Jump to: Best of Week 9
What's next for each Top 25 team
No. 1 LSU
LSU has been lighting up scoreboards and outscoring everybody this season, but the Tigers proved Saturday that they could grind out a game as well. LSU had scored at least 42 points in six of its seven contests entering the game against an Auburn D buoyed by one of the best defensive lines in college football. But even with a couple of costly turnovers, and being stopped at the goal line on downs, LSU showed its grit and will now get a week off before going on the road to face Alabama on Nov. 9 in a game that should rival the Alabama-LSU showdown in 2011. -- Chris Low
No. 2 Alabama
No Tua, no problem? Well, not exactly. Give Mac Jones credit. He stepped in at quarterback for an injured Tua Tagovailoa and executed the offense as well as could be expected against Arkansas, completing 18 of 22 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. But with No. 2 LSU coming in two weeks, Alabama needs Tagovailoa healthy. He wore a walking boot on the sideline Saturday and is expected to be back practicing soon. In the meantime, having Jones feels like a solid enough Plan B. -- Alex Scarborough
No. 3 Ohio State
The Buckeyes passed their toughest test of the season and once again looked like the most complete team in college football. They certainly have the nation's best defender in end Chase Young, who dominated Wisconsin. The Badgers showed you can hit Justin Fields, but they couldn't slow down the Buckeyes quarterback, or explosive backfield mate J.K. Dobbins, who is on his way to a huge junior season. The triple threat of Fields, Dobbins and Chris Olave on offense, and the Young-led defense, which barely resembles the unit we saw last season, sends Ohio State into November as an overwhelming favorite to return to the playoff for the first time since 2016. -- Adam Rittenberg
No. 4 Clemson
The Tigers have fallen in the polls following victories three times, so perhaps it's no surprise coach Dabo Swinney went for style points in Saturday's 59-7 win over BC. More significant, though, was QB Trevor Lawrence, who had his best game of the season, completing 16 of 19 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns. -- David M. Hale
No. 5 Penn State
Coach James Franklin said after Penn State beat Michigan State that the bye week is coming at a good time for his team so it can get healthy and rest after a tough three-game stretch. Minnesota is next on the schedule, and the Nittany Lions have found a good balance of offense and defense in the past few games, particularly against the Spartans. At 8-0, neither Franklin nor his players will look too far ahead, but there is potential for this team to find itself undefeated when it visits Ohio State on Nov. 23 in a matchup that could determine who gets a berth in the Big Ten championship game. -- Tom VanHaaren
No. 6 Florida
Getting top pass-rushers Jon Greenard and Jabari Zuniga and shifty receiver Kadarius Toney back against Georgia in a game that should decide the SEC East is huge. Tony can line up all over the field, but Greenard and Zuniga and critical to creating a pass-rush and a more exotic defense that's been missing the last two weeks. Florida wants to make quarterback Jake Fromm uncomfortable, but it also must to stop the run after allowing 435 rush yards in the last two games. -- Edward Aschoff
No. 7 Oregon
Survive and advance? Oregon's playoff hopes appeared dashed once Washington State took the lead with a minute left, but a memorable winning drive will keep the Ducks in the conversation for at least another week. It will still take a lot of work for the playoff to become reality, starting with a trip to USC, where Utah tripped up for its only loss of the season. -- Kyle Bonagura
No. 8 Georgia
Georgia's offense has to be more consistent in a game against the Gators with a trip to Atlanta on the line. Jake Fromm has three interceptions and barely 300 passing yards in the last two games. Getting him comfortable against what should be a healthier Florida pass-rush is key, but the Bulldogs' run game, which is averaging an SEC-best 6.07 ypc, faces a Florida defense that has allowed 435 rush yards in the last two games. -- Edward Aschoff
No. 9 Utah
Since losing to USC, Utah has been the most dominant team in the Pac-12 and still factors into the playoff conversation. A problem for Utah is that it doesn't really have a signature win to point to, and there aren't any ranked teams left on the regular-season schedule. The Utes are also in a weird spot because even if they win out, they still need USC to lose (though the second part seems inevitable). -- Kyle Bonagura
No. 10 Oklahoma
The Sooners' playoff hopes took a hit Saturday with a surprising 48-41 loss at Kansas State. The much-improved defense looked anything but for large stretches of the game and gave up a whopping six rushing touchdowns after having allowed that many in the first seven games combined. The Sooners' offense was inconsistent, too. OU is left with no margin for error if it hopes to return to the playoff. The Sooners must win out. That means beating Iowa State, winning road games at Baylor and Oklahoma State and, of course, the Big 12 title game. -- Sam Khan Jr.
No. 11 Auburn
Auburn has the defense to play with anybody in the country, but the Tigers simply haven't been good enough or consistent enough offensively in their two SEC road losses this season to pull out those games. But then, that's often the case when you're playing a true freshman quarterback. The brutal schedule has also worked against Auburn, and it doesn't get much easier. The Tigers still have to face Georgia and Alabama at home in November. -- Chris Low
No. 12 Baylor
The Bears were off this past week but have Matt Rhule has them rolling, off to a 7-0 start, their best since 2015. Next up, Baylor will host West Virginia on a Thursday night, a chance for the Bears to show off their impressive progress for a national audience and stay in the driver's seat for one of the two Big 12 championship game berths. -- Sam Khan Jr.
No. 13 Minnesota
With Minnesota's convincing win over the Terps, and Wisconsin suffering its second loss earlier in the day, the Golden Gophers gained further separation in the Big Ten West. The question is if they can keep it up, as three of the final four opponents are ranked (No. 6 Penn State, No. 20 Iowa and No. 13 Wisconsin), and ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) gives the Gophers less than a 50% chance to win each of them. -- Heather Dinich
No. 14 Michigan
The Michigan panic level has ratcheted way down after a dominant victory over Notre Dame. And considering this is the final game in the series between the rivals until 2033, there was plenty to be happy about in the aftermath. So much was made about Jim Harbaugh's record against top-10 teams headed into the game, especially after disappointing performances against Wisconsin and Penn State earlier in the season (he's now 2-10, for the record). But with a ground game that essentially did whatever it wanted and quarterback Shea Patterson gaining confidence, spirits have to be high headed into the final stretch of the season. Michigan travels to Maryland next weekend in a game where the Wolverines will be heavy favorites, before setting up to play rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. Though a Big Ten championship might be out of reach, there is plenty to play for, and finishing 10-2 with wins over their three rivals in one season would quiet plenty of doubters. -- Andrea Adelson
No. 15 SMU
It wasn't pretty, but the Mustangs got to 8-0 with a three-point victory over Houston on Thursday. The passing attack wasn't as sharp as it usually is, but Xavier Jones dazzled with his running ability, showing both his agility and his sheer power. The fact that SMU was able to play less than its best, on the road on a short week, and still come away with a win is a sign of how good the Mustangs are, but they can't afford to be flat with a road trip against a good Memphis team looming in Week 10. -- Sam Khan Jr.
No. 16 Notre Dame
The Irish played their worst game of the season at the absolute worst time against rival Michigan, all but ending any sliver of hope they had to sneak into the College Football Playoff. Nothing went right, starting with the offense, where Ian Book looked out of sorts all night, and their running game could never get going against a Wolverines defense that gave up 359 yards rushing to Wisconsin. The Notre Dame defense wasn't much better, giving up over 300 yards rushing. The Irish will still have an opportunity to get to 10 wins and an at-large berth into a New Year's Six game, with matchups left against three ACC teams, plus Navy and Stanford. Expect them to be favored in each of those games. But after such a demoralizing loss, where will Notre Dame find motivation down the stretch? -- Andrea Adelson
No. 17 Cincinnati
Cincinnati got a win in its bye week when UCF (a team the Bearcats have already beaten) manhandled Temple (a team UC plays on November 23). UC is unbeaten and alone atop the AAC East and now has the tiebreaker edge on the only one-loss team. Also: the Bearcats get games against ECU and UConn post-bye. That should give star RB Michael Warren plenty of time to ease back into action and prepare for the home stretch. -- Bill Connelly
No. 18 Wisconsin
For Wisconsin, the inability to block Young or generate a consistent first-down rushing attack severely limited its options on offense. The Badgers have to identify more options on offense beside running back Jonathan Taylor, and generally play better away from Madison, which has been an issue for years. The Badgers still have a very good defense and can still win the Big Ten West, but likely must win out. -- Adam Rittenberg
No. 19 Iowa
The Hawkeyes' defense was the difference, holding scoreless Northwestern to 64 rushing yards. Iowa has yet to earn a statement victory, but has an opportunity to play spoiler in the Big Ten West. If Iowa runs the table, beating both Wisconsin and Minnesota along the way, and Wisconsin also beats Minnesota, the Hawkeyes can still play for the Big Ten title. The only remaining game ESPN's FPI doesn't favor Iowa to win is Nov. 9 at Wisconsin (20.2%). -- Heather Dinich
No. 20 Appalachian State
The App State defense was a question mark early in the season, but it has rounded into form, to say the least, allowing just 17 points in three games. The Mountaineers outgained the Jaguars 445-139, cruising in soggy conditions. Now only one more game -- a Halloween night visit from Georgia Southern on ESPNU -- remains before one of App State's biggest-ever games: a trip to South Carolina that could have massive New Year's Six bowl implications. -- Bill Connelly
No. 21 Boise State
Boise State's dream of an undefeated season ended at BYU, but the Broncos remain a viable candidate for the Group of 5's spot in the Cotton Bowl. Next up: an improved San Jose State team looking to reach a bowl for the first time since 2015. The big question for Boise State is about the status of QB Hank Bachmeier, who missed the loss to BYU with a presumed hip injury. -- Kyle Bonagura
No. 22 Kansas State
Seven games into Chris Klieman's first season at Kansas State, it's pretty obvious that he has this program on the right trajectory, especially considering the way the Wildcats handled Oklahoma 48-41 on Saturday. A week earlier, Kansas State beat TCU at home, recovering from back-to-back losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State. It was Kansas State's first win over Oklahoma in Manhattan since 1996 and opens the door for the Wildcats to make a postseason appearance after not playing in a bowl game a year ago.-- Chris Low
No. 23 Wake Forest
Dave Clawson deserves some consideration for Coach of the Year honors, and the Demon Deacons just might be the ACC's second-best team behind Clemson. Raise your hand if you saw that coming back in August. Wake Forest was off this week before embarking on a November stretch that features three road games, and the Deacs will be without leading tackler Justin Strnad the rest of the season after he ruptured his biceps tendon in the win over Florida State. Clawson has steadily improved the program. He was 6-18 in his first two seasons at Wake, but is 23-12 in his past 35 games. -- Chris Low
No. 24 Memphis
If not for a two-point loss at Temple earlier this month, Memphis would be the AAC's second unbeaten team along with SMU. Mike Norvell's Tigers held on to beat Tulsa 42-41 on Saturday and will get their shot at the unbeaten Mustangs next Saturday at home. Memphis has scored 35 or more points in six of its seven wins, and Kenneth Gainwell showed yet again why he's one of the most exciting freshmen in college football. He had a 62-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, his fifth play from scrimmage of 50 yards or longer this season. -- Chris Low
No. 25 San Diego State
San Diego State had to hold on for dear life, not to mention weather a potential tying 42-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds. But the Aztecs found a way to remain atop the West Division standings in the Mountain West Conference with a 20-17 victory Saturday over UNLV on the road. It was San Diego State's fourth straight win. Following an open date, the Aztecs will return home for back-to-back games against Nevada and Fresno State with their eyes squarely on earning a trip to the conference championship game.-- Chris Low
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