Top 25 analysis
No. 1 Clemson 21, North Carolina 20
If the Tigers learned one thing in their closer-than-expected victory at North Carolina, it is this: The ACC might be the weakest among the Power 5 conferences, but they cannot afford to take anyone for granted. For vast stretches of Saturday’s game, Clemson looked completely out of sorts on offense, and its usually strong offensive line looked lost — with six pre-snap penalties often killing drives. The line had a major impact on the ground game too, as the only effective running plays involved quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Meanwhile, the offense failed to produce many explosive plays, and Lawrence — who has been up and down all season long — did not make the case that he is gaining more consistency. Failing to generate much of anything with their playmakers has to be a concern headed into the open week. Opposing teams now have a blueprint from North Carolina defensive coordinator Jay Bateman, who outmaneuvered Clemson and had a better day than counterpart Brent Venables. — Andrea Adelson
No. 2 Alabama 59, Ole Miss 31
Alabama: Oh, you thought it was just Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs starring at receiver for Alabama? Think again. DeVonta Smith, who caught the winning pass in the national championship game following the 2017 season only to go under the radar in 2018, is back with a vengeance. Against Ole Miss on Saturday, Smith was unstoppable, setting school records with 274 receiving yards and five touchdowns, reminding everyone how ridiculously deep this receiving corps goes. — Alex Scarborough
No. 5 Ohio State 48, Nebraska 7
Lopsided losses at Big Ten West stadiums kept Ohio State out of the playoff the past two seasons. The Buckeyes’ blowout victory at Nebraska, meanwhile, validates their status as a playoff contender and one of the nation’s most impressive teams during the season’s first month. Transfer quarterback Justin Fields continues to thrive in coach Ryan Day’s offense, as the Buckeyes’ big-play, balanced attack flourishes behind a formidable line. While Fields boosted his Heisman Trophy candidacy with 284 total yards and four touchdowns (three pass, one rush), Ohio State’s dramatically improved defense might be the team’s most positive development. Jeff Okudah, Chase Young and the Buckeyes bullied Adrian Martinez and the Nebraska offense for nearly three quarters. The rest of the Big Ten should be very concerned. — Adam Rittenberg
No. 6 Oklahoma 55, Texas Tech 16
The Sooners weren’t challenged on Saturday by Texas Tech, and from the looks of it, they won’t be until they meet Texas in the Red River Showdown on Oct. 12. That will be the true test for where this Oklahoma team is. Until then, Jalen Hurts will continue to rack up Heisman-like statistics, and the defense will continue to look improved under new coordinator Alex Grinch. — Sam Khan Jr.
No. 7 Auburn 56, Mississippi State 23
Auburn is undefeated entering October, with two victories against ranked opponents. The Tigers manhandled Mississippi State and again showcased a stingy rushing defense. True freshman Bo Nix continues to methodically manage the offense with minimal mistakes. The next three games are on the road, but the Tigers can’t look beyond Saturday at Florida. ESPN’s FPI gives Auburn a 47.3% chance to win. — Heather Dinich
No. 8 Wisconsin 24, Northwestern 15
Nothing came easily for the Badgers, who needed two defensive touchdowns, but Wisconsin is undefeated heading into October. Heisman hopeful running back Jonathan Taylor had another 100-yard game, but the defense was what stood out. The Badgers finished the month ranking in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They have to take advantage of home field against Kent State and Michigan State, as four of their final six games are on the road. — Heather Dinich
No. 9 Florida 38, Towson 0
Towson wasn’t going to provide much challenge for Florida on Saturday, but it was another data point suggesting the Gators are in good hands with quarterback Kyle Trask, who opened the tilt 15-of-15 passing, extending his two-game streak to 18 straight completions and breaking a school record. With Auburn, LSU and Georgia coming up among Florida’s next four foes, however, the job is about to get much tougher for Trask. — David Hale
No. 10 Notre Dame 35, No. 18 Virginia 20
Notre Dame’s playoff chances still are alive after a victory against Virginia. The Fighting Irish’s defense gave up 235 passing yards in the first half but came up big with two fumble recoveries — one returned for a touchdown — and an interception in the second half to help seal the victory. Notre Dame was looking to establish the run and managed four touchdowns on the ground in an improved performance. Despite that production, there still is some work to be done in the rushing attack if Notre Dame wants to make another run at the playoff.
Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins had an excellent first half through the air, but the Irish’s defense stifled the Cavaliers’ offense in the second half. Virginia put up a good fight, but it isn’t quite ready to put away a top-10 team on the road. Luckily for UVa, this was not a conference game, and its hopes for an ACC championship-game berth still are very much intact and realistic. — Tom VanHaaren
No. 12 Penn State 59, Maryland 0
The Nittany Lions thoroughly embarrassed host Maryland in front of a sold-out crowd Friday night, showing the Big Ten East could run deeper than Ohio State. Could. Penn State’s status as a contender won’t be revealed until October, when the Nittany Lions play three consecutive ranked opponents: No. 14 Iowa, No. 20 Michigan and No. 25 Michigan State. The only game left they’re not favored to win? Nov. 23 at Ohio State. — Heather Dinich
No. 14 Iowa 48, Middle Tennessee 3
Iowa had too many athletes for Middle Tennessee’s defense to handle, and the Hawkeyes spread the ball to a lot of them. Nate Stanley averaged more than 16 yards per completion, a trio of Iowa running backs averaged 8.6 yards per carry and if you’re into the transitive property, the Hawkeyes handled the Blue Raiders far better than next weekend’s opponent — Michigan — did. Now comes a trip to Ann Arbor that could define both teams’ respective seasons. — Bill Connelly
Arizona State 24, No. 15 Cal 17
Cal was the last remaining undefeated team in the Pac-12 before losing at home Friday to Arizona State, but the Bears’ biggest concern now is the status of starting quarterback Chase Garbers, who left in the first half with an apparent shoulder injury. The Bears have as good a defense as there is in the conference, but they already were offensively challenged before Garbers went down. If his injury costs him more time, backup Devon Modster will have to be much more effective than he was against Arizona State (5-of-14, 23 yards, interception). — Kyle Bonagura
No. 17 Washington 28, No. 21 Southern California 14
At this point, the Trojans should be a considered a wild card from week to week. Because of how much talent is on the roster, they’ll be a threat to win every game left on the schedule, but there’s also not a game remaining in which it would be too surprising if they lost. That inconsistency, perhaps more than anything, has been the hallmark of coach Clay Helton’s tenure. The reality is, this team is still good enough to win its division. Asking for anything more is a stretch.
It’s not too early to start looking forward to Oct. 19, when Washington will host Oregon in a matchup that could decide the Pac-12 North. The Huskies have road trips to Stanford and Arizona before then, but neither figures to be much of a hurdle based on what we’ve seen so far. Since a shaky performance against Cal in the middle of the night following a lightning storm, quarterback Jacob Eason has been an efficient, calming presence. — Kyle Bonagura
No. 19 Utah 38, Washington State 13
Utah is the latest example of how different teams in the Pac-12 can look week to week. After an uninspiring loss to USC, the Utes looked — again — like the type of complete team that has what it takes to win the conference title. They’ll use the coming bye week to get healthier before returning to conference play at Oregon State, before what could be a huge game at home against Arizona State on Oct. 19. — Kyle Bonagura
No. 20 Michigan 52, Rutgers 0
The Wolverines got exactly what they needed: a convincing victory without further disaster. Michigan had faced criticism since its resounding defeat at Wisconsin last weekend but was able to get its stagnant offense moving — albeit against a team that now has lost 14 straight conference games — though not without another turnover. Wisconsin, Ohio State and Notre Dame all can benefit from Michigan improving and staying ranked, as the Wolverines can affect all of their schedule strengths. — Heather Dinich
No. 23 Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 27
Here are two things we know about A&M-Arkansas games: They’re going to be really close, and A&M’s going to win. With 10 fourth-quarter points, the Aggies won their eighth straight in the series; but this was the fifth meeting in six years to be decided by one score. But hey, whatever — survive and advance. Now 3-2, Texas A&M gets a bye week before hosting Alabama, its third top-10 opponent of the season. — Bill Connelly
Oklahoma State 26, No. 24 Kansas State 13
The Big 12 has a glut of Top 25-caliber teams at the moment, and the simplest way to look at this result is that one (Kansas State) lost to another (Oklahoma State) on the road. The Wildcats threatened to make things interesting late, but an inability to slow down Chuba Hubbard (25 carries, 296 yards) stopped them from getting closer than 10 points. Better get over the loss quickly, though: Another one of those Top 25-worthy teams (Baylor) visits Manhattan next weekend. — Bill Connelly
No. 25 Michigan State 40, Indiana 31
You wouldn’t be too surprised to see a Michigan State game end with 33 total points, maybe far fewer. Even more surprising: 33 total points in the fourth quarter, 16 in the final two minutes. Sparty won a wild one, and the MSU offense, invisible for most of the third quarter, came up big late. Safe to say, that’s a happy data point to have with trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin coming up next. — Bill Connelly
Casey O’Brien has defeated osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, four times and is defying the odds again by playing football for the Golden Gophers.
Casey O’Brien has defeated cancer four times and is defying the odds again by playing football for the Golden Gophers.