Tomorrow's Top 25 Today: Michigan moves into the top 10 as Florida State falls
Projecting the new AP Top 25 poll college football rankings after Week 1
Ohio State-Indiana feels like it was two weeks ago. The opening weekend of college football is a marathon, and AP Top 25 responsible for the new college football rankings didn't submit their ballots until the completion of the five-day football extravaganza with Georgia Tech's option-crazy offense amassing 535 rushing yards but still losing to Tennessee 42-41 in two overtimes Monday night in Atlanta's new dome.
Rankings, particularly early rankings, reflect perception. And after all the football we've consumed, the only thing that voters will remember is that Ohio State had the talent it needed to pull away from an Indiana team that was giving the Buckeyes fits for two-plus quarters. Ohio State, then, won't take a step back in the rankings despite plenty of alarm bells that should be going off if you are betting your reputation (or money) on the Buckeyes finishing the season in the College Football Playoff.
Perception will also be the key factor motivating voters who might downgrade Louisville or South Florida, who both had closer-than-expected wins failing to match their expectations. Clemson, Penn State and Oklahoma put big numbers on the scoreboard, but voters won't make any big shifts until each team takes on a tougher Power Five opponent in Week 2.
These early rankings are definitive because college football teams, like our perceptions of them, are still forming and far from their final form. With that in mind, here's our best shot at guessing how the AP Top 25 voters will react to the first week's action in Tuesday's new rankings.
1. Alabama (Previous -- 1): The best team in the country had a 1,000-yard rusher blocking punts and a five-star future All-American (Dylan Moses) punching balls out on its special-teams unit. Alabama's offense didn't look all that different despite a new offensive coordinator and another offseason of development for Jalen Hurts, but even the limitations of last year's offense put the Tide in the College Football Playoff title game only a few plays from winning the second title in three years of the playoff era.
2. Ohio State (2): Speaking of offensive expectations, Ohio State didn't look much different except for the eye-popping debut of J.K. Dobbins. The Buckeyes' defensive line is ridiculous and will wear opponents down throughout games all year, creating more opportunities for someone like Dobbins or Parris Campbell to spring a big play and put points on the board.
3. Clemson (5): It was just Kent State, but the path to 56 points for Clemson demonstrated good signs for a reloaded offense. Kelly Bryant is ready to be a regular rushing threat, C.J. Fuller and Tavien Feaster are ready for their breakthrough seasons -- keep your eye on true freshman Travis Etienne as well -- and Deon Cain is ready for an all-ACC season. Combine that explosiveness with one of the nastiest defensive lines in college football and you've got the makings for a title contender. Clemson jumps up into FSU's spot in more ways than one.
4. USC (4): Finding itself in a dogfight with Western Michigan in the home opener was not a good look. The Broncos ran right into the teeth of USC's defense with some success and got a good push in the trenches in a way that should be concerning with the Stanford game coming up. I thought that the close battle could end up in a slide in the rankings, but USC did have a couple of first-place votes in the preseason that provide enough of an anchor to think they'll be all right.
5. Penn State (6): Good gracious, Saquon Barkley is going to be that dude in 2017. There was no doubt that Barkley was on the short list to be one of college football's most impactful players this year, but in a season with great running backs all over the country, I was curious to see who was going to be the alpha of the group. Barkley is this year's star running back, and his continued success means Penn State is just as dangerous as any of the other title hopefuls in the Big Ten.
6. Oklahoma (7): Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray combined for 29-of-31 passing for 478 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. That's Baker Mayfield, Heisman finalist, and Kyler Murray, former five-star recruit and MLB prospect, in control of an Oklahoma offense that shouldn't skip a beat from its high-scoring, Big 12-leading ways.
7. Michigan (11): You might hold your breath every time Wilton Speight throws the ball, but you lose your breath every time Michigan's defense swarms to the ball and swallows up an attempt to run the ball. Mo Hurst, Rashan Gary and Devin Bush have been waiting for this moment, and the loss of so many defensive starters -- a reason many decided to look past Michigan as a contender -- has provided the opportunity for a breakthrough season.
8. Wisconsin (9): The early 10-0 deficit against Utah State is long forgotten by the end of a 59-0 run and 49-point win in the opener. Wisconsin's offense still pounds the ball on the ground and targets its tight ends in scoring position to provide the base for one of the most steady attacks in the country.
9. Oklahoma State (10): Mason Rudolph and the best receiving corps in the country got to work early against Tulsa and never looked back. The Cowboys could jump Wisconsin, but I'm guessing all the action on Saturday, Sunday and Monday made voters memories fuzzy and less emphasis will be placed on the Badgers' slow start.
10. Washington (8): Voters won't forget Washington getting off to a slow start against Rutgers. The Huskies a playoff team with plans to get back there, and to have your hands full with Rutgers on the opening weekend is the highest level of alert for a title contender. Jake Browning didn't look great and there were some struggles moving the ball on the ground, but Washington was the better team and got out of Piscataway with a three-score win. Guessing a step back in the rankings is coming after an uninspiring performance.
11. Stanford (14): Next week could change everything, but if USC couldn't stop Western Michigan from moving the ball on the ground there's going to be a lot of anticipation to see how they fare against a Stanford team that is still just as dangerous after the departure of Christian McCaffrey.
12. Auburn (12): Like Stanford, there's a lot of "we'll see" coming up for Auburn. Gus Malzahn's offense was productive but not perfect in the opener, but you have to think the staff was keeping a lot of its trickier stuff in the book for this Saturday's matchup against Clemson.
13. Florida State (3): The Seminoles won't fall just because of the loss to Alabama but due to of the loss of Deondre Francois. Florida State's defense is good enough to keep this team in the mix for an ACC title and potential playoff spot, but until James Blackman takes the field, there's a significant drop in rating for how FSU stacks up against the best teams in the country.
14. LSU (13): So much for BYU giving LSU fits, right? The Tigers had handfuls of previously unannounced suspensions and still totally dominated the Cougars. If the entire roster is healthy and off suspension, they can stack up well against anyone in the country. But will we get to see that?
15. Georgia (15): Jacob Eason's injury doesn't seem as bad or impactful as Francois' after two days, but that could change when Jacob Fromme has to face better defenses (hello, Notre Dame) and the recovery from a sprained knee brings about more quarterback questions later in the season.
16. Virginia Tech (21): The Hokies are back. I was among the doubters that figured that a total turnover on offense -- record-setting quarterback Jerod Evans, Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges among those that are gone from last year's 10-win team -- would handicap the 2017 team, but I and the other doubters are eating crow on Monday morning. Justin Fuente schemed a great game and redshirt freshman Josh Jackson fits right in, complementing an already stacked and Bud Foster-led defense to make an ACC Coastal title contender.
17. Miami (18): Malik Rosier looked good in his debut, but a tougher challenge lies ahead at Arkansas State before the Florida State game. We know Miami has top-25 talent and top 15 or top 10 potential, but no voter will put them there until it's proven. The Canes have burned us too many times following "The U is Back" hype.
18. Louisville (16): The U might be back, but so is Louisville's tendency to get in it's own way on offense. Lamar Jackson is going to put up insane stats for a second-straight year as long as the offense continues to commit procedural penalties and rely on Jackson to get the job done with his arm and his legs.
19. Kansas State (20): Slow start, no panic, comfortable win. No significant takeaways from Kansas State's win against Central Arkansas, just comfort for Wildcats' fans in seeing Jesse Ertz put on a great passing performance with 333 yards and four touchdowns in three quarters of action.
20. South Florida (19): Early deficits to San Jose State and Stony Brook aren't good signs for a team that some predicted will win the American Athletic Conference and compete for a New Year's Six bowl bid. Losses by top-25 teams below the Bulls will keep them from sliding too far, but it hasn't been a great start given the preseason expectations.
21. Notre Dame (NR): Brandon Wimbush looked good, the ground game was rolling (three 100-yard rushers) and the Irish dominated in the one game on the schedule where they had a chance to put up some big numbers. The Georgia game is huge, and the excitement for it could be enough to give an extra bump to them in the mind of the voters -- remember, it's all about perception at this point in the season.
22. Washington State (24): Did you know Mike Leach had lost all five of his season openers, including two FCS losses, before Washington State's 31-0 victory against Montana State? The focus and execution on offense and defense out of the gate was the topic of conversation in Pullman and a good omen for a team that could wreck title hopes for a couple of teams in the Pac-12.
23. Utah (NR): The usual bet for a Kyle Whittingham-coached Utah team is a salty defense, great special teams play and just enough offense to get them to nine wins. Tyler Huntley and a new offense could get them further, but it's going to take more than a win against North Dakota to feel comfortable predicting that outcome. A top-25 team though? That's not a stretch given they were right on the fringe in the preseason balloting.
24. Colorado (NR): Voters might have doubted whether Colorado could sustain the loss of eight senior starters on defense and defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, but shutting down a Colorado State offense that put up big numbers in Week Zero did enough to ease any concern. The Buffs aren't going to take a major step back like many expected.
25. Florida (17): Going out on a limb here and guessing that enough voters can't find a suitable replacement to drop the Gators from their ballot entirely. If Florida's not at No. 24 or No. 25, they'll certainly be one of the top teams in the "others receiving votes" category. Michigan is a great team and Florida -- even with all its issues -- was talented and strong enough to be in the game for a long time before things got out of hand near the end.
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