While the College Football Playoff Rankings release will be of major interest following the results of Championship Week, the AP Top 25 poll gets one last word on the pecking order of those top teams before the postseason begins. After claiming yet another SEC title and taking down a Georgia team that has been the unanimous No. 1 according to the AP voters since mid-October, we’re projecting that coach Nick Saban’s Alabama squad will move into the top spot.
The Crimson Tide reclaiming the No. 1 spot in the AP Top 25 poll might be one of the only spots in the top four that will line up with the final College Football Playoff Rankings. It’s important to note the AP voters have had their own preferences when compared to the CFP Selection Committee with one of those differences being more favorable treatment of Cincinnati in the rankings early in the season.
Since the AP voters were ahead of the curve on the Bearcats, we’re projecting that more than a few will try to take a victory lap now that Luke Fickell’s squad is 13-0 and apparently playoff bound. Cincinnati won’t end up at No. 1, but a first-place vote or two is definitely possible and we think No. 2 is in reach.
Jumps up for Alabama and Cincinnati naturally move Michigan down, and it’s highly unlikely we see Georgia fall below No. 4 after taking its first loss of the season. The committee may be kinder to Georgia thanks to its body of work, but an AP Top 25 electorate with less “stakes” — in other words, having their vote on Sunday determine who gets to compete for the national championship and at what seed — is more likely to be swayed by recency bias.
So keep in mind that the AP Top 25 we’re projecting isn’t necessarily going to line up with the CFP Rankings, and those same voters know that as well. Still, as ubiquitous as the playoff conversation has been on championship Saturday, it might be inevitable to see the influence of those debates on the voters.
With that, and so much more, taken into consideration, here’s how we think the new AP Top 25 poll will look on Sunday.
1. Alabama (Last week — 4): The preseason No. 1 team in the AP poll never fell further than No. 5 in the rankings but only got back to No. 2 for one single week before dropping a spot in each of the last two weeks.
3. Michigan (2): The Bearcats might get to jump ahead of Michigan, but there’s no way that the Wolverines should be punished after finishing their breakthrough season with a dominant Big Ten title game win against Iowa.
4. Georgia (1): The conference championship provides a tiebreaker for Michigan and Georgia here with the Bulldogs carrying the same record (12-1) as the Wolverines but lacking the trophy that was on the line on Saturday.
5. Notre Dame (6): The Fighting Irish were not in action and did not get the exact results they needed for the optimum chances to make the College Football Playoff.
7. Ohio State (7): The Buckeyes were not in action.
8. Ole Miss (8): Lane Kiffin’s new contract kept Ole Miss in the news this weekend, but there are no major changes with no new results for the Rebels.
9. Oklahoma State (5): It’s going to be difficult to place the Cowboys among two-loss teams, but ultimately, I think Oklahoma State will get punished a little bit more with recency bias eyeing its inability to execute in scoring position.
10. Michigan State (11): The Spartans were not in action.
11. Utah (14): In an expanded College Football Playoff, this is the team that no one wants to face, and that’s going to be represented with a ranking that is notably higher than any other three-loss team in the top 25.
12. BYU (12): The Cougars were not in action.
13. Oklahoma (13): The Sooners were not in action.
14. Pittsburgh (17): Saturday night was a coronation for Kenny Pickett as one of the best in ACC history and affirmation for Pat Narduzzi’s vision of Pitt as a program that competes for ACC titles. The Panthers will be in the New Year’s Six after the school’s first conference championship since winning a share of the Big East title in 2010.
16. Iowa (15): There’s just not much room for a major move down, no matter what the scoreboard said in Indianapolis. Michigan is one of the best teams in the country, and among three-loss teams, the Hawkeyes still have an argument to be a near the top of the group.
17. Houston (16): It’s not likely that the Cougars move up after losing at Cincinnati, but it’s hard to imagine too much of a fall considering they were only the team’s second loss and the Bearcats are one of the four best teams in the country.
18. Oregon (10): The Ducks still have one of the best wins in the country, but that Week 2 victory against Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, might not resonate with AP voters as much as two lopsided losses to Utah in the last three weeks.
19. Wake Forest (18): A head-to-head win against NC State provides a nice floor for the Demon Deacons in the reshuffle, but it’s possible the drop will be further due to the head-to-head loss at Clemson. Wake Forest was an underdog in the ACC Championship Game against Pitt and only has three losses now on the season, but how voters view those head-to-head results could be wildly different across the electorate.
20. NC State (21): The Wolfpack were not in action
21. Clemson (22): The Tigers were not in action.
22. UTSA (NR): The Roadrunners fell from the top 25 after losing for the first time all year in the regular season finale against North Texas, finishing as the second team in “Others Receiving Votes” in last week’s balloting. A thrilling Conference USA Championship Game win against Western Kentucky should do the trick getting the 12-1 champs back into the top 25.
23. Arkansas (23): The Razorbacks were not in action.
24. Texas A&M (24): The Aggies were not in action
25. Kentucky (25): The Wildcats were not in action.
Projected to drop out: San Diego State (19)