College football Power Rankings after Week 2

Written by on September 12, 2021

3:08 AM ET

  • ESPN staff

What college football’s Week 2 schedule lacked in high profile games, it more than made up for in drama.

Multiple teams in the top 10 survived close calls despite upstart performances from scrappy teams keen on pulling an upset early in the season.

Ohio State was one team that did not survive an upset-minded team as the Oregon Ducks marched into the Horseshoe in Columbus and pushed the Buckeyes around in a 35-28 victory. The win was Oregon’s first victory over Ohio State in program history and snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Buckeyes. Beyond knocking off Ohio State, the win gave the Pac-12 a serious early season boost for a possible College Football Playoff berth.

Elsewhere, Texas A&M and Notre Dame both survived despite trailing late to unranked teams. Both the Fighting Irish and the Aggies scored with less than three minutes left — 1:06 and 2:41, respectively — on the clock to avoid upsets on Saturday.

Iowa joined Oregon as the largest climbers in the Power Rankings this week following a 27-17 victory over rival Iowa State in Ames, and Ohio State tumbled out of the top 10 following the big loss.

With the action of Week 2 behind us, it’s time to take a look at college football’s Power Rankings.

Maybe Nick Saban was onto something a few days ago when he went on a rant about his team’s inability to play a full four quarters against Miami and how players were allowing themselves to be affected by everything from the weather to the media. He questioned whether they respected Mercer enough, and when kickoff finally arrived it looked like he was right. Alabama started out sloppy against the FCS foe, punting on each of their first two drives offensively. Eventually the Tide got their act together, of course. Bryce Young threw three more touchdowns and no interceptions, and Alabama won, 48-14, to set up a top-15 showdown at Florida next Saturday. — Alex Scarborough

Well then. Facing a great Group-of-Five defense with backup quarterback Stetson Bennett starting in place of the injured JT Daniels, it was easy to guess the Dawgs might struggle for a bit against UAB. Instead, they scored a first-round knockout. Bennett was 10-for-12 for 288 yards and five touchdowns. The incredible Georgia defense allowed only 174 yards, and the only points UAB scored were on a garbage-time pick six. The 56-7 win further established Georgia as Bama’s most formidable challenger early in the season. — Bill Connelly



Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett throws for 288 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Dawgs to a 56-7 victory over UAB.

The Ducks beat Ohio State for the first time in school history, and left no doubt they were the better team — even without star defensive players Justin Flowe and Kayvon Thibodeaux, who were both sidelined with injuries. Oregon racked up 269 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 38 attempts and finished with 505 yards of total offense. Oregon’s ability to sustain drives — including a 99-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter — wore out Ohio State’s defense. Quarterback Anthony Brown finished with 236 passing yards and 121 rushing yards. Twelve of his 18 completions went for first downs. — Heather Dinich

Clearly, there was far too much drama in Week 1 for Lincoln Riley’s liking. Oklahoma had to hold off an inspired effort by Tulane to win 40-35. So not wanting to go back down that road this week, the Sooners made quick work of outmanned FCS foe Western Carolina in a 76-0 rout. Spencer Rattler threw five touchdown passes – to four different players — in the first half as Oklahoma raced out to a 45-0 halftime lead, and the only question from there was how many more points the Sooners felt like putting on the board. — Chris Low

The Hawkeyes kept the Cy-Hawk Trophy with their sixth straight win over Iowa State as Kirk Ferentz continued his mastery over Matt Campbell, who is 0-5 against him. Iowa’s defense shut down Iowa State’s stars, holding QB Brock Purdy to 138 yards and picking him off three times, while limiting running back Breece Hall to 69 yards. Iowa had just 173 total yards — just 23 in the second half — and yet was in total control. The Hawkeyes are now 2-0 with wins over then-No. 17 Indiana and No. 9 Iowa State, their first top-10 road win since 1960. — Dave Wilson

Blame it on a Big 12 hangover, but Cincinnati slogged through a half against FCS Murray State before pulling away, 42-7. The Bearcats scored the final 35 points, propelled by quarterback Desmond Ridder and running back Jerome Ford. Cincinnati continues to feature a more aggressive downfield passing attack, as Ridder averaged 11 yards per completion. Ford recorded his first career three-touchdown performance, and the defense recorded five takeaways (three interceptions, two fumble recoveries). Sluggish starts won’t cut it when the schedule gets harder, but Cincinnati ended up winning rather comfortably. — Adam Rittenberg

The Tigers put FCS South Carolina State to bed before the end of the first quarter and cruised to an easy 49-3 win. Considering the significant talent gap, the game served as more of an offensive tune-up for Clemson, which was held without a touchdown in its 10-3 loss to Georgia in the opener. Through two games, Clemson has yet to allow an offensive touchdown. — Bonagura

Zach Calzada went through about eight different stages of player development in just four quarters. Thrust into action when starting quarterback Haynes King suffered a leg injury, Calzada was mostly overwhelmed and rushed. A&M trailed 7-3 after three quarters, and he lost a fumble inches from the CU goal line midway through the fourth. But given one last chance, he threw a gorgeous 18-yarder to Isaiah Spiller, and the Aggies survived. Winning with your backup QB doesn’t have to be pretty. — Connelly

Emory Jones started at quarterback, but backup Anthony Richardson stole the show once again in a 42-20 win over USF. Richardson went 3-for-3 for 152 yards and two scores, while adding 115 yards rushing and another touchdown — becoming the first Florida player with at least 100 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in a game since Tim Tebow in 2009. Richardson also happens to wear No. 15. If there was any downside to his performance it was this — Richardson tweaked his hamstring on his long touchdown run. The news was less glowing for Jones, who threw for 151 yards and a touchdown, but also had two interceptions. Still, Mullen was adamant afterward he is sticking with Jones as his starter. — Adelson

The Nittany Lions had an easier time this week compared to last week against Wisconsin. Penn State beat Ball State on Saturday 44-13 in a game that was never really close. Quarterback Sean Clifford completed 21-of-29 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown, while running for 66 yards and a score. The team combined for 240 yards on the ground and eventually was able to get some backups some time towards the end of the game. The defense held Ball State to just four of 16 third-down conversions and had two interceptions in the game. — VanHaaren

The Buckeyes’ defense had no answer for Oregon’s balanced offense, and couldn’t slow down a rushing attack that averaged 7.1 yards per carry. It was a night of dubious distinctions for Ohio State, which snapped a 23 home-game winning streak, and surrendered the most rushing yards to an opponent in Ohio Stadium since 2014 against Indiana. Quarterback C.J. Stroud wasn’t the problem — he threw for 484 yards and three touchdowns — but he was sacked twice on the last two drives of the game and threw an interception with 2:50 left in the game. — Dinich

The Irish snuck by Toledo in their second close game of the season. It took a late touchdown to go ahead and stay ahead to win 32-29. Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Toledo, who eventually scored to take the lead. Quarterback Jack Coan dislocated his finger, got it fixed on the sideline and threw the game winning touchdown with 1:09 left in the fourth quarter. Coan was sacked six times, and threw two touchdowns and one interception in the win. It wasn’t pretty, and the defense struggled to keep points off the board, but Notre Dame is 2-0 on paper. — VanHaaren

The Bruins were off this week following last week’s statement win against LSU and will head into next week’s game against Fresno State as one of the most interesting teams in the country at this point. Fresno State should provide a stiff test, and a loss would nullify a lot of the gains from beating the 2019 national champions. — Bonagura

The Rebels are 2-0 and haven’t broken much of a sweat. For the second straight week, they cruised to an easy win, and this time, with coach Lane Kiffin on the sideline. Kiffin missed last week’s 43-24 season-opening win over Louisville after testing positive for COVID-19. He had a front-row seat Saturday for the 54-17 win over Austin Peay. Matt Corral had four touchdown passes in the first half, and Ole Miss never really looked back after that. — Low



Quarterback Matt Corral throws for 281 yards and five touchdowns as No. 20 Ole Miss routs the visiting Governors.

The Chanticleers overwhelmed Kansas through the air, on the ground and on special teams in rolling to a third straight victory over the Jayhawks on Friday night. With all but three starters returning from last season’s 11-1 team, the Chanticleers didn’t have many concerns coming into 2021. But junior Reese White has shored up one of the few holes by emerging as a big-play back. He ran 14 times for 102 yards with three scores against Kansas. He had 62 yards with two scores on just seven touches in a season-opening win against The Citadel. The one-two punch of Reese and Shermari Jones will go a long way in replacing CJ Marable, last season’s leading rusher. — Mark Schlabach

The excitement surrounding the first top-10 matchup in Cy-Hawk history ended in disappointment as the Cyclones once again failed to break through against the Hawkeyes. Iowa State’s defense made it tough on the Hawkeyes, holding them to 1.7 yards per carry, but the offense had four turnovers as Brock Purdy struggled under pressure, going 3-of-8 for 37 yards and two interceptions against the blitz before eventually being benched for Hunter Dekkers. Matt Campbell has made historic strides at Iowa State, but is now 0-5 in the one that hurts the most. — Wilson

The Hokies got off to a sluggish start against Middle Tennessee, but that was not a major surprise considering they were coming off a highly charged, emotional win over North Carolina on opening weekend. Three scores to open the second half helped put the game away and sealed a 35-14 victory. Braxton Burmeister took a shot to the head early in the game but came back to throw for 142 yards and a touchdown. Raheem Blackshear had two touchdown runs. The defense held Middle Tennessee to 66 yards rushing. — Adelson

The offense needed a get-well week against Eastern Michigan after an extremely disappointing opening loss to Penn State. The Badgers received a big lift from running back Chez Mellusi, as the Clemson transfer became the first Wisconsin player to open his career with consecutive 100-yard rushing efforts since Corey Clement in 2013. Mellusi led the Badgers with 144 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, but had to share time with Jalen Berger. Isaac Guerendo also had an 82-yard touchdown run. But Wisconsin’s merciless defense once again rose up, allowing only three first downs and 92 total yards. — Rittenberg

Arkansas welcomed Texas to its future home in the SEC with a 40-21 victory that didn’t even feel that close. The Razorbacks racked up 333 yards and four touchdowns — despite not having any 100-yard rushers — on the ground as the Longhorns just didn’t have any answers in Fayetteville. Texas turned to backup quarterback Casey Thompson, who rushed for two touchdowns late, but it wasn’t enough to rally past an improved and hungry Arkansas team.

After all that UNC’s offense lost from the 2020 team, quarterback Sam Howell knew more would be on his shoulders this fall. Howell responded from a tough opening loss at Virginia Tech to carry the Tar Heels to their first victory Saturday against Georgia State. He not only led UNC in passing (352 yards) but also in rushing (104 yards), logging touchdown runs of 62 and 22 yards. Wide receivers Antoine Green and Emery Simmons flashed big-play potential as UNC needed barely seven minutes to exceed its Week 1 points total. The Heels defense limited a pass-heavy Georgia State offense to three yards per attempt. — Rittenberg

It’s been a long time since 2009, just ask BYU. The Cougars erased a nine-game losing streak to bitter rival Utah Saturday night by holding the Utes’ offense to just seven points over the first three quarters of their 26-17 victory. Jaren Hall threw for three touchdowns in the win, including a touchdown right before the half that extended BYU’s lead to 16-9 at the break. Utah scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, but the Cougars’ lead never felt in question, and the fans in Provo can sleep easy tonight knowing the streak is finally over.



Jaren Hall completes a pass to Gunner Romney in the end zone for a 4-yard BYU score.

It took some time to get going, but after falling behind 10-7 to UNLV in the second quarter, the Sun Devils scored the game’s final 30 points to win 37-7. QB Jayden Daniels completed 20 of 29 passes with a pair of touchdowns as ASU moved to 2-0 with a tough game against BYU next week. ASU is one of just three teams in the Pac-12 still undefeated. — Bonagura

After jumping out to a 14-point lead against Missouri, the Wildcats found themselves in a battle. But, after the teams traded touchdown throughout the final three quarters, the early touchdowns paid dividends as Kentucky outlasted the Tigers, 35-28. Chris Rodriguez Jr. had a career day rushing the football, racking up 206 yards and three scores in the victory. A key matchup with the Florida Gators in three weeks now looms large for Kentucky.

You can’t prove much as a new coach when you start the season against Akron and Alabama State, but Bryan Harsin can point to both victories and say that his teams played well from start to finish. And, let’s face it, consistency was not exactly the hallmark of the previous regime. So that’s something. A 62-0 beatdown of Alabama State on Saturday also showed what could be an improved Bo Nix at quarterback. Again, the competition is what it is, but the junior appears to have cleaned up some of the mistakes we’ve seen from him the last two seasons, completing 29 of 39 passes for 383 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions through two games. — Scarborough

Don’t look now, but Jim Harbaugh is having a great time with his Michigan team this season. The Wolverines got a primetime slot against Washington this week and did not disappoint the Big House faithful. The Huskies sputtered on offense throughout the game, going scoreless in the first half while Michigan built a 10-point lead. A Huskies’ field goal in the third quarter did little to deter the Wolverines, who were led by Blake Corum‘s three touchdowns. Washington scored a late touchdown, but by that point it was all Michigan. Harbaugh and company cruised to a 31-10 win.

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