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My AP Top 25 ballot: Florida Gators rise, and a new No. 1 team

How far did UF jump after its biggest win of the Dan Mullen era? And who’s now ahead of Alabama?
Florida wide receiver Freddie Swain (16) outruns a tackle by Auburn defensive back Daniel Thomas on his way to a 64-yard touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) [JOHN RAOUX | AP]
Published Oct. 6

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.

RELATED: Florida Gators a lock for a College Football Playoff spot? Not just yet

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.

RELATED: Florida Gators beat Auburn Tigers 24-13 to stay undefeated

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

2. Alabama

3. Georgia

4. LSU

5. Oklahoma

6. Clemson

7. Wisconsin

8. Florida

9. Penn State

10. Auburn

11. Notre Dame

12. Oregon

13. Texas

14. Boise State

15. Utah

16. Michigan

17. Missouri

18. Arizona State

19. Iowa

20. Memphis

21. Wake Forest

22. Baylor

23. Cincinnati

24. Virginia

25. SMU


  1. Florida tight end Kyle Pitts (84) celebrates after scoring a touchdown on a 15-yard pass reception during the second half against Vanderbilt on Nov. 9 in Gainesville. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    The Florida Gators still have a lot to play for, even with a sleepy game in cold Columbia.
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon III Hargreaves kneels in the end zone after the Seattle Seahawks defeated his team in overtime in an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer) JOHN FROSCHAUER  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: It’s a mailbag episode, with answers on Jameis Winston’s future, Lavonte David’s season, Mike Evans’ plight, Kevin Cash’s third-place finish and Charlie Strong’s job...
  3. Florida quarterback Emory Jones looks for a receiver against Towson during the second half on Sept. 28 in Gainesville. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and Emory Jones all have remaining eligibility, which adds an interesting dynamic to next season.
  4. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws a pass in the first half of an NCAA football game against Alabama Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Tuscaloosa , Ala. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) JOHN BAZEMORE  |  AP
    Two notable teams fell despite 50-plus point wins. That happens sometimes.
  5. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) is carried off the field by his teammates after defeating Alabama 46-41 on Saturday in Tuscaloosa. JOHN BAZEMORE  |  AP
    The Tigers break an eight-game losing streak to the Tide with a gutty, statement road victory.
  6. Florida linebacker Mohamoud Diabate, here against Tennessee earlier this season, says “I’m proud of myself’’ after leading Florida’s defensive domination vs. Vanderbilt. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Journal: One of Diabate’s sacks is also a turnover that sets up a Gators touchdown.
  7. Florida wide receiver Trevon Grimes (8) runs after a reception past Vanderbilt linebacker Kenny Hebert (21) during the first half in Gainesville. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Kyle Trask’s 363 yards were the most by a Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow in 2008. But give credit to the guys catching his throws.
  8. Quarterback Kyle Trask threw for 257 yards and got the Gators back in the game vs. Georgia in the second half, but Florida lost 24-17. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The last three times Florida lost to Georgia, the Gators lost the next game by double digits.
  9. Quarterback Jameis Winston and the Bucs play their first home game in 49 days at 1 p.m. Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. Times
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Can Jameis Winston make the Bucs’ welcome-home game a success?
  10. USF Bulls head coach Charlie Strong on the sideline during the second half of the game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, October 12, 2019.  OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Here are our picks for this week’s top college football games, including USF-Temple, FSU-Boston College, Florida-Vanderbilt and Alabama-LSU.