College Football Rankings 2017: Bleacher Report's Week 9 Top 25

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2017

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 21:  Saquon Barkley #26 of the Penn State Nittany Lions rushes for a 69 yard touchdown in the first half against the Michigan Wolverines on October 21, 2017 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The chaos of Week 7 didn't carry into Week 8, but a pair of Top 25 programs facing ranked opponents put together impressive victories.

Notre Dame obliterated USC, sending the Trojans home unhappy and plummeting in Bleacher Report's weekly ranking. Penn State enjoyed a blowout win of Michigan and held steady in a coveted top-four position.

Bleacher Report's Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Greg Wallace submitted ballots. A first-place vote counts for 25 points, a second-place nod is worth 24 and so on.

In addition to the poll, we highlight a team on the rise, a program heading the other direction and another school to watch. The final section provides a brief preview of Week 9's key game.

  • 1. Alabama (Last week: 1)
  • 2. Georgia (2)
  • 3. Penn State (3)
  • 4. TCU (4)
  • 5. Wisconsin (5)
  • 6. Clemson (6)
  • 7. Ohio State (7)
  • 8. Notre Dame (10)
  • 9. Miami (8)
  • 10. Oklahoma (9)
  • 11. Oklahoma State (11)
  • 12. Virginia Tech (13)
  • 13. UCF (15)
  • 14. Washington (14)
  • 15. NC State (19)
  • T-16. South Florida (16)
  • T-16. Washington State (17)
  • 18. Michigan State (21)
  • 19. Auburn (20)
  • 20. LSU (23)
  • 21. Stanford (22)
  • 22. West Virginia (24)
  • 23. Memphis (NR)
  • 24. USC (12)
  • 25. Michigan (18)

Others receiving votes: Iowa State, Toledo, Colorado State and Arizona.

             

Who's Hot: Central Florida Knights

Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

South Florida received plenty of praise during the preseason, and Charlie Strong's squad has shown the attention was merited with a 7-0 start to the campaign.

But the Bulls must be ready for a season-ending showdown.

In Week 8, Central Florida improved to 6-0 thanks to a 31-21 victory over Navy. Adrian Killins scampered for a career-best 122 yards, and UCF's stout defense forced three turnovers while helping the team continue its streak of double-digit victories.

Upsets happen, but Navy was likely UCF's toughest opponent until USF during the regular-season finale. The programs could both be sporting undefeated records on Nov. 24 in Orlando.

The Knights climbed two spots to No. 13 in B/R's poll.

         

Who's Not: USC Trojans

SOUTH BEND, Ind.  What a disaster.

There's a thorough recap from Notre Dame Stadium, where USC's football team allegedly played but never showed up.

Quarterback Sam Darnold mishandled the offense's first snap, and Notre Dame quickly capitalized with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Wimbush to Equanimeous St. Brown. The rivalry clash steadily went from bad to worse for the Trojans, who pulled Darnold with the score out of reach in the fourth quarter.

Notre Dame running back Josh Adams announced himself as a Heisman Trophy contender with a 191-yard, three-touchdown performance. Wimbush accounted for 226 total yards and four more scores in Notre Dame's 49-14 obliteration of rival USC.

The Trojanswho plunged 12 spots in B/R's pollare 6-2. Yes, with one conference loss, they remain in the Pac-12 conversation. However, a two-loss team has never reached the College Football Playoff, and it will be an immense challenge for USC to climb the rankings over its last four games.

Unless the final month-plus of the regular season is littered with chaos, USC's dreams of a national championship are gone.

        

Fun Fact: Penn State's Big Offensive Day

Since Jim Harbaugh arrived at Michigan prior to the 2015 season, excellent defense has been a constant. The unit is superb once again, but Penn State's offense succeeded against the Wolverines like no previous scoring attack had.

Led by Saquon Barkley, the Nittany Lions averaged 8.3 yards per snap. The Heisman Trophy favorite collected 161 yards from scrimmage and scored three touchdowns, and quarterback Trace McSorley accounted for four scores during the 42-13 triumph.

In Harbaugh's previous 32 games at his alma mater, the Wolverines had surrendered more than 5.0 yards per play in just eight contests. Ohio State held the previous best at 7.0.

While it's a blip on the radar for Michigan in 2017, that blip crushed any remaining hopes of a Big Ten crown. Penn State, meanwhile, is 7-0 heading into a potentially season-defining clash with Ohio State. More on that in a minute.

       

Keep an Eye on: Iowa State Cyclones

In Week 6, Matt Campbell's team pulled off a stunning upset on the road against the then-No. 3 Oklahoma. Kyle Kempt made his first career start in that 38-31 victory, throwing for 343 yards and three touchdowns to stun the Sooners.

Iowa State hasn't slowed since then.

In Week 7, the Cyclones cruised past Kansas 45-0. They surrendered just 106 yards of total offense, and running back David Montgomery powered in three touchdowns during the blowout.

Saturday, Iowa State jumped out to a 24-6 halftime lead over Texas Techa team just one week removed from being ranked both in the AP Top 25 and B/R's weekly poll. Kempt tossed three scores in the 31-13 win, and the team improved to 5-2.

Although we're not expecting Campbell's crew to navigate an impending three-week stretch against No. 4 TCU, No. 22 West Virginia and No. 11 Oklahoma State, three straight impressive victories make it unwise to ignore the Cyclones.

        

What to Watch for: No. 3 Penn State at No. 7 Ohio State

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 22:  J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania on October 22, 2016.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

While several matchups have lasting implications for conference races and the College Football Playoff chase alike, the biggest game of Week 9 will be played in Columbus.

Ohio State has ripped through its competition since losing to Oklahoma earlier this season. Quarterback J.T. Barrett has accounted for 22 touchdowns over the past five games, helping the Buckeyes rattle off five consecutive victories of 31-plus points.

And they are looking for redemption.

Penn State ended Ohio State's perfect season in 2016, capping a 17-point fourth quarter with a blocked field goal returned for the game-winning touchdown. The Nittany Lions won the Big Ten's East Division thanks to an OSU victory over Michigan.

The winner of this contest will remain unblemished in Big Ten play and hold a key tiebreaker to reach the conference championship, pending a future result with Michigan State.

             

All recruiting information via Scout. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.