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AP Top 25: Why Ohio State and Wisconsin fell, Louisiana Lafayette rose on Matt Baker’s ballot

Plus, why our AP voter is keeping the Florida Gators where they’ve been, despite some impressive performances recently.
Ohio State is still one of the best teams in the country. But the Buckeyes' dwindling schedule has made them tougher to rank.
Ohio State is still one of the best teams in the country. But the Buckeyes' dwindling schedule has made them tougher to rank. [ JAY LAPRETE | AP ]
Published Nov. 29, 2020

As college football’s weirdest regular season in decades nears its end, my weekly AP Top 25 ballot is changing in an only-in-2020 way, to the detriment of Ohio State and Wisconsin this week.

I’m starting to put a greater premium on teams that have played more games.

The rankings have been odd all season, with various conferences starting at different times and entering rankings at different stages. But as December approaches, I think it’s time to give more weight to what teams have actually accomplished rather than what I think teams are capable of doing.

Ohio State is clearly one of the most talented teams in the nation. But the Buckeyes had another game called off (against Lovie Smith’s Illini). I think Clemson and Ohio State are comparable, so I can no longer justify putting the 4-0 Buckeyes ahead of the 9-1 Tigers.

Ryan Day has a very good team at Ohio State. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes haven't played enough.
Ryan Day has a very good team at Ohio State. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes haven't played enough. [ JAY LAPRETE | AP ]

The same goes farther down my ballot. Wisconsin is a strong team with a very good defense. But the Badgers have only played three games. That’s not enough for me to put them ahead of teams with deeper resumes, like Iowa State or Oklahoma State. Idle Wisconsin, accordingly, fell three spots in my rankings.

Louisiana Lafayette was the bigger riser for me, jumping from No. 24 to No. 16. The Ragin’ Cajuns’ 70-20 shellacking of Louisiana Monroe was a factor, but the bigger reason was simply a reevaluation of Louisiana Lafayette. The Ragin’ Cajuns beat Iowa State in the opener and has one loss (by three points to top-15 Coastal Carolina). The Iowa State win looks more impressive after the Cyclones knocked off Texas. I realized I was mistaken earlier in my decision to keep Louisiana Lafayette lower than an Iowa State team it beat by 17 points in the opener. I rectified that issue this week.

I still see no real separation between Cincinnati, BYU, Texas A&M and Florida in 5-8. I kept them in that order. If the Gators could play Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies tomorrow at a neutral field, I’d probably expect UF to win. But the results haven’t been enough for me to justify jumping UF ahead of a team it lost to in October.

Related: Florida Gators use special-teams trickery to rout Kentucky, get closer to SEC East title

North Carolina was the only team that dropped off my ballot this week. Iowa was the only team that entered. Boise State, Colorado and Buffalo were among the other teams I considered.

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

1. Alabama

2. Notre Dame

3. Clemson

4. Ohio State

5. Cincinnati

6. BYU

7. Texas A&M

8. Florida

9. Georgia

10. Indiana

11. Oklahoma

12. Coastal Carolina

13. Miami

14. Northwestern

15. Oklahoma State

16. Louisiana Lafayette

17. Iowa State

18. Wisconsin

19. Marshall

20. Tulsa

21. Washington

22. USC

23. Oregon

24. Iowa

25. Texas