If we learned anything in Week 6 of the 2017 college football season, it's this: Poll voters know what they’re doing. With one key exception, the nation’s best teams held serve and then some this week across the nation. AP No. 1 Alabama dominated a one-time stumbling block in Ole Miss 66-3. No. 2 Clemson went into Blacksburg and had no issues with Virginia Tech in a 31-17 victory. No. 4 Penn State ripped Indiana 45-14, and No. 6 Washington eased past Oregon State 42-7.
AP No. 5 USC’s 30-27 loss at No. 16 Washington State shook up the Top 10, but a combination of highly ranked teams enjoying off weeks and the utter dominance of the nation’s elite left few other changes at the top of the polls. Notre Dame surged into the poll at No. 15. A few upsets left some churn at the bottom of the Top 25, but we could be seeing a gap form between a group of College Football Playoff contenders and the rest of the nation.
It was a relatively quiet week in the Bleacher Report Top 25; college football writers 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, a second-place for 24 and so on.
Here’s our updated poll. Who’s rising? Who’s falling? We have one team cooling its heels just outside the Top 25, an under-the-radar winning streak and a key game in Week 7:
- 1. Alabama (last week: 1)
- 2. Clemson (2)
- 3. Oklahoma (3)
- T-4. Penn State (4)
- T-4. Georgia (5)
- 6. Washington (8)
- 7. TCU (7)
- 8. Washington State (19)
- T-9. Wisconsin (9)
- T-9. Michigan (11)
- 11. Ohio State (10)
- 12. Auburn (15)
- 13. Miami (13)
- 14. USC (6)
- 15. Notre Dame (NR)
- T-16 Oklahoma State (14)
- T-16. Virginia Tech (12)
- 18. Louisville (16)
- 19. West Virginia (T-17)
- 20. San Diego State (21)
- 21. South Florida (T-17)
- 22. UCF (NR)
- 23. Utah (24)
- 24. Oregon (NR)
- 25. Maryland (NR)
Also receiving votes: Florida, NC State, Navy, Kansas State
Who’s Hot: Washington State Cougars
Mike Leach got off to a bit of a rough start at Washington State. The Cougars are hardly regarded as a traditional power, but after winning 84 games in 10 seasons at Texas Tech, he did raise a few eyebrows with only 12 wins in his first three seasons. It’s starting to look like the Cougs have turned the corner under Leach, though.
Washington State won a combined 17 games the past two seasons, and the Cougars are on pace for their best season since Mike Price roamed the sidelines in Pullman in the early 2000s. Following Friday’s raucous 30-27 win over No. 5 Southern California, students stormed the field and celebrated the school’s first regular-season win over a Top Five opponent since 1992, when a guy named Drew Bledsoe was the quarterback. The Cougars rose 11 spots in BR's poll this week to No. 8.
Leach told ESPN afterward that "it [was] like Woodstock, except everybody's got their clothes on." And the Cougs have reason to party. They’re 5-0 and in position to make noise in the Pac-12. Senior quarterback Luke Falk is a perfect fit in Leach’s Air Raid system; he threw for 340 yards and two scores against the Trojans on 51 pass attempts. Washington State will be tested with road games at Oregon and Cal up next, but it is a clear factor in the Pac-12 North.
Who’s Not: USC Trojans
USC had lived dangerously over the first four weeks of 2017. The Trojans were tied with a depleted Western Michigan team into the fourth quarter in their opener before winning 49-31, and they went into double overtime to take a 27-24 victory over a Texas team still finding its way under first-year coach Tom Herman. So Friday’s trip to No. 16 Washington State set up as an excellent chance to see how USC would handle some adversity in a hostile environment.
The answer? Not well. Washington State went toe-to-toe with the Trojans and emerged with a 30-27 upset that started a party in the Palouse. Clay Helton’s team suffered the biggest drop in this week’s Top 25 after the nation’s second-longest active winning streak ended at 13 games. Sam Darnold’s Heisman Trophy hopes, meanwhile, are on life support. Darnold now has nine touchdowns against eight interceptions this season. The Trojans dropped seven spots in our poll this week, to No. 13.
Darnold completed just 15 of 29 passes for 164 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He played behind a young, injury-plagued offensive line. Veteran left tackle Toa Lobendahn missed the game with a skin infection. Right tackle Chuma Edoga left the game with a left leg injury. And right guard Viane Talamaivao left with a shoulder injury. The results weren’t pretty: Darnold struggled to find time to throw, and USC’s final drive ended when Darnold fumbled after being sacked at his own 18.
The Trojans certainly have time to get well, win a down Pac-12 South and find a path to the College Football Playoff. As of now, they have just two games against currently ranked teams (Utah and Notre Dame) on their schedule. But the road is a lot tougher now. Darnold needs to start playing like the guy who turned around the Trojans' season last fall if his team has legit playoff hopes.
Fun Fact: South Florida Is Thriving Under the Radar
At 14 games, Oklahoma has the longest current win streak in college football. Do you know who has the second-longest streak following USC’s loss at Washington State? You probably aren’t surprised by Clemson’s 10-game win streak, but South Florida is right there with the Tigers, coming out on top in their past 10 matchups.
Saturday’s 61-31 blowout of hapless East Carolina extended the Bulls’ streak to double digits and showed why USF is a legit candidate for the Group of Five spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
The Bulls made a smart move snapping up Charlie Strong following his firing at Texas, and after a couple of choppy starts against the likes of San Jose State and Stony Brook, USF and star quarterback Quinton Flowers are finding their groove.
The Bulls have now scored at least 43 points in three consecutive games, and Flowers has thrown for eight touchdowns against two interceptions while passing for 774 yards and rushing for 302 yards and four scores. The scary part? He hasn’t reached his potential yet, throwing for 160 yards against ECU and just 96 against Temple. South Florida is a favorite for a New Year’s Day slot along with San Diego State, but if Flowers gets going, the Bulls could be the clear-cut front-runner.
Keep an eye on: NC State Wolfpack
Entering his fifth season at NC State, pressure was building on Dave Doeren to make a move upward. Doeren was just 25-26 with the Wolfpack and had never won more than eight games in a season. As we near the midway point of 2017, it appears he and the Pack are making that move. Clemson is the clear class of the ACC Atlantic and the conference overall, but a case can be made that NC State is the division’s second-best team.
The Wolfpack followed a solid 27-21 win at Florida State with a 33-25 win over Syracuse, moving to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in ACC play. The 'Pack has a very good defense led by defensive end Bradley Chubb, and Boise State transfer Ryan Finley has settled in at quarterback, throwing eight touchdowns with no interceptions and completing 74.2 percent of his passes. A Thursday night home date with Louisville and Lamar Jackson looms, but it could be just the opportunity State needs to show the nation it’s for real.
What to Watch For: LSU at Florida
LSU vs. Florida is one of the SEC’s best yearly crossover games, but it has a little extra juice this time around. This was originally scheduled for Baton Rouge but was moved as part of a rescheduling issue connected with 2016’s Hurricane Matthew. Neither school was particularly pleased with the result after the SEC stepped in to resolve the matter, and there’s some bad blood in what is always an intense game.
Florida is 3-1 following Saturday’s 38-24 win over Vanderbilt, and the Gators need this one badly to keep pace in the SEC East heading into a stretch that includes a home game with Texas A&M and the annual rivalry match with Georgia. But they'll have to do so with redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks after Luke Del Rio suffered a season-ending broken collarbone versus the Commodores.
LSU hopes to regain its mojo following an embarrassing 37-7 loss at Mississippi State in its SEC opener and a stunning 24-21 home loss to Troy, which broke a 49-game home winning streak against nonconference foes.
The Tigers are entering a run that features a home game versus Auburn and a two-game road swing at Ole Miss and Alabama. If LSU has any hope of saving the season and reducing the building heat under coach Ed Orgeron, it starts this week. It has no other options left.