A week without too many surprises in top 25 action provides an interesting backdrop for AP Top 25 voters as they contemplate the new college football rankings after Week 12. This is, after all, the final balloting before the release of the first College Football Playoff Rankings of 2020.
The CFP Selection Committee and the AP voters have an interesting give-and-take relationship where Sunday's poll serves as an instant reaction while the CFP Rankings on Tuesday nights involve more debate and deliberation. One can inform and/or influence the other from what we've seen over the last six seasons, but in this unique year, we've never had less involvement from the committee this deep into the season.
Of course, we are also dealing with a season that has provided several disjointed resumes in the top 25. Teams like Wisconsin and Oregon have played as many games as Alabama and Notre Dame have left on their schedules, which makes sorting out the rankings more difficult than usual. The Badgers are sure to drop after losing at Northwestern, but how far is going to be tied to the boost the Wildcats are sure to receive after the top 10 win. There's also closer-than-expected wins from Oregon and Georgia to consider.
All of it adds up to an interesting table-setter for Tuesday's rankings release. The top four, and maybe even top six, should be close to matching the AP Top 25, but anything goes when you look at the middle of the top 25. We can make some judgements for the new rankings on Sunday thanks to a more than two months of voting behavior, but there's no guarantee they won't be impacted by what the committee says this week.
Here's how we think the new AP Top 25 poll will look on Sunday. Last week's rankings in parenthesis.
1. Alabama (1): No Iron Bowl lookahead issues were apparent as the Crimson Tide picked Kentucky apart in a 60-point home win. Next week's edition of the rivalry will also be in Bryant-Denny Stadium, where it's hard to imagine anything but Alabama's best the way they're playing right now.
2. Notre Dame (2): The Fighting Irish were off in Week 12.
3. Ohio State (3): Any chance of making a claim to No. 1 after Saturday was lost when a 35-7 second half lead against Indiana became a 42-35 win that was on the line in the final minutes. There's plenty of compliments for the Hoosiers coming out of the game but also a critical look at the Buckeyes, who will likely fall short of the Irish again in this week's balloting.
4. Clemson (4): The Tigers' game at Florida State was postponed hours before kickoff when the two medical groups could not agree on proceeding with the game due to a positive test from a Clemson player on Friday. Since the player practiced with symptoms, there was concern that he had been contagious even though he had been testing negative through the week. It was disappointing for both teams, but now we wait another week for the return of Trevor Lawrence and full-strength Tigers offense.
5. Texas A&M (5): A high number of Aggies in quarantine resulted in the second straight week of no action with Saturday's date against Ole Miss getting postponed. The next game on the schedule is LSU at home on Nov. 28 .
6. Florida (6): Kyle Trask added three touchdowns and 383 yards passing to his increasingly impressive season totals, but Dan Mullen is not going to be satisfied with a 38-17 win at Vanderbilt given some of the missed assignments and tackles that allowed the game to be closer than many expected.
7. Cincinnati (7): Down 14-3 to UCF early, the Bearcats showed a ton of resilience and Desmond Ridder rose to the occasion in a high-scoring bout against one of the most productive offenses in the country. Saturday's 36-33 win is the first of three straight road games to close the regular season, with Temple and Tulsa to follow before the AAC Championship Game on Dec. 19.
8. BYU (8): A trouncing of North Alabama leaves the Cougars right where they stood coming into the week.
9. Oregon (11): There is a feeling like Oregon should be better, or at least more dominant, against a UCLA team lacking its starting quarterback. The Ducks were the beneficiaries of four UCLA turnovers and still only made out with a 38-35 win.
10. Northwestern (19): The AP voters are going to jump all over the Northwestern story, and as a 5-0 team with a quality win against the Badgers, they have an argument. The Wildcats will contend for a top 10 spot, whether they end up there will depend on how voters respond with Indiana.
11. Miami (12): The Hurricanes had COVID-19 issues, including a positive test for coach Manny Diaz, that led to the postponement of Saturday's game against Georgia Tech.
12. Indiana (9): As I mentioned earlier, the Hoosiers are going to be an interesting case study in how voters choose to penalize or reward the "quality loss." Ohio State is a top three team, and Indiana was right in the game at the end when all of college football was tuned in to see if this year's streak-snapping would continue for coach Tom Allen. I'm guessing they land ahead of Wisconsin but behind Northwestern for reasons that include the "moral victory" treatment.
13. Georgia (13): JT Daniels had one of the most prolific quarterback performances that Georgia has seen since Aaron Murray was under center, and still, the game was in doubt in the fourth quarter. No movement in the rankings and questions abound about the performance of the Bulldogs defense against Mississippi State.
14. Wisconsin (10): The door is not shut on Wisconsin having a memorable season, though the ground given to Northwestern in the loss is going to be difficult to make up with less than a month until the Big Ten Championship Game. Graham Mertz looked off his game for the first time all season, and the offense just did not click the way it did in dominant performances against Illinois and Michigan.
15. Coastal Carolina (15): We could see the Chanticleers jump ahead of Marshall following a huge program-shifting win against Appalachian State. The Mountaineers are a division foe in the Sun Belt East in addition to being the class of the conference at this moment, so to knock them off and take control of the conference championship race is another step in the program's growth.
16. Iowa State (17): Matt Campbell's team is peaking right now and absolutely dominated Kansas State in a win that moved the Cyclones one step closer to clinching a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game.
17. Oklahoma (18): Lincoln Riley now has double the amount of Bedlam wins as Mike Gundy, and Riley only took over as head coach of the Sooners prior to the 2017 season.
18. Marshall (15): Saturday's game against Charlotte was postponed due to the 49ers having personnel issues following COVID-19 tests and protocol.
19. USC (20): The Trojans picked up a solid 33-17 win at Utah. The defense was especially impressive with five forced turnovers and only one touchdown allowed (the Utes scored their other touchdown on a fumble return) as USC secured yet another key division win for its Pac-12 title hopes.
21. Auburn (23): Capitalizing on the mistakes of the opponent is a winning recipe that has worked well under Gus Malzahn, and from the moment Smoke Monday ran back an interception at the goal line for an Auburn touchdown, there wasn't much doubt that the Tigers would hold on for a win against Tennessee.
22. Louisiana (24): The Ragin' Cajuns' game against Central Arkansas was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns in the program, including a positive test for coach Billy Napier.
23. Oklahoma State (14): There's a chance the Cowboys fall all the way out of the rankings, but it's a long way from top-15 status to out of the poll entirely, and Saturday's result really said more about Oklahoma than Oklahoma State. Plus, a win against Tulsa provides a floor for voters who take head-to-head seriously among similar teams.
24. Tulsa (25): Down 14-0 late in the game, the Golden Hurricane stormed back to force overtime with a 37-yard, last-second touchdown pass on fourth down by the third-string quarterback. Then after both teams kicked field goals in the first overtime, Tulsa walked it off on Tulane with a game-winning pick six in double overtime. Incredible and unlikely as it was, the win keeps Tulsa in the top 25.
25. Nevada (NR): A spotlight opportunity for the Wolf Pack against San Diego State allowed for the entire nation to see what a game-breaker Romeo Doubs is at the wide receiver position and how Nevada's defense is good enough to win the Mountain West.
Projected to drop out: Liberty (21)