The biggest question I had to answer with my AP top 25 ballot Sunday morning is one I haven’t had to think about very often: How far do I drop Alabama after a loss, in this case to Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies?
Georgia is the obvious No. 1 team; I was one of nine voters who had the Bulldogs first last week, too. Iowa is an easy No. 2 after the Hawkeyes’ exciting win over Penn State. Cincinnati did enough in a 52-3 win over Temple to prove it belongs at No. 3 on my ballot. After that, things get tricky.
I could justify putting Alabama anywhere from fourth to 10th. The Crimson Tide have two impressive wins (a close one at Florida and a three-score victory over Mississippi, which is on the fringe of my top 10). That’s better than any other team in that 4-10 tier. ‘Bama also had blowout victories over its other, weaker opponents, including Miami. That’s a strong resume.
But the Tide lost at Texas A&M. The Aggies are talented, but they had already dropped two games and didn’t look good when they beat a bad Colorado team earlier this season. Then again, Saturday night was a close, walkoff loss at one of the toughest road environments in the country.
I settled on fifth for Alabama, just behind Oklahoma. The Sooners haven’t been dominant, but they did earn a quality win over rival Texas, and advanced metrics like them a lot. Maybe the quarterback change is what the Sooners needed.
I put the Tide ahead of Michigan because the undefeated Wolverines don’t have an impressive resume yet. I could argue that Texas A&M is better than any team Michigan has played so far. That’s why I slotted ‘Bama ahead of Jim Harbaugh’s team, though I’m not sold on my decision.
Penn State dropped from fourth to ninth in my rankings after the heartbreaker to the Hawkeyes. I felt bad about it because the Nittany Lions played well against a very good team despite losing their starting quarterback. But their best wins (Wisconsin and Auburn) don’t look great. Frankly, I probably had Penn State too high last week, so I’m overcorrecting this week.
Michigan State is in my top 10 after a 31-13 win over Greg Schiano’s Rutgers team. I moved Coastal Carolina ahead of Wake Forest after the Demon Deacons barely beat a bad Syracuse team.
Florida remained at No. 19 on my ballot, even though I was unimpressed with the win over Vanderbilt.
Texas A&M was the only team to enter my rankings. I put the Aggies 21st, one spot behind Mississippi State (which beat A&M last week). This might be too low for Fisher’s team, but I need some more evidence before putting them higher. Maybe Fisher just needed more time to figure out new starting quarterback Zach Calzada, and the Aggies are going to keep winning and rising. Or maybe the ‘Bama win is a fluke. I don’t know yet.
Texas dropped out to make room for the Aggies, which will thrill the folks in College Station. San Diego State, Texas San Antonio and Pitt were among the other teams I considered after a wild, fun weekend.
Here’s the AP top 25 ballot I submitted Sunday morning:
8. Ohio State
9. Penn State
10. Michigan State
15. Arizona State
16. Coastal Carolina
17. Wake Forest
18. Oklahoma State
20. Mississippi State
21. Texas A&M
22. Notre Dame
23. North Carolina State
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