Wed, Dec 11, 2019

When the new AP Top 25 is released on Sunday, don’t be surprised if it shows a preview of what’s to come from the new College Football Playoff Rankings. Among the changes that we could see in the top 10 after Week 12 is a bump up for Oklahoma after handing Baylor its first loss of the season.

The Sooners were very much in the playoff picture as a one-loss team in conference championship contention, but it wasn’t until Saturday night’s epic comeback win in Waco, Texas, that they had a quality win to help their case in head-to-head comparisons within the top 10. So even though Oklahoma was favored heading into the game and fell down big early, the win changes the math for rankings purposes. Other changes that we expect include a quick readjustment for Minnesota and a top-five swap between SEC teams. 

Here’s how we think the new AP Top 25 will look on Sunday: 

1. LSU (Last week — 1): Even when the Tigers are tested by an opponent that can get loose offensively, it seems impossible to outscore Joe Burrow. LSU’s 58-37 win at Ole Miss the closest thing we’ll get to a “letdown” performance after one of the biggest victories in program history last week over Alabama.

2. Ohio State (2): Thank goodness this Maryland-Rutgers stretch of the Buckeyes’ schedule is over. Up next is the home finale against Penn State then the biggest game of the year at Michigan. Anyone doubting Ohio State’s bona fides will have their concerns addressed by the time the Buckeyes show up to the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis. 

3. Clemson (3): It was Senior Day as Clemson beat Wake Forest by 49, extending its run of 40+ point wins to four games and its streak of scoring at least 45 points to six games. Essentially, this team has been entirely different since its off week in early October, and it’s looking as playoff ready as anyone in the country. 

4. Georgia (5): It’s hard to argue with Kirby Smart’s approach to winning football, as the boa constrictor defense has punched Georgia’s ticket to the SEC Championship Game for a third straight season after Saturday’s 21-14 win at Auburn. Beating the Tigers in Jordan-Hare Stadium is arguably as impressive at wins against Notre Dame and Florida, and it only bolsters this team’s argument as being a threat to LSU in the SEC. 

5. Alabama (4): There’s a difference between adjusting for Tua Tagovailoa’s future availability in your projections and ranking Alabama based on what’s happened so far in 2019. The Crimson Tide are still a top-10 team and worthy of top-five consideration based on what they’ve done through 12 weeks of football, but now their unknown future with Tagovailoa sidelined becomes the key to discussing whether they’re top four worthy. I think the AP voters ultimately reward Georgia for its win but don’t punish Alabama for losing its best player.   

6. Oklahoma (10): The way the Sooners overcame early mistakes on the road to beat Baylor answered a lot of questions about whether this team is going to be able to withstand the adversity that comes with being a playoff contender in November. It’s a quality road win that I think leads to pushing Oklahoma over the Pac-12’s pair of top-10 teams. It was also a solid defensive performance in the second half.

7. Oregon (6): A dominant wire-to-wire win against Arizona isn’t going to wow the voters, but it demonstrated a continued display of consistency from the Ducks’ defense that aids its case as a dark horse title contender. The Wildcats have gotten loose against a few teams and Oregon kept them out of the end zone all night.  

8. Utah (8): A dominant win against UCLA won’t do a ton to change the Utes’ standing in the polls, but it does show that this team is still playing its best football of the season. Zack Moss (200 total yards, two touchdowns) has been a difference maker for Utah’s offense since his return from injury, and it’s come at the right time. Key wins against Arizona State and Washington have put the toughest regular season games in the rear-view, but in order to keep the playoff hopes alive there’s a style points factor to judging the Utes right now. In that sense, Week 12 went about as well as it could have. 

9. Minnesota (7): The AP voters just made a big adjustment with Minnesota last week after the Penn State win, so it’s tough to know if they’ll honor the head-to-head advantage when sorting out the one-loss teams on the edge of the top 10. 

10. Penn State (9): I’m guessing that Penn State’s closer-than-expected win at home against Indiana will hurt its argument to be considered for spots occupied by Georgia, Alabama, Oregon and Utah. That puts the Nittany Lions in a different group among one-loss teams where its loss to Minnesota puts a ceiling on its ranking. 

11. Florida (11): Winning at Missouri isn’t easy, and Florida became the first team to do it in 2019 with a 23-6 victory over the Tigers. Kyle Trask overcame a slow start for the offense with two third-quarter touchdowns, and the Gators’ defense starred in the team’s SEC regular-season finale. Florida has not given up a touchdown in eight quarters.

12. Michigan (14): Impressive 44-10 win against Michigan State. Shea Patterson had one of the best games for a Michigan quarterback in this series history, throwing for 384 yards and four touchdowns.

13. Baylor (12): Since the Bears were 10-point underdogs and undefeated heading into the contest, there shouldn’t be a major change in their poll position. Every voter will have a different opinion as to where the Bears stack up against the teams just outside the top 10, but given where they ranked coming into the weekend, I wouldn’t expect a move up following the loss. 

14. Wisconsin (15): Beating Iowa and Nebraska in back-to-back weeks should get the Badgers back into a groove after the Illinois loss nearly derailed their season. 

15. Notre Dame (16): There was never a doubt against Navy as Chase Claypool tied a school record with four touchdowns and the Irish cruised to a 52-20 win. 

16. Iowa (23): Finally, a quality win for the Hawkeyes. We knew this was a good team ever since its win against Iowa State, but there hasn’t yet been another win that stands up well against many of the other top 25 profile. After handing Minnesota its first loss of the season, there is a feeling of affirmation around Iowa City

17. Auburn (13): This Tigers team has gone toe-to-toe with the best teams in the country and had opportunities to win against SEC title contenders, but at some point this team’s losses will result in a major rankings drop. I don’t think it’s this week, though. It would be a surprise if the AP voters put Auburn all the way on the other side of the AAC-Boise State cluster in the lower half of the top 25.

18. Cincinnati (17): I don’t suspect that the Bearcats will drop from their Group of Five frontrunner position in the poll, but there was plenty in Saturday’s 20-17 win at South Florida to draw concern as to whether this is the best team from the AAC. Its only loss — a 42-0 defeat to Ohio State — is the best part of that argument for now, but we’ll see the AAC decided on the field in the next three weeks. 

19. Memphis (18): Houston came out throwing haymakers, but Memphis locked in during the second half and pulled away for a 45-27 win. 

20. Boise State (19): The best chance for Boise State to make a move up in the rankings isn’t going to be against New Mexico. The Broncos won 42-9 but now face the tough test of two straight road games to close the regular season in order to enter conference championship week with a chance at a New Year’s Six bowl game. 

21. SMU (20): The Mustangs were off in Week 12.    

22. Oklahoma State (25): Chuba Hubbard was getting Heisman Trophy hype from coach Mike Gundy after his 122-yard, two-touchdown performance against Kansas, and Dylan Stoner did a good job stepping up in the absence of injured wide receiver Tylan Wallace. Oklahoma State took care of Kansas with ease, and it’ll keep them considered among the best three-loss teams in the country. 

23. Appalachian State (NR): All the Mountaineers have to do is win out, and they’ve clinched their side of the Sun Belt Championship and earned a shot at yet another conference title. Putting it on Georgia State in a 56-27 road win will draw the attention of the voters who didn’t have App. State, the No. 1 team left outside the top 25 last week, already on their ballots.

24. Virginia Tech (NR): The Hokies have won five of their last six, only falling 21-20 at Notre Dame. They close the regular season with a chance to win out and win the ACC Coastal. This does not look like the Virginia Tech team that lost to Boston College and Duke earlier this season; instead, it looks like one of the most dangerous teams in the ACC.

25. Indiana (24): The biggest boost to Indiana’s hopes to stay ranked here isn’t the fact that its loss came to a higher ranked Penn State team that was favored by two touchdowns but the fact that Kansas State, one the top vote getters not to make the top 25 last week, lost to West Virginia. The Hoosiers might get jumped by Texas A&M or Iowa State, but I think they’ll hang on for another week.

Projected to drop out: Navy (21), Texas (22)

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