The Clemson-Notre Dame showdown was so good and so entertaining that it would be great to see those teams go at it again.
Well, we just might be treated to a rematch in the ACC championship game after Notre Dame took down Clemson 47-40 in two overtimes Saturday to vault to No. 2 this week in ESPN’s power rankings.
There’s also a distinct Group of 5/independent representation in this week’s power rankings. BYU (No. 6), Cincinnati (No. 7), Coastal Carolina (No. 12), Liberty (No. 19) and Marshall (No. 24) are all unbeaten.
The biggest riser this week is Texas A&M, which shot all the way up to No. 5 after routing South Carolina. The Aggies could conceivably sneak into the College Football Playoff even if they don’t play in the SEC championship game.
Finally, a weekend when the Crimson Tide didn’t light somebody up on offense. That’s because they were off after scoring more than 40 points in each of their previous five games. This might be Nick Saban’s most explosive offense yet at Alabama, even without injured wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, and the defense is also starting to look the way we’re used to Alabama looking on that side of the ball. The Crimson Tide have given up only two touchdowns in their past 10 quarters.
Up next: at LSU (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, CBS)
OK, maybe Notre Dame isn’t an ACC team in the purest sense, but the Irish are this season, and they took down the ACC’s version of Goliath on Saturday in a 47-40 win over Clemson in two overtimes. It was the kind of signature win Brian Kelly’s club had been looking for and ended a 28-game winning streak by Clemson over ACC opponents. The Irish might have to beat the Tigers again to win the ACC championship and possibly get to the College Football Playoff, but there’s no doubting now that Notre Dame belongs in that elite category after making one clutch play after another to send the Tigers packing.
Up next: at Boston College (Saturday, TBA)
Through three games, Justin Fields has been about as perfect as it gets when it comes to playing quarterback. The 6-foot-3, 228-pound junior accounted for six touchdowns — five passing and one rushing — in Ohio State’s 49-27 victory Saturday over Rutgers. Fields finished 24-of-28 passing and was completing 87.3% of his passes entering the game. The final score was a bit misleading. Ohio State led 42-9 heading into the fourth quarter.
Up next: at Maryland (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
Justin Fields tosses five touchdowns and rushes for one as Ohio State dominates Rutgers 49-27.
The Tigers had a few things working against them going into Saturday’s showdown in South Bend, Indiana, namely star quarterback Trevor Lawrence watching from the sideline, but none of that will ease the pain of not finishing the game and losing 47-40 in two overtimes to Notre Dame. Freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei played great in filling in for Lawrence and finished with 439 passing yards and two touchdowns, but Clemson allowed Notre Dame to drive 91 yards in the final minutes to send the game into overtime. And just like that, the Tigers’ 36-game regular-season winning streak is over.
Up next: at Florida State (Nov. 21, TBA)
It was the Kellen Mond Show for Texas A&M in its 48-3 rout of South Carolina on the road Saturday. The Aggies’ senior quarterback accounted for their first five touchdowns — four passing and one rushing — as they cruised to a 35-0 lead. It was a good day all the way around for Texas A&M, especially with Florida beating Georgia. That Oct. 10 win over Florida is looking increasingly better for the Aggies, and even if they don’t make the SEC championship game, there could be a pathway to the College Football Playoff if they go 9-1 and their only loss is to an unbeaten Alabama team.
Up next: at Tennessee (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Cougars took their biggest step yet toward an unbeaten regular season Friday with a 51-17 demolition of Boise State on the road. BYU is 8-0 for the first time since 2001 and making a more convincing argument each week that it should at least be considered for a College Football Playoff spot, especially if teams in the Power 5 conferences beat up on one another. Quarterback Zach Wilson passed for 359 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, and the Cougars have scored more than 40 points in seven of their eight games this season.
Up next: North Alabama (Nov. 21, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
As impressive as Cincinnati has been on defense this season, the Bearcats are really starting to find their stride on offense, too. Their 38-10 win Saturday at home over Houston marked the fifth straight game that they held an opponent to 13 or fewer points. But they’ve also scored 38 or more points in each of their past three wins. Quarterback Desmond Ridder rushed for three touchdowns and also passed for one against the Cougars. The Bearcats have won all six of their games this season by at least two touchdowns.
Up next: vs. East Carolina (Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
The Gators have dealt with COVID-19 issues and some early defensive woes this season, but they made an emphatic statement on Saturday that they’re the class of the SEC’s Eastern Division with a 44-28 win over Georgia in Jacksonville. Quarterback Kyle Trask threw for 474 yards and four touchdown passes (all in the first half), and after the Dawgs jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead, the Gators’ defense gave up only one more touchdown the rest of the way. Florida, which now holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Georgia, has the inside track to the SEC championship game.
Up next: vs. Arkansas (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The drought is over for Indiana, and the Hoosiers are suddenly a major player in the Big Ten race. They snapped a 24-game losing streak against Michigan and won for the first time over the Wolverines since 1987 in a 38-21 beatdown Saturday that was really never close. Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. passed for 342 yards and three touchdowns, and the Michigan secondary couldn’t cover senior wide receiver Ty Fryfogle, who had seven catches for 142 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown pass.
Up next: at Michigan State (Saturday, noon ET, ABC/ESPN2)
If Miami quarterback D’Eriq King wasn’t already in the Heisman Trophy conversation, he is now after passing for 430 yards and five touchdowns and rushing for 105 more yards in a 44-41 comeback victory Friday on the road against NC State. King’s 54-yard touchdown pass to Mike Harley in the final minutes won it for the Hurricanes, who won their third straight game despite missing 11 players, including two starters on offense, and remained alive in the ACC race.
Up next: at Virginia Tech (Saturday, TBA)
D’Eriq King throws for 430 yards and five touchdowns as Miami comes from behind in the fourth quarter to win 44-41.
Granted, the Dawgs were without several key defenders and were gutted at safety, but none of that excuses being outscored 41-7 after taking an early 14-0 lead. It doesn’t end there, either, in dissecting Georgia’s 44-28 loss Saturday to Florida in Jacksonville that snapped a three-game Georgia winning streak in the series. The Dawgs have serious issues at quarterback. Stetson Bennett struggled to make anything happen in the passing game and was pulled in favor of freshman D’Wan Mathis, who threw two interceptions. Georgia finished with only 112 passing yards.
Up next: at Missouri (Saturday, noon ET, ESPN)
The Chanticleers remained unbeaten with a 23-6 victory at home Saturday over South Alabama, but there weren’t a lot of style points involved, at least the kind the Chants will need to keep alive any hope of being considered for the College Football Playoff and/or a New Year’s Six Bowl berth. And while everybody loves offense, Coastal Carolina does deserve some props for going a second consecutive game without allowing a touchdown.
Up next: at Troy (Saturday, noon ET, ESPNU)
Until proven otherwise, Oregon is probably the Pac-12’s best bet to grab a College Football Playoff spot this season. The Ducks got off to a good start in that quest Saturday with a 35-14 win over Stanford. And while the Cardinal were short-handed without starting quarterback Davis Mills, Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough was solid in stepping in for the NFL-departed Justin Herbert with 227 passing yards and a touchdown and another touchdown rushing.
Up next: at Washington State (Saturday, TBA)
Oklahoma State’s identity under Mike Gundy has long been built on its high-scoring offense, but it was the Cowboys’ defense that saved the day Saturday and kept them on top of the Big 12 standings. Oklahoma State rallied from a 12-0 halftime deficit to beat Kansas State 20-18 on the road, and the Cowboys’ winning touchdown came on an 85-yard fumble return by Jason Taylor II in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys also stopped a potential tying 2-point conversion by the Wildcats with 2:08 to play. Oklahoma State has held five of its six opponents to 21 points or fewer this season.
Up next: at Oklahoma (Nov. 21, TBA)
It seems like forever ago that redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz threw five touchdown passes and the Badgers opened their season with an impressive 45-7 win over Illinois. That was back on Oct. 23, as Wisconsin had its second consecutive game canceled Saturday because of positive COVID-19 tests within the program. The cancellation of the Purdue game followed the cancellation of the Nebraska game a week earlier. The Badgers are now in danger of not being eligible for the Big Ten championship game if they have one more game canceled.
Up next: at Michigan (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
The Cyclones took sole possession of first place in the Big 12 standings Saturday (5-1) with a 38-31 victory over Baylor. It wasn’t easy, as Iowa State had to rally from a 14-point deficit in the third quarter and overcome four turnovers. Two of the Cyclones’ last three games are at home, and there’s also a road date with Texas on Nov. 27, the Friday after Thanksgiving. Iowa State has scored more than 30 points in all five of its victories this season.
Up next: vs. Kansas State (Nov. 21, TBA)
It remains to be seen how much those close losses in back-to-back weeks to Iowa State and Kansas State will haunt the Sooners in the Big 12 race. But they’ve been dominant ever since and won their fourth straight game Saturday in a 62-9 romp over Kansas. Oklahoma, which rolled up 540 yards in total offense against the Jayhawks, will now have two weeks to get ready for its Bedlam showdown with Oklahoma State in Norman.
Up next: vs. Oklahoma State (Nov. 21, TBA)
Oklahoma scores six rushing touchdowns and two passing TDs as the Sooners completely manhandle Kansas 62-9.
Breakfast at the Coliseum was a success for USC in a season-opening 28-27 victory Saturday over Arizona State … but barely. The Trojans made a litany of mistakes in the 9 a.m. start on the West Coast, including turning the ball over three times in Arizona State territory and giving the ball up on downs twice more. But in a wild final few minutes, USC rallied from a 13-point deficit to escape. Sophomore quarterback Kedon Slovis passed for 381 yards and two touchdowns to help the Trojans offset 258 rushing yards by the Sun Devils.
Up next: at Arizona (Saturday, TBA)
Hugh Freeze has Liberty off to its best start in program history, and the way the Flames did it Saturday in a thrilling 38-35 win on the road against Virginia Tech was about as wild as it gets. Alex Barbir‘s 51-yard field goal with a second remaining won it for the Flames, just seconds after he had a 59-yarder blocked that was seemingly returned for a Virginia Tech touchdown. But Hokies coach Justin Fuente had asked for a timeout before the ball was snapped, and Barbir got another chance after a short completion by Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. Liberty still has tough games remaining against NC State and Coastal Carolina, but the Flames are currently 2-0 this season against ACC foes and have won nine straight games dating to last season.
Up next: vs. Western Carolina (Saturday, noon ET, ESPN3)
Living dangerously seems to suit Louisiana just fine. The Ragin’ Cajuns have won six games this season, and they’ve come from behind to win in all six of those games. They did it again Saturday after trailing in the second quarter before getting a 2-yard touchdown run by Elijah Mitchell with 1:13 to play to break a 20-20 tie and beat Arkansas State 27-20. Louisiana is trying to win 10 or more games for the second straight season after winning 11 in 2019.
Up next: vs. South Alabama (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
The Tigers were off this weekend, and there are signs that maybe they’re starting to figure it out offensively after scoring 83 points in their past two games, including a 48-11 beatdown of LSU a week ago. Sophomore quarterback Bo Nix has accounted for six touchdowns in his past two games. Auburn’s defense held LSU to a meaningless fourth-quarter touchdown and Ole Miss to 28 points the week before. The Rebels had scored more than 30 points in their first three games.
Up next: at Mississippi State (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
Texas’ defense has absorbed its share of criticism this season, but it saved the Longhorns on Saturday in a 17-13 win over West Virginia and kept them squarely in the Big 12 race. Two times in the fourth quarter, Texas was able to keep West Virginia out of the end zone on fourth-down passes and held the Mountaineers to 43 rushing yards. The Longhorns have now won three in a row after losing to Oklahoma 53-45 in four overtimes on Oct. 10.
Up next: at Kansas (Nov. 21, TBA)
Sam Ehlinger tosses two touchdowns and throws for 184 yards, while Texas’ defense makes big plays to lead the Longhorns to their third straight win.
Don’t forget about the Wildcats in the Big Ten’s West Division race. They’re unbeaten through three games and are doing it with defense, their latest conquest a 21-13 home victory Saturday over Nebraska. Pat Fitzgerald’s club has given up a total of 36 points in its first three games and held Nebraska scoreless in the second half, the third consecutive game that the Wildcats haven’t given up any points in the second half.
Up next: at Purdue (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
The Thundering Herd continue to stampede their way to an unbeaten regular season. They routed UMass 51-10 on Saturday at home with quarterback Grant Wells passing for three touchdowns and running back Brenden Knox rushing for 118 yards and two touchdowns. All six of Marshall’s wins this season have been by double digits. The Thundering Herd are Conference USA’s only unbeaten team, and their next three games are all at home.
Up next: vs. Middle Tennessee (Saturday, noon ET, CBS Sports Network)
The Mustangs have bounced back nicely after being routed by Cincinnati at home two weeks ago. They raced past Temple 47-23 on the road Saturday after trailing 13-10 at the half. From there, though, SMU outscored Temple 30-3 over the next quarter and a half with Shane Buechele throwing three of his four touchdown passes during that stretch. If the Mustangs can win their final three games, against Tulsa, Houston and East Carolina, that would give them double-digit wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the Pony Express days in the early 1980s.
Up next: at Tulsa (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)