AP Top 25 poll: 10 thoughts on ranking Georgia No. 1 again, Oklahoma-Texas fallout and more

This still feels like a college football season that has much more parity than recent years, but my AP Top 25 ballot is going back to the familiar — at least at the top. Let’s dive into this week’s rankings:

1. I apologize, Georgia. Please forgive me — or thank me and several other voters for the extra motivation? Moving the Bulldogs down a spot after a close win at Auburn to put Texas No. 1 seemed reasonable at the time, but here we are a short week later: Texas lost, Georgia thoroughly dominated Kentucky and I’m back to the beginning. So it goes. Perhaps we could have all seen that coming.

Though you can still quibble with Georgia’s resume — it would not be atop a straight resume ranking of teams — it looked like the team to beat again in its 51-13 drubbing of No. 20 Kentucky. Georgia outgained the Wildcats 608 to 183 and had a 33 to 12 edge in first downs. The game was every bit as lopsided as the final score, and then some.

Now, one blowout win against Kentucky doesn’t make a season. Kentucky is still ranked, but largely because of a win against a mediocre Florida team (that did, at least, beat Tennessee). But we’ve been waiting for Georgia to look like the Georgia of the past two years again, and that’s exactly what we got. I didn’t hesitate to move the Bulldogs back to No. 1. Most agree, as their share of first-place votes rose to 50 from 35.

If motivation is still needed, however? I’ll still take someone not named Georgia to win the national title. It’s the best choice for No. 1 right now, even if I think someone else is going to rise up and snatch it.

2. Yes, I’m back aboard the Michigan bandwagon too, slotting in the Wolverines at No. 2. Not that beating Minnesota and Nebraska is something worthy of lavish praise, but Michigan is back to doing exactly what it should do against inferior opponents. It came into this season expected to have an argument for being the most complete team in college football. As its offensive line jells, it is starting to make that exact case. Washington lacks quality wins as well, Ohio State and Florida State have shown cracks even in staying unbeaten and I’m not quite sold on Oklahoma leaping all the way into the top two.

A running theme in this column through the first half of the season is that the top tier of teams is far more bunched up than usual. That’s still the case, hence the weekly shuffling of teams on my ballot as more results come in and resumes evolve. This is a season that demands voting flexibility. But right now, if you asked me who the best two teams are, I’d go back to the teams that were atop my ballot in August: Georgia and Michigan. And that’ll probably change again next week.

3. After I voted Texas No. 1 last Sunday, there was a case to be made for Oklahoma this Sunday. The Sooners have a proven quarterback in Dillon Gabriel and a defense that feels much more like a typical Brent Venables unit, even if the Longhorns put up 527 yards. They’re more physical and have a higher ceiling than the underperforming Oklahoma defenses we grew accustomed to under Lincoln Riley.

Nobody put Oklahoma first, but a pair of voters placed the Sooners second. I was one of seven to rank them third, as preseason perception is now thrown totally out the window. Oklahoma is back in familiar territory after last year’s unranked detour.


Vannini: Oklahoma is back — and perhaps Sooners were never truly ‘gone’

4. The easy reaction to Saturday — and the hype here, among other places — is Texas backlash. It’s been an understandably popular reaction over the past decade-plus, because rarely do the Longhorns actually live up to their billing. Like anyone, I’ve been guilty of overrating Texas as a voter over the years. So if you want to criticize those of us who ranked Texas No. 1 immediately before a loss, that’s fine. But let’s not declare the Longhorns’ dreams dead yet, either.

Texas still won at Alabama, which has started to get its act together again. It’s still one of the most talented teams in the country, and it effectively played a toss-up game against undefeated Oklahoma that was decided by a 3-0 turnover deficit and a goal-line stand. Texas is capable of running the table and beating Oklahoma in a rematch for the Big 12 title.

Saturday was a great rivalry game between two teams that have earned top-10 rankings. It was in no way evidence of Texas being a fraud, even if Texas didn’t quite earn No. 1 status. It was just another in a long line of high-stakes Oklahoma-Texas games that went down to the wire. In fact, it’s the 23rd time a Oklahoma-Texas game both 1) featured two ranked teams and 2) was decided by eight points or fewer. That ties it with Michigan-Ohio State for the most ranked matchups decided by eight points or fewer since the AP poll began in 1936.

Most ranked games decided by 8 or less

Series Games



Michigan-Ohio State








Michigan-Notre Dame




Florida State-Miami






Notre Dame-USC


5. Kudos to Louisville for its decisive win against Notre Dame. Perhaps the Irish didn’t deserve their top-10 billing, but Jeff Brohm keeps getting it done in big games — or at least games perceived as big games. Since 2018, Brohm is 4-2 against AP top-10 teams at the time of the game, with all four wins (and both losses) by double digits. It was Louisville’s eighth all-time win against an AP top-10 team, and each of the past five have been by double digits.

It’s still hard to get a read on Louisville, but I vaulted the Cardinals 11 spots to No. 12 on my ballot, a couple of spots ahead of their No. 14 ranking in the poll. They made a great coaching hire, they’re 6-0 and they are going to make noise in the ACC race, especially as they face a regular-season schedule that does not include Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina.

6. I refused to rank LSU last week, but it’s become hard to totally disregard two-loss teams. I have LSU back in at No. 19 after a 49-39 win at Missouri. Even if LSU can’t stop anyone, Jayden Daniels is capable of making every game exciting. I also kept Notre Dame ranked at No. 21, though the Irish’s hold on a ranking is perilous heading into another prime-time game against USC.

As usual, there’s no perfect way to approach the bottom of the ballot. I wasn’t thrilled about ranking Tennessee after an off week — I didn’t rank the Vols last week, and the 13-point loss to Florida still happened — but that debate will be moot soon, with Texas A&M, Alabama and Kentucky up next. I also moved in Wyoming after it knocked off Fresno State. The Cowboys also own wins against Appalachian State and Texas Tech and hung with Texas for three quarters.

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Wyoming is the second team out of the poll after beating Fresno State. (Troy Babbitt / USA Today)

7. One team I couldn’t possibly vote for even though it held onto a spot? Miami. Yes, the Hurricanes had the game against Georgia Tech won, had they simply taken a knee. But they didn’t, and they proceeded to fumble and give up 74 yards in four plays in 25 seconds to a Georgia Tech team most recently seen losing to Bowling Green. The same Bowling Green that lost to Ohio by 31 a week before beating the Yellow Jackets and lost to Miami (Ohio) 27-0 a week after. All of the goodwill the Hurricanes earned from thumping Texas A&M has been squandered by a mind-numbingly bad collapse.

They’ll have to earn their way back against North Carolina and Clemson the next two weeks.



Miami’s mind-numbing loss to Georgia Tech defies explanation. Now what?

8. The Week 7 headliner is clear, as No. 8 Oregon visits No. 7 Washington, with both coming off idle weeks. It’s the biggest chance yet for a Pac-12 team to begin to separate itself from the rest in the rankings. It also happens to be the biggest Oregon-Washington rivalry game ever, at least in terms of the poll: Never before have the Ducks and Huskies met while both ranked in the top 10. Oregon is 12-8 all-time in matchups of two top-10 teams, with all but one of those games happening since 2000. Washington is 10-10-1, though just 2-7 since Jan. 1, 1992.

I already have Washington ranked No. 4, and the winner will deserve to be ranked in the top five in the poll.

9. Even if Oregon and Washington are about to offer some clarity, ranking Pac-12 teams is bound to be convoluted throughout the rest of the season. Joining those two on the undefeated tier is No. 10 USC, which fell in the rankings for the third consecutive week after a triple-OT win at Arizona. Then there’s the tier of four one-loss teams, where the problem really begins, given that: Washington State beat Oregon State, which beat Utah, which beat UCLA, which beat Washington State.

The poll orders them Oregon State-Utah-UCLA-Washington State. I agree with that, as the closest result among all of those games was the Beavers losing at Washington State by three points on the road. There’s no great way to order them, but we’ll get another meaningful data point this week when Oregon State hosts UCLA.

10. Welcome back to the Top 25, Kansas! With Kentucky hanging on to a spot, basketball blue bloods Kansas, Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina are ranked at the same time in the football poll for the first time ever. Throw in Louisville, too: If the rankings hold, Louisville and Kentucky would have their first ranked versus ranked matchup ever. Meanwhile, Duke and UNC could have their first ranked matchup since 1939.

(Top photo of Kendall Milton: Todd Kirkland / Getty Images)

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