ESPN 2023 College Football Power Rankings after Week 9

ByESPN staff ESPN logo
Sunday, October 29, 2023

With just a few days before the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season, Week 9 was a chance for the undefeated teams stay alive and impress the committee.

For other teams, wins and losses help positioning for conference championship runs or bowl games.

While top-10 teams like Georgia, Florida State, Oregon and Texas handled their business, Oklahoma fell from the ranks of the unbeatens and Penn State got a scare against Indiana.

Here's how the power rankings play out after Week 9 results:

No. 1Georgia Bulldogs(8-0)

The only real blip for Georgia on a day the Bulldogs extended their winning streak to 25 straight games was Florida driving 66 yards for a touchdown on the opening possession. It was all Red and Black after that, as the Bulldogs scored 36 unanswered points to race past the Gators for a 43-20 victory, the sixth time in the past seven meetings that Georgia has won in this long-standing rivalry. It was the first game the Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0) have played in since star tight end Brock Bowers was injured. Quarterback Carson Beck passed for 315 yards and two touchdowns, one of those to Ladd McConkey, who had six catches for 135 yards. Georgia now faces the toughest stretch of its season with three straight games against nationally ranked teams, starting with Missouri at home next week. -- Chris Low

Up next:vs. Missouri (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 2Michigan Wolverines(8-0)

While the specter of sign-stealing allegations hangs over the program, Michigan had a bye this week, right before the Wolverines head into their toughest month of the season. The team is undefeated after a 49-0 win over Michigan State and has Purdue next on the schedule. After the Boilermakers, the Wolverines will take on Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State to close out the season. There is slim margin for error in those three games with the Nittany Lions sitting with one loss and Ohio State also undefeated. Michigan will likely need to get through those three games unscathed to make it to the Big Ten Championship and the College Football Playoff. One loss, at this point in the season, could knock the Wolverines out of the mix. -- Tom VanHaaren

Up next: vs. Purdue (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

No. 3Florida State Seminoles(8-0)

FSU just has too many playmakers for mortal defenses at the moment. Jordan Travis completed passes of 20-plus yards to seven different players, including Keon Coleman (seven catches, two touchdowns) and running back Trey Benson (80-yard touchdown catch), and after Wake Forest strained to keep it 10-7 early in the second quarter, the Seminoles steamrollered the Demon Deacons, going on a 24-0 run before half and cruising to a 41-16 win. Travis finished with 359 passing yards and three touchdowns, plus a 13-yard touchdown run. FSU doubled up the Deacs in terms of both raw yards (508-210) and yards per play (7.7-3.2). The Noles are now 8-0, 6-0 in ACC play, and are all but certain to soon clinch a spot in the ACC championship game for the first time in nine years. -- Bill Connelly

Up next:at Pitt (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 4Ohio State Buckeyes(8-0)

The Buckeyes aren't the prettiest CFP contender, but they have grinded their way through a tricky road schedule and several physical games to remain perfect on the season. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. continued to muscle his way into the quarterback-heavy Heisman conversation with another exceptional performance, recording six receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Harrison joined Cris Carter in 1986 as the only Ohio State players to record 100 receiving yards or more in four consecutive games, and he needs one more such performance to tie David Boston's team record for career 100-yard performances (14). Quarterback Kyle McCord twice was picked off in a shaky performance, but TreVeyon Henderson had 162 rushing yards and a touchdown in his first appearance since Sept. 23. Henderson's injury history makes him unreliable, but he makes a difference when he suits up. LinemenTyleik Williamsand Jack Sawyerand cornerback Jordan Hancock led a stout defense that recorded three takeaways and held Wisconsin to 94 rushing yards.-- Adam Rittenberg

Up next:at Rutgers (noon ET, CBS)

No. 5Washington Huskies(8-0)

It wasn't a ringing endorsement for the Huskies as a CFP contender, but they fended off another underdog to move to 8-0 with a 42-33 win against Stanford. After being held to 15 points last week against Arizona State, the Huskies bounced back offensively as QB Michael Penix Jr. threw for 369 yards and four scores. However, two late turnovers -- a fumble and an interception -- allowed Stanford to hang around. On a potential go-ahead drive, a wide-open drop on fourth-down cost Stanford late in the fourth quarter. UW responded with a quick touchdown to seal the win. -- Kyle Bonagura

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

No. 6Oregon Ducks(7-1)

The Ducks delivered an emphatic 35-6 win against Utah, ending the Utes' 18-game home winning streak and preserving their place in the Pac-12 race and CFP hunt. Oregon dominated from the game's opening moments. It scored touchdowns on three of its first four drives, building a big early lead against a team not built to play in a shootout. With a 21-3 lead with 12:29 left in the second quarter, the game seemed all but over. And it basically was. It wasn't an explosive offensive performance for the Ducks, but it didn't need to be. QB Bo Nix completed 24 of 31 passes for 248 yards with a pair of touchdowns and no picks. He has 21 touchdowns with just one interception this season. -- Kyle Bonagura

Up next:vs. Cal (5:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

No. 7Texas Longhorns(7-1)

Steve Sarkisian ripped off the bandage early in Maalik Murphy's first career start, dialing up passes on eight of his first 10 plays. Murphy did throw an interception on one of the plays and later lost a fumble, but overall, he was loose and confident, going 16-of-25 for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Sarkisian said he was frustrated with the team's fourth-down woes, with two second-half drives ending on downs at the BYU's 1- and 3-yard-lines. But he praised the Longhorns' versatility, with the defense creating three turnovers and Xavier Worthy scoring on a punt return touchdown. -- Dave Wilson

Up next:vs. Kansas State

No. 8Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1)

Coming off a Week 2 loss to Texas and a closer-than-expected win at USF the following week, it was hard to imagine Alabama would recover to find itself atop the SEC West with one loss, getting ready to play LSU at home for what has the appearance of a conference championship play-in game. Granted, if Alabama wins, it will still have to play at Kentucky and Auburn, but neither of those teams are ranked. LSU is No. 15 and has perhaps the best offense in the country, headlined by Heisman Trophy candidate Jayden Daniels at quarterback and Biletnikoff Award candidate Malik Nabers at receiver. To beat LSU, Alabama's defense will have to play its best game of the season, making Daniels uncomfortable in the pocket while not giving him the rushing lanes he's so adept at taking. And on the flip side, Alabama will need quarterback Jalen Milroe to keep doing what he has been doing since he became the full-time starter against Ole Miss -- taking care of the football and taking shots downfield. -- Alex Scarborough

Up next: vs. LSU (7:45 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 9Oklahoma Sooners(7-1)

The Sooners held off a frantic UCF rally last week and survived, but they couldn't do the same against a Kansas team that took advantage of a Sooners defense that is suddenly struggling after looking rejuvenated early in the season. The Sooners committed three turnovers and had 11 penalties for 101 yards. After a weather delay, the Sooners leaned on the run, with quarterbackDillon Gabriel completing six of eight passes for just 41 yards and an interception in the first half. He ultimately threw for 171 yards and ran for 64 and three touchdowns, andTawee Walker added 23 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown. But the Oklahoma defense gave up 443 yards, including a winning drive that featured a 37-yard completion from Kansas quarterbackJason Bean on fourth down. Venables warned last week, after UCF's offensive performance, that Kansas was even better on offense, and it proved to be the Sooners' undoing. -- Wilson

Up next: at Oklahoma State (3:30 p.m., ABC)

No. 10Ole Miss Rebels(7-1)

In a sign of maturity, Ole Miss wasted no time putting away Vanderbilt on homecoming. By the time the Rebs went into halftime ahead 26-0, the game was all but over. And what a complete game it was. The offense was efficient, scoring points on its first five drives. Quinshon Judkins, who started the season slow, continues to come on strong with his fourth straight game with a rushing touchdown. The Ole Miss defense, meanwhile, was stellar, pressuring the QB, creating turnovers and allowing only 60 yards passing. Riding a four-game winning streak, Ole Miss hosts Texas A&M next Saturday before going on the road to face No. 1 Georgia. -- Scarborough

Up next:vs. Texas A&M (noon ET, ESPN)

No. 11Penn State Nittany Lions(7-1)

James Franklin's Nittany Lions did just enough. The offense sputtered for most of the way against a game Indiana defense, but quarterbackDrew Allar and receiverKeAndre Lambert-Smith connected for a 57-yard touchdown with 1:46 left. The defense suffered more glitches than it had all year, especially against the pass, but defensive endDani Dennis-Sutton sacked Hoosiers quarterbackBrendan Sorsby, forcing a fumble and the game-clinching safety soon after Lambert-Smith's TD. The Hoosiers outgained the Nittany Lions, constantly frustrated Allar and tied the game late, but Penn State found a way to win 33-24. You can't always play your best, but with Michigan coming to town in two weeks, PSU has to hope this was a bad week and not the start of a downturn. -- Connelly

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

No. 12Notre Dame Fighting Irish(7-2)

Two early interceptions from quarterback Sam Hartman (18-of-25 passing for 288 yards) didn't derail the Fighting Irish's hopes. A "special" special teams unit was there to take care of business. Chris Tyree (82-yard punt return TD) and Ramon Henderson (recovery in the end zone on a fumbled punt) both provided the spark. Audric Estime (114 rushing yards, three TDs) handled matters on the ground, and Notre Dame topped the 40-point mark for a sixth time in 2023, tying a program record. Xavier Watts continues to make plays in Notre Dame's secondary. The stalwart senior safety snatched two interceptions for a second straight game (and now has six interceptions this year), spearheading a unit that limited the Panthers to 255 total yards and forced five turnovers -- tallying 23 points off them. The Irish made life difficult all day for Pittsburgh QB Christian Veilleux, who was picked off four times -- highlighted by a 43-yard pick-six by cornerback Jaden Mickey. -- Blake Baumgartner

Up next:at Clemson (Noon, ABC)

No. 13LSU Tigers(6-2)

What a difference a month makes. The sky was falling in Baton Rouge after the Tigers dropped the season-opener to Florida State and then lost on the road at Ole Miss four weeks later. But then the defense started figuring things out as the team went on a three-game winning streak. At the risk of oversimplification, shifting standout Harold Perkins Jr. back to outside linebacker appeared to help the rest of the defense fall into place. Meanwhile, the offense has been firing on all cylinders. Jayden Daniels has turned into a Heisman Trophy front-runner at quarterback, and Malik Nabers has the look of a Biletnikoff Award finalist at receiver. Mix in Brian Thomas Jr., Kyren Lacy and a deep running back room, and this might be the best offense in college football. Going on the road to Alabama will be a huge test, however, as the Crimson Tide have a solid defense at all levels -- withDallas Turner and Chris Braswell rushing the passer off the edge, and Kool-Aid McKinstry, Terrion Arnold and Malachi Moore locking down the back end. -- Scarborough

Up next:at Alabama (7:45 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 14Missouri Tigers (7-1)

After a rousing 7-1 start, Missouri got a chance to rest and heal before a huge trip to Georgia next week. After suffering their first loss of the season to LSU in Week 6, the Tigers responded with comfortable wins over both Kentucky and South Carolina. And after riding the Brady Cook-Luther Burden III combination to early success, they got huge contributions from both their run game and pass rush in the recent wins. Will any of this matter against Georgia? Probably not.Mizzou will be a double-digit underdog in Athens for good reason. But even if the Tigers can't pull a program-defining upset, Eliah Drinkwitz's team will still have a shot at a nice finish and its best season since 2014. -- Connelly

Up next:at Georgia (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 15Louisville Cardinals(7-1)

What a difference running back Jawhar Jordan makes for the Cards. Injured Oct. 14 in a loss to Pitt, Jordan used the open date to get better and was a key factor in a 23-0 win over Duke, rushing for a career-high 163 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Jordan now has an ACC-leading five games with at least 100 yards rushing. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 73% of his yardage came before first contact, a huge credit to the Louisville offensive line against one of the better run defenses in the ACC. Louisville now has two shutouts on the season, and its ACC championship game hopes are very much alive with the victory. --AndreaAdelson

Up next:vs. Virginia Tech (3:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network)

No. 16Air Force Falcons (8-0)

After being tied at halftime with Colorado State, Air Force was able to pull away in the second half, scoring 17 unanswered points. Air Force running back Emmanuel Michel finished the game with 130 rushing yards and a touchdown, scoring one of his team's three rushing touchdowns. Colorado State had success through the air, throwing for 297 yards and a touchdown, but Air Force limited Colorado State on the ground, holding the team to just 42 yards rushing. -- VanHaaren

Up next:vs. Army (2:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network)

No. 17Tennessee Volunteers(6-2)

It had been a while since Tennessee won a game on the road in a hostile environment, but the Vols broke through Saturday night against Kentucky in a hard-fought 33-27 victory at Kroger Field. With a trip to Missouri coming up in two weeks and then Georgia coming to Neyland Stadium on Nov. 18, it's a win the Vols had to have if they're going to match last season's success. They overcame the best game Kentucky quarterback Devin Leary has had all season (373 yards and two touchdowns) and kept answering with clutch drives every time the Wildcats would get close. The Vols (6-2, 3-2) rushed for 254 yards, and Dylan Sampson had some key runs in the second half. It's a concern for Tennessee's defense that it gave up so many yards in the passing game, but the Vols held Leary and the Wildcats to a single field goal in the fourth quarter in a rivalry that has been dominated by Tennessee. The Vols have won 36 of the past 39 meetings between the teams. -- Low

Up next:vs. UConn (noon ET, SEC Network)

No. 18Oregon State Beavers(6-2)

After Arizona nearly took down Washington and USC in recent weeks, the Beavers couldn't escape the Wildcats' latest upset bid, dropping their second game of the season by a score of 27-24. A questionable decision by Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith to attempt a fake field goal at the end of the first half might have been the difference in the game, which had massive stakes for the Beavers. They now have two conference losses this season with games against Pac-12 stalwarts Oregon and Washington still to play. They're not out of play for the conference title yet, but Saturday's result made it a far more difficult trip to Las Vegas. -- Paolo Uggetti

Up next:at Colorado (10 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 19Utah Utes(6-2)

After two weeks of progress, Utah's early-season offensive struggles returned in a dismal 35-6 loss to Oregon. The defeat doesn't mathematically eliminate Utah from the Pac-12 championship game picture; however, the chances of the two-time defending conference champion defending its title are now very low. It wasn't just the offense that was an issue Saturday against Oregon, either. The 35 points Utah's defense allowed were a season high as Oregon jumped out to a 21-3 first-half lead. Utah managed just 99 yards rushing on 36 carries, and QB Bryson Barnes completed 15 of 29 passes for 136 yards with two interceptions. -- Bonagura

Up next:vs. Arizona State (2 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

No. 20Tulane Green Wave (7-1)

Running back Makhi Hughes keeps proving he's up for the task of helping fill the shoes of Tyjae Spears, who's now off playing for the Tennessee Titans in the NFL. Hughes, Tulane's star freshman who led the AAC in rushing coming into Saturday, went over the 100-yard rushing mark for the fourth straight week (career-high 153 yards on 23 carries) and helped close out a hard-fought road win. Coupled with Hughes and the always steady Michael Pratt (22-of-30 passing for 263 yards, two touchdowns and one interception) at quarterback, the Green Wave's offense tallied 457 total yards -- 326 in the first half -- and answered the Owls at seemingly every turn to win a sixth straight game. -- Baumgartner

Up next:at East Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET)

No. 21North Carolina Tar Heels(6-2)

The knock against the Tar Heels for years has been their inability to handle success. This might be a different season, but the slide is happening again. North Carolina has now lost two straight after starting 6-0, falling 46-42 at Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets beat a ranked North Carolina team for the third straight season, and they did it with a dominant fourth quarter in which the Tar Heels defense of old showed up. Georgia Tech scored 22 points in the fourth to erase an 11-point deficit and had 246 yards rushing in that quarter alone. In all, North Carolina allowed 635 yards. It should also be noted that North Carolina blew double-digit leads in both losses this season. -- Adelson

Up next:vs. Campbell (noon ET, ACC Network)

No. 22James Madison Dukes (8-0)

The Dukes overcame a shaky start on offense, led by just four at halftime and struggled to break away from an Old Dominion team that gave JMU's typically sturdy defense all it could handle. Safety Jarius Reimonenq capped a big night by breaking up a fourth-down pass near midfield with 1:39 left, and Mikail Kamara's strip-sack of Grant Wilson sealed the win and pushed James Madison to 8-0. The Dukes allowed more than 100 rushing yards (138) for the first time this season but generated enough plays from Reimonenq and an elite group of linemen -- Kamara, Jalen Green, Jamree Kromah and James Carpenter. They also needed and received a big boost from their offense, namely wide receivers Reggie Brown and Elijah Sarratt, who combined for 17 receptions, 281 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the win. Quarterback Jordan McCloud overcame two first-half interceptions to finish with 340 passing yards and three touchdowns, recording his fourth game of three or more touchdowns in his past five. -- Rittenberg

Up next:at Georgia State (3:30 p.m. ET)

No. 23UCLA Bruins(6-2)

The Bruins' defense once again stole the show at the Rose Bowl on Saturday as it capitalized on a weak Colorado offensive line to put quarterbackShedeur Sanders on his heels and on his back over and over again on the way to a 28-16 victory. Until late in the fourth quarter, UCLA's defense had limited the Buffs to only three field goals while also sacking Sanders six times. Coach Deion Sanders' team stood its ground on defense as long as it could, limiting the Bruins to 14 points through three quarters. But, with Ethan Garbers now under center for Chip Kelly's team, the Bruins' offense found its groove in the fourth and added 14 more points. Since handing the quarterback reins to Garbers instead of freshman Dante Moore, the Bruins have turned a corner in the past two games. While Garbers and the offense aren't exactly explosive in a conventional sense, his familiarity with the system has been a noticeable improvement, and Kent State transfer quarterbackCollin Schlee has also contributed with his legs, as he did Saturday when he added a late touchdown that sealed the victory. -- Uggetti

Up next:at Arizona (10:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)

No. 24Kansas Jayhawks(6-2)

The Jayhawks beat No. 6 Oklahoma for the first time since 1997, snapping an 18-game losing streak in likely their last chance to play the Sooners as conference foes. Now 6-2, Lance Leipold has the Jayhawks bowl eligible in consecutive seasons for just the second time in school history, and they did so against the highest-ranked opponent they've defeated since the 2008 Orange Bowl. The Jayhawks kept Oklahoma off balance, throwing for 218 and rushing for 225, despite backup quarterback Jason Bean, starting in place of the injured Jalon Daniels, throwing two interceptions and completing just 47% of his passes. But Bean came up big, including running for a 38-yard touchdown in the third quarter and a 37-yard pass on fourth-and-6 at the Oklahoma 46 with about a minute left to lead Kansas to a historic win.-- Wilson

Up next:at Iowa State (7 p.m., ESPN)

No. 25Kansas State Wildcats(6-2)

With a huge game against Texas coming next week, Kansas State wasted no time in dispatching Houston to stay in the thick of the Big 12 race. Kansas State's offense used drives of 12 and 15 plays to score touchdowns on its first two possessions, seizing momentum early and not letting go. Wildcats quarterback Will Howard completed his first 12 passes of the game to six different receivers and finished 15-of-17 passing for 164 yards with two touchdowns, helping his team eclipse the 40-point mark for the second consecutive week and the fifth time this season. Kansas State limited Houston to a season-low 208 total yards (95 passing), tied its third-largest margin of victory (41) in a conference game over the past 20 seasons and handed Houston its first shutout loss since 2000. --Baumgartner

Up next:at Texas

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