College Football Pick’em
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The college football rankings are going to see a shake up when the new AP Top 25 poll is updated Sunday following an epic Week 7 where the scores and results somehow lived up to the sky-high expectations going into Separation Saturday. Eight ranked teams took losses in Week 7, but that’s mostly a result of a slate that featured seven games between ranked opponents. Three of those games had teams that were undefeated heading into the weekend, and while all three results will have an impact on the new rankings, none resonated across the sports world quite like Tennessee’s 52-49 win over Alabama.
The victory brought all kinds of history into play, including Tennessee snapping a 15-game series losing streak to win for the first time against a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team. It was also the most points allowed by the Crimson Tide in any game since 1907. All of it creates an interesting question for voters: Should the Vols, who now sit at 6-0 behind arguably the best offense in the entire country, receive consideration for the No. 1 spot?
What Tennessee has undeniably showed is the most impressive win of any team that is still undefeated. Alabama lost but in no way did Bryce Young (shoulder), back in action for the first time since getting knocked out of the game against Arkansas two weeks ago, and the rest of the Tide appear unworthy of their own top-five status. The teams traded haymakers in one of college football‘s modern epics, and that win for the Vols is stronger than anything on the profile for any of the other teams in the running for No. 1.
What’s debatable is the value of a “ranked win” when taking into consideration the difference between teams ranked at the time of particular games and the current rankings. Tennessee’s four wins against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 at the time of games are the most the in the country, but of those four, only one (Alabama) is against a team that is expected to be in the poll on Sunday. The wins against Pittsburgh, Florida and LSU still hold value as all three have winning records, but even at the time, all three were ranked outside the top 15. If a voter wants to critique the value of those “ranked wins” when splitting hairs among undefeated teams, there is a counter to one of the Vols’ strongest resume arguments.
Ultimately, we do think Tennessee will receive first-place votes in the new college football rankings. The issue with how high the Vols can move lies mostly with considering the motivations and thoughts of the voters who had already awarded Georgia and Ohio State first-place votes in last week’s balloting. It can be assumed that some, if not most, of the 11 voters who had Alabama at No. 1 last week will move those votes to Tennessee or Georgia; the Bulldogs thumped Vanderbilt, 55-0. How many of the 32 voters who had Georgia at No. 1 will be swayed to move the reigning national champions down a spot in wake of Tennessee’s win, and how many of the 20 voters who had Ohio State at No. 1 will make a similar move while the Buckeyes were off this week?
If Georgia had struggled with its Week 7 opponent, and if Ohio State had been in action and done the same, then the door could have been open for a surge to the very top. Instead, the debate will begin with first-place votes and linger into the week among fans across the country. It’s a fascinating twist in the 2022 season and potentially just a preview of the shake ups to come with more games between ranked teams on the schedule in weeks ahead.
Here’s how we think the new AP Top 25 will look on Sunday:
1. Georgia (Last week — 1): It is highly unlikely that a majority of the voters who thought Georgia was the best team in the country last week will look at the results from Week 7 and think that a 55-0 win against Vanderbilt was not good enough for the Bulldogs to maintain their position.
2. Ohio State (2): The Buckeyes were off in Week 7 and will be back in action next week against Iowa.
3. Tennessee (6): As mentioned earlier, there’s a strong argument for Tennessee to be in consideration for the No. 1 spot. We think there will be first-place votes awarded to the Vols, just not enough to jump ahead of the Buckeyes, who collected more than 30% of the first-place votes last week.
4. Michigan (5): We’re projecting a return to the No. 4 spot after the Wolverines dominated in one three spotlight games between undefeated teams. The 41-17 win against Penn State rejuvenated voter confidence that had been slipping in recent weeks, cementing Michigan’s spot as the top challenger to Ohio State in the Big Ten.
5. Clemson (4): The Tigers put together a strong performance in a complete victory over Florida State, closing our their ACC road slate with a 34-28 win.
6. TCU (13): The Horned Frogs have beaten three consecutive ranked opponents for the first time in school history after storming back from a double-digit, fourth-quarter deficit to win in double overtime against previously undefeated Oklahoma State. Now 6-0 and 3-0 in league play, TCU can start beating the drum for more respect from the voters and a place in the CFP conversation.
7. Alabama (3): If there is going to be a surge of momentum behind Tennessee, there has to be a high floor for the Tide when it comes to their drop in the rankings. A late missed field goal was one of several moments where Alabama nearly escaped Rocky Top with a comeback win, and those thin margins will be recognized by the voters.
8. Ole Miss (9): The voters won’t penalize Ole Miss for allowing a reeling Auburn team to hang around in what turned out to be a more interesting early slate game than many expected. But the win, which did end up coming by 14 points after a weather delay, was not emphatic enough to enter the Rebels into the debate for a top-five spot.
9. UCLA (11): The Bruins were off in Week 7 and will be back in action next week against Oregon.
10. Oregon (12): The Ducks were off in Week 7 and will be back in action next week against UCLA.
11. Oklahoma State (8): A blown lead on the road in conference play is not uncommon, but it still stings when you consider what the ceiling of this team could have been with a head-to-head win against another Big 12 title contender. Oklahoma State is good enough to earn a rematch with TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game, but now the margins to make that game are even smaller with one conference loss on the books and six Big 12 games left on the schedule.
12. Penn State (10): Wins at Purdue and at Auburn are the best marks on the profile, which isn’t particularly strong. The eye test helps Penn State because, while the Nittany Lions were clearly outmatched on Saturday, the pieces are clearly there for this to be one of the better teams in the country.
13. USC (7): Losing 43-42 as a road underdog to ranked Utah is not going to come with too much adjustment in the poll, but there will be a drop for the Trojans.
14. Utah (20): The Utes will be ahead of USC on many ballots because of the head-to-head advantage, but having two losses will remain a factor that prevents a jump up into the top 10.
15. Wake Forest (14): The Demon Deacons were off in Week 7 and will be back in action next week against Boston College.
16. Syracuse (18): The Dome was electric and impactful on the result as Syracuse seized on the opportunity to snag a high-profile win against a Devin Leary-less NC State, beating the Wolfpack 24-9 to improve to 6-0. Bowl eligible for the first time since 2018, Syracuse now turns its attention to ACC title contention with a showdown against Clemson next week in Death Valley.
17. Kansas State (17): The Wildcats were off in Week 7 and will be back in action next week at TCU.
18. Illinois (24): Off to their best start since 2011 after a 26-14 win against Minnesota, the Illini have now moved into the driver’s seat in the Big Ten West race.
19. Cincinnati (21): The Bearcats were off in Week 7 and will be back in action next week at SMU.
20. Kentucky (22): Some knocks to Will Levis and his status moving forward will be the headline, but the fact that Kentucky’s defense rose to the occasion against a strong Mississippi State offense in a 27-17 win should be encouraging for Wildcats fans hoping for a successful finish to the 2022 campaign.
21. Texas (22): A week of “Can Texas make the College Football Playoff with two losses?” hype was cooled quickly by an upset-minded Iowa State squad, but a 24-21 win keeps the Longhorns in the Big 12 title race — and that’s the more realistic goal for 2022.
22. North Carolina (NR): Though ranked in the Coaches Poll last week, the Tar Heels were the first team outside the AP Top 25. After coming from behind to beat Duke and improve to 6-1, look for North Carolina to make its appearance in the AP Top 25 in 13 months.
23. Mississippi State (16): Though the Bulldogs lost on the road as favorites against Kentucky, the voters will find themselves with a lack of obvious options to slot ahead of their 5-2 profile for the final spots on a ballot.
24. Tulane (NR): The Green Wave improved to 6-1 with a two-touchdown road win against South Florida, and thanks to a handful of teams taking losses ahead of them in last week’s balloting, there should be room for a move into the top
25. Purdue (NR): Now 4-2 after beating Nebraska, the Boilermakers could get even more attention. The argument for Purdue’s resume comes down the classic discussion of a “good loss” as its only two defeats have come to other ranked teams (one-loss Penn State, undefeated Syracuse) and both losses have been by four points or less.
Projected to drop out: No. 15 NC State, No. 19 Kansas, No. 25 James Madison
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