Is it fair to penalize Clemson Tigers for a slow start and unexpectedly close 30-24 win against Troy Trojans ? Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson have long been the assumed 1-2 in college football since playing in one of the best national championship games since the start of the BCS era in January. Deshaun Watson even reminded the media after Saturday’s six-point win against Troy in the home opener that this is a brand new team working to establish its own individual rhythm. The 2016 Tigers can’t be the 2015 Tigers, so they shouldn’t be penalized for not meeting those expectations in mid-September.
What about Georgia Bulldogs , which barely survived Nicholls 26-24? The home fans were expecting a rout in the first game back in Sanford Stadium after getting to see Nick Chubb run all over North Carolina. Sweating out a narrow win was unexpected.
Voters in the AP Top 25 may very well decide to bump Clemson from the No. 2 spot — and Georgia out of the top 10 — on Sunday morning when the new poll comes out.
There likely won’t be enough voters to drop Clemson out of the No. 2 spot — or at least for the Tigers to fall too far — but there’s enough reasons to like Florida State Seminoles or Ohio State Buckeyes or Michigan Wolverines to think a small slide could be coming.
Here’s how we think the rankings will look, as off 10 p.m. ET on Saturday. Teams in action will be updated as the evening action concludes.
1. Alabama (Previous AP Top 25 ranking — 1): Saban had to give Lane Kiffin an “ass-chewing,” but the Tide rolled Western Kentucky in a 28-point win. Good learning moment for everyone in Tuscaloosa.
2. Florida State (3): Charleston Southern’s NCAA violation story dominated the coverage of this game until Florida State stepped on the field and started scoring touchdowns.
3. Clemson (2): The standard of offensive excellence established by the 2015 Clemson offense is impacting our expectations for the 2016 Clemson offense. The Tigers take a step back after a close win against Troy.
4. Ohio State (4): J.T. Barrett ‘s eye-popping numbers stole the show last week, but what happens when the offense stutters? Ohio State’s defense led the way against Tulsa Golden Hurricane , overcoming turnovers with big stops, forced turnovers and a couple scores. Marshon Lattimore had a pair of picks, Raekwon McMillan led the team with eight tackles (six solo), and Tulsa only totaled 64 yards of offense after halftime in the Buckeyes’ 48-3 win.
5. Michigan (5): Jim Harbaugh’s not only eating his boogers, he’s showing no mercy. Facing 4th and 1 in the final minutes of the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 51-14 win against UCF Knights , Michigan called a short pass play to keep the game-ending drive going. The conversion allowed the Wolverines to end the game in a timely manner, so I’ll say the boogers thing is more offensive.
6. Houston Cougars (6): Greg Ward Jr. not playing has made the status of his shoulder a weekly story. It also allowed Kyle Postma to get some game reps in case Houston’s star quarterback does miss time with an injury. Houston wins a weather-delayed game and remains at the same spot in the polls.
7. Wisconsin Badgers (10): The Badgers exceeded expectations in a spot where many thought they might have a letdown following an emotional win at Lambeau Field. Wisconsin’s defense is still nasty, and Paul Chryst is more than happy to ball control his opponent into submission 10 more times after this 2-0 start.
8. Stanford Cardinal (7): Off this week, Stanford drops a spot as a result of the Badgers moving up. Big week ahead with Southern California Trojans coming to town next Saturday.
9. Washington Huskies (8): Took care of business against Idaho Vandals and won’t get ahead of Stanford in the rankings until beating the Cardinal on the field.
10. Louisville Cardinals (13): Will Louisville jump up into the top 10? That’s what I’m looking for after Lamar Jackson ‘s incredible performance on Friday night at Syracuse Orange . With 13 touchdowns in just 57 minutes of game action this season, Action Jackson packs more punch than anyone in college football. I’m here for the Cards as a top 10 team and Jackson as everyone’s new favorite star in the sport.
11. Georgia (9): Should not have been caught in a dog fight with Nicholls. Eventually, the Bulldogs’ talent made the difference in just enough key plays to avoid an upset.
12. Texas Longhorns (11): Down three key offensive lineman, Shane Buechele still hung tough in a 41-7 win against Texas-El Paso Miners with four passing touchdowns.
13. Michigan State Spartans (12): Sparty was off this week and travels to South Bend next weekend to take on Notre Dame Fighting Irish .
14. Oklahoma Sooners (14): The Sooners took care of business, finding an offensive rhythm much easier to establish against ULM.
15. Iowa Hawkeyes (16): Iowa’s so solid right now. Not even a rivalry could shake the confidence they’ve got right now around the Hawkeyes’ program. Took care of business against Iowa State Cyclones and remain in that solid spot in the middle of the top-25.
16. Tennessee Volunteers (17)*: The Vols are favored to win on Saturday night against Virginia Tech Hokies .
17. Notre Dame (18): DeShone Kizer ‘s the guy, and Notre Dame flew below the radar in a perfectly fine win against Nevada Wolf Pack . No change.
18. Ole Miss Rebels (19): Chad Kelly got back to pitching the ball around against Wofford and the Rebels offense played with an edge that faded during the second half against Florida State. A boring Saturday is welcome after Monday night’s struggles for the Rebels.
19. Texas A&M (20): The Aggies scored 67 in a nonconference game after a big opener. Rinse, wash, repeat.
20. Florida Gators (NR): After an ugly game against the Wildcats early in Jim McElwain’s second season, the Gators showed out in the The Swamp on the SEC on CBS stage. Consecutive win No. 30 featured the return of Jalen Tabor and an impressive 320-yard passing performance from Luke Del Rio , the most passing yards by a Gators quarterback against an SEC opponent since 2004 (Chris Leak, 322)
21. Baylor Bears (23): Kendal Briles and quarterback Seth Russell are back in a familiar rhythm, tearing up offenses and putting opponents away early with quick strike scoring drives.
22. Arkansas Razorbacks (NR): The Razorbacks walked into Fort Worth, snapped TCU’s 14-game home winning streak and emerged with a brand new reputation. Instead of being a team that squeaked out a win against Louisiana Tech Bulldogs , the 2016 Hogs are the team you want to be backing in a close one.
23. TCU Horned Frogs (15): KeVontae Turpin strung together a couple of explosive plays on offense and in the return game that made the difference for the Frogs but the blocked field goal gave Arkansas life. The Frogs take a step back after ending up on the losing end of this Big 12-SEC thriller.
24. Oregon Ducks (24)*: The Ducks play Virginia Cavaliers at 10:30 p.m. ET and are favored to win.
25. LSU Tigers (21)*: LSU turns to a new quarterback, Danny Etling , and gets enough dynamic plays to carry an easy win against an FCS foe. We’ll see how Etling and Fournette play together before LSU takes any major moves forward in the rankings.
Out of the rankings: Oklahoma State Cowboys (22), Miami (25)
New arrivals: Florida, Boise State Broncos or San Diego State Aztecs
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Tomorrow’s Top 25 Today: Voters should penalize Clemson, Georgia for struggles