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Week 2 college football rankings: Florida State, USC climb and Clemson falls after Week 1

Week 1 of the 2023 college football season is drawing to a close. Saturday delivered plenty of excitement, a few surprises and a plethora of memorable moments for football fans across the country. Now, it’s time for our Week 2 college football rankings.

Everything kicked off in Salt Lake City with a season-opening rematch between the Utah Utes and Florida Gators. The Week 1 kickoff game set the tone for everything after it, with clear takeaways and concerns emerging from some of the best teams in college football.

Related: Passing the Trojan Torch from Reggie Bush to Zachariah Branch?

Let’s dive into our Week 2 college football rankings.

Dropped from rankings: TCU Horned Frogs (21), Florida Gators (24), Texas Tech Red Raiders

Week 2 college football rankings: Ole Miss, Iowa enter top 25

25. Arkansas Razorbacks

  • Previously: Unranked
  • Next Opponent: Kent State @ Arkansas

It was over by halftime, with KJ Jefferson and Raheim Sanders delivering a throwback performance that felt reminiscent of the highs the Arkansas Razorbacks delivered two years ago. Then again, we’ve seen this program get off to hot starts and then collapse in October. Given the upcoming schedule for Arkansas in a few weeks, a top-25 appearance will likely be short-lived.

Related: Best college football quarterbacks

24. Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Previously: Unranked
  • Next Opponent: Iowa @ Iowa State

The Iowa Hawkeyes combined for 14 points in their first two games last season. One year later, with Cade McNamara leading the offense, the Hawkeyes’ offense scored 14 points within the first 8 minutes of action. The first quarter was impressive, though, Utah State outscored Iowa 14-10 the rest of the way. We’ll get a better evaluation of Iowa when they battle the Cyclones in Week 2 for the Cy-Hawk Trophy.

Related: Stanford, California and SMU to join ACC, create 18-team conference

23. Texas A&M Aggies

  • Previously: Unranked
  • Next Opponent: Texas A&M @ Miami (FL)

The Texas A&M Aggies decimated New Mexico in Week 1, with quarterback Conner Weigman, executing Bobby Petrino’s offense to perfect. Saturday’s performance served as a reminder that Petrino’s play-calling can absolutely transform the team we saw in 2022. Then again, if anything goes wrong, Aggies fans won’t hesitate to start calling for Petrino to place Jimbo Fisher.

Related: Grading college football coaching hires 2022-’23

22. Ole Miss Rebels

  • Previously: Unranked
  • Next Opponent: Ole Miss @ Tulane

We thought Quinshon Judkins would be the star of the Ole Miss Rebels offense this fall, but the Jaxson Dart-Tre Harris combo looked phenomenal. Dart connected with Harris for four touchdowns and 133 yards on just six connections, part of an outright dominant performance in a season-opening victory for Ole Miss. It’s good enough to get the Rebels into our top 25 rankings, but a Week 2 win would prove a lot more.

Related: 2023 fantasy football rankings

21. Wisconsin Badgers

  • Previously: 21st in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Wisconsin @ Washington State

Braelon Allen apparently might not even be the best running back on the Wisconsin Badgers roster. Chaez Mellusi, the former Clemson running back, averaged just 4.2 yards per carry last season and finished with two touchdowns with 473 rushing yards. In Week 1, Mellusi scored two touchdowns and is nearly halfway to reaching his yardage output from last season. As for Tanner Mordecai, let’s just say he left something to be desired and that’s a bit of a disappointment. It might not matter, though, thanks to the Allen-Mellusi duo.

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20. Tulane Green Wave

  • Previously: 18th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Ole Miss @ Tulane

Michael Pratt and Willie Fritz are all the Tulane Green Wave needs. While Tyjae Spears’ absence was certainly felt on Saturday, with Tulane abandoning its running game in the first half, the Green Wave scored three touchdowns on seven completions by Pratt. Based on what we saw in Week 1, a scoring efficiency close to that might be necessary to beat Ole Miss.

Related: Best running backs in college football

19. Clemson Tigers

  • Previously: 12th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Charleston Southern vs Clemson

If Monday didn’t remind everyone that this isn’t the same Clemson Tigers program from its glory years a few years ago, maybe that reminder will come on September 23. After an 8-0 start last season, Clemson went 3-3 the rest of the way. Dabo Swinney’s squad didn’t look any better on national television against Duke. The Tigers will beat Charleston Southern and Florida Atlantic easily, but the Clemson team we just saw could be in serious trouble when it faces the Seminoles later this month.

Related: 2024 NFL Draft picks by team

18. Oregon State Beavers

  • Previously: 23rd in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: UC Davis @ Oregon State

It’s safe to say the Oregon State Beavers have carried over their momentum from last season. Led by head coach Jonathan Smith and transfer quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, the Beavers took care of business on Sunday on the road against San Jose State. Uiagalelei looked sharp, but Oregon State’s defense along with running back Damien Martinez really stood out in this one-sided battle. With the victory and 1-0 start, Oregon State has now won eight of its last nine games dating back to last season, with the one loss (21-24 vs Washington Huskies) coming on a last-second field goal with 8 seconds left on Nov. 4, 2022. Take the Beavers seriously.

Related: Deion Sanders explains why he’ll never coach in the NFL

17. Kansas State Wildcats

  • Previously: 20th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Troy @ Kent State

Will Hoard might be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in college football. He wasn’t perfect on Saturday, but the 6-foot-2 senior showed the same ability that produced an 82.5 QBR last season with 18 total touchdowns. If he can tighten up the accuracy and decision-making even more, Kansas State will climb higher.

Related: 2024 NFL mock draft

16. Oklahoma Sooners

  • Previously: 16th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: SMU @ Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Sooners absolutely decimated Arkansas State on the ground, breaking free for 220 yards without a single player eclipsing 50 yards. With the ground game working, Dillon Gabriel (308 yards), had as many total touchdowns (3) as incompletions. A nice start to the season for Boomer Sooner.

Related: Longest field goal in college football history

15. North Carolina Tar Heels

  • Previously: 17th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Appalachian State @ North Carolina

As long as Drake Maye is healthy, the North Carolina Tar Heels have a shot to win every game this season. He’s an elite quarterback who raises the talent level around him and that can go a long way in the ACC. Even when he makes some mistakes, like we saw vs South Carolina, his peak stretches can carry the Tar Heels.

Related: EA Sports sued over NCAA Football video game

14. LSU Tigers

Syndication: The Tennessean
Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: No. 4 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Grambling vs LSU

A variety of factors played into LSU getting trounced in the second half against Florida State. One of the most obvious problems, the LSU Tigers played edge rusher Harold Perkins in coverage for 28 snaps. That is arguably the best pass rusher in college football being used like a safety. Let it serve as a reminder that when it comes to Brian Kelly-coached teams, there’s always a few head-scratching decisions that always prove costly.

Related: Best college football stadiums

13. Oregon Ducks

Syndication: The Register Guard
Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: 14th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Oregon @ Texas Tech

The transfer portal gave the Oregon Ducks a dynamic duo in 2022 and that electrifying pairing is back in 2023. Bo Nix and Bucky Irving combined for four touchdowns and 336 total yards in the first half alone against Portland State in Week 1. However, the Ducks’ offense wasn’t a concern heading into the year. We’ll get a better assessment of Oregon’s defense next week.

Related: Heisman Trophy winners

12. Utah Utes

NCAA Football: Florida at Utah
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 13th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Utah @ Baylor

The Utah Utes got their revenge on the Florida Gators, welcoming them to Salt Lake City and promptly shutting them down at Rice-Eccles Stadium. We won’t make any sweeping judgments on an offense that s still without Cam Rising, but backup quarterback Bryson Barnes did more than enough to get the job done. This is a nice win against an SEC opponent for Utah, but the Florida Gators are a bad team right now. Let’s see how the Utes perform on the road against a well-coached Baylor team in Week 2.

Related: College Football standings

11. Washington Huskies

NCAA Football: Boise State at Washington
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: 15th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Tulsa @ Washington

The Kalen DeBoer and Michael Penix Jr. pairing remains one of the best coach-quarterback pairings in college football. Together, Penix Jr. and DeBoer have generated nearly 40 total touchdowns since last season. Washington’s offensive dominance erased some concerns generated by the Cameron Davis injury, but the Huskies’ defense still needs to be tested.

Top 25 college football rankings after Week 2:

10. Tennessee Volunteers

Syndication: The Tennessean
Caitie Mcmekin / News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: No. 11 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Austin Peay @ Florida State

The Tennessee Volunteers offense looked just as fast and explosive as the nearly unstoppable unit we saw last season. Of course, quarterback Joe Milton III didn’t face a lot of pressure and volatility with his accuracy remains one of the biggest reasons our confidence level in Tennessee isn’t higher. However, running back Jaylen Wright – 115 yards on 12 carries – looked outstanding and this should only be the start of what’s coming.

Related: College Football scores

9. Penn State Nittany Lions

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Penn State
Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 9 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Delaware @ Penn State

Drew Allar should’ve been the Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback last year. Saturday’s showcase highlighted how much better this offense looks when there’s a playmaking signal-caller. When you pair him with Nicholas Singleton, one of the top backs in the nation, you’ve got an offense that can be far more electrifying than we’ve seen in previous years. Then again, this is a James Franklin-coached team and those are hard to trust in big games.

Related: Best college football stadiums 2023

8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

NCAA Football: Navy at Notre Dame
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 8 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Notre Dame @ NC State

Sam Hartman is a ceiling-raiser. At Wake Forest, he helped make the Demon Deacons a perennial top-20 team had his 2021-’22 run (77-26 TD-INT ratio) showcased how he can lead a top-flight offense. Now with the Fighting Irish, Hartman has the talent and coaching around him to make Notre Dame a playoff threat.

Related: Texas Football schedule

7. Texas Longhorns

NCAA Football: Big 12 Football Media Days
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 2 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Texas @ Alabama

Quinn Ewers and Co. did more than enough on Saturday in the season-opening victory over Rice. However, it’s tough to make an accurate assessment of this defense when JT Daniels is giving the football away and missing wildly on other passes. It’s safe to say next weekend’s matchup vs Alabama is a litmus test for both playoff contenders and they each have a lot to prove.

Related: Caleb Williams wants ownership stake in the team that drafts him

6. Ohio State Buckeyes

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Indiana
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 4 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Youngstown State @ Ohio State

Kyle McCord’s numbers in the first half were practically identical to C.J. Stroud’s in his first start. On the one hand, that should be enough reason to demonstrate why there shouldn’t be any extreme reactions to a single performance. However, with the weight we place on quarterbacks in our rankings, it certainly wasn’t the kind of passing clinic that eased our biggest problem with the Buckeyes in 2023.

Related: Best college football teams ever

5. Michigan Wolverines

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
  • Previously: No. 7 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: UNLV @ Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines took care of business in their season opener, with quarterback JJ McCarthy (280 yards, 3 TDs) leading the way. Blake Corum (7.7 ypc) once again flashed some of the reasons why he’s the best running back in college football and the Wolverines’ defense did exactly what it should vs East Carolina. We won’t get a great test for Michigan for several weeks, so the Wolverines should keep racking up Ws.

4. Florida State Seminoles

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Florida State
Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 10 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Southern Miss @ Florida State

That’s why Jordan Travis is one of the best players in college football. While he threw a pick and the Florida State Seminoles offense had a few minor hiccups on Sunday night, Travis showed a national audience why he can challenge for the Heisman Trophy this year and why Florida State is a bonafide playoff contender. With all the talent on both sides of the ball, the Seminoles should be 3-0 when they face Clemson and it’s pretty clear which team is better on paper.

Related: Best college football stadiums

3. USC Trojans

NCAA Football: Nevada at Southern California
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 4 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Stanford @ USC

Caleb Williams is why the USC Trojans might be able to overcome their defense. After all, there’s a reason the reigning Heisman winner has drawn comparisons to Andrew Luck and Patrick Mahomes. He’s capable of scoring 40-plus points against any opponent and it’s even more likely to happen in this Lincoln Riley offense with the weapons around him. Whether or not USC actually makes the playoffs will just depend on whether or not this defense can make a few timely stops in the big games.

2. Alabam Crimson Tide

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Alabama
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 3 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Texas @ Alabama

Jalen Milroe certainly looked like the caliber of playmaker that can make the Alabama Crimson Tide a national championship contender in 2023. Granted, the frst-year starter’s success came against a very bad Middle Tennessee State defense and that is nothing compared to what we see in the USC. However, we wanted to see real “flash” from the unproven quarterbacks in Week 1 and Milroe delivered. If he keeps it up, the Crimson Tide can absolutely challenge Georgia for the SEC crown.

Related: College Football Games Today

1. Georgia Bulldogs

Syndication: Online Athens
  • Previously: No. 1 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Ball State @ Georgia

The Georgia Bulldogs are the best team in college football until proven otherwise. Then again, looking at the Bulldogs’ schedule, it’s fair to say Kirby Smart’s team won’t even be tested until November. Anything but double-digit wins from now until Nov. 11 would be a massive disappointment for the back-to-back champs.