Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Tomorrow’s Top 25 Today: Georgia, Ohio State strengthen positions in new college football rankings

The college football rankings are going to undergo a major shock in the next week once the new AP Top 25 released Sunday is compared to the first set of College Football Playoff Rankings released Tuesday. AP voters, who have been submitting ballots since the preseason, are entrenched in their process at this point; however, the CFP Selection Committee’s evaluations do end up influencing the AP Top 25 over the final month of the season.

That’s why one of the biggest rankings-related takeaways from Week 9 is how No. 1 Georgia put together the type of performance that AP voters and the committee alike were seeking from a national championship contender. 

Georgia has been the No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 all season, but last week’s rankings showed the closest margins of the year between the Bulldogs and No. 2 Michigan. (Here in the CBS Sports 133, it has been the Wolverines on top of the Bulldogs for a few weeks now.) The first-place votes have been spread across four different teams with Ohio State and Florida State joining Michigan with No. 1 spots on ballots, and the 32 voting points difference (1,536  to 1,504) last week represented the first real threat of Georgia getting jumped without taking a loss. 

Multiple CFP Rankings projections — including the one from our own Jerry Palm — list Georgia outside of the top four. The committee ignores preseason rankings while placing value on strength of schedule and quality wins. Prior to Saturday’s rivalry game against Florida, UGA was not only lacking wins against ranked teams but even those with winning records. The Gators may not have been ranked in the AP Top 25, but they were right on the edge of the rankings last week (26th overall) and could quickly become one of the best wins on the Bulldogs’ profile. 

So Georgia, coming out of a bye week in its first game without star tight end Brock Bowers, did more than enough to offer confidence to voters in their status as the top team in the country with a 43-20 rout of Florida in the World’s Largest Cocktail Party. With the narrative all week being that Georgia didn’t hold as many quality wins as Ohio State — and hasn’t blown teams out like Michigan — we’re projecting that Saturday’s dominant victory against the Gators checks both boxes and leads to more first-place votes strengthening the Bulldogs’ hold on No. 1. 

Elsewhere in the rankings, the biggest result of the weekend was Kansas’ upset win over previously undefeated Oklahoma. The victory will certainly launch the Jayhawks into top 25 consideration after being unranked, but the damage to the Sooners will be interesting considering their head-to-head victory over Texas. The back half of the top 25 could also see some shake up with addition of the Jayhawks and Utah falling after a home loss to Oregon; the Ducks looked excellent but won’t be jumping ahead of Washington. Also keep an eye on the action in the 20s as Liberty improved to 8-0 while unranked last week and several teams, including USC, got upset scares.  

Here’s how we think the new AP Top 25 will look after Week 9 action: 

1. Georgia (Last week — 1): Jacksonville native Carson Beck has been tasked with elevating his game in the absence of Bowers, and he certainly answered the call against Florida, rolling up 315 yards on 19 of 28 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Bulldogs scored on their first four offensive possessions of the game and never looked back, defending a 26-7 halftime lead all the way to its 43-20 conclusion.  

2. Michigan (2): The Wolverines were off in Week 9 and will be back in action next week against Purdue. 

3. Ohio State (3): Going on the road to Madison, Wisconsin, is never easy — especially with an injury report that’s as extensive as that of Ohio State — but the Buckeyes rode their defense, Marvin Harrison Jr. and the ground game to get out of town with their undefeated record intact after a 24-10 win over the Badgers.

4. Florida State (4): The Seminoles met expectations for the week with a 41-16 win at Wake Forest that saw Jordan Travis roll up 359 yards passing and four total touchdowns in Florida State’s first win against the Demon Deacons since 2018. 

5. Washington (5): A major upset scare at the hands of Stanford is worth some adjustment in how the voters have the Huskies stacked up against other undefeated teams, but ultimately, a 42-33 win and their head-to-head win against Oregon will keep Washington in the top five. 

6. Texas (7): We’re projecting the Longhorns to jump ahead of the Oklahoma team they lost to earlier this season, but not every ballot will have it in that order as some voters will take a hard stance on the head-to-head result. Saturday’s 35-6 win against BYU showcased the Texas defense more than anything with quarterback Maalik Murphy bouncing back from a couple early mistakes to finish with a solid showing in his first career start. 

7. Oregon (8): Bo Nix delivered a statement performance in racing Oregon out to an early lead against Utah in Rice-Eccles Stadium, a spot where the Utes had won 29 of their last 30 heading into the game. The Ducks defense also garnered headlines in the 35-6 win, as it’s the first game since 2018 that Utah has not scored a touchdown. 

8. Oklahoma (6): There is still enough “losing teams must move down” belief among the AP voters to know the Sooners will drop, but that win against Texas is strong enough to keep a high floor for how far Oklahoma will fall after the 38-33 loss at Kansas

9. Alabama (9): The Crimson Tide were off in Week 9 and will be back in action next week against LSU. 

10. Penn State (10): The ranking may remain the same but confidence — which can be seen in the form of voting points — will likely take a hit as a result of being tied, at home, with less than 3 minutes remaining against Indiana with PSU entering as a 31-point favorite. The 33-24 final — courtesy of a 57-yard KeAndre Lambert-Smith touchdown — might soften some of the scoreboard shock for any voter who didn’t get a chance to follow the action, but rankings-wise, the Nittany Lions are mostly happy to dodge the upset scare.  

11. Oregon State (11): The Beavers are currently in action at Arizona. 

12. Ole Miss (12): Now 7-1 after handling Vanderbilt at home, the Rebels have yet to face a ranked team since knocking off LSU in late September but continue to stack wins and rise in the rankings. Ole Miss has a solid profile with wins against LSU and Tulane and only one loss coming at Alabama, which could make Nov. 11 very interesting when the Rebels visit Athens, Georgia, to take on the top-ranked Bulldogs. 

13. Notre Dame (14): While the final score of 58-7 suggests an offensive onslaught against Pittsburgh, this was really a blowout that was led by the defense and special teams. The Fighting Irish scored 23 points off of five Pitt turnovers with a Chris Tyree punt return touchdown added to the mix, and the Panthers didn’t even find the end zone until the fourth quarter when the game was well out of reach.  

14. LSU (15): The Tigers were off in Week 9 and will back in action next week at Alabama. 

15. Missouri (16): The Tigers were off in Week 9 and will be back in action next week against Georgia. 

16. Louisville (18): A week off after the stunning loss at Pitt did wonders for Louisville as it came out with a strong 23-0 win against a Duke team that was ranked No. 20 heading into the weekend.

17. Air Force (19): Caught in a snow-covered dogfight with in-state rival Colorado State, the Falcons had enough plays late to pull away with a 30-13 win to remain undefeated.  

18. Utah (13): Wins against USC and UCLA provide a solid landing spot for Utah, which is now 6-2 with losses to Oregon and Oregon State. The profile itself probably looks better than the team did Saturday against the Ducks, though voters could attribute some of those struggles to the quality of the competition.   

19. Tennessee (21): No major change in the national rankings after a 33-27 win at Kentucky, but picking up the road win against the Wildcats was a big swing game for how this season finishes for Josh Heupel and the Volunteers. 

20. Tulane (22): The result flew mostly below the radar, but Tulane was outscored 21-3 in the second half at Rice only to hold on for 30-28 win to improve to 7-1. 

21. UCLA (23): No major changes after a 28-16 win against Colorado as the head-to-head loss to Utah now drops its ceiling for upward momentum. Plus, the best win, which at one point was Washington State, doesn’t pack the same punch, either.  

22. Kansas (NR): Few two-loss teams have the quality win that Kansas can now claim with its upset of Oklahoma. Last season, reaching bowl eligibility was a landmark for Lance Leipold. Now, it’s not even a top headline coming out one of the best wins in recent history for the Jayhawks. Before taking down OU today, KU was 0-107-2 all-time against top 10 teams when trailing at the start of the fourth quarter.

23. USC (24): There will be voters who drop USC off their ballots even after a win. The 50-49 win at Cal does little to provide confidence that the Trojans, as talented as they are offensively, should be ranked among the best two-loss teams in the country. 

24. James Madison (25): Last year the Dukes broke into the top 25 and promptly lost their next three games. They avoided the same fate in 2023 with a 30-27 win over Old Dominion in the Royal Rivalry. 

25. Liberty (NR): The Flames improved to 8-0 with a 42-29 road win against Western Kentucky in midweek Conference USA action. After finishing No. 27 in voting points last week, we’re projecting Liberty lands on a few more ballots with voters looking to fill out their top 25.

Projected to drop out: No. 17 North Carolina, No. 20 Duke 

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