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September 29, 2009

Another big win lifts Keenum in power rankings

Rivals.com Power Rankings by Position: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ST
Coaches Power Rankings: Head Coach | Off. Coordinator | Def. Coordinator

Even after leading the nation in total offense last season, Houston's Case Keenum didn't garner a fraction of the preseason attention that went to the venerated quarterback trio of Florida's Tim Tebow, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Texas' Colt McCoy.

But he's played better than any of them so far.

Keenum threw for 435 yards Saturday and engineered a late touchdown drive that led Houston to a 29-28 victory over Texas Tech. The victory came just two weeks after Keenum outplayed Zac Robinson in a 45-35 upset of Oklahoma State.

Those two victories over Big 12 opponents put Houston into BCS contention, and they also made Keenum the new No. 1 quarterback in the Rivals.com College Football Power Rankings, which measure the nation's top performers at each position.

"If you don't look forward to that and have some type of nervousness and excitement, then you're not alive," Keenum said after the comeback. "You're not human. If you don't feel something in these types of games and [don't] love the adrenaline, then you're not living. It's a lot of fun. I'd like to do this every week."

Keenum moved ahead of Tebow, who threw for 103 yards and ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns before suffering a concussion in a 41-7 rout of Kentucky.

Keenum's rise wasn't the only change atop the power rankings.

Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard took over as the new No. 1 wide receiver after catching nine passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-20 victory over Fresno State. Gilyard leaped ahead of Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant, who sat out a 56-6 blowout of Grambling because of a hamstring injury.

Wisconsin's Garrett Graham moved to the top of the tight end rankings after catching five passes for 58 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-30 triumph over Michigan State. Graham took over the top spot from BYU's Dennis Pitta, who had five receptions for 59 yards and one touchdown in a 42-23 victory over Colorado State.

"I feel like we have a comfort together," Graham said of his chemistry with Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien. "Third downs, you try a little extra hard to get open. You have to go extra hard on third down. But I guess you could say I'm a little security blanket."

South Carolina's Eric Norwood replaced Alabama's Rolando McClain as the No. 1 linebacker after recording 10 tackles and two sacks of Jevan Snead in a 16-10 upset of Ole Miss. McClain recorded five tackles in a 35-7 rout of Arkansas.

"He was all over the place," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "That's how you stop good passing games. We talked about Jevan being a good passer and an NFL quarterback, but when you get good pressure in his face, it's hard to throw."

The other change came at the top of the special teams rankings, as Stanford's Chris Owusu took over the top spot from Clemson's C.J. Spiller. Owusu has returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in back-to-back games, including a 91-yard score Saturday in a 34-14 victory over Washington. Owusu already has scored on three kickoff returns this year to tie the Pac-10 single-season record previously set by USC's Anthony Davis (1974) and UCLA's Matthew Slater (2007).

California's Jahvid Best, Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung, Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, Tennessee strong safety Eric Berry, Florida coach Urban Meyer, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong remained atop their respective positions.

The rash of injuries this season continued to affect the power rankings by forcing the removal of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin and Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower. While the power rankings do include injured players who are only supposed to miss a few weeks, we remove players who aren't expected to return before the end of the regular season.

The ranking of a player and coach can fluctuate each week during the season depending on how he fared the previous week. The power rankings measure overall career performances as well as their most recent results.

Rivals.com Power Rankings by Position: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ST
Coaches Power Rankings: Head Coach | Off. Coordinator | Def. Coordinator

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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