AP Top 25 college football poll reaction: What's next for each ranked team?

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The AP Top 25 college football poll is out, and with the Big Ten now playing, there was bound to be some movement. Here's what's next for each team in the rankings.

No. 1 Clemson (6-0)

Enough was made about Clemson "only" beating Syracuse by 26 points. The Tigers remain elite and on course for yet another College Football Playoff appearance, but there was one point both Dabo Swinney and Trevor Lawrence made that stands out. As the schedule gets tougher, Clemson cannot afford the types of mistakes it made across the board. Its offensive line needs to produce better push in the run game. Special teams needs to be better. Watch for the offense in particular to work on its rhythm and precision next week against a vastly improved Boston College team. -- Andrea Adelson

No. 2 Alabama (5-0)

A 5-0 start is great, but Alabama is hurting after the loss of Jaylen Waddle to a season-ending ankle injury. Waddle was one of the best playmakers in the country, whether at receiver or in the return game. And you can't make up for that with just one player. The good news is that Alabama and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian have multiple pieces to work with. One is John Metchie III, who was already on his way to a breakout season, with three touchdowns this season. Another is Slade Bolden, who is an all-purpose threat himself with the ability to play receiver, Wildcat QB and return kicks. -- Alex Scarborough

No. 3 Ohio State (1-0)

Coach Ryan Day came away pleased with his team's opening performance, especially the defensive adjustments that limited Nebraska to three second-half points. The run game will be a focal point heading to Penn State, as Ohio State aims to defend it better (Nebraska averaged 5.8 yards per carry) and diversify more on offense, as quarterback Justin Fields led the team in both carries (15) and yards (54). The Buckeyes won't see the Whiteout and a packed Beaver Stadium this week, but they will need Fields and a dynamic receiving corps, led by Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, to make big plays against a PSU defense missing superstar linebacker Micah Parsons. --Adam Rittenberg

No. 4 Notre Dame (5-0)

The Irish know Clemson is coming, just two weeks away. Coach Brian Kelly last week challenged his team to "elevate our compete level." That meant a fearless approach and more big plays, especially in the passing game. Wideouts Ben Skowronek and Javon McKinley were among five players to record receptions of 20 yards or longer against Pitt. Defensive coordinator Clark Lea's defense is improving each week, but Kelly knows Notre Dame won't challenge for championships without a more balanced, dynamic offense. "We needed to get this football team to understand that they're really good," he said. -- Adam Rittenberg

No. 5 Georgia (3-1)

The bye week came at the right time after Georgia was shut out by Alabama in the second half a week ago. It was clear coming out of that game that changes needed to be made, but the question heading into a difficult road trip at Kentucky is how drastic will those changes be? Coach Kirby Smart said he plans to stick with quarterback Stetson Bennett after tossing three interceptions against Alabama, but how long a leash will he have? Smart indicated that JT Daniels, the talented USC transfer, is coming on. Daniels is getting work every day in practice and his mobility is improving.-- Alex Scarborough

No. 6 Oklahoma State (4-0)

The Cowboys have not been perfect, but they've been solid, and their win Saturday over Iowa State was their best to date. Their defense continues to excel (12 points per game allowed); it's been one of the underrated storylines of the season, especially considering how much preseason attention the offensive skill trio of Spencer Sanders, Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace received. The upcoming three-game stretch for the Pokes (vs. Texas, at K-State, at Oklahoma) is huge. -- Sam Khan Jr.

No. 7 Cincinnati (4-0)

After knocking off SMU, the Bearcats are the clear favorite to emerge from the Group of 5 and play in a New Year's Six bowl and at some point soon it could be worth discussing whether an undefeated Cincinnati team would be worthy of a spot in the College Football Playoff. First, though, the Bearcats have what should be an interesting test at home against Memphis. -- Kyle Bonagura

No. 8 Texas A&M (3-1)

Every game remaining on the Aggies' schedule looks like a winnable one. The question is, whether they can be consistent enough to actually run the table. Their next test is actually no cakewalk; Sam Pittman's Arkansas squad is a missed spike call away from being 3-1. Texas A&M has yet to lose to the Razorbacks since joining the SEC, though, and unlike the last six meetings, this one will be at home, not at neutral site AT&T Stadium. Big week ahead for Jimbo Fisher's team. -- Khan

No. 9 Wisconsin (1-0)

Quarterback Graham Mertz was incredible for Wisconsin, and the Badgers have a legitimate passing threat with Mertz and tight end Jake Ferguson. The run game, however, is something that needs to improve. We're so used to seeing the Badgers pound the ball and have success on the ground, but it wasn't as impressive as it usually is. This team can't be one-dimensional going forward if it's going to compete for the conference championship and try to make it into the College Football Playoff. Given the past success at the position, that shouldn't be a concern. -- Tom VanHaaren

No. 10 Florida (2-1)

The Gators plan to resume practice Monday, but how many players will be available remains a big question. Athletic director Scott Stricklin revealed that the entire team has been in quarantine since a coronavirus outbreak following the Texas A&M game. With more than 20 players testing positive, in addition to Dan Mullen and at least two others on the coaching staff, nobody knows what to expect when they are able to resume practice. But no matter what shape the roster is in as the team prepares for Missouri, the priority absolutely has to be fixing the porous defense. -- Andrea Adelson

No. 11 BYU (6-0)

The Cougars haven't finished a season ranked inside the top 10 since 1996. Is this the year that changes? With four games left on the schedule, the Cougars are on pace for a New Year's Six bowl and will be in the College Football Playoff conversation as long as they have a zero in the loss column. It's easy to wonder how this team would have looked against the challenging schedule they were supposed to have, but that shouldn't take away from how good BYU has been. -- Bonagura

No. 12 Miami (5-1)

While it's clear this Miami team is good, it's hard to say with any confidence after the last three weeks this is a top-10 caliber team. But 5-1 is 5-1, and considering that the loss came to Clemson, Miami is in as good a position as it could have realistically hoped to be in. The lack of a consistent running game to go with standout quarterback D'Eriq King is a concern headed into this week's game against NC State. -- Bonagura

No. 13 Michigan (1-0)

The Wolverines were as confident on offense on the road as they have been in a long time. Quarterback Joe Milton's debut was a success, and the Wolverines got a big opening win on the road against Minnesota. This was the start Michigan needed, and now the team has a struggling Michigan State team to play before taking on Indiana and Wisconsin. Getting off to a good start was crucial to set the tone for this season. It could help give all the new faces on both offense and defense some confidence once they get to the teeth of this schedule. -- Tom VanHaaren

No. 14 Oregon (0-0)

The Ducks look ahead to another weekend at home and needed to cancel practice Saturday after five players tested positive for COVID-19. Oregon remains the de facto favorite in the Pac-12, but it could get to the middle of November and there still might not be a good read on the Ducks. -- Bonagura

No. 15 North Carolina (4-1)

It is hard not to imagine what could have been had the Tar Heels played a better first half against Florida State a few weeks ago. But nonetheless, North Carolina remains in the hunt for a spot in the ACC championship game thanks, once again, to its underrated running game and unheralded duo of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter. But the defense came up big, too, forcing four turnovers and stopping the NC State running game. That defensive improvement needs to continue on in the second half of the season, starting Saturday against Virginia. -- Andrea Adelson

No. 16 Kansas State (4-1)

After winning their first three Big 12 games by a combined 20 points, K-State got to stretch its blowout legs in an easy win over Kansas. Freshman quarterback Will Howard found his form again after a tough outing against TCU, and Deuce Vaughn further proved himself as one of the best Swiss army knives in college football (he now has 309 rushing yards and 360 receiving yards). Now the tests begin in rapid-fire -- three of KSU's first four wins were against the bottom three teams in the conference, but the next three opponents are currently second, third and tied-for-fourth. -- Bill Connelly

No. 17 Indiana (1-0)

When it looked as if there might not be a Big Ten season back in the summer, nobody was lamenting how unfortunate it was that Indiana wouldn't have a chance to factor into the race. Well, hello Hoosiers. In the game of the season so far, Indiana staged a miraculous drive in the final minutes of regulation to tie the score and then won 36-35 in overtime against No. 8 Penn State. It was the Hoosiers' first win over an AP top-10 team since 1987, snapping a 42-game losing streak against top-10 opponents. -- Chris Low

No. 18 Penn State (0-1)

James Franklin's Nittany Lions lost to Indiana in just about the most heartbreaking way imaginableSaturday, and now they must prepare to face Ohio State next Saturday in Happy Valley. They must not only move on emotionally but also immediately fix the mental errors and miscues that led to their demise in Bloomington. They outgained the Hoosiers by nearly 300 yards, but penalties, turnovers and special-teams mistakes set the table for the wild final minutes. After only their second loss to an unranked team in the last four calendar years, next up is the most highly ranked team in the Big Ten. -- Bill Connelly

No. 19 Marshall (5-0)

Marshall doesn't have to be great to finish unbeaten, but the Herd probably have to be better than what they showed against FAU on Saturday. The offense scored just once in its first seven possessions and turned the ball over twice before rallying for 13 points down the stretch, but luckily they have the best defense in maybe the entire Group of 5. They are allowing 9.4 points per game, and that should get them most of the way toward their first Conference USA title since 2014. -- Bill Connelly

No. 20 Coastal Carolina (5-0)

The Chants have to feel good coming out of this week, winning against a solid opponent in Georgia Southern without its starting quarterback Grayson McCall. Fred Payton played in his place, throwing for 252 yards, three touchdowns, but with a pair of interceptions. Payton may end up being the starter next week against Georgia State as well, who have played everybody close this season, win or loss. -- Harry Lyles Jr.

No. 21 USC (0-0)

Had quarterback Kedon Slovis had a full season to work with, he might have made a run at some USC passing records. That's largely due to the offense employed by coordinator Graham Harrell, but Slovis has the talent to be one of the best quarterbacks in college football. -- Bonagura

No. 22 SMU (5-1)

The final score feels a bit harsh considering Cincinnati scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes, but that doesn't change the fact that SMU's attempt at running the table is over. This is still a team that could win out and get to 10 victories in the regular season, starting next week against Navy.-- Bonagura

No. 23 Iowa State (3-2)

The Cyclones took it on the chin in Stillwater as Oklahoma State kept Brock Purdy in check, but this is still a good team. A road game at Kansas next week gives the Cyclones a good chance to bounce back, and a Nov. 7 home date with Baylor could be a chance to string together two in a row and keep them in the hunt for a Big 12 title game berth. -- Khan

No. 24 Oklahoma (3-2)

The Sooners jumped out to a 30-7 lead and made that stand up Saturday in a 33-14 road win at TCU to stay alive in the Big 12 race. As much as anything, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley had to like the Sooners' balance on offense. They had a 300-yard passer with Spencer Rattler throwing for 332 yards and two touchdowns along with a 100-yard rusher (T.J. Pledger, 122 yards) and a 100-yard receiver (Marvin Mims, 132 yards).-- Low

No. 25 Boise State (1-0)

The Big Ten wasn't the only conference opening play this weekend. The Mountain West also cranked it back up, and the Broncos were impressive in a 42-13 blowout win over Utah State on the blue turf in front of no fans. Quarterback Hank Bachmeier, who was plagued by injuries a year ago, threw three touchdown passes as Boise State raced out to a 28-0 halftime lead. Boise State's defense held Utah State to 45 total yards in the first half, and the Broncos certainly looked the part of the preseason favorite to win the Mountain West. -- Low

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