The AP Top 25 college football poll is out, and while the top remains pretty similar, there’s bound to be more movement next week, after the addition of the Pac-12 and a big Clemson-Notre Dame game. Here’s what’s next for each team in the rankings.
No. 1 Clemson (7-0)
We already know for sure Trevor Lawrence will not play against No. 4 Notre Dame next week because he will not clear the necessary protocols in time after testing positive for the coronavirus. That means all eyes will once again be on freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who threw for more than 300 yards in his first start in a comeback win over Boston College on Saturday. The stakes will be exceedingly high for the Tigers and for the Fighting Irish because of the College Football Playoff implications. Beyond missing Lawrence, Clemson also most likely will be without starting linebacker James Skalski for the game, while hoping to have Mike Jones Jr. and Tyler Davis back. Their status remains up in the air. — Andrea Adelson
No. 2 Alabama (6-0)
Not that Mississippi State has an all-world defense, but life without Jaylen Waddle didn’t look half bad for Alabama as it hung 41 points on the Bulldogs. It was a reminder that with DeVonta Smith, John Metchie III and Najee Harris, there are still plenty of options for quarterback Mac Jones to work with. And now, after a 6-0 start, the Crimson Tide get a much-needed week off before facing LSU. That time away will serve the defense well as it looks to get back LaBryan Ray, who is one of the team’s most talented pass-rushers but has missed the past few games with an elbow injury. — Alex Scarborough
No. 3 Ohio State (2-0)
Ohio State used a perfect start and a mostly unstoppable offense to cruise against Penn State in what was, on paper, by far its hardest game of the Big Ten regular season. The biggest opponent moving forward could be complacency: Can the Buckeyes keep their intensity level where it needs to be when they’re favored by three-plus touchdowns in every single remaining game besides maybe Indiana (Nov. 21) and Michigan (Dec. 12)? — Bill Connelly
No. 4 Notre Dame (6-0)
The Irish got an important win against Georgia Tech and did so convincingly. It was important because it keeps the team undefeated but also because it provides some confidence heading into the game against Clemson. The Notre Dame defense is rolling right now, and Clemson is going to once again go without quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Notre Dame will need its defense to have its best game yet if it’s going to take the Tigers and make a strong playoff statement. — Tom VanHaaren
No. 5 Georgia (4-1)
The Bulldogs are going to have to show Florida something better than they did Kentucky. Georgia allowed only three points, but the run defense was iffy against Kentucky. Aside from Zamir White’s 136-yard rushing attack, Georgia’s offense was underwhelming again. The Bulldogs must bring more if they want to win this battle for control of the SEC East. — Harry Lyles Jr.
No. 6 Cincinnati (5-0)
If quarterback Desmond Ridder keeps up the recent performances he has had against SMU and Memphis, the Bearcats are going to continue to build an intriguing argument for the College Football Playoff. The defense has also been playing lights out, and Luke Fickell’s team is one of the hottest in the country as it goes against 2-2 Houston this weekend. — Harry Lyles Jr.
No. 7 Texas A&M (4-1)
Things continue to look rosy for the Aggies. Now that they have dispatched Arkansas, the schedule appears ripe for a potential College Football Playoff run. Only one of the Aggies’ final five opponents (Auburn) currently has a winning record. If quarterback Kellen Mond plays the way he has and the running game and defense continue to be solid, Texas A&M will be squarely in that mix. — Sam Khan Jr.
No. 8 Florida (3-1)
The Gators could have stumbled at home against Missouri after a week without practice and with players sidelined by COVID-19 protocol, but they didn’t. Instead, Florida took care of business heading into the most important game of the season. Against Georgia on Saturday, the SEC East and the possibility of making the College Football Playoff will be on the line. While Florida has the decided edge offensively, it remains to be seen whether the defense is up to the challenge. Holding Missouri to 17 points was a good start, but Georgia’s run game will present a different set of challenges. — Scarborough
No. 9 BYU (7-0)
The Cougars haven’t finished a season ranked in the AP Top 25 since 2009, when the Bronco Mendenhall-coached team finished ranked No. 12 after going 11-2. Barring an unexpected letdown over the next few weeks, that streak should change. It appears to be more a question of how high the Cougars can climb, and this week’s game at Boise State gives BYU its best opportunity to prove to the country how good it is against a quality opponent. — Bonagura
No. 10 Wisconsin (1-0)
The Badgers are in a precarious spot, having to cancel the game against Nebraska because of a COVID-19 outbreak. The program now has 22 positive cases, including starting quarterback Graham Mertz and backup QB Chase Wolf, who both have to sit out 21 days. Because of the number of cases, there is a chance Wisconsin won’t play its next game against Purdue, as well. That decision will come Tuesday, but having Mertz and Wolf out for three weeks could end up being a big factor for what happens in the games that are played. — Tom VanHaaren
No. 11 Miami (5-1)
The Hurricanes had an open date before they play at NC State on Friday night. Among the key areas they need to see improvement in is with the offensive line and the run game, which has taken a step backward over the past several games. Miami ran the ball well for the first month of the season before hitting a recent roadblock. Quarterback D’Eriq King has also been limited in his effectiveness on the ground, so getting that established is important, especially on the road against a team allowing 182 rushing yards per game. — Adelson
No. 12 Oregon (0-0)
The wait is almost over. As the highest-ranked team in the Pac-12, Oregon has the conference’s best shot at climbing into playoff position. Likely? Probably not. Possible? Can’t rule out the Ducks yet. Oklahoma State’s loss means the Big 12 doesn’t have any undefeated teams, so if the Pac-12 champion finishes without a loss, it would need to be left out in favor of a Power 5 team with a loss or an unbeaten Group of 5 team. — Bonagura
No. 13 Indiana (2-0)
The Hoosiers have had the ideal start, beating a ranked Penn State team and getting through Rutgers unscathed. Michigan is next on the schedule, and the Wolverines are currently struggling, especially on defense. Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has 408 yards passing and four touchdowns on the season. The team is going to need his arm to get through Michigan and try to remain undefeated when Indiana meets Ohio State on Nov. 21. It’s a short season, but Indiana is finally pushing over that hump and winning some of these close games it has lost in the past. — Tom VanHaaren
No. 14 Oklahoma State (4-1)
So a College Football Playoff run is probably unlikely, after the Cowboys’ home loss to Texas, but a Big 12 championship is still squarely in the picture. The Pokes are undoubtedly kicking themselves for committing so many mistakes (namely, four turnovers and a fourth-down roughing the kicker penalty), but this is still a good team with a really good defense and some explosive offensive talent. — Sam Khan Jr.
No. 15 Coastal Carolina (6-0)
What is left for the Chanticleers to do after a near-record-setting performance in a win over Georgia State? Keep going, of course. One of the best stories in college football, Coastal Carolina will try to keep building on its improbable season Saturday against South Alabama. While it was nice to see quarterback Grayson McCall return, the so-called “Black Swarm” defense continued its outstanding play, holding Georgia State to just 106 total yards. The defensive improvement over the past two contests has been impressive to watch. — Adelson
No. 16 Marshall (5-0)
The Thundering Herd had the week off after their game against Florida International was canceled, and they will play UMass this weekend. If there’s ever a team to play coming out of a bye week for a little warm-up, it’s the Minutemen. — Lyles Jr.
No. 17 Iowa State (4-2)
Breece Hall has put himself in the Heisman conversation, leading the FBS in carries (134), yards (901) and rushing TDs (11) and becoming the first Big 12 back to open with six straight 100-yard games since Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma in 2006. The sophomore will be happy to see that Baylor, next on the schedule, allowed 247 rushing yards on 5.6 yards per carry against TCU on Saturday. After matching his career high set Oct. 24 by gaining 185 yards again this week, can Hall hit a career high for a third straight week? — Khan
No. 18 SMU (6-1)
The Mustangs have a couple of tough games left but are still very much in the mix for a spot in the AAC title game. SMU travels to Tulsa — one of the two teams currently in position for one of those spots — so the Ponies will have a chance to play their way back in position. If Shane Buechele and the running game can play like they did Saturday against Navy, Sonny Dykes’ team will be in great shape. — Khan Jr.
No. 19 Oklahoma (4-2)
The Sooners’ 62-28 win against Texas Tech was never competitive, and next week’s game in Norman could be even less so, with lowly Kansas coming to town. At 3-2, Oklahoma sits behind the two teams it lost to in the Big 12 standings — Iowa State and Kansas State — plus Oklahoma State, which it will host on Nov. 21. The Sooners’ playoff hopes died weeks ago, but will they find a way to win their sixth straight conference title? — Bonagura
No. 20 Southern California (0-0)
USC has been a notoriously slow starter under Clay Helton, which isn’t exactly a great trait in a six-game regular season. And this weekend’s season opener against Arizona State comes with an added, unusual twist: a 9 a.m. kickoff, local time. “Pac-12 After Dawn” will bring the conference to a potentially new audience and gives USC a chance to make a favorable first impression. — Bonagura
No. 21 Boise State (2-0)
If Boise State wants to remain in position to have a chance at representing the Group of 5 in a New Year’s Six bowl, this week’s tilt against BYU is a must-win. It will be just game No. 3 for the Broncos and the eighth for BYU — an odd, only-in-2020 scheduling quirk — and it’s unclear what the status will be for starting Broncos quarterback Hank Bachmeier. Even if Bachmeier is unavailable, as he was on Saturday at Air Force, Boise State appears to be in good hands with Southern California transfer Jack Sears. — Bonagura
No. 22 Texas (4-2)
In one of those games Tom Herman and the Longhorns had to have, they found a way to get it done Saturday in a 41-34 overtime win on the road against Oklahoma State. Texas’ defense has been maligned all season, but the Longhorns forced four turnovers, and Joseph Ossai had a walk-off sack of Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders in overtime to give Texas renewed life in the Big 12 race. — Chris Low
No. 23 Michigan (1-1)
The loss to Michigan State now puts Michigan’s season in a way different light than it was after its Week 1 win against Minnesota. Michigan’s secondary struggled against the Spartans; its defensive line had no sacks; and the D had no takeaways. With games against Indiana, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State still on the schedule, if Michigan’s defense, particularly its secondary, doesn’t get better, this could feel like a long season to the Wolverines. — Tom VanHaaren
Sophomore quarterback Bo Nix put it all together for Auburn, which extended the misery of defending national champion LSU on Saturday. Nix passed for 300 yards and rushed for 81 more as Auburn jumped to a 42-3 lead and rolled to a 48-11 win on the Plains. LSU had won four of the past five games in the series, but this one was never close. Auburn now has a week off, and despite some narrow escapes and fortuitous calls this season, it remains in the SEC race. — Low
No. 25 Liberty (6-0)
Hugh Freeze’s teams have always been known for their high-scoring offenses, and the Flames — who were off this week — are averaging 38 points per game, ranking 18th nationally. Quarterback Malik Willis, a transfer from Auburn, has blossomed in Freeze’s system. He accounted for seven touchdowns a week ago in Liberty’s win over Southern Miss and has led the Flames in passing and rushing in three of their six wins this season. Their biggest game of the season — and one of the biggest in school history — awaits this weekend, when they visit Virginia Tech. — Low
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