AP poll reaction: What's next for each Top 25 team

ByESPN Staff ESPN logo
Sunday, September 29, 2019

The AP Top 25 college football poll is out and there's a shakeup at the top, with Alabama taking the No. 1 spot from Clemson. Here's what you need to know for each Top 25 team moving forward.

What's next for each Top 25 team

No. 1 Alabama

Alabama: Oh, you thought it was just Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs starring at receiver for Alabama? Think again. DeVonta Smith, who caught the winning pass in the national championship game following the 2017 season only to go under the radar in 2018, is back with a vengeance. Against Ole Miss on Saturday, Smith was unstoppable, setting school records with 274 receiving yards and five touchdowns, reminding everyone how ridiculously deep this receiving corps goes. -- Alex Scarborough

No. 2 Clemson

If the Tigers learned one thing in their closer-than-expected victory at North Carolina, it is this: The ACC might be the weakest among the Power 5 conferences, but they cannot afford to take anyone for granted. For vast stretches of Saturday's game, Clemson looked completely out of sorts on offense, and its usually strong offensive line looked lost -- with six pre-snap penalties often killing drives. The line had a major impact on the ground game too, as the only effective running plays involved quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Meanwhile, the offense failed to produce many explosive plays, and Lawrence -- who has been up and down all season long -- did not make the case that he is gaining more consistency. Failing to generate much of anything with their playmakers has to be a concern headed into the open week. Opposing teams now have a blueprint from North Carolina defensive coordinator Jay Bateman, who outmaneuvered Clemson and had a better day than counterpart Brent Venables. -- Andrea Adelson

No. 3 Georgia

The Dawgs are coming off of a well-timed open date, following a tough, physical win over Notre Dame. The top of the Power Rankings are laden with SEC teams, and Kirby Smart's club has been as impressive as anyone with its physicality on both lines of scrimmage despite some injuries in the offensive line. And when you have an experienced quarterback playing with the poise and efficiency that Jake Fromm has since he arrived on campus, that's all the more heartening for the Dawgs, as they very likely are looking at a 7-0 start heading into the Florida game on Nov. 2. -- Chris Low

No. 4 Ohio State

Lopsided losses at Big Ten West stadiums kept Ohio State out of the playoff the past two seasons. The Buckeyes' blowout victory at Nebraska, meanwhile, validates their status as a playoff contender and one of the nation's most impressive teams during the season's first month. Transfer quarterback Justin Fields continues to thrive in coach Ryan Day's offense, as the Buckeyes' big-play, balanced attack flourishes behind a formidable line. While Fields boosted his Heisman Trophy candidacy with 284 total yards and four touchdowns (three pass, one rush), Ohio State's dramatically improved defense might be the team's most positive development. Jeff Okudah, Chase Young and the Buckeyes bullied Adrian Martinez and the Nebraska offense for nearly three quarters. The rest of the Big Ten should be very concerned. -- Adam Rittenberg

No. 5 LSU

Now we know the secret to slowing down Joe Burrow and an LSU offense that has put up at least 45 points in each of its first four tilts: an off week. The Tigers scored 231 points in their first four wins before getting this week off. Burrow already has thrown 17 touchdown passes. For perspective, in the previous five seasons, LSU as a team never threw more than 17 touchdown passes the entire season. Ed Orgeron promised that this LSU offense would be different, but did anybody see this coming? -- Chris Low

No. 6 Oklahoma

The Sooners weren't challenged on Saturday by Texas Tech, and from the looks of it, they won't be until they meet Texas in the Red River Showdown on Oct. 12. That will be the true test for where this Oklahoma team is. Until then, Jalen Hurts will continue to rack up Heisman-like statistics, and the defense will continue to look improved under new coordinator Alex Grinch. -- Sam Khan Jr.

No. 7 Auburn

Auburn is undefeated entering October, with two victories against ranked opponents. The Tigers manhandled Mississippi State and again showcased a stingy rushing defense. True freshman Bo Nix continues to methodically manage the offense with minimal mistakes. The next three games are on the road, but the Tigers can't look beyond Saturday at Florida. ESPN's FPI gives Auburn a 47.3% chance to win. -- Heather Dinich

No. 8 Wisconsin

Nothing came easily for the Badgers, who needed two defensive touchdowns, but Wisconsin is undefeated heading into October. Heisman hopeful running back Jonathan Taylor had another 100-yard game, but the defense was what stood out. The Badgers finished the month ranking in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They have to take advantage of home field against Kent State and Michigan State, as four of their final six games are on the road. -- Heather Dinich

No. 9 Notre Dame

Notre Dame's playoff chances still are alive after a victory against Virginia. The Fighting Irish's defense gave up 235 passing yards in the first half but came up big with two fumble recoveries -- one returned for a touchdown -- and an interception in the second half to help seal the victory. Notre Dame was looking to establish the run and managed four touchdowns on the ground in an improved performance. Despite that production, there still is some work to be done in the rushing attack if Notre Dame wants to make another run at the playoff.

No. 10 Florida

Towson wasn't going to provide much challenge for Florida on Saturday, but it was another data point suggesting the Gators are in good hands with quarterbackKyle Trask, who opened the tilt 15-of-15 passing, extending his two-game streak to 18 straight completions and breaking a school record. With Auburn, LSU and Georgia coming up among Florida's next four foes, however, the job is about to get much tougher for Trask. -- David Hale

No. 11 Texas

It's way too early to eliminate Texas from the College Football Playoff equation, especially if LSU goes on to win the SEC championship. The Longhorns, coming off an open date, need to take care of their business, which they did two weeks earlier in a key home win against Oklahoma State. They go on the road next week against West Virginia, and then comes the annual showdown with Oklahoma. In what is quickly shaping up as the year of the quarterback in college football, don't forget about Sam Ehlinger. He has accounted for 16 touchdowns and thrown just one interception in his first four games. -- Chris Low

No. 12 Penn State

The Nittany Lions thoroughly embarrassed host Maryland in front of a sellout crowd Friday night, showing that the Big Ten East could run deeper than Ohio State. Could. Penn State's status as a contender won't be revealed until October, when the Nittany Lions play three consecutive ranked opponents: No. 14 Iowa, No. 20 Michigan and No. 25 Michigan State. The only game left they're not favored to win? Nov. 23 at Ohio State. -- Heather Dinich

No. 13 Oregon

The Ducks were off after a much-needed road win at Stanford the weekend before, their first conference road victory outside the state since a year ago when they beat Cal. Their next two games are at home against Cal and Colorado, before a key road trip to Washington on Oct. 19. The bye week might help the Ducks get freshman receiver Mycah Pittman back. He was the talk of the preseason until injuring his shoulder, and he was able to return to practice this past week.- Chris Low

No. 14 Iowa

Iowa had too many athletes for Middle Tennessee's defense to handle, and the Hawkeyes spread the ball to a lot of them. Nate Stanley averaged more than 16 yards per completion, a trio of Iowa running backs averaged 8.6 yards per carry and if you're into the transitive property, the Hawkeyes handled the Blue Raiders far better than next weekend's opponent -- Michigan -- did. Now comes a trip to Ann Arbor that could define both teams' respective seasons. -- Bill Connelly

No. 15 Washington

It's not too early to start looking forward to Oct. 19, when Washington will host Oregon in a matchup that could decide the Pac-12 North. The Huskies have road trips to Stanford and Arizona before then, but neither figures to be much of a hurdle based on what we've seen so far. Since a shaky performance against Cal in the middle of the night following a lightning storm, quarterback Jacob Eason has been an efficient, calming presence. -- Kyle Bonagura

No. 16 Boise State

The Broncos were off after opening the Mountain West Conference part of their schedule the week before with a 30-19 win over Air Force, albeit a costly one. Sophomore middle linebacker Ezekiel Noa, the team's leading tackler, tore his ACL and broke his wrist, and he will miss the rest of the season.-- Chris Low

No. 17 Utah

Utah is the latest example of how different teams in the Pac-12 can look week to week. After an uninspiring loss to USC, the Utes looked -- again -- like the type of complete team that has what it takes to win the conference title. They'll use the coming bye week to get healthier before returning to conference play at Oregon State, before what could be a huge game at home against Arizona State on Oct. 19. --Kyle Bonagura

No. 18 UCF

Maybe it's time for UCF to start a new winning streak. A week removed from its first regular-season loss in 27 games, UCF opened conference play with a 56-21 rout of UConn on Saturday at home. The Knights, with freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel throwing three first-half touchdowns, built a 42-0 halftime lead and never broke a sweat. They might be on the outside looking in when it comes to the College Football Playoff after falling at Pitt, but a New Year's Six bowl berth is still very much in play. -- Chris Low

No. 19 Michigan

The Wolverines got exactly what they needed: a convincing victory without further disaster. Michigan had faced criticism since its resounding defeat at Wisconsin last weekend but was able to get its stagnant offense moving -- albeit against a team that now has lost 14 straight conference games -- though not without another turnover. Wisconsin, Ohio State and Notre Dame all can benefit from Michigan improving and staying ranked, as theWolverines can affect all of their schedule strengths. -- Heather Dinich

No. 20 Arizona State

In a short week, Arizona State bounced back from a tough 34-31 loss to Colorado by going on the road and beating Cal 24-17 on Friday, as Eno Benjamin got untracked with three touchdowns. The Sun Devils will face a key home test against Washington State on Oct. 12. They already have two wins over ranked teams, counting the one over Michigan State. -- Chris Low

No. 21 Oklahoma State

The Cowboys were way undervalued in the preseason polls, but they have demonstrated during the first month of the campaign that they will be players in the Big 12 race. Mike Gundy's club bounced back nicely from its loss at Texas with a 26-13 home victory Saturday over previously unbeaten Kansas State. And if you haven't already had a chance to watch the running back/receiver combo of Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace play, do yourself a favor and set the DVR for Oklahoma State's next game. They combined for 441 yards from scrimmage in the win over the Wildcats. -- Chris Low

No. 22 Wake Forest

There aren't any so-called signature victories, but the Demon Deacons are 5-0 for the first time since 2006 after holding off Boston College for a 27-24 road victory on Saturday. That 2006 season was a special one for Wake Forest, which was rewarded with a trip to the Orange Bowl. The best thing the Demon Deacons have done this season is find ways to win. Three of their five W's have been by six points or fewer, and looking down the schedule, there could be a lot more victories coming. After an open date, the next three games are all at home -- against Louisville, Florida State and NC State. -- Chris Low

No. 23 Virginia

Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins had an excellent first half through the air, but the Irish's defense stifled the Cavaliers' offense in the second half. Virginia put up a good fight, but it isn't quite ready to put away a top-10 team on the road. Luckily for UVa, this was not a conference game, and its hopes for an ACC championship-game berth still are very much intact and realistic. -- Tom VanHaaren

No. 24 SMU

It has been a while -- more than three decades -- since SMU has started a season with this much momentum. The Mustangs raced out to a 41-0 lead on Saturday en route to a 48-21 road beatdown of South Florida. This is the first time SMU has been 5-0 since the 1983 season, when it was a member of the old Southwest Conference. Three of the five wins by SMU this season have come away from home. -- Chris Low

No. 25 Texas A&M

Here are two things we know about A&M-Arkansas games: They're going to be really close, and A&M's going to win. With 10 fourth-quarter points, the Aggies won their eighth straight in the series; but this was the fifth meeting in six years to be decided by one score. But hey, whatever -- survive and advance. Now 3-2, Texas A&M gets a bye week before hosting Alabama, its third top-10 opponent of the season. -- Bill Connelly

Honoring a Huskers family

After she was selected to appear on GameDay, Omaha native Gabrielle Union asked her Twitter followers whose jersey she should wear. Nebraska senior offensive lineman Christian Gaylord responded to the actress with a special request. To honor his father, Scott, who died in a car accident last week in Nebraska, he offered the jersey his dad wore in the stands during Christian's games.

Week 5's best

Fastest punter ever

Western Carolina's Caleb Ferguson has punted 12 times for the Catamounts over the past two seasons, but he is listed on the roster as a running back. When his number was called on a fake punt, he showed why, scoring on a 69-yard run.

Polar bears have to like this atmosphere

Up in Havre, Montana (about 35 miles south of the Canadian border), the Montana Tech Orediggers took on the Montana State-Northern Lights. While the Diggers have beaten the Lights by a 147-28 margin over the past two seasons, you gotta play the game. Even if it looks like this on the field.

Our new celebration overlords

Cheerleaders and mascots of the world, take notice. Virginia Tech already has a robot ready to take your place in the world of post-score celebratory pushups.

That's a spicy nugget

Spotted on Union Bay outside Husky Stadium in Seattle: what appears to be a floating fast-food establishment. Wendy's replied, confirming it is operational and does have a "sail-thru."

Everything old is new again

For its Sun Belt opener against Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State wore helmets featuring its mascot, Yosef, which is a caricature that dates to 1942. According to App State: "Yosef is mountain talk for 'yourself,' with the idea being that if you are an Appalachian alumnus, fan or friend and have a heart filled with black and gold, you are Yosef."

Bully won't be bullied

Mississippi State might have given up three unanswered touchdowns to Auburn to start the game, but the Bulldogs -- especially Jak (Bully XXI) -- will not give up without a fight. JaTarvious Whitlow scored a 30-yard touchdown rush on Auburn's first play from scrimmage, ending his run by sliding out of the end zone and directly into Jak.

But the Mississippi State mascot bounced right up and made sure to tell everyone he was OK.

Saturday's inspiration

Casey O'Brien has defeated osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, four times and is defying the odds again by playing football for the Golden Gophers.

Related Video