Florida State jumped into my top 15, UCF is completely out, USC jumped into the top 5, and Tennessee’s stunning loss to South Carolina caused a huge backlog in my AP Top 25 poll. Those are some of the takeaways from a confusing morning I spent untangling some two- and three-lose teams in my weekly leaderboard.
We start with the garnet Seminoles, who have won four straight games by at least 25 points – the nation’s longest streak. They’re going up because they’ve gotten healthy and Mike Norvell’s system has finally clicked with the staff he’s amassed. FSU’s destruction of Louisiana was expected, but the growing body of work was enough to push the Seminoles seven spots to 13th as the best three-losing team on my ballot.
It was much more difficult to find the best team with two losses. I started thinking about options Saturday night when the Volunteers gave up 63 points in a blowout loss in South Carolina — the same South Carolina team that blew out Florida a week earlier. How can I balance the Volunteers’ head-to-head wins over Alabama and LSU against a 25-point loss to the mediocre Gamecocks?
Beating the teams you should be beating and avoiding mishaps with consistent performances has to count for something, I decided. And that affected the rest of my vote. USC moved past everyone to move up five spots to fifth place after a nice rivalry win over UCLA. Next came Alabama, who lost to a last-second field goal in Tennessee and fell to LSU in overtime, both on the road. Unlike the next three teams, there are no blowout losses there.
Clemson is seventh after a big win over Miami as the Tigers have largely gone about their business and pulled off some good wins (vs. FSU and North Carolina State, before quarterback Devin Leary’s injury). I dropped Tennessee from fifth to eighth and put them ahead of LSU for the straight win. Sensible people can disagree with the thought process, but that’s how I found the division between very similar teams.
Elsewhere on my ballot:
UCF were sidelined after a head-scratching home loss to seven-loss Navy. The Midshipmen are always difficult because of their triple option offense and their ability to keep the ball. But there’s no justification for grading the 8-3 loss knights now.
Oregon moved up and down a spot in my top 10 after a 20-17 win over a good Utah team. The Utes slipped six places to 15th, one behind UCLA (because of the head-to-head Bruins heads win).
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North Carolina plummeted five places to 19th with a 21-17 home loss to Georgia Tech. This result is remarkable for FSU fans. If Clemson makes it to the college football playoffs, there’s a chance that FSU will become the ACC’s Orange Bowl representative. We’ll learn more when the CFP Selection Committee announces its next ranking on Tuesday.
Minnesota and Oklahoma State are off my ballot after rivalry losses to Iowa and Oklahoma. Coastal Carolina hung around in the 24-30 range for a few weeks, eventually moving up my rankings to 23rd. Texas rebounded after beating Kansas (advanced metrics love the Longhorns). I gave last place to the University of Texas at San Antonio; The Roadrunners’ eight-game winning streak was the deciding factor against Boise State, Iowa and Troy, among others.
Our AP Top 25 pick
2. State of Ohio
11. Penn State
13. State of Florida
17. State of Kansas
18. Notre Dame
19. North Carolina
21. State of Oregon
23. Coastal Carolina
25. University of Texas at San Antonio
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