Posted: Tuesday September 25, 2012 12:27PM ; Updated: Tuesday September 25, 2012 12:27PM
Andy Staples
Andy Staples>COLLEGE FOOTBALL POWER RANKINGS

Kansas State climbs, but much still unknown after four weeks of play

Story Highlights

Polls, computer rankings differ greatly in Week 4, but will normalize by December

Kansas State rose after win; LSU dropped after underwhelming victory vs. Auburn

West Virginia, Baylor will have chance to prove themselves in a matchup Saturday

Judging by e-mail and Twitter responses, quite a few of you read these rankings each week and come away thinking I'm an idiot. Allow me to posit a question. How many more of you would feel that way if my Top 25 kicked off with the following five teams this week?

1. Oregon State
2. Stanford
3. Notre Dame
4. Iowa State
5. Texas

That is the actual top five this week from the computer ranking programmed by Kenneth Massey. (In case you're wondering, he has Alabama at No. 19.) His ranking is one of the six used by the BCS to determine which teams play for the national title. It counts for far more than my piddly AP ballot, which counts for nothing. Pretty outrageous, isn't it?

Not really. This is how rankings would look if you took away preseason poll bias and the dreaded "eyeball test," two things fans frequently suggest need to be eliminated from the process. So is that better?

Let's take a look at another poll used in the BCS formula that also eliminates preseason bias and the eyeball test. Here is this week's top five in Wes Colley's computer ranking:

1. Stanford
2. Notre Dame
3. Oregon
4. Florida
5. Oregon State

Once again, on-field results trump reputation and hype. And you probably think he's a bigger moron than you think I am.

Now let's look at the top five in those polls and the top five in the AP Poll at the end of the 2011 regular season.

Massey
1. LSU
2. Alabama
3. Arkansas
4. Oklahoma State
5. Kansas State

Colley
1. LSU
2. Oklahoma State
3. Alabama
4. Kansas State
5. Stanford

AP Poll
1. LSU
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma State
4. Stanford
5. Oregon

The differences are minimal compared to the differences between those polls after four weeks of play. By December, the method used in the early weeks really doesn't matter that much. So relax. No matter how we vote or compute, we all pretty much arrive at the same place in December.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1Alabama Crimson Tide
Last week: 1
Noted Crimson Tide fan Harvey Updyke -- the alleged poisoner of the Toomer's Corner oaks in Auburn -- was arrested last week in Hammond, La., on the very Louisiana charge of Terrorizing after a dispute about how much money Updyke would receive back from the return of a lawnmower to a hardware store. This appears here because there isn't much new to say about Alabama, which has terrorized every opponent this season. Ole Miss probably won't fare much better.

Last game: Beat Florida Atlantic, 40-7
Next game: Saturday vs. Ole Miss
 
2Oregon Ducks
Last week: 3
The De'Anthony Thomas Yards-Per-Touch-O-Meter we debuted last week took a big hit in the Arizona game, dropping from an astounding 15.3 yards to a merely amazing 12.7. Still, the Ducks' shutout of the Wildcats showed something more impressive -- coach Chip Kelly's willingness to adapt his offense to the situation at hand. Remember, the game was tight in the first half, and Oregon embarked on 17- and 16-play drives in the second quarter that ended with field goals. Kelly called for seven handoffs to 245-pound tight end Colt Lyerla, who averaged nine yards a carry and scored a co-touchdown with backup quarterback Bryan Bennett. Meanwhile, the defense shut down the Wildcats. The Ducks intercepted Arizona quarterback Matt Scott three times. The first two picks set up touchdown drives, and Troy Hill returned the third for a touchdown. So while the Wildcats bottled up the quick-strike capabilities of Thomas, Oregon proved it could win with defense and power running. Hmm, against which teams might Oregon need stout defense and a power-running game to win? Could it be USC and Stanford?



Last game: Beat Arizona, 49-0
Next game: Saturday vs. Washington State in Seattle
 
3Florida St. Seminoles
Last week: 4
Over at EveryDayShouldBeSaturday.com, friend of the Power Rankings Spencer Hall posits that the only thing Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher needs now to take the Seminoles to an elite level is a pair of righteous sideburns. This must be true, because Hall's mockup of a sideburned Fisher bears a striking resemblance to the late, great Jerry Reed, better known as Cledus "Snowman" Snow from the Smokey and the Bandit series. Other than Bobby Bowden, no one in the history of the world has helped a Florida State football player more than Snowman. If not for him, Burt Reynolds would have been neither eastbound nor down, and those thirsty folks in Atlanta never would have gotten that Coors from Texarkana.



Sideburns or not, Florida State took a huge step with Saturday's win against Clemson. But as I wrote after the game, while the Seminoles' schedule may make their path to a 12-0 regular season the easiest, it also won't impress voters who actually look at which teams they play. They needed that West Virginia game that the Mountaineers bailed on when they joined the Big 12. Failing that, Florida State needs Florida to have a very good SEC season followed by a very bad day in Tallahassee in November.

Last game: Beat Clemson, 49-37
Next game: Saturday at South Florida
 
4Georgia Bulldogs
Last week: 5
Georgia looked seven kinds of awesome Saturday. And before you say "It's just Vanderbilt," remember how much South Carolina -- the other likely winner of the SEC East -- struggled against the Commodores Aug. 30. That doesn't mean we should apply the usually-dubious-in-football transitive property and assume the Bulldogs will beat the Gamecocks when they meet in Columbia Oct. 6. But it does mean we should consider the facts. A defense that allows an average of 16.5 points a game will likely get an All-America safety (Baccarri Rambo) and perhaps its best linebacker (Alec Ogletree) back from suspension this week. Yeah, I wouldn't want to be Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, either.

Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 48-3
Next game: Saturday vs. Tennessee
 
5LSU Tigers
Last week: 2
I'm a little scared that my tamale-buying privileges at Pimanyoli's in Baton Rouge will be revoked for dropping the Tigers three spots this week after a win at Auburn, but that scare on the Plains threw up some serious red flags. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who certainly seemed an upgrade over the Jarrett Lee-Jordan Jefferson platter through LSU's first four games, lost two fumbles and failed to lead the offense on many scoring drives against a defense that gave up 28 points in regulation to Louisiana-Monroe on the same field a week earlier. Don't give me the LSU-Auburn-is-always-a-close-game excuse, either. Care to peruse last year's box score? That said, take this demotion with a grain of salt. These rankings reflect what we've seen so far, so a lot can affect them. If, say, Washington -- a 41-3 loser to LSU -- beats Stanford Thursday, that's a huge plus for LSU. If Auburn continues to improve, then that result won't look so bad. (Besides, if ugly 12-10 wins precluded teams from the national title, Alabama wouldn't have captured it in 2009.) Or, if LSU goes to The Swamp Oct. 6 and hammers Florida, the Tigers might hop right back to No. 2.

Last game: Beat Auburn, 12-10
Next game: Saturday vs. Towson
 
6Kansas St. Wildcats
Last week: 13
There is a reason why three Big 12 coaches I visited in the spring all pointed to Kansas State as their most feared opponent. What you saw Saturday in Norman was Snyderball at its finest. Kansas State outrushed Oklahoma 213 yards to 88. The Wildcats turned all three turnovers they forced into points (two touchdowns and a field goal), and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein and his offense hogged the ball and kept Oklahoma's up-tempo offense off the field. And while the Big 12 round-robin schedule is a slog with nine teams that can beat all the others on a given day, Kansas State might have the least-brutal draw. The toughest stretch is back-to-back road games against TCU and Baylor on Nov. 10 and Nov. 17. It's doubtful anyone will survive the Big 12 schedule unscathed, but the Wildcats might have the best shot.

Last game: Beat Oklahoma, 24-19
Next game: Oct. 6 vs. Kansas
 
7South Carolina Gamecocks
Last week: 8
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier refused to take questions from reporters after South Carolina's win against Missouri, then declined again Sunday. So why is Spurrier taking cues from the coach at that other USC? He isn't taking questions, so it's difficult to answer that. Here's a theory, though. Around this point in each of the past two seasons, the Gamecocks lost a game they had no business losing. Last year, they lost at home to Auburn in Week 5. Two years ago, they lost at Kentucky a week after upsetting then-No. 1 Alabama in a trap game a blind man could see coming. Spurrier's self-imposed blackout might be an attempt to tick off the fourth estate and keep people from heaping too much praise on the Gamecocks, which looked quite great against Missouri. Considering they had two early trips into the red zone that didn't result in points, the bloodbath could have been worse. South Carolina should crush Kentucky this week, but it seems Spurrier isn't taking any chances. He's breaking out the mind games usually reserved for much better opponents.

Last game: Beat Missouri, 31-10
Next game: Saturday at Kentucky
 
8Stanford Cardinal
Last week: 7
From Joseph Beyda of The Stanford Daily comes this intriguing nugget: 10 players on Stanford's roster have fathers who played in at least one NFL game. Bloodlines don't mean everything, but being raised by someone who understands the dedication and effort required to play at the highest level has to help -- especially for younger players. Their fathers were also all elite college players, so they no doubt dispensed some excellent advice through the years about making the jump to the major college level. That might help explain how the Cardinal have remained so consistent these past few years.

Last game: Beat USC, 21-14
Next game: Thursday at Washington
 
9West Virginia Mountaineers
Last week: 6
The Big 12 finally comes to Morgantown this week, and it will send one of its pass-happiest teams to welcome the Mountaineers with a quality shootout. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen called the atmosphere against Maryland "very average." West Virginia's fans would call the Mountaineers' nonconference schedule "very below-average." Milan-Puskar Stadium should be rocking Saturday, even if the noon start only allows for a brief visit to Tudor's Biscuit World before the festivities begin. Then we'll see how West Virginia fits into its new home.

Last game: Beat Maryland, 31-21
Next game: Saturday vs. Baylor
 
10Texas Longhorns
Last week: 9
The Longhorns' bye week came at an opportune time, because had Texas opened Big 12 play last week, it might have done so without linebacker Jordan Hicks (hip) and tailback Joe Bergeron (shoulder). Whether those two play in Stillwater could depend on practice Tuesday. "Our discussion was that they need to practice [to play]," Texas coach Mack Brown told The Austin American-Statesman. "If you are a Ricky Williams and you can't practice, you've still earned the right to play. If you are a young guy and you can't practice [by] Wednesday at full speed, then we can't plan on you playing. We've learned our lesson, especially with the young ones."

Last game: Beat Ole Miss, 66-31
Next game: Saturday at Oklahoma State
 
11USC Trojans
Last week: 10
Jeff Miller of the Orange County Register offered up a Trojan other than Matt Barkley as a Heisman Trophy contender, and he makes some excellent points. So who is the mystery star? Robert Woods? Marqise Lee? Nope. It's center Khaled Holmes, who -- in spite of the presence of Barkley, Woods and Lee -- might be the most important player on USC's team. With Holmes out with an ankle injury against Stanford, the Trojans struggled. When he returned against Cal, the offense sprang back to life. Unfortunately, Holmes appeared to reinjure the ankle in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, USC doesn't play again until a week from Thursday.

Last game: Beat Cal, 27-9
Next game: Oct. 4 at Utah
 
12Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last week: 12
Notre Dame's offense struggled enough against Michigan to keep the hype machine from shifting into fifth gear. That's good, because if you were forced to read 10,000 OMG NOTRE DAME AND FLORIDA STATE ARE BACK!!!! columns, many of you might swear off college football forever. But understand this. The praise heaped on Notre Dame's front seven is not hype. Nose tackle Louis Nix, defensive end Stephon Tuitt and linebacker Manti Te'o are among the best in the nation, and it's no accident that Notre Dame is fourth in the nation in scoring defense, sharing a top five with elite defenses at TCU, Alabama and South Carolina. The schedule remains challenging -- even the Miami game looks tougher in light of the Hurricanes' win at Georgia Tech -- but Notre Dame's defense looks capable of taking on all comers.

Last game: Beat Michigan, 13-6
Next game: Oct. 6 vs. Miami in Chicago
 
13Oklahoma Sooners
Last week: 11
In hindsight, I probably should have dropped the Sooners lower after the Kansas State loss, but I had a tough time coming up with teams I thought could beat Oklahoma even in its weakened state. At this point in the Landry Jones era, it's obvious he's no Sam Bradford -- even if Jones might break every passing record at the school. Jones is who he is, and the coaching staff needs to figure out how to make the most of him. Still, the loss is not the end of the world. The Big 12 is a rugged league, and Kansas State is one of the best teams in it. The loss will feel worse because of a quirk in the schedule. The Sooners had a bye week to prepare for the Wildcats, then lost, and now must spend another bye week hearing about all their flaws. They have a revenge game in Lubbock Oct. 6. That should be enough to get Oklahoma back on track.

Last game: Lost to Kansas State, 24-19
Next game: Oct. 6 at Texas Tech
 
14Florida Gators
Last week: 15
I don't mean to keep throwing cold water on my alma mater's apparent resurgence, but it's important to bear in mind that in 2010 and 2011, Florida beat Kentucky by 34 and 38 points, respectively. Because it's impossible to discern yet whether Texas A&M or Tennessee are good, it's still difficult to judge whether the Gators have turned a corner. The offense seems to have an identity. Jeff Driskel's future at quarterback seems bright. The defense has been as stingy as advertised. But the true test for Florida will come against an elite SEC opponent such as the one that comes to Florida Field Oct. 6. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease has two weeks to cook up a plan that will work against LSU's defense. If he can, it might be time to start believing.

Last game: Beat Kentucky, 38-0
Next game: Oct. 6 vs. LSU
 
15Clemson Tigers
Last week: 14
The loss at Florida State laid Clemson bare for all to see. The Tigers have incredible playmakers on offense and a play-calling whiz in Chad Morris, but their defense is atrocious. Yes, Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel has improved, and the Seminoles have a much deeper stable of backs. But Florida State's 667-yard mauling had as much to do with Clemson's defensive deficiencies as the Seminoles' offensive ability. Now for the good news. Until the South Carolina game Nov. 24, Clemson won't see a defense that comes close to the level of Florida State's. The remaining ACC opponents on the Tigers' schedule will have a difficult time keeping pace with the Tigers' offense, no matter how poorly Clemson's defense plays.

Last game: Lost to Florida State, 49-37
Next game: Saturday at Boston College
 
16Baylor Bears
Last week: 16
Baylor coach Art Briles and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen each came up as assistants to Mike Leach at Texas Tech, and each has embraced Leach's up-tempo, pass-happy philosophy. This is the Bears' chance to prove Robert Griffin III wasn't the only reason for their success last season. To do that, they'll have to outscore a team designed to score even more quickly than they do. No matter the number, take the over.

Last game: Beat Louisiana-Monroe, 47-42
Next game: Saturday at West Virginia
 
17Ohio St. Buckeyes
Last Week: 15
After several weeks of blasting his team for perceived failures against less-capable competition, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer pelted his players with praise Monday. "I know we're Ohio State, and there's all kinds of expectations here," Meyer told reporters. "I still am not giving up. I think by the end of the year this might be a hell of a football team. I mean, it might be sooner than that." Having covered a Meyer team as a beat writer in a past life, allow me to translate: "I'm a little nervous about this one, but I think we've got a shot." Meyer doesn't want his (fairly inexperienced) team to be crushed if it loses its conference opener to perhaps the most athletic team in the Big Ten. Still, he's watched enough tape on Michigan State to know the Spartans have weaknesses Ohio State can exploit. Because the Buckeyes are ineligible to play for the Big Ten title this year, Meyer knows he's playing with house money. If the Buckeyes lose, he can use it as a teaching moment. But if they win, look out. It might mean the next few years will be miserable for everyone else in the league.

Last game: Beat UAB, 29-15
Next game: Saturday at Michigan State
 
18TCU Horned Frogs
Last week: 18
TCU has the nation's longest winning streak at 11 games. Care to guess the last team to beat the Horned Frogs? That's right, it was the Mustangs. That should provide the proper motivation for a team that has won ugly the past two weeks. TCU has left a lot of points on the field, and coach Gary Patterson has grown tired of it. "I think we've underachieved two weeks in a row on offense," Patterson told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "This is a compliment to them. I don't think the last two games we've played very good football. I don't think we've reached our potential. There's too many mistakes happening out there that should not happen."

Last game: Beat Virginia, 27-7
Next game: Saturday at Southern Methodist
 
19Michigan St. Spartans
Last week: 19
Take notes, Lane Kiffin and Steve Spurrier. Mark Dantonio is about to give you a master class on how to not answer reporters' questions. This came after the Spartans' lackluster win against Eastern Michigan.



The trailer where Michigan State holds its postgame press conference should be quite festive if the Spartans fall to Ohio State.

Last game: Beat Eastern Michigan, 23-7
Next game: Saturday vs. Ohio State
 
20Oregon State Beavers
Last week: NR
Mike Riley could lose his next 10 games and he'd still get my vote for Coach of the Year. After the Beavers beat UCLA at the Rose Bowl, Riley held up Oregon State's charter flight so he could take the entire team to In-N-Out Burger. For the wannabe NCAA cops in the crowd, John Infante of the excellent Bylaw Blog explains that not only is this allowed, but Riley also could have set up an In-N-Out Buffet for Friday night's meal had he wished. As the thought of all-you-can eat Animal Style Double-Doubles dance around in your head, ponder this: According to the company's website, Tucson has four In-N-Out locations.

Last game: Beat UCLA, 27-20
Next game: Saturday at Arizona
 
21Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last week: NR
What about the Bulldogs' win against South Alabama inspired me to include them in the Top 25 this week? Nothing. But Auburn hanging tough against LSU makes Mississippi State's thrashing of Auburn in Week 2 look even better. Of course, the Bulldogs knew Auburn's offensive signals. That situation must have gotten rectified against LSU, or Auburn wouldn't have scored more than minus-five. Still, the Bulldogs are in fine shape. With cornerback Johnthan Banks shutting down receivers and quarterback Tyler Russell finding receivers, Mississippi State sails into its bye week and will open SEC play against what should be a terribly beaten-down Kentucky team Oct. 6. The following Saturday, Tennessee comes to Starkville, and Derek Dooley might want to ask Ron Zook about coaching at Scott Field with an aggravated fan base ready to pounce on any misstep. For the Bulldogs, carrying a 7-0 record into the Alabama game Oct. 27 is not out of the question.

Last game: Beat South Alabama, 30-10
Next game: Oct. 6 at Kentucky
 
22Louisville Cardinals
Last Week: 22
The betting line on Louisville-FIU swung wildly toward FIU a few hours before the game Saturday. Louisville went from being favored by two touchdowns to being favored by just 10.5 points. Did someone get arrested? No. Did a piece of key injury information leak? No. Perhaps the sharps -- the professional gamblers -- realized the Cardinals simply haven't had it in them to blow out anyone. They've been better than all the teams they've beaten, but they've let them hang around a little too long. That's dangerous, and Cardinals coach Charlie Strong knows it. "If you want to be a good team then continue on the level where you are. If you want to be a great team, then we can step it up and we can go get better," Strong told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "That's what you want, to see us become one of those teams where we can step it up and get better."

Last game: Beat Florida International, 28-21
Next game: Saturday at Southern Miss
 
23Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Last week: NR
Rutgers tailback Jawan Jamison has run for at least 100 yards in every game this season. Against Arkansas, Scarlet Knights quarterback Gary Nova threw for 397 yards and five touchdowns. Rutgers finds itself in excellent shape heading into its bye week. The Scarlet Knights already have a Big East road win (at South Florida) and now have time to regroup before three consecutive conference games (Connecticut, Syracuse, at Temple) in which Rutgers should be favored.

Last game: Beat Arkansas, 35-26
Next game: Oct. 6 vs. Connecticut
 
24Northwestern Wildcats
Last week: 24
We've already explained how the schedules for Kansas State and Mississippi State provide a smoother path, but Northwestern might get the biggest momentum bump off all from its slate. The Wildcats open Big Ten play with a home game against Indiana followed by road games at Penn State and Minnesota. Those won't be cakewalks, but every one is winnable. The Wildcats could roll into a Legends Division matchup with Nebraska in Evanston at 7-0. Win that one, and it wouldn't be unrealistic to discuss a potential division title.

Last game: Beat South Dakota, 38-7
Next game: Saturday vs. Indiana
 
25Boise State Broncos
Last week: NR
Boise State's offense needs a lot of work. Fortunately, its young defense does not. The Broncos will have plenty of time to work out their offensive kinks during Mountain West play. Unfortunately, with TCU gone to the Big 12, there won't be another game until bowl season that will allow Boise State to measure its offensive improvement against a quality defense.

Last game: Beat BYU, 7-6
Next game: Saturday at New Mexico

Next five: Cincinnati, Michigan, Iowa State, Louisiana Tech, Ohio

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

 
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