College football Power Rankings after Week 6

Chaos would be an understatement in regard to what happened in Week 6 of the college football season.

Arkansas and Ole Miss in the SEC and Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12 (for now) kicked off the day with games that weren’t lacking points and came down to the wire, with the Rebels and Sooners pulling out wins late.

Little did we know it was just the start of one of the wildest days in recent memory. Iowa outlasted Penn State 23-20 in a Big Ten showdown, while Wake Forest needed overtime to rally past Syracuse and move to 6-0.

The unpredictability continued late into the night, as Michigan and Notre Dame were tested on the road in boisterous atmospheres. Both the Wolverines and Fighting Irish survived — barely.

The slate saved the most shocking result for last, with Texas A&M upsetting No. 1 Alabama 41-38 in College Station as Jimbo Fisher became the first Nick Saban disciple to beat his old boss.

The upsets and close calls shuffled up the rankings more than usual this week, and with the mayhem behind us, it’s time to check out this week’s Power Rankings.

1. Georgia Bulldogs (6-0)

Who needs established play-makers at receiver and a blue chip quarterback when you have Stetson Bennett ready to step under center and freshmen like Ladd McConkey and Adonai Mitchell to throw to? It may not be a pretty Georgia offense, but it’s an effective one, especially when paired with what’s arguably the best defense in college football. Bennett continues to make the right decisions at quarterback, completing 14-of-20 passes for 231 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the 34-10 win over Auburn. — Scarborough

2. Iowa Hawkeyes (6-0)

Kirk Ferentz’s team has long prided itself on complementary football, which was on full display in Saturday’s come-from-behind win against Penn State. The Hawkeyes’ signature defense overcame a shaky start to add four interceptions to its nation-leading total (now at 16). Australian punter Tory Taylor pinned Penn State inside the 20-yard line six times, delighting fans wearing “Punting is winning” T-shirts. Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras overcame the worst first quarter of his career (1-of-9 passing, 14 yards, one interception) to lead the team back in the second half. “For us to have a chance, it sure helps if we’re complementing all three,” Ferentz said. — Adam Rittenberg

3. Cincinnati Bearcats (5-0)

A short week and a potential Notre Dame hangover didn’t faze Cincinnati, which allowed only a 55-yard field goal and outscored Temple 35-0 in the second half. Darrian Beavers and the swarming Bearcats defense recorded three takeaways and held the Owls to 2.8 yards per rush and only three drives that crossed midfield. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder passed for 259 yards and three touchdowns, but the offense got a more important boost from Jerome Ford (149 yards, two touchdowns) and a run game that piled up 279 yards and four touchdowns. Cincinnati eclipsed its season rushing average by more than 130 yards. If Cincinnati can replicate Friday’s balanced offense, it will be unbeatable in the AAC the rest of the way. — Rittenberg

4. Oklahoma Sooners (6-0)

Lincoln Riley seems to be charmed when it comes to playing Texas. He’s 5-1 against the Longhorns after Saturday’s “epic” (his words) comeback win sparked by inserting freshman Caleb Williams into the lineup in place of Spencer Rattler, who had two turnovers early on Saturday. Once Williams took over, Oklahoma looked like Riley’s Sooners we’ve grown to expect. They put up 662 yards on Texas, scored 55 points and clawed back from a 21-point deficit to win. Could this be the ignition OU needs to play like the team they were expected to be this season? For now, Riley’s not committing to a starting quarterback. But Marvin Mims and Kennedy Brooks both had 2021 breakouts on Saturday, and that’s a start. — Dave Wilson

5. Alabama Crimson Tide (5-1)

There were some red (crimson) flags last month in the narrow escape against Florida. But there was no escaping on Saturday for Alabama, which fell behind early, wound up having to throw the ball 48 times, gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown and couldn’t stop Texas A&M when it counted. Alabama’s 41-38 loss to Texas A&M was the Tide’s first to an unranked opponent since 2007, Nick Saban’s first season in Tuscaloosa. Alabama rallied to go ahead 38-31 with five minutes to play but couldn’t get stops on defense. Zach Calzada led a pair of scoring drives, the final one culminating in the winning field goal on the last play of the game. — Chris Low

6. Michigan Wolverines (6-0)

The Wolverines faced their first deficit of the entire season, not just once but twice against Nebraska. But each time, they found a way to respond. When Brad Hawkins stripped Adrian Martinez late in the game and recovered his own fumble, Michigan was set up in field goal range. Jake Moody hit his fourth field goal of the night to allow the Wolverines to stay undefeated 32-29. Though it wasn’t a perfect game, it showed the type of resilience that was perhaps missing from this program over the past several years. Hassan Haskins finished with 123 yards rushing, and despite playing without his top receivers, quarterback Cade McNamara made the plays he needed to with the game on the line. — Andrea Adelson

7. Michigan State Spartans (6-0)

The Spartans became the second Big Ten team with four touchdowns for 60 yards or more in a single game in the last 15 years on Saturday in the 31-13 win against Rutgers. Wide receiver Jalen Nailor had three of those touchdowns, finishing the game with 221 yards, and running back Kenneth Walker III had a 94-yard touchdown run, which was the longest run in Michigan State history. The Spartans had 590 yards on offense and are 6-0 on the season with a lot of confidence as the team moves closer to its Oct. 30 matchup with in-state rival Michigan. — VanHaaren

8. Ohio State Buckeyes (5-1)

The Buckeyes offense was on full display against Maryland in the 66-17 win. Quarterback C.J. Stroud has shown a lot of improvement since taking a week off, sitting for the game against Akron as he nursed a shoulder injury. Stroud completed 24-of-33 passes for 406 yards and five touchdowns against Maryland and now has 776 yards and 10 touchdown passes in the last two weeks. The Buckeyes defense showed improvement as well, holding Maryland to 40 yards rushing and 244 yards through the air. Ohio State hasn’t been perfect this season, but there has been some urgency the past few weeks to correct that and start showing forward progression. — Tom VanHaaren

9. Kentucky Wildcats (6-0)

It is the cardinal rule of Kentucky football under Mark Stoops: If they can’t stop you from running the football, keep running the football. LSU couldn’t stop it, so the Wildcats rushed 45 times for 330 yards — 212 in the second half — and pulled away from the Tigers 42-21. Chris Rodriguez Jr. and Kavosiey Smoke accounted for 251 of those yards, as LSU just had no answer for UK’s physicality and general meanness. The Wildcats’ defense made four fourth-down stops and sacked LSU’s Max Johnson four times, and Kentucky is now 6-0 for the first time since 1950. — Bill Connelly

10. Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1)

Quarterback Sean Clifford’s injury marred PSU’s first loss of the season in a number of ways. Penn State led 17-3 and had total control when Clifford (146 pass yards, 36 rush yards) exited in the second quarter. Without their QB1, the Nittany Lions mustered only three points in the final 42 minutes and couldn’t hold off Iowa despite a gutsy defensive performance. Penn State has its best defense of coach James Franklin’s tenure, but an unreliable run game makes it hard to grind out wins. Backup quarterback TaQuan Roberson had only 34 passing yards in relief. — Rittenberg

11. Oregon Ducks (4-1)

What was feared was realized this week as Oregon announced running back CJ Verdell will miss the rest of the season with a left leg injury suffered in the overtime loss to Stanford on Oct. 2. It’s a massive loss for the Ducks offense, which is coming off its worst performance of the season. Still, the Ducks should have a relatively easy time rebounding against reeling Cal on Friday. — Kyle Bonagura

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12. Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-0)

The Cowboys had the weekend off and avoided any chance of an upset on a college football Saturday full of chaos. When Oklahoma State hits the field again they’ll have back to back challenging road games against Texas and Iowa State. If the Cowboys can find a way to win both of those contests, they’ll have a promising path to an undefeated record heading into Bedlam against Oklahoma on Nov. 27. Will it be the last Bedlam in the Big 12? Will it be for a playoff spot? We’ll have to wait and see. — Shea Carlson

13. Ole Miss Rebels (4-1)

Ole Miss’ defense didn’t make many stops Saturday, but made the one that counted. Sam Williams and Tavius Robinson put just enough pressure on Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson, and his 2-point conversion pass was incomplete in the back of the end zone, securing a 52-51 win for the Rebels. It was an offensive classic, but a defensive disaster — for both teams. The two offenses combined for 1,287 total yards. Ole Miss moved to 4-1, but has allowed 93 points the last two weeks. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral was sensational. He passed for 287 yards and accounted for four touchdowns. — Chris Low

14. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (6-0)

Grayson McCall’s first pass attempt resulted in a 99-yard touchdown to Isaiah Likely. So, yeah, it was that kind of night for Coastal Carolina as it went on the road and dominated Arkansas State, 52-20, to improve to 6-0. McCall finished with 365 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions through the air. And all four of those touchdown passes went to Likely, who is building an All-American resume at tight end this season. But the Chanticleers were balanced offensively, with three rushers finding the end zone and running for at least 80 yards. — Scarborough

15. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-1)

Notre Dame was in a back-and-forth game with Virginia Tech that saw the Irish kick a field goal in the last few seconds to win, 32-29. Jack Coan started the game at quarterback, but was eventually replaced by Tyler Buchner, only to have Coan re-enter the game in the second half after Buchner was shaken up on a play. Coan was 9-of-12 passing for 108 yards and one touchdown, and Buchner threw for a score and ran for a touchdown as well. This wasn’t a pretty game, and it looked as though Notre Dame might lose after watching Virginia Tech come back to take a 29-21 point lead in the fourth quarter. The Irish offense came through when it needed to, though, and came out on top to go 5-1 on the season — VanHaaren

16. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-0)

Last week, Wake Forest moved to 5-0 by beating Louisville with a field goal in the final 30 seconds. This week, the Demon Deacons moved to 6-0 for the first time since 1944 with even more drama: After giving up a touchdown to force overtime with 21 seconds left, they scored on a walk-off touchdown pass — Sam Hartman to A.T. Perry for 22 yards and a 40-37 win. Perry caught three passes for 137 yards and three scores, and despite getting outgained by a 514-426 margin, Wake moved to 4-0 in conference play, a game and a half ahead of NC State and Clemson in the ACC Atlantic race. The Cardiac Deacs roll on. — Connelly

17. Arkansas Razorbacks (4-2)

Give Sam Pittman and Arkansas credit. The Hogs play to win. After driving for the potentially game-tying touchdown with a second to play, Arkansas went for the 2-point conversion and the win, but KJ Jefferson’s pass sailed incomplete. The gut-wrenching 52-51 loss to Ole Miss was Arkansas’ second in a row after starting the season 4-0. Jefferson bounced back strong after last week’s 37-0 loss to Georgia with 326 passing yards, and Arkansas finished with 676 total yards. But Arkansas’ defense gave up one too many big plays to pull off the SEC road win. — Low

18. Arizona State Sun Devils (5-1)

With Oregon’s loss to Stanford last week, the Sun Devils are in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12. They got their shot at the Cardinal on Friday and cruised to a 28-10 win, holding Stanford out of the end on its final nine drives of the game. Thought Jayden Daniels hasn’t made a significant statistical impact in the traditional sense — he’s thrown just four touchdown passes in five games — his steady, efficient play over the last three weeks has been a winning formula. Perhaps the biggest test left on the schedule comes on Saturday with a trip to Utah. — Bonagura

19. SMU Mustangs (6-0)

Nothing came easy for Sonny Dykes’ Mustangs on Saturday — the defense got carved up early for two easy Navy scores, and the offense suffered back-to-back turnovers, the second returned for a score. But Tanner Mordecai hit Jordan Kerley for a 22-yard touchdown with 8:19 left in the game, the defense forced two late turnovers on downs and SMU moved to 6-0 with a 31-24 win over an improving Midshipmen squad. Mordecai finished 30-for-40 for 324 yards and two scores, and star receivers Rashee Rice and Reggie Roberson Jr. combined to catch 13 balls for 177 yards — which was just enough to overcome suffering the two turnovers and going 2-for-11 on third downs. — Connelly

20. Florida Gators (4-2)

The Gators, coming off a disappointing loss on the road to Kentucky, needed a breather and got one Saturday in a 42-0 home win over Vanderbilt. Quarterback Emory Jones passed for a career-high four touchdowns and connected with four different players. Florida led 21-0 at the half and was anything but dominant as Vanderbilt had scoring opportunities. Coach Dan Mullen lit into his players during the halftime break, and the Gators used a fake punt in the third quarter to pull away and win for the 30th time in the last 31 meetings between the teams. — Low

21. BYU Cougars (5-1)

Any hope the Cougars had at participating in a New Year’s Six bowl is gone. Their 26-17 loss to Boise State, which came into the game with a 2-3 record, just about assures BYU a trip to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. QB Jaren Hall played well in his return from injury but that didn’t really matter when the turnover margin was minus-4 (three lost fumbles, one interception). — Bonagura

22. NC State Wolfpack (5-1)

The Wolfpack had an open date this week, providing extra time to clean up some mistakes and get healthy before entering the heart of their ACC schedule. NC State did not play particularly well the last time out against Louisiana Tech and will need much more laser focus headed on the road to play Boston College — a team that once again is turning heads in the league. But just as important is improving its performance on the road. This will be just the second road trip of the season. In the first, NC State lost handily at Mississippi State, 24-10, after its run game came to a halt — with only 34 yards on 25 carries. — Adelson

23. San Diego State Aztecs

The Aztecs rode their defense to a 31-7 victory against New Mexico, limiting the Lobos to just 193 yards of total offense in their Mountain West opener. At 5-0, San Diego State is the only remaining undefeated team from the conference. Greg Bell carried the load offensively against New Mexico, running for 111 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. QB Jordon Brookshire also ran for a pair of scores. — Bonagura

24. Texas A&M Aggies (4-2)

On a day full surprises, the Aggies pulled the biggest shocker with a 41-38 victory over Alabama to hand the Crimson Tide its first regular season loss in two seasons. Texas A&M took an early lead and held onto it throughout most of the game before a late Alabama rally put the Tide up 38-31 in the fourth quarter. The deficit did little to slowdown the Aggies, who rallied for a late touchdown to tie the game before Seth Small connected on a 28-yard field goal as time expired to complete the upset. A&M looked out sorts heading into Saturday but it looks like Jimbo Fisher’s team is right back on track following his biggest win to date in College Station. — Shea Carlson

25. Baylor Bears (5-1)

The Bears bounced back following a 24-14 loss to Oklahoma State last week with a 45-20 drubbing of West Virginia to continue an impressive start to the 2021 campaign. Gerry Bohanon threw for 336 yards and four scores, including two to Tyquan Thornton, in the win. Baylor’s schedule heats up the next couple weeks against BYU and Texas before a November game against Oklahoma. Those will be the true tests for the Bears this season but so far they’ve been the surprise team of the Big 12. — Shea Carlson

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