Our AP top 25 ballot: UCF football is in, and the top 3 confuse us

Numbers love Ohio State. The Vols have the best resume, but Georgia looks better. How do we sort that out?
UCF made its way onto our AP top 25 ballot this week.
UCF made its way onto our AP top 25 ballot this week. [ WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Orlando Sentinel ]
Published Oct. 30, 2022|Updated Oct. 30, 2022

Florida has a presence, again, on my AP top 25 ballot thanks to UCF. But let’s start at the top, where the Tennessee-Ohio State-Georgia trifecta is confusing me more than ever.

The Volunteers unquestionably have the best resume, with the thrilling win over Alabama plus lopsided victories over LSU and (on Saturday) Kentucky. Advanced metrics say that Ohio State is the best team, and that’s a logical conclusion after the Buckeyes found a way to win at a top-15 Penn State team. Yet I just saw Georgia — whose Week 1 blowout of Oregon is the best non-conference win of anyone — and think the Bulldogs might be the best of them all.

Related: AP Top 25: Tennessee, Ohio State tied at No. 2

So what did I do with all that? I kept my top three the same, at Tennessee, Ohio State and Georgia. I don’t feel strongly about that order. In fact, I’ve seen both Georgia and Tennessee face the same opponent (Florida) in person, and I think the Bulldogs will beat the Vols on Saturday. But the strength of the Vols’ overall body of work is too much for me to look past.

Related: The fourth-down failures that show the gap between Florida Gators, Georgia

UCF’s 25-21 upset of Cincinnati moved the Knights into my rankings at No. 22 (one spot ahead of the Bearcats). The Knights are the only state team on my ballot, which is a little weird because I’m not convinced they’re the best team in the state. Florida State beat a Louisville team that UCF lost to and had a more impressive win over Georgia Tech. But FSU’s three losses matter here, even if they were all to good teams. I couldn’t get past that as I considered both at the bottom part of my ballot. UCF (6-2) has a strong case after earning a top-25 win.

UCF running back RJ Harvey rushed for two touchdowns in the Knights' win over Cincinnati.
UCF running back RJ Harvey rushed for two touchdowns in the Knights' win over Cincinnati. [ WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Orlando Sentinel ]

Elsewhere on my ballot:

Kansas State rose eight spots to No. 13 after crushing Oklahoma State. I thought the Wildcats could win, but I didn’t see 48-0 coming. The Cowboys fell five spots to 14th in a messy tier.

I know Penn State lost at home to the Buckeyes, but I came away with a higher opinion of the Nittany Lions than I had a day earlier. That helped Penn State climb two spots on my ballot to 12th. Other factors in that move: the losses by Wake Forest and Oklahoma State, Penn State playing Auburn better than LSU and Mississippi (two teams also in that 12-16 tier).

Wake Forest tumbled five spots to 18th after an inexplicable loss to Louisville. The eight turnovers seemed pretty fluky, which his why I didn’t punish the Demon Deacons more.

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Related: The story behind the last time the Gators were 22-point underdogs to Georgia

South Carolina and Kentucky fell off my ballot. So did Syracuse; my weeks-long skepticism of the Orange looks warranted after a 17-point loss to Notre Dame.

Washington reentered my rankings, as did Texas. Why the three-loss Longhorns? Because advanced metrics like ESPN’s SP+ have them as a top-10 team, and that convinced me to put them over FSU, North Carolina State, Liberty, Maryland and Mississippi State, among others.

My AP top 25 ballot

1. Tennessee

2. Ohio State

3. Georgia

4. Clemson

5. Michigan

6. Alabama

7. TCU

8. Oregon


10. Utah

11. USC

12. Penn State

13. Kansas State

14. Oklahoma State

15. LSU

16. Mississippi

17. Illinois

18. Wake Forest

19. Tulane

20. North Carolina

21. Oregon State

22. UCF

23. Cincinnati

24. Texas

25. Washington

• • •

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