It always gets good this time of year, the unpredictability and wackiness of college football.
Yep, that's three straight weeks now that we've had one of those head-scratching losses by a team near the top of ESPN's Power Rankings. This latest was Oklahoma going on the road and losing 48-41 to Kansas State. The week before, it was Wisconsin losing at Illinois. And the week before that, it was Georgia losing at home to South Carolina.
There are sure to be a few more before the College Football Playoff committee gets around to making its selections in December. But for the time being, and with the calendar about to flip to November, we'll go with LSU in the top spot.
The Tigers own three wins over teams that were ranked in the top 10 when they played. Ohio State is a close No. 2. The Buckeyes have won every game by at least 24 points and don't appear to have many weaknesses. But in the realm of college football, that's always subject to change.
Here are the updated ESPN Power Rankings after Week 9:
1. LSU (8-0, 4-0 SEC)
After lighting up scoreboards and overwhelming opponents with sheer firepower on offense, LSU proved on Saturday that it can also grind out a win against a top-10 team. Despite a few hiccups, 118 yards in penalties and being stopped on downs at the goal line, LSU held off Auburn for a 23-20 win, the Tigers' second home victory over a top-10 opponent in as many weeks. They now have an open date before a big showdown with Alabama in two weeks in Tuscaloosa. But what a job Ed Orgeron has done in Baton Rouge. Since losing to Troy on Sept. 30, 2017, LSU is 24-5 with eight wins over top-10 foes.
Up next: Open date
2. Ohio State (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten)
Good luck in finding a more complete team in college football to this point than Ohio State, which raced past Wisconsin for a 38-7 rout that was actually close for a while in the first half. Quarterback Justin Fields has been the main cog for the Buckeyes this season, but running back J.K. Dobbins and defensive end Chase Young were the stars Saturday. Dobbins ran for 163 yards, and Young had four sacks in a Heismanesque performance. There doesn't appear to be many roadblocks in the Buckeyes' way the next few weeks. After an open date, they get Maryland at home and then Rutgers on the road before closing the regular season with Penn State and Michigan.
Up next: Open date
3. Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC)
For two weeks now, most of the talk about Alabama will be focused on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the health of his right ankle, which he underwent surgery on last week. The Crimson Tide hope to get him back for the LSU showdown on Nov. 9 after next week's open date, but his backup, Mac Jones, looked just fine Saturday night in throwing for 235 yards and three touchdowns in the 48-7 beatdown of Arkansas. Alabama led 41-0 at the half and has scored at least 35 points in every game this season. The open date comes at a good time for the Tide. Receiver DeVonta Smith was also banged up in the Arkansas game.
Up next: Open date
4. Clemson (8-0, 6-0 ACC)
Since that scare against North Carolina on Sept. 28, Clemson has made it look too easy. The Tigers ran their winning streak to 23 straight games Saturday with a 59-7 battering of Boston College. In their past three games, the Tigers have won by a combined total of 118 points and will be heavily favored in every game they play the rest of the regular season. Trevor Lawrence has thrown nine touchdown passes in his past three games, and Clemson's defense has been nothing short of dominant the entire season. North Carolina is the only team to score more than 14 points against the Tigers.
Up next: vs. Wofford (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ACC Network)
5. Penn State (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten)
The Nittany Lions completed the state of Michigan sweep. A week after taking down Michigan at home, Penn State went on the road to smother Michigan State 28-7. The Nittany Lions are 37-7 dating to the first week of October 2016, and remain right in the middle of the College Football Playoff equation. Penn State has held seven of its eight opponents to 13 or fewer points, and Sean Clifford is quietly putting together one of the more underrated seasons for a quarterback in college football. He completed 18 passes Saturday, but four of them went for touchdowns.
Up next: Open date
6. Florida (7-1, 4-1 SEC)
The Gators had an open date this week but received some big wins off the field. Coach Dan Mullen said he expected two of their top defenders, Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga, to be healthy enough to play next week against Georgia. Mullen also expects receiver Kadarius Toney to be back. Greenard and Zuniga, who have combined for seven sacks, have both been dealing with ankle injuries. They didn't play at all in the South Carolina game and missed most of the LSU game, which really hurt the Gators' ability to rush the passer. Toney has been out since Week 2 when he went down because of a shoulder injury. He provides another dimension to the Gators' offense with his big-play ability as a runner and receiver. So it looks as if Florida could be getting healthy at just the right time.
Up next: vs. Georgia (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
7. Georgia (6-1, 3-1 SEC)
The open date probably came at a good time for the Dawgs as they get ready for next week's showdown with Florida. It has been a struggle offensively for Georgia the past couple of games. The Bulldogs won 21-0 last week in a downpour against Kentucky, a game that was scoreless at the half, and lost 20-17 in two overtimes to South Carolina the week before that when they turned it over four times. Georgia can still play its way back into the College Football Playoff picture but needs to find some more consistency on offense and fast. Two weeks after the Florida game, the Dawgs have to go on the road against Auburn.
Up next: vs. Florida (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CBS)
8. Oregon (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12)
Oregon would love to have back that season-opening loss to Auburn. Of course, there's no getting it back, and the Ducks have managed to take care of business since, albeit barely on Saturday at home. Justin Herbert led a winning drive in the final minute, setting up Camden Lewis' 26-yard field goal, and the Ducks won their seventh straight in a thrilling 37-35 victory over Washington State. At this point, Oregon could very well be carrying the Pac-12 banner if the league is going to send a team to the College Football Playoff for the first time since the 2016 season. But to have any chance, the Ducks would probably need to win out, which would include winning the Pac-12 championship. USC awaits next week in Los Angeles.
Up next: at USC (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Fox)
9. Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12)
Just when you think no team is going to be able to slow down the Sooners, they go on the road, fall way behind Kansas State and can't climb back out of the hole. The 48-41 setback really puts Oklahoma on the outside looking in as far as the College Football Playoff. The Sooners had been much improved on defense for most of this season but gave up 426 total yards to the Wildcats, who defeated Oklahoma in Manhattan for the first time since 1996.
Up next: Open date
10. Utah (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12)
Look out for Utah in the Pac-12 race. Kyle Whittingham has the Utes playing some of their best football. They won their fourth in a row Saturday night in a 35-0 home rout of Cal. Utah's only loss this season was in Week 4 on the road against USC. Since that loss, Utah has outscored its opposition 146-23 during its four-game winning streak. With the loss to USC, Utah would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Trojans in the Pac-12 South Division race, which makes next week's game at Washington especially important.
Up next: at Washington (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, Fox)
11. Baylor (7-0, 4-0 Big 12)
A lot of people thought Oklahoma would be unbeaten at this point, but good luck in finding anybody who thought Baylor would be the Big 12's only other unbeaten club. The Bears were off this week, which is good, because they will have a short week to prepare for West Virginia at home Thursday. Baylor is coming off of its most impressive win of the season when it handled Oklahoma State on the road 45-27 two weeks ago. The Bears have scored 109 points in their past three games and are ranked 14th nationally in total offense averaging 484.1 yards per game.
Up next: vs. West Virginia (Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
12. Minnesota (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten)
Maybe it's Minnesota that is that "other" team in the Big Ten this season. The Golden Gophers remained unbeaten with a 52-10 dismantling of Maryland. It gets a lot tougher from here. Following an open date, Minnesota faces Penn State at home and then travels to Iowa in back-to-back weeks. With Wisconsin losing again, that Iowa game in a few weeks looms large in the Big Ten West race. But just the fact that Minnesota will be unbeaten going into November tells you all you need to know about the coaching job P.J. Fleck has done in his third season in Minneapolis.
Up next: Open date
13. Auburn (6-2, 3-2 SEC)
When this season is over on the Plains, there's going to be a ton of angst about what Auburn didn't do with a defense of this caliber. The Tigers are a load on that side of the ball and good enough defensively to win against anybody they play. But once again in a 23-20 loss at LSU, they simply weren't good enough or consistent enough on offense to get it done on the road against a top-10 team. The good news is that they get Georgia and Alabama at home in November, but the defense is going to need some more help in those games for the Tigers to win and help salvage this season.
Up next: vs. Ole Miss (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
14. Wisconsin (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten)
Once riding high, the Badgers are now suddenly reeling after being thumped 38-7 by Ohio State, only a week after an inexplicable loss to Illinois. Wisconsin had not given up more than 15 points in its first six games but has yielded 62 points in its two losses the past two weeks. An even bigger problem for the Badgers is that they simply haven't been much of a threat on offense, especially in the passing game. Jack Coan was held to 108 yards through the air in the loss to Ohio State.
Up next: Open date
15. Michigan (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten)
This is a game Michigan needed, and really, one that Jim Harbaugh needed. The Wolverines didn't just beat Notre Dame on Saturday. They beat up the Irish 45-14 in the rain in the kind of bounce-back win at home from a road loss at Penn State that should give Harbaugh and Michigan a huge dose of momentum heading into November. The Wolverines went right at the Irish and pounded away for 167 rushing yards in the first half, 136 between the tackles. They have a real chance now to go into that Ohio State game on Nov. 30 riding a four-game winning streak.
Up next: at Maryland (Saturday, noon ET, ABC)
16. Notre Dame (5-2)
It's never ideal to be pummeled physically the way Notre Dame was on Saturday in a 45-14 loss at Michigan. But the Irish were also coming off of an open date and looked anything but ready to play against a Michigan team that was coming off of a tough loss to Penn State. Notre Dame saw its three-game winning streak in the series snapped and will be one of those teams a lot of people will debate. The Irish have played three games against nationally ranked foes this season and lost two of them, the other loss coming to Georgia in September.
Up next: vs. Virginia Tech (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
17. SMU (8-0, 4-0 AAC)
SMU just keeps winning (and scoring) and took down Houston 34-31 on the road in a Thursday night game in which coach Sonny Dykes conceded the Mustangs didn't play their best. Coming into the game, SMU had scored 41 or more points in six straight games but was outgained by Houston in total yards 510-385. Of course, the only thing that matters is that SMU is 8-0 for the first time since starting 10-0 in 1982 and remains right in the middle of the race for the Group of 5 spot in a New Year's Six bowl game.
Up next: at Memphis (Saturday, TBD)
18. Cincinnati (6-1, 3-0 AAC)
The Bearcats, the only unbeaten team in conference play in the AAC East, were off and have what looks to be very manageable path to what's shaping up to be a huge AAC showdown with Memphis in the regular-season finale on Nov. 29. The Bearcats' next four games are against East Carolina, UConn, South Florida and Temple. Cincinnati's only loss was to Ohio State the second week of the season, and Luke Fickell's Bearcats are 17-3 dating to the start of the 2018 season.
Up next: at East Carolina (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
19. Boise State (6-1, 3-0 Mountain West)
With the open date, the Broncos have had some extra time to figure out what went wrong a week earlier in a 28-25 loss to BYU. They're still in the running for the Group of 5 spot in a New Year's Six bowl game but will need to win out and probably need some help along the way, as in SMU, Cincinnati, Appalachian State and Memphis all stumbling. Three of Boise State's five games in November will be on the road.
Up next: at San Jose State (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
20. Kansas State (5-2, 2-2 Big 12)
Seven games into Chris Klieman's first season at Kansas State, it's pretty obvious that he has this program on the right trajectory, especially considering the way the Wildcats handled Oklahoma 48-41 on Saturday. A week earlier, Kansas State beat TCU at home, recovering from back-to-back losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State. It was Kansas State's first win over Oklahoma in Manhattan since 1996 and opens the door for the Wildcats to make a postseason appearance after not playing in a bowl game a year ago.
Up next: at Kansas (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
21. Wake Forest (6-1, 2-1 ACC)
Dave Clawson deserves some consideration for Coach of the Year honors, and the Demon Deacons just might be the ACC's second-best team behind Clemson. Raise your hand if you saw that coming back in August. Wake Forest was off this week before embarking on a November stretch that features three road games, and the Deacs will be without leading tackler Justin Strnad the rest of the season after he ruptured his biceps tendon in the win over Florida State. Clawson has steadily improved the program. He was 6-18 in his first two seasons at Wake, but is 23-12 in his past 35 games.
Up next: vs. NC State (Saturday, noon ET, ESPN)
22. Appalachian State (7-0, 4-0 Sun Belt)
The Mountaineers flexed their muscles with 349 rushing yards in a 30-3 win at South Alabama to remain unbeaten. Appalachian State has been especially impressive in the line of scrimmage this season. In their last three games, the Mountaineers have given up a total of 17 points. They haven't skipped a beat under first-year coach Eli Drinkwitz and already own a win over North Carolina of the ACC earlier this season. They still have a tough stretch upcoming with three of their last five games on the road, including at South Carolina on Nov. 9.
Up next: vs. Georgia Southern (Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
23. Iowa (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten)
The Hawkeyes have now won two in a row after losing back-to-back games to Penn State and Michigan. Their 20-0 shutout of Northwestern on Saturday on the road was a continuation of the kind of defense that's going to win a team a lot of games. In seven of the Hawkeyes' eight games this season, they've held their opponents to 17 or fewer points. Following an open date, Iowa has nationally ranked foes Wisconsin and Minnesota coming up to kick off its November slate.
Up next: Open date
24. San Diego State (7-1, 4-1 Mountain West)
San Diego State had to hold on for dear life, not to mention weather a potential tying 42-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds. But the Aztecs found a way to remain atop the West Division standings in the Mountain West Conference with a 20-17 victory Saturday over UNLV on the road. It was San Diego State's fourth straight win. Following an open date, the Aztecs will return home for back-to-back games against Nevada and Fresno State with their eyes squarely on earning a trip to the conference championship game.
Up next: Open date
25. Memphis (7-1, 3-1 AAC)
If not for a two-point loss at Temple earlier this month, Memphis would be the AAC's second unbeaten team along with SMU. Mike Norvell's Tigers held on to beat Tulsa 42-41 on Saturday and will get their shot at the unbeaten Mustangs next Saturday at home. Memphis has scored 35 or more points in six of its seven wins, and Kenneth Gainwell showed yet again why he's one of the most exciting freshmen in college football. He had a 62-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, his fifth play from scrimmage of 50 yards or longer this season.
Up next: vs. SMU (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)