The release of the College Football Playoff Rankings is going to have some impact on the AP Top 25. The poll is a consensus tabulation of the 62 ballots from across the country, and chances are good that at least some of those 62 voters were challenged this week when presented with a top 25 from another respected ranking body. But the LSU vs. Ohio State debate — with LSU as the No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 and Ohio State at No. 1 in the CFP Rankings — broke the way of the AP voters when the Tigers logged one of the most significant wins of the playoff era and took down Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Only that you can’t totally give the AP voters a “win” on having LSU at No. 1 when the AP voters themselves were far from aligned as to who the top team in the country was heading into Week 11. It was Alabama, actually, who had the most first-place votes in last week’s balloting with 21. LSU and Ohio State each received 17 first-place votes, while Clemson got the remaining seven.
We look at the AP Top 25 like it’s one unified process of thought, but when there’s a top-five shakeup there’s no way to know how those individuals will respond. Will the influence of the CFP Selection Committee push voters towards the idea of Ohio State being the best team in the country? Maybe instead, Saturday’s win against Alabama only further cement LSU status as the media’s No. 1 in spite of the committee’s rankings.
We’ll find out on Sunday when the new AP Top 25 is released, and then again on Tuesday when the committee updates its own rankings in light of the Week 11 action. Either way, we’re headed towards a playoff picture that includes some juggernauts up top.
Here’s how we think it might lay out on Sunday afternoon.
1. LSU (Last week — 1): While Ohio State may have taken the top spot in the CFP Rankings, I don’t expect the AP voters to let the committee’s rankings influence their decision making for the No. 1 team in the country. LSU will keep its spot at the top thanks to receiving some of those 21 first-place votes that were with Alabama prior to Saturday’s loss.
2. Ohio State (3): It’s worth stating one last time: Ohio State could definitely be the No. 1 team when the new polls are released on Sunday, I just think that LSU’s win against Alabama is going to resonate more than a 73-14 trouncing of Maryland.
3. Clemson (4): A 28-0 first quarter is the Tigers’ way of letting an opponent know that this isn’t going to be the home upset their fans might have imagined. Clemson cruised an easy win at NC State to improve to 10-0, just one win away from clinching a second straight undefeated conference record and two wins from back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons.
4. Alabama (2): I believe the Tide will fall behind Ohio State and Clemson but no further, expecting the voters to reward Alabama for its second half comeback and limit the punishment for losing to a team that it, as least by consensus voting points, considers the best team in the country.
5. Georgia (6): The Bulldogs’ boa constrictor was in full effect at home on Saturday night against Missouri, riding the defense to an impressive win. Georgia’s offense didn’t always find the end zone, but Rodrigo Blankenship was ready to respond when faced with a busy night of kicking.
6. Oregon (7): The Ducks were off in Week 11.
7. Utah (8): The Utes were off in Week 11.
8. Oklahoma (9): After building a big lead early, the Sooners found themselves one play away from taking a second loss after Iowa State’s furious second half comeback in Norman. The Cyclones decided to go for two after scoring the potential game-tying touchdown, but the failed extra point keeps Oklahoma in the top 10 for at least another week.
9. Minnesota (13): The real question with the Gophers will be whether they jump over a solid group of one-loss teams in the top-10. I could be underselling the change in heart the AP voters may have, but if Minnesota was undefeated before and outside the top 10, we’re not going to see Georgia, Oregon, Utah and Oklahoma get downgraded because they beat Penn State at home.
10. Penn State (5): There’s going to be a tumble for the Nittany Lions, but this is still just the first loss of the season for a team that has a quality win against Michigan on its profile. I think Minnesota’s rise in the rankings sets the floor for Penn State, a team that still has chances
11. Florida (10): Saturday’s 56-0 win against Vanderbilt was impressive, but on a day with tons of movement, the result might get viewed through the lens of “as expected,” preventing a major move despite the total dominance in victory.
12. Baylor (11): On the ropes in conference play for the second week in a row, Baylor continues to win in ways that make it hard for AP voters to move them up with the other undefeated Power Five teams at the top of the rankings. The Bears trailed TCU 9-0 at halftime, needed a 51-yard field goal to send the game to overtime at 9-9 and then gritted out a 29-23 win in triple overtime. If Baylor wants to prove its a top-10 team, the opportunity is in town next week in the form of Oklahoma in a game that could be a preview of December’s Big 12 title game.
13. Auburn (12): The Tigers were off in Week 11.
14. Michigan (14): The Wolverines were off in Week 11.
15. Notre Dame (15): It was a cold night in Durham, North Carolina and the Irish avoided any upset stresses by jumping out to a 21-0 lead against Duke. The game ended up being a huge opportunity for Ian Book to get going offensively, which bodes well for Notre Dame’s efforts to finish the year strong and end up in a New Year’s Six game.
16. Wisconsin (16): The Badgers defense did a good job of dominating early, but a late charge by Iowa made Saturday’s 24-22 win much a little more stressful than some in the Camp Randall crowd may have expected. The Badgers are still very much in the Big Ten West race thanks to this win, with a shot at Minnesota coming up later this month, but they need some help with two conference losses already to Minnesota’s undefeated record.
17. Cincinnati (17): The Bearcats are still the leaders in the clubhouse for the moment in the Group of Five race after a 45-point win against UConn.
18. Memphis (19): The Tigers were off in Week 11.
19. Boise State (21): With all the close games and wild finishes we saw on Saturday, it makes sense that the evening closed in Boise with Wyoming pushing the Broncos to the limit in a crucial game for the Mountain West title race. Wyoming’s defense held Boise State, led by backup quarterback Chase Cord, to a field goal in the first possession of overtime but then the Cowboys’ game-tying attempt missed wide to seal the 20-17 win. The Broncos avoided falling out of the rankings and potentially out of the New Year’s Six race, but remain in the mix for an elite finish to the season.
20. SMU (23): Losing a second straight game was definitely on the table at times during Saturday’s home game against ECU. SMU’s 59-51 shootout win against the Pirates tested the team’s resiliency after a disappointing loss at Memphis last week. No longer undefeated but still in the AAC race, SMU got a full effort from an ECU team that just nearly knocked off Cincinnati the week prior.
21. Navy (25): The Midshipmen were off in Week 11.
22. Texas (NR): Hopes for a return to the Big 12 title game and another shot at Oklahoma are still alive after Cameron Dicker punched in a walk-off field goal to give the Longhorns a 27-24 win against Kansas State. Texas will have to get it done away from home if it’s going to finish in the top two spots in the standings, playing at Iowa State next week and at Baylor the following week.
23. Indiana (NR): The Hoosiers were off in Week 11 but listed as the third team in “Others Receiving Votes” in last week’s balloting. With UCF’s loss to Tulsa on Friday night, the door is open for Indiana to make a splash with its first AP Top 25 appearance since 1994.
24. Iowa (18): If there were more surefire candidates just outside the top 25 in last week’s polling, I’d think Iowa could fall out, but even with three losses, I think the Hawkeyes profile still stands up as on of the best in the country. All three losses were close to teams in the top 20 of the AP Top 25.
25. Appalachian State (NR): One week after getting bounced from the rankings, we could see the Mountaineers return to the top 25 after taking down South Carolina at home. App State needs help in order to accomplish its goals in the Sun Belt, but two Power Five road wins give this one-loss team a profile worth top-25 consideration.
Projected to drop out: Kansas State (20), Wake Forest (22), San Diego State (24)