Posted: Tuesday October 25, 2011 11:59AM ; Updated: Tuesday October 25, 2011 12:08PM
Andy Staples
Andy Staples>COLLEGE FOOTBALL POWER RANKINGS

Heroes and villains collide when rankings enter comic book realm

Story Highlights

Like Superman, LSU seemingly has a power fit for handling any situation

The Joker is unpredictable, and Clemson looks like this season's wild card

Boise State is Batman, which makes undefeated Houston this year's Robin

A week ago, we were talking about the possibility of five or six undefeated teams at the end of the season wreaking havoc on the BCS. Then two undefeated teams fell on Saturday. Now, we're talking about whether the BCS title game should be a rematch of a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup that hasn't even happened yet.

Losses by Wisconsin and Oklahoma allowed for a reboot of the college football universe. This sort of thing happens all the time in the comic book world. Let's say, for example, DC Comics decides to kill off Superman to sell a bunch of books. Then someone at DC says, "Holy cow, we've killed off one of our most lucrative characters." Time for a universe reboot. The Man of Steel lives. Money keeps flowing.

In honor of Saturday's universe reboot, this week's Power Rankings will feature comic book heroes and villains. (Full disclosure: SI and DC Comics are both owned by Time Warner. Every time you click on a link to a Marvel character's bio, I'll receive a mild electric shock from my corporate overlords.)

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1LSU Tigers
Last Week: 1
Superman: Send a fire-breathing monster to take on the Man of Steel? He neutralizes it with his ice breath. Try to distract Kal-el by sending a 747 toward a mountain halfway around the world? He hears the passengers with his super ears, flies the distance in seconds and uses his super strength to carry the jet to safety. For almost any occasion, Superman has a power that fits. Ditto for LSU. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson gets arrested before the season begins? Backup Jarrett Lee becomes the SEC's most efficient passer (157.4 rating, 13 touchdowns, one interception). Cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon and tailback Spencer Ware get themselves suspended for the Auburn game? Backup cornerback Ron Brooks returns an interception for a touchdown and backup freshman fullback Kenny Hilliard slides to tailback and rushes 10 times for 65 yards and two touchdowns. No matter what happens to the Tigers, they have an answer. Still, Superman had a weakness. And if any team can find LSU's Kryptonite, it's Alabama.
Last game: Beat Auburn, 45-10
Next game: Nov. 5 at Alabama
 
2Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: 2
Juggernaut: I originally compared Alabama tailback Trent Richardson to the most entertaining X-Men villain while watching Richardson steamroll Penn State defenders in Tuscaloosa in 2010. Richardson has done nothing to diminish the nickname, gaining about half of his SEC-best 989 rushing yards after contact. The comparison fits for the entire team as well. Like the Juggernaut in motion, the Crimson Tide seem to gather forward momentum as each contest progresses. Against Arkansas, Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee, the score has been tied at the end of the first quarter. Alabama wound up winning those games by a combined score of 165-37.
Last game: Beat Tennessee, 37-6
Next game: Nov. 5 vs. LSU

 
3Stanford Cardinal
Last Week: 5
Spiderman: Leave it to Stanford, which helped incubate the founders of Google, Hewlett Packard and Yahoo!, to be on the leading edge of wall-crawling technology with StickyBot III. The project, partially funded by the Department of Defense, involves a gecko-inspired climbing robot, but the technology being developed now could eventually be used in boots and gloves that would allow soldiers or firefighters to scale walls like everyone's favorite friendly neighborhood webslinger. Meanwhile, Stanford's football team looks more like Venom, the alien symbiote that expressed itself as a black Spiderman costume and briefly turned Peter Parker into a much more vicious superhero. The Cardinal are absolutely crushing everyone in their path. They have won their past 10 games by at least 25 points with an average margin of victory of 35.2 points. Other than Oregon, USC might be the only other Pac-12 program worthy of playing on the same field as Stanford, so Saturday's showdown might bring that streak to an end.
Last game: Beat Washington, 65-21
Next game: Saturday at USC

 
4Oklahoma St. Cowboys
Last Week: 7
Green Lantern: Hal Jordan didn't become a hero until a dying alien named Abin Sur bestowed a power ring upon him and inducted him into the Green Lantern Corps. We may find out Saturday whether receiver Justin Blackmon is the power ring for Oklahoma State's offense. The 2010 Biletnikoff Award winner was held out of Saturday's second half at Missouri after suffering a head injury. Blackmon will undergo a battery of tests this week to determine whether it is safe for him to play against Baylor. The Cowboys already are shorthanded at receiver after losing Hubert Anyiam for the season to a broken foot. If Tracy Moore and Josh Cooper pick up the slack in the passing game and tailback Joseph Randle, who rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns against Missouri, continues to run well, the Cowboys may not need their ring to beat the Bears.
Last game: Beat Missouri, 45-24
Next game: Saturday vs. Baylor
 
5Clemson Tigers
Last Week: 8
The Joker: The Tigers are this season's wild card, the team no one expected to be great that now stands poised to wreak havoc on the established powers. Like Batman's most feared nemesis, no one knows exactly how Clemson will affect the action. In the Joker's case, this unpredictability stems from utter insanity. Dabo Swinney's postgame interview following the Auburn win notwithstanding, the Tigers' unpredictability stems from the fact that no one seems to know quite what to make of the ACC. Would an undefeated Clemson make the BCS title game over an undefeated Boise State? At the moment, the voters in the Coaches' and Harris polls say no. What if Clemson and the SEC champ are the only undefeated teams? Would the Tigers get the nod over a one-loss SEC West runner-up? Of course, Clemson has to avoid a tie-up-Batman-so-he-can-watch-Gotham-City-get-destroyed moment, because we all know how those moments end. A trip to Atlanta to face a Georgia Tech team trying to rebound from consecutive losses could turn into one of those occasions, so the Tigers must remain on guard.
Last game: Beat North Carolina, 59-38
Next game: Saturday at Georgia Tech
 
6Boise St. Broncos
Last Week: 6
Batman: Against an Oklahoma or a Virginia Tech or a Georgia, Boise State is like Batman: a guy in a suit fighting opponents who possess super powers. The players those schools recruit typically have better measurables than the players the Broncos recruit, but Boise State makes up for any physical shortcomings by outworking and outsmarting opponents. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they had only one of those teams on the schedule this season. Boise State beat Georgia, and that win will look good if Georgia keeps winning, but the Broncos have to blow away the remaining teams on the schedule to have a chance at sneaking into the BCS title game. Playing Air Force close will be considered more of a warning sign than a hiccup.
Last game: Beat Air Force, 37-26
Next game: Nov. 5 at UNLV
 
7Oklahoma Sooners
Last Week: 3
Magneto: Magneto's mutant ability -- the power to manipulate any metal -- combined with his superior intellect should make him almost unbeatable. Certainly, some random combination of X-Men shouldn't be able to foil his plans for mutant world domination. But that's what always happens. This year's Sooners suffered the same fate. They have elite talent on defense and a polished, experienced hurry-up offense that makes them more complete than any team in the country. But Saturday, a combination of injuries and ennui undid the Sooners. By the time they woke up and realized they'd have to fight to beat Texas Tech, it was too late. Do not write off the Sooners from the national title race, though. Because of a reluctance to play a rematch of a regular-season game in the national title game and because of the relative strength of the Big 12 this season, Oklahoma likely would be the first of the one-loss teams to be considered if the Sooners win out and some of the other undefeateds fall.
Last game: Lost to Texas Tech, 41-38
Next game: Saturday at Kansas State
 
8Oregon Ducks
Last Week: 9
The Flash: Barry Allen gained super speed when he was doused with electrified chemicals. The Ducks' offensive speed comes from a recruiting philosophy combined with years of practice at an elevated pace. The result usually is the same. The Flash and the Ducks typically zoom past opponents. Even without quarterback Darron Thomas and tailback LaMichael James, Oregon could have hung 100 on Colorado on Saturday, but the Ducks tapped the brakes. The way backup quarterback Bryan Bennett and backup tailbacks Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas have played, the Ducks shouldn't need Thomas and James back until Nov. 5 against Washington. Fortunately for Oregon, it also won't need cornerback Cliff Harris, who may want to consider investing in a bicycle for his transportation needs.
Last game: Beat Colorado, 45-2
Next game: Saturday vs. Washington State
 
9Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: 10
Thing: Ben Grimm is the muscle of the Fantastic Four. He doesn't live a glamorous life like Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman or the Human Torch -- probably because he's 500 pounds of orange rock -- but he paves the way for most of the group's victories. Fullback Kiero Small is Arkansas' version of Thing. He isn't made of rock; he just plays like he is. This past Saturday at Ole Miss, Small helped clear a path for tailback Dennis Johnson, whose 160 rushing yards helped the Razorbacks come back from a 17-0 deficit and avoid an embarrassing upset. Monday, Small explained that delivering a punishing block feels as good to him as scoring a touchdown. "I don't ask for the ball," he said. "If it's given to me, then I'll run it. If it's thrown to me, I'll catch it. I like blocking for all the weapons we have around here. If I get on my guy, we have a lot of guys that can take it the distance."
Last game: Beat Ole Miss, 29-24
Next game: Saturday at Vanderbilt

 
10Michigan St. Spartans
Last Week: 20
Mr. Miracle: Don't know Mr. Miracle? Without getting too geeky on you, Mr. Miracle (alias: Scott Free) is a prince of the planet New Genesis who was given to Superman villain Darkseid to raise on burning planet Apokalips as part of a trade of royal children to forge a peace between the two worlds. While under the care of cruel Darkseid minion Granny Goodness, Free discovered he could escape from almost any predicament. The Spartans needed a miracle -- a Hail Mary named Rocket -- to escape overtime against Wisconsin last week. Now, after such an emotional win, Michigan State will have to escape the trap that awaits in Lincoln. Mr. Miracle could free himself from any trap. Can the Spartans?
Last game: Beat Wisconsin, 37-31
Next game: Saturday at Nebraska
 
11Kansas St. Wildcats
Last Week: 11
Underdog: There's no need to fear! Bill Snyder is here! Prior to pounding Kansas, the Wildcats had won four consecutive games as underdogs. Oklahoma opened the week as a 13.5-point favorite, so Kansas State should be back in its comfort zone. Of course, the Sooners are anxious to prove the Texas Tech loss was a fluke, so they probably will arrive in the Little Apple more motivated than they would have been had they buzzsawed the Red Raiders in Norman.
Last game: Beat Kansas, 59-21
Next game: Saturday vs. Oklahoma
 
12Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 4
Captain America: Like super soldier Steve Rogers, Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson does just about everything well. But Captain America was at his best when he had his indestructible Vibranium shield. Wilson is at his best when the Badgers' running game is at full strength. Montee Ball briefly left Saturday's game at Michigan State after taking a hit to the head late in the second quarter. After that play, the Badgers gained 23 yards on their next 11 carries and watched a 14-9 lead turn into a 31-17 deficit. Ball, who came back in the third quarter, ripped off a 21-yard run on the second play of Wisconsin's second possession of the fourth quarter. Wilson scored on the next play, and later in the quarter the Badgers rushed five times for 31 yards during an 87-yard touchdown drive that tied the score at 31. The Badgers can't do much about a Hail Mary that connects, but they can control how often and how effectively they run the ball. When they do it well, everything else works.
Last game: Lost to Michigan State, 37-31
Next game: Saturday at Ohio State
 
13Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: 13
Silver Surfer: The Surfer, who became the herald of world-eater Galactus to save his home planet, has a change of heart while scouting out earth and renounces his loyalty. As a punishment, Galactus traps the Surfer on earth with a force field. Texas A&M has renounced its loyalty to the Big 12 and Texas, a program so big that it could either build or consume an entire conference if it wanted, and joined the SEC. Missouri appears close to doing the same. So next year, this could be a conference game. That will make for a quaint gathering in College Station on Saturday, but Texas A&M will soon find that its punishment for leaving the Big 12 is annual meetings with Alabama and LSU.
Last game: Beat Iowa State, 33-17
Next game: Saturday vs. Missouri
 
14Nebraska Cornhuskers
Last Week: 14
Thor: Thor starts a war with the Ice Giants because he can't control his emotions, and father Odin deems him unfit to lead in Asgard. Thor is banished to Earth as a crippled medical student named Donald Blake. As Blake, Thor matures and learns humility. Finally, Odin returns Thor's magic hammer. Cornhuskers linebacker Lavonte David didn't need anything as complicated as a banishment to another planet to learn how best to control his emotions. David flew off the handle at halftime of Nebraska's loss at Wisconsin. The outburst did nothing to help David's teammates improve in the second half. A week later, with the Cornhuskers down to Ohio State at home, David gave a measured, calm talk at halftime, and his fellow Blackshirts responded in a comeback win. Lesson learned.
Last game: Beat Minnesota, 41-14
Next game: Saturday vs. Michigan State
 
15Virginia Tech Hokies
Last Week: 16
Hulk: You wouldn't like Bruce Banner when he's angry. You wouldn't like Virginia Tech tailback David Wilson when he's feeling underused. Wilson had 21 yards on six carries at halftime Saturday, and the Hokies were losing 7-6 to lowly Boston College. So Wilson made a suggestion to running backs coach Shane Beamer during the break. "Let's run the ball more," Wilson recounted to The Washington Post. Wilson rampaged 11 times for 113 yards and a touchdown in the second half, and Virginia Tech pulled away for the win.
Last game: Beat Boston College, 30-14
Next game: Saturday at Duke
 
16Texas Tech Red Raiders
Last Week: --
Gambit: In honor of the return of the Riverboat Gambler to the national conversation, Texas Tech gets Gambit, the Cajun X-Man who can charge objects (in his case, usually playing cards) with explosive energy. Coach Tommy Tuberville's Red Raiders certainly looked explosive on offense against Oklahoma, racing to a 31-7 lead by early in the third quarter in Norman. Texas Tech also did what no one else had this season: disrupt Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. Losses to Texas A&M and Kansas State probably already have eliminated Texas Tech from the Big 12 title race, but a Nov. 12 matchup with Oklahoma State in Lubbock could allow the Red Raiders to muddy the picture a little more.
Last game: Beat Oklahoma, 41-38
Next game: Saturday vs. Iowa State
 
17USC Trojans
Last Week: 24
Judge Dredd: Before it became a laughably horrendous flick starring Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider, Judge Dredd was a pretty cool comic book. It works on a couple of levels for USC. First, the judges in Dredd's dystopian future served as judge, jury and often executioner -- kind of like the NCAA's Committee on Infractions. Second, two major early story arcs involved Dredd being framed for crimes he didn't commit. The current Trojans didn't give Reggie Bush a car or provide a house for his parents, but they are the ones who suffer for those crimes against the NCAA. For the second consecutive season, the Trojans are banned from a bowl. Saturday's matchup with Stanford is their bowl game. I only have one request. Should the Trojans pull off the upset, quarterback Matt Barkley has to look into one of ESPN's cameras and yell, "I AM the law!"
Last game: Beat Notre Dame, 31-17
Next game: Saturday vs. Stanford

 
18South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: 18
Rorschach: This comparison was inspired by the man who tweets at @celebrityhottub and blogs for Every Day Should Be Saturday as Run Home Jack. Why does he call himself these things? Because he has a paying job, and he doesn't want his bosses to fire him when he pays homage to Rorschach's signature line from Watchmen on the day Stephen Garcia gets booted from the team at South Carolina. "After [Connor] Shaw gets hurt, South Carolina will look up and shout 'save us!'" Mr. Run Home Hot Tub wrote. "And Garcia will look down and whisper 'Bro.'" Shaw did not get hurt, and hopefully he won't. But tailback Marcus Lattimore -- the soul of South Carolina's offense -- was lost for the season to a knee injury. Now, it's anyone's guess as to how the Gamecocks' offense will look for the remainder of the season. One possibility is that 5-foot-9, 200-pound receiver Bruce Ellington will line up at tailback. Ellington, the cousin of star Clemson tailback Andre Ellington, also is the starting point guard on South Carolina's basketball team.
Last game: Beat Mississippi State, 14-12
Next game: Saturday at Tennessee
 
19Michigan Wolverines
Last Week: 21
Wolverine: This one was a no-brainer, but is it a fitting comparison? A common misconception about Wolverine is that his Adamantium claws are part of his mutant ability. Wolverine has turbocharged healing powers that allow him to recover quickly from even the most catastrophic traumas -- such as having Adamantium bonded to his skeleton. How will the Wolverines heal after suffering their first loss of the season Oct. 15 at Michigan State? The past two years, they didn't heal well at all. After starting 4-0 in 2009, Michigan went 1-7 down the stretch. After starting 5-0 in 2010, Michigan went 2-6 down the stretch. But that was under Rich Rodriguez. Brady Hoke is in charge now. After the Michigan State loss, safety Jordan Kovacs and defensive tackle Mike Martin each said the chemistry of this team felt different and that the Wolverines would be strong enough to bounce back. We'll see if that's the case. Hoke has said he expects quarterback Denard Robinson -- last seen hobbling off the field in East Lansing -- to be ready to play on Saturday against a Purdue team that shocked Illinois this past weekend.
Last game: Lost to Michigan State, 28-14
Next game: Saturday vs. Purdue
 
20Penn St. Nittany Lions
Last Week: --
Charles Xavier: There wasn't a better or more prolific coach of comic book heroes than Professor X, and there hasn't been a better or more prolific coach of college football players than Joe Paterno. With this past Saturday's win against Northwestern, Paterno tied former Grambling great Eddie Robinson for the Division I record for career victories with his 408th career win. Saturday, Paterno can take hold of a record that seemed unbreakable when Robinson retired following the 1997 season. This season may be one of Paterno's best coaching jobs. Penn State's defense -- led by nearly unblockable tackle Devon Still -- is nasty, and it has covered a lot of the offense's shortcomings. Now, with tailback Silas Redd developing into a reliable playmaker, the offense is beginning to carry a bit of the load. Illinois scored a combined 21 points in losses to Ohio State and Purdue, and the Nittany Lions could make the Illini even more miserable on Saturday and give their coach a record.
Last game: Beat Northwestern, 34-24
Next game: Saturday vs. Illinois
 
21Houston Cougars
Last Week: --
Robin: The Cougars absolutely crushed their last two opponents, beating East Carolina and Marshall by a combined score of 119-31. The problem is that Houston's schedule is miserable. The best opponent the Cougars played outside Conference USA is UCLA. The best opponent the Cougars will play in the league is either Tulsa (Nov. 26) or Southern Miss (possibly in the C-USA championship game). So Houston quarterback Case Keenum can set all the records he wants, and the Cougars can beat their opponents by as much as they want, but they'll always be second fiddle to Batman (Boise State) when it comes to earning a BCS at-large berth. As long as the Broncos are undefeated, the Cougars have little chance of making a BCS bowl even if they go 13-0.
Last game: Beat Marshall, 63-28
Next game: Saturday vs. Rice
 
22Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: --
Lex Luthor: No matter how great the plan or how sophisticated the weaponry, Luthor is constantly thwarted by Superman. Meanwhile, seemingly no matter how great the Bulldogs or how downtrodden the Gators, Georgia has been thwarted by Florida in 18 of the past 21 World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Parties. As the teams approached this year's meeting, it seemed the Bulldogs finally could enter Jacksonville with confidence. They have won five in a row, and after several years of terrible injury luck, the Bulldogs have remained relatively healthy. Meanwhile, injuries to Florida quarterback John Brantley and South Carolina's Lattimore have weakened Georgia's top foes in the SEC East. This seemed like the year the Bulldogs would finally catch a break. Then, on Monday, Florida coach Will Muschamp announced that Brantley is probable for the game, meaning Florida's offense could be several notches above the hot mess the Gators trotted out against LSU and Auburn. That probably shouldn't be enough to beat Georgia, but Bulldogs fans -- like the employees of Lex Corp -- have learned not to allow their hopes to soar too high in late October. Still, even Lex had his day. After all, he was elected president, helped save the planet from Imperiex and nearly succeeded in convincing the populace to turn on Superman.
Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 33-28
Next game: Saturday vs. Florida in Jacksonville, Fla.
 
23Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes
Last Week: --
Iron Man: Tony Stark has problems. He's a bit of a cad. He drinks too much. He has a piece of embedded shrapnel moving dangerously close to his heart. Stark also has a suit that gives him super strength, allows him to fly and puts an array of high-tech weapons at his fingertips. The Hurricanes have problems. They are the target of an NCAA investigation. The lost a game they should have won (at Maryland) because they had eight starters suspended. They lost another game (Kansas State) when they were stuffed at the goal line. But Miami has weapons, too. Quarterback Jacory Harris is having his best season, tailback Lamar Miller averages 5.8 yards per carry and linebacker Sean Spence is 10th in the nation in tackles (65) despite being suspended for the season opener. Yes, Miami has lost three games, and for that, you might think the Hurricanes don't deserve to be ranked. But ask yourself this: After watching Miami the past two weeks against North Carolina and Georgia Tech, would you feel good about your team's chances against the Hurricanes? Didn't think so.
Last game: Beat Georgia Tech, 24-7
Next game: Thursday vs. Virginia
 
24Arizona St. Sun Devils
Last Week: 23
The Punisher: Frank Castle fights crime, but he fights it in such a cruel, merciless way that it sometimes lands him in jail. Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict plays linebacker in a spectacular fashion, but in the past he did it in such a cruel, merciless way that he occasionally helped sustain opponents' drives because of personal foul penalties. This season, Burfict's penalties are down -- and so are his positive statistics. A few weeks ago, Arizona State defensive coordinator Craig Bray told The Arizona Republic's Doug Haller that a little rage from Burfict is fine as long as it is confined to the play. "We still want him to be a violent person, but he has done too good a job of controlling himself this year," Bray told the paper after the Sun Devils beat USC. "Hopefully, he'll find that intensity back between the snap and the whistle that he's had in the past. Because of the media and us as coaches, we've taken a lot of his aggressiveness away because we've hammered him about stuff that happened after the whistle. I think he's trying to please people, and the bottom line is he's got to become an angry, violent person from snap to whistle."
Last game: Lost to Oregon, 41-27
Next game: Saturday vs. Colorado

 
25Texas Longhorns
Last Week: --
Galactus: Galactus eats planets. He's that big and that powerful. But, while trying to devour Earth, he loses to the Fantastic Four because they have experience, chemistry, a sound strategy and something called the Ultimate Nullifer. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State didn't have an Ultimate Nullifier -- unless Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden counts -- but they did have all those other traits. Texas is working its way back to that point, but the Longhorns aren't there yet. Still, Texas gets the nod in the hodgepodge of decent teams who got flattened by elite opponents. This group also includes Washington and Auburn. Clearly, Texas still has some decisions to make. Two weeks after freshman quarterback David Ash took every snap against Oklahoma State, Longhorns coach Mack Brown intends to play Ash and Case McCoy against Kansas.
Last game: Lost to Oklahoma State, 38-26
Next game: Saturday vs. Kansas

Next five: Washington, Baylor, Southern Miss, Syracuse, West Virginia

Andy Staples' Power Rankings also serve as his ballot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

 
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