College Football Rankings 2017: Bleacher Report's Week 5 Top 25

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 24, 2017

It took all 60 minutes, but Trace McSorley and Penn State survived a tough road trip to Iowa.
It took all 60 minutes, but Trace McSorley and Penn State survived a tough road trip to Iowa.Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

In the final play of an instant classic, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley found wide receiver Juwan Johnson in the back of the end zone as time expired for a 21-19 win over Iowa, keeping the Nittany Lions undefeated and in the Top Five of the Bleacher Report Top 25.

It was the capstone on a week that felt a lot more chaotic than it actually was. No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Penn State and AP No. 5 USC were all on the ropes late in their respective games, but they came through in the clutch. In fact, the only Top 10 team that suffered a loss was a ranked-on-ranked minor upset, with AP No. 16 TCU knocking off AP No. 6 Oklahoma State.

What impact did it all have on the Bleacher Report Top 25, though?

Bleacher Report's Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Greg Wallace each submitted ballots in which a first-place vote counts for 25 points, second-place counts for 24, etc.

Here's our updated poll, followed by analysis on a couple of big movers, one team lurking just outside the Top 25, some context on Clemson's incredible run and the biggest games to watch in Week 5:

  • 1. Alabama (last week: 1)
  • 2. Clemson (2)
  • 3. Oklahoma (3)
  • 4. Penn State (4)
  • 5. Georgia (9)
  • 6. USC (6)
  • 7. TCU (17)
  • 8. Washington (7)
  • 9. Wisconsin (8)
  • 10. Ohio State (10)
  • 11. Michigan (12)
  • 12. Virginia Tech (13)
  • 13. Miami (14)
  • 14. Oklahoma State (5)
  • 15. Auburn (T-15)
  • 16. Louisville (19)
  • T-17. South Florida (22)
  • T-17. West Virginia (21)
  • 19. Washington State (23)
  • 20. Mississippi State (T-15)
  • 21. San Diego State (NR)
  • 22. Duke (NR)
  • 23. LSU (18)
  • 24. Utah (NR)
  • 25. Iowa (NR)

Others Receiving Votes: UCF, North Carolina State, Memphis, Florida State

Who's Hot: TCU Horned Frogs

Darius Anderson ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns for TCU.
Darius Anderson ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns for TCU.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Despite sitting at 3-0 and averaging 49.0 points per game, there were question marks surrounding the Horned Frogs. Until finally pulling away in the fourth quarter, they struggled to execute on offense in Week 2 against Arkansas. And last week, they gave up 339 passing yards to SMU, even though soon-to-be first-round draft pick Courtland Sutton had all of one reception for zero yards for the Mustangs.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State was arguably the hottest team in the country, averaging 54.0 points per game without needing its first-team offense on the field for a single fourth-quarter snap. Mason Rudolph was skyrocketing up the Heisman rankings, and we were already starting to peek ahead to the Nov. 4 Bedlam battle against Oklahoma as a potential Big 12 championship preview.

So much for that.

TCU waltzed into Stillwater and put on an offensive clinic, beating Oklahoma State by a 44-31 margin. The Horned Frogs scored on seven of their first nine possessions, gaining at least 60 yards on five of those scoring drives. They only had three plays go for more than 20 yards, but they just chipped their way down the field, neutralizing Oklahoma State's high-powered offense by dominating the time of possession battle.

It was always possible this would be a shootout, but the big surprise was that the Horned Frogs got the job done on defense, too. After forcing a total of five turnovers in the first three weeks, they turned over Rudolph and Co. four times, including a fourth-quarter red-zone interception that all but sealed the deal.

TCU was No. 17 in our poll last week, but it will enter its bye at No. 7.

Who's Not: Florida State Seminoles

Bradley Chubb will be in James Blackman's nightmares for a long time.
Bradley Chubb will be in James Blackman's nightmares for a long time.Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

It feels like an entire lifetime ago that Florida State opened the season at No. 3 in the AP Top 25 with more first-place votes than every other team not coached by Nick Saban.

In case you need a refresher on what transpired prior to this week's 27-21 loss to North Carolina State, the 'Noles lost their opening battle against Alabama and lost the war when Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending injury late in that contest. Their Week 2 game against Louisiana-Monroe was canceled, and their Week 3 game against Miami (FL) was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. Thus, FSU entered the week with a 0-1 record, a true freshman at quarterback and no games played in more than 20 days.

And it showed.

The true freshman QB part wasn't actually a problem, as James Blackman played well. Despite relentless pressure from Bradley Chubb and the rest of NC State's defensive line, Blackman threw for 278 yards and a touchdown. The only turnover he committed came on a fumble at the end of a nice run on 3rd-and-short for what should have been a first down.

Had go-to receiver Auden Tate (nine catches for 138 yards in just 32 minutes) not suffered a shoulder injury early in the third quarter, Blackman's numbers might have been even more impressive.

The real problem is that Florida State's offensive line blocked as well as it did last season for Francois: horrendously. On rushing plays, neither Cam Akers nor Jacques Patrick was given any holes to run through. On passing plays, Blackman was scrambling for his life by the time he caught the snap. He was only sacked four times, but he must have taken at least a dozen other hits.

Meanwhile, Florida State's defense was nothing close to what it's supposed to be. That vaunted front line only registered one sack, and the spectacular secondary gave up 255 yards and two touchdowns without forcing a turnover.

The 'Noles committed three personal fouls on defense, as well as a pass interference that negated an interception. And at the end of the matchup, when a stop on 3rd-and-7 would have given Blackman a chance to lead a game-winning drive, this defense gave up a 15-yard run to end it.

As an entire country, we gave Florida State the benefit of the doubt after the loss to Alabama, but we can't sell our Seminoles stock fast enough. They were No. 11 in last week's B/R Top 25, but they are nowhere to be found this week.

Fun Fact: Clemson's Defense Does It Again

Clemson's defense is out of control.
Clemson's defense is out of control.Richard Shiro/Associated Press

It took 45 minutes for Clemson's offense to get rolling against Boston College. But even with the score tied at 7-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, the game was never really in doubt. That's because Boston College's offense wasn't doing anything, either, and when Clemson allows 22 or fewer points, it always wins.

Per Sports-Reference, Clemson entered the day with a 47-0 record when holding an opponent below 23 points, dating back to the start of the 2011 season. Though there are a few other teams that have fared that well on defense more often, the Tigers have done the best job of turning those performances into victories.

During that window of six-plus seasons, Oklahoma (39-0) is the only other team with at least 36 wins and no losses. And among the 30 teams that have held an opponent to 22 points or fewer at least 40 times, Clemson, Alabama (71-1) and Georgia (44-1) are the only teams that haven't suffered multiple losses.

This should be terrifying news for the rest of the country because this Clemson defense is fiercer than ever. Despite facing Lamar Jackson in one of four games and a strong Auburn offense in another, the Tigers have held their opponents to an average of 227.0 yards and 9.3 points per contest. In their national championship run last season, those numbers were 311.5 and 18.0, respectively.

Between Clemson's slow start against BC and Alabama straight up destroying Vanderbilt on the road, the Tigers will likely lose at least a few of the 15 first-place votes they received in last week's AP poll. But it still feels like we're on a collision course for Round No. 3 of Alabama vs. Clemson.

Keep an Eye on: Texas Tech Red Raiders

Could Nic Shimonek be on his way to a Top 25 ranking?
Could Nic Shimonek be on his way to a Top 25 ranking?Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

The end of Week 4 is when it starts getting tough to piece together a Top 25 ballot. Preseason expectations are now long gone, and with just a handful of exceptions, every team has shown a fatal flaw in either a loss or an unconvincing win. By the time you get down into the 18-20 range, any team without a loss is at least worth considering.

Enter Texas Tech.

The Red Raiders haven't been sensational by any means. They've only played three games, beating FCS school Eastern Washington in Week 1 before eking out one-possession victories over Arizona State and Houston. Regardless of the margin, though, three wins in three games means they are one of 18 remaining undefeated power conference teams.

In the first two games, QB Nic Shimonek was unstoppable, throwing for 927 yards and nine touchdowns with no interceptions. But in the Week 4 win over Houston, it was surprisingly all about rushing and defense. Not a single Red Raider ran for more than 57 yards in either of the first two games, but both Justin Stockton and Tre King rushed for at least 98 yards against the Cougars, each averaging better than 10 yards per carry. And after forcing four total turnovers in the first two games, Texas Tech turned Houston over five times (three fumbles, two interceptions) in a 27-24 win.

Things get serious next week when the Red Raiders host Oklahoma State, but given what TCU just did to the Cowboys, that's clearly a defense that can be scored against. And in each of the past four seasons, the losing team in this matchup has scored at least 34 points. If Texas Tech gets the ball last, it just might be ranked in a week's time.

What to Watch for: Friday Night Fracas

USC has a big road test on Friday.
USC has a big road test on Friday.Ben Margot/Associated Press

Thus far this season, the Thursday and Friday night games have been relatively irrelevant. Entertaining? Certainly. It's still college football, after all. But in seven of the eight games involving a ranked team, that team was favored by (and ultimately won by) at least a two-touchdown margin.

Basically, if you haven't yet committed those nights to college football, you haven't missed much.

That's going to change in a huge way this coming Friday, though.

The ACC will get the party started when AP No. 14 Miami goes on the road to face the undefeated Duke Blue Devils. Miami did not play in Weeks 2 or 3 because of Hurricane Irma, and it was sloppy early this week in a win over Toledo. Meanwhile, Duke beat Northwestern, Baylor and North Carolina each by a double-digit margin. Hard to imagine anyone could have guessed this 30 days ago, but the Blue Devils might actually be favored to win this one.

Make sure you have some coffee with that appetizer, because the entree won't end until roughly 2 a.m. on the East Coast.

The second half of the Friday doubleheader is AP No. 5 USC at AP No. 18 Washington State. Both of these teams have had their fair share of close calls. The Trojans struggled more than anticipated with both Western Michigan and Texas, and the Cougars had their hands full with Boise State in Week 2. Though they'll both be undefeated for a few more days, they have already played a combined five overtime periods this season.

If you're unable to watch games on Fridays, don't worry. There's still a ton of great action on Saturday, including Clemson at Virginia Tech and a quartet of juicy SEC showdowns. But if you've been hitting the snooze button on midweek CFB action through the first four weeks, it's time to wake up.

                      

Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of Sports Reference and CFBStats.com and recruiting data courtesy of Scout.

Kerry Miller covers college football and college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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