Predicting the new AP Top 25 college football rankings after 2019 conference championship week
The most heated debate of the final evening before the College Football Playoff Selection Committee reveals its rankings isn’t about the team that’s going to be No. 4 against the first team left out. This year, the hottest debate is who will be No. 1.
The committee moved Ohio State into the top spot of the CFP Rankings after the Buckeyes took down Penn State in Week 13, dropping LSU to No. 2. But while the committee felt Ohio State had done enough to jump ahead of LSU, the AP voters have remained entrenched in their collective support for the Tigers as the nation’s best team.
Saturday’s results should do nothing to change that. LSU faced little resistance as it dominated Georgia, a quality top-10 team, to win its first SEC Championship since 2011. Joe Burrow and the Tigers’ offense were able to cut through the Bulldogs elite defense in a way that no one else has all season, and even LSU’s defense was able to rise to the occasion with some key stops to keep Georgia from climbing back into the game.
Meanwhile, Ohio State fell into an early hole before beating Wisconsin by 13. Those who wanted to see Ohio State tested got their wish, and AP voters will have to decide whether the second-half performance — admittedly at the end of an emotional stretch of games against the best Big Ten competition — will be enough to make an adjustment to their ballots that matches the committee’s previous thinking.
Here’s how we think the new AP Top 25 will look on Sunday:
1. LSU (Last week — 1): King stays the king, at least in the mind of the media voters. We’ll see if the committee changes its mind in a few hours.
2. Ohio State (2): By roaring back against Wisconsin following the early deficit, the Buckeyes guarantee they’ll hold their spot in the top two even among the voting body that prefers LSU.
3. Clemson (3): The Tigers can not do anything more to impress voters and the selection committee. Clemson is the most complete team in the country and will enter the playoff as the most dangerous potential opponent for either of the top two teams.
4. Oklahoma (6): Look for the voters to do a little prognosticating of their own by moving the Sooners on up into the four spot that they expect to see from the committee when the playoff rankings are announced.
5. Georgia (4): It’s possible the Bulldogs will take a tumble after a significant defeat to LSU, but the Bulldogs’ strength of schedule and a head-to-head win against Florida puts a cap on how far they’ll fall within the top 10.
6. Oregon (13): This might be a little aggressive, but the nature of the Ducks’ win on Friday night in Santa Clara — on a night with no other games on — is going to resonate with the AP voters. Saturday was a busy day with voters spread across the country, but almost everyone watched Oregon’s impressive win the night before over Utah.
7. Florida (7): The Gators were off in Week 15.
8. Alabama (9): The Tide were off in Week 15.
9. Auburn (11): The Tigers were off in Week 15.
10. Utah (5): Those who have followed Utah closely know that Friday’s mistakes were uncharacteristic of the consistency that the Utes showed all season. However, I’m guessing that most voters have seen more Friday Utah football (when the Utes have suffered both of their losses) than Saturday Utah football (when the Utes were undefeated).
11. Baylor (8): Matt Rhule has Baylor in a position where its his program is a championship contender, but there were moments on Saturday that simply came down to a difference in dudes. Oklahoma has been the top dog in the Big 12 for most of the decade and its talent level is markedly higher than the Bears. To fight back and force overtime with a third-string quarterback deserves respect, but the loss will lead to a drop in the rankings.
12. Penn State (12): The Nittany Lions were off in Week 15.
13. Wisconsin (10): The Badger were off in Week 15.
14. Notre Dame (14): The Irish were off in Week 15.
15. Memphis (16): While the loss of Mike Norvell to Florida State will dominate the immediate conversation points, what Memphis has accomplished this season deserves some time to be celebrated. This is the first 12-win season in program history, and after losing in the AAC title game in 2017 and 2018, Saturday’s win felt like a breakthrough. Norvell might be moving on, but he’s left the program in a much better place for his successor.
16. Minnesota (15): The Gophers were off in Week 15.
17. Michigan (17): The Wolverines were off in Week 15.
18. Boise State (19): The Broncos found themselves in a low-scoring battle early against Hawaii before taking control against the underdog Rainbow Warriors and cruising to a second Mountain West title in three years.
19. Appalachian State (20): A couple early touchdowns made it look like Appalachian State was going to turn in a rout that would give the selection committee some tough decisions to make in terms of ranking the Group of Five schools. Allowing Louisiana to march back into the game takes some of the sticker shock away from the result, which will keep the Mountaineers in the same pecking order.
20. Iowa (18): The Hawkeyes were off in Week 15.
21. Navy (23): The Midshipmen were off in Week 15 but will be back in action for the Army-Navy game next weekend on CBS.
22. USC (24): The Trojans were off in Week 15.
23. Air Force (25): The Falcons were off in Week 15.
24. Virginia (22): There are limits to the poll punishment after playing one of the best teams in the country. There will be enough voters taking Virginia down a peg to see the consensus rankings drop the Wahoos a couple spots, but it would be a shock to see them fall from the top 25.
25. Cincinnati (21): Even with three losses, this Cincinnati team played well enough in the last two weeks to avoid falling all the way out of the top 25, especially with no teams from Others Receiving Votes in action in Week 15.
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