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Poll Problems: Week 5

We take a look at the AP poll each week to see what the voters got right and what they got terribly wrong.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Clemson
Deon Cain’s breakout game helped Clemson outlast Louisville in a top-5 showdown for the ages.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson’s epic battle with Louisville capped a wild weekend of college football, and the Tigers’ win propelled them into the top three of the AP poll. Joining Clemson in the rankings are five other ACC teams, as the league is now tied with the SEC for most teams in the poll with six apiece. While the other top-10 matchups were far less entertaining, they served to further separate Playoff contenders from pretenders.

1. Alabama

The Tide rolled over hapless Kentucky, but they now face their second stiff road test of the season against an Arkansas team that has given them fits recently. It’s hard to see an upset here, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Razorbacks made things tough for Bama Saturday night.

2. Ohio State

No reason for the Buckeyes to drop, considering they blasted Rutgers (They had nearly SIX TIMES as many total yards as the poor, poor Scarlet Knights) on their way to a fourth straight blowout win. We are currently witnessing peak Ohio State, and it is a force to be reckoned with. Indiana had a nice little upset of Michigan State this past weekend, but the Hoosiers aren’t ready to go into the Horseshoe and put up much of a fight.

3. Clemson

It looked for a moment as though Clemson might get by Louisville easier than expected, but some poorly timed turnovers turned the game back into the dogfight most originally thought it would be. It was another nauseating win for the Tigers against the always tough Cardinals, but the resulting victory for Clemson gives it unquestionably the nation’s best win to this point with the first College Football Playoff poll drawing nearer.

4. Michigan

The Wolverines needed a fourth quarter touchdown to get by Wisconsin at home, and we don’t really feel any better about their chances to win the Big Ten as a result. That defense is the real deal, but the offense was hardly impressive in its first actual test of the season. Losing starting left tackle Grant Newsome for the season with a knee injury doesn’t help matters either.

5. Washington

The Problems’ preseason Pac-12 champion pick took a big step in that direction by disposing of perhaps its biggest threat in the north division when it drug Stanford up and down the field Friday night. Can Washington be fully trusted yet? Eh, hard to say. If they beat Oregon for the first time in a thousand years? Absolutely.

6. Houston

It’s still hard to see a loss in the near future for the Cougars, but can they hold tight to a high ranking as their strength of schedule suffers a relative downturn in the coming weeks? The game with Louisville will ultimately be a Playoff elimination game, as we don’t foresee either Houston or the Cardinals suffering a loss between now and that Nov. 17 showdown.

7. Louisville

It was potentially a program-changing game for the Cardinals Saturday night, and until late in the fourth quarter it appeared they may pull off a rare road win in Death Valley and surge toward the top of the Playoff field. Lamar Jackson was outstanding - as usual - and is still undoubtedly the Heisman front-runner, but Louisville will have to hope for some help if it wants to have a chance to make the College Football Playoff at this point. We were glad to see the Cards didn’t drop far, as they are clearly a top-10 team.

8. Texas A&M

We remain far from sold on the Aggies, who needed a lot longer to dispose of South Carolina than a top-10 team should. They host Tennessee this weekend with a chance to add a nice bullet point to their resume, but how good are the Vols really?

9. Tennessee

The Tennessee Alternating Week Theory (TAWT) was alive and well as the Vols did everything but lose to a down Georgia team that was missing Nick Chubb - needing a Hail Mary to steal a win in Athens. The theory states that they will go down to Texas A&M this weekend and get a win, and it wouldn’t surprise us given our doubts about the Aggies. Maaaaay not want to get down by three scores this week though.

10. Miami

Has a team ever gone from unranked to the top 10 by doing less than this Miami team has done? The Canes get a chance for a statement win over Florida State on Saturday night, although would it really be a statement if they are the third team to do it already this season? No matter, the Problems is taking the Noles to bounce back and put the brakes on the Hurricane hype train.

11. Wisconsin

Wisconsin stalemated Michigan through three quarters but couldn’t quite pull off the upset in Ann Arbor. We have a feeling their current stretch of games - which doesn’t get any easier with red-hot Ohio State coming to town - will get the best of the offensively challenged Badgers.

12. Nebraska

Quietly sneaking up the rankings is Nebraska, whose one “quality” win is now far from quality with how Oregon has played since losing to the Huskers. Overrated in our opinion, but being undefeated will get you a long way at this point in the season (Hey, Miami!).

13. Baylor

Baylor avoided disaster by the skin of its teeth in escaping Ames with a comeback win over a pathetic Iowa State team. They have a home date with Kansas and a bye week (So, two bye weeks) before back-to-back games against Texas and TCU.

14. Ole Miss

The Rebels got revenge on Memphis for last year’s loss, but they are still ranked way too high for a team with two losses.

15. Stanford

It wasn’t a good night for the Cardinal as the battle for supremacy in the Pac-12 North went squarely in favor of Washington. While the rest of Stanford’s schedule is manageable, they’ll probably need some help and a berth in the conference championship game to have any realistic shot at the Playoff.

16. Arkansas

We don’t see the Razorbacks as much more than a nice team, but they can certainly shake up that perspective when Alabama comes calling Saturday.

17. North Carolina

North Carolina’s win over Florida State was quite the roller coaster, with the Tar Heels giving away a 21-0 lead before drilling a 54-yard field goal to ice another last-second win. I don’t mind the ranking because I think this is probably a top-20 team, but that loss to Georgia will continue to sting.

18. Florida

I don’t see an argument for ranking the Gators right now, but a loss to my boy Coach O and a revitalized LSU will take care of that.

19. Boise State

The biggest secret to moving up in the rankings is not losing, and Boise continues to follow that rule. The Broncos may continue to climb, as this year’s Mountain West doesn’t offer much in the way of obstacles.

20. Oklahoma

As disastrous as the non-conference slate was for the Sooners, their win at TCU puts them in great early position in the Big XII race - where they may still be the class of a the most underwhelming Power 5 conference.

21. Colorado

It’s nice to see the Buffs get some recognition, and they can prove themselves legitimate with a road win this week at Southern Cal.

22. West Virginia

The Mountaineers will likely hang onto this ranking through their bye week, but a loss at Texas Tech the following week is imminent.

23. Florida State

It appeared as though Florida State had pulled off another huge comeback win, but a North Carolina field goal at the buzzer put a serious damper on any fleeting national title hopes the Seminoles may have had. They are better than this ranking (I think?), but that defense is really struggling right now.

24. Utah

Cal’s late goal-line stand knocked the Utes from the ranks of the unbeaten, but they hold onto a top-25 spot because ... who ya gonna rank?

25. Virginia Tech

The Hokies make it six ACC teams in this week’s poll, and they could be a real threat in the Coastal with the way they are playing of late. This week’s game in Chapel Hill would be a prime spot to stake an early claim.