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Stewart Mandel cfootball.rankings

Auburn's big chance

Auburn has been nation's most impressive team -- and finally, it's No. 1

Posted: Tuesday November 9, 2004 10:35AM; Updated: Tuesday November 16, 2004 1:20PM
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While No.1 USC was busy surviving the Corvallis fog last weekend, No. 2 Oklahoma was narrowly escaping Kyle Field ... and No. 3 Auburn was relaxing on the couch. But the Tigers get their chance to make a statement this weekend against Georgia. If they win, there will be some serious thought put into next week's top three.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 1 USC Trojans (9-0)
Oregon State exploited the Trojans' one weakness Saturday, holding their thin receiving corps to a combined three catches. So, Matt Leinart instead found TE Dominique Byrd, to the tune of seven catches, 85 yards and two touchdowns.
Next game: Saturday vs. Arizona.
2 2 Oklahoma Sooners (9-0)
Conversely, the Sooners' receiving corps is the deepest in the country. Mark Clayton continues to make big plays when it counts, while Mark Bradley, OU's fifth option not long ago, has stepped up to catch five touchdowns the past two weeks.
Next game: Saturday vs. Nebraska.
3 3 Auburn Tigers (9-0)
Tommy Tuberville has spent a lot of time the past few weeks pontificating about the BCS and his proposed solution -- hope it's not taking away from his film time. Georgia presents the most complete offense Tuberville's defense has yet faced.
Next game: Saturday vs. Georgia.
4 5 Wisconsin Badgers (9-0)
Uh oh -- look who's found an offense to go with its dominating defense. Ever-improving QB John Stocco went 19-of-26 for 297 yards and the Badgers produced another 228 on the ground in jumping to a 31-0 lead against Minnesota.
Next game: Saturday at Michigan State.
5 4 California Golden Bears (7-1)
The Bears were fortunate to survive Oregon, with their previously stout defense running into some trouble against the Ducks. You can't say enough, though, about RB J.J. Arrington, who's now had five games of at least 175 yards.
Next game: Saturday at Washington.
6 6 Michigan Wolverines (8-1)
It's come to this -- the Wolverines will be rooting for hated Michigan State this weekend. They need Wisconsin to lose, either to the Spartans or Iowa, to avoid having a non-conference loss to Notre Dame keep them out of the Rose Bowl.
Next game: Saturday vs. Northwestern.
7 8 Georgia Bulldogs (8-1)
The Dawgs are finally executing on offense the way they were expected to coming into the season. Since losing to Tennessee, QB David Greene has completed 71 percent of his passes and RB Thomas Brown has averaged 104.5 yards.
Next game: Saturday at Auburn.
8 9 Texas Longhorns (8-1)
Mack Brown said QB Vince Young "grew up right in front of us" during Texas' comeback against Oklahoma State, and it's hard to argue. The sophomore was an incredible 15-of-16 for 222 yards in the final 31 minutes and ran for a 49-yard TD.
Next game: Saturday at Kansas.
9 10 Utah Utes (9-0)
Has Urban Meyer become too fixated on the BCS? He put his first-string offense back in with seven minutes left in their 63-31 win over Colorado State, saying, "It was a three-score game ... that's not enough." Actually, they were up by 25.
Next game: Saturday at Wyoming.
10 12 Louisville Cardinals (6-1)
OK, so the Cardinals' defense leaves a little to be desired. Memphis burned them for 49 points and 603 yards in last Thursday's shootout. They did make one big play, though: a 40-yard fumble return for touchdown by Kerry Rhodes.
Next game: Wednesday vs. TCU.
11 13 Virginia Cavaliers (7-1)
That Florida State debacle behind them, the Cavs host slumping Miami with a chance to take control of the ACC race. Their running game continues to be impeccable -- 295 yards against a Maryland defense that came in allowing 111.4 per game.
Next game: Saturday vs. Miami.
12 14 Boise St. Broncos (8-0)
It's no secret television calls the shots, but never more so than when it comes to conferences like the WAC. The Broncos and San Jose State will kick off at 9 a.m. local time Saturday -- in front of about 14,000 people -- to appease the folks at ESPN2.
Next game: Saturday at San Jose State.
13 15 West Virginia Mountaineers (8-1)
The first BCS berth could be handed out this weekend. The Mountaineers have been slotted for one of the games all year, but it becomes official if they beat Boston College this weekend. The Big East, suffice to say, will be rooting its lone nationally prominent team.
Next game: Saturday vs. Boston College.
14 7 Tennessee Volunteers (7-2)
The Vols' SEC title hopes rest squarely on the shoulders of Rick Clausen. Once he settled down (i.e. after he threw that horrendous, falling-away interception) he wasn't awful against Notre Dame, but it's still got to make Vols fans cringe.
Next game: Nov. 20 at Vanderbilt.
15 16 Iowa Hawkeyes (7-2)
Two years ago, Iowa went to the Orange Bowl behind a powerful offense that compensated for a mediocre D. How the tables have turned. The Hawkeyes are 10th nationally in total defense, 99th in offense, but making the plays they need to win.
Next game: Saturday at Minnesota.
16 -- Virginia Tech Hokies (7-2)
You were nuts if you thought, coming into the season, that the Hokies would be tied for first in the ACC with three weeks left. A new hero seems to step up every week, the latest being RB Mike Imoh, who started the year suspended.
Next game: Nov. 18 vs. Maryland.

On the cusp: LSU, Arizona State.

Stewart Mandel updates his Power Rankings every Monday during the season. They also serve as his ballot in the Football Writers Association/Grantland Rice Super 16 Poll.

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