1. Alabama (8-0; 5-0 SEC)
The Tide had a bye week, but face the most challenging part of their schedule in the coming weeks. Alabama hosts LSU before road games with Mississippi State and Auburn – we’ll call their Mercer game a gimmie.
2. Georgia (8-0; 5-0 SEC)
Georgia might not be the best team, but they have been the most impressive. The Bulldogs destroyed Florida and helped the Gators push Jim McElwain out the door. Like the Tide, Georgia’s remaining schedule represents their toughest stretch of the season. UGA plays home games vs. South Carolina and Kentucky and road games vs. Auburn and Georgia Tech. It is hard to imagine to Bulldogs losing with the way the defense is playing, but those four games are all rivalries.
3. Notre Dame (7-1)
The Irish put forth yet another dominant effort against a top-15 team Saturday. ND manhandled the No. 6 rushing defense in the country and won two straight against top-15 teams for the first time since 1989. No other one-loss team can match their resume.
4. Oklahoma (7-1; 4-1 BIG XII)
The Sooners survived an early scare before pulling away from Texas Tech at home. OU’s defense has looked shaky, but their loss to Iowa State does not look as bad as it once did. Baker Mayfield continues to be our Heisman favorite and while people will conveniently forget that they drubbed Ohio State in Columbus, we here at The Otter Room will not.
5. Clemson (7-1; 5-1 ACC)
Clemson resembled their September form in their beat down of Georgia Tech. A healthy Kelly Bryant is key for the Tigers moving forward, but the Syracuse loss will continue to weight them down. Clemson has another opportunity to notch another quality win as they travel to ACC Atlantic leader N.C. State Saturday.
6. TCU (7-1; 4-1 BIG XII)
TCU learned the hard way that you don’t just walk into Jack Trice Stadium and expect to come out with a W. Kenny Hill looked terrible as the Horned Frogs were unable to score an offensive touchdown, but TCU still has plenty of opportunities to get back in the Playoff conversation.
7. Oklahoma State (7-1; 4-1 BIG XII)
The Cowboys went on the road and tallied their most impressive win to date Saturday as OSU defeated West Virginia. Mason Rudolph was on point per usual, but it was the Cowboy defense that kept the opposition a bay for the second week in a row. OSU hosts College Gameday and the Sooners for Bedlam this week in Stillwater.
8. Miami (7-0; 5-0 ACC)
Miami is undefeated, but those days are numbered. The Hurricanes looked like anything but a top-10 teams as they needed a last minute fumble by North Carolina to escape Chapel Hill with a win. The Hurricanes defense is elite, but their offense continues to struggle and with Virginia Tech and ND on the docket for the next two weeks, Miami needs to improve in a hurry.
9. Ohio State (7-1; 5-0 BIG TEN)
The Buckeyes registered their biggest win of the season Saturday in a come-from-behind win vs. Penn State. While the Nittany Lions did not deserve to be the No. 2 team in the country, it was still a season-changing win for the Buckeyes. OSU’s ability to contain Saquon Barkley was the difference. After the Penn State win, the Buckeyes still have a bare resume, but will have opportunities to beat Iowa and Michigan State in the coming weeks. Only in Big Ten country is a win over Iowa considered a quality win.
10. Wisconsin (8-0; 5-0 BIG TEN)
Another week, another cupcake opponent for the Badgers. This time, however, the Badgers struggled a bit on the road vs. an inept Illinois team. Wisconsin’s only chance to move up in the polls is to look dominant against inferior competition and that was not the case Saturday.
11. Washington (7-1; 4-1 PAC 12)
Everyone has counted out the PAC 12, but Washington is the conference’s lone hope for a playoff berth. The Huskies blew out UCLA at home Saturday and have looked impressive in every victory thus far. However, the Arizona State loss looms large and might be too much to overcome.
12. Virginia Tech (7-1; 3-1 ACC)
The Hokies are as quiet of a one-loss team as there is. That comes with playing a weak schedule and coming up short in their lone marquee game vs. Clemson. However, Virginia Tech continues to take care of business. Virginia Tech can make a national statement if they can beat Miami on the road this Saturday. A win at Miami would all but ensure Virginia Tech the ACC Coastal title.
13. Iowa State (6-2; 4-1 BIG XII)
The Cinderella story of this college football season continues to reside in Ames. After recording just one win vs. a top-5 opponent in program history prior to this season, the Cyclones have defeated two top-five teams this year. Iowa State used a strong defense to hold down Kenny Hill and the TCU offense and are in the driver’s seat in the Big XII.
14. Penn State (7-1; 4-1 BIG TEN)
Who would’ve thought that when Penn State finally plays a legitimate team they would come back to reality? That’s what happened Saturday despite PSU having every opportunity to put the game away in the second half. Unlike Ohio State last year, Penn State has zero chance of making the Playoff without winning the Big Ten East. After an opening kickoff return for a touchdown, Saquon Barkley was held in check by Ohio State and dealt a blow to his Heisman hopes.
15. UCF (7-0; 4-0 ACC)
The Golden Knights continue to be as impressive as any team in the country. Granted they played Austin Peay this week, but still put up 73 points. With USF losing, UCF does not have a chance for a marquee win to vault them into the top-ten, but they have a stranglehold on the Group of Five’s birth in a New Year’s Six game.
16. Auburn (6-2; 4-1 SEC)
The Tigers had a bye this week, but travel to Texas A&M next week. The loser of that game will feel the temperature of their seat go up even higher.
17. USC (7-2; 5-1 PAC 12)
USC bounced back this week with their best performance of the season vs. previously hot Arizona State. The Trojans used a dominant first half to put the game away early – I guess they only use injuries as excuses when they lose. USC now hosts Arizona this week with the winner all but assuring themselves a spot in the PAC 12 Championship.
18. N.C. State (6-2; 4-0 ACC)
N.C. State failed on a national stage yet again as the Wolfpack fell to Notre Dame. After the first quarter, N.C. State was beat down by the Irish and while the defense had moments, the Irish offensive line had their way for most of the game. The Pack have a chance to redeem themselves this week as they host Clemson in Raleigh.
19. LSU (6-2; 3-1 SEC)
LSU was off this week, but have a season-defining opportunity on the docket this week as the Tigers travel to Alabama. LSU has been playing much better of late, but have not beaten Bama since the infamous No. 1 and No. 2 game in 2011.
20. Mississippi State (6-2; 3-2 SEC)
The Bulldogs emphatically beat down Texas A&M in College Station this week to earn a spot in the rankings. Mississippi State has been dominant in their wins, but has been dominated in their losses. The Bulldogs average margin of victory is 33.1, while their average margin of defeat is 33.5 – both of their losses came against the only ranked teams they have faced (UGA and Auburn). Mississippi State has another blowout on their hands this week in UMass before Alabama comes to StarkVegas.
21. Memphis (7-1; 4-1 AAC)
After USF struggled to put away Tulane a week ago, Memphis took apart the Green Wave to a tune of 56-26. The Tigers will be a decided favorite in their three remaining games and have an inside track for a rematch with UCF in the AAC Championship Game. .
22. Stanford (6-2; 5-1 PAC 12)
With Bryce Love sidelined with a bad ankle, Stanford escaped Oregon State by the skin of their teeth with a 15-14 win. The Cardinal looked dreadful and needed a fortuitous Beaver fumble in the closing minutes to pull out the game. The quality of the Stanford offense in Corvallis illustrated how valuable Love is, but does not enhance his Heisman candidacy despite commentaries like that on ESPN.
23. South Carolina (6-2; 4-2 SEC)
The Gamecocks downed a game Vanderbilt team Saturday to move to 6-2 on the year. Will Mushchamp is quietly doing a great job in Columbia, but will face the biggest test of the season as South Carolina travels to Athens to take on UGA this week.
24. Arizona (6-2; 4-1 PAC 12)
Chris Peterson was bitching about PAC 12 start times earlier in the season, but it is Khalil Tate who has the real gripe. The Wildcat sensation has thrust Arizona into the rankings and into the thick of the PAC 12 race. Tate was spectacular yet again Saturday against Washington State as the sophomore had 275 yards through the air and another 146 on the ground. He accounted for three touchdowns in Arizona’s 58-37 win over the previously ranked Cougars. The Wildcats visit USC this week and if Tate goes off again, he will find himself in New York in December.
25. South Florida (7-1; 4-1 AAC)
The Bulls fell to Houston at home for their first loss of the season. The Cougars converted a 4th & 24 in the closing minutes to keep their drive alive before scoring with :12 remaining to win 28-24. South Florida still has a chance to be the Group of Five representative in a New Year’s SiX Bowl if they are able to beat UCF in the final game of the regular season and defeat Memphis in the AAC Championship Game.
Just Missed: Michigan State, Washington State, Kentucky, Toledo