Let’s start my AP Top 25 ballot explanation with the state’s most important game of last week: UCF’s loss at Cincinnati on Friday night. That’s the one you expected, right?
It was the most important because it had three big impacts on my ballot. The first is obvious: the Knights’ second loss dropped them out of my top 25. The second is obvious, too: Cincinnati jumped in (at No. 24).
But the third big impact? That’s less obvious. In Week 2, Cincinnati suffered its lone defeat, 42-0 to Ohio State. That was impressive then, and it’s even more impressive now that the Bearcats are a top-25 team (in my eyes, at least). Because that Ohio State win looks better and because the Buckeyes rolled to a big win over Michigan State, Ohio State has leapfrogged Alabama for the No. 1 spot on my ballot.
As for the other really big game in the state … Florida jumped two spots to No. 8 after a resilient win over Auburn. I considered putting the Gators higher but couldn’t justify putting them ahead of No. 6 Clemson or No. 7 Wisconsin yet. That said, I do feel more confident that UF belongs in the top 10 than I did a week ago, and the Gators will obviously have a big chance to rise into the top five next week at LSU. Auburn still has a strong resume, and its defense was as impressive in person as I thought it’d be. So I only dropped the Tigers to 10th.
This week’s big riser was Michigan, which went from unranked on my ballot to No. 16 after beating Iowa. I still don’t think Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines are living up to their hype, but advanced metrics like them, and beating the Hawkeyes is a fine victory, no matter how ugly the game itself was. Iowa stayed on my ballot but dropped to No. 19.
Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Washington and the aforementioned UCF dropped off my ballot. Baylor, Cincinnati, Michigan and Virginia took their spots. Iowa State, Appalachian State and Tulane were among the other teams I considered. Here’s the ballot I submitted Sunday morning:
1. Ohio State
9. Penn State
11. Notre Dame
14. Boise State
18. Arizona State
21. Wake Forest