The ranks of the unbeatens shrunk in Week 8 from 10 to eight, with Wisconsin roaring back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter only to fall at Michigan State on a 44-yard Hail Mary on the game’s final play. Meanwhile at Norman, Okla., Texas Tech ambushed Oklahoma, jumping out to a 24-point lead after a 90-minute weather delay pushed the kickoff back.
Four teams dropped out of the top 40: Rutgers dropped from No. 33 after losing at Louisville Friday night, Missouri fell from No. 35 after being bushwhacked at home by Oklahoma State, No. 37 North Carolina slid out of the rankings after it was blown out at Clemson and No. 38 Temple's loss at Bowling Green cost the Owls their spot.
And with that, here’s the top 40 heading into Week 9:
Previous ranking: 36
This week: Idle
Next: vs. Georgia at Jacksonville
The Gators return from a bye for the rivalry game formerly known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against Georgia in Jacksonville. Florida has lost its last three games. Quarterback John Brantley still hadn’t been cleared to practice by the middle of last week but coach Will Muschamp still hopes Brantley will be able to go against the Bulldogs. Brantley hasn’t played since injuring his ankle in the loss to Alabama on Oct. 1.
Previous ranking: 39
This week: Idle
Next: vs. Wisconsin
With Wisconsin’s loss at Michigan State Saturday, the stakes for the Buckeyes’ return from their bye week have ratcheted up. Ohio State has struggled through the first part of the season with poor performances against Michigan State and at Miami and suffered through a horrible second-half collapse in their loss at Nebraska.
But Ohio State is still alive in the Big Ten race, with Penn State the only unbeaten team left in the Leaders Division with games at Columbus and Madison to close the season. The Buckeyes also have a payback factor—it was the Badgers who handed Ohio State its only loss last season in a prime time upset at Madison.
Previous ranking: Not ranked
This week: Beat West Virginia 49-23 (Friday)
Next: at Louisville
Ryan Nassib had a huge game for the Orange, throwing three touchdowns to tight end Nick Provo and Dorian Graham had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as Syracuse upset the Mountaineers Friday night at the Carrier Dome. It was the most points the Orange had rung up against West Virginia since a 45-0 win in 1960 and the win over the 11th-ranked Mountaineers was the highest ranked opponent Syracuse had beaten since a 50-42 triple overtime win over No. 8 Virginia Tech in 2002.
It was the Orange’s first win over West Virginia at the Carrier Dome since 2001 and marked Syracuse’s second straight win in the series—the Orange won at Morgantown last season, 19-14.
The Syracuse defense stood tall, holding West Virginia to 23 points and 408 yards of offense after the Mountaineers came in averaging 40.8 points and 503.5 yards per game.
Previous ranking: Not ranked
This week: Beat Miami (Ohio) 49-28
Next: vs. Northern Illinois (Tuesday, Nov. 1)
The Rockets scored three first-quarter touchdowns to overwhelm the RedHawks en route to their fourth straight win to remain perfect in Mid-American Conference play. Toledo ran for 269 yards with three different ball carriers topping the 60-yard mark. Morgan Williams had 84 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns, Adonis Thomas added 80 yards and a score on 10 carries and David Fluellen finished with 66 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown.
The Rockets scored the first 28 points of the game to put it away early, holding Miami to 14 yards rushing and forcing three turnovers, including a fumble by RedHawk quarterback Zac Dysert that Robert Bell returned 55 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to put the Rockets up 28-0.
Previous ranking: 30
This week: Lost at Southern Mississippi 27-3
Next: at Tulsa
The Mustangs suffered their first Conference USA loss, J.J. McDermott’s first as SMU’s starting quarterback. The Mustangs were held to just 330 yards and 14 first downs and cost themselves any chance to get back into the game with two late turnovers. McDermott was just 16-for-32 for 173 yards and was intercepted twice. Running back Zach Line had 163 yards on the ground but was held out of the end zone on eight carries inside the USM 10.
SMU’s hopes for a return to the C-USA title game hang in the balance when the Mustangs visit Tulsa this week—the Golden Hurricanes and Houston are both unbeaten in the West Division.
Previous ranking: 26
This week: Lost at Purdue 21-14
Next: vs. Penn State
In the span of two weeks, the Fighting Illini have fallen from talking about winning the Leaders Division to falling to the periphery of the Big Ten title race after being jumped on early by the Boilermakers. Illinois fell behind 21-0 in the first half before finally getting a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
The Illini closed the gap to 21-14 on a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase with 54 seconds to go but Purdue recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win.
Illinois hosts Penn State having lost two straight after a 6-0 start.
Previous ranking: 25
This week: Lost at Miami 24-7
Next: vs. Clemson
The Yellow Jackets continued to struggle against the Hurricanes, losing their third straight in the series when they were held to just 211 yards of total offense—more than 300 below their season average and its lowest total since losing to Iowa in the Orange Bowl two seasons ago.
Quarterback Tevin Washington led Georgia Tech with 36 yards on 20 carries and scored Tech’s only touchdown in the second quarter. But he also set the tone for the day when he was intercepted by JoJo Nicholas on the game’s first play.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Yellow Jackets, who host undefeated Clemson on Saturday.
Previous ranking: Not ranked
This week: Beat Georgia Tech 24-7
Next: vs. Virginia (Thursday)
The Hurricanes won back-to-back games for the first time this season thanks in part to a big day for safety JoJo Nicholas, who returned a fumbled punt for a touchdown and intercepted Yellow Jacket quarterback Tevin Washington on Georgia Tech’s first offensive snap. Lamar Miller rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown and Miami’s beat-up defense held Tech to more than 300 yards and 36 points below its season averages.
The downside for the Hurricanes was losing guard Jon Feliciano to a leg injury while he celebrated Miller’s touchdown in the second quarter. It’s unclear whether Feliciano will be ready for Virginia on Thursday night.
Previous ranking: 32
This week: Beat New Mexico 69-0
Next: vs. BYU (Friday)
The Horned Frogs held the woeful Lobos to 85 yards and five first downs and led 41-0 by halftime. TCU set a school record for points in a game, breaking its previous high of 68 scored against Austin College in 1932.
The Frogs had 264 yards on the ground and Casey Pachall threw two touchdown passes to remain perfect in Mountain West Conference play.
TCU hosts former MWC rival BYU on Friday night.
Previous ranking: 28
This week: Lost at Stanford 65-21
Next: vs. Arizona
In what looked to be a Pac-12 North showdown, the Huskies were no match for the unbeaten Cardinal, which ran for a whopping 446 yards in the rout. Chris Polk had touchdown runs of 46 and 61 yards to keep Washington close early, but the defense had no answer for Stanford’s powerful rushing attack.
Polk finished with 144 yards on 15 carries and Keith Price threw for 247 yards and a touchdown, but the Huskies also turned the ball over three times and didn’t force a takeaway.
Washington suffered its first loss in the division and now trails the Cardinal and Oregon, neither of which have a loss in conference play, as it returns home to host Arizona.
Previous ranking: 24
This week: Lost to USC 31-17
Next: vs. Navy
The Fighting Irish’s four-game winning streak went by the boards because the turnover bug returned, including a crushing fumble from the USC one-yard-line that Jawanza Starling eventually returned 80 yards for a touchdown. Instead of Notre Dame tying the game, the Trojans had a 24-10 lead and held on for the win.
Backup quarterback Dayne Crist had completed four of five passes to get the Irish deep in the USC end but couldn’t handle the snap and the ball careened crazily away from the Trojan end zone before Starling controlled the ball.
Notre Dame was hurt by its inability to run the ball as it was held to 41 yards on the ground and turned the ball over three times.
Previous ranking: 31
This week: Idle
Next: at Oklahoma State
The Bears had a week to digest the pounding they took at Texas A&M and now jumps back into the fire with a visit to Stillwater against the unbeaten Cowboys.
Baylor learned this week that quarterback Robert Griffin III is one of the finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given annually to the best senior or fourth-year junior quarterback. Griffin has completed a remarkable 78 percent of his passes, leads the nation with 22 touchdown passes and 10.71 yards per attempt and is second in the country with a pass efficiency rating of 205.71.
Previous ranking: 23
This week: Lost at LSU 45-10
Next: vs. Mississippi
It was a tough first start for Clint Moseley, who was intercepted once and sacked six times in the blowout loss at Baton Rouge. Auburn also managed just 87 yards rushing, led by the 60 posted by Michael Dyer. The Tigers didn’t get into the end zone until Onterio McCalebb scored on a two-yard run with just 2:22 remaining.
Auburn’s SEC title hopes are likely gone with the loss at LSU but the Tigers can get bowl-eligible with a win over visiting Ole Miss this week.
Previous ranking: 15
This week: Lost at Syracuse 49-23 (Friday)
Next: at Rutgers
Geno Smith threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns but was also intercepted twice as the Mountaineers were blown out at the Carrier Dome. West Virginia’s running game struggled to get on track, managing just 70 yards, and was held well below its season averages with 23 points (40.8) and 408 yards of total offense (503.5).
The Mountaineer defense was also shredded by Syracuse, surrendering 194 yards on the ground and four touchdown passes to Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib.
West Virginia now visits Rutgers as one of six Big East teams with one loss in conference play.
Previous ranking: 27
This week: Idle
Next: vs. Kansas
The Longhorns come off a bye after back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State hoping to be able to get some offensive consistency. Young quarterbacks Case McCoy and David Ash have been inconsistent in the passing game and Texas lacks explosiveness on offense—the Longhorns have just two plays all season longer than 50 yards, both in the opening win over Rice when Garrett Gilbert was still the quarterback.
Texas also struggles in the red zone offensively, scoring touchdowns on just 46 percent of its red zone opportunities.
Previous ranking: 34
This week: Won at South Florida 37-34
Next: at Pittsburgh (Saturday, Nov. 5)
Zach Collaros kept the Bearcats unbeaten in the Big East with a two-yard touchdown run with 12 seconds left for a big come-from-behind win over the Bulls. Collaros had three touchdown passes and also ran for two fourth-quarter scores as Cincinnati came back from a 27-17 deficit in the fourth quarter.
The Bearcats won a sloppy game in Tampa, where the teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of offense, 20 penalties and seven turnovers.
Cincinnati now has a week off to prepare for a visit to Pittsburgh in two weeks.
Previous ranking: Not ranked
This week: Beat SMU 27-3
Next: at UTEP
Markese Wheaton intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, as the Golden Eagles rolled to their fifth straight win and kept pace with East Carolina atop Conference USA’s East Division. Southern Miss held the high-powered Mustangs to just 330 yards and 14 first downs.
Austin Davis was 27-for-37 for the Golden Eagles for 266 yards and a touchdown.
Southern Mississippi hits the road to El Paso to face UTEP this week.
Previous ranking: 40
This week: Won at Oklahoma 41-38
Next: vs. Iowa State
The Red Raiders ambushed the Sooners after a weather-delayed start, taking a 31-7 lead early in the third quarter before holding on for an enormous upset victory. Texas Tech broke Oklahoma’s 39-game home winning streak and knocked the Sooners from the unbeaten ranks in the process.
Seth Doege threw for 441 yards and hit Alex Torres for three of his four touchdown passes. The Red Raiders came in as 28-point underdogs after back-to-back losses to Texas A&M and Kansas State by a total of 12 points.
Texas Tech now has to prevent a letdown when Iowa State comes to Lubbock.
Previous ranking: 21
This week: Idle
Next: vs. Florida at Jacksonville
The Bulldogs take a week of rest and a five-game winning streak into the Cocktail Party against a Gator squad that has lost three in a row after a 4-0 start.
Georgia has bounced back from opening losses to Boise State and South Carolina to emerge as the prohibitive favorite to win the SEC East. Since the 0-2 start, the Gamecocks have lost both their starting quarterback and their star tailback. A win over Florida would go a long way toward propelling the Dawgs back to the SEC title game.
Previous ranking: 20
This week: Idle
Next: vs. Colorado
The Sun Devils are coming off a tough loss at Oregon but are still the odds-on favorite to represent the Pac-12 South in the conference’s inaugural title game. No one left on Arizona State’s remaining schedule—Colorado, UCLA, Washington State, Arizona and California—currently has a winning record and a 10-2 record is very possible.
That home stretch begins with the Buffaloes, who are still looking for their first Pac-12 win.
Previous ranking: 29
This week: Won at Notre Dame 31-17
Next: vs. Stanford
Matt Barkley threw for three touchdowns and Jawanza Starling returned a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown when the Fighting Irish had the ball at the Trojans’ one-yard line and USC ended Notre Dame’s four-game winning streak.
The Trojans jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half behind Barkley, who was 24-for-35 for 224 yards and the three scoring tosses. USC’s defense was also solid, holding the Irish to just 41 yards rushing.
Undefeated Stanford visits the Los Angeles Mausoleum this week.
Previous ranking: 16
This week: Won at Minnesota 41-14
Next: vs. Michigan State
The Cornhuskers returned from a bye with a rushing performance hearkening back to the days of Tom Osborne, gashing the Golden Gophers for 346 yards on the ground in a blowout win.
Rex Burkhead led the ground onslaught with 117 yards and a touchdown in Nebraska’s first trip to Minnesota since 1989. Taylor Martinez was efficient throwing the ball, finishing 13-for-22 for 162 yards and a touchdown.
The Cornhuskers now host Michigan State in a huge game in the Big Ten Legends Division.
Previous ranking: 19
This week: Won at Northwestern 34-24
Next: vs. Illinois
Silas Redd ran for a career-best 164 yards and a touchdown and the Nittany Lions defense stiffened after halftime to remain perfect in the Big Ten Leaders Division. Matt McGloin threw two touchdown passes and had 192 yards through the air and Penn State shook off a lost fumble on the opening kickoff to beat the Wildcats.
The win was Joe Paterno’s 408th at Penn State, tying him with Grambling’s Eddie Robinson for most all-time in Division I (all divisions).
The Nittany Lions host Illinois next, with the Fighting Illini coming in off two straight defeats.
Previous ranking: 22
This week: Beat Marshall 63-28
Next: vs. Rice (Thursday)
Case Keenum threw for 376 yards and matched a career-high six touchdowns as the unbeaten Cougars overwhelmed the Thundering Herd. Keenum became the NCAA’s all-time leader in total offense, breaking the mark of 16,910 yards previously held by Hawaii’s Timmy Chang.
Keenum was almost perfect, completing 24-of-28 passes—including 15 straight completions at one point—as Houston gained 621 total yards and lead the nation with 604 yards per game.
The Cougars host crosstown rival Rice with a chance to match the 8-0 start last achieved by Houston in 1990.
Previous ranking: 12
This week: Idle
Next: vs. Purdue
The Wolverines return from their bye against the Boilermakers hoping to bounce back from their first loss at Michigan State two weeks ago.
Michigan’s defense, a huge problem during the Rich Rodriguez era, is better under new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, but the defensive line is still battling inconsistency, particularly against the run on first down. The Spartans, at a key juncture two weeks ago, went down the field on the first series of the second half to take a commanding 21-7 lead and the defense is struggling to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Previous ranking: 17
This week: Beat Boston College 30-14
Next: at Duke
David Wilson ran wild in the second half, gaining 113 yards on 11 carries after halftime to finish with 134 rushing yards and a touchdown. It was the Hokies’ third win in a row and Logan Thomas has had at least one touchdown rushing and receiving in each of those games.
Virginia Tech’s defense got nicked against the Eagles, however. Linebacker Bruce Taylor left with a foot injury in the third quarter and linebacker Alonzo Tweedy was out with an ankle injury. Additionally, defensive end Jaymes Gayle returned from an ankle injury but left in the first quarter after aggravating the ailment.
Next up for the Hokies is a visit to Duke.
Previous ranking: 13
This week: Idle
Next: at Tennessee
The Gamecocks are trying to stay positive despite a tough season on the heels of the school’s first SEC East title in 2010. Starting quarterback Stephen Garcia was benched and then dismissed from the team. Tailback Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season with a knee injury in South Carolina’s win over Mississippi State.
Coach Steve Spurrier also became a bit of a distraction himself, becoming a YouTube sensation with a rant against a Columbia, S.C., columnist.
The Gamecocks return to action this week at banged-up Tennessee.
Previous ranking: 14
This week: Won at Iowa State 33-17
Next: vs. Missouri
Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray each topped the 100-yard mark as the Aggies held off the Cyclones for their third straight win. Texas A&M’s balanced attack finished with 510 yards, including 263 yards through the air by Ryan Tannehill, who also threw two key touchdown passes late in the second quarter to help the Aggies take control.
Michael finished with 142 yards on 18 carries, scoring once, and Gray had 125 yards on 21 attempts.
Texas A&M next hosts Missouri trying to keep pace with Kansas State and Oklahoma State in the Big 12 race.
Previous ranking: 6
This week: Lost at Michigan State 37-31
Next: at Ohio State
The Badgers’ national title hopes took a huge hit when the Spartans completed a deflected pass on the final play of the game to hand Wisconsin its first loss.
Russell Wilson had led the Badgers from 14 points down in the fourth quarter, tying the game with 1:26 remaining on a two-yard pass to Montee Ball. But Wilson was picked off twice in the game and the Heisman candidate was outplayed by his opposite number, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins.
Wisconsin hits the road again this week, visiting Ohio State.
Previous ranking: 10
This week: Won at Mississippi 29-24
Next: at Vanderbilt
The Razorbacks bounced back from an early 17-point deficit to beat the Rebels. Eric Bennett sealed the win with a late interception to stop Ole Miss’ final drive.
Tyler Wilson threw for 232 yards and ran for a pair of short touchdowns and Arkansas stayed in the mix in the brutally tough SEC West with its third straight win. Dennis Johnson ran for 160 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas visits Vanderbilt next.
Previous ranking: 18
This week: Beat Wisconsin 37-31
Next: at Nebraska
Former quarterback Keith Nichol caught a deflected pass from current quarterback Kirk Cousins as time expired and fought his way into the end zone to give the Spartans their second straight win over an unbeaten visitor to Spartan Stadium.
Cousins was 22-for-31 for 290 yards and three touchdowns, out-dueling Heisman Trophy candidate Russell Wilson of the Badgers. Michigan State squandered a 14-point fourth-quarter lead before Cousins and Nichol hooked up for the controversial game-winner, which was originally ruled short of the end zone before being overturned on official review.
The Spartans visit Nebraska for a game with huge Big Ten Legends Division implications.
Previous ranking: 11
This week: Won at Kansas 59-21
Next: vs. Oklahoma
Collin Klein threw for a career-high 195 yards and accounted for five touchdowns and the Wildcats remained perfect with a huge win in the Sunflower Showdown with the Jayhawks.
Freshman Tyler Lockett scored a touchdown on a kickoff return and also caught a touchdown pass as Kansas State continued its domination of Kansas under coach Bill Snyder.
The Wildcats now hit a brutal stretch of their schedule, starting this week with Oklahoma in Manhattan.
Previous ranking: 3
This week: Lost to Texas Tech 41-38
Next: at Kansas State
The Sooners saw their 39-game winning streak at Owen Field end, falling behind the Red Raiders 31-7 and unable to complete a frantic comeback.
Without a lot of help, Oklahoma’s national championship hopes took a huge hit. Landry Jones finished 30-for-55 for 412 yards and five touchdowns but the Sooner offense was held without a first down in the second quarter, when Texas Tech scored 17 unanswered points to take a commanding 24-7 halftime lead.
Oklahoma tries to right the ship this week when it visits unbeaten Kansas State.
Previous ranking: 8
This week: Won at Colorado 45-2
Next: vs. Washington State
The short-handed Ducks ripped the injury-depleted Buffaloes for their sixth straight win despite playing without quarterback Darron Thomas and tailback LaMichael James. Kenjon Varner ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries as Oregon rambled for 371 yards on the ground.
Redshirt freshman Bryan Bennett was solid for the Ducks, completing 11-for-20 for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
Oregon now hosts Washington State.
Previous ranking: 9
This week: Beat North Carolina 59-38
Next: at Georgia Tech
Tajh Boyd tied a school record with five touchdown passes and the Tigers erupted for 35 third-quarter points to break open a close game to beat the Tar Heels. Defensive end Kourtnei Brown scored twice for the Clemson defense, once on an interception return and then again on a fumble recovery.
The last time the Tigers were 8-0, the Tigers lost to Georgia Tech in 2000 and lost three of their final four games to finish 9-3.
Clemson visits Georgia Tech, which has lost two straight, this week.
Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Washington 65-21
Next: at USC
Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck played a supporting role as the Cardinal rushed for a school-record 446 yards in a rout of the Huskies.
Stepfon Taylor ran for 138 yards, Tyler Gaffney 117 and Anthony Wilkerson 93 as Stanford extended its nation’s-best winning streak to 15 games. Luck threw for 169 yards and two touchdowns while completing 16-of-21 passes.
The win almost assures that the Pac-12 North title will come down to Oregon at Stanford on Nov. 12. The Cardinal visits USC this week.
Previous ranking: 4
This week: Beat Air Force 37-26
Next: at UNLV (Saturday, Nov. 5)
The Broncos’ high-powered offense didn’t get a lot of opportunities but did enough to hold off the Falcons in the first meeting between the new Mountain West Conference rivals.
Air Force’s triple-option controlled the ball for 36:18 but Kellen Moore threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns and Doug Martin added two scores. Boise State also got a special teams touchdown while its defense was gashed for 264 yards by the Falcons’ unfamiliar attack.
Moore also tied Texas’ Colt McCoy with his 45th win as a starting quarterback, matching the NCAA record. The Broncos are idle until going to Las Vegas on Nov. 5.
Previous ranking: 5
This week: Won at Missouri 45-24
Next: vs. Baylor
Joseph Randle scored a career-high four touchdowns for the Cowboys, two set up by turnovers created by Shaun Lewis on an interception and fumble recovery, and Oklahoma State remained unbeaten by blasting the Tigers.
Missouri quarterback James Franklin committed four turnovers and the Cowboys racked up 533 yards of offense despite not having Justin Blackmon in the second half and playing without starting wide receiver Hubert Anyiam, who is out for the year with a broken foot.
Oklahoma State hosts Baylor this week.
Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat Tennessee 37-6
Next: vs. LSU (Saturday, Nov. 5)
AJ McCarron passed for 284 yards and a touchdown and the Crimson Tide scored 31 unanswered points in the second half after the Volunteers had played Alabama to a 6-6 draw in the first half.
McCarron also ran for a score to give the Tide a 13-6 lead on its first possession after halftime. In all, Alabama scored on its first five possessions of the second half to break open a close game. The Crimson Tide out-gained Tennessee 280-41 in the second half and held the Volunteers without a first down after the break.
Alabama has a week off before hosting LSU in this year’s Game of the Century on Nov. 5.
Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat Auburn 45-10
Next: at Alabama (Saturday, Nov. 5)
Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee each threw long touchdown passes to Rueben Randle and the Tigers shrugged off the absence of three key players—star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, leading rusher Spencer Ware and defensive back Tharold Simon—to blow out Auburn.
Freshman Kenny Hilliard took advantage of Ware’s absence to rush for 65 yards on 10 carries, including the first two touchdowns of his career. Randle finished with two touchdowns and 106 yards on five receptions.
LSU has a week off before visiting Alabama in what could be a BCS National Championship elimination game.