A chaotic end to college football’s regular season forced a complete overhaul to my weekly AP top 25 ballot. Only three teams (No. 1 Georgia, No. 6 Alabama and No. 15 Utah) remained in the same spot as last week ... and I seriously considered moving all of them, too.
The Bulldogs stayed ahead of No. 2 Michigan, which had an extremely impressive win over Ohio State but doesn’t have the overall body of work to move past Georgia. The Buckeyes dropped from second to fifth. I’ll take their one-loss resume (wins over Notre Dame and Penn State) over two-loss Alabama, especially after one of the teams that beat the Crimson Tide, LSU, somehow lost to Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies.
Penn State is up to eighth after blowing past Michigan State to win the Land Grant Trophy. The Nittany Lions have been fine all season without wowing me, but 10-2 in the Big Ten deserves to be that high.
I didn’t punish Clemson too much for losing a rivalry game to South Carolina by a point. The Tigers dropped two spots to ninth, though you could justify a steeper fall.
I kept LSU in the top 10, just ahead of Washington, on the strength of the win over Alabama plus wins over solid Mississippi and Mississippi State teams. That also means I kept the 9-3 Tigers ahead of 9-3 Florida State, which beat LSU in Week 1. Why? I put the Seminoles’ win in context; it was Week 1 for LSU’s new staff, and it came on a last-second blocked extra point. FSU’s best win, aside from that, is a road victory over 7-5 Louisville. LSU also played the Gators better than FSU did, which factored into my thought process, too. FSU is still up to 12th after beating Florida in a sensational game at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Tulane jumped three spots to No. 13 after a 27-24 win at Cincinnati. I have consistently ranked the Green Wave higher than my peers, and I’m OK with that. Tulane’s head-to-head win over Kansas State has been a trump card for me, though I will change my opinion if the Wildcats beat TCU for the Big 12 championship.
Oregon State beating Oregon created a four-team, 9-3 Pac-12 cluster from 15-18. UCLA beat Utah, which beat Oregon State, which beat Oregon, which beat UCLA. Advanced metrics like the Utes best, so I did, too. The Ducks’ two conference losses were only by seven total points, which put them next, followed by the Beavers and Bruins.
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Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina and Mississippi all dropped out of my rankings this week. They made room for Mississippi State (which beat the Rebels in a crazy Egg Bowl), Boise State and Minnesota. I strongly considered UCF, but I still can’t get past the home loss to Navy. The fact that the Knights needed a miracle play to beat 1-11 USF was not a factor; as long as a team wins in a rivalry game, that’s enough for me.
I also considered Purdue, Illinois and South Carolina. Troy (10-2) was in the mix, too, but lost by 18 to Mississippi in Week 1. The Rebels are still in that 23-30 mix for me, and I couldn’t justify putting Troy in while leaving a team that crushed them out.
My AP top 25 ballot
5. Ohio State
8. Penn State
12. Florida State
14. Kansas State
17. Oregon State
20. North Carolina
21. Notre Dame
22. Mississippi State
23. Boise State
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