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Week 4 College Football Power Rankings: Clemson Further Proves ACC Dominance

Scooby Axson

The ACC is one of the Power 5 conferences that gets the benefit of the doubt when it has a dominant team like Clemson, which has beaten its first three opponents this season by a combined score of 117–30.

Conventional wisdom will say that with this kind of dominance, especially within its own conference, one slipup will have the Tigers watching the playoff at home. But they may not have to worry about that, especially with the way the rest of the ACC played on Saturday.

Let’s review:

• Boston College let a three-touchdown underdog in Kansas, which hadn’t won a Power 5 road game since the end of the Bush 43 administration, come into town and beat it by three touchdowns.

• Pittsburgh, the defending Coastal Division champions, decided to kick a field goal on fourth down when it was at the Penn State one-yard line and trailing by seven points with five minutes left in the game. The kicker proceeded to bounce the field goal try off the left uprights and the Panthers lost by that margin.

• Virginia Tech needed all four quarters to hold off Furman, an FCS school, after trailing by double digits at halftime.

• Georgia Tech, which ditched the triple-option offense when new coach Geoff Collins came aboard, was beaten by The Citadel, another FCS opponent, who, you guessed it....runs the triple option. Irony? Perhaps not.

Now to the rankings:

1. Clemson (3–0, 2–0 ACC)

Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat Syracuse 41–6
Next week: vs. Charlotte

The Clemson train continues to roll, as the Tigers won their 18th straight game. Trevor Lawrence threw for a career-high 395 yards and three touchdowns and was backed up by a defense that held the Orange to 15 yards rushing and 172 total yards. Eight sacks plus going 4 for 19 on third down doomed the Syracuse offense, which hasn’t beaten a top-ranked team since 1984.

2. Alabama (3–0, 1–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat South Carolina 47–23
Next week: vs. Southern Mississippi

Tua Tagovailoa had his own personal seven-on-seven drill against the South Carolina defense, passing for 444 yards and five touchdowns, including two each to DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris. He also becoming the first Crimson Tide player to record 400 passing yards and five passing touchdowns in the same game. Alabama’s running game was a non-factor, running for 76 yards on 25 carries.

3. Oklahoma (3–0)

Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat UCLA 48–14
Next week: Off; next game Sept. 28 vs. Texas Tech

The Sooners won their 21st consecutive road game behind Jalen Hurts’s 439 total yards. Oklahoma has also won its last 33 games against unranked teams and again gained 300 yards each passing and rushing. Lincoln Riley’s dynamic offense is averaging a nation-leading 677 yards per game and an absurd 10.46 yards per play.

4. LSU (3–0)

Previous ranking: 4
This week: Beat Northwestern State 65–14
Next week: at Vanderbilt

5. Ohio State (3–0, 1–0 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 5
This week: Beat Indiana 51–10
Next week: vs. Miami (OH)

Ohio State won its 24th straight against Indiana as J.K. Dobbins ran for 193 yards and tallied two touchdowns. Justin Fields threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, while the defense had 12 tackles for loss and a pick-six. It was the Buckeyes’ third straight game holding an opponent to less than 300 total yards.

6. Georgia (3–0, 1–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: 6
This week: Beat Arkansas State 55–0
Next week: vs. Notre Dame

Jake Fromm had 279 passing yards and three touchdowns in a tune-up game before next week’s showdown with Notre Dame. The Bulldogs had 656 yards of total offense and has not even been close to tested through the first three weeks of the season. At least Arkansas State can take solace in the thorough beatdown as it went home with a $1.8 million check.

7. Notre Dame (2–0)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Beat New Mexico 66–14
Next week: at Georgia

Ian Book torched New Mexico for 360 yards and five touchdowns in three quarters, pacing the Irish, who scored 60 or more points at home for the first time in four seasons. Notre Dame had three interceptions and eight tackles for loss as it scored its most points in a game since 1977.

8. Auburn (3–0)

Previous ranking: 8
This week: Beat Kent State 55–16
Next week: at Texas A&M

The Tigers, who are now 8–0 against current MAC opponents, used Kent State to work out the kinks in their running game and did it to near perfection. Auburn had three different rushers go over 100 yards, the first time that has happened since 1983 and finished with 467 yards rushing. Bo Nix had 161 yards passing and a touchdown as Auburn scored in each of its seven trips to the red zone.

9. Michigan (2–0)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Off
Next week: at Wisconsin

10. Florida (3–0, 1–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat Kentucky 29–21
Next week: vs. Tennessee

Florida will have to move on after starting quarterback Feleipe Franks was likely lost for the season with a severe ankle injury. Kyle Trask filled in and led the Gators to 19 fourth-quarter points leaving Kentucky winless against the Gators at home since 1986. Franks threw for 174 yards and one touchdown before being injured.

11. Utah (3–0)

Previous ranking: 11
This week: Beat Idaho State 31–0
Next week: at USC

12. UCF (3–0)

Previous ranking: 12
This week: Beat Stanford 45–27
Next week: at Pittsburgh

As good as UCF’s offense has been, its unrated defense deserves some credit as well. The Knights have made a living in their opponents’ backfield and lead the nation in tackles for loss. Freshman Dillon Gabriel had 347 yards and four touchdowns in UCF’s 27th straight regular season win. UCF also extended its streak of scoring 30 points or more to a record 29 straight.

13. Penn State (3–0)

Previous ranking: 13
This week: Beat Pittsburgh 17–10
Next week: Off; next game Sept. 27 at Maryland

The Keystone Classic will cease for the time being following the 100th meeting between the schools and after Saturday’s sloppy affair, that might be a good thing. Sean Clifford had 222 passing yards and Journey Brown added 109 yards on the ground in his first start. The Nittany Lions held Pittsburgh to 24 yards rushing and the series will conclude for now with Penn State leading 53-43-4.

14. Texas (2–1)

Previous ranking: 14
This week: Beat Rice 48–13
Next week: vs. Oklahoma State

Sam Ehlinger threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns as the Longhorns rebounded from last week’s loss to LSU. Rice, which has lost 14 straight and 42 of the last 43 games to Texas, had only 266 yards of offense. The Longhorns scored touchdowns on their first four possessions and ran for a season-high 171 yards.

15. Iowa (3–0, 1–0 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 16
This week: Beat Iowa State 18–17
Next week: Off; next game Sept. 28 vs. Middle Tennessee State

The Hawkeyes have now won five straight against Iowa State, the latest one delayed about three hours due to severe weather. Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley threw for 201 yards as this one wasn’t decided until the Cyclones recovered a fumble in the closing minutes. The Hawkeyes were outgained by over 100 yards, but sustained drives by going 10–19 on third down and keeping the ball for 35 minutes.

16. Wisconsin (2–0)

Previous ranking: 16
This week: Off
Next week: vs. Michigan

17. Oregon (2–1)

Previous ranking: 17
This week: Beat Montana 35–3
Next week: at Stanford

18. Texas A&M (2–1)

Previous ranking: 19
This week: Beat Lamar 62–3
Next week: vs. Auburn

19. Boise State (3–0)

Previous ranking: 22
This week: Beat Portland State 45–10
Next week: vs. Air Force

20. Memphis (3–0)

Previous ranking: 20
This week: Beat South Alabama 42–6
Next week: Off; next game Sept. 26 vs. Navy

Brady White had three total touchdowns, with Kenny Gainwell and Kylan Watkins going over 100 yards each on the ground, and South Alabama could only muster 248 yards of offense. Defensive back Austin Hall recorded two of Memphis three takeaways by recovering two fumbles, returning one 48 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

21. Washington (2–1, 0–1 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 25
This week: Beat Hawaii 52–20
Next week: at BYU

Jacob Eason threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns as they rebounded from a storm-delayed loss to California the previous week. While the defense played well in spurts, it did allow Hawaii to score three straight touchdowns in the second half after they were up 38–0. Hawaii lost for the 11th straight time against ranked teams and hasn’t beaten a top-25 team on the road since 2008.

22. Virginia (3–0, 2–0 ACC)

Previous ranking: —
This week: Beat Florida State 31–24
Next week: vs. Old Dominion

Wayne Taulapapa rushed for 53 yards and three touchdowns, Bryce Perkins threw for 295 passing yards and Virginia stopped Cam Akers short of the goal line as time expired helping the Cavaliers win just their fourth game over Florida State in 19 all-time meetings. Florida State had a season-low 329 yards of total offense, despite James Blackman throwing for three touchdowns.

23. Washington State (3–0)

Previous ranking: —
This week: Beat Houston 31–24
Next week: vs. UCLA

Anthony Gordon looks like the next in a long line of gunslingers for Mike Leach. Gordon threw for 440 yards and three touchdowns, his third straight game with over 400 yards passing. He leads the nation in total offense with nearly 448 yards per game. Despite the offensive brilliance of the Cougars, they were penalized 11 times, gained only 49 yards rushing and converted only 30% of their third down tries.

24. Arizona State (3–0)

Previous ranking: —
This week: Beat Michigan State 10–7
Next week: vs. Colorado

Are the Sun Devils for real? Who knows. But under Herm Edwards, Arizona State found a way to win despite appalling offensive numbers (216 total yards) by capitalizing on Michigan State’s blunders. The Spartans had 12 men on field, negating a game-tying field goal at the end of the game, though officials admitted a penalty should have been called on Arizona State during the second field goal attempt, which sailed wide left. The Sun Devils have only allowed only 21 points all season.

25. Kansas State (3–0)

Previous ranking: —
This week: Beat Mississippi State 31–24
Next week: Off; next game at Oklahoma State Sept. 28

Kansas State’s offense is nothing special, but it continues to get timely plays when it matters most. Skylar Thompson threw a touchdown with five minutes left giving the Wildcats their first road victory over a non-conference Power 5 team in eight years. The Wildcats have played football for 108 years and Malik Knowles’s kickoff return for a touchdown was just the third ever in school history by a Wildcat player on the road.

By conference: SEC (6), Pac-12 (5), Big 10 (5), Big 12 (3), ACC (2) AAC (2), MWC (1), Independent (1).

Dropped Out: Maryland, USC, Michigan State, Iowa State.

Almost famous: Oklahoma State, Army, Wake Forest, TCU, Cal, Navy.