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After all the dust has settled from Week 9, the debate for the top spots in the newest college football rankings has only become more intriguing. Plus, with seven ranked teams taking losses Saturday, there are plenty of spots up for grabs and the potential for big risers from outside the top 25 as voters struggle with difficult decisions near the end of the ballot.
The top eight teams in the AP Top 25 poll all won, and with Clemson and Alabama off, the voters could decide to keep things easy when filling out their ballots. It’s possible we don’t see any major changes when the rankings are updated. But if even a small portion of voters decide to open up their previous thoughts on the No. 1 team in the country, we could see some adjustments inside the top three.
Georgia had 31 first-place votes compared to 18 for Ohio State and 13 for Tennessee last week. (Clemson also receiving a single first-place vote.) But while the Bulldogs held a notable advantage, the Buckeyes faced an extremely narrow deficit in voting points (1530 points to 1513 points) with Tennessee a bit further off the pace. All Ohio State needs is a handful of voters to react to Saturday’s 44-31 win against Penn State with a change at the top of the ballot, and we could see the Buckeyes take over at No. 1.
When Florida had cut Georgia’s lead to 28-20, it looked like No. 1 was hanging in the balance, but two second-half touchdowns gave the Bulldogs a 42-20 final that is likely strong enough of a result to keep most of those 31 first-place votes. It won’t be a stunner if Ohio State does seize No. 1 on the back of its best win of the season, but poll inertia usually keeps these things in order among the top teams when we get late into the season.
The chaos in the rankings will occur outside the top eight, starting with the reaction to Kansas State stunning 48-0 win against a top-10 Oklahoma State team. The Wildcats are slated to be one of the week’s biggest rises, soaring from No. 22 all the way to knocking on the door of the top 10, boasting a 6-2 profile with both losses coming to teams with a combined 15-1 record (TCU, Tulane). Plus, Saturday’s win against the Cowboys puts the Wildcats in solo second place in the Big 12 standings. Oklahoma State is also certain to see a notable drop as voters are likely to penalize the margin of defeat as much as the loss itself.
While the Cowboys will be supported in their fall by losing to a ranked team, the same cannot be said for Wake Forest, Syracuse, Cincinnati and South Carolina. None of those teams should feel confident in their top 25 statuses after a costly second (or third) loss of the season was delivered by an unranked team, but the turnover in those spots at the end of the ballot will keep some of Saturday’s losers ranked head into Week 10.
Here’s how we think the new AP Top 25 poll will look on Sunday.
1. Georgia (Last week — 1): There is more to to be critical of than you might expect given the 22-point margin, but that’s because we’re holding Georgia to a higher standard as the reigning champion, the No. 1 team in the country and the foe for a white-hot Tennessee team next week.
2. Ohio State (2): All season we have waited to see the Buckeyes get tested, and trailing 14-13 to start the third quarter, it is fair to say the season was on the line. However, their defense, led by JT Tuimoloau, forced turnovers and even scored points themselves to power Ohio State’s best win of the season.
3. Tennessee (3): We wrote earlier that Ohio State’s win might be worth getting a few more No. 1 votes, but the same could be said for Tennessee. The Volunteers offense is inevitable, but it’s how the defense sets up Hendon Hooker with good opportunities that’s helping this group round into a fully formed championship contender.
4. Michigan (4): Running the ball effectively and playing a suffocating, dominating style of defense has become Michigan’s championship-contending form, and the ruthless efficiency that the Wolverines show on a down-to-down basis is going to lead to more wins like Saturday’s 29-7 victory against Michigan State.
5. Clemson (5): The Tigers were off in Week 9 and will be back in action next week at Notre Dame.
6. Alabama (6): The Crimson Tide were off in Week 9 and will be back in action next week at LSU.
7. TCU (7): Four straight Big 12 wins by 10 points or fewer have made life stressful for a TCU fan, but the team itself seems unfazed by the cumulative effect of playing in thrillers every single week.
8. Oregon (8): Caught in a potential trap spot at Cal with an early kickoff after the UCLA win, Oregon shook off a slow start and rolled late 42-24 win. Bo Nix totaled six touchdowns (three passing, three rushing) as he continues to build a strong argument for the QB1 debate in the Pac-12.
9. USC (10): Though the Trojans led by just two points in the final minutes of the third quarter, a 45-37 final score will be good enough for voters to keep them in a similar spot with only a slight bump up thanks to Oklahoma State’s loss.
10. UCLA (12): The Bruins quickly bounced back from last week’s loss at Oregon, jumping out to a 24-6 halftime lead and cruising to a get-right win against Stanford to improve to 7-1 overall and remain in the top tier of the Pac-12 title race.
11. Kansas State (22): Not only is the 48-0 result against a quality opponent worth rewarding in the rankings, the game also warrants a reexamination of the Wildcats’ whole profile. TCU has proven to be a a team on a special run this season, but the Horned Frogs win against Kansas State was absolutely impacted by injuries to both of the Wildcats’ top two quarterbacks. If AP voters act like the College Football Playoff Selection Committee and take injuries into consideration, Kansas State will check in as the top-ranked two-loss team in the country.
12. Ole Miss (15): The Rebels are 8-1 and have reached their off week after a midseason grind that nearly saw back-to-back losses as they survived an upset bid at Texas A&M on Saturday night. The 31-28 win featured a heavy dose of the run game that has made Ole Miss a contender, and after a week off, they’ll return to action with the biggest game of the year hosting Alabama on Nov. 12. The Rebels are off to their best start since 1962.
13. Illinois (17): This Fighting Illini defense continues to be a monster, and after Nebraska grabbed a 9-6 lead early in the second quarter, the Cornhuskers were shut out the rest of the way in a 26-9 Illinois win. That’s the sixth straight victory for Bret Bielema’s squad, which is due for a jump in the rankings if only for its status as one of the last one-loss teams in the country.
14. Penn State (13): We got to see Ohio State show some vulnerability for the first time in a long time thanks to Penn State, and the ability to get off the mat and keep charging is a credit to the roster. But too many mistakes doomed the Nittany Lions, which will feel the pain of the loss more inside the locker room than it will in the rankings.
15. Utah (14): With Cam Rising as a surprise scratch from the lineup, backup Bryson Barnes led the Utes to a tough 21-17 win at Washington State on Thursday night.
16. LSU (18): The Tigers were off in Week 9 and will be back in action next week against Alabama.
17. North Carolina (21): Trailing by double-digits in the second half, things looked dicey for the Tar Heels. But Drake Maye continued his impressive freshman campaign with five touchdown passes, and North Carolina improved to 7-1 with a win against Pittsburgh.
18. Oklahoma State (9): After a 48-0 loss at Kansas State, the Cowboys are now 6-2 with wins against Texas, Baylor and Texas Tech. It’s a strong profile, but the stock is definitely falling after losing two of the last three, albeit to teams that the AP voters will likely have in the top 15.
19. Tulane (23): The Green Wave were off in Week 9 and will be back in action next week at Tulsa.
20. Wake Forest (10): We might have seen the worst individual quarter of the entire college football season on Saturday when Wake Forest saw a 14-13 halftime lead flip with a 35-0 third quarter run by Louisville. There was a pick six, lost fumbles on the next two drives, another interception that led to a touchdown, a lost fumble that led to a touchdown, a punt and then a second pick six. Oh, and the first possession of the fourth quarter ended with a fumble. It was a disaster of truly epic proportions for the Demon Deacons, which are now 6-2 with a 2OT loss to Clemson but also a 48-21 loss at Louisville.
21. Liberty (NR): The Flames were off in Week 9, but at 7-1 with the only loss coming to Wake Forest by one point, there’s going to be some additional voters who add Liberty to their ballot in the No. 24 or No. 25 spot. Ranking Liberty also carries extra intrigue as Hugh Freeze leads this team on the road to face Arkansas in Week 10.
22. Notre Dame (NR): It’s admittedly a bold move to project a three-loss team into the top 25 at this stage of the season, but Notre Dame has a unique profile that could make it a candidate for a big jump from off the radar to in the rankings. There are losses to Stanford and Marshall that will make it impossible for some voters to include the Fighting Irish, but there are now wins against North Carolina and Syracuse that will hold some value, in addition to being one of the teams has played Ohio State the closest this season.
23. Syracuse (16): Starting QB Garrett Shrader got hurt in Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame, but his availability might not have helped a defense that was having trouble getting stops against the Irish. The Orange will be on the chopping block for many voters now sitting at 6-2 after two straight losses. Wins against Louisville, Purdue and NC State ultimately power our prediction that Syracuse hangs on barely inside the top 25.
24. NC State (24): Third-string QB MJ Morris entered the game and threw three touchdowns leading NC State on a furious comeback from what would’ve been an extremely bad loss to Virginia Tech at home on Thursday night.
25. UCF (NR): The Knights were already on the edge of breaking into the top 25 prior to last week’s loss at ECU, so there’s now a lot of ground to make up with the voters after that loss. We’re projecting that a 25-21 win against Cincinnati, which was at No. 20 in the rankings last week, will do a lot of that heavy lifting. UCF, now 6-2, will be back in the debate for those final spots on voters’ ballots.
Projected to drop out: Kentucky (19), Cincinnati (20), South Carolina (25)
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Tomorrow's Top 25 Today: Kansas State soars as upsets shake up … – CBS Sports