College Football Rankings 2016: Projected AP Top 25 after Week 3

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Each week, right after the late games, we will project how the AP Top 25 will look on Sunday. Here’s our hypothesis for Week 3.

After what was supposed to be a boring Week 2, college football fans were greeted by a weekend in which each of the top three teams in the AP Top 25 played true road games against fellow Top 25 opposition. There was plenty of opportunity for upsets, and we certainly are likely to see some significant shuffling when the new poll is released on Sunday.

Three teams will probably drop out from last week’s Top 25, and we are bound to see the return of a couple of teams that fell out over the first two weeks as well as others that have been perfect through the first quarter of the regular season. Here is our guess on how the hierarchy will look when the pollsters have all submitted their ballots and the Associated Press has tallied the results.

Sep 17, 2016; Oxford, MS, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) runs the ball during the second half of the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports


Alabama Crimson Tide


Last week: won 48-43 at #19 Ole Miss
Last rank: 1st

The Crimson Tide held off a late comeback attempt by Ole Miss to move to 3-0 on Saturday, and the defending College Football Playoff national champions will hold on to the top spot in the AP Top 25 after knocking off a top-20 opponent on the road. Nick Saban’s survived, but it showed itself vulnerable to a good passing game after Chad Kelly lit the Alabama secondary up for 421 yards and three touchdowns. Two Tide players, quarterback Jalen Hurts and running back Damien Harris, eclipsed the Rebels’ total rushing yards by themselves en route to the solid start to SEC play.

After a torrid start to the season that included a neutral-site game against USC and a home opener against defending Conference USA champ Western Kentucky, Alabama gets something of a breather for the rest of September. Kent State and Kentucky come to Tuscaloosa over the next two Saturdays before the Tide take back to the road for a showdown at Arkansas on October 8.

Sep 17, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners cornerback Parrish Cobb (4) attempts to tackle Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) in the first quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports


Ohio State Buckeyes


Last week: won 45-24 at #14 Oklahoma
Last rank: 3rd

In a game where the opening kickoff was pushed back over an hour due to lightning in the area, Ohio State showed no signs of having cooled off from warmups when the teams finally got to take to the field in Norman. The Buckeyes rolled up a 35-17 lead by halftime, with J.T. Barrett throwing four touchdown passes before the intermission and tailback Curtis Samuel nearing 100 yards rushing. Though they allowed over 400 yards to the Sooners, the Ohio State defense clamped down when it became imperative to do so.

After watching Florida State lose above them, the Buckeyes figure to bump up into the second spot when the Top 25 poll is released tomorrow. Home games against Rutgers and Indiana will give Urban Meyer’s crew a chance to rest and regroup after this tough road non-conference showdown in Week 3, and their next real test comes October 15 when they travel to face Wisconsin in Madison.

[nextslide teaser=”3. Michigan” slider=”true”]

Sep 17, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) breaks a tackle by Colorado Buffaloes tight end Chris Bounds (43) in the second half at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 45-28. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

[power_ranking order=”3″ city=”Michigan” teamname=”Wolverines” score=”(3-0)” lastweek=”won 45-28 v. Colorado” lastrank=”4th” teamlogo=”michigan” league=”ncaa”]

Colorado put a scare into the Wolverines at the Big House, rolling off three touchdowns and nearly 200 yards in the first quarter and taking a 21-7 lead. Then their first drive into the second quarter ended with Diego Gonzalez missing a 36-yard field goal, and all the momentum seemed to drain away from the Buffaloes. From there Michigan closed things down, allowing just 126 more yards to the visitors as they ran away with a 17-point victory. Jabrill Peppers returned a punt for a touchdown, Wilton Speight threw for 229 yards, and it ended up being an easy victory for Michigan.

The Wolverines will remain in Ann Arbor for another two weeks, welcoming Penn State and Wisconsin to Michigan Stadium over the next two weeks, before finally leaving town for their first road game of the season at Rutgers on October 8. After earning a first-place vote in last week’s Top 25, they could get a few more this week after Florida State’s defeat.

[nextslide teaser=”4. Clemson” slider=”true”]

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[power_ranking order=”4″ city=”Clemson” teamname=”Tigers” score=”(3-0)” lastweek=”won 59-0 v. FCS South Carolina State” lastrank=”5th” teamlogo=”clemson” league=”ncaa”]

After a first fortnight of the season looking rusty on offense, Clemson came out against their FCS opposition and steamrolled South Carolina State early and often. Three different players threw touchdown passes, led by Deshaun Watson’s three passing scores. The Bulldogs didn’t provide much of a test for the Tigers, with the two teams agreeing to play 12-minute quarters in the second half. The defense held South Carolina State to just 102 total yards of offense and forced two turnovers in the shortened game, and might earn a few number-one votes in the Top 25.

Did the Tigers offense finally flip the switch to return to its dominant form of 2015, or was this merely a mirage against a marginal opponent? We’ll know more when Clemson takes on ACC Coastal leader Georgia Tech on Thursday night, and then they’ll have to follow it up with a home game against fellow Atlantic contender Louisville.

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Louisville Cardinals


Last week: won 63-20 v. #2 Florida State
Last rank: 10th

The Cardinals likely played themselves into some first-place votes when the AP Top 25 is released tomorrow, beating Florida State by six touchdowns to take charge in the ACC. Lamar Jackson threw for 216 yards and a touchdown, rushed for another 146 yards and four ground scores, and generally secured his spot atop Heisman boards. The Cardinal D also held FSU to fewer than 300 total yards of offense, bottling up Dalvin Cook and Deondre Francois all day. In the process Louisville scored more points on Florida State than anyone in the Seminoles’ history.

The matchup against Clemson in two weeks looms large for Top 25 implications, but first Louisville must take on Marshall in the unfriendly confines of Huntington. If the Cardinals survive the next two weeks, they will be favored in every remaining ACC game. Louisville could head to Houston on November 17 having already earned a spot in the ACC Championship Game, undefeated and against another top-five opponent.

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Houston Cougars


Last week: won 40-16 at Cincinnati
Last rank: 6th

For most of Houston’s first true road game against Cincinnati, the Cougars traded punches with the Bearcats. The Thursday-night game was tied 10-10 at halftime, and the only points in the third quarter came off a Houston safety. Then the Cougars nabbed interceptions on three straight Cincinnati drives, returning two for touchdowns, and the visitors ran away with an easy victory in the end. The victory sets up the Cougars as the clear favorite in the AAC West, and eliminates one of the toughest conference opponents they were going to face this season.

But this is hardly the last test for Tom Herman’s team. The Cougars have to face Navy in Annapolis on October 8, and they’ll also take to the road to face Texas State, SMU, and Memphis. Houston also gets the chance to play ACC favorite Louisville in November, in what could line up to be a College Football Playoff quarterfinal of sorts if both teams remain on dominant form.

[nextslide teaser=”7. Stanford” slider=”true”]

Sep 17, 2016; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) dives over the USC Trojans for a touchdown during the first half of a NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

[power_ranking order=”7″ city=”Stanford” teamname=”Cardinal” score=”(2-0)” lastweek=”won 27-10 v. USC” lastrank=”7th” teamlogo=”stanford” league=”ncaa”]

Stanford faced a USC team on Saturday that seemed to forget that Christian McCaffrey was a Heisman finalist in 2015, allowing the speedy all-purpose back to streak free for a 56-yard TD catch and launch over the line for another first-half score. The Cardinal were relatively dominant throughout the game, controlling the clock and reducing USC’s opportunities with the ball. The Trojans managed to rack up 353 yards of offense, but only reached the endzone once in the 27-10 loss. By the end McCaffrey finished with 260 all-purpose yards, and Stanford walked away with its first conference win in 2016.

In the process Stanford kept itself on pace in the Pac-12 North. The Cardinal take on UCLA in Pasadena next weekend before a Friday-night showdown with fellow division hopeful Washington on the last day of September. With Oregon falling, that game in Seattle could decide which of the two favorites are playing in the Pac-12 Championship Game in December.

[nextslide teaser=”8. Washington” slider=”true”]

Sep 17, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies running back Myles Gaskin (9) breaks the tackle of Portland State Vikings defensive end Sam Bodine (36) for a touchdown during the fourth quarter at Husky Stadium. Washington won 41-3. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

[power_ranking order=”8″ city=”Washington” teamname=”Huskies” score=”(3-0)” lastweek=”won 41-3 v. FCS Portland State” lastrank=”8th” teamlogo=”washington” league=”ncaa”]

The Huskies had a home game against FCS Portland State on Saturday, and Chris Petersen’s crew had little trouble with the visiting Vikings. Washington had a 28-0 lead by halftime, and the starters were getting plenty of rest in the second half of a 41-3 blowout. Jake Browning attempted just 19 passes, throwing for 163 yards and four passing touchdowns in the rout. The Huskies defense allowed just 182 yards to Portland State and forced four turnovers on the day, preventing any threat of an upset.

A preseason favorite in the Pac-12 North, Washington has yet to play much in the way of viable competition. A trip to Tucson to take on Arizona next week could be a potential trap game, especially with a visit from Stanford on the horizon at the end of September. If the Huskies get through the month undefeated, their last tests on the way to a division title will come on road trips to Oregon and Utah.

Sep 17, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Dare Ogunbowale (23) rushes with the football during the fourth quarter against the Georgia State Panthers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports


Wisconsin Badgers


Last week: won 23-17 v. Georgia State
Last rank: 9th

The Badgers might fall a few spots after their performance this weekend against Georgia State — at one point in the fourth quarter Wisconsin actually fell behind the Panthers on the scoreboard. Dare Ogunbowale and Bradrick Shaw split the bulk of the carries with Corey Clement sidelined, while neither Alex Hornibrook nor Bart Houston could get much going at QB. Even though they held Georgia State to 300 yards and 17 points, the Wisconsin defense allowed five more points and 60 more yards than they’d averaged in their first two games.

Nobody can take away the opening victory over LSU, but back-to-back road games against Michigan State and Michigan in the next two weeks will really determine the ceiling for this Badgers team in 2016. If they can escape out of October undefeated after also facing Ohio State, Iowa, and Nebraska there is little standing in Wisconsin’s way on their schedule once the calendar flips to November.

Sep 17, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; Texas Longhorns running back Chris Warren III (25) breaks through the California Golden Bears defense to score a touchdown in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports


Texas Longhorns


Last week: losing 35-33 at halftime at California
Last rank: 11th

Assuming the Longhorns come back against California in Berkeley, there is no reason why Texas won’t continue to find itself hovering right around the edge of the top 10 in the AP Poll. We will have a better idea of where they stand once the late game concludes, but for now we will put them here in the Top 25 until the final result is in.

[nextslide teaser=”11. Michigan State” slider=”true”]

Sep 17, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Michigan State Spartans wide receiver R.J. Shelton (12) runs for a touchdown as Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety Drue Tranquill (23) defends in the second quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

[power_ranking order=”11″ city=”Michigan State” teamname=”Spartans” score=”(3-0)” lastweek=”won 36-28 at #18 Notre Dame” lastrank=”12th” teamlogo=”michiganstate” league=”ncaa”]

The Spartans traveled to South Bend and took care of business convincingly against Notre Dame. Gerald Holmes had 13 carries for 100 yards and two touchdowns, Tyler O’Connor threw for 241 yards and two scores, and Michigan State fended off a fourth-quarter comeback by the Fighting Irish to survive with an eight-point win. The defense gave up 344 passing yards to DeShone Kizer, but Michigan State kept Notre Dame one-dimensional on offense as the Irish gained just 57 rushing yards on 2.3 yards per carry.

With teams losing above them, the Spartans should move up a slot in the Top 25 this week. Last year’s Big Ten champions are back on track to contend for the conference this season and possibly make their return to the College Football Playoff semifinals. A visit from Wisconsin next weekend gives the Spartans the opportunity to make another statement, this time in conference play, with a spot in the top 10 on the line.

[nextslide teaser=”12. Florida State” slider=”true”]

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[power_ranking order=”12″ city=”Florida State” teamname=”Seminoles” score=”(2-1)” lastweek=”at #10 Louisville” lastrank=”2nd” teamlogo=”floridastate” league=”ncaa”]

Florida State headed to Louisville for the College GameDay showcase matchup against the Cardinals on Saturday, and nothing went right for the Seminoles in the ACC opener for both teams. Dalvin Cook was held to just 54 rushing yards, Deondre Francois passed for just 101 yards, and the defense allowed 530 yards to Louisville. Down 35-10 at halftime, things only got worse from there. As a result FSU will definitely fall down the Top 25, though pollsters will likely give them the benefit of the doubt after playing another top-10 team.

The Seminoles will need to regroup quickly, as they have a deceptively tough non-conference road contest against South Florida next Saturday in Tampa. Florida State will need to prevent a second letdown, especially with a return to ACC play against North Carolina and Miami in the first two weeks of October. At this point they need help to return to the top of the ACC Atlantic, but there is still a lot of season to play.

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Tennessee Volunteers


Last week: won 28-19 v. Ohio
Last rank: 15th

Tennessee had a hard time putting away Ohio on Saturday, but it shouldn’t jeopardize their positioning much in the Top 25. The Bobcats came to Neyland Stadium and stayed within one score of the Volunteers through three quarters, before Joshua Dobbs completed his second touchdown pass of the game with 11 minutes remaining. Dobbs finished with 203 passing yards, another 59 yards on the ground, and three total touchdowns in the victory. The Tennessee defense bent but didn’t break, forcing three field goals inside the red zone.

Tennessee’s level of difficulty increases significantly over the next month. The Vols face Florida next week in Knoxville before road games at Georgia and Texas A&M at the beginning of October. They return home just in time for a mid-October date with Alabama. Should they emerge on the other side with their undefeated record intact, Tennessee will skyrocket up the Top 25.

[nextslide teaser=”14. Texas A&M” slider=”true”]

Sep 17, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight (8) runs for a first down during the second quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

[power_ranking order=”14″ city=”Texas A&M” teamname=”Aggies” score=”(3-0)” lastweek=”won 29-16 at Auburn” lastrank=”17th” teamlogo=”texasam” league=”ncaa”]

Texas A&M looked at the beginning of the season like a team whose coach was on the hot seat. Kevin Sumlin arrived in College Station a hot commodity, but after coaching Johnny Manziel to a Heisman and leading the Aggies into the SEC with a bang, things had taken a turn south for Sumlin. With Texas A&M 3-0 on the season after their 13-point win over Auburn, Sumlin’s seat seems a little less hot. Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight had 289 total yards in the air and on the ground, Trayveon Williams rushed for another 127 on just eight carries, and A&M prevailed in a game they trailed after one quarter.

Next on the schedule is a showdown with fellow Top 25 SEC West school Arkansas, who comes to Kyle Field next weekend in a matchup of former Southwest Conference rivals. The biggest game looming on the schedule beyond the Razorbacks is an October 22 date with Alabama in Tuscaloosa, in what could be an elimination game in the division standings.

Sep 17, 2016; Columbia, MO, USA; Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (16) catches a touchdown pass as Missouri Tigers defensive back Aarion Maxey-Penton (11) defends in the second half at Faurot Field. The Bulldogs won 28-27. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports


Georgia Bulldogs


Last week: won 28-27 at Missouri
Last rank: 16th

Georgia fell precipitously last weekend after narrowly escaping a visit from FCS Nicholls in Week 2 with a two-point win, and while they barely got out of Columbia this weekend with a victory the Bulldogs should remain right around the 14-18 range in the Top 25. The running game failed to get going against Missouri on Saturday, with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combining for just 100 yards total on the ground. Jacob Eason threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, though, stealing victory with a game-winning pass to Isaiah McKenzie with less than two minutes remaining.

Georgia has slipped up in recent years when they looked like the favorite in the SEC East, but they got over the first hurdle and look like the most complete team in a cloudy division race. Kirby Smart’s crew heads to Ole Miss next weekend to take on a Rebels team still reeling from a five-point loss to Alabama, and will need to be wary of a possible trap game in Oxford.

Sep 17, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs the ball against Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Brandon Bryant (1) during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports


LSU Tigers


Last week: won 23-20 v. Mississippi State
Last rank: 20th

LSU has looked anything but dominant in its first three weeks of the season, playing an anemic offensive game to lose at Lambeau Field against Wisconsin and then letting FCS Jacksonville State hang with them until making a switch to Purdue transfer Danny Etling at quarterback. Against Mississippi State on Saturday, Etling once again gave the offense a shot of confidence after going 19-of-30 for 215 yards and a score. More important for the Tigers was the return of junior running back Leonard Fournette in the backfield. The Heisman hopeful had 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the win.

LSU may have that non-conference loss lingering on their record, but the measure of success on the season is yet to come in SEC play. Now 1-0 in divisional play, the Tigers play Auburn on the road next week. LSU does benefit from getting to host both Ole Miss and Alabama, but they will also have to head to Gainesville and Fayetteville and College Station before the regular season ends.

[nextslide teaser=”17. Baylor” slider=”true”]

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[power_ranking order=”17″ city=”Baylor” teamname=”Bears” score=”(3-0)” lastweek=”won 38-10 at Rice” lastrank=”21th” teamlogo=”baylor” league=”ncaa”]

It was a lackluster first quarter, as the Bears took time to get their footing on the road in Houston. But Seth Russell eventually threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns, JaMycal Hasty added 105 yards and a rushing score on just 14 carries, and Baylor easily ran away with the victory against former Southwest Conference rival Rice. The Owls were able to rush for 234 yards against the Baylor defense, but the secondary held the Owls to 31 passing yards on 27 attempts. On a night when the Rice marching band incurred the wrath of the visiting fan base for its mockery of Baylor’s sexual assault issues, the Bears focused on the scoreboard.

The Big 12 home opener against Oklahoma State next week will provide the first real test for a Baylor team that has not played anyone yet of consequence. We will quickly learn whether the Bears are a legitimate conference contender this season or if they will be relegated to the second tier of the Big 12 hierarchy.

[nextslide teaser=”18. Florida” slider=”true”]

Sep 17, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators running back Jordan Scarlett (25) carries the ball against the North Texas Mean Green during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the North Texas Mean Green 32-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

[power_ranking order=”18″ city=”Florida” teamname=”Gators” score=”(3-0)” lastweek=”won 32-0 v. North Texas” lastrank=”23th” teamlogo=”florida” league=”ncaa”]

The Gators continue to climb up the Top 25 this week after manhandling visiting North Texas in a 32-0 shutout victory on Saturday. Florida mainly relied on its running game against the Mean Green, pounding out 255 yards and four touchdowns (from four different players) on the ground. The defense allowed North Texas to amass just 53 total yards of offense, ending drives quickly and providing the offense with more than 36 minutes of possession. The one blemish was an undisciplined performance, as the Gators were flagged 11 times for 97 assessed penalty yards.

The Gators surprised last season in Jim McElwain’s first year after coming over from Colorado State, but Florida isn’t going to sneak up on anyone this year. The status of starting quarterback Luke Del Rio’s knee will be critical to watch over the week ahead of the game at Tennessee; if the QB cannot go for the Gators in Knoxville, McElwain will have to lean even harder on the running game and the defense to keep winning.

[nextslide teaser=”19. Arkansas” slider=”true”]

Sep 17, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Ty Storey (5) hands the ball off to running back Devwah Whaley (21) during the second half against the Texas State Bobcats at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Razorbacks won 42-3. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

[power_ranking order=”19″ city=”Arkansas” teamname=”Razorbacks” score=”(3-0)” lastweek=”won 42-3 v. Texas State” lastrank=”24th” teamlogo=”arkansas” league=”ncaa”]

The Razorbacks followed up their overtime upset of TCU with a much easier time against Texas State, taking care of business against the Sun Belt hopefuls in a contest that was effectively over by halftime. Austin Allen completed 16 of his 21 attempts for 241 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Rawleigh Williams III added another 121 yards and two scores on the ground, and Bret Bielema’s team would have had the shutout if not for allowing the Bobcats to kick a field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter. In the end Texas State managed to amass just 105 yards of offense all day.

Arkansas still has plenty to prove, but they’re in good position to threaten in a deep SEC West this season. The Razorbacks host Texas A&M next weekend in a showdown between teams hoping to make waves in the division this year, and they get the next four weekends at home before heading to Auburn on October 22.

Sep 17, 2016; Boone, NC, USA; Miami Hurricanes running back Mark Walton (1) runs the ball for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports


Miami Hurricanes


Last week: won 45-10 at Appalachian State
Last rank: 25th

Mark Walton busted off an 80-yard touchdown run on Miami’s first offensive play of the game, and they were never in danger on their trip to Boone to face Appalachian State. The Hurricanes finished with 164 rushing yards and three touchdowns, Brad Kaaya added 368 passing yards and three more scores in the air, and the defense held the Mountaineers to 241 total yards on offense. It was a rare occurrence of a Power Five school traveling to play a Group of Five team on the road, and Miami prevented any celebrations by the home fans.

Next weekend’s ACC opener at Georgia Tech is likely to determine the direction the Coastal Division takes this season. Their schedule won’t get any easier from there, with Florida State and North Carolina coming to Tallahassee the following two weeks, but Miami can take solace from the fact that they avoid both Clemson and Louisville in the regular season.

[nextslide teaser=”21. Nebraska” slider=”true”]

Sep 17, 2016; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers cornerback Chris Jones (8) celebrates during the final moments against the Oregon Ducks in the second half at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska won 35-32. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

[power_ranking order=”21″ city=”Nebraska” teamname=”Cornhuskers” score=”(3-0)” lastweek=”won 35-32 v. #22 Oregon” lastrank=”not ranked” teamlogo=”nebraska” league=”ncaa”]

Nebraska just notched its 350th straight shutout, a streak dating back to the 1962 season under Bob Devaney, by welcoming the Oregon Ducks to Lincoln. By the end most of the 90,000-plus in attendance had plenty to celebrate after the Cornhuskers upset the Ducks 35-32. Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw for 200 yards and three touchdowns, adding another 95 yards and a rushing touchdown for good measure. The Blackshirt defense allowed over 300 rushing yards despite Oregon’s loss of Royce Freeman early in the game, but Nebraska held Duck QB Dakota Prukop to just 146 passing yards in the win.

Nebraska should have no problem winning its next four games on the schedule to build up an early lead in the Big Ten standings. The next real test for the Cornhuskers will come on October 29, when Mike Riley will take his team east to face Wisconsin in a game that might decide which team plays in the conference championship a little over a month later.

[nextslide teaser=”22. TCU” slider=”true”]

Sep 17, 2016; Fort Worth, TX, USA; TCU Horned Frogs running back Trevorris Johnson (24) stiff arms Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Braxton Lewis (33) in the third quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium. TCU won 41-20. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

[power_ranking order=”22″ city=”TCU” teamname=”Horned Frogs” score=”(2-1)” lastweek=”won 41-20 v. Iowa State” lastrank=”not ranked” teamlogo=”tcu” league=”ncaa”]

TCU should be back in the Top 25 after falling out of the polls for just one week, their loss to Arkansas looking less detrimental with each passing week that the Razorbacks keep winning. Kyle Hicks racked up 117 rushing yards in just a dozen carries, Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill continued to manage the offense behind center without any major mistakes, and Gary Patterson’s defense contained the Cyclones to just 4.3 yards per play. It won’t entirely erase the overtime loss from last weekend, but at least the Horned Frogs can take a cue from Les Miles and claim they’re undefeated in regulation.

A trip to SMU next week in the Battle for the Iron Skillet will conclude non-conference play for the Horned Frogs before they dive into Big 12 play in earnest. TCU will face Oklahoma at home in two weeks, and their schedule really heats up in November when they face Baylor in Waco, Oklahoma State at home, and Texas in Austin on consecutive weekends.

[nextslide teaser=”23. Arizona State” slider=”true”]

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[power_ranking order=”23″ city=”Arizona State” teamname=”Sun Devils” score=”(3-0)” lastweek=”won 332-28 at UTSA” lastrank=”not ranked” teamlogo=”arizonastate” league=”ncaa”]

Arizona State followed up a wild Week 2 contest against Texas Tech where Kalen Ballage tied the single-game NCAA record with eight touchdowns by nearly dropping their next contest to UT-San Antonio in the Alamodome. Ballage’s stats were far less gaudy this outing, as he finished with 103 yards on 19 touches, but it was the one touchdown on his stat line that proved crucial. UTSA took a 28-15 lead midway through the third quarter on QB Dalton Sturm’s third touchdown pass of the night, but the Sun Devils chipped away at the deficit until Ballage scored the deciding points with 3:15 remaining.

The Pac-12 schedule is both a blessing and a curse for Arizona State. The Sun Devils drew a relatively easy schedule this year, avoiding both Washington and Stanford in cross-division play, but that also means their next Top 25 opponent probably won’t come until ASU faces either Utah or Washington in November. That could put an artificial ceiling on how high the Devils can climb.

[nextslide teaser=”24. Utah” slider=”true”]

Sep 17, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; Utah Utes wide receiver Tim Patrick (12) runs with the ball at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

[power_ranking order=”24″ city=”Utah” teamname=”Utes” score=”(3-0)” lastweek=”leading 20-10 at halftime at San Jose State” lastrank=”not ranked” teamlogo=”utah” league=”ncaa”]

It looks as though Utah should have no trouble closing out San Jose State on the road in Week 3, and thus the Utes slot in right at the edge of this week’s predicted AP Top 25 thanks to all of the defeats above them in the polls. In one half of play, Utah QB Troy Williams had already racked up 247 passing yards against the Spartans. Barring a sudden turnaround, the Utes will find themselves back in the Top 25 tomorrow.

[nextslide teaser=”25. San Diego State” slider=”true”]

Sep 17, 2016; DeKalb, IL, USA; San Diego State Aztecs tight end Kahale Warring (87) makes a touchdown catch against the Northern Illinois Huskies during the second quarter at Huskie Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

[power_ranking order=”25″ city=”San Diego State” teamname=”Aztecs” score=”(3-0)” lastweek=”won 42-28 at Northern Illinois” lastrank=”not ranked” teamlogo=”sandiegostate” league=”ncaa”]

Any number of teams could ostensibly show up in this final spot of the Top 25, but given the number of votes San Diego State received last week in the AP Poll it seems reasonable to slot the Aztecs in here. The defending Mountain West champions traveled to DeKalb to face longtime MAC West hegemon Northern Illinois, and SDSU had little trouble dispensing with every challenge offered by the Huskies. Donnel Pumphrey, fresh off passing Marshall Faulk in the school rushing record books, added another 220 yards and three scores against an overmatched NIU defense.

San Diego State already has a statement win over California to its name, and the Aztecs have one more non-conference showdown at South Alabama next week before the dive into defending their MWC crown. With no Air Force or Boise State on their schedule in the regular season, the one thing that could work against the Aztecs moving forward is a weak strength of schedule as they try to climb up the Top 25 and contend against Houston and other Group of Five teams for the Access Bowl bid.

[nextslide teaser=”Teams Falling Out of Rankings” slider=”true”]

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Falling Out of Rankings

[power_ranking city=”Iowa” teamname=”Hawkeyes” score=”(2-1)” lastweek=”lost 23-21 v. FCS North Dakota State” lastrank=”13th” teamlogo=”iowa” league=”ncaa”]

Oklahoma Sooners


Last week: lost v. #3 Ohio State
Last rank: 14th

Notre Dame Fighting Irish


Last week: lost 36-28 v. #12 Michigan State
Last rank: 18th

Ole Miss Rebels


Last week: lost 48-43 v. #1 Alabama
Last rank: 19th

Oregon Ducks


Last week: lost 35-32 at Nebraska
Last rank: 22th

Iowa looked like they had escaped a loss when they prevented five-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State from taking the lead with a two-point conversion attempt in the final few minutes of their contest on Saturday. Then the Hawkeyes gave back the ball without taking much time off the clock, and the Bison got into position for a game-winning 37-yard field goal. As a result, last year’s Big Ten West champions will likely plummet right out of the AP Top 25 this week.

They were just the first of five teams to lose in the Top 25 this week. Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and Ole Miss all suffered their second losses each on the season to fall out of the rankings, and Oregon’s three-point defeat at Nebraska will likely see the Ducks tumble out as well.

Be sure to check back at Saturday Blitz for when the official AP Top 25 poll is released.

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