I was wrong about West Virginia. Coming into the year, I figured the Mountaineers were a solid Big 12 team sure to get tripped up a few times in the grind of the nine-game Big 12 schedule. This 2016 West Virginia team, I figured, was going to finish somewhere between third and sixth in the league depending on health and finishes in close games.
In back-to-back wins against Texas Tech and TCU, West Virginia bottled up its opponent on defense and used the ground game to power one-sided conference wins. With Oklahoma State, Kansas and Texas coming up on the schedule, it's time to consider Dana Holgersen's Mountaineers as a Big 12 title and College Football Playoff contender. No has ever gone 9-0 in conference play since the Big 12 expanded its conference schedule in 2011.
Key head-to-head matchups in November are likely to decide their playoff fate, but for now, let's celebrate the hot start for a team that's been itching to get back to "hanging 70 in the Orange Bowl" good since leaving the Big East for the Big 12.
Ohio State's place in the polls will be among the best of the one-loss teams after losing to Penn State in Happy Valley. It's just the second regular season conference loss for an Urban Meyer-coached Buckeyes team, a game that featured a performance as underwhelming as that loss to Michigan State in 2015. That loss cost Ohio State a shot at the Big Ten title while and while this one hurts the psyche, the games that will decide the postseason plans are coming in November.
As for Sunday's poll drop, we're thinking that Ohio State stays in the top 10 and Houston remains in the top 25.
Here's how we think the AP Top 25 will look on Sunday:
1. Alabama (Previous AP Top 25 ranking -- 1): The college football world is in awe of the distance between Alabama and the rest of the SEC. Alabama's 33-14 win featured a Jonathan Allen defensive touchdown (extending the non-offensive touchdown streak), three Jalen Hurts touchdowns and an Eddie Jackson injury that takes an NFL-ready player away from the secondary and special teams. Up next is a week off before the LSU game in Baton Rouge, a game that will further test the resiliency of this hyper-talented Tide team.
2. Michigan (3): Hard to have complaints with Michigan's "as expected" victory against an Illinois team starting freshman quarterback Jeff George Jr. The Wolverines are 7-0 for the first time since 2006 and Harbaugh showed off some new spectacles for the occasion. Up next is a trip to East Lansing to face a reeling Michigan State team.
4. Washington (5): The Huskies got an opportunity to tune up all of their offensive weapons prior to next Saturday's showdown with Utah in Salt Lake City. Jake Browning totaled four touchdowns, both John Ross and Dante Pettis went over 100 yards receiving, and Myles Gaskin had another big day on the ground after finally getting loose against Oregon earlier this month.
5. Louisville (7): Lamar Jackson had another highlight reel day, but the real star for Louisville was the defense. Bobby Petrino said this group came into the game looking to bring the fight to NC State, and they won the battle at the line of scrimmage in addition to forcing turnovers. Jackson's job was easy in the first half, and that's probably why he scored four times.
6. West Virginia (12): Voters will react positively to a huge win for West Virginia. Now at 6-0, it'll be tested by extra noise that comes with being a playoff contender. If the Mountaineers keep finding ways to win, Dana Holgorsen is hosting both Oklahoma (Nov. 19) and Baylor (Dec. 3) with a chance to win the Big 12 in Morgantown.
7. Baylor (9): The Bears were off this week. Up next is a trip to face Texas in Austin, where the Charlie Strong job security talk will be as loud as the presence of the Big 12's playoff contender.
8. Ohio State (2): The Buckeyes won't fall out of the top-10 after its first loss, thanks in part to the road win at Wisconsin last week. Losing to Penn State hurts Ohio State for the moment, falling behind Michigan in the polls and Big Ten East standings, but the season will be determined in how they respond to the loss. Poor special teams play and another week of allowing the underdog to hang around is not especially encouraging, but hard to count out a team as talented as the Buckeyes moving forward, especially with that Michigan game in Columbus.
9. Wisconsin (10): The Badgers aren't perfect. They do a lot of things on offense that make winning seem difficult, but life with Alex Hornibrook was never going to be a walk in the park. Wisconsin is just so strong on defense that most of the setbacks haven't prevented the team from winning.
11. Texas A&M (6): Texas A&M made a few too many mistakes against the one opponent on the schedule that requires flawlessness for survival. The Aggies aren't likely going to fall far as there's little to penalize on a resume that has a road loss to Alabama as its only blemish. The separation between Alabama and the rest of the SEC can't be accurately depicted in the polls.
12. Boise State (14): Boise State held off BYU on Friday night to remain undefeated. Brett Rypien's 442-yard, four touchdown evening was powered by a fast start, something this team has done in most of its games this season. Those fast starts have been huge for a team that has more wins by five wins or less than any team in FBS play.
13. Florida State (13): The Seminoles were off, preparing to host the Tigers next week.
14. Florida (15): Florida was off as well. World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party coming up next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on CBS. (Cheap plug!)
15. Auburn (21): Arkansas might not have had much left in its eighth game in as many weeks but that doesn't take away from a record-breaking performance by Auburn's offense. Even down a running back, the Tigers ground attack racked up 543 yards in a 52-3 win against the Razorbacks that should result in a big boost in the polls.
16. Utah (19): Joe Williams had one of the best performances in college football, and he just came back from being retired! Williams said he wasn't plugged in mentally or physically and retired in early September, only to return and run for 511 yards in his first two games back, both road conference victories for the Utes. Without Williams, Utah is an injury depleted team out of the Pac-12 race. Thanks to the senior back and now-school record holder, the Utes have a shot against Utah next week. After the game, Kyle Whittingham guaranteed a treat for the offensive line to honor their part in the rushing record.
17. Oklahoma (16): The Sooners beat Texas Tech in a 66-59 shootout in Lubbock. Impressive point total, but the defense effort won't do Oklahoma any favors.
18. Tennessee (18): The Vols were off this week. The schedule, thankfully, lightens up for this banged up Tennessee team still hoping to find a way to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
19. Western Michigan (20): Eastern Michigan put up one of hell of a fight, and given the Eagles' improvements in play, this result shouldn't have been a huge surprise. WMU's balance was on display as Jarvion Franklin ran for 100+ again (fourth straight game) but the win was powered by Zach Terrell and the passing attack (398 passing yards, three passing touchdowns).
20. North Carolina (22): UNC's defense has become one of the biggest surprises of October. Virginia couldn't get much going and Mitch Trubisky threw for three touchdowns in the seventh straight win for North Carolina in the series.
21. LSU (25): The Tigers get a bump from a third straight win with Ed Orgeron as head coach and the offense lighting up the scoreboard. Leonard Fournette's statement performance back in the lineup comes right before playing the one team that's consistently had the advantage against him, Alabama. All eyes on Nov. 5 as the Tigers are certain to move up a few spots.
22. Navy (24): A good home win against Memphis greatly improved Navy's conference title chances. It's a head-to-head victory against a division foe and creates some wiggle room heading into next Friday's game at South Florida. There's a lot going on in Annapolis right now: Tulsa, ECU and SMU still left on the conference schedule as they try to lock up the AAC West, plus Notre Dame and Army for rivalry purposes.
23. Colorado (NR): One undersold part of Colorado's breakout 2016 season has been the play of the Buff's defense. Jim Leavitt's group was shining on Saturday, showing up to Stanford and holding the Cardinal to just five points in a huge Pac-12 road win. Colorado is now bowl eligible and stats.
24. Houston (11): Bad loss for the Cougars, who have likely played their way out of contention for a big-time bowl spot with two conference losses.
25. Penn State (NR): The Nittany Lions are certain to make an appearance as a 5-2 team with one of the best wins on the board so far this season.
Dropped out: Arkansas (17), Ole Miss (23)