2:54 AM ET
Mark SchlabachESPN Senior Writer
- Senior college football writer
- Author of seven books on college football
- Graduate of the University of Georgia
On a Saturday in which the top two teams in the AP and coaches’ polls didn’t play, the other College Football Playoff contenders behind Alabama and Clemson held serve without much drama.
Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Wisconsin each won by 24 points or more.
Florida made the biggest statement of Week 6 with a 24-13 victory over Auburn. The Gators’ reward is next weekend’s trip to LSU.
Here are the ESPN Power Rankings after Week 6:
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0)
The Crimson Tide had the weekend off before their biggest test of 2019 so far — next Saturday’s trip to Texas A&M. The Tide lead the all-time series 9-3, including a 4-0 record in College Station. Alabama won last season’s meeting 45-23 at home. Tide coach Nick Saban is 17-0 against his former assistants, including a 2-0 mark against Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher, who was his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU from 2000 to 2004. Saban’s teams have won those games by an average of 41-14.
Up next: at Texas A&M (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
2. Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0)
One of the concerns about Ohio State going forward was its offensive line, but the unit responded in the second quarter of a 34-10 victory over Michigan State. After struggling against the Spartans’ menacing defensive front early (OSU had 16 yards on its first 16 offensive plays), the Buckeyes settled down and had 296 yards in the second quarter, when they exploded for 24 points. OSU had 323 rushing yards on 49 attempts. Justin Fields, who was sacked twice early and threw his first interception of the season, completed 17 of 25 passes for 206 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in his most difficult test so far.
Up next: at Northwestern (Oct. 18, 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
3. Georgia Bulldogs (5-0)
Tennessee quarterback Brian Maurer and his receivers gashed Georgia’s defense for big plays early. Not so much in the second half, however. Georgia’s defense allowed only 104 yards after halftime, and linebacker Tae Crowder scooped up a fumble and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown as the Bulldogs pulled away for a 43-14 victory on the road. The Bulldogs had three sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Georgia has won eight of the past 10 against the Volunteers. The Bulldogs triumphed in the two most recent games at Neyland Stadium by a combined score of 84-14. One sore spot: UGA had 11 penalties for 107 yards.
Up next: vs. South Carolina (Saturday, noon ET, ESPN)
4. LSU Tigers (5-0)
LSU’s offensive renaissance continued Saturday, as the Tigers piled up 610 yards in a 42-6 rout of Utah State. Joe Burrow became the first LSU quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards in four consecutive games; he had 344 yards and five touchdowns on 27-for-38 passing against the Aggies. Burrow already has 22 touchdown passes this season, which is five more than the Tigers had in each of the previous two seasons and 10 more than they had in 2016. He needs only six more TD tosses to tie the school single-season record of 28 set by JaMarcus Russell (2006) and Matt Mauck (2003).
Up next: vs. Florida (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
5. Clemson Tigers (5-0)
The Tigers also were idle Saturday, and they needed the extra practice time to get their offense back in rhythm. While the offense has unexpectedly struggled at times, Clemson’s defense has been pretty stout. The Tigers has held each of their first five opponents under 300 yards of offense; Ohio State is the only other FBS program to do that. Despite losing four starting defensive linemen and two linebackers from last season’s national championship squad, the Tigers are pressuring opposing quarterbacks 47% of the time, which is the fourth-highest mark in the FBS.
Up next: vs. Florida State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
6. Oklahoma Sooners (5-0)
Whether it was because of bad weather, a sparse crowd, their opponent or looking ahead to next weekend’s showdown against Texas in the Red River Rivalry, the Sooners seemed to be a little lackadaisical in a 45-20 victory at Kansas on Saturday. If a 25-point win is considered a letdown, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley probably would take it every week. Jalen Hurts threw for 228 yards with two touchdowns and ran for 56 yards with two more scores. He is responsible for 21 touchdowns this season, which is tied with Kyler Murray (2018) for the most by an OU player through the first five games in the past 15 years, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information.
Up next: vs. Texas in Dallas (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)
7. Wisconsin Badgers (5-0)
Wisconsin’s defense pitched a 48-0 shutout over Kent State on Saturday, and the Badgers are on pace to be one of the most statistically dominant units in Big Ten history. Wisconsin has allowed only 29 points in five games — the fewest since it surrendered 26 in the first five games in 2004 — and it posted its third shutout of the season, tying the school record for a single season set in 1937. The Badgers are the first Big Ten team to have three shutouts in the first five games since the 1973 Michigan squad. Kent State managed only 124 yards of offense — 64 passing and 60 rushing.
Up next: vs. Michigan State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)
8. Florida Gators (6-0)
Georgia won’t waltz to the SEC championship game. Florida’s defense made quite a statement in its 24-13 win over Auburn on Saturday, forcing four turnovers with three sacks. The Gators have allowed only 16 points in four home games this season. The Gators made their share of mistakes, turning the ball over four times (losing fumbles on three consecutive possessions) and failing to pick up a first down on a fake punt from their 34-yard line. But quarterback Kyle Trask showed some toughness by coming back from a sprained knee to complete 19 of 31 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
Up next: at LSU (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-1)
The Irish passing game rolled against overmatched Bowling Green, as Ian Book became the first Notre Dame quarterback to throw five touchdowns (to four different players) in the first half during a 52-0 shutout. Book also joined Brady Quinn (2005) as the only Irish players with multiple games with five touchdown passes in the same season. The Irish posted their first shutout in more than five years; the previous one was a 31-0 victory over Michigan on Sept. 6, 2014. They are about to face their most difficult two-game stretch remaining — at home against Southern California on Saturday and at Michigan on Oct. 26.
Up next: vs. USC (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
10. Texas Longhorns (4-1)
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger warned us that the “horns down” hand signals during West Virginia’s 42-41 win in Austin last season wouldn’t be forgotten. Ehlinger delivered on his promise Saturday, as he threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more in a 42-31 win over the Mountaineers. Texas’ banged-up defense surrendered more than 30 points for the third time this season. But the Longhorns intercepted Austin Kendall four times, held the Mountaineers to only 96 rushing yards and limited them to 4-for-14 on third down.
Up next: vs. Oklahoma in Dallas (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)
11. Penn State Nittany Lions (5-0)
The Nittany Lions jumped on a depleted Purdue team early and then took their foot off the pedal in a 35-7 win. Penn State scored touchdowns on each of its first four possessions for a 28-0 lead, but it scored only once more, on Noah Cain‘s 2-yard run with 5:44 to play in the contest. That was more than enough against the Boilermakers, who played without quarterback Elijah Sindelar and star wide receiver Rondale Moore. Penn State’s defense had 10 sacks, which was one shy of the school single-game record.
Up next: at Iowa (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
12. Auburn Tigers (5-1)
After a promising start to his Auburn career, freshman quarterback Bo Nix‘s youth showed in the 24-13 loss at Florida. Nix completed only 11 of 27 passes for 145 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. The Gators rattled him with pressure early and often; he was 0-for-5 with two sacks when under duress. He is now only 8-for-38 when passing under pressure this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. Nix completed only 4 of 17 passes on attempts of longer than 5 yards against the Gators. The Tigers get an off week to correct address their offensive miscues.
Up next: at Arkansas (Oct. 19, TBD)
13. Oregon Ducks (4-1)
In the not-so-distant past, Oregon wouldn’t have had a chance to win if its offense struggled. But Mario Cristobal continues to transform the Ducks into a physical team, and they were able to overcome a plethora of first-half mistakes to escape with a 17-7 win versus California. The Ducks had three turnovers in the first two quarters and trailed 7-0 at halftime. Then the Oregon defense opened the second half with four consecutive three-and-outs and an interception. The Ducks’ leading rusher, CJ Verdell, left in the first half with a right ankle injury, and starting defensive end Gus Cumberlander hurt his knee late.
Up next: vs. Colorado (Friday, 10 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
14. Utah Utes (4-1)
The Utes got the week off after their 38-13 victory over Washington State on Sept. 28, and the open date couldn’t have come at a better time. Running back Zack Moss is expected back for Saturday’s game at Oregon State, after not playing against the Cougars because of a shoulder injury. And a foot injury had been bothering quarterback Tyler Huntley. Meanwhile, junior slot receiver Britain Covey, who was coming back from a torn ACL that occurred in last season’s Pac-12 championship game, suffered swelling, and he is expected to redshirt after playing in only four games in 2019. He had previously been bothered by continued swelling and pain.
Up next: at Oregon State (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Pac-12)
15. Boise State Broncos (5-0)
After being tested by Florida State and Marshall to start the season, the Broncos have rolled through their past three games, including a 38-13 victory at UNLV on Saturday night. It figures to get more difficult over the next two weeks, however, with games looming against Hawai’i at home and then BYU on the road. The Broncos were among the least penalized teams in the FBS before Saturday night, when they had 10 for 130 yards. Two 15-yard fouls helped UNLV score its only touchdown. The good news: The Broncos got back two key pieces for UNLV when safety DeAndre Pierce and right tackle John Ojukwu returned for the first time since the opener at FSU.
Up next: vs. Hawai’i (Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
16. Michigan Wolverines (4-1)
The Wolverines finally won a game that mattered, taking down Iowa 10-3 at home, and they can thank their defense for the victory. Michigan’s D yielded only 1 rushing yard, in large part due to eight sacks, and allowed Iowa’s running backs to average only 3.2 yards per carry. Michigan’s offense still left a lot to be desired, though, as the Wolverines didn’t score in the final 51½ minutes and converted four Iowa turnovers into only three points. Michigan had only 147 passing yards on 26 attempts and went 3-for-13 on third down.
Up next: at Illinois (Saturday, noon ET, ABC)
17. Arizona State Sun Devils (4-1)
The Sun Devils should be better equipped after their bye week to defend Washington State’s pass-happy offense after three key defensive players were able to recover from lingering injuries. Senior middle linebacker Kobe Williams, who had started 30 consecutive games before missing a 24-17 win at California on Sept. 27, had surgery last week to repair a broken middle finger on his right hand. Safety Cam Phillips (dislocated elbow) and cornerback Chase Lucas (wrist) also are expected to play against the Cougars, who had an open date as well after dropping consecutive games against UCLA and Utah.
Up next: vs. Washington State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)
18. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-0)
The Demon Deacons, who also had a bye, have been one of the best stories in college football so far this season. They’ve won seven consecutive games going back to the final two of 2018, tying the longest winning streak in school history, also accomplished by the 1944 squad. They’re 5-0 for the first time since 2006, when they went 11-2, won the ACC and played in the Orange Bowl. The Demon Deacons have won their past two games against Louisville — 42-32 at home in 2017 and 56-35 on the road in 2018.
Up next: vs. Louisville (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network)
19. Baylor Bears (5-0)
Matt Rhule’s remarkable work at Baylor continued as the Bears won 31-12 at Kansas State for their first road victory in Big 12 play in two years. Baylor’s defense was once again the difference, as it had six sacks and 15 tackles for loss — the most in a Big 12 game by the Bears in more than a decade. One concern: Quarterback Charlie Brewer exited with an undisclosed injury with about 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Rhule didn’t have an immediate update on his status. The Bears might be ranked in their next four games before Oklahoma and Texas come to Waco, Texas, in November.
Up next: vs. Texas Tech (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, TBD)
20. Iowa Hawkeyes (4-1)
Iowa had turned the ball over once in its first four games, which was tied with Oregon State for fewest in the FBS. The Hawkeyes weren’t nearly as secure with the football in a 10-3 loss at Michigan, throwing three interceptions and losing one fumble. The Hawkeyes also surrendered eight sacks in what was a miserable offensive performance at the Big House. The Hawkeyes had a couple of chances to tie the game late, but penalties and other miscues thwarted those possessions. It won’t get any easier at home against Penn State next weekend.
Up next: vs. Penn State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
21. Virginia Cavaliers (4-1)
The Cavaliers had an extra week to bounce back from their 35-20 loss at Notre Dame on Sept. 28. There were plenty of mistakes to correct, after Virginia had five turnovers and surrendered eight sacks, including five in the third quarter. The Fighting Irish scored 28 points off Virginia turnovers, after its opponents had scored only 10 points off turnovers in the first four games combined. The Cavs have dropped four of their past six games against upcoming opponent Miami, but they won 16-13 at home in 2018.
Up next: at Miami (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
22. SMU Mustangs (6-0)
The Mustangs have been one of the best stories of the season, and their remarkable turnaround under Sonny Dykes continued in dramatic fashion with a 43-37 win over Tulsa in three overtimes on Saturday night. SMU rallied from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter and won in the third OT on Shane Buechele‘s 25-yard touchdown pass to James Proche. The Mustangs are 6-0 for the first time since 1982, when they finished 11-0-1 with Eric Dickerson and Craig James. The comeback matched the second-biggest in school history; SMU also rallied from 21 back against Baylor in 1975.
Up next: vs. Temple (Oct. 19, TBD)
23. Cincinnati Bearcats (4-1)
The Bearcats clamped down on UCF’s high-scoring offense to pull off a 27-24 victory on Friday night to take early control of the American Athletic Conference East race. The victory ended UCF’s streak of 19 consecutive wins over AAC foes, and it snapped the Knights’ string of scoring at least 30 points in 31 consecutive games, which was the longest such streak in the FBS since 1936. The Bearcats forced four turnovers and limited UCF to only 3.0 yards per carry. The Bearcats have recovered nicely from an early 42-0 loss at Ohio State.
Up next: at Houston (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
24. Memphis Tigers (5-0)
The Tigers haven’t played the most arduous schedule to date, but they have a couple of quality wins over Ole Miss and Navy. They also have a fantastic running back, Kenny Gainwell, who became the first Memphis freshman to run for 100 yards or more in three straight games. He had 209 yards — on only 14 carries — in a 52-33 victory over UL Monroe on Saturday, the highest total by a freshman in school history. Memphis’ defense did surrender 575 yards of offense to the Warhawks.
Up next: at Temple (Saturday, noon ET, ESPN2)
25. Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-0)
After needing a quartet of narrow escapes to get through September unscathed, the Golden Gophers could finally relax in a 40-17 win over Illinois on Saturday. Minnesota’s schedule hasn’t been great, and its performances haven’t been overly impressive — it beat FCS foe South Dakota State 28-21 and struggling Georgia Southern 35-32 — but there’s also something to be said for figuring out how to win. The Gophers are 5-0 for the first time since 2004.
Up next: vs. Nebraska (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET)