coaches need to do a better job of breaking it down for them.
Texas A&M and LSU are up next, so this has to be a major priority.
Average Rank: 29.2
Kent State scored its second-most points for any game this season on Northern Illinois in 38-24 Week 6 loss to the Huskies. Every game left on the Northern Illinois' schedule looks like a win, but given NIU's defensive weakness, a BCS bowl is still unlikely.
Northern Illinois' defense is going to have to come a long way from its current average of 29.8 points allowed per game if it wants to earn the respect in needs. The Huskies require a No. 16 ranking to earn an elite bowl.
The defense is excellent at causing turnovers, getting pressure on the quarterback and stopping teams on third and fourth downs. However, if you're putting up some of the worst yards- and points-allowed numbers, some voters (stat junkies) are going to assume you can't match up with the other Top 25 teams.
This may be the very definition of "unfair," but the standards for a non-AQ team are different. Northern Illinois must practice standing up before the opponent's drive is on the line. Sentence: situational scrimmages until further notice.
Average Rank: 29
Notre Dame bounced back from the Oklahoma loss with a big win over the Arizona State Sun Devils in Week 6, and the Irish are clawing their way back into the Top 25 here on the power rankings.
The teams scored a combined 34 points in the fourth quarter alone, and Notre Dame's Dan Fox sealed the game with a pick-six at the 1:08 mark in the final period. Once again, the defense won the game by forcing turnovers.
This time, though, "Turnover Tommy" didn't do anything to mess it up. He kept the ball in the hands of Golden Domers for all but one pass. If he can keep that up, the defense can take care of the rest.
For the first time this season, Notre Dame just needs to keep doing what it's doing in order to succeed, though the running backs do need to start averaging better than 136 yards per game as an entire unit.
Average Rank: 28.5
The UCF Knights finally put the Memphis Tigers away with two last-minute scores, one at 2:05 left in the game and the other at the 1:56. Both were fumbles returned by the defense. The Knights have stood tall against teams like South Carolina and assembled a 4-1 record to date, but they scared fans with the seven-point victory over Memphis.
What's the issue? Well, for a junior quarterback on almost every watch list for which he's qualified, Blake Bortles falls short on the consistency meter. He's also put the Knights on a downward trend in the scoring department.
He started 2013 with back-to-back 38-point performances, and he's slipped all the way to 24 against Memphis—one point fewer than he scored against South Carolina. (Bortles did post a massive 358 yards against the Gamecocks, but that defense snatched two picks to negate a lot of his effectiveness.)
He has to calm down and return to his 2012 form, or UCF will end up near the bottom of the AAC.
Average Rank: 28.4
Nick Marshall led Auburn to an eight-point victory over the Ole Miss Rebels in Week 6, and he didn't do it with his arm. He passed for 93 yards and zero interceptions, but his 140-yard, two-touchdown rushing performance (off 14 carries) saved the day.
Well, that and Robenson Therezie's 78-yard pick-six. The Tigers are 4-1 with two wins over an SEC opponent. They struck gold when they picked Marshall up out of junior college, and they're on the warpath.
The Gene Chizik era featured an inept set of quarterbacks who could not get a conference win to save their lives. The Gus Malzahn era already features a quarterback who is not elite.
The difference is that Malzahn's unit is winning games. Auburn is doing the right thing. Auburn could compete with the best in the conference with a better passer. However, the Tigers have a signal-caller smart enough to know when to rely on his legs.
That's far better than a true dual-threat who doesn't know when to run and when to pass, or a quarterback that can't keep the ball in the right hands.
Average Rank: 27.75
Arizona State failed to complete its fourth-quarter comeback over Notre Dame, and the Sun Devils lost by three points. That loss makes them 3-2 through Week 6, and they have seven games left—five against unranked teams.
Arizona State's biggest downfall was turnovers. The Sun Devils lost three, but they only caused one. If a top-tier team has the ball three more times than it's supposed to, it will beat you most of the time.
The Sun Devils have a top-20 offense and the country's 84th-ranked defense. Obviously, one of those thing needs to change for them to keep their spot here.
Average Rank: 25.4
Missouri's gargantuan win over Vanderbilt in Week 6 gave credence to its undefeated record. The Tigers hung 51 points on the Commodores and gave up just 28.
Missouri struck early—racking up 20 first-quarter points—and often, blazing to an insurmountable 30-7 halftime lead. The Tigers played a clean game too. They had just six penalties and zero turnovers.
The biggest bonus for the Tigers is that they are practically injury-free. Defensive lineman Matt Hoch is questionable for the Oct. 12 Georgia game, but he's the only one on the list.
This is a welcomed turn of events, as the Tigers lost many players (and games) to injury last season. Missouri has used its completely full depth chart to jump to a 5-0 start in 2013. That's already as many wins as the Tigers got in all of 2012.
Average Rank: 25.2
Wisconsin had a bye in Week 6 following its seven-point loss to No. 4 Ohio State. The Badgers don't have much of a break, though. No. 19 Northwestern is their next opponent.
The Badgers are 3-2 so far, and they're heading into the easier part of the schedule. They can still make it to the Big Ten title game with some help, but they cannot afford a second conference loss this early.
Wisconsin has zero currently ranked opponents beyond Northwestern, therefore a near-zero chance to work its way back into the rankings if it lost.
Average Rank: 23.8
Virginia Tech beat its second ACC opponent in a row on Oct. 5 in a 27-17 dogfight with the UNC Tar Heels. The Hokies defense allowed 17 points to the Heels, raising its average slightly to 16 points per game.
More importantly, the Hokies scored more points against UNC than it had against any other of its four FBS opponents. If that was a glimpse into the Hokies' offensive future, then things are going to get better.
That's welcome news to a team that:
- Is 5-1
- Won just seven games in 2012
Virginia Tech's weakness was its offense—currently ranked 96th in the country. It's still not stellar, but 27 points is plenty if this defense keeps up its half of the bargain.
Average Rank: 23.5
Florida State exposed the Maryland defense by winning 63-0 on Oct. 5, and the Terrapins have a long way to prove their value again. The Terps were undefeated heading into that game, for what it's worth, but they're 4-1 now.
Maryland only exists in the top half of the rankings because of its big-time shutout of the West Virginia Mountaineers in Week 4—that, and Florida State's status as No. 6 in both major polls.
Maryland needs to mentally shake this one off and focus on the things that made it successful in the first four games: causing turnovers and scoring points.
Average Rank: 23.2
Oklahoma State's offense doesn't look good against FBS opponents. The Cowboys are averaging 38 points per game in total, but they are scoring just 25 points per FBS contest. This is a big problem.
If they consistently scored just 35 points per game, they'd be undefeated. Oklahoma State absolutely has to figure out how to keep J.W. Walsh from being as ineffective as he's been. He's completed 103 of his 169 pass attempts for 1,209 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions.
Statistically, Walsh is sound, and he is clearly not bringing this team down. On the contrary, he's carried the Cowboys into the Top 25.
Average Rank: 22.4
Northwestern's deceptive 10-point loss to Ohio State looks bad, but Ohio State actually recovered a fumble on the last play of the game to boost the score to 40-30. The Northwestern Wildcats proved that all the preseason hype wasn't just fluff.
The Wildcats shredded the Ohio State secondary for 343 yards, but they scored just two aerial touchdowns. They ran for just 94 yards and one score. This relatively high-scoring defensive battle raged for over 60 minutes when the final play was live long after the timer hit zeroes.
Northwestern proved more by hanging on against the No. 4 Buckeyes than it did in any other game of the season.
Average Rank: 21.6
Quarterback Devin Gardner spent more than 20 minutes learning the Minnesota defense in person, and he subsequently gouged the Gophers for 235 passing yards in the other 40. Michigan approached this game calmly and with confidence, and it was vastly different from the Akron and Connecticut debacles.
Michigan's coaches need to let this strategy ride, as it produced their most lopsided victory of the season over an automatic qualifying opponent.
Average Rank: 18
Texas Tech showed off its defense yet again in a 54-16 rout of Kansas on Oct. 5. The Red Raiders shut the Jayhawks out in the second and third quarters after a slow start that put them in a 10-point hole.
Texas Tech is getting more and more efficient on offense, scoring 20, 33 and 54 points in its past three endeavors, respectively. Baker Mayfield (QB) has gone an impressive 132-of-201 this season for 1,488 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions this season—not bad for an original backup.
Mayfield might not play on Oct. 12, but his injury is not season ending, per NBC Sports. The Red Raiders also posted 179 rushing yards against the Jayhawks. That's a welcomed change for the team that averages just 112 per game.
Texas Tech is still alive for the Big 12 title at 5-0 on the season.
Average Rank: 17.4
Florida took down Arkansas 30-10 in Week 6, and the Gators passing attack was far more effective than it had been all season. Tyler Murphy went 16-of-22 for 240 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions to earn a 209.4 efficiency rating.
Murphy's two games are the best two passing performances Florida has on record in 2013. The Gators stumbled early in the season against the Miami Hurricanes, but they are still undefeated in conference play. If their fourth-ranked defense continues to stifle the opposition, they can finish the schedule with zero SEC losses.
Average Rank: 17
Washington played extremely well against the Stanford Cardinal, but it eventually lost the match 31-28. The Huskies gained 489 yards of total offense to Stanford's 279, but the Huskies failed to find the end zone in a proportional manner.
Washington is an upper-class FBS team, but it has to take down one of the country's best before earning an "elite" marker from the country's voters.
Average Rank: 15.8
Georgia Tech started strong against Miami, and it put the Hurricanes down 17-7 at the end of the first quarter. The Hurricanes rallied and tied the game up heading into halftime, and the second half was all them, except for one Georgia Tech touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Hurricanes put up 551 yards of offense in the melee—324 through the air and 227 on the ground. Georgia Tech had not allowed that many yards in either aspect all season. Miami moved its record to 5-0 heading into the Week 7 bye.
Average Rank: 14.6
South Carolina jumped out to a 21-0 lead over the Kentucky Wildcats on Oct. 5 but relied heavily on the defense to finish the game. The Gamecocks did win 35-28, but they didn't impress anyone after the first quarter.
South Carolina is terrible at extending leads this season. All four of its wins have come by 10 or fewer points except for the season opener against North Carolina. The Gamecocks are losing face the same way every game: lack of pass rush.
They haven't created pressure up front, and they're getting torched for it. Even against the UCF Knights, South Carolina simply couldn't gain access to quarterback Blake Bortles. These same problems are repeating themselves, and it's got to be about attitude.
The Gamecocks need to forget that they are an SEC contender and get down to business on the line of scrimmage. If not, these same problems are going to keep games close, and the tougher games against Missouri, Florida and Clemson will not end as well as the UCF and Kentucky games did.
Average Rank: 11.2
UCLA's defense hand delivered a seven-point win to the Bruins' offense via six interceptions against the Utah Utes. The upside is that UCLA snagged six picks. The downside is the final score.
The Bruins should have blown out the Utes with that plus-four turnover margin, but the defense couldn't come up with enough stops. It held Utah to 2-of-13 on third-down conversions, but Utah moved the chains 20 other times.
UCLA's defense is 51st in the country against the run. That is the Bruins' biggest weakness. If they can lock down the front line, where Utah hit them hard, they will fare much better against the elite ground attacks of the Pac-12, like Oregon.
Average Rank: 10.4
Louisville blasted Temple 30-7 to remain undefeated and in control of the American Athletic Conference. The Cardinals hung 525 yards on the Owls, which was more than double Temple's 255.
Louisville has a weak schedule, which may keep it out of the national title game, but if it can start blowing opponents out, there is still a chance. The Cardinals' first key conference game is against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Oct. 10.
This is a must-win against the best competition they've faced. Teddy Bridgewater must put up one of his 150-plus efficiency games to bring the win home.
Average Rank: 10
Oklahoma is the first team in the three-way tie for ninth place on this list. Each team looks equally good for completely different reasons, but it's Oklahoma's turn first.
The Sooners just eked out a win in their first conference game—20-17 over TCU. Oklahoma was clicking on all cylinders in the first half, shutting the Horned Frogs out, while the second half was a completely different story.
TCU blanked Oklahoma in the third quarter to pull within three points, and the teams traded scores in the fourth to let the lead stand. Oklahoma advanced to 5-0 as a result.
Average Rank: 10
LSU continued its newfound passing dominance against Mississippi State in Week 6. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger torched the Bulldogs for 340 yards, two touchdowns and one interception off a 25-of-29 performance.
The running backs tore Mississippi State up for a 5.7 yards-per-carry total, too. LSU basically looked invincible for one complete game. If the Tigers keep this up, wins over Florida, Alabama and Texas A&M would put them in the SEC title game.
They'd still need help to get to the national championship, but that's why they're ranked outside the Top 5 for now.
Average Rank: 10
Baylor absolutely embarrassed West Virginia 73-42, and the Mountaineers had to score 21 points in garbage time to make the score look that good. The Bears are easing into their schedule from Wofford to Oklahoma, and they are off to an incredible start.
They've amassed the country's No. 1 passing and scoring offenses, the No. 2 rushing attack and the No. 14 defense. They have firmly established themselves among the statistically elite, and as long as their record remains unblemished, they will continue to climb quickly up the rankings as well.
Average Rank: 9
Texas A&M took a bye in Week 6, and the Aggies are all set to play the Ole Miss Rebels on Oct. 12. The Aggies' only loss of the season was to No. 1 Alabama, and that was by a scant seven points.
A&M's offense (ranked fourth nationally) has been doing more than okay, but the defense (ranked 87th) is weak. The defense has to start shoring its walls by creating a pass rush.
If you have a weak secondary, put pressure on the quarterback to help the defensive backs. It's not the easiest solution in the world, but it is the easiest solution to the problem. The other option is to get the secondary playing better.
That takes time, which Texas A&M doesn't have.
Average Rank: 7.6
Georgia fought off Tennessee and claimed to a 34-31 overtime victory on Oct. 5. Tennessee was not ranked. The Bulldogs now face a ranked Missouri squad that's trying to stay the only SEC East team without a loss.
If the Bulldogs can't field a solid defense, this is going to be their second loss of the year. So far, Georgia's allowing 32.2 points per game, which is 95th in the country. The offense can only make up for that for so long before another close game simply doesn't go their way.
Average Rank: 6.2
Ohio State won the dogfight with the Northwestern Wildcats 40-30 on Oct. 5. The Buckeyes recovered a fumble in the end zone on the last play of the game to secure the victory—and six bonus points for the gamblers.
The Buckeyes are still undefeated heading into the Week 8 match against a wounded Iowa team. The Buckeyes are going to have some trouble against Iowa's 19th-ranked defense, but Ohio State's No. 7 offense should prevail.
Average Rank: 6
Florida State literally did everything right against the Maryland Terrapins and scored the mind-numbingly large 63-0 shutout in Week 6. The Seminoles keep looking better, and after Jameis Winston's 25-of-27 season-opening performance, that's saying something.
The Seminoles offense and defense are both ranked third nationally with 53.6 points scored and just 12 points allowed per game so far. They've ridden those eye-popping stats to a 5-0 start.
Average Rank: 5
Stanford and Clemson have flipped between No. 3 and 4 on this list over the past few weeks, and the jury has finally reached a verdict: tied for third place. The Cardinal's big 31-28 win over then-No. 15 Washington confirmed that they are indeed a top-tier team.
Stanford's balanced offensive attack—roughly 200 yards apiece passing and rushing—has kept defenses off balance and allowed Stanford to start this season 5-0. On Oct. 12, the Cardinal are facing a Utah team that has a habit of keeping games close when the "paperwork" says they should be decimated. (For examples, see every game except Weber State.)
Stanford has to respect the Utes, or the Cardinal could be the first elite team that falls to the Pac-12 newbie.
Average Rank: 5
Clemson—the other No. 3—clobbered Syracuse 49-14 in Week 6, moving to 5-0 and hanging onto its No. 3 slot in the AP Poll. Tajh Boyd completed 20 of his 27 pass attempts for 455 yards, five touchdowns and his first two interceptions of the season.
Boyd has the sixth-best efficiency rating in the country, and he even led the Tigers to a significant win over Georgia back in the season opener. That's the win that put Clemson on the map, and Boyd's prowess has kept it there.
Average Rank: 2
On Oct. 5, Oregon blew out Colorado 57-16, maintaining the No. 2 rankings in scoring offense, scoring defense, the AP Poll and Coaches Poll. Oregon has blown through its schedule, continuing to make each team look just as inept as the other.
The Ducks blazed through Tennessee, who just took then-no. 6 Georgia to overtime, without a hitch. They embarrassed Virginia, California and Colorado to the same extent. Oregon's next test, against the No. 16 Washington Huskies, is its first game against a ranked opponent.
The Ducks must stop Bishop Sankey from gouging them up the middle. If he really gets going, this will be a shootout. If they can't do that, this will be a run-and-gun shootout with a total score over 100.
Average Rank: 1
Alabama's defense allowed just three points over the past two games, and it looked much more like a traditional Nick Saban/Kirby Smart unit than it did against the Aggies. The offense scores a respectable 37 points per game.
That's not the best in the nation (36th), but it's clearly a winning combination with the 12.2-point defense.
The bottom line: All five rankings used here have rated the Tide No. 1.