College football Power Rankings for Week 4

ByChris Low ESPN logo
Sunday, September 22, 2019

A month doesn't define an entire college football season, but there's a distinct Deep South flavor to the top of the ESPN Power Rankings as we move closer to the calendar flipping to October.

In fact, four of the top five teams are from the SEC, and that's not to mention the No. 1 team: defending national champion Clemson of the ACC. Auburn probably has done more than anybody else this season, with two wins away from home over nationally ranked opponents. And let's give a hand to Georgia and Notre Dame for playing a highly entertaining nonconference game. What an environment Saturday night in Athens; that was college football at its finest.

The biggest loser of the weekend? That's an easy one. UCF lost a lot more than a football game. The Knights, in falling 35-34 on the road to Pittsburgh, lost any realistic hope of playing in the College Football Playoff this season.

Here are the updated ESPN Power Rankings after Week 4:

1. Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC)

The most entertaining part of Clemson's 52-10 throttling of Charlotte was Dabo Swinney trying to build the 49ers up during the week. The truth is there might be a lot of that over the next two months. Take a quick glance at the remainder of Clemson's schedule, and find a game that looks daunting for the Tigers, who've won each of their first four games by at least 14 points. The real drama the rest of the way might be whether anybody in the ACC will be able to come within two touchdowns of the Tigers, who jumped to a 31-0 lead on Saturday and never looked back.

Up next: at North Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, TBA)

2. Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC)

Another game, another easy win for Alabama. Tua Tagovailoa threw five touchdown passes for the second straight game, and Alabama made quick work of Southern Miss in a 49-7 rout. Tagovailoa played in only the first three quarters, and nobody has come within 24 points of the Crimson Tide -- and even that's deceiving. South Carolina's final touchdown two weeks ago came with 11 seconds remaining. It's probably going to be more of the same over the next month. The only real test in that span figures to be a trip to Texas A&M on Oct. 12.

Up next: vs. Ole Miss (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, CBS)

3. Georgia (4-0, 1-0 in SEC)

The win at Notre Dame two years ago was a springboard for Georgia to get to the College Football Playoff, and the Dawgs hope that Saturday's 23-17 triumph over the Fighting Irish will have a similar effect. Billed as one of the biggest nonconference games in Sanford Stadium history, this one didn't disappoint. The Dawgs had to overcome some key injuries during the game, then had to sweat it out at the end when the Irish had one last chance. It's a victory -- and an experience -- that should serve Kirby Smart's club well as it gets ready for seven straight SEC contests following the open date next Saturday.

Up next: Open date

4. Auburn (4-0, 1-0 SEC)

A month into the season, few teams can boast a résumé more impressive than the one Auburn has put together following its 28-20 win at Texas A&M. That's two wins away from home over nationally ranked teams. Freshman quarterback Bo Nix continues to play beyond his years, and Kevin Steele's defense is playing lights-out. The biggest thing working against the Tigers is a schedule that is unrelenting. Three of the next four games are true SEC road games.

Up next: vs. Mississippi State (7 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN)

5. LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC)

This "Air Orgeron" deal is something to watch, and so is LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. Going on the road to face Vanderbilt in the SEC opener, LSU once again short-circuited the scoreboard with a 66-38 thrashing of the Commodores. Burrow tossed a school-record six touchdown passes and has 17 on the season, which matches the total LSU had in 13 games last season. The Tigers have scored 55, 45, 65 and 66 points in their first four games. If you want to be picky, they've also given up 38 points in their two toughest games this season, to Texas and Vanderbilt, though two of Vanderbilt's touchdowns came late in the game with LSU leading 59-24.

Up next: vs. Utah State (Saturday, TBA)

6. Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)

Quarterback Justin Fields has been a touchdown machine for Ohio State. He accounted for six more on Saturday in a 76-5 demolition of Miami (Ohio), and he has 19 for the season. The Buckeyes still haven't given up more than 21 points in a game, and when they did allow 21 in the opener against Florida Atlantic, two of those touchdowns came in the fourth quarter after Ohio State was up 35-6.

Up next: at Nebraska (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC)

7. Oklahoma (3-0)

Lincoln Riley had a pretty good feel this summer that Jalen Hurts was going to be a perfect fit for Oklahoma's offense, and the Alabama transfer quarterback has been just that and then some in the Sooners' first three blowout wins. Hurts has passed for nine touchdowns and run for four scores, and Oklahoma didn't break a sweat in the nonconference portion of its schedule. After an open date, it's on to the Big 12 slate, with the biggie against Texas in the Red River Showdown looming in three weeks.

Up next: vs. Texas Tech (Saturday, TBD)

8. Wisconsin (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten)

It appears that one of the early candidates for Bounce-back Team of the Year this season is Wisconsin, which after managing just seven wins in the regular season a year ago pummeled Michigan 35-14 in the Big Ten opener for both teams. What is there not to like about the Badgers at this point? They've scored 194 points in their first three games, and sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor is an absolute beast. He rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns, and Wisconsin shredded Michigan's defense to the tune of 359 rushing yards.

Up next: vs. Northwestern (noon ET Saturday, ABC)

9. Texas (3-1, 1-0 in Big 12)

As disappointing as the home loss to LSU was in Week 2, Texas hasn't let it fester. The Longhorns found themselves in a tough game at home on Saturday against an underrated Oklahoma State team and actually trailed 23-21 midway through the third quarter. They didn't flinch and hopped on junior quarterbackSam Ehlinger's shoulders to hold off the Cowboys for a 36-30 win. Ehlinger passed for four touchdowns and finished with 351 yards of total offense. Texas snapped a four-game losing streak in the series, and it was the Longhorns' first win over the Cowboys in Austin since 2008.

Up next: Open date

10. Notre Dame (2-1)

Much will be made of Notre Dame's 11th straight loss to an AP top-five team, but the truth is that the Irish went toe-to-toe with Georgia in one of the most hostile environments imaginable. The last thing Brian Kelly wants right now is a moral victory, but the 23-17 loss to the Dawgs is proof that the Irish can play with anybody. Especially if Georgia goes on and has a big season, this is a defeat that shouldn't automatically disqualify Notre Dame from the College Football Playoff conversation if the Irish can win out.

Up next: vs. Virginia (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBC)

11. Florida (4-0, 2-0 SEC)

Some things don't change. Florida just keeps beating Tennessee and did so this time with its backup quarterback. The Gators have won 14 of the past 15 games in this so-called rivalry, and Tennessee hasn't won in The Swamp since 2003. Kyle Trask made his first start at quarterback since he was in high school while filling in for the injuredFeleipe Franksand finished 20-of-28 for 293 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 34-3 rout of the Vols.

Up next: vs. Towson (4 p.m. ET Saturday, SEC Network)

12. Oregon (3-1, 1-0 in Pac-12)

That season-opening loss to Auburn might sting a little more each week for the Ducks. But to their credit, they haven't wilted. They opened Pac-12 play on Saturday with a 21-6 win at Stanford. The Ducks snapped a three-game losing streak in the series, and Justin Herbert threw three touchdown passes. But Oregon's defense has been just as big a story. The Ducks have yet to allow a touchdown since the opener. A key home game with Cal looms following an open date this weekend.

Up next: Open date

13. Iowa (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten)

Coming off of an open date, Iowa has one more tune-up against Middle Tennessee before facing Michigan and Penn State in back-to-back weeks, a stretch that will all but decide whether the Hawkeyes will be players in the Big Ten race. They've been terrific on defense and haven't allowed more than 18 points in any of their first three games.

Up next: vs. Middle Tennessee (noon ET Saturday, ESPN2)

14. Penn State (3-0)

The Nittany Lions, coming off of an open date, have their Big Ten opener and first road test against Maryland. Nobody has scored more than 17 points against Penn State, which survived a 17-10 scare against Pitt two weeks ago. That's a win that looks a lot better after Pitt upset UCF on Saturday and ended the Knights' 27-game regular-season winning streak.

Up next: at Maryland (8 p.m. ET Friday, FS1)

15. Boise State (4-0, 1-0 Mountain West)

Four weeks into the season, Boise State at the very least deserves to be in the conversation of who's the class of Group of 5 teams nationally. Freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier, in his fourth career start, was once again impressive in a 30-19 win on Friday over previously unbeaten Air Force. It was the Broncos' third straight win over the Falcons. Boise State has allowed just one second-half touchdown on defense this season and has a great chance to be 6-0 going into the BYU game on Oct. 19.

Up next: Open date

16. Cal (4-0, 1-0 in Pac-12)

How many people expected the Golden Bears to be unbeaten at this point? But here they are with two true road wins, the latest a 28-20 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday that saw Cal hold on after taking a 28-13 lead into the fourth quarter. Justin Wilcox's defense hasn't given up more than 20 points this season, and Cal came alive offensively against Ole Miss with 433 yards of total offense.

Up next: vs. Arizona State (10:30 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN)

17. USC(3-1, 2-0 Pac-12)

The Trojans stayed unbeaten in the Pac-12 and won with their third quarterback this season when junior Matt Fink replaced Kedon Slovis, who left the game after taking a hit to the head on the second play. The 30-23 triumph over Utah also was the Trojans' second of the season over a nationally ranked team. For all of the hot seat talk surrounding USC coach Clay Helton, his Trojans seem to find a way to "Fight On!" and keep winning big games.

Up next: at Washington (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Fox)

18. Utah (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12)

Good luck figuring out the Pac-12 a month into the season. The Utes looked like they might be as good a bet as any to win the league (and still could be), but they made one mistake after another and had no answers for Southern California's passing game in a 30-23 loss to the Trojans on Friday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Granted, it's only September, but the loss on the road to USC makes next week's home game against Washington State one of those win-or-else games for the Utes.

Up next: vs. Washington State (Saturday, TBD)

19. Washington (3-1, 0-1 in Pac-12)

The Cal loss at home two weeks ago was a head-scratcher for Washington, but the Huskies seem to have regrouped. They won handily over BYU in a 45-19 road decision that saw them score two touchdowns off three BYU turnovers. Jacob Eason threw three touchdown passes, and the Huskies have scored 97 points in their past two contests.

Up next: vs. USC (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Fox)

20. Virginia (4-0, 2-0 in ACC)

As ugly wins go, Virginia carved out one of the best on Saturday in a 28-17 victory over Old Dominion. The Cavaliers fell behind 17-0 before reeling off 28 unanswered points against the Monarchs, who were trying to take down Virginia this season after knocking off Virginia Tech a year ago. The Cavaliers have won five straight going back to last season's bowl win over South Carolina, but we will find out a lot more about Bronco Mendenhall's club after the next two games: road tests against Notre Dame and Miami.

Up next: at Notre Dame (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBC)

21. UCF (3-1)

Any chance of making the College Football Playoff likely went up in flames Saturday for UCF, which fell behind 21-0 at Pitt, then rallied to take the lead, only to see Pitt win in the final minute on a trick play. The loss snapped UCF's 27-game regular-season winning streak, and even if the Knights go unbeaten the rest of the way and win the American Athletic Conference championship, they would need a ton of help to climb back into the playoff picture.

Up next: vs. UConn (7 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN2)

22. Kansas State (3-0)

The Wildcats were off after winning at Mississippi State the week before and had an extra week to prepare for their Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State on the road. First-year coach Chris Klieman has this team ahead of where most thought the Wildcats would be at this point and getting it done on defense and special teams. Sound familiar?

Up next: at Oklahoma State (7 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN+)

23. Wake Forest (4-0)

Who's the second-best team in the ACC right now? Dave Clawson's Demon Deacons could make as good a case as any. They remained unbeaten Saturday with a 49-7 battering of Elon. Three of Wake Forest's first four ACC contests are at home, so this is a team that could generate some serious momentum in the first half of the season.

Up next: at Boston College (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ACC Network)

24. Michigan (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten)

When former Michigan great Charles Woodson says he's embarrassed, there's some serious explaining to do. The Wolverines didn't just get beaten by Wisconsin. They were beaten up in a 35-14 loss that saw the Wolverines give up a whopping 359 rushing yards. There were already warning signs. Michigan survived a week earlier in double overtime against Army but had no answers for the Badgers, who led 35-0 at one point. Jim Harbaugh is now 4-8 against the Big Ten trifecta of Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin.

Up next: vs. Rutgers (noon ET Saturday, Big Ten Network)

25. Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1 Big 12)

The Cowboys had their chances to extend their winning streak over Texas to five straight games, and coach Mike Gundy will be second-guessed about second-half decisions to go for it on fourth-and-short inside the 5 and try a fake field goal that didn't work. Nonetheless, Oklahoma State has enough firepower offensively to remain alive in the Big 12 race, and redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders gives everybody in Stillwater hope.

Up next: vs. Kansas State (7 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN+)

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