College football is right around the corner and marking its near arrival is the release of the the AP top 25 rankings:
- Alabama (54 first place votes)
- Ohio State (6)
- Georgia (3)
- Notre Dame
- Texas A&M
- Oklahoma State
- North Carolina State
- Michigan State
- Miami (FL)
- Ole Miss
- Wake Forest
The ACC has an impressive five teams in the rankings with Clemson leading the way at No. 4. Initially I was surprised to see Clemson ranked so high, but upon a closer look, there isn’t an obvious team to put above the Tigers. Notre Dame and Oklahoma have new coaches and new QBs. Texas A&M hasn’t won 10 games like Clemson did last season since 2012 with Johnny Manziel. The Coach’s poll also has the Tigers at No. 4 so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Teams ranked 4th-9th are mostly interchangeable in my mind and a ton will get sorted out in the season’s very first week.
Ohio State will get a chance to make a statement against Notre Dame. Georgia and Oregon have a big matchup and while Clemson doesn’t have a tough opponent, they’ll need to show significant progress on offense against Georgia Tech.
No. 3 Ohio State being behind No. 2 Georgia differed from the Coach’s poll and surprised me a bit. It feels like Alabama and Ohio State belong in a tier of their own given the offensive talent they return, but the AP voters showed a lot of respect to the defending champions even though they sent practically their entire defense to the NFL.
While the Pac-12 generally isn’t the most interesting conference, No. 7 Utah and No. 14 USC have intriguing seasons ahead. Utah enters ranked No. 7 and opens against Florida in Gainesville. If they can win there, they deserve a top five ranking. They’ll have an inside track for the playoff at that point. USC only plays two currently-ranked teams with Utah in their seventh game and Notre Dame to close the year. They do not have Oregon on the schedule. Their trip to Salt Lake City will be a big one and with no divisions, it could be the first of two.
No. 13 NC State has four relatively soft non-conference games before facing Clemson so you’d expect them to be at least No. 10 by the time they come to Death Valley on October 1st.
The voters showed respect to Pittsburgh by putting them at No. 17 after losing QB Kenny Pickett, WR Jordan Addison, and Offensive Coordinator Mark Whipple. I also found it surprising that the AP voters kept Wake Forest in the rankings at No. 22 despite QB Sam Hartman being out with an undisclosed medical condition. We’ll see how long they last.
Tennessee was the first team outside the top 25 and I think you’ll see them spend some time in the top 25 throughout the year. They’ve got a great offense and as much as we have made fun of them in years past, seem like they’re starting the right the ship. They face Pittsburgh in week 2 and may swipe their spot in the rankings with a win.
Louisville did not receive any votes but I believe will they’ll be a sleeper in the ACC this season. They may crash at the end when they face Clemson, NC State, and Kentucky to close the season, but they could get some attention before then. Their only road games before coming to Clemson are at Syracuse, UCF, Boston College, and Virginia. It may be a ranked matchup in Death Valley.
Of course, the AP poll is technically meaningless, but it does help set the narratives that make college football unique and special so while we don’t need to fret over each spot, it’s just another thing we can enjoy debating as we anxiously await real college football games in a few weeks.