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Our AP top 25 ballot: Florida rises, plus top-five Arkansas and top-15 Wake Forest

Our AP voter moved Wake Forest into his top 20 and almost dropped Clemson after a crazy weekend.
Sam Pittman's Arkansas Razorbacks are in the top five on our AP voter's ballot.
Sam Pittman's Arkansas Razorbacks are in the top five on our AP voter's ballot. [ TONY GUTIERREZ | AP ]
Published Sep. 26

A crazy college football Saturday led me to put Arkansas in my top five, Wake Forest in my top 15 and almost drop Clemson off my AP top 25 ballot. Just as we all expected.

The 4-14 tier is a mess, just as it was last week. Of that bunch, Arkansas has the best two wins (over Texas and Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies) and lopsided victories in the other two games. I couldn’t find a convincing reason to rank anyone else in that group ahead of the Razorbacks, so I didn’t, vaulting them up from 18th to fourth.

Related: What we know about Florida after Gators’ win over Tennessee

Florida rose three spots to sixth on my ballot after a 38-14 win over Tennessee. The Gators’ defense improved, and the offense looked excellent, even without Anthony Richardson, so I continue to feel better about UF’s SEC championship hopes.

Malik Davis and the Gators are up to No. 6 on our AP top 25 voter's ballot.
Malik Davis and the Gators are up to No. 6 on our AP top 25 voter's ballot.

It also helped that other teams looked less impressive. I dropped Iowa four spots because the Hawkeyes struggled against Colorado State and because the best teams they’ve beaten (Indiana and Iowa State) aren’t as good as I thought they were. The Hoosiers’ struggles also make me a little more skeptical about another top-10 team they’ve lost to (Cincinnati). Oklahoma’s offense is a serious concern, which is something I never thought I’d say about a Lincoln Riley team.

BYU stayed at No. 14 on my ballot after a 35-27 victory over USF that was much closer than I expected.

Related: USF makes a game of it with BYU after a first quarter to forget

Wake Forest was the other big riser on my ballot, going from unranked to No. 15. The 4-0 Demon Deacons have won every game by at least 20 points, boast a top-10 scoring defense and have some talented receivers and a good, experienced quarterback. No, they don’t have any great wins yet, but they have fewer holes in their resume than other teams I put in this tier (Texas A&M, Fresno State, UCLA and Michigan State).

I seriously considered dropping Clemson after the Tigers’ overtime loss to North Carolina State. I did not, however, for a couple reasons. Clemson’s defense is very good. The Wolfpack are solid (I still don’t understand their 14-point loss to Mississippi State), which gives Clemson two losses to teams in my top 25. Remember, too, that the other teams at the bottom of my rankings are also flawed, and the Tigers’ close loss to Georgia in Week 1 is as impressive as anything, say, Boston College has done.

North Carolina, Wisconsin, Iowa State, West Virginia and Virginia Tech all dropped off my ballot. I considered keeping the Hokies, but they didn’t wow me against Richmond, and their win over the Tar Heels looks less impressive now. Wake Forest, Baylor and North Carolina State entered my rankings. I also welcomed back Texas and Coastal Carolina. Among the teams I also considered: Boston College, SMU and Oklahoma State.

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

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. Oregon

4. Arkansas

5. Penn State

6. Florida

7. Oklahoma

8. Iowa

9. Cincinnati

10. Ohio State

11. Mississippi

12. Michigan

13. Notre Dame

14. BYU

15. Wake Forest

16. Texas A&M

17. Fresno State

18. UCLA

19. Michigan State

20. Coastal Carolina

21. North Carolina State

22. Clemson

23. Maryland

24. Texas

25. Baylor

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