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College football rankings: Are Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa beatable?

I spent Saturday in Norman, where a Top 10 team almost got upset. But the Sooners pulled out a win, and so did everyone else I had ranked in the Top 10 (Plus One) last week. In fact, I only have one change. It’s essentially a swap of No. 10 and No. 11. Unfortunately, since we only rank 10—and the Plus One is reserved for a team far outside the Top 10—that means LSU drops out for now.

1. Alabama (10–0)

Last week: 1

Last game: Beat Mississippi State, 24–0

Next game: Saturday vs. The Citadel

Alabama’s defense was nasty again. Yes, Mississippi State should have scored one touchdown—that block-in-the-back call was bogus—but the Bulldogs weren’t going to get anything else. Even though Mississippi State’s defense made Tua Tagovailoa look something close to normal (14 of 21, 164 yards, one touchdown, one interception), the Bulldogs would get the ball back and Alabama’s entire defensive line would jump on Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Still, it’s worth repeating that a defense made Tagovailoa look normal. Maybe Georgia can do that. Maybe Michigan can do that. Maybe Clemson can do that. But can they score enough to hang with the Crimson Tide?

READ: Heisman Trophy Watch: Tua Tagovailoa Looks Human Against Mississippi State

2. Clemson (10–0)

Last week: 2

Last game: Beat Boston College, 27–7

Next game: Saturday vs. Duke

Boston College didn’t make it easy on the Tigers, but clinching the ACC Atlantic Division shouldn’t be easy. Clemson is headed to Charlotte—where it may play… Pittsburgh—and shouldn’t be challenged the rest of the way. That doesn’t mean the Tigers won’t be challenged. It’s just that they shouldn’t be.

3. Notre Dame (10–0)

Last week: 3

Last game: Beat Florida State, 42–13

Next game: Saturday vs. Syracuse at Yankee Stadium

Brandon Wimbush didn’t have the best game (12 of 25, 130 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions) in relief of injured Ian Book, but Dexter Williams ran through Florida State’s defense to the tune of 10.2 yards a carry for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Now the Fighting Irish hit the road for the rest of the regular season. If they can beat Syracuse at Yankee Stadium and win at USC, they’ll make the playoff. The Irish had better worry about the Orange and not the Trojans this week.

4. Michigan (9–1)

Last week: 4

Last game: Beat Rutgers, 42–7

Next game: Saturday vs. Indiana

The Wolverines hammered the Scarlet Knights as expected. They also should hammer Indiana. But they’ll need to be careful not to look ahead to Ohio State.

5. Georgia (9­–1)

Last week: 6

Last game: Beat Auburn, 27–10

Next game: Saturday vs. Massachusetts

The Bulldogs ran 46 times for 303 yards and converted eight of 14 third downs. Buoyed by that running game, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm was an efficient 13 of 20 for 193 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Georgia’s defense, meanwhile, never let Auburn’s receivers and backs get loose. Jarrett Stidham completed 24 of 36 passes for 163 yards. That’s 4.5 yards per attempt. You won’t find many bad days for a quarterback with those numbers for attempts and completions, but Georgia made Stidham have one.

6. Oklahoma (9–1)

Last week: 6

Last game: Beat Oklahoma State, 48–47

Next game: Saturday vs. Kansas

The Sooners won a thriller against Oklahoma State, but that defense might wind up being the thing that keeps Oklahoma and its brutally balanced offense out of the playoff.

7. West Virginia (8–1)

Last week: 7

Last game: Beat TCU, 47–10

Next game: Saturday at Oklahoma State

The Mountaineers rolled again against a TCU team that has fallen off the map. West Virginia held TCU to minus-7 rushing yards, and Mountaineers quarterback Will Grier threw for 343 yards with three touchdowns. Now West Virginia must hit the road and face an Oklahoma State team that nearly knocked off Oklahoma on Saturday. If the Mountaineers let Taylor Cornelius throw for 503 yards like he did against Oklahoma, they won’t leave Stillwater with a win.

8. UCF (9–0)

Last week: 8

Last game: Beat Navy, 35–24

Next game: Saturday vs. Cincinnati

UCF went up 21–0 in the second quarter and cruised the rest of the way against Navy. The Knights now face perhaps their toughest challenge of the season when Cincinnati comes to Orlando. A win will put UCF in the American Athletic Conference title game for the second consecutive season. It also would be consecutive win No. 23.

9. Washington State (9–1)

Last week: 9

Last game: Beat Colorado, 31–7

Next game: Saturday vs. Arizona

Star receiver Leviska Shenault played for Colorado, but Washington State’s defense remained stingy. Meanwhile, it seems everyone is celebrating Movember by copying the style of Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew.

10. Ohio State (9–1)

Last week: Unranked

Last game: Beat Michigan State, 26–6

Next game: Saturday at Maryland

Michigan State’s defense stymied Ohio State’s offense for much of the game, but Ohio State’s special teamers—particularly punter Drue Chrisman—were outstanding. Chrisman pinned the Spartans inside their own 10-yard line six times, and one punt that was downed inside the 1-yard line led directly to an Ohio State touchdown. The Buckeyes aren’t perfect, but if they can find ways to overcome their deficiencies the way they did Saturday, then they still have a chance to win the Big Ten and make the playoff.

Plus One: Minnesota (5–5)

Last game: Beat Purdue, 41–10

Next game: Saturday vs. Northwestern

A week earlier, the Golden Gophers gave up 430 rushing yards in a shocking 55–31 loss to Illinois. The next day, head coach P.J. Fleck fired defensive coordinator Robb Smith. Saturday, Minnesota pounded Purdue for an equally shocking result. The Boilermakers averaged only 3.8 yards a play, and the Gophers helped out Northwestern by making it possible for the Wildcats to clinch the Big Ten West title with their win at Iowa. Now Northwestern can help Minnesota out by losing in Minneapolis next week so the Gophers can go bowling.

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