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

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The new AP Top 25 college football poll is out, and Alabama remains a unanimous No. 1, with Notre Dame and Ohio State behind the Crimson Tide. Here's what's next for each ranked team.

No. 1 Alabama (8-0)

If you were in wait-and-see mode with Alabama, what happened Saturday against Auburn ought to make up your mind. Even without Nick Saban on the sideline, the Crimson Tide throttled the Tigers, winning by four touchdowns. Mac Jones solidified his Heisman Trophy front-runner status with five touchdowns and no interceptions, and the defense was effective throughout, holding Auburn to 2.9 yards per rush and keeping Bo Nix in check to the tune of no touchdowns and two interceptions. It's full steam ahead to LSU and Arkansas before a showdown with Florida in the SEC championship. --Alex Scarborough

No. 2 Notre Dame (9-0)

Friday's win over North Carolina was a show of force for the Irish defense, which held the high-scoring Heels to just 298 yards of offense and pitched a shutout in the second half, despite losing Kyle Hamilton to a targeting call. The recipe for Notre Dame doesn't look much like that of the other playoff contenders -- a sneaky QB, a power run game and a pair of tight ends who serve as matchup nightmares feels more old school than what Alabama or Ohio State is doing. But after another impressive win in which the Irish looked dominant on both sides of the ball, it seems increasingly likely that, regardless of what happens in a potential ACC title game rematch with Clemson, Notre Dame is headed for a playoff spot. -- David M. Hale

No. 3 Ohio State (4-0)

The Buckeyes had a second game canceled this past week against Illinois because of coronavirus issues, this time in their program. Now, for Ohio State to participate in the Big Ten championship game, it has to play both of its remaining regular-season games on Dec. 5 at Michigan State and Dec. 12 at home against Michigan. Ohio State's situation is going to be challenging and one to monitor closely, given the uncertainty of the season and the Big Ten's protocols. -- Harry Lyles Jr.

No. 4 Clemson (8-1)

The Tigers proved once again why they remain in the mix for a spot in the College Football Playoff after their dominant win over Pitt. If they beat Virginia Tech on Saturday, they clinch a spot in the ACC championship game Dec. 19 and probably would get a rematch against Notre Dame, which remains undefeated. Virginia Tech had an open date this past weekend but has struggled over the last month -- especially on defense, where it has been depleted in the defensive backfield for most of the season. That means Trevor Lawrence and his receivers could be in for yet another big day. -- Andrea Adelson

No. 5 Texas A&M (6-1)

A win over LSU is always welcome in College Station, but as the Aggies try to contend for a playoff spot, they might need a few more style points than they earned Saturday. The defense was SEC-worthy, but the passing attack was abysmal, as Kellen Mond was off all game and receivers struggled to haul in passes on a wet night. They'll need more offensive production when A&M heads to Auburn on Saturday after losing their past three to the Tigers. Oddly enough, all three of A&M's wins in eight games against Auburn since the SEC move have come on the Plains. -- Dave Wilson

No. 6 Florida (7-1)

Over the past two weeks, Florida coach Dan Mullen has reiterated that he sees plenty of room for improvement in his team. Once again, the focus will be on the defense when the Gators visit rival Tennessee with a chance to clinch the SEC East and a spot in the SEC championship game. In the early going against Kentucky, the Gators once again had a tough time stopping the Wildcats, with players out of position or having tackling issues. Mullen was seen screaming at defensive coordinator Todd Grantham at one point on the sideline. But after a shaky opening, the defense settled in and held Kentucky to 221 yards (its lowest of the season), 2-of-13 on third downs and made three interceptions. Is that the group that will show up next weekend? -- Adelson

No. 7 Cincinnati (8-0)

The Bearcats have a lot of waiting -- and watching -- to do until their next game at Tulsa on Dec. 12. While it's an outside shot, Cincinnati does have a realistic chance at being the first Group of 5 team to crash the College Football Playoff. But the Bearcats will need some help, maybe a slip-up from Clemson or Texas A&M. -- Wilson

No. 8 BYU (9-0)

Unlike San Diego State, BYU wasn't willing to sit around as a fallback option for a Pac-12 team, so the Cougars were idle over the weekend. The Cougars have been dominant in nearly every game this year, but their lack of quality opponents gave the committee reason for pause, and while there is still a good chance they will reach a New Year's Six bowl with an undefeated regular season, it's not the foregone conclusion it was two weeks ago. -- Kyle Bonagura

No. 9 Miami (7-1)

A COVID-19 outbreak has kept Miami from playing for the past two weeks, and the ACC announced Saturday that next week's game against Wake Forest would be postponed, too. If the down time hasn't been enough of a struggle for the Canes, they were dealt a big blow on the field, too, when Notre Dame knocked off UNC. The win for the Irish dimmed Miami's hopes for a shot at the ACC championship game, and the Canes now need Notre Dame or Clemson to lose twice to have a shot, and even that would be tough if Miami can't get back on the field and wrap its schedule. -- Hale

No. 10 Indiana (5-1)

The Hoosiers have their second-biggest game of the season coming up against Wisconsin. A win would be huge, given it keeps the Hoosiers right behind Ohio State despite the uncertain status of QB Michael Penix Jr. Also, Ohio State can't afford to miss another game to meet the requirements to make the Big Ten title game. Despite Penix's status, Indiana's defense has continued to impress and the Hoosiers should feel good about their chances going into Madison. -- Lyles

No. 11 Georgia (6-2)

It might be a matter of too little, too late, but the Bulldogs have found something heading into the home stretch of the season. JT Daniels showed last week against Mississippi State that he's a massive improvement at quarterback, and on Saturday the running game showed up, led by Zamir White and James Cook. All told, it was exactly what Georgia fans had hoped they'd see back in the summer -- a balanced offense and a defense that's one of the best in the country. And while losing to Alabama and Florida puts the Bulldogs outside of the playoff hunt, a New Year's Six Bowl is looking like more and more of a possibility. -- Scarborough

No. 12 Iowa State (7-2)

The Cyclones are one step closer to the Big 12 championship game. Though they trailed most of Saturday, their road win over Texas makes them a virtual lock to make the title game. It was by no means pretty, but Iowa State patiently chipped away at a 10-point Texas lead until finally getting the go-ahead score from Breece Hall with 1:25 left. The victory was Iowa State's first road win over an AP Top 25 team in November (they were 0-43 in such situations before Friday). -- Khan

No. 13 Oklahoma (6-2)

The Sooners didn't play this weekend after having to pause football activities as a result of virus-related issues, but they still can play their way into the Big 12 championship game. The Sooners simply need to win their remaining games. -- Sam Khan Jr.

No. 14 Coastal Carolina (8-0)

At the beginning of the season, nobody would have had Liberty-Coastal Carolina circled on the calendar. But now it is time to get some popcorn ready and enjoy one of the most unexpected gifts 2020 has given us all: the storybook Chanticleers, who just clinched the Sun Belt East Division, and the super-fun to watch Liberty Flames. Both offenses will be in the spotlight. More specifically, all eyes will be on Coastal quarterback Grayson McCall against Liberty quarterback Malik Willis -- two major reasons why both programs are winning so many games this year. -- Adelson

No. 15 Marshall (7-0)

After two weeks on the sidelines, Marshall returns to action this week with a home date against Rice before wrapping the season at FIU. Neither opponent figures to offer much of a test for the Thundering Herd (they're a combined 1-7), which means there's a good shot Marshall will wrap the regular season undefeated. What might that mean for the Herd's New Year's Six hopes, though? That's a tougher question. They checked in at No. 21 in the initial rankings from the College Football Playoff committee, trailing Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina from the Group of 5, and the lack of an opportunity for a marquee win the rest of the way might make climbing the rankings a challenge. -- Hale

No. 16 Northwestern (5-1)

Losing to a Michigan State team that lost by a combined score of 73-7 in its previous two games is a tough pill to swallow. But after falling behind 17-0, Northwestern came up just short in its comeback against the Spartans. Because of the win against Wisconsin (and the Badgers' canceled games), the Wildcats still control their own destiny, and should feel good about it given their next two games are against Minnesota and Illinois. -- Lyles

No. 17 USC (3-0)

The Trojans' pivotal game against Colorado was called off and their game against Washington State remains in jeopardy after they fell below the required threshold of scholarship offensive linemen due to positive COVID-19 cases and related contact tracing. Assuming they can get one of their final two games in -- and win -- USC would be eligible for the conference title game with a trip to a New Year's Six bowl on the line. -- Bonagura

No. 18 Wisconsin (2-1)

Any hope the Badgers had of competing in the Big Ten title game vanished after their game against Minnesota was canceled. Assuming their game against Indiana goes on as scheduled, it's a good opportunity for Wisconsin to get the sour taste out of their mouths from their 17-7 loss to Northwestern on Nov. 21. They could really finish the season strong by following that up with a win against Iowa in what has otherwise been a challenging year across college football. -- Lyles

No. 19 Oklahoma State (6-2)

The Cowboys bounced back from a Bedlam loss to Oklahoma with an old-school Big 12 shootout win over Texas Tech. It wasn't exactly the way they would've preferred to do it after a season in which its defense has often carried the day. They gave up 639 yards, but a timely return of an onside kick for a TD and a pick-six prevented a letdown. With trips to TCU (on Saturday) and Baylor (on Dec. 12), Oklahoma State still has an outside shot at a Big 12 title game appearance. -- Wilson

No. 20 Louisiana (8-1)

The Ragin' Cajuns, coming off a two-week break, routed UL Monroe 70-20 on Saturday on the road. Louisiana has won five straight since losing to Coastal Carolina on Oct. 14 and will get a rematch with the Chants in the Sun Belt Conference championship game on Dec. 19. It's the third straight season that Billy Napier's club has played for the league title. -- Chris Low

No. 21 Oregon (3-1)

The Ducks' reality is that they were always a long shot for the playoff and to assume otherwise was just wishful thinking. So while their loss to rival Oregon State stings, it doesn't necessarily have to change the trajectory of their season. If the Ducks win out, they'll still likely end up in the Fiesta Bowl, which was probably the outcome with a win against the Beavers. The concerning part here is that the Ducks haven't come close to meeting expectations at any point this season. -- Bonagura

No. 22 Tulsa (5-1)

The Golden Hurricane will head to Navy next Saturday as favorites, but they've made a habit of making games interesting this season. They're the first team since UCLA in 2005 to come back from 14 points down four times in a season to win. If they can pull off the win, they'll get No. 7 Cincinnati at home on Dec. 12.-- Wilson

No. 23 Washington (3-0)

The Huskies erased a 21-0 halftime deficit to stay undefeated (3-0) in the Pac-12 with a 24-21 win against Utah. Coupled with Oregon's loss to Oregon State, the Huskies sit atop the Pac-12 North but head into a week of uncertainty as this week's opponent, Stanford, is no longer allowed to practice or play in Santa Clara County. A huge game with Oregon looms on Dec. 12, which probably will determine the division champion. -- Bonagura

No. 24 Iowa (4-2)

After starting the season with back-to-back losses to Purdue and Northwestern, Iowa is playing its best football. The Hawkeyes won their fourth straight on Friday with a come-from-behind 26-20 victory over Nebraska (clapping and all). Iowa has now won six in a row over Nebraska and has yet to allow more than 24 points in any of its six contests this season. -- Low

No. 25 Liberty (9-1)

The Flames bounced back from their heartbreaking one-point loss to North Carolina State with a 45-0 romp over UMass on Friday. Quarterback Malik Willis accounted for four touchdowns (three passing and one rushing), giving him 30 for the season. Liberty is trying to win 10 games in a season for the first time since 2008, when the Flames were still competing in the FCS ranks. -- Low

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