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Matt Baker’s AP top 25 ballot: Florida, Alabama both rise after Saturday’s thriller

Our AP top 25 voter thinks this is the weirdest ballot he has ever submitted. College football, baby!
Florida and Alabama both moved up on Matt Baker's AP ballot after their 31-29 thriller Saturday in Gainesville.
Florida and Alabama both moved up on Matt Baker's AP ballot after their 31-29 thriller Saturday in Gainesville. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
Published Sep. 19

In my five seasons as an AP top 25 voter, Sunday felt like the weirdest ballot I have ever submitted.

Mississippi on the verge of the top 10? Texas A&M falling despite a shutout win? Coastal Carolina dropping out after a victory? Fresno State in the top 20?

Weird, right?

We’ll start with the changes you’ll care about the most. Alabama moved ahead of Georgia to the top spot on my ballot after the Crimson Tide’s thrilling 31-29 win at Florida. The gap between Georgia and ‘Bama had been small, so why the change now? I was impressed by seeing the Tide in person. I do not think highly of Miami, so I wanted to see Alabama play a very good team before making the move (and Florida qualifies as very good). And Georgia’s win over Clemson looks less impressive after the Tigers nearly lost to a bad Georgia Tech team. Add them up, and ‘Bama is my new No. 1.

Related: All the little things that doomed Florida in a loss to Alabama

I left Gainesville with a much better impression of the Gators than when I entered. UF didn’t wow me in the first two games, but some of that can be attributed to vanilla schemes. The Gators acquitted themselves nicely in the loss, which is why I moved them up two spots to No. 9 despite losing at home.

The Gators looked impressive in their loss to 'Bama.
The Gators looked impressive in their loss to 'Bama. [ JAMES GILBERT | Getty Images North America ]

Spots 3-14 are a mess. Oregon moved up to No. 3 because the Ducks previously beat a Fresno State team that upset UCLA on Saturday. Penn State’s 28-20 win over Auburn is more impressive than anything Ohio State, Texas A&M or Clemson has done, which is why the Nittany Lions are up to fifth.

Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies dropped from seventh to 12th after a 34-0 win over New Mexico. Fisher called his team “average,” which is a little harsh. Still, I bumped his team down because the Aggies barely beat Colorado last week. That’s the same Colorado team that lost 30-0 to Minnesota this weekend.

Lane Kiffin’s Rebels are all the way up to 11th after blowing out a Tulane team that gave Oklahoma trouble in Week 1. Mississippi’s win over Louisville (which just upset UCF) helps, too. Other big movers include Michigan (up from 20th to 13th after crushing Northern Illinois) and BYU (up from 25th to 14th after knocking off the ranked Sun Devils).

UCF, Arizona State and Auburn all dropped out of my rankings. So did Coastal Carolina, despite hanging on to beat an unimpressive Buffalo team. That’s because of an odd jumble at the bottom of my ballot. I think North Carolina is good, but the Tar Heels lost the opener to Virginia Tech, which lost Saturday to West Virginia, which lost in Week 1 to an undefeated Maryland team. I weigh head-to-head wins heavily right now, and I can’t justify ranking North Carolina without ranking those other teams. And that’s how I ended up with the Terrapins at No. 22.

Related: Yes, Alabama is still better than Florida. But will that be true in December?

Fresno State entered my rankings at No. 19 (just ahead of the UCLA team it beat). Michigan State is in, too, after a nice win over mediocre Miami. Maryland and West Virginia also entered, with Auburn, Coastal Carolina and San Diego State among the teams I also considered.

Here’s the top 25 ballot I submitted Sunday morning:

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. Oregon

4. Iowa

5. Penn State

6. Oklahoma

7. Cincinnati

8. Ohio State

9. Florida

10. Clemson

11. Mississippi

12. Texas A&M

13. Michigan

14. BYU

15. Notre Dame

16. Iowa State

17. Wisconsin

18. Arkansas

19. Fresno State

20. UCLA

21. Michigan State

22. Maryland

23. West Virginia

24. Virginia Tech

25. North Carolina

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