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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.

RELATED: Alabama quarterback Mac Jones once lit up Lakewood High

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

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Joe Burrow poses with his trophy in New York after joining Billy Cannon (1959) as LSU Heisman winners. [JASON SZENES  |  AP]
    The quarterback dominates the voting in a record landslide.
  2. In this Dec. 7, 2019, file photo, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) warms up before the SEC championship game against Georgia, in Atlanta. [JOHN BAZEMORE  |  AP]
    Matt Baker put two defensive linemen on his ballot, but neither could top the LSU star quarterback.
  3. Florida coach Dan Mullen watches his team take the field for pregame warmups before facing Georgia at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville on Nov. 2. The recruiting class so far for the Gators gives him plenty of reasons to be giddy. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    With the early signing period looming, UF is recruiting at a championship level.
  4. Assistant Attorney General Brian Benzkowski announces charges against ten former National Football League (NFL) players who are accused of defrauding an NFL health care program, at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. [CLIFF OWEN  |  AP]
    Former Jefferson High star and former Florida Gator, Donald “Reche” Caldwell is among two others who could be charged.
  5. LSU players celebrate after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. [JOHN BAZEMORE  |  AP]
    “Members of Congress care about college sports. They recognize how important it is to American society."
  6. Running back DeeJay Dallas (13) and Miami will spend bowl season in Shreveport, La., for the Independence Bowl. [MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP]
    Starting Dec. 20, there is almost a full month of couch potato fun ahead if you love college football.
  7. Florida coach Dan Mullen has led the Gators to consecutive New Year's Six bowl appearances. [JEFF ROBERSON  |  AP]
    This will be UF’s first Orange appearance since Steve Spurrier’s final game
  8. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron celebrates after the Southeastern Conference championship against Georgia on in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. [JOHN AMIS  |  AP]
    LSU slides up to No. 1 in the final rankings of the season.
  9. Florida guard Ques Glover tries to drive on Butler forward Bryce Golden during the first half in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. [MICHAEL CONROY  |  AP]
    UF sees its four-game winning streak come to an end on the road.
  10. Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin celebrates his team's final touchdown in its victory over UAB in the Conference USA championship game on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Boca Raton. [MIKE STOCKER  |  AP]
    After leading the Owls to victory in the Conference USA title game on Saturday, the coach announces he’s leaving for the Rebels.
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