College football Power Rankings after Week 9

Rivalry games took center stage in college football’s Week 9.

The Michigan State Spartans outlasted Michigan 37-33 to prove that they’re no one’s little brother — especially when you have Kenneth Walker III on the roster –while Georgia flexed its muscle against Florida to the tune of a 34-7 rout. Both Georgia and Michigan State now have an inside track to the playoff but with games against Alabama and Ohio State ahead, respectively, the path isn’t completely paved yet.

The Group of 5’s best chance at the College Football Playoff, the Cincinnati Bearcats, survived a mediocre first half at Tulane and rallied for a comfortable victory to stay undefeated and in the playoff picture.

Oklahoma kept its undefeated season alive with a 52-21 victory over Texas Tech. The Sooners have had a hard time climbing the polls with several close wins on the season but it looks like everything is starting to click for Lincoln Riley’s squad at the right time.

The top four in the country are beginning to solidify but there were several close games and upsets this Week 9 to create some havoc in this week’s Power Rankings.

With the action behind us, and the rivalry trophies doled out, it’s time to take a look at the Power Rankings after Week 9.

1. Georgia Bulldogs (8-0)

The Bulldogs once again rode the shoulders of their ferocious defense, as three turnovers led to 21 points in a stunning 12-play sequence during the final 2½ minutes of the second quarter in Saturday’s rout of rival Florida. The Gators didn’t score until 2:49 remaining in the game to keep their NCAA record of 418 straight games with points intact. But Georgia’s defense dominated, shutting out Florida and allowing 11 first downs through the first three quarters. The Bulldogs again started quarterback Stetson Bennett, who completed 10-of-19 passes for 161 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Coach Kirby Smart said he and his staff opted to go with continuity in choosing Bennett over former starter JT Daniels, who has been sidelined with a lat injury. — Mark Schlabach

2. Michigan State Spartans (8-0)

The Spartans came back from a 16-point deficit against in-state rival Michigan to win 37-33. Walker had 197 rush yards and five touchdowns in the victory with three of those scores coming in the third and fourth quarter. The Spartans were losing by three late in the fourth quarter, but a fumble recovery gave them an opportunity to get Walker in the end zone one last time to prevail. Michigan State is now 8-0 for the first time since 2015, when the Spartans made the College Football Playoff. — VanHaaren

3. Cincinnati Bearcats (8-0)

The Bearcats won their second straight road game to stay undefeated, but it was more difficult than the final score indicated against what is now a 1-7 Tulane team that started its third-string quarterback. Cincinnati had a precarious 14-12 halftime lead before scoring 17 unanswered points in the second half. Tulane quarterback Kai Horton, a freshman who started because Tulane’s top two quarterbacks were both injured, threw two interceptions and was sacked four times. Cincinnati’s defense has been its strength and its identity all season. It was the fifth time the Bearcats’ defense recorded multiple interceptions in a game, the most in the FBS. — Heather Dinich

4. Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1)

The bye week came at the right time in more ways than one. Not only did coach Nick Saban get a rare weekend off for his 70th birthday, his team got some much needed rest and a chance to hit reset heading into the home stretch of the season. Outside linebacker Drew Sanders, who has missed the past three games with a hand injury, will have his hand scanned by doctors next week and, if cleared, could return to action and help shore up a front seven that has been inconsistent at times this season. — Alex Scarborough

5. Oklahoma Sooners (9-0)

Lincoln Riley has maintained all season that the Sooners would put it all together one day, and on Saturday, that looked like it was finally the case. OU ran for just 72 yards, but Caleb Williams threw for 402 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions, an average of 16.8 yards per completion. The Sooners put up 541 yards on just 55 offensive plays, and held Texas Tech to 373 and just 4-of-13 on third down, forced two fumbles (recovering one) and intercepting two passes. — Dave Wilson

6. Oregon Ducks (7-1)

It was exactly the kind of game the Ducks needed. Sure, their opponent was a listless 2-5 Colorado squad with little to play for, but after winning tight contests against Cal and UCLA on back-to-back weeks, Oregon needed to make some kind of statement. It did just that by blowing out the Buffs 52-29 as if the entire playoff committee itself was on hand in Eugene. The game was not as close as the final score indicated. Colorado was down 45-14 by the end of the third quarter and scored 15 fourth-quarter points on a Ducks’ defense made up of mostly third-stringers. In what was its best offensive performance of the season, Oregon amassed 568 total yards while quarterback Anthony Brown had one of his best games of the year with three touchdown passes and 345 total yards. — Paolo Uggetti

7. Ohio State Buckeyes (7-1)

After a month of stress-free wins and unstoppable offense, Ohio State had to grind against Penn State and lean on its rejuvenated defense for a 33-24 win. The Buckeyes got a touchdown from defensive tackle Jerron Cage, recorded four sacks and allowed only 33 rush yards. “Defense won this game,” coach Ryan Day said. Quarterback C.J. Stroud overcame some early shakiness to throw for 305 yards and a touchdown, and freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson finally faced some clogged lanes before breaking through in the second half. Ohio State will need to finish drives better and play better third-down defense (PSU converted 11 of 18 chances), but remained perfect in Big Ten play and very much in the CFP hunt. — Adam Rittenberg

8. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-0)

The Demon Deacons have entered uncharted territory, with the first 8-0 start in school history after a 45-7 win over Duke. A week after scoring 70 points in a win over Army, Wake Forest kept rolling on offense. Sam Hartman became the fourth ACC player over the past 25 years with 400 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in a game, joining Tajh Boyd, Lamar Jackson and Zack Mahoney. The defense also played well, after giving up 56 to Army, allowing a season low in points. — Andrea Adelson

9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1)

The Irish entered their game against North Carolina as one of the worst rushing teams in the country. But they had great success on the ground for the second straight week as Kyren Williams ran for a career-high 202 yards and a touchdown in a 44-34 win over North Carolina. That includes a career-long 91-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that gave the Irish a double-digit lead they would need to close the game out. North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell valiantly kept the Tar Heels in it, and Notre Dame absolutely missed All-American safety Kyle Hamilton in its secondary. Though that is the most points the Irish have given up since the opener against Florida State, the emergence of the run game got the job done. — Andrea Adelson

10. Michigan Wolverines (7-1)

The Wolverines had a 16-point lead in the second half, but couldn’t hang on in the loss to Michigan State. Quarterback Cade McNamara had 383 yards passing and two touchdowns, but threw an interception at the end of the game, ending Michigan’s chances at a touchdown and the win. The Wolverines only had 146 yards on the ground compared to 406 yards passing and saw a breakout performance from freshman receiver Andrel Anthony, who had 155 yards and two touchdowns. Michigan was winning the game with nearly seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, but freshman quarterback J.J. McCarthy fumbled and gave the Spartans the ball, which eventually led to the game winning touchdown. — VanHaaren

11. Texas A&M Aggies (6-2)

The Aggies got a bye week, a welcome relief for coach Jimbo Fisher after eight straight weeks. However, it comes right as the Aggies are playing their best football. After scoring just 32 total points in losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State, the Aggies somehow reinvigorated their offensive attack behind Zach Calzada in a victory over Alabama, then thoroughly dominated Missouri and South Carolina. With games on tap against Auburn and on the road against Ole Miss, Fisher hopes to keep the mojo working. — Wilson

12. Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-1)

The Cowboys were looking to take out a little frustration after losing a heartbreaker to Iowa State last week and found the perfect opponent to do so. Oklahoma State led 38-0 at the half against Kansas in a 55-3 romp. And you want to talk about total domination? The Cowboys had 21 first downs to the Jayhawks’ none at halftime and 331 total yards to the Jayhawks’ 49 yards. Quarterback Spencer Sanders passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another one. — Chris Low

13. Baylor Bears (7-1)

Bend, don’t break. Texas finished nine of its 12 drives at midfield or beyond, but Baylor held the Longhorns to just 10 points in their final nine possessions and turned the game around with a 21-0 second-half run. Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner rushed a combined 32 times for 179 yards, R.J. Sneed caught eight balls for 94 yards and the Bears stayed very much in the hunt for a Big 12 Championship bid with a 31-24 comeback victory in Waco. They’re now 7-1 after going just 2-7 in Dave Aranda’s 2020 debut. — Connelly

14. Auburn Tigers (6-2)

Don’t look now but the Tigers are playing quality football of late, beating Ole Miss 31-20 on Saturday to move into second place in the SEC West. The defense has been solid and the offense has benefitted from a resurgent Tank Bigsby, who has three consecutive games with a rushing touchdowns. But most important has been the play of Bo Nix, who looks like a different quarterback since he was benched against Georgia State in late September. Against Ole Miss, Nix didn’t throw a single interception and completed 73% of his passes for 276 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for two scores. — Scarborough

15. Ole Miss Rebels (6-2)

It wasn’t the defense that cost Ole Miss in a 31-20 loss at Auburn. They played poorly to start the game, of course, but they bounced back and held their own in the second half, giving the offense opportunities to mount a comeback, including forcing a key turnover in the fourth quarter. But with quarterback Matt Corral playing on two injured ankles and throwing to a receiver corps that lacked its top three players, there was only so much they could do. Coach Lane Kiffin tried to force the issue and gamble by going for it on a number of fourth downs, turning down chances for field goals, and ultimately came up empty. — Scarborough

16. UTSA Roadrunners (8-0)

After its two most resounding performances of the week — wins over Rice and Louisiana Tech by a combined 90-16 — UTSA got a bye week to prepare for a huge road trip to UTEP. Now comes the biggest stretch of games in the history of the Roadrunner football program. They should be a healthy favorite against UTEP, Southern Miss and North Texas, and a relative toss-up on Nov. 20 could determine whether the Roadrunners finish 12-0 or just short of it. Will the CFP committee recognize the team’s achievements when it releases its first rankings this week? — Connelly

17. Kentucky Wildcats (6-2)

What looked like it could be a historic season for Kentucky all of a sudden has the Wildcats facing a two-game losing streak following a 31-17 setback to Mississippi State on the road Saturday. Kentucky turned the ball over four times and scored only one offensive touchdown. The Wildcats led 10-0 early and got a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown by Josh Ali, but were outscored 31-0 over the second and third quarters by a Mississippi State team that outgained Kentucky by more than 200 yards. — Low

18. Houston Cougars (7-1)

Just when it looked like the Cougars were headed to overtime with previously undefeated SMU, Marcus Jones changed the story. Jones took a kickoff 100 yards with just 17 seconds left to break a 37-37 tie and lead Houston past the Mustangs. SMU did have a chance as time expired but the desperation pass was knocked down and the undefeated season was no more. The Cougars have rattled off seven straight wins after an opening season loss to Texas Tech and now have four winnable games remaining on the schedule. — Shea Carlson

19. Iowa Hawkeyes (6-2)

After generating a plus-15 turnover margin during a 6-0 start, Iowa has suffered from a severe case of regression to the mean. The Hawkeyes had a minus-3 margin in a loss to Purdue two weeks ago, and they were minus-3 again on Saturday in Madison. Iowa’s stellar defense allowed only 270 total yards (3.9 per play), but Wisconsin jumped out to an early 20-0 lead thanks in part to a pair of fumbles and rode its own elite defense to an easy 27-7 win. Iowa gained just 156 yards (2.9 per play) and needed a big punt return to set up its only score. Without turnovers, a dreadful offense has been too much to overcome. — Bill Connelly

20. BYU Cougars (6-2)

It was a defense-optional kind of night in Provo, where BYU welcomed back former coach Bronco Mendenhall with one of the highest-scoring games in college football this season. Tyler Allgeier was a man on mission. He ran for 266 yards (on 29 carries), which ranks No. 3 on the school’s single-game record and his five rushing touchdowns matched a school mark. BYU’s 66 points are tied for the eighth-most it has ever scored in a game and are the most against a FBS opponent since scoring 70 against Tulane in 2001. — Kyle Bonagura

21. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (7-1)

If you were wondering how the Chanticleers would bounce back after suffering their first loss of the season, the answer was something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the running game came roaring back to life with 216 yards on the ground compared to 55 yards in the previous game. But it was far from a dominating performance. The defense struggled, Grayson McCall threw only his second interception all season and coach Jamey Chadwell had to roll the dice with a fake punt on fourth-and-4 from their own 31-yard line to help secure a 35-28 win at home. — Scarborough

22. SMU Mustangs (7-1)

The Mustangs rallied from an early 17-point deficit to tie the score at 37 against Houston with 30 seconds left, only to give up a 100-yard kickoff return to Marcus Jones with 17 seconds left. Still, Tanner Mordecai had one final shot from the 35 to throw it into the end zone with no time left, which fell incomplete. It was an exciting end to a slugfest between two of the AAC’s best teams. While neither ran with much efficiency, SMU couldn’t contain Clayton Tune, who threw for 412 yards and four touchdowns. — Wilson

23. Pittsburgh Panthers (6-2)

One week after upsetting Clemson, the Panthers had a letdown performance in a 38-34 loss to Miami. Though Kenny Pickett threw for a single-game school record 519 yards and three touchdowns, he also had two crucial interceptions — including one in the red zone in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead. The bigger issue was the defense, which could not get a stop when it absolutely had to, and had issues tackling consistently and stopping short screen passes from turning into big gains. Pitt gave up 426 yards passing to freshman Tyler Van Dyke, and there were obviously a few plays the Panthers would like to have back. Despite the loss, Pitt remains atop the Coastal Division. If the Panthers win out, they will make the ACC championship game. — Adelson

24. Wisconsin Badgers (5-3)

The defense came to play for Wisconsin on Saturday in the Badgers’ 27-7 victory over a top-10 Iowa team. The highlights included three turnovers and six sacks for the Badgers defense and the Iowa offense was held to just 156 yards in the loss. Wisconsin jumped out to a 20-0 in the first half and Graham Mertz was responsible for three total touchdowns as the Badgers climb back into the Power Rankings after losing three of their first four games to start the season. — Carlson

25. Penn State Nittany Lions (5-3)

Who knows how this Penn State season would have turned out if quarterback Sean Clifford had been fully healthy throughout. Clifford, who didn’t play the second half in a Oct. 9 loss to Iowa and was nowhere near 100% in last week’s loss to Illinois, sparked Penn State with 361 pass yards against Ohio State. The Nittany Lions played much better overall than the Illinois game, but their feeble run game and three turnovers proved to be the difference in a 33-24 loss. Penn State is out of the Big Ten race and endured its fifth consecutive loss to Ohio State. The Lions can still play spoiler against Michigan and Michigan State in November, but much of the focus around the program likely will turn to coach James Franklin’s future. — Rittenberg

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