Tomorrow's Top 25 Today: Army should return to college football rankings for first time since 1996
Projecting the new AP Top 25 college football rankings after Week 11
On a Saturday with few upsets and a couple of suffocating one-sided victories by the top teams in the college football rankings, the biggest stories in this week's AP Top 25will probably surround the new arrivals after Week 11. Losses by Mississippi State, NC State and Michigan State have opened up spots in the top 25, and voters have choices to make regarding which teams are going to be taking their place in the rankings.
Using last week's Others Receiving Votes as a starting point, it's looking more and more like Army is set to make its first AP Top 25 appearance since 1996. The Knights, now at 8-2, could be joined by another headline-worthy addition to the poll if Northwestern cracks the top 25 after beating Iowa to clinch the Big Ten West. Utah seems sure to get back in the rankings after beating Oregon without its top quarterback or running back in the lineup, but beyond that we should see an indication of where the voters see teams like Fresno State and Kentucky following losses in a week of few shakeups elsewhere in the rankings.
Here's how we expect the new AP Top 25 to look on Sunday:
1. Alabama (Last week -- 1): We finally saw some mortality from Alabama, but when challenged with adversity, the response was to fall back into vintage boa constrictor Bama mode to squeeze the life out of Mississippi State in a 24-0 win.
2. Clemson (2): Dabo Swinney probably wishes that Clemson's offense was a little bit more efficient, but Trevor Lawrence did in fact finally get tested in all the ways we expected. A few errors pointed to inexperience, but his best throws revealed the reason why he's been the quarterback of the future since the moment he set foot on campus.
3. Notre Dame (3): Even without Ian Book in the game, the Brandon Wimbush-led offense looked significantly improved from where it was when the former starter was playing under center earlier this year. Perhaps as significant was the fact that he had Dexter Williams in the backfield with him. Williams missed the first four games of the season and led the Irish in rushing on Saturday night with 202 yards and two scores.
5. Georgia (5): Few teams in the country have the ground game to keep up with Georgia over the course of four quarters. Auburn's defensive front lost Nick Coe early in the game to injury -- and Big Kat Bryant for targeting -- but held strong for a while before the Bulldogs eventually started springing explosive and pulling away from their rivals to improve to 9-1.
6. Oklahoma (6): Another high-scoring late win secured by a bungled extra point try keeps Oklahoma right in the mix for a College Football Playoff spot, but it won't provide an argument for the voters to move the Sooners above any of the other teams above it in the pecking order.
7. West Virginia (7): A slow start quickly became old news as the Mountaineers pounded TCU, 47-10. Beating Oklahoma State in Stillwater is going to be tough, but necessary, to remain on the inside track to a Big 12 title game spot.
8. Ohio State (8): Greg Schiano had a great gameplan to totally squeeze the life out of Michigan State, which served as a response to those critical of the Buckeyes' defense. Sparty was ready for Dwayne Haskins but never got anything going on offense with either Brian Lewerke or Rocky Lombardi at quarterback.
9. LSU (9): Don't mistake the 24-17 final score for a letdown from Alabama when it was a late letdown that allowed Arkansas to make a late charge in the game. LSU led 24-3 heading into the fourth quarter, so if AP voters make a big adjustment with the Tigers, I'm going to assume it was in response to a misleading final.
10. Washington State (10): Forget the upset alert, the Cougars were ready for the challenge at Colorado. Now 9-1, Washington State returns home for a two-game home stand against Arizona and Washington to determine its Pac-12 title future.
11. UCF (11): Still undefeated, the Knights will keep their spot among the best teams in the country, but beating Navy by 11 doesn't bolster the argument of a team that wants to be considered the best in the nation.
12. Syracuse (13): The hype is going to peak for next weeks' game against Notre Dame in Yankees Stadium thanks to a 54-23 rout of Louisville on Friday night. With the Orange offense humming and the team 8-2, we could see another small bump in the rankings just out of anticipation.
13. Utah State (14): Another week, another high-scoring showing from Utah State, now 6-0 in conference play and 9-1 overall.
14. Texas (15): A somewhat sloppy game against Texas Tech came down the final moments, so it was only appropriate that on a day of 10-year anniversaries we saw the upside-down version of Michael Crabtree with Lil'Jordan Humphrey's game-winning touchdown against Texas Tech.
15. Florida (19): No questions were answered regarding Florida, but avoiding the loss with 21 straight points to close out a 35-31 win against South Carolina will keep the Gators in the rankings and up a few spots.
16. Washington (20): The Huskies were off in Week 11.
17. Penn State (21): Getting the running game back on track was just what Penn State fans needed to see, providing a steadiness throughout a 22-10 win against Wisconsin. Miles Sanders ran for 159 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, and the performance was impressive enough to warrant a slight bump up in the rankings.
18. Boston College (18): Losing starting quarterback Anthony Brown to injury in the first quarter really dampened the chances of an upset on Saturday night in Chestnut Hill. I wonder if the voters give the Eagles some bonus points for how they hung in against the Tigers while having little-to-no offensive success.
19. Iowa State (23): The fight will end up getting most of the headline, but Iowa State quietly remains one of the most dangerous threats to crash the Big 12 title game. Beating Baylor sets up an elimination game with Texas next week in Austin.
20. Cincinnati (25): While they are far behind UCF in the polls and rankings, Cincinnati could actually jump ahead of the Knights in the race for the New Years Six with a win next week in Orlando. The New Years Six spot goes to the highest-ranked conference champion, and the Bearcats could gain an edge in the AAC East with a head-to-head win.
21. Utah (NR): After losing both starting quarterback Tyler Huntley and starting running back Zack Moss in a week, Utah had one of the best responses we've seen from a team all season in knocking off Oregon. The Utes, at 7-3, are set to make a return to the top 25 thanks to a key blocked punt and two late fourth quarter scores in a 32-25 win against the Ducks.
22. Army (NR): Now at 8-2, it's time for Army to finally crash the polls. Since losing to Duke in the season opener, the only blemish on the Black Knights' profile is an overtime loss at Oklahoma. The ground game is once again rolling and Darnell Woolfolk -- -- once again led the way with two rushing scores in the win.
23. UAB (NR): Having to win in overtime might dissuade some voters, but 9-1 has to be good enough to get Bill Clark's resurgent Blazers program up into the top 25.
24. Northwestern (NR): We're not used to seeing four-loss teams creep up into the rankings at this point in the season, but Northwestern has moved beyond its loss to Akron and booked a spot in the Big Ten title game with its 6-1 conference record and win on the road against Iowa.
25. Kentucky (12): A loss to Tennessee could warrant a total free fall out of the rankings, but I think Kentucky has done enough on the year to hang on in enough ballots to be ranked in the 20s.
Projected to drop out: Fresno State (16), Mississippi State (18), NC State (22), Michigan State (24)
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