Much was made over Week 3 having no matchups between AP Top 25-ranked opponents. That quickly led to the suggestion that this would be where we see one of the season’s first big upset-heavy weekends. Well, one top 10 team was on the ropes and a trio of top 25 teams did end up taking losses, but for the best teams in the country, it was more of the same as the top dozen or so began to separate themselves from the pack.
The one big move we’re predicting in Sunday’s new AP Top 25 is a jump for UCF following its dominant win against Stanford. The Cardinal have struggled to start the year for many reasons, including K.J. Costello getting banged up in the opener against Northwestern, but it’s still a quality Power Five program and the Knights made them look small and slow in a 45-27 win.
BYU made headlines on Saturday with its overtime win against a ranked USC, and that combined with its victory against Tennessee on Rocky Top should have the Cougars making their 2019 top 25 debut. Joining them should be Arizona State after its win at Michigan State.
Here’s how we expect the new AP Top 25 to look on Sunday.
1. Clemson (1): The Tigers got Amari Rodgers his first touchdown of the season in a 41-6 win at Syracuse, showing off yet another ridiculous weapon for this offense to utilize in its pursuit of another national championship. Rodgers made his 2019 debut last week against Texas A&M, just 166 days after suffering a torn ACL in spring practice.
2. Alabama (2): Saturday’s win against South Carolina put Najee Harris in the spotlight as the skill player du jour for the Tide’s offense, while Tua Tagovailoa tallied five touchdowns and no interceptions to go with a career-high 444 yards, becoming the first Bama quarterback to go 400 and five … ever.
3. Georgia (3): The arrival of Notre Dame for next week’s top-10 showdown in Athens, Georgia, couldn’t come at a better time for the Bulldogs, which appear to be clicking on all cylinders and taking care of business at every level so far in 2019.
4. LSU (4): A slow start back home after an emotional win at Texas is excusable. LSU righted things in the second and third quarter in a 65-14 win against Northwestern State that should be enough to keep their spot just behind the Bulldogs.
5. Oklahoma (5): Another absurd dual-threat stat line for Jalen Hurts (289 passing yards, 150 rushing yards, four total touchdowns) in a 48-14 blowout win against UCLA as the Sooners prepare for the start of Big 12 play next week against Texas Tech.
6. Ohio State (6): The first road start for Justin Fields was pretty easy thanks to an impressive performance from the Buckeyes defense. Indiana was held to just 42 rushing yards on 31 attempts and allowed five sacks, and Fields’ backfield mate J.K. Dobbins ran up 193 rushing yards himself in a runaway 51-10 win.
7. Notre Dame (7): This was a key game to build up Ian Book’s confidence before he faces one of the toughest tests of his college career at Georgia next week. Book threw a career-high five touchdowns and the Irish never trailed in a 66-14 win against New Mexico.
8. Auburn (8): A 55-16 win against Kent State was the most successful showing yet from the Bo Nix-led Auburn offense, and it came just in time with a road trip to Texas A&M coming up as the first game of the “SEC on CBS” doubleheader next Saturday.
9. Florida (9): It looked like the Gators were set to tumble as they trailed the Wildcats by 11 … and then Feleipe Franks got knocked out of the game. Backup Kyle Trask stepped up and led Florida to a stunning 29-21 win in Lexington, Kentucky, with UF scoring 19 unanswered points on the road against a talented team.
10. Michigan (10): The Wolverines were off in Week 3.
11. Utah (11): No adjustment expected after a routine 31-0 win against Idaho State.
13. UCF (17): I expect the manner with which UCF picked Stanford apart, particularly early in the game, will give them some upward momentum in the top 25 poll. The Knights have a chance to double down on Saturday’s success next week, facing Pitt on the road after the Panthers went down to the wire with Penn State.
14. Penn State (13): There’s some work left for Penn State’s offense before we label the Nittany Lions a threat to Ohio State in the Big Ten East, but Micah Parsons and the rest of that defense came up with several huge stops on third down and in red zone situations. A gritty 17-10 win against Pitt won’t be good for a bump in the polls, but it’s given James Franklin’s staff plenty to build on moving forward.
15. Wisconsin (14): The Badgers were off in Week 3.
16. Oregon (15): Back-to-back wins against Nevada and Montana has Oregon’s Justin Herbert-led offense looking quite potent as the Ducks move into conference play.
17. Iowa (20): We’re predicting a slight jump in the polls for the Hawkeyes following the hard-fought win at Iowa State. The Cyclones technically don’t count as a ranked win for the week, but they are respected by the voters — just outside the top 25 last week — and getting it done on the road through multiple weather delays should be rewarded.
18. Texas A&M (16): No major change in the pecking order for the Aggies after taking care of business against Lamar.
19. Washington State (20): It was close as expected with Washington State’s toughest opponent yet in Houston, giving Anthony Gordon some key experience away from Pullman prior to the start of the Pac-12 schedule. UCLA is up next for the Cougs, then a huge challenge on the road at Utah in Week 5.
20. Boise State (22): Hard to imagine the Broncos will get adjusted from their spot above Washington and behind Washington State following a 45-10 win against Portland State.
21. Cal (NR): Saturday’s win over North Texas won’t be the thing that pushes Cal over the top, but it helped in pushing the Bears to 3-0. Three wins including a victory at Washington gives Cal a profile worthy of top-25 consideration, and I’m betting there are a few voters who left Cal off last week because they missed the late night win.
22. Washington (23): Much-needed get-right win for the Huskies after the rain-delayed debacle against Cal last week. The 20s are going to be very fluid for one-loss teams, so it’s conceivable the Huskies could land anywhere in this range but I think they end up falling behind Cal.
23. BYU (NR): With wins against Tennessee and USC, the Cougars have one of the best resumes in the country. Since BYU did not show up on any ballots last week, there is probably some limit to how high they might debut, but I bet they get enough votes in the 20s to break into the consensus top 25.
24. Virginia (25): It was an odd twist of events in Charlottesville on Saturday night as Florida State running back Cam Akers fell two yards short of a game-tying touchdown. Florida State’s first-ever ACC conference loss came to UVA in Charlottesville in 1995 when Warrick Dunn fell just short on a goal line stand.
25. Arizona State (NR): It was an ugly game and even uglier way to win off a missed field goal, but winning at Michigan State is about as high quality a non-conference win as you’ll find in the country.
Projected to drop out: Michigan State (18), Maryland (21), USC (24)