Tomorrow's Top 25 Today: LSU will make a huge move in new college football rankings
The opening weekend of the 2018 college football season — a five-day marathon that concluded Monday night in Tallahassee, Florida — pushed the release of the new AP Top 25 to Tuesday afternoon, but the big takeaways for voters were set long before Virginia Tech and Florida State squared off at Doak Campbell Stadium.
With about half of the ranked teams heavily favored in games against FBS or Group of Five competition, there wasn’t enough losing to see any major shakeups for the Week 2 rankings. That will come later this month once we start to get into conference play, but Week 1 did provide enough results to lead to big moves for a few teams.
No one is expected to make a bigger move up than LSU, which started the season at No. 25. Ed Orgeron was not the only coach to notch a top-10 win on opening weekend — that would also include SEC West rival Gus Malzahn and Auburn, LSU’s opponent for Week 3 — but the win against Miami had to be among the best wins during his time as coach in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Look for LSU to make a double-digit jump in the rankings, perhaps even breaking into the top 10.
Here’s how we expect the AP Top 25 to look on Tuesday:
1. Alabama (Last week — 1): And it might be unanimous. There will probably be at least a handful of the 18 voters who gave Clemson a first-place nod in the preseason who will stick with the Tigers, but the Tide seemingly answered every and any concern regarding their potential in 2018.
2. Clemson (2): The quarterback competition comes to a head this week against Texas A&M. Dabo Swinney and the Clemson coaches had a cushion against Furman where both Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence were in positions to succeed, but now Jimbo Fisher welcomes a roster he knows very well to his new home in College Station. It’s almost guaranteed to be a spot where adversity will hit, and it will be fascinating to see which quarterback steps up to the challenge.
3. Georgia (3): Jake Fromm looked great, Justin Fields saw some action, and the Georgia offensive line looks like it will again be among the most imposing groups in the country. The main thing is the main thing, they say, and now is a big step up from Austin Peay at home to South Carolina on the road in their SEC opener on Saturday.
4. Ohio State (5): You’ve got to expect we’ll see a step up for the Buckeyes after hanging a 77 on the scoreboard on Saturday. The Buckeyes are going to do this a couple times per year, and Oregon State was caught in a fire of overwhelming athleticism that had the contest decided early. Urban Meyer returns to practice this week, with two games left on his suspension.
6. Auburn (9): The Tigers’ defensive front will keep them in every game and the hard-fought win against Washington was among the most impressive victories of the weekend. It would not be surprising to see them jump up into the top five.
7. Wisconsin (4): If Ohio State, Oklahoma and Auburn are going to make a move, someone has to take a step back and I’m guessing that’s Wisconsin. There wasn’t anything concerning about the Badgers’ 34-3 win against Western Kentucky, but the voters could be distracted by the big numbers put up elsewhere.
8. Notre Dame (12): Clark Lea has done a tremendous job getting this defense geared up for the season, and there’s a chance that group has Notre Dame in the playoff mix come November. Saturday night’s win was a huge start to what could a special season in South Bend.
9. Penn State (10): The Appalachian State overtime scare shouldn’t lead to any kind of drop, but it’s possible that LSU jumps Penn State here after its defense took some shots from the Mountaineers in the fourth quarter.
10. LSU (25): It’s a stretch to say that LSU is one of the 10 best teams in college football, but voters and poll rankings (particularly after Week 1) are so ripe for overreaction that I do think the Tigers could land in the top 10. Wherever they land, confidence in the SEC West is sky-high after the weekend action.
11. Stanford (13): Bryce Love’s stat line is concerning, but Stanford taking care of business against a Rocky Long San Diego State team is encouraging enough to overlook an off night from the Heisman Trophy finalist.
12. Michigan State (11): Brian Lewerke had to do a lot to guarantee Michigan State got past Utah State in the season opener, arguably more than you’d like to see from a team that is expected to contend for the Big Ten title. This is one of the few teams that could take a step back or stay at their spot in the rankings despite winning.
13. USC (15): It wasn’t a perfect debut for J.T. Daniels against UNLV, but the offense looked good enough under his direction to think USC both made the right choice and will be able to contend in the Pac-12 with the true freshman under center.
14. TCU (16): You won’t see much movement from TCU in the rankings early with games against Southern and SMU in the first two weeks. All of this sets up for TCU to be a top 15 team in Week 3 when it takes on Ohio State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
16. Virginia Tech (20): It’s hard to argue that there was a more impressive win than Virginia Tech going into hostile territory against a talented team and totally dominating Florida State. The Hokies defense has lost a lot from last year’s group but has not lost a step in production and now we’re looking at VT as a threat to Miami in the Coastal.
17. Washington (6): It’s possible that Washington won’t play another defensive front as salty as Auburn all year. If so, it’s likely we won’t see Washington struggle in the red zone and around the goal line like it did Saturday. The Huskies are a very good football team set for a drop in the rankings because they lost.
18. Mississippi State (18): A good sign for the Joe Moorhead tenure is Mississippi State putting it on Stephen F. Austin without Nick Fitzgerald. Keytaon Thompson had to replace Fitzgerald in the bowl game and did again here with the starter suspended, playing well in Moorhead’s system.
19. UCF (21): It’s been a long time since UCF kicked off Week 1 on Thursday night with its Civil Conflict win at UConn, but those big numbers on the scoreboard haven’t looked any less impressive.
20. Boise State (22): The Broncos are a candidate to potentially move more than two spots up in the mix, given the impressive fashion of its win at Troy, but for now I’m thinking the voters are going to keep Boise State between UCF and Oregon.
21. Oregon (24): An early 10-0 deficit to Bowling Green raised some eyebrows but Justin Herbert and Co. quickly regained control of the contest with a 30-point second quarter and finished the game with a 50-burger on the board in Autzen.
22. Miami (8): The Hurricanes made far too many mistakes to win, and not just on offense but also on the defensive side of the ball where they are supposed to be dominant this year. After four straight losses dating back to last season, Mark Richt has a short window to turn the ship around before Florida State and
23. Michigan (14): Many voters will drop Michigan off their ballots but I don’t think enough will see a one-score loss on the road against a good Notre Dame team as being worth that of penalty in the rankings. The Wolverines will get right this week against Western Michigan, but confidence among the AP electorate has to be shaky, at best.
24. South Carolina (NR): Voters won’t be able to help themselves with South Carolina. The Gamecocks were the first team outside the top-25 in the preseason voting and they’ll get an extra bump just from the excitement of the Week 2 game against Georgia in Columbia. So this will either be a brief stay in the Top 25 or the beginning of an SEC East title campaign.
25. Florida (NR): Shovel passes, jump passes and elite athleticism at the skill positions has the Dan Mullen era already feeling very retro as a team with plenty to prove gets set for tougher tests than Charleston Southern, which it beat 53-6.
Projected to drop out: Florida State (19), Texas (23)