This is an interesting week for the AP Top 25 voters, which are now held to higher standards for comparing college football teams with six weeks of regular season action in the books. If you subscribe to the “win and move up, lose and move down” theory — and keep your ballot consistent from week-to-week — there weren’t too many results that will cause major shake ups in the college football rankings.
No. 10 Florida beat No. 7 Auburn and will likely take its place near the top five, and a trio of teams outside the top-15 suffered losses that will get them bounced with new arrivals taking their respective places.
But if voters started from scratch each week, you would think there might be some more volatility in the rankings. After all, Ohio State is continuing to pass every test and look more and more like a No. 1 candidate. Florida now has a more impressive win than Alabama or Clemson have on their resumes. Penn State is undefeated and outscoring opponents 235-37 on the season, yet the Nittany Lions are barely sniffing the top 10.
Preseason opinions lead to preseason rankings, and those rankings shape the early season movement in the top 25 polls. It’s time to give up on those opinions and consider what we’ve seen on the field when ranking the best college football teams in the country.
Here’s how we believe the new AP Top 25 will look on Sunday.
1. Alabama (1): The Crimson Tide were off in Week 6.
2. Clemson (2): The Tigers were also off in Week 6.
3. Ohio State (4): When Ohio State’s running game needed a spark against Michigan State, Justin Fields was there in the first half to kick start a run that helped the Buckeyes take control of the contest. Fields’ dual-threat ability is sometimes limited in hopes of protecting his health and extra hits given the depth concerns at quarterback, but having him there as an option proved to be the difference-maker between Ohio State being very good team and potential national champion.
4. Georgia (3): The final count at Tennessee won’t be what gets the Bulldogs potentially jumped by the Buckeyes, it’ll be the status of both games going head-to-head in the prime time slate. Georgia’s 43-14 win in Rocky Top leaves plenty for its coaches to review.
5. LSU (5): It didn’t take long for LSU’s offense to start putting together the statistical profile of a record-setting group in the program’s storied history. But while the Tigers offense is deservedly receiving the headlines, it’s the defense that showed up in a big way against Jordan Love and Utah State in a 42-6 win.
6. Oklahoma (6): A slow start was quickly overcome, and the Sooners cruised to a 45-20 win at Kansas.
7. Florida (7): Saturday afternoon’s win against Auburn was affirmation for Dan Mullen and a team that’s battled through adversity throughout his tenure. Mullen is now 16-3 as the Gators coach with two wins against top 10 teams in The Swamp, and Gainesville, Florida, has once again become one of the toughest road stops in the SEC.
8. Wisconsin (8): The Badgers predictably trounced Kent State 48-0 as Jonathan Taylor scored five touchdowns and extended his season-long streak of scoring on Wisconsin’s opening drive.
9. Notre Dame (9): Ian Book and the starters didn’t need much time on the field with USC on deck and an early lead established as the Fighting Irish cruised to a 52-0 win against Bowling Green.
10. Penn State (12): The reasons to consider Penn State both a top-10 team and a threat to Ohio State in the Big Ten have less to do with its 5-0 start than how much better its looked recently as opposed to the start of the season. The Nittany Lions are getting better with a chance to peak when it matters most with Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State ahead in the next three weeks.
11. Texas (11): It was a gut-check game on the road at West Virginia, and Sam Ehlinger was up for the challenge. The Longhorns will likely hold their position or slightly improve after an 11-point win on the road.
12. Auburn (7): A frustrating loss at Florida takes some shine of the magic from Auburn’s undefeated start to the season with two ranked wins. The Tigers will fall in the polls, but more concerning is the challenge ahead to try and remain in the SEC West race with three more top-10 opponents on the regular season schedule.
13. Oregon (13): We spent all offseason looking at Justin Herbert and the Oregon offense, but it’s been the defense that has led the way in recent weeks. Saturday night’s 17-7 win against Cal was all about the Ducks overcoming turnovers and holding the Bears scoreless in the second half.
14. Washington (15): The Huskies are currently in action against Stanford.
15. Michigan (19): The Wolverines defense was dialed in and relentless in leading Michigan to a hard-fought win with Iowa in town. There is plenty to dissect regarding the red zone offense and missed opportunities on that side of the ball, but for now, it gets to celebrate a get-right top-25 win against a conference foe.
16. Boise State (16): The Broncos are currently in action against UNLV.
17. Utah (17): The Utes were off in Week 6.
18. Iowa (14): The Hawkeyes made far too many mistakes to expect to win in the Big House and were lucky to be in it at the end, but the shortcomings of the day won’t totally cancel out the good work done in Iowa’s 4-0 start to the year. There will be a drop in the polls, but Iowa won’t end up unranked after the road loss.
19. Arizona State (20): The Sun Devils were off in Week 6.
20. Wake Forest (22): The Demon Deacons were off in Week 6.
21. Cincinnati (NR): Here’s where we think the Bearcats land, just behind the undefeated Demon Deacons but ahead of the one-loss Wahoos. The thinking here is that Cincinnati’s win over UCF gets weight over Virginia’s best win, which is either at Pitt or at home against Florida State, and the Bearcats’ loss at Ohio State gets leverage against Virginia’s lone loss at Notre Dame.
22. Virginia (23): The Cavaliers were off in Week 6.
23. SMU (24): Coming back from 30-9 down to Tulsa, the Mustangs forced overtime and then won in the third overtime to pick up their second win in the last 15 seasons when trailing by three touchdowns or more. The 6-0 start for SMU is its best since 1982.
24. Baylor (NR): After back-to-back wins against Iowa State and Kansas State, Baylor has quickly become one of the primary stories in the Big 12. Matt Rhule has the program moving up in the conference pecking order and the undefeated start will finally be rewarded by the AP Top 25 voters after a second straight quality win.
25. Texas A&M (25): The Aggies were off in Week 6.
Projected to drop out: UCF (18), Oklahoma State (21), Michigan State (25)