SEC Heavy Top 10 in the AP College Football Poll. UCF sits at 22 after loss at PITT.

AP Top 25 Takeaways: Separating contenders and pretenders. Memphis/Miss State receive votes.

Golic & Wingo
September 22, 2019 - 2:28 pm
SEC

SEC

AP Top 25: Wisconsin into top 10; Cal makes big move to 15

By RALPH D. RUSSO AP College Football Writer

Wisconsin moved into the top 10 for the first time this season, landing at No. 8 in The Associated Press college football poll after a weekend during which seven ranked teams lost.

The top of the AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank remained mostly unchanged, with Clemson staying No. 1, followed by three Southeastern Conference teams: No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 LSU. Ohio State edged past Oklahoma to No. 5.

Clemson received 55 first-place votes from the media panel. Alabama had six and Georgia received one.

Auburn moved up a spot to No. 7 after beating Texas A&M 28-20 and Wisconsin jumped five spots to No. 8 after defeating Michigan 35-14. Florida remained No. 9 and Notre Dame slipped three spots to No. 10 after losing 23-17 at Georgia.

POLL POINTS

THIS WEEK IN BAMA

Alabama has been ranked for 200 straight weeks, the fourth longest streak since the AP poll started in 1936.

The Tide's streak began with the preseason poll of 2008. Alabama joins Nebraska (348, Oct. 12, 1981-Sept. 22, 2002), Florida State (211, Sept. 24, 1989-Nov. 11, 2001) and Florida (209, Sept. 9, 1990-Oct. 5, 2002) with poll streaks of at least 200 appearances.

UP

The middle of the rankings got a big makeover after five teams ranked from Nos. 10-19 lost. California was the big mover, jumping eight spots to No. 15. The Golden Bears have their best ranking since they were No. 6 on Sept. 27, 2009.

No. 14 Iowa, No. 16 Boise State, No. 17 Washington and No. 18 Virginia all moved up at least three spots.

DOWN

Several ranked losers managed to stay in the rankings.

— No. 19 Utah fell nine spots after losing at USC.

— No. 20 Michigan dropped nine spots.

— No. 22 UCF fell seven places after losing to Pitt, the Knights' first regular-season loss in almost three years.

— No. 24 Texas A&M slipped six spots but stayed ranked with a 2-2 record. The Aggies have losses to Clemson and Auburn.

OUT

One-and-done teams are common early in the season. Arizona State and TCU both had short stays after debuting in the rankings last week. The Sun Devils and Horned Frogs fell out after losing home games.

Washington State dropped out of the rankings for the first time this season after blowing a 32-point lead at home to previously winless UCLA.

IN

Three teams moved into the rankings but only one for the first time this season.

— No. 21 USC has been in, out and back in the last three weeks.

— No. 24 Kansas State, which did not play this weekend, is ranked for the first time since Sept. 10, 2017.

— No. 25 Michigan State jumped back in after a week out.

CONFERENCE CALL

SEC — 6 (Nos. 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 23)

Big Ten — 6 (Nos. 5, 8, 12, 14, 20, 25)

Pac 12 — 5 (Nos. 13, 15, 17, 19, 21)

Big 12 — 3 (Nos. 6, 11, 24)

ACC — 2 (Nos. 1, 18)

American — 1 (No. 22)

Mountain West — 1 (No. 16)

Independent — 1 (No. 10)

RANKED vs. RANKED

No. 18 Virginia at No. 10 Notre Dame. This might be the toughest game left on the Fighting Irish's schedule.

No. 21 USC at No. 17 Washington. The Clay Helton Survival Tour heads to Seattle.

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AP Top 25 Takeaways: Separating contenders and pretenders

By RALPH D. RUSSO AP College Football Writer

Highlighted by three games matching top-15 teams, this was the first weekend of the season to seriously separate College Football Playoff contenders and pretenders.

Feel free to take a seat at the adults' table No. 8 Auburn and No. 13 Wisconsin. You, too, No. 12 Texas. And No. 7 Notre Dame, even in a loss you looked like you belong.

We are looking for teams capable of disrupting the established upper tier in college football this season: No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 LSU, No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Ohio State.

The Tigers, Badgers, Longhorns and Fighting Irish might — maybe — have the stuff to crash the party.

No. 11 Michigan, you're excused. Playoffs are the last thing coach Jim Harbaugh needs to be thinking about. His program seems to be at a crossroads. No. 15 UCF, which lost a regular-season game for the first time since 2016, will be joining the Wolverines on the don't-call-us-we'll-call-you list.

Might as well go in chronological order.

BULLISH BADGERS

A year after a season of great expectations went sideways for Wisconsin the country's most self-aware program is back on track. The Badgers never stray far from their successful player development blueprint. Build a big, strong offensive line. Put a workhorse tailback behind it. Play tough and disciplined defense. Wisconsin ripped off four straight 10-win seasons before sliding to 8-5 last year.

The Badgers are back. By beating down Michigan in Madison, the Badgers validated their dominant 2-0 start against weak competition.

"After the first two games, I feel like the world didn't want to say we were the best defense in the country," Badgers linebacker Zack Baun said. "(They said) we didn't have the best running back in the country and we didn't have the best O-line in the country. And we really made an effort to make a statement this game."

The Badgers finally did allow a point after nearly 11 quarters of shutout ball to start the season, and Jonathan Taylor ran for 203 yards, despite sitting out the second quarter with cramps. The Big Ten West looked wide open coming into the season, with Nebraska penciled in as the favorite. The Badgers still face the trickiest schedule in the West, including trips to No. 6 Ohio State and Nebraska, but they are clearly the favorites now.

That Oct. 26 meeting with the Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio, might be a preview of the Big Ten championship game. Through four weeks, Wisconsin is the only team in the Big Ten that looks like it can challenge Justin Fields and Ohio State.

TEXAS TIGERS

Auburn was next up, taking care of No. 17 Texas A&M on the road. Auburn has made itself right at home in College Station, Texas, since the Aggies joined the Southeastern Conference, winning all four games there.

The Tigers now have two notable victories in the Lone Star State in September after rallying to beat No. 16 Oregon in Arlington to start the season.

To be fair, Auburn still looks too limited offensively to keep pace with super-charged Alabama and No. 4 LSU. The Tigers also draw both No. 3 Georgia and No. 9 Florida from the SEC East. But if there is going to be a third wheel in the West, Auburn and its nasty defensive line led by preseason All-American tackle Derrick Brown is it.

HORNS UP

Texas didn't beat a ranked foe. More like vanquishing a demon. Oklahoma State had won four straight overall against Texas and five straight in Austin. The Cowboys' dominance in the rivalry was symbolic of Texas' fall from grace.

The Longhorns, who two weeks ago played LSU toe-to-toe, took back the rivalry, with some timely defensive stops in their own territory and the third four-TD pass game of the season for Sam Ehlinger. On the Is Texas Back?-o-Meter, this was about an 8 out of 10.

NOTRE DAME'S ROAD

The Fighting Irish went to Athens as a two-touchdown underdog to face a Georgia team that has been trying to make the case it is the equal of Clemson and Alabama.

The Irish hung tough, but lost to a top-five team for the 11th straight time. There are no moral victories, but it wasn't that bad of a day for the Irish's playoff hopes. Suddenly, what was assumed to be difficult road games against Michigan and Stanford don't look so difficult for Notre Dame.

The Irish can't afford another loss but they will probably be favored in all their remaining games.

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WHAT NOW MICHIGAN?

To be clear: Most of the criticism of Harbaugh during his tenure at Michigan has been overblown. Fans like to see blue bloods fail. Especially, when they are coached by a quirky former NFL quarterback with a big reputation and no conference championships.

Harbaugh has three 10-win seasons at Michigan and the program, despite obvious shortcomings against Ohio State, has not been healthier since Lloyd Carr was coach more than a decade ago. At least that is the way it seemed until last Thanksgiving weekend. The Wolverines went to Ohio State favored and looking like a playoff team. They lost 62-39. They then lost to Florida 41-15 in an uninspired Peach Bowl performance. Now, after an offseason remake of the offense, Michigan's first big game of the season was no contest.

Michigan has been outscored by 70 points in its last three games against ranked teams. It is also 0-7 as an underdog with Harbaugh.

"We were outplayed, outprepared, outcoached, the whole thing both offensively and defensively," Harbaugh said. "It was thorough."

This is not a hot-seat situation. Michigan is all in on Harbaugh. But for the first time since he arrived in Ann Arbor in 2015 the trajectory of the program feels like it is headed in the wrong direction. And that leads to the scariest question for Michigan fans: If Harbaugh can't make Michigan a consistently elite program again, can anyone?

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UCF AS IN FLOP

Folks were lining up to champion the Knights last week after UCF trounced Stanford. So, of course, the Knights followed it up by losing to Pitt.

Everybody off the bandwagon.

The Panthers' have chaos in the DNA, always good for at least one perplexing loss and equally surprising victory per season. A week after coach Pat Narduzzi called for a bafflingly conservative field goal late in the game that cost his team, Pitt beat the Knights with its own version of the Philly Special on a fourth-and-ballgame.

One loss on the road is not an indictment of UCF. The Knights are formidable. They're just not playoff contenders.

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AROUND THE COUNTRY: Washington State's Anthony Gordon threw nine touchdown passes — in a losing effort! That pretty much sums up the most #Pac12AfterDark game ever: UCLA's 32-point second-half rally at No. 19 Washington State. Maybe this is the start of a turnaround for Chip Kelly's Bruins. ... The last time Appalachian State beat a Power Five team the Mountaineers blocked a kick on the final play of the game to seal one of the great upsets of all-time. North Carolina is no Michigan and App State's latest takedown of a Power Five team was hardly an upset at all ... Eastern Michigan is one of the most entertaining teams in the country. The Eagles have played 27 (14-13) one-score games since 2016. The latest: EMU blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown with 10 seconds left to beat FCS Central Connecticut. A week ago, coach Chris Creighton's Eagles beat Illinois of the Big Ten with a last-second field goal. Creighton is probably due for a shot at a bigger program. ... Speaking of pretenders, No. 10 Utah rammed into its ceiling at Southern California on Friday night. ... San Jose State earned $1.5 million and beat Arkansas for its first victory against a Power Five team since 2006 and first ever against an SEC team. A lot of attention has been on the struggles of second-year coaches Taggart, Jeremy Pruitt of Tennessee and UCLA's Chip Kelly, but Chad Morris is now 4-12 with the Razorbacks, with losses to Colorado State, North Texas and San Jose State.

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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