Why Florida Gators, USF fell off my AP Top 25 ballot
The AP Top 25 voting guidelines are simple: Base your decisions on performance, not reputation. So that's what I did after the first full weekend of games. And that's why the Florida Gators and USF both fell out of my top 25.
UF was a pretty easy choice. The Gators were dominated (again) by Michigan's lines. Maybe the Wolverines are a great, top-10 team, but I'm not sure yet. In the meantime, I don't think the Gators deserve the benefit of the doubt - not as long as their best offense remains a pick-six.
The Bulls were tougher, but a 31-17 win over Stony Brook (in a game that was closer than the score suggests) is inexcusable for a ranked team. Here are the other results from teams that were ranked (or received votes) against Division I-AA foes:
Miami won 41-13
Kansas State won 55-19
Washington State won 31-0
Utah won 37-16
TCU won 63-0
Oregon won 77-21
Pitt won 28-21 (in overtime)
The only comparable result was Pitt - which beat a Bo Pelini-coached Youngstown State team that reached the I-AA title game last season. Stony Brook went 5-7.
I also graded USF harsher because it was their second underwhelming performance. Coaches usually tell you that a team makes the biggest growth between the first game and the second one. If that's USF's growth, then a perfect season seems unreachable.
Florida State fell from second to sixth on my ballot. The defense is as good as advertised. Special teams, obviously, were a mess, and the offense had issues, even before Deondre Francois hurt his knee. I ignored the injury in this week's rankings, because I don't have any performances from James Blackman to judge. He could be overwhelmed as a true freshman. He could also be the next Jalen Hurts. I don't know yet, so I'm tabling that discussion until next week's rankings, when I'll have something to evaluate.
I used my preseason rankings as a reference, not a guide. I didn't dismiss them, but I leaned heavily on performance over preseason expectations. The big risers were LSU (from 12th to fifth) and Virginia Tech (from 25th to 17th). Welcome UCLA, Notre Dame and the fightin' Muschamps. Farewell Gators, Bulls and Texas.
3. Ohio State
7. Penn State
8. Oklahoma State
17. Virginia Tech
21. South Carolina
22. Kansas State
23. Washington State
25. Notre Dame