On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee will reveal its first set of rankings for the 2018 season. It’s always interesting to see how the committee stacks up against the human polls, particularly after a weekend that could see as many as six or seven teams swap in and out of the AP Top 25.
There isn’t much change at the top where Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, LSU and Michigan are all likely to hold as top-five teams heading into November. Losses by Texas and Florida open up spots in the top 10 for Ohio State and Kentucky, the former getting to move up while being off while the latter needed last-second heroics from Terry Wilson to keep its SEC championship hopes alive. Now next week’s Georgia-Kentucky game in Lexington is a top-10 matchup with the SEC East on the line, and it’s been picked for the SEC on CBS doubleheader, beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. (Alabama-LSU is obviously the primetime game at 8 p.m.)
Washington State could crash the top 10 after beating Stanford on the road, and Utah could be the team to make the biggest up as it continued its tear through conference play with a 31-point win against UCLA on Friday night. But things are very fluid once you get to the final dozen spots in the top 25 following a week where most of those teams lost, opening up opportunities for new arrivals in the rankings.
We’re guessing that Iowa will be able to hold on because its loss came at Penn State, but Washington, Texas A&M and Wisconsin could all end up getting bounced by virtue for their third loss. South Florida has an argument to hang on in the rankings, particularly if Houston is going to make an appearance as we’re projecting, but the light support behind an undefeated Bulls team makes it tough to know if that support is still there after their first loss.
That fluidity near the bottom of the top 25 sheds light on that strange part in the season where teams aren’t winning as much they are avoiding losses, with a fair assessment of the landscape revealing that there isn’t much difference between the No. 20 team in the country and the No. 35 team in the country. Some teams have played their toughest games already while others have likely losses waiting around the corner, so any of the team that got bounced this week should know that they’re probably only a week or two away from getting back in the good graces of the reactionary AP voters.
Here’s how we think the new AP Top 25 will look on Sunday:
1. Alabama (Last week — 1): The Tide were off this week, back in action in the Game of the Year of the Century against LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Nov. 3 in primetime on CBS.
2. Clemson (2): The Tigers absolutely blasted Florida State, handing the Seminoles a defeat that tied for the worst in program history. No reason to doubt the Tigers anymore as they prepare for a likely top-four spot in the first CFP Rankings reveal.
3. Notre Dame (3): A first-play fumble didn’t make for a great omen, but the Irish were good enough to not need much luck in an easy win against Navy in San Diego.
4. LSU (4): The Tigers were off this week.
5. Michigan (5): The Wolverines were off this week.
6. Georgia (7): Jake Fromm’s get-right game came in the biggest game of the season, giving the Bulldogs an edge in the SEC East race coming off a loss and an off week. Georgia’s best win of the year comes at a crucial time, and if this level of play continues for two more weeks the Bulldogs are right back in the national title conversation.
7. Oklahoma (8): As the points and yards pile up, we’re going to come around on the idea that Kyler Murray is doing this quarterback thing at Oklahoma on an elite level, one that stacks up to the Heisman Trophy winner from a year ago. If the wins continue to pile up, Murray will have an argument to be right there in New York City as well.
8. UCF (10): The Knights were off this week, back in action on Thursday night.
9. Ohio State (11): The Buckeyes were off this week.
10. Kentucky (12): Everything is setting up as well as Kentucky could have hoped. Georgia is coming to town next week, and the SEC East is on the line. Thanks to a walk-off touchdown against Missouri, the Wildcats have a chance to take the lead in the division race when the Bulldogs come to town.
11. Washington State (14): The Cougars could see a slight jump in the order between 10-15 thanks to going on the road and pulling out a 41-38 win at Stanford. Washington State will be the Pac-12’s highest-ranked team heading into November and likely the last hope for the conference making the College Football Playoff.
12. West Virginia (13): Great response from Will Grier and the Mountaineers after getting pushed around by Iowa State. A 58-14 romp is exactly what should bolster the voters’ confidence in West Virginia as a top-15 team with top-10 potential.
13. Florida (9): Turnovers were to blame in the Gators’ loss to Georgia, which is a weird twist of fate for a team that been among the best in the country at ending up on the plus-side of the turnover margin. In so many ways, including multiple red zone stands, Florida looked the part of an SEC East title contender. With its only losses coming to top-15 teams, don’t expect Florida to fall beyond No. 20.
14. Texas (6): What will the voters do with Texas? The Longhorns have a win against Oklahoma and just two losses, but those losses came to unranked Maryland and unranked Oklahoma State. We’re guessing the quality of that win and the flurry of losses for ranked teams at the back of the top 25 limit how far Texas can fall, considering the top-10 status it brought into the weekend.
15. Utah (23): No one in college football had a more impressive jump from September to October than Utah. Four straight Pac-12 wins, all by double digits while scoring 40 points or more, have put Utah in the conversation as one of the better two-loss team in the country. Holding on to that claim, and the lead in the Pac-12 South, means winning at Arizona State, at home against Oregon and at Colorado in the next three weeks.
16. Penn State (17): A third straight home loss would have been devastating for a Penn State team that has been just a few plays away from being the leader in the Big Ten title race heading into November. By holding on against Iowa, Trace McSorely and the Nittany Lions showed grit they’ll need next week on the road against Michigan.
17. Oregon (19): The Ducks are currently in action at Arizona.
18. Utah State (NR): No halftime score was as stunning as Utah State’s 52-5 lead against New Mexico on Saturday. The Aggies cruised to a 61-19 win, their seventh in a row and sixth of the season scoring 40 points or more.
19. San Diego State (NR): The Aztecs are currently in action at Nevada.
20. Virginia (NR): The Wahoos are in first place in the ACC Coastal, only needing a win in the Commonwealth Cup against Virginia Tech to secure the program’s first division title.
21. Houston (NR): It’s possible that the Cougars are the best team in the AAC, not only a threat to UCF’s playoff run but a worthy contender for a New Year’s Six bid in its own right. They sure looked the part against South Florida, running it up against the Bulls even with superstar Ed Oliver sidelined.
22. Boston College (NR): In beating Miami, the Eagles secured bowl eligibility and made themselves a player in the ACC Atlantic division race. Boston College has one conference loss already but gets Clemson in Chestnut Hill in two weeks.
23. Iowa (18): Are the Hawkeyes set for a drop? Definitely. But losses below Iowa in the rankings and the fact that its one of the last two-loss Power Five teams in the country should keep it on the edge of enough ballots to remain ranked for another week.
24. Georgia Southern (NR): The Eagles are in command of the Sun Belt title race after knocking off Appalachian State at home on Thursday night and have a solid profile worth a national ranking with their only loss of the season coming at Clemson.
25. Syracuse (NR): There are a number of teams that could end up slipping in here at the end of the rankings, including one of our teams that are projected to fall out. I’m thinking that the thrilling shootout win against a ranked NC State team gives Syracuse, now bowl eligible for the first time under Dino Babers, the edge in enough ballots to show up inside the top 25.
Projected to drop from the rankings: Washington (15), Texas A&M (16), Wisconsin (20), South Florida (21), NC State (22), Stanford (24), Appalachian State (25)
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