College football Coaches Poll prediction: Will Alabama or Georgia hold No. 1 spot? – USA TODAY

  • September 12, 2022

The biggest debate in this week’s USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll will come at the top.
Alabama’s escape against Texas may be enough to keep the Crimson Tide at No. 1. But there’s no doubt many voters will think about bumping up Georgia, previously No. 2, based on how the Bulldogs have looked through two weeks.
In the end, look for Alabama to stay atop the poll but for Georgia to narrow the gap.
Three teams will drop out of the top 10 after an upset-heavy Saturday. One is Notre Dame, which will go from No. 8 as far as out of the Top 25 entirely after losing 26-21 to Marshall. The pressure is rising for Marcus Freeman, the first coach in program history to lose his first three games.
The second last week’s No. 6, Texas A&M. The Aggies’ 17-14 loss to Appalachian State will reignite the scrutiny on coach Jimbo Fisher’s underachieving offense just as A&M prepares for a brutal stretch of games through the start of November.
And Baylor will fall down the rankings after a memorable 26-20 loss in double overtime at Brigham Young.
Here’s how the top 10 of this week’s Coaches Poll should look:
The margin between No. 1 and No. 2 will be thinned. Owners of 57 first-place votes last week, the Tide should see a chunk of those points head to Georgia. But voters are unlikely to replace Alabama in bulk; coaches will still give the team credit for winning on the road against a Power Five opponent while the Bulldogs beat Samford.
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The Bulldogs made Samford look like Oregon in a second breezy victory to open the regular season. The 33-0 final featured another great game from quarterback Stetson Bennett, who hit on 24 of 34 attempts for 300 yards and two touchdowns, one coming on the ground. As expected, Georgia held Samford to just three first downs and 128 yards of total offense.
After a sleepy start in the opener against Notre Dame, the Buckeyes bounced back against Arkansas State with the sort of numbers we’ve come to expect: C.J. Stroud threw for 351 yards with four scores on 14.6 yards per attempt, the running game averaged 6.5 yards per carry and the offense as a whole gained 538 yards on just 54 plays.
After senior Cade McNamara got his turn last week against Colorado State, J.J. McCarthy completed 11 of 12 throws for 229 yards and three touchdowns in the starting role as the Wolverines beat Hawaii 56-10. That made the decision in this quarterback competition easy for Jim Harbaugh, who said postgame that McCarthy would get the nod for next week’s game against Connecticut.
After struggling in the opener against Georgia Tech, the Tigers’ offense averaged just 6.4 yards per play in a 35-12 against Furman. The questions will continue until Clemson gets into the sort of rhythm that has eluded this offense since the start of last season. 
Dillon Gabriel went for 296 yards and three touchdowns and the Sooners’ defense bottled up one of the MAC’s top offenses in a 33-3 win against Kent State. The win makes Brent Venables the sixth coach in modern program history to win his first two games, joining Lincoln Riley (2017), Bob Stoops (1999), Howard Schnellenberger (1995), Gary Gibbs (1989), Jim Mackenzie (1966) and Bud Wilkinson (1947). No coach in this span has won more than four in a row to start his tenure.
OSU will climb in the poll after pulling away in the second half of a 34-17 win against Arizona State. After gaining more than 400 yards of total offense against Central Michigan in Week 1, quarterback Spencer Sanders struggled early but finished with 323 yards of offense with three touchdowns. 
USC is hot early behind new coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams, the two linchpins behind a 2-0 start that should land the Trojans in this week’s top 10. Playing in prime time, USC rolled to a 41-28 win against Stanford that will carry weight with many voters. 
The Spartans will move up after a 52-0 win against Akron, the second in as many weeks against the MAC. While as smooth as expected, these two wins don’t tell us much about the Spartans’ odds in the Big Ten East. We’ll know more in the near future: Washington is up next week before Minnesota, Maryland and Ohio State to start league play.
This spot in the top 10 probably would’ve gone to Pittsburgh had the Panthers beaten Tennessee in overtime and definitely would’ve gone to Florida had the Gators been able to get it done against Kentucky, Instead, N.C. State will land at No. 10 and remain on pace for the best season in program history. After barely getting past East Carolina to start the year, the Wolfpack beat Charleston Southern 55-3 behind six touchdowns from quarterback Devin Leary, tying the school record. No. 10 may be too much of a leap for the Wildcats, who moved to 2-0 with that very strong road win against the Gators.

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