Alabama only recently overtook Cincinnati for the No. 2 spot in the AP Top 25. That came after the College Football Playoff Rankings revealed the Crimson Tide in the same spot behind No. 1 Georgia. But the margins in last week's AP Top 25 balloting were close enough to think the decision is not cemented among 62 voters as it pertains to Alabama and Cincinnati, so the debate remains an intriguing question as we enter the final week of the regular season.
The issue for voters: Alabama and Cincinnati both won, albeit by different margins, and those two have another challenger in the debate. Welcome to the consensus top four, Ohio State.
What we saw from the Buckeyes as they poured on seven touchdowns in seven first-half possessions to take a 49-0 lead after two quarters against a top-10 Michigan State team was remarkable. It will have some voters considering Ohio State as the best one-loss team in the country, and that momentum will create some legitimate uncertainty within the top five. The biggest issue for Ohio State's potential move up is any residual damage from Oregon's loss to Utah, which took some of the "good loss" shine off that claim to being the best one-loss team in the country.
The Ducks and Spartans will see drops after defeat, and Utah is destined for a boost, but for the most part the top 25 teams in last week's poll held serve with as-expected results. There were a few upset scares and and plenty of positions of contention within the rankings to debate, but the major shake-ups were few after only four ranked teams lost in Week 12 and only one of those (Wake Forest) came to an unranked team.
Here's how we think the new AP Top 25 will look on Sunday.
1. Georgia (Last week -- 1): Jordan Davis' touchdown run proved to be one of the lasting highlights of senior day as Georgia rolled to a 56-7 win against Charleston Southern.
2. Alabama (2): For all the notes coming out of Saturday's win against Arkansas concerning the Crimson Tide's defense, Bama still was the beneficiary of an all-time level performance from Bryce Young. I think the offensive production keeps Alabama in the No. 2 spot after clinching the SEC West.
3. Cincinnati (3): The quality of competition going up only brought out the best in the Bearcats. The AP voters have been higher on Cincinnati than the CFP Selection Committee, and I think that confidence was validated in the 48-14 win against an eight-win SMU team.
4. Ohio State (5): Ryan Day would probably rather have it occur in the College Football Playoff, but Ohio State might have played its best half of football in 2021. The senior day events, Chris Olave's record-breaking touchdown catches and the ruthless efficiency all seemed to be in sync as the Buckeyes cruised to that 56-7 win against Michigan State.
5. Notre Dame (6): The CFP contender everyone seems to be ignoring just had a ho-hum 55-0 win against Georgia Tech and is just one more victory away from being in the clubhouse at 11-1 rooting for chaos on conference championship Saturday.
6. Michigan (8): Confidence has to be surging heading into the Ohio State game after putting 59 points on the scoreboard at Maryland in a 41-point win.
7. Oklahoma State (9): The Cowboys blanked Texas Tech 23-0. It's impressive enough to keep sliding up into the top 10, but it won't inspire voters to put Oklahoma State much higher.
8. Ole Miss (10): The Rebels handled their business, beating Vanderbilt 31-17. It's good enough to move up a couple of spots in the AP Top 25 ahead of the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State.
9. Baylor (11): Heading into the game as underdogs, according to the oddsmakers, Baylor had an impressive showing in a 20-10 win at Kansas State. That result combines with last week's Oklahoma win to create some real momentum for the Bears as one of the best two-loss teams in the country.
10. Michigan State (7):I think the loss is so stunning that the Spartans drop will reflect an instant reaction to the result and not the strength of the team's profile. Michigan State has a great win that others don't and will be among the top two-loss teams in the country. It's just that 56-7 on the scoreboard makes being the top two-loss team in the country more difficult.
11. Oklahoma (12): A more lopsided win against Iowa State could have put the Sooners a spot or two higher, but the 28-21 victory only preserved Oklahoma's spot in the Big 12 title picture.
12. Oregon (4): The Ducks are probably going to get another crack at Utah for the Pac-12 championship, but the CFP damage done in the loss is going to linger for a long time.
13. BYU (14): After an early flirt with the upset alert siren, the Cougars took control with a 34-17 win at Georgia Southern to improve to 9-2.
14. UTSA (15): Epic late-game touchdowns to preserve an undefeated record is about as good as you could ask for from a college football Saturday in late November.
15. Texas A&M (16): No change in the order following a 49-point win against Prairie View A&M.
16. Utah (24): The biggest riser within the top 25 will be the Utes riding the momentum of a dominant win against Oregon on a huge stage for Kyle Whittingham's program. I think voters are going to be debating Texas A&M against Utah as the best three-loss team in the country, but the Aggies have the Alabama win.
Ohio State wins big, Utah blows out Oregon and more in this week's Instant Reaction by the Cover 3 crew recapping Week 12 scores and results in college football.
17. Houston (17): You could argue that the Cougars might deserve a bump after improving their profile with a 31-13 win against Memphis, but this year's Tigers team only has five wins at the moment, and that's not going to meet the standard for rankings adjustment-worthy win.
18. Iowa (18): The game got a little sideways late, but I don't think voters will concern themselves too much with particulars. A 33-23 win against Illinois checks the box for what they expected to see from the 18th-best team in the country.
19. Wisconsin (19): The Badgers Big Ten West hopes nearly took a hit but Nebraska's trend of playing all the top teams close continued in the one-score Wisconsin win.
20. Pittsburgh (20): An absolutely huge ACC win for the Panthers will resonate far more within the program than it will with the AP voters. Virginia brought a fight to Pitt, and the Panthers had answers at every turn as they clinched the ACC Coastal in the 48-38 victory.
21. Louisiana (22): Quietly a statement game for Louisiana and Billy Napier, hitting the road for a tough nonconference test in Week 12 at Liberty and winning 42-14. The Ragin' Cajuns were underdogs heading into the game and never trailed once it started, logging their 10th win in a row. It's a great display of form with ULM up next and the Sun Belt Championship Game on Dec. 4.
22. San Diego State (23): Underdog UNLV made San Diego State sweat in a 28-20 win, but the victory, by any margin, helps the 10-1 Aztecs hold position in the polls.
23. Wake Forest (13): It's important to note that the AP voters were lower on Wake Forest than the CFP committee heading into the game, and I expect will have a more swift adjustment following the 48-27 loss to Clemson. In this case, the head-to-head win against NC State provides the best marker for expectations.
24. NC State (25): The committee remains higher on the Wolfpack than the AP voters, but maybe a 41-17 win against Syracuse will have them questioning the ranking against Wake Forest in spite of the head-to-head results.
25. Arkansas (21): Even though four losses is a lot for a top 25 team, it's going to be hard for the voters to drop Arkansas all the way out given the test it provided on the road to the team that they are also ranking No. 2 in the country.
Projected to drop out: None