MAKING A STATEMENT
Alabama is a unanimous No. 1 in the Top 25 for the first time this season, and LSU slipped a spot again after another sketchy performance. Now the Tigers are No. 4 behind No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State.
With Stanford the lone team in the top 19 to lose, the top of the rankings had only some relatively minor shuffling Sunday.
That will change next week, when five games feature matchups of ranked teams, including three with both teams ranked between Nos. 5-11.
Call it the first shakedown Saturday of the season.
No. 5 Georgia is at No. 6 South Carolina in a SEC East showdown that gives the winner the inside track — though far from a clear path — to the division title.
Freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and the Bulldogs are on pace to have one of the most prolific offenses in Southeastern Conference history, but the defense and special teams have been shaky. That nearly cost them in a 51-44 victory Saturday against Tennessee.
No. 4 LSU goes to No. 10 Florida, a crossover SEC matchup that should answer a key question in the national championship race: How worried should the Tigers be about their lethargic offense?
In the Big 12, offense shouldn’t be a problem when No. 8 West Virginia visits No. 11 Texas.
The Mountaineers were ridiculous in Saturday’s 70-63 victory against Baylor. Geno Smith threw for eight touchdowns. For the season, he’s completed 83 percent of his passes while grabbing the early lead in the Heisman Trophy race.
No. 2 Oregon is home against No. 23 Washington, which is coming off a 17-13 victory against Stanford.
In the Big Ten, No. 12 Ohio State hosts No. 21 Nebraska.
Add to that No. 9 Notre Dame facing Miami (4-1) in Chicago, and No. 3 Florida State playing at North Carolina State, and there is no doubt the top 10 will look very different next Sunday — with one exception.
Alabama is off, so No. 1 is most likely safe.
It was only one spot, but Florida State’s move to No. 3 gives the Seminoles their best ranking since they were No. 3 in the first week of November 2003.
The Seminoles were a bit flat but effective in a 30-17 victory at South Florida. The biggest challenge for Florida State in the coming weeks will be staying focused enough to dodge the upset.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has only one other ranked team right now, and the Seminoles have already dispatched Clemson. They do have to play at Miami (Oct. 20) and Virginia Tech (Nov. 8), and as always they finish the season against rival Florida of the SEC. The ACC championship game could rematch Florida State with the Hurricanes or Hokies.
Fact is, of all the teams that look like national title contenders right now, Florida State has the most manageable schedule. Can the Seminoles take advantage?
Stanford followed up its big win against Southern California by losing to Washington, dropping the Cardinal 10 spots in the poll to No. 18.
So how good are the post-Andrew Luck Cardinal? This is a team that struggled to beat San Jose State, couldn’t muster any offense against Washington, but manhandled USC.
Dig deep and the USC game looks like an outlier. Stanford’s power running game has sputtered to 3.9 yards per carry as opponents show little respect for new quarterback Josh Nunes and his less-than-reliable receivers.Take away the 202-yard rushing performance against the Trojans, and Stanford is averaging 3.3 yards per carry against San Jose State, Duke and Washington.
IN AND OUT
No. 24 Northwestern is ranked for the first time since the last regular-season poll of the 2008 season.
How seriously should we take the Wildcats? Given the state of the Big Ten, there’s no reason to think they can’t contend for a Legends Division title with Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State. Still, the combined record of Northwestern’s opponents is 6-14 after it beat Indiana 44-29 behind quarterback Kain Colter’s four touchdowns rushing.
Next up for the Wildcats, who don’t play either Wisconsin or Ohio State from the Leaders division: at Penn State.
No. 23 Washington also moved into the rankings for the first time this season, and No. 25 UCLA was back in after a week out.
Falling out after losses were Michigan State and Baylor, which became the first team to score 63 points and fall out of the rankings. Boise State dropped out after a 32-29 victory at New Mexico.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The Pac-12 has six teams in the Top 25, including No. 14 Oregon State, which has been the most surprising team in the nation so far.
The last time the Pac-12 was so well represented in the AP poll was Sept. 15, 2002.
Oregon State has been quite the story. Since having their first game postponed, the Beavers have beaten Wisconsin, UCLA and Arizona. After those last two wins on the road, the Beavers celebrated with trips to In-N-Out Burger, coach Mike Riley proudly tweeted.
ODDS & ENDS
With Boise State falling out of the rankings, there are no teams from outside the BCS automatic-qualifying conferences in the poll. … Digging into the others receiving votes, there are a couple of non-AQ teams to watch out for in Louisiana Tech (37 points) and Ohio (30). Defending Western Athletic Conference champion La Tech is averaging 52 points per game and has road wins at Houston, Illinois and Virginia. Ohio is 5-0 for the first time since 1968 after dodging an upset with a 37-34 victory at Massachusetts. … Clemson and TCU are tied for 15th in this week’s rankings.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.