For the second straight season, Ohio State has lost on the road in Big Ten play and created a handful of questions regarding the order of power at the top of the rankings and the season's College Football Playoff future. Last season's loss at Iowa cost the Buckeyes a shot at the College Football Playoff, but this Saturday's defeat at Purdue, as damning as it seems here in the moment, still leaves everything on the table for Urban Meyer and the hopeful Big Ten champs. The immediate poll result will be a drop to the edge of the top 10, and possibly a fall that could exceed that, but likely not beyond No. 12.
While Ohio State went down, Michigan has only strengthened its College Football Playoff argument by going on the road and beating rival Michigan State. The heated words from the coaches in that in-state battle have only packed more meaning into the end of season battle between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes. The winner, it seems, not only has a spot in the Big Ten title game but also an in-road to the playoff.
The biggest mover we're expecting to see is another team that made up a ton of ground in its conference title race, Washington State. The Cougars got a head-to-head win against Oregon that could set up another play-in scenario at the end of the year with Washington in the Apple Cup, and the win should have Wazzu moving from the edge of the AP Top 25 up close to the top 10.
Here's how we think the new AP Top 25 will look on Sunday:
1. Alabama (Last week -- 1): We're getting spoiled by Tua Tagovailoa's excellence to the point where a 19-for-29 passing game for 300+ yards and four touchdowns seems to count as an "off day." The Tide are a machine that will now go back into the shed for a week off and return to action in the biggest game of the season, at LSU on Nov. 3.
2. Clemson (3): After a week off, Clemson returned to action with its best total performance of the season. The defensive line set the tone, winning battles against NC State up front and pushing Ryan Finley off rhythm and out of his comfort zone.
3. Notre Dame (4): The Irish were off in Week 8.
4. LSU (5): Strong, dominant performance from LSU at home on Homecoming. This gives the Tigers a ton of good momentum heading into the off week and preparation for Alabama.
5. Michigan (6): A huge weight was lifted from Jim Harbaugh and this Michigan team, passing one of the most important tests of the season with a dominant defensive performance against Michigan State. Even in the low-scoring win there are good grades for Shea Patterson and the offense, which has started to hit on a few explosive plays even against the tougher foes on its schedule.
6. Texas (7): The Longhorns were off in Week 8.
7. Georgia (8): The Bulldogs were off in Week 8.
8. Oklahoma (9): Everything clicked for the Sooners against TCU. Kyler Murray had four touchdowns and only five incompletions (19 for 24), the offense rolled up 536 yards, 26 first downs, dominated the time of possession and most importantly had no turnovers.
9. Ohio State (2): The most dynamic offense in the Big Ten came to a halt against a Purdue team that ranked No. 81 nationally in yards per play allowed. It's not the result that makes sense, but it's the result that's going to result in a drop fro the Buckeyes in the polls.
10. UCF (10): Darriel Mack Jr. gets the credit for keeping UCF's playoff hopes alive, guiding the Knights to a win without McKenzie Milton, who missed the game because of a coaches' decision.
11. Florida (11): The Gators were off in Week 8.
12. Washington State (25): The Cougars are set to be the biggest mover in the poll on Sunday after taking down Oregon and making their presence known in the four-team Pac-12 North title race.
13. West Virginia (13): The Mountaineers were off in Week 8.
14. Kentucky (14): On a busy Saturday evening, I'm guessing most AP voters weren't tuned in to Kentucky and Vanderbilt's rock right. By winning 14-7, the Wildcats are almost guaranteed to hold steady in the polls.
15. Oregon (12): A small step back for the Ducks after taking their second loss of the season. The Washington win should put a pretty high floor on how far the Ducks might fall, but AP voters have been known to ignore head-to-head results in the past. It will be interesting to see where Oregon lands.
16. Washington (15): The Huskies defense dominated the second half against Colorado, holding the Buffs to just 86 yards of offense. It was a strong performance after the loss to Oregon, but we'll see if it left enough of an impression to get AP voters to push UW up the rankings.
17. Iowa (19): Is Iowa one of the best teams in the Big Ten? Right now, the Hawkeyes need some help in order to get to the Big Ten Championship Game because of its loss to Wisconsin earlier in the season, but it's not crazy to think that this year's group is going to have a shot at finishing the regular season with double-digit wins. Since that loss to the Badgers, Iowa has beaten its next three opponents by an average of 22 points per game.
18. Texas A&M (17): The Aggies were off in Week 8.
19. Penn State (18): With Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin coming up on the schedule, Penn State could not afford to drop a third straight game. Any win, even a 33-28 nail-biter, is a positive in this tough spot on the road at Indiana.
20. NC State (16): I don't expect a big drop for NC State because it's still a one-loss team with a couple wins against likely bowl teams in the ACC. That profile may lack a ranked win but it's still one of the 20 best profiles in the country.
21. South Florida (21): The Bulls got pushed by UConn but held on for a 38-30 win. No reason to move the still-undefeated USF way up, but keep an eye on this team as a big mover soon.
22. Wisconsin (23): A seven-turnover affair with Illinois that included two Alex Hornibrook interceptions didn't make for a game that allowed for big-picture takeaways for this Wisconsin team. Jonathan Taylor (159 rushing yards) is very good, and the Badgers can ride him to a Big Ten title game, but it's hard to expect much more than that based on what we've seen.
23. Stanford (NR): The Cardinal have finally gotten back in line after a couple of losses and were able to do so with a hard-fought win at Arizona State without much of a contribution from a banged-up Bryce Love. It hasn't ever really been pretty this season for David Shaw's bunch, but with just two losses and a win over Oregon, they're still in the mix in the Pac-12 North.
24. Appalachian State (NR): The Mountaineers were just on the edge of the top 25 a week ago and after besting Louisiana in a letdown spot could be set to crack the national rankings.
25. Virginia (NR): By going on the road and knocking off Duke as a touchdown underdog, Virginia has jumped right into the thick of the ACC Coastal race and is potentially set to crash the top 25.
Projected to drop out: Cincinnati (20), Mississippi State (22), Michigan State (24)