Florida State is back in my top 25 after its blowout win at Miami, and there’s been a change at No. 1 in my rankings. Again.
We’ll start at the top, where things were relatively easy. Georgia is the obvious No. 1 after a win over Tennessee in this year’s Game of the Century. The next three spots (Ohio State, Michigan and TCU) were relatively simple, too. Then it gets tough.
I put one-loss Tennessee ahead of one-loss Oregon at fifth because the Volunteers were slightly more competitive against the same Georgia team that beat the Ducks in Week 1. I don’t feel strongly about the decision — it was Oregon’s first game with a new coaching staff — but that was the most compelling data point I could find.
LSU soared from 15th to seventh after beating Alabama. The Tigers have come a long, long way since losing to FSU in their opener. The Crimson Tide settled in at eighth. Their two losses are by a combined four points to teams in my top 7, and both were on the road.
Clemson fell to ninth after a double-digit loss at Notre Dame. You could justify putting the Tigers lower, too, but they still have four pretty nice wins (Wake Forest, North Carolina State, FSU and Syracuse). That’s a deeper resume than UCLA, Utah, USC, Penn State and the other teams in that tier.
The Irish reentered my rankings at No. 20. The Marshall and Stanford losses are confounding and bad. No getting around that. But Notre Dame also has back-to-back big wins over Syracuse and Clemson, plus a win over North Carolina that continues to look better, and the Irish played Ohio State about as well as anyone has so far. Slotting them at the bottom of the top 20 fits.
The Seminoles also reentered my ballot at 24th, one spot below Wake Forest. FSU looked excellent as it destroyed Miami 45-3. No, the Hurricanes are not good. They are, in fact, much worse than good. But don’t let that overshadow FSU’s performance.
The Seminoles are explosive offensively and improving defensively, and that LSU win keeps looking better. If FSU hadn’t cratered in the second half at North Carolina State or gone missing in the middle of the game against Wake Forest, the Seminoles would be just outside the top 15. Instead, they’re a good team that’s getting better as the season progresses.
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The three-loss jumble of Big 12 teams was hard to sort through. Texas beat Kansas State, which beat Oklahoma State, which beat Texas. The Longhorns are the best in advanced metrics, which put them at No. 17. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have been outscored 85-16 in the last two weeks and no longer belong on my ballot.
In addition to Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Cincinnati also dropped off my ballot. The Bearcats beat Navy, but a fresh look at their resume (and a Week 1 Arkansas loss that isn’t aging well) revealed that I had been overrating them, just as a fresh look at North Carolina’s resume told me I had been underrating the Tar Heels. Notre Dame, FSU and North Carolina State all came back into my top 25. I also considered Liberty, Coastal Carolina, Baylor and Kentucky, among others.
My AP top 25 ballot
2. Ohio State
13. Penn State
15. North Carolina
18. Kansas State
20. Notre Dame
21. North Carolina State
23. Wake Forest
24. Florida State
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