CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Alabama remains the closest thing to a sure thing in college football and, this week, the Tide barely escaped the swamp with a 31-29 win over Florida. Clemson remains the class of an increasingly sad ACC, and the Tigers needed a late goal-line stand to survive against Georgia Tech.
A record 19 ranked teams have lost through the first three weeks of this college football season, making this one of the more challenging years to vote in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. That said, the top seven teams on my ballot (Alabama, Georgia, Oregon, Oklahoma, Iowa, Texas A&M and Penn State) have all distinguished themselves as very legitimate national title contenders, and the next group (Cincinnati, Clemson, Notre Dame and Ohio State) certainly aren’t out of the race.
The nice thing is – other than catching some flack on social media – nothing prevents voters from tearing up their previous week’s ballot and starting anew every Sunday morning.
For me, the toughest questions are, at the top, should we be worried about the offenses at Oklahoma and Clemson, and how much should we believe in Oregon and Iowa? In the middle of the rankings, should we be buying into Michigan, Michigan State and BYU? And at the bottom, how long does North Carolina’s season-opening loss at Virginia Tech keep it behind the Hokies, when the Tar Heels are clearly starting to get it together offensively week to week. (Just ask UVA about how far Sam Howell and that attack have come.)
Arizona State and UCLA fall out of my rankings after a particularly brutal weekend for the Pac-12, and Michigan State and North Carolina take their spots. I also gave long, hard looks at Oklahoma State, Maryland, Memphis and Wake Forest.
As always, though, the most important thing to keep in mind is that my ballot is designed to disrespect your favorite team, both by under-ranking it and over-hyping its chief rival. Here now, submitted for your disapproval, this week’s Top 25 ballot.
6. Texas AM
7. Penn State
10. Notre Dame
11. Ohio State
12. Iowa State
13. Ole Miss
17. Michigan State
18. Coastal Carolina
20. Kansas State
24. Virginia Tech
25. North Carolina