College football rankings: Penn State, Georgia rise; Clemson, Washington drop in new AP Top 25
We knew the storm would hit. It was just a matter of when.
When the dust settled, Week 7 was one of the craziest we’ve seen in college football in a long, long time.
Where to begin? Two new teams – No. 4 TCU and No. 5 Wisconsin – enter the top five after Clemson’s loss to Syracuse and Washington’s loss to Arizona State. No. 2 Penn State and No. 3 Georgia were the beneficiaries of the Tigers’ upset.
Nobody saw the Tigers' fall coming. Alabama has been ranked first all season, but Clemson looked like a No. 1-caliber team. Its defense was otherworldly, and while its offense wasn’t as explosive as it was in the Deshaun Watson era, it got the job done.
But starting quarterback Kelly Bryant got hurt on Friday night, and Clemson struggled. Give it up for Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey, too – he hung 27 points on a Tiger defense that made Lamar Jackson look like just another guy and suffocated other attacks.
Clemson is now ranked seventh. Disappointing, sure. But no College Football Playoff champion has ever gone undefeated. The loss happened early enough for the Tigers to beef up the resume in November and December. Clemson is still the highest-ranked ACC school.
Still, had someone told you going into the season that the Tigers would have one loss after Week 7 – and it would be to Syracuse – they would have thought you were crazy. As it turned out, Friday night set the stage for even more wildness through the weekend.
This year’s Apple Cup had the potential to feature two undefeated teams in Washington and Washington State. The Huskies and the Cougars looked dynamite coming into Week 7. Wazzu notched huge back-to-back wins against USC and Oregon, while Washington hadn’t really been challenged.
This weekend, the two schools lost and combined to score 10 points. Washington is now ranked 12th; Washington State is 15th. No. 11 USC is the highest-ranked Pac-12 team. Its Playoff hopes aren’t toast, but the outlook is bleak.
Meanwhile, the SEC has to be loving these rankings. Alabama appears to be immune to the upset bug, as it smothered Arkansas while peering down at the chaos happening around the country. Same with Georgia, coached by Nick Saban understudy Kirby Smart.
Given how the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs have played thus far, it’s hard to see them losing before their likely SEC Championship matchup. Then again, we said the same thing about Clemson. And Oklahoma. And Washington. There may not be a conceivable loss on Alabama or Georgia’s schedule. Based on what we’ve seen, that may not matter. The SEC has a great chance to send two schools to the Playoff, but this thing is far from over.
Is there a chance we get two SEC teams and two Big Ten teams in the CFP? It may seem far-fetched, but look at the rankings. Five of the top six schools are in those conferences; TCU is the lone exception. If the Horned Frogs slip up, we could see an all Big Ten-SEC top five. Penn State looks good. So does Wisconsin. Ohio State lost early – and if you’re going to lose, it’s in your best interest to do so in September. We stopped talking about the Buckeyes for a while after they sputtered against Oklahoma.
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Here’s how crazy this week was: No. 8 Miami (Fla.) moved up three spots with a one-point win over Georgia Tech. No. 13 Notre Dame moved up three spots and didn't play. ND will likely crack the top 10 if it can handle USC at home in Week 8. The Fighting Irish’s lone loss, Georgia, is looking better and better. If you’re looking at teams 10 through 15, Notre Dame might inspire the most confidence to make a Playoff run. We don’t know what’s going on in the Pac-12. No. 14 Virginia Tech is solid, but the Hokies don’t have a particularly high ceiling.
Don’t be surprised if Notre Dame makes a run. The running game is awesome, and the defense is good. The quarterback spot is a question mark, sure. But the Irish have athletes at that spot, despite their lack of pocket precision. They’re playmakers. Keep an eye on them.
West Virginia, LSU and Memphis joined the rankings this week as teams 23, 24 and 25, in that order. The AAC has three teams in the AP Poll. Given the craziness of some of the power conferences, it makes sense. South Florida and UCF are legit, too.
One of the best things about college football? No matchup is safe. We might get the expected outcome in 95 percent of Alabama and Clemson’s games.
But you have to watch every week, because you never know when that five percent will pop up. It did this week. Whether or not the rest of the season goes chalk, or if it features more crazy upsets, weeks like this one keep us on our toes.
What a weekend it was.