College football is back, and we'll start to see shakeups in the Associated Press Top 25 very soon.
Last weekend's "Week 0" only featured two Top 25 teams.
No. 19 USF fell behind San Jose State 16-0 before rolling to a 42-22 win on the road.
No. 14 Stanford had no such drama in Australia against Rice, crushing the Owls 62-7.
Both teams have high expectations, but will either reach the Top 10 and flirt with College Football Playoff contention this season? Tonight, a pair of teams that are already there—No. 2 Ohio State and No. 10 Oklahoma State—kick off their seasons. No. 9 Wisconsin takes the field on Friday night, and on Saturday, we're in full bore college football mode.
Right now, here is the Top 10 of the AP Poll:
- Ohio State
- Florida State
- Penn State
- Oklahoma State
Projecting forward, here's how I think this list will look after each month of the college football season.
1. Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC), Last month: 1
Despite some recent issues with Ole Miss, which Alabama faces to close September, the real challenge for the Crimson Tide through the first month of the season comes this Saturday. Nick Saban's squad faces off against No. 3 Florida State in Week 1's biggest game. It feels like a toss-up, so I am most comfortable taking a Saban-led squad with months to prepare, even though Florida State is extremely talented and could definitely take this one. After facing the Seminoles, Alabama should make easy work of Fresno State, a very good but overmatched Colorado State team, and Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, projected to be two of the SEC's weaker teams this season.
2. Ohio State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten), Last month: 2
The Buckeyes kick things off tonight at Indiana. The Hoosiers tend to play Ohio State pretty tough, but the Buckeyes should overwhelm them. The biggest game in the early slate for Ohio State is Oklahoma in Week 2. OSU crushed the Sooners in Norman last season, and while this game could definitely be closer this season, it is in Columbus, and I still like Ohio State to take it. After Indiana and Oklahoma, Ohio State hosts Army and UNLV before traveling to Rutgers.
3. USC (5-0, 3-0 Pac-12), Last month: 4
The Trojans roll into the season with a ton of hype, and will have a chance to prove that they're worthy of it right out of the gate. After an opener against defending MAC champion Western Michigan, USC hosts No. 14 Stanford and No. 23 Texas, and then travels to Cal and No. 24 Washington State, which is always a tricky road test. If the Trojans survive September, they should jump up to No. 3, if not even higher.
4. Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC), Last month: 12
Auburn is bubbling under the Top 10 right now, at No. 12 in the preseason Top 25. I like the Tigers to make a big leap forward, thanks to a huge Week 2 win at Clemson. Both Tigers teams have established defenses, and are breaking in new quarterbacks. The difference is that AU's Jarrett Stidham has performed very well in Power Five play before, during his year at Baylor. Clemson's signal caller, whether it is named starter Kelly Bryant or blue-chip freshman Hunter Johnson, will be more green than Auburn's. With a win over the defending national champs, and an impressive undefeated start, Auburn could vault past a few other 5-0 teams.
5. Florida State (4-1, 3-0 ACC), Last month: 3
The 'Noles may drop Week 1 to Alabama, but they have a chance to score a nice win just two weeks later when No. 18 Miami comes to town. The Hurricanes are talented and many think this is finally the year they win the ACC Coastal. That may be the case, but Mark Richt's team doesn't match the talent that Florida State has right now. NC State and its dangerous defensive line head to Tallahassee in Week 4, but FSU should be a much better team overall. The early slate also features UL Monroe and Wake Forest.
6. Penn State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten), Last month: 6
PSU should start undefeated through the first month of the season, but the Nittany Lions don't have the same schedule difficulty as some of the other teams on this Top 10, including Florida State. Penn State hosts Akron, a Pitt team that loses a lot of offensive talent from 2016, Georgia State, and Indiana, and travels to Iowa on September 23, which is probably the toughest of these five games. Florida State playing No. 1 Alabama close and then beating Miami keeps the Seminoles above the Nittany Lions, despite the loss.
7. Washington (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12), Last month: 8
The Huskies haven't gotten much attention so far this year, after making last season's College Football Playoff. The start of the season won't do much to change that, but with a 5-0 start, the Huskies will make a slight move up to No. 7. U-Dub faces Rutgers, Montana, Fresno State, a Colorado team that is expected to take a step back, and Oregon State. Not exactly a murderer's row.
8. Wisconsin (4-0, 2-0 Big Ten), Last month: 9
After last year's brutal schedule, the Badgers have an easier go of it this season. The start to the year has its challenges, with a trip to BYU and a Northwestern team with potential at home, but Wisconsin will be a solid favorite in both.
9. Clemson (4-1, 3-0 ACC), Last month: 5
Like ACC Atlantic rival Florida State, Clemson has an incredibly tough SEC test early on: the loss to Auburn outlined above. Outside of the Auburn game, Clemson should beat Kent State and Boston College without much issue. I like the Tigerrs to knock off Louisville and Virginia Tech on the road as well, behind their excellent defense.
10. Oklahoma State (5-0, 2-0 Big 12), Last month: 10
Oklahoma State doesn't face a currently-ranked team in the first five games, but a 5-0 start should be enough to keep the Pokes in the Top 10, and more importantly to many of their fans, stay ahead of Oklahoma, which I have falling out.
Dropped out: Oklahoma (3-1, 2-0 Big 12), Last month: 7
I have Oklahoma losing the aforementioned Ohio State game. Sweeping through the rest of the September schedule—UTEP, Tulane, and Baylor—won't be enough to keep the Sooners hanging in the Top 10.
1. Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC), Last month: 1
The Crimson Tide take their first fairly challenging road trip to open the month, with a jaunt to College Station to face Texas A&M. It shouldn't have too much trouble dispatching of the Aggies, however, and home games against Arkansas and Tennessee won't pose much of an issue either. Alabama finishes October with a bye.
2. Ohio State (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten), Last month: 2
The Buckeyes handle Maryland to open the month, and then win a tough trip to Nebraska. After a Week 8 bye, they host Penn State, and I have them winning the revenge game from last season's big upset, which cost Ohio State a shot at the Big Ten title game.
3. USC (9-0, 6-0 Pac-12), Last month: 3
USC has one of the most unique schedules in the country, playing 12 straight games before a bye in Week 13. In October, I like them to blast Oregon State at home, beat Utah, and then sweep Notre Dame and Arizona State on the road, holding at No. 3 in the AP Poll.
4. Florida State (7-1, 6-0 ACC), Last month: 5
I never had Florida State falling too far, as a loss in Week 1 to Alabama is pretty excusable. By the end of October, I like the Seminoles to crawl back into the top four, after wins over Duke, Louisville, and Boston College. Wins over ranked Miami and Louisville squads will look pretty good at this point.
5. Washington (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12), Last month: 7
Washington's October isn't the most challenging, with games against Pac-12 also-rans Cal and Arizona State, and a Week 9 game against UCLA at home. The Bruins might prove to be challenging this year if Josh Rosen bounces back from injury, but the Huskies should hold serve in Seattle.
6. LSU (8-0, 4-0 SEC), Last month: 13
I like another team of Tigers out of the SEC West to make a huge jump between the end of September and October. Last month, it was Auburn. Now, it is LSU. September sees the Tigers take on BYU, Chattanooga, Mississippi State on the road, Syracuse, and Troy, not the most imposing group. With October games at Florida, vs. Auburn, and at Ole Miss, thinks ramp up. Scoring a big win over a Top 10 Auburn club at home would really get pollsters excited about Ed Orgeron's club.
7. Wisconsin (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten), Last month: 8
The Badgers continue to roll through a middling Big Ten schedule, with victories at Nebraska, and vs. Purdue, Maryland, and Illinois. UW should be favored all the way through October, and more than one loss would be a surprise. I like them to be 8-0, though the writers may still have questions with the best wins coming against Northwestern, Nebraska, and BYU.
8. Penn State (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten), Last month: 6
Penn State should get the best of Northwestern on the road, and I will take the Nittany Lions over Michigan in Week 8 coming off a bye. Following the Wolverines with a trip to Ohio State is brutal though, and I don't see them beating Urban Meyer's team two years in a row. The season's first loss is cause for a small slide.
9. Clemson (7-1, 6-0 ACC), Last month: 9
Clemson shouldn't have much issue against Wake Forest or Syracuse to open the month, and gets a bye week to prepare for Georgia Tech and the option. Nothing there is super impressive, but the Tigers won't run too much risk of falling out of the Top 10.
10. Auburn (7-1, 4-1 SEC), Last month: 4
A bad loss at Death Valley, as mentioned above, could cause a decent slide for the Tigers. The teams ahead would either be undefeated, have their losses farther in the rear view mirror, or in Penn State's case, be a bit more forgivable, not that losing at LSU is shocking for any team.
Dropped out: Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1 Big 12), Last month: 10
After October, the Big 12 finds itself without an undefeated team. Oklahoma State is the last one standing, but falls in a rough Week 9 road trip to West Virginia, putting OU back in the driver's seat for the conference title.
1. Ohio State (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten), Last month: 2
We'll reveal how Ohio State reached No. 1 in a bit, but the Buckeyes run the table, knocking off Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois, and Michigan in November to clinch the Big Ten East, and take the unanimous top spot.
2. USC (12-0, 9-0 Pac-12), Last month: 3
The Trojans are the second team to make it through unblemished. USC has a relatively tame November, with Arizona, a trip to Colorado, and UCLA before a Week 13 bye.
3. Florida State (11-1, 8-0 ACC), Last month: 4
Florida State also moved up a spot, beating Syracuse and Delaware State, as well as Clemson in the effective Atlantic title match, and Florida in a season-ending rivalry game.
4. Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC), Last month: 1
Alabama beats LSU at home. It wails on Mississippi State on the road. FCS Mercer collects its paycheck in Tuscaloosa but nothing more. In Week 13, Alabama make a trip to Auburn, and as happens on occasion, the Crimson Tide fall to the Tigers in prime time at Jordan Hare Stadium. The loss isn't enough to knock Alabama from the top four of the AP poll (or the College Football Playoff), but it does shake things up at the top.
5. Oklahoma (11-1, 9-0 Big 12), Last month: 11
Oklahoma rebounds from an early loss to Ohio State to run the table in the Big 12. Look familiar? The Sooners prove to be the best team in the league, once again, and set themselves up to potentially crash the College Football Playoff with a Championship Week victory and some luck.
6. Penn State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten), Last month: 8
Penn State recovers nicely from the Ohio State loss, to beat Michigan State, Rutgers, Nebraska, and Maryland. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes are Big Ten Championship Game-bound, and none of those wins is quite good enough to vault Penn State over the one-loss teams above it.
7. Washington (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12), Last month: 5
The Huskies beat Oregon in one of their biggest rivalry games, but fall to Stanford in Week 11 on the road. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, it is coming off of a Week 10 loss at Washington State in that game, so it isn't quite enough to steal the Pac-12 North crown from the Huskies. Washington finishes with wins against Utah and Wazzu to head to the conference title game against USC.
8. Auburn (10-2, 6-2 SEC), Last month: 10
Auburn opens the month with a win at Texas A&M, but falls in a low-scoring, run-dominated affair to Nick Chubb and eventual SEC East champion Georgia. The Tigers follow it up by blasting Louisiana-Monroe, and finish with their big upset of Alabama in the Iron Bowl, to finish the regular season at No. 8.
9. Wisconsin (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten), Last month: 9
The Badgers run through the Big Ten West and capture that title, but can't quite finish a surprise undefeated season, losing to a talented Michigan squad desperate for a signature win. With movement everywhere else, the Badgers wind up sticking at No. 9 month-over-month.
10. Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC), Last month: 10
10-2 isn't quite 12-0, but after two straight trips to the title game, and a national championship, it is hard to get overly upset about just another Top 10 season. The Tigers survive a scary trip to NC State, but lose to Florida State before beating Citadel and South Carolina fairly easily to finish the regular season.
Dropped out: LSU (10-2, 6-2 SEC), Last month: 6
LSU's prize for undefeated September and October runs is a trip to Tuscaloosa to open November. It does not go well for the Tigers. The Bayou Bengals recover to beat Arkansas at home, but stumble in a tricky road game at Tennessee in Week 12 to fall out of SEC West title contention, ceding the crown to Alabama. A Week 13 win over Texas A&M makes for a solid full-season debut by Ed Orgeron.
Top 10 Ahead Of College Football Playoff, Bowls:
1. Ohio State (13-0, 10-0 Big Ten), Last month: 1
The Buckeyes defeat Wisconsin without too much of an issue in Indianapolis, and head into the College Football Playoff as the No. 1 seed.
2. USC (13-0, 10-0 Pac-12), Last month: 2
The Trojans also hold serve, although they get everything they can handle from the Washington Huskies. USC falls just short of Ohio State in the Playoff rankings after a very tough vote from the selection committee.
3. Florida State (12-1, 9-0 ACC), Last month: 3
FSU takes down Miami for a second time this season, and keeps the edge over Alabama in the AP Poll. However, the 'Noles wind up with the four-seed in the College Football Playoff, after...
4. Alabama (12-1, 8-1 SEC), Last month: 4
Alabama takes down Georgia in the title game, holding on in the top four of the polls. However, the committee bumps the Crimson Tide up to No. 3 in the playoff, citing the head-to-head victory over Florida State, and the difficulty of the SEC during the season.
5. Penn State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten), Last month: 6
Penn State sits at home during championship week, but does not get the mayhem it needs to sneak into the playoff field.
6. Auburn (10-2, 6-2 SEC), Last month: 8
The Tigers also see a bump in the rankings thanks to some conference championship results, and residual help from the win over now-SEC Champion Alabama.
7. Washington (11-2, 8-2 Pac-12), Last month: 7
The Huskies lose the Pac-12 championship, but thanks to a strong performance and some other losses, they wind up staying at No. 7, and are in position for a nice bowl bid.
8. Oklahoma (11-2, 9-1 Big 12), Last month: 5
It is unclear whether Oklahoma would have been able to jump Alabama or Florida State with a win, but the Big 12's decision to add a conference championship does not help the league crash the College Football Playoff field. Oklahoma faces rival Oklahoma State in a rematch of the Week 10 game between the two, and falls in a dramatic one to the Cowboys.
9. Oklahoma State (11-2, 8-2 Big 12), Last month: 13
The Cowboys land that Big 12 title game victory, vaulting up four spots to No. 9. Thanks to a bunch of variation in the different AP polls, the team actually finishes one spot behind Oklahoma, but take bragging rights, and knowledge that it may have killed its rival's playoff hopes, into the bowl season.
10. Wisconsin (11-2, 8-2 Big Ten), Last month: 9
The Badgers aren't docked too much for losing to the nation's No. 1 team, and slide one spot down to No. 10 after the Big Ten Championship loss.
Dropped out: Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC), Last month: 10
The Tigers didn't play in the ACC championship, and Oklahoma State's upset win shoots the Cowboys past the Tigers, bumping the defending national champion out of the Top 10 entering bowl season.