It wasn't quite a full-blown separation Saturday, but the college football rankings are going to see some changes after more than a half-dozen ranked teams suffered losses in Week 9. No team saw its fortunes change more than No. 5 Oklahoma, falling for the first time this season at Kansas State. The Sooners are going to fall in the new AP Top 25 poll, but they are also now facing an uphill battle to climb into the top four of the College Football Playoff Rankings before the end of the year. Oklahoma's profile was further hurt on Saturday when one of its best wins, Texas, also lost to an unranked Big 12 foe in TCU.
No. 19 Michigan will be on the rise after beating No. 8 Notre Dame, but a couple of the biggest statements of the day in the Big Ten came from elsewhere in the division. No. 3 Ohio State was totally dominant in every phase of the game against No. 13 Wisconsin and could threaten to make a move on Alabama or LSU. No. 6 Penn State will be moving up after an impressive defensive performance in a tricky spot on the road against Michigan State.
The Nittany Lions have beat Michigan and Michigan State in back-to-back weeks, but now they must maintain that championship caliber of play through the off week and carry it over to Nov. 9 when they face No. 17 Minnesota, still undefeated after blasting Maryland. It's easy to get fixated on that Nov. 23 date at Ohio State, but there's no room for looking ahead on Penn State's tough late-season schedule.
Here's how we think the new AP Top 25 will look on Sunday.
1. Alabama (Last week -- 1): Mac Jones threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns in relief of Tua Tagovailoa, and the dominance in Tagovailoa's absence will likely cement the Tide's hold on the top spot in the polls.
2. LSU (2): A Tigers offense that averages 50 points per game finally met its match on Saturday afternoon, needing every bit of Joe Burrow magic to best Auburn in a 23-20 thriller in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week. The battle for No. 1 is dicey among the top four teams, but I think LSU will hold onto No. 2.
3. Ohio State (3): The Buckeyes were so impressive in their 38-7 win against Wisconsin that it's possible we could see them jump up over LSU or maybe -- probably not, but maybe -- make a run at Alabama for the top spot. We on the outside see these teams vertically but there's far from a consensus No. 1 across the 62 AP voters, and this weekend is going to give more reason to believe in the thinking of those 13 voters who had Ohio State as their first-place team last week.
4. Clemson (4): The Tigers beat conference opponents by 30+ points two weeks in a row and each week dropped in the AP Top 25 while remaining steady at No. 2 in the Coaches Poll. After beating Boston College by 52, I'd think the AP voters will have learned their lesson and avoid another drop, but you never know.
5. Penn State (6): Oklahoma's loss is Penn State's gain, and it was the Nittany Lions defense that won the day in a rainy 28-7 win at Michigan State. Sparty's defense did its part in limiting the efforts of KJ Hamler and Noah Cain, but four Michigan State turnovers provided enough opportunities for the Sean Clifford and the Nittany Lions offense to get the points it needed to escape East Lansing with a win, remaining undefeated.
6. Florida (7): The Gators were off in Week 9.
7. Georgia (10): The Bulldogs were off in Week 9.
8. Oregon (11): CJ Verdell was a man on a mission against Washington State. The sophomore running back exploded for 257 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries in the Ducks 37-35 win against Washington State. The Cougars did a good job of matching Oregon's physicality early and took the lead with one minute remaining, but Mario Cristobal's team came up with the big plays late for the second week in a row to remain undefeated in Pac-12 play thanks to a walk-off field goal from the Ducks' freshman kicker Camden Lewis.
9. Oklahoma (5): A major fall for top-five teams won't come until the second loss, especially at this point in the season. Oklahoma remains the favorite to win the Big 12, and voters should keep them as the top team ranked from the conference. Much was lost in the playoff picture, but the Sooners remain a top-10 team with profile that ranks around the middle of the pack for the top one-loss teams.
10. Utah (12): Cal was down to its third string quarterback and never had a chance against Utah's stingy defense in Salt Lake City. Zack Moss ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns as the Utes cruised to a 35-0 win to improve to 7-1.
11. Baylor (14): The Bears were off in Week 9.
12. SMU (16): Things got dicey on Thursday night as Houston was able to put SMU on upset alert, but the Mustangs got enough explosive plays early and their defense rose to the occasion late after allowing the Cougars to climb back into the game. The New Year's Six and AAC title hopes are on the line next week at Memphis in one of the biggest games of the year for Sonny Dykes' team.
13. Auburn (9): This might be low for Auburn, the team that might have the most variance in voting this week. The Tigers played LSU tight right down the to the end of the fourth quarter in Death Valley, and their only other loss is to another top-10 team in Florida. But still, Auburn is a two-loss team, and even with a quality win against Oregon, the limitations of this Tigers team provide almost an eye test penalty. Auburn's defense is elite, as we saw against LSU, but if the voters overlook the list of opponents, it's going to get bounced closer to the other two-loss teams in the rankings.
14. Minnesota (17): College football marches on into November, and Minnesota is ready for everyone else to start taking it seriously as a threat in the Big Ten West. The Gophers made a statement in their 52-10 win, but I don't think they're going to jump SMU or Baylor for beating up on Maryland.
15. Michigan (19): The disappointment of last week's near-upset combined with the arrival of an equally-hated rival allowed Michigan to continue building on what it found offensively against Penn State. The Wolverines rolled all over Notre Dame in the biggest win of the season for Jim Harbaugh, his second top-10 victory at Michigan.
16. Notre Dame (8): The flip side of Michigan's win is a ton of disappointment for Notre Dame, not only the loss itself but the way the Irish played in defeat. If that game is played 10 times on a neutral field, there probably isn't another performance as poor as what we saw in the rain on Saturday night in Ann Arbor. Michigan was bubbling with energy in need of a big win, and Notre Dame wasn't able to match its intensity where it counted the most.
17. Wisconsin (13): After back-to-back losses, the Badgers get next week off to prepare for the first of two division battles with the top contenders in the Big Ten West. With two losses, Wisconsin is likely out of the College Football Playoff race and now turns its sights specifically to winning the Big Ten. If it beats Iowa on Nov. 9 at home and wins at Minnesota in the regular-season finale on Nov. 30, then the Badgers will be in Indianapolis, likely with a shot at revenge against Ohio State.
18. Cincinnati (18): The Bearcats were off in Week 9.
19. Iowa (20): It was a brisk Saturday afternoon in Evanston, Illinois, as Iowa cleaned up a 20-0 win against Northwestern in less than three hours -- officially, the game duration was 2:52. The Hawkeyes have won two straight since back-to-back one-score losses to Michigan and Penn State, but things get challenging again with an angry Wisconsin team and undefeated Minnesota up next on the schedule.
20. Appalachian State (21): The Mountaineers defense has been excellent in recent weeks, holding opponents to 17 combined points in its last three wins. It's a short turnaround from Saturday afternoon in Mobile, Alabam,a to Thursday night in a crucial division game against Georgia Southern, but even more intrigue lies a week later with South Carolina on deck representing a chance for Appalachian State to notch a second Power Five win.
21. Boise State (22): The Broncos were off in Week 9.
22. Wake Forest (25): The Demon Deacons were off in Week 9.
23. Memphis (NR): Voters might not feel great putting Memphis in the 20s after the Tigers needed Tulsa to miss a short field goal to win, but this is a one-loss team in the mix for a New Year's Six bid and absolutely worthy of top 25 consideration.
24. Kansas State (NR): So the other side of Oklahoma's loss is recognizing that Chris Klieman has been a spark plug for the Kansas State engine that still knows how to beat teams up on the ground and play ball control. The Wildcats are now 5-2 with one of those losses coming to still-undefeated Baylor, and I think they get some juice off Saturday's upset win to show up on enough ballots to make the top 25.
25. UCF (NR): Sometimes style points do matter. The Knights' eye-popping 63-21 win at Temple might be enough to get the attention of voters. UCF does have the head-to-head loss against Cincinnati, but with some help, it could be right back in the AAC title race and in the hunt for a New Year's Six bowl.