February 27, 2024


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Tomorrow’s Top 25 Today: Georgia, Penn State rise as North Carolina falls in new college football rankings

The college football rankings are set for an update when the new AP Top 25 is released Tuesday, two days later than usual to accommodate for the sport’s extended weekend at the start of September. New rankings for the top teams in the country were almost guaranteed after a weekend that saw five games between teams ranked opponents with three more top 25 teams losing to unranked foes.

The most notable ranked-on-ranked game of the weekend, Georgia’s 10-3 win against Clemson, is likely to produce some of the least amount of real shakeup outside of the Bulldogs jumping ahead of other national title hopefuls in the rankings. However, other results like Penn State’s win at Wisconsin or Iowa’s dominance of Indiana are set to spark some of the biggest jumps within the top 25. 

Trying to figure out how to handicap the rankings adjustment for the aforementioned Week 1 games requires a look back at the voting habits of the pollsters. From 2016-19, there were 12 games between top 25 opponents; eight of those who lost remained in the AP Top 25 heading into Week 2. Of the four who fell out, none were ranked higher than No. 19. So we will use that as the baseline and considering the nature of each loss.

As such, it’s expected that previously No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 14 Miami and No. 17 Indiana will remain in the rankings, while No. 23 Louisiana falls outside the top 25. But what happens to No. 10 North Carolina and No. 16 LSU, two teams that lost to unranked opponents in Week 1 and face the potential of a tumble out of the top 25? That will be interesting to track. Considering both teams were road favorites of less than a touchdown, our projection has the victories benefiting the winners more than the defeats hurt the losers.

Here’s how we think the new AP Top 25 will look on Tuesday.

1. Alabama (Preseason — 1): Consider concerns addressed and questions answered. Bryce Young and the reloaded Alabama offense looked awesome, and my guess is that a handful of those first-place votes that went to Oklahoma and Clemson in the preseason will gravitate towards the Crimson Tide and solidify their spot at the top. 

2. Georgia (5): The stage is set for a season-long ramp-up to another epic edition of the Alabama-Georgia rivalry after the Bulldogs’ suffocating performance in a win against Clemson. With Oklahoma fending off an upset effort and Ohio State getting off to a slow start early, the Dawgs will ride this top-five win into the No. 2 spot. 

3. Ohio State (4): Ryan Day showed a lot of confidence in his young quarterback with the refusal to back off the aggressive attack, and thankfully, C.J. Stroud has some of the best wide receivers in the country to help life the offense. The Buckeyes are going to get off the bus and score 40 points even in games that start slow, as we witnessed on Thursday night at Minnesota. 

4. Oklahoma (2): The preseason hype peaked in a way we hadn’t seen in a few years so it’s easy to feel like the sky is falling and forget this is still a top-four team with a clear path to the College Football Playoff. Spencer Rattler had a tough game, and Tulane probably shouldn’t have had the chance to climb back into the contest late, but voters aren’t going to sell all their Oklahoma stock. Just enough to get jumped by Georgia and Ohio State. 

5. Clemson (3): Years of seeing the Tigers wiggle out of tough spots and find ways to win made the inability to find a spark the most shocking aspect of their loss. But while the on-field product didn’t match anyone’s projection for the D.J. Uiagalelei era, voters aren’t going to send Clemson plummeting in the rankings for a 10-3 loss to a top-five team. 

6. Texas A&M (6): Speaking of new starting quarterbacks, two first-half interceptions for Haynes King made things rocky out the gate for the Aggies, but the core identity of this team with the defense and ground game are too good to let Kent State come into College Station, Texas, and pull off the upset. 

7. Iowa State (7): It’s hard to balance a very concerning 16-10 win against FCS Northern Iowa with the knowledge that UNI absolutely loves to cause headaches for its in-state rivals the week before they square off from the CyHawk Trophy. Chalk it up to a lookahead spot and reevaluate the Cyclones after next week. 

8. Cincinnati (8): The game was 42-0 early in the fourth quarter before Miami (OH) finally put together its most successful drive of the game and followed it up with a pick six to avoid the shutout in 49-14 Bearcats win.  

9. Notre Dame (9): Will the Fighting Irish get docked for allowing Florida State to run off 18 unanswered points and force overtime in a game they seemingly had won? I’m going to guess no, but the struggles to run the ball effectively either speaks to improvements Notre Dame needs to make in an area where they usually dominate or how Florida State has improved since the end of 2020. 

10. Oregon (11): Fresno State is a very good Mountain West team, and thus, shouldn’t be viewed as a team the Ducks should have blown out like so many of the opponents nonconference opponents in Week 1. But Oregon was a 20-point favorite and needed some late heroics from Anthony Brown to avoid the upset loss. 

11. Penn State (19): I think the voters will give Penn State the edge over Iowa because the win came on the road and against a higher-ranked opponent, but it’s possible that both of these teams see rankings jumps that land them inside the top 10 ahead of Notre Dame and Oregon. 

12. Iowa (18): If Iowa does jump ahead of Penn State, it’s likely a result of the nature of the Hawkeyes win against Indiana. While Penn State and Wisconsin engaged in a defensive struggle down to the final possessions of the fourth quarter, Iowa had all but cemented its result before halftime. 

13. Florida (13): How quarterback snaps are divided between Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson will continue to be the subject of conversations in Gainesville, Florida, but the voters will see an as-expected win against in-state FAU and likely keep the Gators slotted just outside the top 10. 

14. USC (15): The most encouraging aspect of the Trojans’ win was how the defense led the way during offensive droughts. Drake London may be one of the best wide receivers in the country, but he needs a solid No. 2 to emerge for USC’s offense to take the next step. 

15. Texas (21): My first read on Texas was to think only a slight adjustment would follow the 20-point win against Louisiana, but upon review, I remembered that the quality of the Ragin’ Cajuns and our hustle bring Texas “back” as fast as possible is worth 3-4 rankings spots (or at least landing ahead of Wisconsin and Miami). 

16. Wisconsin (12): Only a slight knock for Wisconsin after the loss to Penn State, but I could be wrong here. If so, we might see the Badgers grouped closer to LSU, Indiana and North Carolina than Miami. The Hurricanes have the “best loss” of the ranked teams to be defeated, but Wisconsin was more competitive and mostly played to the expectation. It just couldn’t deliver an explosive play when it counted while Penn State had Jahan Dotson.   

17. Miami (14): Just don’t get beat twice, Miami. You’ve seen it happen to numerous Alabama opponents in these kickoff games, and sometimes it doesn’t just impact Week 2 but the entire season. Appalachian State is a tough opponent, and it’s going to test Manny Diaz and the leadership of this roster to get the team dialed in for the Mountaineers on Sunday. That win would solidify the Hurricanes as a top 25 team, while a loss would certainly bounce them from the rankings and create an uphill climb back. 

18. UCLA (NR): No team in the country has more wins or seen their outlook shift quite like UCLA, the new arrivals to a crowded Pac-12 title race. Up next is the same Fresno State team that put a scare in Oregon on Saturday afternoon. 

19. Coastal Carolina (22): Never a doubt for the Chanticleers against The Citadel, up 31-0 at halftime and waltzing to a 52-14 win against their in-state FCS rival. 

20. Utah (24): Weber State drew attention early with a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown but did not find the end zone on offense until the final minute of a four-touchdown game. Utah played complementary football and cruised to a 40-17 win. 

21. Arizona State (25): Much like Utah, Arizona State was on everyone’s radar as the Sun Devils held a narrow lead on their FCS opponent before breaking the game open and getting the expected result. 

22. Ole Miss (NR): Sitting No. 25 in the Coaches Poll in the preseason and 26th among teams in terms of voting points in the first AP Top 25, all the Rebels had to do was defeat Louisville on Monday night to wind up in the rankings heading into Week 2. They handled the Cardinals and make their way into the rankings this week.

23. LSU (16): Losing at UCLA won’t spike LSU’s entire season, but it’s gotten the fan base far further down the line of frustration than those with less emotional connection to the program. AP voters aren’t going to give up on the Tigers just yet, and LSU’s potential ceiling is still high enough that only one loss will keep them in the top 25. 

24. Indiana (17): You could argue that Indiana is more likely to fall out of the rankings than North Carolina considering the way its game played out against Iowa, but we’re guessing that a rapidly-improving impression of the Hawkeyes actually helps the Hoosiers in terms of ranking fallout. 

25. North Carolina (10): Even though North Carolina did little on Friday night against Virginia Tech to inspire confidence that this is going to be one of the 10 best teams in the country in 2021, there’s just not much of a recent precedent for a team ranked this highly to fall all the way out of the top 25. Mack Brown himself called the Tar Heels “overrated” after the game, but rightly rated is probably somewhere in the 20s and not outside the top 30. 

Projected to drop out: Washington (20), Louisiana (23)