What makes Sunday's updated college football rankings in the AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll so interesting is the fact that they come not just on Halloween but in advance of the first release of the College Football Playoff Rankings. The AP Top 25 and CFP Rankings have rarely aligned, and this week begins a process of read-and-react that will have debates raging through the end of the season.
The 62 AP voters will offer their opinions on Sundays in the immediate wake of the weekend results before the CFP Selection Committee weighs in over 48 hours later with another take that is inherently crucial to determining postseason seeding.
In 2019, the last season where we had the entire FBS landscape starting on the same schedule, the first CFP Rankings and the AP Top 25 had the exact same top five teams but none in the same position. The first CFP Rankings of the 2018 season were mostly in line with the AP Top 25 except for a differing opinion on two teams, but in 2017, we saw wildly different rankings from the committee the first time out.
So it's important to remember that everything about Sunday's new rankings, from the mindset of the voters to the reaction from the fans, will be in the context of knowing that a much smaller body of voters will be weighing in with its own opinions on the order of the best teams in college football just a few days later. We have seen some AP Top 25 influence on the CFP rankings in the past, but how much it will influence the first release is a year-by-year guess.
There are plenty of debates already built in to the process, starting with whether Cincinnati is the No. 2 team in the country coming off consecutive wins over American Athletic Conference opponents in games that were closer than expected. Also, how does the current form of an Alabama stack up against the undefeated profile of an Oklahoma or a Michigan State, especially after the Spartans logged one of the best wins of the season in taking down Michigan.
Michigan State is expected to be one of the notable movers in this week's rankings, and while there isn't much real estate to move up from No. 8, there is plenty of respect to be gained from the voters who will now be comparing the Spartans to the other undefeated teams in the country thanks the quality victory over the Wolverines.
The bottom of the rankings is where we're projecting the most fluidity as losses by ranked teams have opened the door for some darkhorse arrivals into the top 25.
Here's how we think the AP Top 25 will look after Week 9:
1. Georgia (Last week -- 1): The easiest debate for any college football fan, expert, analyst or CFP committee member is whether Georgia deserves to be No. 1 after the 34-7 win against Florida. Hint: It does.
2. Cincinnati (2): If the final score were as close as it was heading into the fourth quarter, when the Bearcats only led one-win Tulane by nine points, then maybe the result spark a change at No. 2. As it stands, those two fourth quarter scores and the 31-12 final should leave Cincinnati in its same position, though the voting points margin will be slimmer heading into Week 10.
3. Alabama (3): The Crimson Tide were off in Week 9 and will be back in action next Saturday against LSU.
4. Oklahoma (4): As Caleb Williams continues to rack up touchdowns -- six of them against Texas Tech -- the willingness of voters to draw a line in the season from pre-Caleb to post-Caleb will grow. But ultimately, the best quality Oklahoma has on its resume is "undefeated".
5. Michigan State (8): Kenneth Walker III dropping five touchdowns against a top-10 opponent is going to only power the Heisman Trophy argument, but individual awards are far from the primary topic around East Lansing now that Michigan State has the look of a Big Ten championship contender following the rivalry win against Michigan.
6. Ohio State (5): Maybe if the Buckeyes had blown out Penn State there would be a real debate for No. 5. This isn't as much "dropping" in the rankings as it is getting jumped by a Spartans team that has no losses and a better win.
7. Oregon (7): The late touchdowns by Colorado in a 52-29 Ducks win actually mask how well Oregon played in this game. How voters respond to the final score will be an indicator of how much of the game they watched because getting jumped by Michigan State is expected but checking in behind Michigan would be a misrepresentation of the form Oregon showed on Saturday.
8. Michigan (6): The close loss, the road setting and the competitiveness of what was one of the best games of the Big Ten season will put a high floor on Michigan's fall after the rivalry loss to the Spartans.
9. Wake Forest (13): This may be an aggressive projection, but an 8-0 record with all eight wins featuring at least 35 points scored by the Demon Deacons is going to warrant another bump up closer to the undefeated teams. The Deacons were double-digit favorites against Duke, but the 45-7 win is going to get the attention of voters trying to decide between Wake Forest and one-loss teams in this range of the rankings.
10. Notre Dame (11): Another week of this new-look Notre Dame offense having success has helped keep the Fighting Irish on the periphery of the College Football Playoff race. No major moves after the 44-34 win against North Carolina but plenty of good signs for a strong finish to the season.
11. Texas A&M (14): The Aggies were off in Week 9 and will be back in action next week against Auburn at home.
12. Auburn (18): Beating Ole Miss is going to power one of the bigger moves up within the top 25, but those two losses -- even coming against two other currently ranked teams -- are going to be a ceiling on where the Tigers land. The good news for voters is the stress of comparing Texas A&M against Auburn will only last a week since the two SEC West foes face off next Saturday.
13. Oklahoma State (15): The impressive response to last week's loss against Iowa State was a 17-0 first quarter lead, a 38-0 halftime lead and ultimately a 55-3 blowout win against Kansas that instilled confidence in the Cowboys as a Big 12 title contender.
14. Baylor (16): Now 7-1 following a win against Texas, Baylor has turned its sights on competing for a Big 12 championship. The Bears are tied for second in the conference standings with Oklahoma State -- the lone team to beat them this year -- and both teams still have the Sooners on the schedule.
15. Ole Miss (10): The Rebels have been dealing with injuries for a few weeks now, and it seems to have caught up to them in the loss at Auburn. No excuses will land with the voters, though, who are going to move Lane Kiffin's team down behind the Tigers after the defeat.
16. UTSA (23): The Roadrunners were off in Week 9 and will be back in a action next week against UTEP.
17. Coastal Carolina (24): A home date against Troy set the stage for a get-right win, but the 35-28 result that followed might shake some confidence in the Chanticleers. Still, with as many losses as we saw in the top 25 this week, a win is good enough to remain ranked.
18. BYU (25): A wild 66-49 win against Virginia is going to leave an impression on voters who will have no trouble moving the Cougars up among the list of one-loss teams.
19. Penn State (20): There might be a move up for Penn State after the loss to Ohio State but the competitiveness against a top team will have the voters treating the Nittany Lions more favorably than most three-loss teams fighting for spots in the 20s. The win against Auburn holds the most weight, particularly as the Tigers' stock surges following the win against Ole Miss.
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20. Arkansas (NR): The Razorbacks were off in Week 9. Generally, we don't see teams that were inactive make a move up into the top 25. However, with so much shakeup in the rankings, it's likely that last week's position allows Sam Pittman's group to move up. Arkansas was the first team left out of the top 25 last week, checking in just a few voting points behind No. 25 BYU in the balloting.
21. Louisiana (NR): Now 7-1, Louisiana be favored in every remaining game in the regular season with the toughest game left being a nonconference showdown with Liberty on Nov. 20. A 10-2 or 11-1 record heading into the Sun Belt championship is a real possibility as Billy Napier tries to round out his third straight double-digit win season with the Ragin' Cajuns.
22. Houston (NR): The Cougars did not have a single voting point last week, but I expect that Dana Holgorsen's group will be in the top 25 after handing SMU its first loss of the season.
23. SMU (19): That win against TCU doesn't carry nearly as much weight, but I think Saturday night's loss to Houston will do more for the Cougars moving up than really pull down the Mustangs considering the teams had a combined 13-1 record before the contest.
24. Fresno State (NR): The Bulldogs didn't just hand San Diego State its first loss of the season to earn this ranking, they're a conference championship contender with a Power Five win against UCLA.
25. San Diego State (21): The Aztecs lost for the first time this season against Fresno State on Saturday night. It's possible San Diego State suffers the same fate as Iowa, Kentucky, Pitt and Iowa State in falling out of the rankings, but the nonconference wins (Utah, namely) hold enough weight to warrant top-25 consideration even as one-loss team.
Projected to drop out: Iowa (9), Kentucky (12), Pittsburgh (17), Iowa State (22)