A week after making a big jump on my AP top 25 ballot, the Florida Gators made a big fall.
Saturday night’s loss to Kentucky dropped UF from eighth to 16th in my weekly rankings. The Gators’ offense looked bad on a night where quarterback Anthony Richardson regressed. The defense, however, continued to show improvement, which is something I must consider.
I also have to consider the opponents. I was higher on Kentucky than most of my colleagues entering the season, and I remain high on the Wildcats. Their defense looked good with the return of linebacker Jordan Wright, and quarterback Will Levis showed off his NFL arm and toughness. I moved Kentucky from 22nd to eighth on my ballot. Florida’s win over Utah still looks impressive after the Utes blew out Southern Utah.
One win over a top-20 team and one loss to another top-20 team puts UF somewhere in the middle. That’s how I settled on 16th, between Texas and Utah.
There’s a new No. 1 on my ballot this week: Georgia. The Alabama/Ohio State/Georgia triumvirate can be in any order, as far as I’m concerned, but the Crimson Tide narrowly beat their marquee opponent. The Buckeyes and Bulldogs didn’t have a problem last week with Notre Dame or Oregon. That and Alabama’s self-inflicted issues were the reasons I put ‘Bama behind the other two.
The Longhorns went from unranked to 15th on my ballot after a close loss to Alabama. That seems like a big move for a defeat — and it is —but I’ll justify it for two reasons. First, the Crimson Tide is a juggernaut, so hanging with them is impressive. Second, this year is already proving to be wild, even by college football’s wacky standards. There will be big moves up and down because I don’t see much separation between teams 4-40. That’s why Florida made a huge rise last week, and it’s why Texas is making a big leap this week.
Arkansas soared from 12th to sixth after beating South Carolina. The Razorbacks have two of the most impressive wins of anyone so far (over a Cincinnati team I have in the top 25 and the Gamecocks). BYU is up from 23rd to seventh after beating a strong Baylor team —a feat made more impressive considering the Cougars were without two of their top receivers. Tennessee was just outside my top 25 last week and is up to 13th after a win at Pitt. I had been skeptical of Oklahoma but saw no reason not to believe the advanced metrics, so I bumped the Sooners from 19th to ninth after they crushed Kent State.
Now for the other part of that equation. Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies slid from seventh to 24th after losing at home to Appalachian State. Notre Dame dropped from sixth to unranked on my ballot after an ugly home loss to Marshall. Pitt is off, too, mostly because the Panthers’ backup quarterback didn’t impress me and because the win over West Virginia looks much worse now after the Mountaineers lost to Kansas.
Houston and Wisconsin are also off my ballot. Their departures made room for Tennessee, Texas, Kansas State and Marshall (whose other win was a 52-point blowout of Norfolk State). I also considered Mississippi State, Washington State, Florida State and Appalachian State.
Here’s the AP top 25 ballot I submitted Sunday morning:
2. Ohio State
11. Oklahoma State
14. Michigan State
19. North Carolina State
20. Wake Forest
23. Kansas State
24. Texas A&M
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