I went into Week 1 thinking the Florida Gators were a 7-5 team. Now they’re No. 8 in the country, at least on my AP top 25 ballot.
Some of that ranking is a product of how well the Gators played against a quality opponent, Utah, in Billy Napier’s debut. Quarterback Anthony Richardson is a star. The defense is better. The offensive line looked good, and the receivers played better than I expected. The win wasn’t a fluke, and it came against a team that will still contend for the Pac-12 title.
Some of that ranking also is a product of the context. I entered the season seeing three elite teams (Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State, in some order) and a massive second tier beneath them. My feelings haven’t changed much, which gave UF a major opportunity to rise.
Most of the other teams on my ballot either blew out awful teams (Miami over Bethune-Cookman, USC over Rice, Oklahoma over UTEP) or didn’t wow me against Group of Five teams (Kentucky was sluggish against Miami of Ohio, Oklahoma State let Central Michigan make it interesting late, North Carolina State should have lost at East Carolina). In that context, the Gators looked very impressive and deserving of their No. 8 ranking in what figures to be a very fluid, unpredictable season — even by college football standards.
Elsewhere on my ballot, Georgia moved past Ohio State for No. 2 after destroying Oregon. Keeping the Buckeyes at No. 2 would have been justifiable, too, after their win over Notre Dame.
BYU moved up two spots after destroying USF. Pitt made a big leap (from 24th to 14th) after beating West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl.
Arkansas rose from No. 20 to 12th after a nice home win over Cincinnati. The Bearcats stayed on my ballot at No. 25 for two reasons: I wasn’t going to ding them too much for a one-score loss at a ranked SEC team, and I didn’t see anyone else worthy of jumping them.
Sorry, Florida State fans. I considered the 2-0 Seminoles, but the resume isn’t strong enough yet. LSU didn’t impress me and might finish at or near the bottom of the SEC West. FSU deserves credit for winning a game it would have lost a year or two ago, but I need to see more before I rank them.
Oregon was the only team that fell out of my rankings this week. Florida was the only team that entered. Tennessee and Mississippi State were among the others I considered.
Here’s the top 25 ballot I submitted Tuesday morning:
3. Ohio State
6. Notre Dame
7. Texas A&M
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15. Michigan State
16. North Carolina State
17. Oklahoma State
20. Wake Forest
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