As the clocks get turned back, our focus turns to the final stretch of the college football season. With Week 10 now in the books, there are several notable developments in the College Football Playoff and conference championship races that will be reflected in the new top 25 rankings released on Sunday.
For the first time since Week 4, every single team in the AP Top 25 was in action against an FBS opponent with four games between ranked teams. Of those four games, none held the nation’s attention quite like Alabama’s 42-28 win against LSU under the lights, a game that saw Jalen Milroe star in a win that put the Crimson Tide in the driver’s seat for the SEC West. But the new AP Top 25 rankings will also be impacted the release of the first set of CFP Rankings. The CFP Selection Committee differed from the AP voters on a few teams, and it will be interesting to see if those differences end up being reflected in the new AP Top 25 on Sunday.
The AP has kept Georgia at No. 1 all season, but the committee put Ohio State in the top spot. Maybe if the Buckeyes had been more dominant at Rutgers there would be a change of heart, but considering the Bulldogs’ win in a back-and-forth battle with a ranked Missouri team, our expectation is that AP voters won’t be influenced by the CFP Rankings when it comes to No. 1.
Notre Dame was ranked higher in the AP Top 25 than the CFP Rankings, which certainly does not look great given the Fighting Irish fell at Clemson, but the pollsters can claim a prescient win with less enthusiasm for USC given yet another loss for the Trojans defined by the inability to get stops on defense against Washington.
One place where the AP voters may have been off was not having Oklahoma State ranked in last week’s poll, while the Cowboys were included in the committee’s first rankings. Now that Mike Gundy’s squad has knocked off Oklahoma, look for the AP voters to not only correct their error but place Oklahoma State among the top two-loss teams in the country, possibly inside the top 15.
Here’s how we think the new AP Top 25 will look on Sunday.
1. Georgia (Last week — 1): The Bulldogs are not an infallible No. 1, but they have overcome adversity in several spots this season. That suggests the foundation of this year’s team is solid. Missouri led 13-10 early in the second half, and Carson Beck answered the challenge leading two straight touchdown drives on the way to a 30-21 win. There were 48 AP voters who put the Bulldogs on their ballot at No. 1 last week, and though the margin against Missouri was closer than the oddsmakers expected, a 9-point win is likely enough enough to satisfy most of those voters.
2. Michigan (2): No signs of off-field issues having an obvious impact to the Wolverines’ on-field performance as Michigan improved to 9-0 with a 41-13 win over Purdue.
3. Ohio State (3): The committee made a statement placing the Buckeyes at No. 1 while the AP Top 25 had them at No. 3, but trailing early at Rutgers only to pull away with a 19-point win might not be enough to have the AP voters rethinking how they view the top teams in the country.
4. Florida State (4): There aren’t a lot of style points to be had from Florida State’s 24-7 win at Pittsburgh, but the Seminoles offense was down its top two pass catchers (Keon Coleman, Johnny Wilson), and the result remains clinching a spot in the ACC Championship Game for the first time since 2014. So, a good day for the program but not a score that will greatly change FSU’s spot in the rankings.
5. Washington (5): After a couple weeks where the offense hasn’t quite met the expectation, Michael Penix Jr. and the Huskies got right back in rhythm at USC with a 52-42 win that maintains their position as the team to beat in the Pac-12.
6. Oregon (6): The Ducks’ ability to hit the gas on a team is impressive, and California found out the hard way when a 14-10 game flipped to 35-13 at halftime and eventually a 63-19 final score. Bo Nix, as usual, led the way with 386 yards passing and six total touchdowns, ensuring Oregon gives up no ground in the playoff race ahead of next week’s showdown with USC.
7. Texas (7): The head-to-head advantage against Alabama comes in handy for the Longhorns, which were pushed to the brink after blowing a 20-point third quarter lead in the 33-30 overtime win against Kansas State.
8. Alabama (8): There could definitely be voters who place Alabama ahead of Texas on their ballots in the wake of the Crimson Tide’s impressive showing against LSU on Saturday night, but as a consensus, our projection is that the Tide will remain one spot behind the Longhorns.
9. Penn State (9): The offense that sputtered a couple of weeks ago against Ohio State was able to fully flex its muscles against Maryland, and the Nittany Lions improved to 8-1 after a 51-15 win against the Terrapins.
10. Ole Miss (11): The Rebels got caught in a shootout against Texas A&M but had more answers thanks to their dynamic backfield duo of quarterback Jaxson Dart (387 yards passing, two touchdowns) and running back Quinshon Judkins (102 yards rushing, three touchdowns). SEC West title hopes may have been damaged by Alabama’s win against LSU, but if the Rebels stay the course, they’ll be in the running for a New Year’s Six bowl bid. (In fact, our Jerry Palm will have them projected for one on Sunday.)
11. Louisville (15): The Cardinals were down multiple key players and still dominated a surging Virginia Tech squad in a 34-3 win to improve to 8-1. Though Louisville’s best win remains a Notre Dame team that will be falling in the rankings, that one-loss status is going to keep pulling Jeff Brohm’s squad closer to the top of the poll.
12. Oregon State (16): A late charge from Colorado created some unexpected drama but Oregon State held on for a 26-19 win in Boulder. The Beavers have a big opportunity for upward movement not just because of shuffling in the top 20 but increased respect for the Arizona team it lost to last week.
13. Utah (18): There are few better ways to shake off the stink of a rare home loss for Utah than absolutely blasting your next visitor out of the building. Utah’s 55-3 win against an Arizona State team that has been frisky against the Pac-12’s best should be enough to reinforce the Utes’ position as a top-20 team.
14. Tennessee (19): No major changes in the pecking order for the Volunteers after a 59-3 rout of UConn.
15. Oklahoma State (NR): While Oklahoma State was listed No. 22 in the season’s first CFP Rankings, the Cowboys were the first team outside the rankings in the AP Top 25 last week. After beating Oklahoma, the surge of voter support should lead to a huge jump, but the fact that many did not back the Pokes last week may set a ceiling on their position.
16. Oklahoma (10): Earlier this season, Oklahoma’s ranking was defined by its win against Texas. But after nine games ,expect to see the 7-2 Sooners more closely identified in the rankings by their losses as back-to-back defeats to Oklahoma State and Kansas have flipped the postseason outlook for a team that was ranked No. 5 in the country in early October.
17. LSU (13): Voters may apply the absence of Jayden Daniels for the game’s final minutes as a reason to limit the rankings damage from the loss to Alabama, but the main reason the Tigers will drop is the fact that they now have three losses and only win against another team in the top 25.
18. Kansas (22): The Jayhawks let Iowa State back into the game in the second half after jumping out to a 14-3 halftime lead, but an 80-yard touchdown from Jason Bean to Lawrence Arnold in the fourth quarter helped keep the Cyclones at bay in a 28-21 road win.
19. Missouri (14): There’s usually not a ton of punishment for losing to the No. 1 team, especially given how close Mizzou played Georgia on the road. Now 7-2 after the 30-21 loss, Missouri will fall but not out of the top 25.
20. Arizona (NR): The Wildcats have been a different team since the quarterback change and Noah Fifita is now 3-2 as a starter with wins against UCLA and Oregon State and the only losses coming to Washington by seven points ad USC by two. In beating the Bruins and Beavers in back-to-back weeks the Wildcats are sure to get voter attention and will land in the top 25.
21. Tulane (21): There’s not a lot to brag about coming out of a 13-10 win at ECU other than the fact that the Green Wave remain undefeated in conference play with an 8-1 overall record.
22. James Madison (23): While the committee omitted the Ducks from their top 25, we’re not projecting any change in their status for the AP Top 25, especially after a 28-point thumping of Georgia State in Atlanta.
23. Notre Dame (12): A win over USC is the strongest argument for Notre Dame’s rankings profile now that it has three losses, and for the first time this season, the Fighting Irish have been defeated by an unranked opponent. Clemson may maintain a high power rating in eyes of the oddsmakers (evident by the 3-point betting spread), but it’s still a 5-4 team that will not check the box as a “quality loss” for many voters.
24. Fresno State (NR): Now 8-1 after a 37-30 win against Boise State, the Bulldogs will get increased some attention for spots at the end of the ballot. What Fresno State has that other similar teams don’t is two road wins against power conference opponents thanks to early season victories at Purdue and Arizona State.
25. Kansas State (25): The expectation is that Kansas State will not make every ballot, but it could make enough ballots to remain inside the top 25 even at 6-3. The Wildcats took Texas the distance in a 3-point overtime loss on the road, meaning that all three losses this season have been away from home in one-score games.
Projected to drop out: No. 17 Air Force, No. 20 UCLA, No. 24 USC