Our AP Top 25 ballot: Kentucky and Texas up, Texas A&M in and LSU out

Our list of top College Football Playoff contenders dwindled slightly this week.
The Kentucky football team ran past and through the Gators to rise on our AP top 25 ballot.
The Kentucky football team ran past and through the Gators to rise on our AP top 25 ballot. [ SILAS WALKER | Lexington Herald-Leader ]
Published Oct. 1|Updated Oct. 1

My Associated Press Top 25 ballot this week has Texas and Kentucky rising, the Miami Hurricanes nearing the top 10 and the return of Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies.

I remain unsure as to which team should be No. 1. I kept idle Ohio State there at 1 thanks in large part to Notre Dame’s last-minute win at Duke. The Irish’s performance validated their top-12 ranking and strengthened the quality of Ohio State’s win at Notre Dame last week. Advanced metrics like ESPN’s SP+ and the Sagarin Ratings also view the Buckeyes as, at minimum, a top-three team; I’ll take their resume over Michigan (5-0 against awful competition) or Georgia (5-0 with shaky wins over South Carolina and Auburn).

Texas jumped three spots to second this week, leapfrogging Florida State (which had an open date). The Longhorns have beaten Alabama, 4-1 Wyoming and just knocked off the good but depleted Jayhawks. LSU losing at Mississippi also dented the Seminoles’ resume; the Tigers have underwhelmed too much this season, which makes FSU’s season-opening triumph look a little less impressive. That matters in a very crowded field.

Georgia is fourth in our rankings after a tight win at Auburn.
Georgia is fourth in our rankings after a tight win at Auburn. [ HYOSUB SHIN / AJC | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ]

Among the other serious College Football Playoff contenders, I put Georgia fourth followed by Washington, Michigan, Oregon and Penn State. That, this week, is where I drew an imaginary line between the great teams and the next tier (which begins with Notre Dame).

I knocked USC out of that mix after a tight win against Deion Sanders’ Buffaloes. As good as Caleb Williams is — and he’s incredible — the defense is a liability that’s bringing down a fantastic offense.

Other AP Top 25 moves

Kentucky is up to 21st in our rankings.
Kentucky is up to 21st in our rankings. [ SILAS WALKER | Lexington Herald-Leader ]

Florida’s 33-14 loss at Kentucky led the Wildcats to rise four spots to No. 21. The Gators didn’t fall off my ballot because they weren’t on it to begin with. My skepticism of Florida was validated after a dismal showing on the road.

• Oklahoma remains one of the toughest teams for me to figure out. The undefeated Sooners have won all five games by at least 14 points, but I don’t have a read on how good they are. Though some advanced metrics see Oklahoma as a top-10 team, I need more data first. I put the Sooners up three spots to 14th.

• Mississippi is up three spots after a wild win over LSU, while the Tigers dropped off my ballot. I can’t justify ranking a two-loss LSU team, just as I can’t justify ranking two-loss Clemson, either (despite its 17-point win at Syracuse).

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The Miami Hurricanes are getting closer to the top 10 in our rankings.
The Miami Hurricanes are getting closer to the top 10 in our rankings. [ DERIK HAMILTON | AP ]

Miami was off but still rose two spots to 13th. That’s a product of other games around the Hurricanes (like Utah’s loss to Oregon State), though Texas A&M’s improvement is a factor, too, by making Miami’s win look better.

• The down-to-the-wire Notre Dame-Duke game didn’t have much of an impact on my ballot. It showed that the teams are about who I thought they were. The Irish moved up one spot to ninth, and Duke only moved down two spots to 18th.

• Washington State is on the cusp of the top 10 despite not playing this past week. The Cougars now have the best pair of wins in the nation (over an Oregon State team that just beat Utah and a 3-1 Wisconsin team that’s just outside my top 25).

• Syracuse followed LSU off my ballot this week. UCLA left, too, as other teams built better resumes during the Bruins’ open date. Undefeated Maryland is in (all five wins are by at least 18 points), as are Texas A&M (coming off two-score wins over Auburn and Arkansas) and undefeated Fresno State. Louisville just missed the cut. The 5-0 Cardinals have four Power Five wins, but two of them were close games against awful opponents (Georgia Tech and Indiana). Tennessee, Air Force, James Madison, Wisconsin, Clemson and LSU are among the other teams I considered.

Matt Baker’s AP top 25 ballot

1. Ohio State

2. Texas

3. Florida State

4. Georgia

5. Washington

6. Michigan

7. Oregon

8. Penn State

9. Notre Dame

10. USC

11. Washington State

12. Alabama

13. Miami

14. Oklahoma

15. Oregon State

16. Ole Miss

17. Utah

18. Duke

19. North Carolina

20. Missouri

21. Kentucky

22. Kansas State

23. Maryland

24. Texas A&M

25. Fresno State

AP Top 25

1. Georgia (5-0)

2. Michigan (5-0)

3. Texas (5-0)

4. Ohio State (4-0)

5. Florida State (4-0)

6. Penn State (5-0)

7. Washington (5-0)

8. Oregon (5-0)

9. USC (5-0)

10. Notre Dame (5-1)

11. Alabama (4-1)

12. Oklahoma (5-0)

13. Washington State (4-0)

14. North Carolina (4-0)

15. Oregon State (4-1)

16. Ole Miss (4-1)

17. Miami (4-0)

18. Utah (4-1)

19. Duke (4-1)

20. Kentucky (5-0)

21. Missouri (5-0)

22. Tennessee (4-1)

23. LSU (3-2)

24. Fresno State (5-0)

25. Louisville (5-0)

Others receiving votes: Maryland 81, Kansas St. 44, Texas A&M 31, UCLA 19, Tulane 8, Air Force 7, Wisconsin 6, Clemson 5, West Virginia 5, Kansas 3, James Madison 3, Colorado 1

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