The new college football rankings have to be adjusted after a Saturday that saw the biggest upset of the year so far in 2019. So when the new AP Top 25 is released on Sunday, where will Wisconsin be ranked? And perhaps more importantly, now that the Big Ten picture has become clearer after Penn State’s win against Michigan, will the Nittany Lions challenge for a spot in the top five?
The Badgers had one of the most impressive profiles of any team in the country through six games, notching four shutouts and paving a path that seemed to lead right to Indianapolis for Big Ten title contention. The argument for Wisconsin as a College Football Playoff contender would be settled on the field with a date against Ohio State coming up, but first, the Badgers just had to accomplish the seemingly simple task of beating Illinois on the road. The 24-23 loss to the Illini will certainly send the Badgers tumbling in the rankings, but it also opens up the chance for others to make a run at the Big Ten West title.
Michigan can probably say goodbye to its Big Ten East chances after losing at Penn State, which suddenly looks even more likely to contend with Ohio State for Big Ten supremacy and a CFP spot. This is the best win yet for a Nittany Lions group that avoids Wisconsin in the regular season this year but has tough road tests at Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State before the end of the season.
Outside of the shakeup for Big Ten teams, the top 25 picture was pretty stable. Oregon’s win against Washington showed that the Ducks are still in the playoff picture even if they won’t move up too far in the rankings, and Alabama’s status as the top team in the country should be secure despite Tua Tagovailoa suffering an injury against Tennessee.
Here’s how we think the new AP Top 25 will look on Sunday:
1. Alabama (Last week — 1): The Tide beat Tennessee but the fact that Tagovailoa was knocked out of the game by an injury will be the main talking point heading into this week. If he’s going to miss a few weeks, then Alabama probably won’t get bumped from the top spot until it loses. If further tests reveal more damage that will require an extended recovery time, then the argument for LSU, Clemson, Ohio State or Oklahoma as the No. 1 team in the country becomes stronger.
2. LSU (2): Joe Burrow’s record-setting day showcased LSU’s ability to take its high-flying offense on the road and win. The Tigers might not have hit their usual 40-50 points, but it wasn’t necessary on an afternoon where the defense held Mississippi State in check for most of the game.
3. Clemson (3): If you take Clemson’s logos off the helmets and erase memories of their dominant wins against Notre Dame and Alabama in last year’s playoff, the success of 2019 takes on a far different light. Trevor Lawrence is getting rightly criticized for trying to do a little too much through the passing game, but Clemson as a team is right on track for championship contention.
4. Ohio State (4): When Pat Fitzgerald is speechless, you’ve done something right. The Northwestern coach said there was nothing that the Buckeyes did that wasn’t already on tape, and very little that the Wildcats weren’t prepared for in the 52-3 loss. There’s often a talent advantage with Ohio State, and so far this year, it looks like they might also be executing better than anyone else as well.
5. Oklahoma (5): No change in the order for Oklahoma after picking West Virginia to pieces on Saturday. The Sooners are occupying the same space as Clemson right now, seemingly defending their spot in the playoff picture for the rest of the season with no clear-cut challenger left in their path before the conference championship game.
6. Penn State (7): A massive win for the Nittany Lions at home against Michigan allows for the continued pursuit of challenging Ohio State for a Big Ten title. Voters won’t be ready to swap these two teams in the rankings, but that notion will only get reinforced if they can continue their winning ways.
7. Notre Dame (8): The Irish were off in Week 8.
8. Florida (9): South Carolina gave a great effort to try and create a second-straight week of upset magic, but Florida made sure it didn’t happen with a 21-point fourth quarter. Dan Mullen now leads this team into the off week to get healthy ahead of the much-anticipated meeting with Georgia in Jacksonville on Nov. 2.
9. Auburn (11): Gus Malzahn sure does like to run up against Arkansas, huh? Bo Nix was outstanding in a 51-10 win in Fayetteville that puts the Tigers in a much better place heading into next week’s SEC on CBS Game of the Week against No. 2 LSU in Baton Rouge. Auburn’s defense has been great all year, so to level up and take down LSU in Death Valley this team will need another game-changing performance from freshman quarter.
10. Georgia (10): This was not the performance that you wanted to see after Georgia’s offense struggled to control the game against South Carolina. Kentucky is a good defensive team and the conditions were unique with a steady downpour that clearly impacted the style of play for both teams, but the Bulldogs were able to lean on a defense that held the Wildcats to just 52 yards of offense in the first half.
11. Oregon (12): The Ducks’ head-to-head loss against Auburn in the season opener likely puts a ceiling on where they can land following the best win of the season in the Pac-12. Beating Washington in Husky Stadium by winning the fourth quarter is the most impressive statement that Mario Cristobal’s program could make in this spot. The Pac-12 North was Washington’s to lose, but now it’s in Oregon’s possession. And wins like this can change that hierarchy for more than just one season.
12. Utah (13): The Utes were down to their third quarterback against Arizona State, but it didn’t matter because Zack Moss was on a mission to hand his team a key conference win in record-setting fashion. Moss became the school’s new all-time leading rusher and Utah’s defense didn’t allow Jayden Daniels and Arizona State to have much of any success on offense in a 21-3 win.
13. Wisconsin (6): The guess here is that the stunning nature of Wisconsin’s loss — to Illinois as a 30-point favorite — will add to the poll punishment. The Badgers could potentially fall even behind Baylor, but I doubt they’d drop past Texas with the best-case scenario probably being just a spot or two higher than Utah.
14. Baylor (18): This team might be really good. Oklahoma State had two weeks to get ready for Baylor after a disappointing road loss to Texas Tech, and it got bested by the Bears, who were off an emotional double-overtime win against that same Red Raiders team. When the game hung in the balance in the second half, it was Baylor, not Oklahoma State, who seemed ready to make the winning plays. The 45-27 win in Stillwater will power another move up in the polls as Baylor’s Big 12 title contention becomes one of the burning topics for conversation heading into Week 9.
15. Texas (15): It’s always tough to know how AP voters will react following a near-upset, but the Longhorns’ 50-48 win against Kansas probably deserves an adjustment. At some point the close losses to good teams can’t be the reason Texas is ranked ahead of undefeated and one-loss teams. We’re going to guess they get jumped by Baylor but remain ahead of SMU and Minnesota.
16. SMU (19): Shane Buechele lit up a good Temple defense for six touchdowns and 457 passing yards (both career-highs) as the Mustangs improved to 7-0. There’s not enough room for much upward movement in the rankings beyond the pecking order, but right now the real focus for SMU is holding off the other contenders in a loaded AAC West race to maintain a shot at making a New Year’s Six bowl.
17. Minnesota (20): The first opportunity for Minnesota to make a big jump in the polls won’t come until Nov. 9 when Penn State comes to town. That’s followed by a trip to Iowa City to play the Hawkeyes, and the regular season finale is against Wisconsin at home. This backloaded schedule has put Minnesota in the spotlight as one of the last undefeated teams in the country, so now we’ll see how P.J. Fleck and the Gophers handle this opportunity.
18. Cincinnati (21): Keep an eye on the Bearcats as other ranked teams collect losses in the coming weeks. Cincinnati has followed its win against UCF with back-to-back victories against Houston and Tulsa with key AAC matchups ahead that will determine its chances to contend for a New Year’s Six spot.
19. Michigan (16): There is a positive takeaway for Michigan after a disappointing loss at Penn State, and it’s the second-half performance of Shea Patterson and the Wolverines offense. After weeks of frustrations, that group looked as good as it has all season against one of the best defenses in the country as Michigan charged back and put itself in position to tie the game with 2 minutes left to play. If this game was Michigan turning the corner, it has a chance to prove it next week against Notre Dame in Ann Arbor.
20. Iowa (23): So many drives have ended in field goal attempts for Iowa in recent weeks, when the Hawkeyes finally punched in a touchdown in their 26-20 win against Purdue the reaction sounded like it was a game-winning score. The exclamation of relief came in the midst of a scary near-upset at home, but holding on for a win is going to keep Iowa ranked.
21. Appalachian State (24): Some teams stumble after making their first appearance in the AP Top 25 following an extended absence. The Mountaineers were ranked for the first time ever but showed no signs of wavering in the spotlight, crushing Louisiana-Monroe 52-7 on Saturday in Boone, North Carolina.
22. Boise State (14): The Broncos lost a rivalry game 28-25 in Provo against BYU, and while it won’t cost them anything in the Mountain West title race, it is going to be a setback for their position in the polls and the chase to obtain the Group of Five spot in the New Year’s Six.
23. Iowa State (NR): Instead of falling behind 20-0 like it did in a loss against Baylor, Iowa State found life much easier going up by three scores in the first half. The Cyclones were able to keep Texas Tech at least a touchdown away throughout the second half in a 34-24 win that should have them back in the top 25.
24. Wake Forest (NR): The Demon Deacons played both ends of the spectrum these last two weekends at home, first losing to Louisville in a 62-59 shootout then grinding out a 22-20 win against Florida State. The latter should open the door for Dave Clawson’s 6-1 squad to get back into the rankings.
25. Arizona State (17): Losses by Tulane and Temple — two of the top three teams, along with Iowa State, to finish just outside the top 25 last week — probably allow Arizona State to remain in the top 25. The lack of clear-cut options to replace a solid two-loss team that just got defeated as expected by a high-ranked opponent on the road. Arizona State is still good, it’s just bound to fall after taking the loss.
Projected to drop out: Missouri (22), Washington (25)
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