Nick Saban was back on the Alabama sideline after a COVID-19 scare and a false positive test earlier in the week, and his Crimson Tide are back on top of ESPN's power rankings.
Alabama carved apart a Georgia defense that had been suffocating this season with one explosive play after another and collared the Bulldogs 41-24 on Saturday night in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Clemson, which decimated Georgia Tech 73-7 behind Trevor Lawrence's five first-half touchdown passes, did nothing to lose the No. 1 spot; it was more that Alabama took down No. 3 Georgia and made it look easy in the second half.
And the more you watch the ACC (see North Carolina being upset by Florida State), the more improbable it seems that anybody in that league is going to beat Clemson.
The Big Ten joins the party this Saturday and has four teams in the power rankings -- No. 3 Ohio State, No. 5 Penn State, No. 11 Wisconsin and No. 17 Michigan -- before even playing a game this season. They get their first chance on the field to prove they belong.
The all-league schedule in the SEC has accomplished what many in and around that conference thought it would: We're a month into the season and 10 of the 14 teams have two or more losses.
While Arkansas, now 2-2, didn't make it into the power rankings this week, if we had power rankings for coaches, the Hogs' Sam Pittman, Barry Odom, Kendal Briles and the rest of that Arkansas staff would be right there at the top. Nobody has done a better coaching job to this point than the Hogs' first-year staff, which inherited a program that had lost 20 straight SEC games.
BYU moved into the top 10 at No. 9 after Zach Wilson and the Cougars did a number on Houston in the second half Friday on the road.
And new to the power rankings this week are a pair of unbeatens, No. 21 Coastal Carolina and No. 25 Liberty. They square off on Dec. 5 to close out the regular season.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0)
If you want to be picky, sure, Alabama has had more dominant defenses under Saban. But as long as the Crimson Tide continue to give Mac Jones time to throw the football and he has DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and the rest of those Alabama receivers to throw to, good luck in beating this bunch. And speaking of Alabama's defense, the Tide blanked Georgia in the second half on Saturday to win 41-24 and put the game away in old-school Bama fashion. Senior running back Najee Harris, yet another key cog in that offense, bullied his way to 152 rushing yards on 31 carries.
Up next: at Tennessee (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
D'Eriq King tallies four total touchdown passes, leading Miami to a 31-19 win over Pittsburgh.
2. Clemson Tigers (5-0)
The Tigers did nothing Saturday in a 73-7 thrashing of Georgia Tech to relinquish their crown as one of the most complete, if not the most complete, teams in college football. Clemson has yet to be pushed this season in the ACC and has won 26 straight games against league foes. The Tigers have scored more than 40 points in each of their past four games, and with home games against Syracuse and Boston College the next two weeks, they will likely be unbeaten going into their road game at Notre Dame on Nov. 7.
Up next: vs. Syracuse (Saturday, noon ET, ESPN or ACC Network)
3. Ohio State Buckeyes (0-0)
The Buckeyes' running game will look a little different this season now that J.K. Dobbins is gone. He finished third nationally a year ago with an average of 143.1 yards per game and carried the ball 301 times. Oklahoma graduate transfer Trey Sermon will likely be option No. 1 this season, but sophomore Master Teague III looks to be recovered from his Achilles injury. So instead of one back getting most of the carries, Sermon and Teague figure to share the load for an Ohio State running game that should again be explosive in 2020.
Up next: vs. Nebraska (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)
4. Georgia Bulldogs (3-1)
There's never any shame in losing to Alabama, but the way Georgia lost Saturday night in a 41-24 setback to the Crimson Tide will be what stings the most. The Bulldogs led 24-20 at the half, but they unraveled in the second half amid their own mistakes and an Alabama passing game that has been unstoppable. Despite yielding 564 yards in total offense, Georgia is still elite on defense and, until proved otherwise, is the second-best team in the SEC. But if Georgia gets another shot at Alabama in the SEC championship game, the Dawgs will need to play a much cleaner game to have a chance.
Up next: at Kentucky (Oct. 31, noon ET, SEC Network)
5. Penn State Nittany Lions (0-0)
The Nittany Lions should be fun to watch on offense this season with first-year coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca coming over from Minnesota. One of the keys will be quarterback Sean Clifford being more accurate throwing the ball, but he's got plenty of playmakers around him along with an offensive line that returns four starters. Journey Brown is the headliner in the backfield, but Penn State has plenty of depth and versatility there. Pat Freiermuth is one of the country's premier tight ends, and receiver Jahan Dotson is one of the Big Ten's most underrated players.
Up next: at Indiana (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
6. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0)
It was a struggle the whole way, and the Irish have had stretches this season where they've looked pretty average, but they've made key plays when they've needed to and did again Saturday in a 12-7 home win over Louisville. Veteran quarterback Ian Book made two clutch third-down throws on the final drive to keep the ball away from the Cardinals, and sophomore running back Kyren Williams has rushed for 312 yards in his past two games. Notre Dame will be a big favorite the next two weeks against Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech on the road before returning home to face Clemson on Nov. 7.
Up next: at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
7. Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-0)
The Cowboys' game with Baylor was rescheduled to Dec. 12 after Baylor suspended all football activities to evaluate positive tests for COVID-19 and perform contact tracing. Oklahoma State will have had two consecutive weeks off when it faces Iowa State next weekend, which should be the Cowboys' biggest test yet on defense after giving up just three touchdowns in their first three games. The rescheduling of the Baylor game means Oklahoma State will play four of its last five games on the road prior to the Big 12 championship game on Dec. 19.
Up next: vs. Iowa State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
8. Cincinnati Bearcats (3-0)
One thing we know for sure about the Bearcats is that they should be well rested heading into the toughest stretch of their season. The Bearcats haven't played since Oct. 3 when they defeated South Florida 28-7. Their game Saturday with Tulsa was postponed until Dec. 5 due to positive COVID-19 cases within Cincinnati's program. Upcoming for Luke Fickell's Bearcats, who have allowed just 17 points in their past two outings, are games against SMU, Memphis and Houston in successive weeks. And with the Tulsa postponement, that means Cincinnati will play its final three games on the road.
Up next: at SMU (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
9. BYU Cougars (5-0)
BYU took its biggest step yet toward an unbeaten season with a 43-26 win at Houston on Friday night, and junior quarterback Zach Wilson took another step toward inserting his name squarely into the Heisman Trophy race. The Cougars scored 29 unanswered points after falling behind 26-14 in the third quarter, and Wilson threw three of his four touchdown passes in the final 15 minutes and 53 seconds of the game. BYU, averaging 43.6 points per game, still has its toughest games to come against Boise State (on the road) and San Diego State.
Up next: vs. Texas State (Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)
10. Oregon Ducks (0-0)
The Ducks are the highest-ranked Pac-12 team heading into the season even though they're having to replace a ton of talent on offense. That burden will fall on former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead, who takes over as Oregon's offensive coordinator after Marcus Arroyo left for the UNLV head-coaching job. Moorhead has had very little time on the practice field with the Ducks' players because of the pandemic and has a decision to make at quarterback with Justin Herbert now in the NFL. Sophomore Tyler Shough will try to hold off Boston College graduate transfer Anthony Brown.
Up next: vs. Stanford (Nov. 7, TBA)
11. Wisconsin Badgers (0-0)
The consistency in Paul Chryst's program at Wisconsin has been remarkable. He has guided the Badgers to 10 or more wins in four of his five seasons in Madison, and this year they will be vying for their fourth Big Ten championship game appearance in the past five years. Defense is rarely a problem at Wisconsin. The Badgers finished 10th nationally a year ago in scoring defense (16.9 points per game), and from junior middle linebacker Jack Sanborn to a loaded secondary to budding star Keeanu Benton at nose tackle, they could be even better in 2020.
Up next: vs. Illinois (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network),
12. Texas A&M Aggies (3-1)
After such a lackluster win over Vanderbilt to open the season, much of the college football world was prepared to write off the Aggies as a team that didn't belong among the SEC's elite this season. But Jimbo Fisher's club seems to be finding its groove, and coming off Saturday's 28-14 road win at Mississippi State, Texas A&M could be poised to go on a run when you survey the Aggies' schedule the rest of the way. Sophomore running back Isaiah Spiller has helped take the pressure off quarterback Kellen Mond, and Texas A&M has found some nice balance on offense.
Up next: vs. Arkansas (Oct. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
13. Miami Hurricanes (4-1)
The Hurricanes bounced back from their loss a week earlier to Clemson by holding off Pittsburgh at home for a 31-19 victory. Transfer quarterback D'Eriq King continues to make a huge difference for a Miami offense that has scored more than 30 points in all four its wins. He threw four touchdown passes Saturday, including three of 35 yards or longer. His final scoring toss was a 45-yarder to Will Mallory on a second-and-17 play after Pitt had pulled within 21-16 in the third quarter.
Up next: vs. Virginia (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ACC Network)
14. Florida Gators (2-1)
The Gators will have a while to get things straightened out on defense. They've scored at least 38 points in their first three games, but have given up more than 500 yards in total offense in two of those three games. Their game Saturday with LSU was rescheduled for Dec. 12 due to positive tests and quarantines within the Florida football program. And because of an extended pause of team activities in the Gators' program, their game against Missouri, originally scheduled for this coming Saturday, has been moved to Oct. 31.
Up next: vs. Missouri (Oct. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network Alternate)
15. Kansas State Wildcats (3-1)
The Wildcats, who were off Saturday, have won three games in a row, but will have to play the rest of this season without senior quarterback Skylar Thompson, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. True freshman Will Howard will step in as the starter after leading the Wildcats to a win over TCU a week ago. Kansas State has been good enough on defense, especially when it comes to taking the ball away, that the Wildcats won't have to lean too heavily on Howard. But they will need him to make key throws and take care of the football like he did in the TCU game if they're going to hang around in the Big 12 race.
Up next: vs. Kansas (Saturday, noon ET, FS1)
16. USC Trojans (0-0)
As the Trojans get ready for the start of their season, one thing new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando is promising is that there won't be any holding back when it comes to being physical in practice. USC gave up 31 or more points in four of its last six games a year ago, including 49 in a 49-24 loss to Iowa in the Holiday Bowl. In particular, the Trojans need to be better at stopping the run after finishing 72nd nationally last season in rushing defense. They gave 162.3 yards per game on the ground, which ranked them ninth in the Pac-12.
Up next: vs. Arizona State (Nov. 7, noon ET, Fox)
17. Michigan Wolverines (0-0)
Michigan's pass defense won't have any warm-ups this season with Tanner Morgan, Rashod Bateman and that Minnesota offense being first up on the schedule. The Wolverines' pass rush should be in good shape with Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson coming off the edge, and they've made some moves in the secondary. Junior Sammy Faustin has shifted from safety to cornerback, as the Wolverines seem set at the safety position. Jim Harbaugh said recently that sophomore safety/nickel Daxton Hill might be the most talented player on the team.
Up next: at Minnesota (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
18. SMU Mustangs (5-0)
The Mustangs had to scratch and claw to stay unbeaten on Friday night with a 37-34 overtime victory against Tulane, marking the second straight season that they've started 5-0. The last time that happened was 1983. SMU coach Sonny Dykes said back in June that he expected Shane Buechele to have one of the most productive years of any quarterback in college football. So far, he's been right. Buechele threw two more touchdown passes to go along with 384 passing yards and is now 15-3 since becoming SMU's starting quarterback.
Up next: vs. Cincinnati (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
19. North Carolina Tar Heels (3-1)
The Tar Heels had shown a few hints of possibly being ranked a tad too high earlier this season with some shaky performances. But on Saturday, North Carolina left no doubt in falling behind 24-0 in the second quarter and seeing its rally fall short in a 31-28 loss at Florida State. For perspective, Florida State's only win coming into the game was a comeback victory over Jacksonville State. The Tar Heels are still talented enough to be a factor in the ACC race, so it will be interesting to see how they respond to such a disappointing loss.
Up next: vs. N.C. State (Saturday, noon ET, ESPN or ACC Network)
20. Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1)
We knew the Hokies could score. They had put up at least 38 points in each of their first three tilts, including 45 in an 11-point loss to North Carolina a week ago. That's what made Saturday's 40-14 rout of Boston College so pleasing for Justin Fuente and his Virginia Tech football team. The Hokies played some of their best defense of the season in forcing five Boston College turnovers, and they will need that kind of offensive/defensive balance if they're going to hang around in the ACC race.
Up next: at Wake Forest (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ACC RSN)
21. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (4-0)
Coastal Carolina's baseball team put the Sun Belt Conference school located just outside of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on the map in 2016 by winning the national championship. Now, it's Coastal Carolina's football team that's grabbing headlines. The Chanticleers beat No. 21-ranked Louisiana 30-27 on Wednesday on the road for their first win over an FBS top-25 nationally ranked program in school history. And they did it in dramatic fashion. Massimo Biscardi kicked a game-winning 40-yard field goal with four seconds remaining. The Chants have scored 30 or more points in all four of their wins.
Up next: vs. Georgia Southern (Saturday, noon ET, ESPNU)
22. Oklahoma Sooners (2-2)
The Sooners were off Saturday and could use the rest after their 53-45 win in four overtimes a week ago against Texas. Oklahoma needs to shore up its defense after giving up 31 or more points in regulation in each of its past three games. Playing their way back into the College Football Playoff equation may be a long shot for the Sooners, but they still get Oklahoma State at home in November and aren't completely out of it in the Big 12 race, especially in a season when it looks like the Big 12 could beat up on each other.
Up next: at TCU (Saturday, noon ET, ABC)
23. Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns (3-1)
The Ragin' Cajuns mastered the art of the comeback in their first three wins, as they rallied in all three games. They came from behind three different times to tie the game against Coastal Carolina on Wednesday, and despite rushing for 240 yards, lost for the first time this season in a gut-wrenching 30-27 defeat at home. It was Louisiana's first game since Sept. 26, and the layoff showed in the Ragin' Cajuns' inability to get off the field defensively in key situations. Their Nov. 5 home game with Arkansas State is shaping up to be the pivotal contest in the Sun Belt Conference's West Division race.
Up next: at UAB (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
24. Iowa State Cyclones (3-1)
A span of three or four weeks in any football season can change the complexion of things in a hurry, especially in a season like this one. And after Week 1 and a 31-14 home loss to Louisiana, Iowa State was being chalked up as more of a pretender after some in the preseason predicted the Cyclones to be a contender in the Big 12 race. It's a reminder that overreaction after one week of football is never very wise. Iowa State, which was off this week, has won three straight games and is one of three unbeaten teams in Big 12 play along with Kansas State and Oklahoma State. ISU meets OSU next weekend in Stillwater.
Up next: at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
25. Liberty Flames (5-0)
BYU isn't the only school playing as an independent this season making some noise. Hugh Freeze's Flames are 5-0 after winning 38-21 at Syracuse on Saturday, the first win over an ACC opponent in Liberty school history. Freeze led Liberty to eight wins a year ago in his first season as head coach, and the Flames could be on their way to matching or even surpassing that total this season. They still have some of their most challenging games upcoming against Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and Coastal Carolina, all on the road.
Up next: vs. Southern Miss (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN3)