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My AP Top 25 ballot: How does Tua Tagovailoa’s injury affect Alabama?

The Florida Gators moved back into Matt Baker’s top 10 this week.
Alabama sive lineman Alex Leatherwood (70) checks on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) after he was injured in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Alabama won 38-7. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) [ROGELIO V. SOLIS  |  AP]
Alabama sive lineman Alex Leatherwood (70) checks on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) after he was injured in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Alabama won 38-7. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) [ROGELIO V. SOLIS | AP]
Published Nov. 17

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s awful hip injury will obviously have an enormous impact on the College Football Playoff and the rest of the season. It’s just not having an impact on my AP Top 25 ballot.

At least not yet. My general rule is that I don’t punish teams immediately when a player gets hurt because teams respond different ways.

RELATED: An open letter to FSU’s next coach from Seminoles’ win over Alabama State

Maybe the backup is fully capable. Or maybe he’s not. Maybe the team rallies around their teammate. Or maybe the team folds.

We know a little bit about Tagovailoa’s backup, Mac Jones. His completion percentage (69.2) would rank just outside the top 10 nationally if he had enough attempts. His passing efficiency (159.6) would be in the top 20. But can he do it over a full game against a good team like Auburn in two weeks? I don’t know. That’s why I prefer a wait-and-see approach, and that’s why the Crimson Tide stayed at No. 5 on my ballot.

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Elsewhere, I went against one of my other general rules by devaluing a head-to-head win. Penn State moved up to No. 7 in my eyes after a nice win over Indiana (which stayed at No. 25 in my rankings). Among the teams the Nittany Lions jumped: Minnesota, which beat Penn State the week before.

A head-to-head win is a trump card, for me, unless the resumes are different. Penn State beat Iowa, which beat Minnesota. The Nittany Lions have two other wins over ranked teams on my ballot (the aforementioned Hoosiers and Michigan). The overall body of Penn State’s work was enough to overrule its loss to Minnesota, even though they have the same 9-1 record. The Gophers, by the way, fell three spots to No. 11 on my ballot, allowing the Gators to move back into the top 10 with their win over Missouri.

The Florida Gators moved back into Matt Baker's top 10 this week. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) [JEFF ROBERSON | AP]

Iowa’s win also nudged the Hawkeyes past Cincinnati and into 18th, despite the Bearcats’ AAC road win over USF on a last-second field goal.

I feel better about Baylor as a strong team now after its close loss to Oklahoma than I did a week ago. But the Bears’ resume is still weak, which is why they’re 15th.

Auburn stayed at No. 12 for me, even though the Tigers lost at home to Georgia. A one-score loss against the No. 4 team in the nation in a rivalry game isn’t anything to be ashamed of, and Auburn’s Week 1 win over Oregon continues to keep Gus Malzahn’s team elevated.

Texas, Kansas State and Navy all dropped off my ballot this week to make room for Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Iowa State. The Cyclones have impressed me all season, which says a lot about the head coaching job of Matt Campbell (a potential Florida State target). I also gave serious consideration to putting Appalachian State back in my rankings.

RELATED: Kirk Herbstreit has three criteria for FSU’s next coach. Who checks those boxes?

Here’s the AP Top 25 ballot I submitted Sunday morning:

1. LSU

2. Ohio State

3. Clemson

4. Georgia

5. Alabama

6. Oklahoma

7. Penn State

8. Oregon

9. Utah

10. Florida

11. Minnesota

12. Auburn

13. Wisconsin

14. Michigan

15. Baylor

16. Memphis

17. Notre Dame

18. Iowa

19. Cincinnati

20. Boise State

21. SMU

22. Oklahoma State

23. Texas A&M

24. Iowa State

25. Indiana


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