College football rankings: Week-by-week FBS, FCS, DII football and DIII football polls
Curious to see where your favorite team started in the polls and where it lies now?
Look no further. For every level of college football (FBS, FCS, Division II and Division III), below is a list of every poll from the 2016 season. We'll update these charts each time a new poll hits the press.
|Week||No. 1 team||Highest riser|
|Week 2||Alabama||Georgia (+9)|
|Week 3||Alabama||Louisville/Iowa (+3)|
|Week 4||Alabama||Miami (Fla.) (+10)|
|Week 5||Alabama||Ole Miss (+7)|
|Week 6||Alabama||Washington (+5)|
|Week 7||Alabama||Florida State (+9)|
|Week 8||Alabama||West Virginia (+8)|
|Week 9||Alabama||Auburn (+6)|
|Week 10||Alabama||Auburn, LSU (+4)|
|Week 11||Alabama||Penn State (+8)|
|Week 12||Alabama||USC (+10)|
|Week 13||Alabama||Florida (+8)|
|Week 14||Alabama||West Virginia (+5)|
|Week||No. 1 team||Highest riser|
|Preseason||North Dakota State||N/A|
|Week 2||North Dakota State||Eastern Washington (+9)|
|Week 3||North Dakota State||Montana (+6)|
|Week 4||North Dakota State||William & Mary (+6)|
|Week 5||North Dakota State||Western Illinois (+5)|
|Week 6||North Dakota State||North Carolina A&T (+5)|
|Week 7||North Dakota State||Eastern Illinois (+3)|
|Week 8||Sam Houston State||Central Arkansas (+4)|
|Week 9||Sam Houston State||N. Dakota/Villanova (+4)|
|Week 10||Sam Houston State||Lehigh (+3)|
|Week 11||Sam Houston State||Central Arkansas (+4)|
|Week 12||Sam Houston State||North Carolina Central (+5)|
|Week 13||Sam Houston State||Villanova (+4)|
|Week||No. 1 team||Highest riser|
|Preseason||Northwest Missouri State||N/A|
|Week 2||Northwest Missouri State||Colorado School of Mines (+7)|
|Week 3||Northwest Missouri State||Azusa Pacific (+8)|
|Week 4||Northwest Missouri State||Colorado Mesa (+5)|
|Week 5||Northwest Missouri State||California (Pa.) (+9)|
|Week 6||Northwest Missouri State||California (Pa.) (+8)|
|Week 7||Northwest Missouri State||Wayne State (+3)|
|Week 8||Northwest Missouri State||North Alabama (+4)|
|Week 9||Northwest Missouri State||Tuskegee (+3)|
|Week 10||Northwest Missouri State||Multiple teams (+1)|
|Week 11||Northwest Missouri State||Newberry (S.C.) (+5)|
|Week||No. 1 Team||Highest Riser|
|Week 2||Mount Union||Delaware Valley (+11)|
|Week 3||Mount Union||St. John Fisher (+3)|
|Week 4||Mount Union||St. John Fisher (+5)|
|Week 5||Mount Union||St. Lawrence (+4)|
|Week 6||Mount Union||Rowan (+2)|
|Week 7||Mount Union||St. John's (Minn.) (+2)|
|Week 8||Mount Union||Wheaton (Ill.) (+2)|
|Week 9||Mount Union||Case Western Reserve (+2)|
|Week 10||Mount Union||John Carroll (Ohio) (+4)|
|Week 11||Wisconsin-Whitewater||John Carroll (Ohio) +8|
WEEK 11 FBS POLL REACTION
A few spots in the rankings can make all the difference in a sport like college football.
Clemson, Michigan and Washington each suffered devastating losses on Saturday, and while all three of them still lie in the top seven of the Week 12 AP Poll, their tumbles are troubling.
Here’s what we know: After the first seven, the rankings kind of fall off a cliff. No disrespect Oklahoma fans, your team has been outstanding lately. But while these teams’ drops are slight, all are significant. There’s no need to bed wet just yet -- the Tigers, Wolverines and Huskies can still make the College Football Playoff; in fact, Clemson and Michigan control their respective destinies.
These teams played so well at the beginning of the season that they could afford to drop a game against an unheralded opponent and still seek a national championship. Good on them, but their margins for error just evaporated. Washington, meanwhile, will need to root for chaos at the top just like the other schools on the outside looking in; of the three big losses last night, UW’s appears to be the most damaging.
And that’s enough negativity for this column. Welcome to the top four, Ohio State Buckeyes and Louisville Cardinals! And, of course, this guy:
The Cardinals absolutely exploded on Wake Forest in the fourth quarter Saturday after a sluggish start, and they find themselves ranked third in the Week 12 poll. We’ll see what the College Football Playoff rankings look like on Tuesday – Clemson and Louisville each have one loss, but the Tigers hold the head-to-head edge, and they’ll likely earn the right to play in the ACC title game. But make no mistake: the team that benefits most from Saturday’s roller-coaster is Louisville. There’s a good chance we see two ACC teams make the Playoff this season.
Outside of the ACC, the Big Ten finds itself in a really interesting spot, as it has three teams ranked in the top six and four inside of the top nine. Wisconsin might even control its own destiny now; granted, knocking off the Buckeyes or the Wolverines in the Big Ten title game would be no easy task, but don’t put it past the No. 6 Badgers.
Meanwhile, with Michigan’s loss in Iowa City on Saturday night, the battle between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines two days after Thanksgiving takes on a different dynamic.
Assuming Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State take care of business next week, a Wolverines win in Columbus would send them to the Big Ten championship game. An Ohio State win would clinch an appearance for… Penn State?
Yep. Both Penn State and Ohio State sit at 6-1 in conference play right now, and the Nittany Lions hold the tiebreaker thanks to their head-to-head triumph. Here are their remaining schedules.
If Ohio State beats Michigan, Penn State will be doing cartwheels. And you’d have to think the Buckeyes still get in a semifinal game with this scenario; there’s a reasonable chance the Big Ten sends multiple teams to the College Football Playoff, and Michigan might not be one of them. That was hard to imagine as recently as Friday.
A bit further down the rankings, Oklahoma continues to impress; the Sooners don’t have a real path to the top four that doesn’t include complete chaos, but stranger things have happened. No. 11 Utah continues to be the best team that nobody talks about. No. 15 USC could crack the top 10 before all is said and done, and No. 12 Colorado deserves major props for its massive turnaround as a program.
College football is many things, but boring is not one of them. It feels like we’re in for a wild finish.
Ohio State thrashed Nebraska by 59 points on Saturday evening, yet the Buckeyes remain at No. 6 in the AP Poll. Perhaps the Week 11 rankings tell us more about what the voters thought of the Cornhuskers than the team that blew them out of The Horseshoe.
Nebraska fell a whopping 12 spots in the college football rankings after no-showing against Ohio State, and while Buckeye fans may be salty about standing pat after a statement win, ask yourselves this: does it really matter?
As the weeks go by, Ohio State-Michigan on Nov. 26 is looking more and more like a CFP play-in game. If anything, after a few uninspiring outings, Buckeye fans should be ecstatic that their squad looked like a Playoff team for the first time in weeks.
That matters. The Ohio State team that sputtered against Penn State and Northwestern was never beating Michigan; the Ohio State team that showed up against Nebraska probably was. Also, the Wolverines have to travel to Columbus the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The Buckeyes are sitting in a prime position.
Elsewhere around the country, the story of Week 10 was Texas A&M falling against Mississippi State. It raised more than a few eyebrows when the College Football Playoff committee ranked the Aggies fourth in its first 2016 poll (Texas A&M was ranked seventh in last week’s AP Poll).
That won’t last long. Texas A&M fell to No. 10 this week, and it could drop even further in the next CFP rankings. With LSU’s loss and the Iron Bowl still looming, the Aggies likely squandered any chance the SEC had to punch two tickets the Playoff. It was fun while it lasted.
With that said, one conference’s doom and gloom is another’s gain. Washington is the obvious beneficiary of Texas A&M’s loss, but is Oklahoma rising from the dead right before our eyes?
The Sooners shot up to No. 9 in the Week 11 rankings, and considering their 1-2 start, they have to be quite pleased. It’s better to lose early in the season than to lose late in the season, and Oklahoma is living proof. At the very least, two top-eight teams will fall before the end of the regular season (Ohio State plays Michigan; Alabama plays Auburn). Washington has given us little reason to doubt it in 2016, but if the Huskies somehow wither down the stretch, Bob Stoops could sneak into the College Football Playoff once again. Unlikely, sure, but the fact that it’s even in play at this point is remarkable.
For your weekly Group of Five watch, here’s what you need to know: Western Michigan is ranked No. 14. I repeat, Western Michigan is ranked No. 14. Could the Broncos crack the top-10 by the end of the year? It’s absolutely possible. Good on P.J. Fleck, and good on the entire Western Michigan program. It’s stories like the Broncos that make college football so fun.
A final team that sticks out in this week’s rankings is Penn State. The Nittany Lions were ranked eight spots higher in the first CFP rankings than the Week 10 AP Poll, but the AP seems to have caught up. Penn State shot up eight spots in the Week 11 Poll, and it now has the same ranking in each list.
The Nittany Lions have a very real chance to reach the Rose Bowl. Considering James Franklin’s seat temperature this time last year (one might say it was, for a lack of a better term, “hot,”) good for Penn State. It looks like the Lions are turning the corner on the field after a big win against Iowa.
WEEK 10 FBS POLL REACTION
Just win, baby.
That’s the lesson we can glean from the Week 10 AP Poll. Hardly revolutionary, but true nonetheless.
Three top-10 teams from last week’s rankings lost on Saturday, and as a result, two new schools joined the elite of the elite. Meanwhile, Clemson and Louisville, despite winning ugly…. well, won. And that’s what matters. This late into the college football season, style points don’t mean as much as they did early in the year. Survive and advance. That’s the objective.
Louisville needed late heroics from Lamar Jackson in order to beat an underwhelming Virginia squad, while Clemson allowed Dalvin Cook to run wild but still found a way to defeat Florida State. Neither team budged in the Week 10 rankings, and that’s a boon to the ACC’s playoff hopes. Barring a monumental collapse from the Cardinals and the Tigers, the ACC should be represented in the College Football Playoff.
Speaking of which, with the first Playoff rankings set to be released on Tuesday, it’s time to start thinking about potential scenarios. Plenty happened in Week 9; four previous unbeatens lost, all of whom likely needed to run the table in order to have realistic national title hopes. Two of those schools were from the Big 12: West Virginia and Baylor. Their semifinal dreams aren’t doomed, but they’ll need quite a few dominoes to fall their way near the top in order to have a chance to play for the championship.
Zoom out of the College Football Playoff race, and there is quite a bit of shuffling going on in the middle of the rankings. Florida State fell a whopping seven spots despite losing to the No. 3 team by three points. Undefeated Western Michigan keeps creeping on up; the Broncos are now the No. 17 team in the country. How far can they rise by the end of the season? LSU and Auburn, who both disappointed in September, are now top-15 teams; the latter is knocking on the top 10’s door. And Wisconsin, despite its two losses, finds itself ranked eighth with an inside track at the Big Ten West crown after a gritty win against Nebraska.
And without looking, can you guess who the top-ranked team in the Big 12 is?
RELATED: Week 9 helmet stickers
Why hello, Oklahoma. The Sooners jumped four spots after beating Kansas on Saturday night, and Baker Mayfield seems to have found his footing after a rocky start. OU’s two losses don’t look as defensible as they once did; Ohio State almost fell to Northwestern in Week 9 after a loss to Penn State in Week 8, and Houston appears to be unraveling. Regardless, the Sooners usually come on strong at the end of the season, and this year looks to be no different. With clashes against Baylor and West Virginia on the horizon, Bob Stoops’ squad controls its own destiny in the Big 12. Had you told someone that after Week 3, they would have looked at you like you had spinach in your teeth.
Despite the game of musical chairs that’s going on in the Big 12 (and outside of the top six, for that matter), the top teams in the country look solid. All are battle-tested, and all have tons of talent. As we kick into Playoff high-gear, the top-four teams in the Week 10 poll have a clear path to the semifinals, but feisty challengers loom on the outside.
What more can you ask for?
WEEK 9 FBS POLL REACTION
Another riveting Saturday of college football is in the books, and what happened in Week 8 directly affects the College Football Playoff landscape.
Ohio State entered last night’s game as the No. 2 team in the country, and it left Happy Valley with its first loss of the season. The Buckeyes fell to No. 6 in the Week 9 AP Poll – that’s certainly not ideal if you’re an Ohio State fan, but at the same time, this doesn’t qualify as a crisis. OSU still controls its own destiny. With that said, it’s quite obvious that the Baby Buckeyes haven’t looked like themselves in recent weeks, and Michigan is balling these days. Ohio State has to be thankful it gets the Wolverines at home on Nov. 26.
Even if Ohio State is slumping, take a look at the most recent poll and one thing pops out: there is a clear drop off after the top six teams in the country. With all due respect to No. 7 Nebraska, the Cornhuskers feel a lot like 2015 Iowa; their most impressive victory to date might be against Indiana. The Hoosiers are feisty, but it doesn’t feel like Nebraska is in the same class as the top six.
And make no mistake: the top six teams in America certainly aren’t flawless. We saw what can happen to Ohio State on an off night, and Clemson was lucky to escape North Carolina State last weekend. But Alabama, Michigan, Washington and Louisville are all excellent squads, and it’s hard to see teams 7-25 seriously competing with any of them for a Playoff spot.
Speaking of which, we still have two undefeated teams in the Big 12. No. 8 Baylor and No. 10 West Virginia have impressed this season, and they’re set to square off against each other on Dec. 3. Even if the winner of that matchup runs the table, does a Big 12 school have a realistic chance to make the College Football Playoff?
You can never rule it out, but it’s not looking too promising right now. The SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 will almost definitely each have a representative; right now, the Big 12 has to be rooting for Washington to stumble, because the other three conferences have at least two viable College Football Playoff options.
Lastly, a random SEC thought: at the beginning of the year, the ‘SEC is overrated' narrative reigned supreme. After last week, some said the SEC was actually underrated, and the public’s opinion just hadn’t adjusted itself quickly enough. Is it possible that the conference lies somewhere in between?
Alabama is awesome, and the SEC has a ton of depth; it has six schools ranked in the top 20. But perhaps that’s all you need to know about the SEC this season. It has one juggernaut, and beyond the Crimson Tide, it’s a league full of quality teams that aren’t quite strong enough to be considered national championship contenders. There’s nothing wrong with that. But when it comes to SEC narratives, it’s en vogue to take an extreme position one way or another.
Perhaps the truth is kind of boring. It has one great team, and while the rest of the league is solid, they’re still playing the same sport down south as they do in the rest of the country.
WEEK 8 FBS POLL REACTION
Two potential College Football Playoff teams were on the brink of losing on Saturday, but each did what great teams typically do: they found a way to prevail.
One of those squads, Ohio State, still sits at No. 2 in the Week 8 AP Poll. The other, Clemson, dropped from No. 3 to No. 4 after barely surviving against North Carolina State at home.
Dropping in the polls after a win certainly isn’t ideal, but zoom out for a second, and falling one spot is a minor fork in the road at worst and a non story at best. What is concerning, however, is Clemson’s inconsistent play this season. The Tigers are unblemished thus far, but it’s fair to wonder how much longer they can balance the on tight rope they’re currently walking. Deshaun Watson has been good, but he hasn’t been DESHAUN WATSON. *All-caps Watson was the guy we saw in national title game against Alabama, for those wondering.*
Clemson is going to need 2015 Watson to return if it wants to vie for the national championship.
Elsewhere in this week’s AP Poll, we learned that there is a tangible difference between a good loss and a bad loss. Case in point: Wisconsin nearly upended Ohio State at home on Saturday night before falling to the Buckeyes in an overtime thriller. The Badgers fell from No. 8 to No. 10 in the poll.
On the flip side, Tennessee got blown out at home by No. 1 Alabama by a score of 49-10. The Volunteers fell nine spots in this week’s rankings. Optics matter. The Badgers are the only two-loss team in the top 10, but their two hiccups are against Ohio State and Michigan. There’s no shame in that.
The Big 12 has been an afterthought as it pertains to the College Football Playoff picture this season, but it has two unbeaten teams in Baylor and West Virginia. The Bears are ranked No. 9 in this week’s poll; the Mountaineers are ranked No. 12. There is plenty of football left to play, but if one of these teams goes undefeated, it will be interesting to see what the committee does.
Here’s a scenario that’s not terribly far fetched: The winner of Ohio State-Michigan finishes the season undefeated, but the Buckeyes and Wolverines battle in a close game. Meanwhile, Baylor or West Virginia goes unbeaten. Who’s the committee choosing?
West Virginia turned heads in Week 7 when it manhandled the Texas Tech offense, holding Patrick Mahomes and company to 17 points. The Red Raiders can sleepwalk to 35 points against most Big 12 schools. The Mountaineers have a reasonable chance to run the table; their best remaining opponent is Baylor, and they get Oklahoma at home on Nov. 19. But at the moment, their strength of schedule pales in comparison to Ohio State’s or Michigan’s. So it’s tough to see the Big 12 making it into the College Football Playoff regardless of what happens at the top; right now, No. 5 Washington is still on the outside looking in, and the Huskies have been nothing short of incredible this season. The Big 12 is going to be rooting hard for upsets in the top five.
Lastly, here’s a Group of Five update: Houston is No. 11; Boise State is No. 14; Western Michigan is No. 20 and Navy is No. 24. If the Broncos continue to take care of business, how high can they rise in the rankings by the end of the season? P.J. Fleck has Western Michigan playing outstanding football and no team is going to want to face them come bowl season.
WEEK 7 FBS POLL REACTION
For the first time in program history, the Western Michigan Broncos are ranked in the AP Top 25, and P.J. Fleck’s squad is certainly deserving of the honor. The No. 24 Broncos are 2-0 against Big Ten teams (Northwestern and Illinois) and have taken care of business against MAC opponents in recent weeks. Quarterback Zach Terrell has been brilliant all season long — he’s averaging 9.79 yards per attempt in 2016 while tossing 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Western Michigan plays mistake-free football, but it’s also explosive. That’s a rare combination. The Broncos’ schedule is favorable the rest of the way, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them run the table.
RANKINGS: Week 7 AP Poll
Western Michigan and Navy (ranked 25th after upsetting Houston on Saturday) are the feel-good stories of the Week 7 AP Poll, but as it pertains to the College Football Playoff, here’s where we’re at: Washington is an extremely good team. And while the No. 5 Huskies didn’t make a dent in the poll this week despite thrashing Oregon by a score of 70-21, it feels as though they control their own destiny.
Why? Because two of the teams above them play in the Big Ten East, and they will have to square off against each other on Nov. 26. Ohio State (No. 2) and Michigan (No. 4) will battle in what could serve as a College Football Playoff play-in game in Columbus, and if Washington goes unbeaten, it should snag the loser’s spot. Alabama and Clemson look outstanding as well, and at this point in the season, the top of the rankings look much more stable than they did last year.
With that said, there is a ton of football left to play, and a few teams made significant strides this past week. Florida State continued its dominance over rival Miami (Fla.), and the voters rewarded the Seminoles for their efforts. Jimbo Fisher’s crew jumped nine spots thanks to its gritty road win, and while the Noles are the third wheel in the ACC as of now, they can play themselves into a New Year's Six bowl with a strong second half.
Meanwhile, you have to feel for the Houston Cougars. Navy deserved to win on Saturday, but the Coogs had a real shot to capture a College Football Playoff berth with an undefeated season. All hope isn’t lost for Houston; it still has a chance to pick up a win against No. 7 Louisville later this season. But even if they beat the Cardinals, there’s no denying that the Cougars will need some help at the top in order to vie for the national championship.
Still, when one non-Power Five door closes, another usually opens. Boise State to the College Football Playoff, anyone?
The Broncos are a perfect 5-0 this season, and they jumped four spots to No. 15 in this week’s poll. Boise State doesn’t have any juggernauts left on its schedule, and that can be viewed as a blessing or a curse, depending on who you ask. The Broncos take on BYU on Oct. 20, and if they can prevail, they have a reasonable chance to go undefeated this season.
For many college football fans, now is a time to root for chaos. Usually, these people are fans of teams that no longer have a realistic shot at the Playoff. So here’s a fun scenario: Boise State goes undefeated, and the teams at the top of the rankings start to falter in the coming weeks. Then what happens?
We may never know, but it’s hard not to be curious. Buckle up. The rest of the season should be a blast.
WEEK 6 FBS POLL REACTION
When there’s three in-conference top 10 matchups highlighting a single weekend, you know you’re in for some gritty games and stunning finishes. It’s inevitable and fun to watch play out.
What comes the following day is equally unsurprising: changes among the top ranks, as detailed by the latest AP Top 25 poll.
Ever since Lamar Jackson first jumped onto the national stage merely one half and eight touchdowns into the season, the college football world looked forward to Week 5’s star-studded matchup between Louisville and Clemson.
And the top five battle sure did live up to the hype with the then-No. 5 Tigers rebounding from a late 19-0 run from the then-No. 3 Cardinals and coming up with a last-minute defensive stand in the red zone to knock off their division rivals.
In the latest poll, Clemson moves up to Louisville’s abandoned No. 3 spot — and picks up a first-place vote — while the Cardinals fall to No. 7. The four-spot drop provides plenty of leeway for the Cardinals to move back into the top five as the season progresses.
In Ann Arbor, another top 10 bout was settled as Michigan outlasted pesky Wisconsin 14-7. With the hard-fought win, the Wolverines stand pat at No. 4 while the Badgers and their elite defense dropped three spots to No. 11.
Holding Michigan’s high-scoring offense to just two touchdowns is quite the feat, which explains Wisconsin’s marginal slip in the rankings. However, its schedule doesn’t get any easier as it next hosts No. 2 Ohio State, who stayed put in its top-two ranking along with No. 1 Alabama.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t the best showing for the Pac-12 who saw two losses from its three ranked programs. However, one of those defeats came at the hands of the conference’s top dog now as Washington upended Stanford 44-6.
With the decisive victory, the Huskies ascended into the top five while The Cardinal’s steady drop to No. 15 also means a bleak outlook for its College Football Playoff dreams.
But there’s now a clear path to the Pac-12 title for Washington, whose defense performed outstandingly against Stanford and the threat of Christian McCaffrey (no touchdowns for the second straight game).
It’d be remiss not to also mention the crazy ending to Tennessee and Georgia’s SEC battle that culminated with a Hail Mary from midfield that landed in the hands of receiver Jauan Jennings with no time left to give the Vols a miraculous 34-31 victory.
Despite having to come from behind in four of its five wins, Tennessee is back in the top 10 at its preseason landing spot at No. 9. Up next, the Vols travel to College Station, Texas, for a top 10 matchup against No. 8 Texas A&M. It’s ill-advised to fall behind early on Trevor Knight and the Aggies’ high-powered offense, but Tennessee has become acclimated to embracing this sort of challenge. We’ll see if that trend continues.
In total, 10 ranked teams lost in Week 5, marking the most since Oct. 4, 2014. Five of those defeats came against unranked foes.
The biggest ascensions among the top 25 came from Washington, No. 18 Florida and No. 19 Boise State who each jumped five pegs Monday. No. 10 Miami (Fla.) and No. 16 Arkansas also saw four-spot improvements.
The biggest drop came from Florida State who fell 11 spots to No. 23 after losing to newly ranked North Carolina on a last-second field goal.
After only two new teams joined the fold in last week’s rankings, there are five new names welcomed in Week 6. No. 17 North Carolina and No. 20 Oklahoma return to the list to go along with newcomers Colorado, West Virginia and Virginia Tech.
WEEK 5 FBS POLL REACTION
Last week’s action provided some interesting movement up top in the AP Top 25 poll following then-No. 2 Florida State’s destruction against Louisville. This week? Not so much.
The top seven spots remained unchanged in the latest rankings with undisputed No. 1 Alabama once again dominating in a 48-0 victory over Kent State, No. 2 Ohio State sitting out on a bye week and Louisville, Michigan, Clemson and Houston all cruising over lower levels of competition.
But below this top tier, there was plenty of shuffling going on among the rest of the nation’s best.
Things got a little hairy for Pac-12 powers Stanford and Washington, who both escaped with close victories in the final minutes of regulation and overtime, respectively. While Stanford sticks to its No. 7 spot after its rally against UCLA, Washington’s close call with Arizona dropped them two pegs to No. 10.
Jumping the Huskies were two of the weekend’s biggest winners in No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 9 Texas A&M.
Ohio State and Michigan remain the clear frontrunners in the loaded Big Ten, but the Badgers keep proving doubters wrong, continuing in Week 4 with a surprisingly easy 30-6 win over Michigan State. The road doesn’t get any easier for Wisconsin as the Wolverines and Buckeyes are the next two foes on its schedule.
As for Texas A&M, the Aggies further proved their legitimacy as a top 10 team with a convincing 45-24 win over Arkansas in Arlington. That was the Aggies’ third quality win of the year to go with their upset over UCLA in Week 1 and a victory over a competitive Auburn team last weekend.
For those still not buying in on the Aggies just yet, they have a matchup in two weeks with newly-ranked No. 11 Tennessee, which came back from a 21-point deficit Saturday to top rival Florida for the first time since 2004. We should know more after that one.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss’ throttling over Georgia provided the biggest jump and fall in Week 5. The Rebels could easily be a top five team in the nation if not for two huge second half blown leads against then-No. 4 Florida State and No. 1 Alabama in Weeks 1 and 3. But while many 1-2 teams fold following that much early disappointment, Ole Miss shredded No. 12 Georgia for its first statement win and moved from No. 23 to No. 16.
A pair of losses is a lot to overcome for any team, but the talented Rebels have plenty of time to climb back into the discussion for a top bowl game by the season’s end.
With the Bulldogs’ 45-14 loss, however, they dropped all the way to the bottom of the barrel at No. 25. Georgia simply looked overmatched at every position against Ole Miss, and with Nick Chubb’s status moving forward in question following an ankle injury Saturday, the Bulldogs may soon be in further trouble.
Overall, the 20 ranked teams in action went 15-5 in Week 4 with four of those losses coming to other top 25 programs.
Two new teams enter the Top 25 this week in No. 21 TCU and No. 24 Boise State, as LSU and Oklahoma were the two to drop out of the rankings.
While 1-2 Oklahoma stood idly this week, previously-No. 18 LSU (2-2) fell flat against unranked Auburn after LSU’s game-winning touchdown was waved off due to the ball being snapped after the game clock ran out.
Both programs entered the season as Playoff candidates and top five teams but have faltered early on. It’s not too late to regain steam and bid for a mid-to lower-level ranking, but CFP hopes for the Sooners and Tigers have all but evaporated.
WEEK 4 FBS POLL REACTION
What a time it is to be the Big Ten.
Despite Iowa’s loss to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, overall, the Big Ten had a remarkable showing in Week 3, and the AP Poll reflects that.
FULL RANKINGS: Week 4 AP Poll
Four Big Ten schools find themselves inside of the top 11: No. 2 Ohio State; No. 4 Michigan; No. 8 Michigan State and No. 11 Wisconsin.
For what it’s worth, the conference absolutely deserves all of the praise it’s getting. Ohio State manhandled a reigning College Football Playoff team (Oklahoma) on the road on Saturday night, while Michigan took care of business against Colorado and Michigan State went into South Bend and escaped with a victory.
And by the look of things, 2016 could prove to be a rebound year for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Mike Riley’s squad upset Oregon on Saturday afternoon at home, and the Huskers are ranked 20th in the Week 4 poll. Though the Big Ten East is clearly superior to the west, the latter is looking far more competitive than it has in years past.
In the SEC, it looks like everyone else is playing for second behind Alabama. But don’t sleep on Texas A&M, which finds itself at No. 10 in this week’s poll. The Aggies scored an impressive win over Josh Rosen and the UCLA Bruins in Week 1, and on Saturday night, they took care of business on the road against Auburn. Myles Garrett is looking like one of the most dominant defensive players in the country, and this very well may be the best defense Kevin Sumlin has ever had in College Station.
It doesn’t look like the voters had a ton of sympathy for bluebloods that boast losing records. 1-2 Oklahoma fell all the way to No. 25 in this week’s poll after sputtering against the Buckeyes, while Notre Dame is out of the rankings completely after falling short against Michigan State. The Fighting Irish’s two losses came against No. 21 Texas and the No. 8 Spartans, but regardless, Notre Dame is on the outside looking in.
With that said, the Sooners and the Fighting Irish have a lot of football left to play. If they perform to their respective talent levels, each could finish the season in the 10-20 range. But College Football Playoff hopes can vanish in a pinch, and just three weeks into the season, each squad’s playoff hopes are looking extraordinary bleak.
The SEC isn’t top-heavy after the Crimson Tide, but it still has a ton of depth. The conference had plenty of naysayers after Week 1, but chatter that this is a down year for the league is proving to be erroneous. Eight SEC teams are ranked in the Week 4 poll, which paces the field by a comfortable margin. The next closest conference (the Big Ten) has five ranked teams.
WEEK 3 FBS POLL REACTION
Sometimes when you win, you really lose.
That old adage was on display in the third installment of the AP poll, particularly when it comes to the Clemson Tigers and the Georgia Bulldogs.
The two teams dropped three and seven spots, respectively, despite taking care of business with a win each. But this early in the season when early impressions are everything, it's not always what you do as much as how you do it.
Of course, had the Tigers lost to Troy or the Bulldogs to Nicholls, the fall in the rankings would have been a lot more catastrophic than that. But still, both wins were too close for comfort, and the teams were punished by the voters as a result. Clemson's 30-24 win caused it to fall from No. 2 to No. 5, while Georgia dropped from ninth to 16th after squeaking by Nicholls 26-24.
It's still way too early in the season to put any stock into rankings reflecting the possible College Football Playoff picture, but it's good that voters are holding teams accountable for not starting the season well. A common criticism of preseason rankings is that they give one team a leg up without having to earn it. That problem might be improving, as shown by the drops this week and the huge rises teams like Houston and Wisconsin made after signature Week 1 victories.
This week didn't feature a lot of change, in large part because of the way the Week 2 schedule was put together. Not one matchup on the docket had two ranked teams going against each other, so, with the exception of a couple of upsets, the top 25 did very well.
The teams ranked in the top 25 last week went a combined 21-2 on Friday and Saturday. Stanford and Michigan State were off, while No. 15 TCU and No. 22 Oklahoma State were upset and removed from the rankings as a result.
Sliding into their spots were No. 23 Florida, which rejoined the fray after being dropped last week, and No. 24 Arkansas, which was responsible for the aforementioned TCU loss.
Otherwise, there wasn't a ton to write home about. Each team in the top five behind Clemson shuffled up a spot, making Florida State the new No. 2 with Ohio State and Michigan sitting behind.
For the third week in a row, Michigan received one first-place vote. That voter, as it has been each time, is Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News.
It's certainly a bold move to have the Wolverines at the top over Alabama or Florida State, which got the other 60 votes (56 to the Tide, four to the Seminoles). Michigan has a plus-97 point differential through two games, but those games did happen to be against Hawaii and Central Florida. Still, it's very reasonable to think that Michigan could take care of the Big Ten this year and make its Playoff debut, possibly with a perfect regular-season record.
Expect a lot to digest come seven days from now.
North Dakota State on the cusp of history in AP top 25
AP top 25 voters rewarded North Dakota State for stunning then-No. 11 Iowa on Saturday by vaulting the Bison to unprecedented territory in the poll for a Football Championship Series program.
The Bison — No. 1 in both FCS polls last week — received 74 points in the AP Top 25 poll released Sunday afternoon, which makes it 27th in the nation, tied with UCLA and just ahead of Boise State.
They are not the first FCS team to earn votes in the AP Top 25 poll — that honor would go to Appalachian State in 2007. The then-Division I-AA school upset Michigan prompting the AP to change its policy which previously allowed voters to include only Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS - formerly Division I-A) teams on their ballots. The new policy has been dubbed the "Appalachian State Rule." In 2014, App State joined the FBS and the Sun Belt Conference.
Of course, North Dakota State is familiar with unprecedented success. It has won a record five consecutive FCS national championships and Saturday's 23-21 defeat of the Hawkeyes was a remarkable sixth in a row against FBS competition, a streak which began in 2010.
Looking back over this amazing run again of defeats of FBS schools, should they even be considered upsets anymore? NDSU, which is on a 12-game overall winning streak dating to last season, has plowed through the Big Ten and Big 12, beating Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas State and Iowa State (most recently, in 2014).
All six victims fell in their home stadiums, of course. And the Bison’s most recent victory is the best yet. The reigning Big Ten West division champ entered the game ranked No. 11 in the AP top 25 with eyes on a return trip to the Rose Bowl.
And while the Bison needed a 37-yard field goal from Cam Pedersen as time expired to finish off the Hawkeyes, don’t let the late-game heroics mask what really happened: NDSU dominated the game.
“We told them all week long that we belong. We belong in the game; we belong in the spotlight,” North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman said. “When you get into a four-quarter, 60-minute game, don’t bet against the guys in that locker room. They know one thing, and that’s how to close and how to win.”
Klieman’s confidence showed when he called for a two-point conversion after a touchdown pulled the Bison within 21-20 at the 3:43 mark. The play failed, but the Bison defense held. The offense then marched 46 yards in five plays in 1:53 to set up the game-winning field goal.
North Dakota didn’t need trickery or fluke plays to beat Iowa either. It outgained the Hawkeyes 239-34 in rushing yards and won the first-down count 21-12.
“Good teams have identities and they believe in what they do. Most importantly, the players believe in what they do,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I didn't see a weak spot out there. They're really a good football team."
The victory boosted North Dakota State to 54th in the Sagarin Ratings (between California and Missouri). The Bison opened the season with two overtime victories over top-10 FCS opponents Charleston Southern (24-17) and Eastern Washington (50-44). Their Sagarin schedule rating is only 86th. So the Bison are a victim of circumstance. FBS programs aren’t exactly hurrying to pick up the phone and invite North Dakota State over to play a football game.
Nobody would argue North Dakota State could challenge Alabama, Ohio State or Louisville, the top three teams in this week’s AP top 25 poll. They’ve clearly been the most impressive teams in the nation through three weeks. But examine the back end. After watching the Bison manhandle the Hawkeyes, it’s realistic to believe San Diego State (22), Utah (24) or even Texas (21) could be next to fall if the teams were to meet.
Feel confident those coaches (and fans) are glad they won’t have to find out.
North Dakota State has this week off before returning to action at home on Oct. 1st against Illinois State.
There’s a fair chance they’ll enjoy dual rankings at kickoff.