Ranking college football teams is always difficult in the middle of the season, but with four weeks of action in the books for 2021, the voters in the CBS Sports 130 -- our comprehensive ranking of every FBS team -- have decided it's time to stop hanging on to our preseason expectations.
It's time to stop hanging on to what we think teams like Clemson, North Carolina, Iowa State and Wisconsin would be in 2021 and evaluate the teams we have viewed based on the performances we've witnessed through three or four games. It's also time to accept that some teams who were overlooked and underrated in the preseason might be not only better than expected but among the best in the country.
No team fits that bill more than Arkansas, which has defeated both Texas and Texas A&M by double digits in its 4-0 start and now finds itself at No. 5 in the CBS Sports 130. The Razorbacks are one of 11 teams within the top 25 of our rankings to make moves of five spots or more following Week 4 action, jumping 11 spots to land just behind Penn State at No. 4 and one spot ahead of Iowa at No. 5. This week also saw our voters embrace major moves up for Wake Forest, Boston College, Baylor and Oklahoma State, as losses (or lack thereof) become an even more important factor in evaluating teams as we get deeper into the season.
Not all movement was positive as Oklahoma dropped five spots to No. 9 after a narrow win against West Virginia, and Texas A&M is down 10 spots to No. 17 after the loss to Arkansas. But those adjustments in the rankings do not resonate quite like seeing Clemson drop all the way to No. 29 after its double-overtime loss at NC State. The Tigers were up where Arkansas is now at No. 5 just two weeks ago, but a narrow win against Georgia Tech and the loss to the Wolfpack have our voters selling stock quick.
Bigger moves were made in terms of the number of spots -- and we get into some of those below in the Mover's Report below -- but nothing shakes up the status quo quite like having to turn to the second page of the rankings to find a Clemson program that is likely to see its six-year run of College Football Playoff appearances come to an end here in 2021.
College football experts from CBS Sports and 247Sports contribute ballots each week, which are averaged together for our rankings. You can see the top 25 below and 26-130 on our rankings page.
- No. 21 Baylor (+26): This team was at No. 56 two weeks ago! A soft early-season schedule had many doubting the Bears' undefeated start but no more after taking down Iowa State in a thriller on Saturday.
- No. 33 UTSA (+20): Jeff Traylor has had UTSA moving in the right direction for two years now and it's paid off with a team that can fight back from a deficit like it did against Memphis and take down the Tigers' for a statement non-conference win.
- No. 19 Texas (+17): While Week 4 was mostly defined by the last straw for preseason darlings and welcoming in new contenders to the picture, Texas has already experienced the swift drop and now the bounce back. Running up the score on Texas Tech helps, but Arkansas' success arguably helps even more when it comes to how our voters view the Longhorns.
- No. 28 NC State (+16): The magnetic pull of an upset will bring the favorite down and shoot the victors up in the rankings for those voters who value head-to-head results. NC State has been a top-30 team for most of the season in terms of rating, but a poor performance at Mississippi State clouded the team's evaluation and hurt its ranking.
- No. 24 Oklahoma State (+15): The shifting landscape in the Big 12 includes a big two weeks for Baylor and a big two weeks for Mike Gundy's Cowboys. Oklahoma State was down at No. 50 two weeks ago but going on the road to beat Boise State and handling Kansas State is enough for a bump up into the 20s.
- No. 29 Clemson (-18): The unknown is whether this is the bottom or if it will get worse. Star defensive tackle Bryan Bresee suffered a torn ACL, and starting running back Will Shipley has a knee injury that will cause him to miss at least a couple weeks. Clemson can still win the ACC, and that will be Dabo Swinney's message to a proud program, but it's not even a lock for the six-time league champions now that they have a head-to-head loss to a good division rival in NC State.
- No. 40 North Carolina (-19): This is the fourth time since the start of the 2020 season North Carolina has gone on the road as a favorite against an ACC opponent and let mistakes compound themselves into an upset loss that tanked their national ranking. Like Clemson, North Carolina must refocus and reset now that preseason expectations are likely out of reach. Unlike Clemson, the Tar Heels must do it with two conference losses instead of one.
- No. 38 Wisconsin (-21): The best win on Wisconsin's schedule is a dominant victory against Eastern Michigan. There's just not going to be a bounce back for the Badgers until they start piling up several Big Ten wins.
- No. 39 Iowa State (-24): The contest against Baylor was close and thrilling enough that there's probably not 18 teams between the Cyclones and the Bears, but whether our voters are too high on Baylor or too low on Iowa State in the overreaction is yet to be determined.
Check out the rest of the CBS Sports 130: Teams ranked 26-130