Tomorrow's Top 25 Today: Georgia, TCU make massive moves after ranked wins
Projecting the new AP Top 25 poll college football rankings after Week 4
There will be a time when Alabama is tested, but that time was not Saturday. The Crimson Tide were locked in for a game against a team they were certainly going to beat even with their best performance, and it resulted in one of the most dominant victories we'll see all season.
While Clemson, Oklahoma, Penn State and USC were all giving voters reasons to reconsider the order of the top teams in the country, Alabama cemented its status as the nation's No. 1 in a 59-0 win that had the backups on the field early in the third quarter and ended with a couple of kneels inside the red zone.
The most important development in Week 4 as it pertains to Alabama is the arrival of Georgia as a worthy competitor for the conference title should the Bulldogs be able to continue playing at an elite level over the next nine weeks. Mississippi State exhausted a lot of energy in its upset of LSU, but there was not a moment on Saturday night in Athens where Georgia was not clearly the better team. Kirby Smart's group is surging, so now the trick will be avoiding the bad losses that have plagued talented Georgia teams in the past.
But even these Bulldogs seem a step behind the Tide, who proved in Week 4 that no ones best is quite as good as Alabama's best. Here's how we think the top 25 will look on Sunday:
1. Alabama (Previous -- 1): While Oklahoma and Clemson have been making their case as the top team in the country over the last two weeks, Alabama stepped back into the spotlight and reminded the country of how dominant the biggest, fastest and most talented team in the country can look when everything is clicking. It's an old school Alabama team that will run the ball down your throat and squeeze the life out of you on defense and contend for the national title.
2. Clemson (2): Voters were likely keeping a very close eye on Clemson in the afternoon while Alabama was making work of Vanderbilt and the Tigers were tied 7-7 with Boston College. The 34-7 final score will mask the performance later in the year when we're comparing profiles of College Football Playoff hopefuls, but spending all that time in the "upset alert" watch could change enough voters' minds to reshuffle the top three. I'll guess OU's win wasn't convincing enough to change up the rankings.
3. Oklahoma (3): Like Clemson, Oklahoma was on upset alert, and like the Tigers, the Sooners dominated the fourth quarter. After Baylor's fans rained down chants of "overrated" and "Who's your daddy?" to taunt Baker Mayfield and Co., OU responded with 21 unanswered points before the plot twist of Baylor mounting one last furious run that included recovering an onside kick. Oklahoma got it done on the ground with a great performance from Abdul Adams and Trey Sermon (312 yards, three touchdowns combined) but needed it's defense to seal the win.
4. Georgia (11): It's hard not to overreact on a weekend when so many top teams looked shaky, but Georgia definitely deserves a spot in the top five. Jake Fromm was efficient, and the Georgia ground game was brutally effective, but the key to the success of the 2017 Bulldogs is the speed and strength of the front seven on defense. The offensive attack they saw on Saturday night was more potent than anything they'll face in the SEC East, so as long as they maintain form, we should be able to start counting down the days to a rematch of the 2012 SEC Championship Game.
5. Penn State (4): Trace McSorley put together a drive that Penn State fans will be talking about for years. In leading the Nittany Lions down the field in the closing seconds and throwing the winning touchdown pass, McSorley kept Penn State firmly in pole position int he Big Ten as the team to beat and the conference's strongest playoff contender.
6. USC (5): Saturday's 30-20 win at Cal was a 13-13 tie game at the end of three quarters, but there were too many mistakes (Cal quarterback Ross Bowers had four interceptions) for the Bears to pull off the upset. USC was without running back Ronald Jones and wide receiver Steven Mitchell, and it ended up getting outgained by the Bears in a game that was much closer than anyone expected.
7. TCU (16): Gary Patterson is one of the best active coaches in the sport. On Saturday, one of the best offenses we've seen struggled mightily to get into rhythm against TCU's defense, and Oklahoma State's much heralded wide receivers were outplayed by the Frogs' defensive backs. TCU now has road wins at Arkansas and Oklahoma State, suddenly making it look like one of the better 4-0 teams in the rankings.
8. Washington (7): The Huskies made it look easy at Colorado. Dante Pettis wasn't the difference-maker he had been so far this season but he didn't need to be in a dominant 37-10 win that showcased Washington's defense.
9. Michigan (8): John O'Korn played pretty well after Wilton Speight was injured in Michigan's 28-10 win at Purdue (18 for 26, 270 yards, one touchdown and one interception), but it was the Wolverines' defense that won the game in the second half. Purdue led 10-7 at halftime but did not record a single first down in the second half and only 14 yards of offense in the fourth quarter.
10. Ohio State (10): Back-to-back blowout wins have Ohio State fans feeling better about J.T. Barrett and the offense. Barrett threw five touchdown passes to five different receivers in the first half, and the Buckeyes' athleticism was on full display. With Big Ten play resuming next week at Rutgers, we begin a countdown to the collision with Penn State next month.
12. Virginia Tech (13): All of the boxes were checked in the tune-up for the biggest game of the year in Blacksburg: 582 yards of offense, a 32-7 advantage on first downs and a 38-0 shutout win. Clemson comes to town next week, and Lane Stadium will be rocking under the lights.
13. Miami (Fla.) (14): A slow start was overcome and Miami's runaway 52-30 win against Toledo. Mark Walton looked incredible, and even though he spent most of the second and third quarter either in the locker room or on the sideline nursing an ankle injury, he still finished with a career-high 204 rushing yards.
14. Oklahoma State (6): The Cowboys are set to fall after running into the only defense to slow Mason Rudolph all year. The instinct will be to slide them down outside of the top 15, but voters looking at the landscape may struggle to find 14 teams to put ahead of the 1-loss Cowboys.
15. Auburn (15): Playing Missouri seems to be a confidence booster for everyone from South Carolina to Purdue and now Auburn. Kerryon Johnson returned to the lineup after missing time with an injury and made the most of a Mizzou team that looks like the least competitive team in the SEC, scoring five touchdowns in their 51-14 win.
16. Washington State (18): On a day with several lopsided wins, Washington State's 45-7 rout of Nevada flew below the radar. What you probably missed was Luke Falk throwing his 100th career passing touchdown during a 478-yard, five-touchdown performance. Per NFL.com, Falk has completed 76 percent of his passes for 874 yards and 11 touchdowns since getting benched against Boise State in Week 2.
19. South Florida (21): It will take a while for USF to climb near the top 10, but I expect it will get there eventually because the Bulls' offense is clicking on all cylinders, and there's no one coming up on the schedule that looks like a threat.
22. Mississippi State (17): If voters drop MSU below LSU, it's going to be a new low for the "win move up, lose move down" crowd. The Bulldogs should land somewhere between 20-25 after falling to a top-tier SEC team on the road, and absolutely should be above LSU, the team it crushed a week ago in Starkville.
23. LSU (25): The fact that Myles Brennan got significant work at quarterback against Syracuse is not insignificant. Danny Etling was 10-for-17 passing for 188 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, but Brennan, the freshman who is believed to be the future at quarterback for the Tigers, stepped in during the third quarter and led a nice touchdown drive in his first action against a Power Five opponent.
24. Notre Dame (NR): The Irish looked great against Michigan State, and now that one close loss to Georgia doesn't look as damning given the way the Bulldogs have played. Notre Dame makes it back into the rankings as a result.
25. West Virginia (NR): Kansas pushed the Mountaineers but the win kept WVU in a good spot to break through in the top 25.
Projected dropped out: Florida State (12), Oregon (22)
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