Tomorrow’s Top 25 Today: Ohio State among teams surviving upset bids ahead of new college football rankings

While we’ve yet to see the college football scoreboard light up with upsets for teams holding spots atop the AP Top 25, Saturday provided enough upset scares to remind everyone how difficult it is to carry impressive records deep in the season. Now past the midpoint of the campaign, nine undefeated teams remain with two such programs from the Power Five conferences beginning in Week 8.

Just as notable from a big-picture perspective were close calls, such as Oklahoma holding UCF to a failed 2-point attempt or Texas getting the best of Houston after the Cougars failed to convert on a fourth-and-one opportunity . Even teams like Alabama and Oregon faced early challenges in what would eventually become double-digit wins. Those teams will be among the group that wakes up on Sunday, thankfully they didn’t suffer the same fate as North Carolina, which was undefeated and heavily favored against Virginia but will fall in the rankings after a 31-27 home loss.

Michigan and Ohio State stand out for different reasons on Saturday, which was sweaty for much of the top 25. The Buckeyes faced a tough test with Penn State in town, but rode the strength of what turned out to be an elite defense to gain control over contest and register a decisive 20-12 win. The win lifted the Nittany Lions from the undefeated ranks and moved Ohio State one win closer to its goal of entering the game against Michigan with stakes that include a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game and a potential spot in the College Football Playoff. Michigan, meanwhile, finished with 49 points against rival Michigan State for one of the few dominant performances on Saturday. It’s clear that rivals continue to hold their own in the Big Ten.

Further down the rankings, there will be more implications from Florida State’s impressive comeback win against Duke, the USC-Utah result and some interesting late-ballot decisions that could mark triumphant arrivals in the 2023 AP Top 25. for teams like James Madison and Svoboda.

Here’s what we think the new AP Top 25 will look like after Week 8 results:

1. Georgia (Last week — 1): The Bulldogs are out in Week 8 and will play next week against rival Florida in Jacksonville.

2. Michigan (2): While scandal and controversy dominate the conversation, Michigan football’s contribution to the sport remains pure dominance. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wolverines continue to garner more first-place votes after a 49-0 victory over rival Michigan State that was in stark contrast to the scores of many other top-10 teams on Saturday.

3. Ohio State (3): College football fans always wonder if one program or another is making a “comeback,” but what about something more specific? Because after a 20-12 win against Penn State that featured another display of defensive excellence, is it fair to ask if the Silver Bullets are headed back to Columbus, Ohio? Penn State was held to under 250 yards of offense for the first time since 2021, and the Buckeyes’ defense came up with a stop on all but one third-down attempt. This may be a different kind of team than the Ohio State teams that have contended for the College Football Playoff in recent years, but it can still accomplish the same goals.

4. Florida State (4): The Seminoles got a great blow from Duke, but after Riley Leonard left the game in the second half, the response was perhaps even more impressive. Jordan Travis used his legs to become one of the primary playmakers on offense, and Florida State’s defense feasted after Leonard was knocked out of the game in a 38-20 victory in which FSU scored the final 21 points.

5. Washington (5): If it weren’t for the significant difference in voting points between Washington and Oklahoma last week, there would have been a chance to see the Sooners overtake the Huskies after their near upset at home to Arizona State by one win. However, Oklahoma also had its own close run as a heavy home favorite, so there may not be enough voters to change their order compared to how their ballots looked last week.

6. Oklahoma (6): We should have known a day of upset fears was coming when Oklahoma needed a defensive stop on a 2-point attempt to hold off unranked UCF for a 31-29 win in the early going. Oklahoma’s 7-0 record eclipsed last season’s win total and it wasn’t easy, as it required two fourth-quarter touchdowns from Dylan Gabriel to overcome a second-half deficit against Gus Malzahn’s group.

7. Texas (8): Quinn Ewers’ shoulder injury remains the biggest topic surrounding the Longhorns, as escaping with a one-touchdown win against Houston after an upset scare is good enough to keep the team’s one-loss profile in the standings. Maalik Murphy got the pick to replace Ewers at quarterback, but it was Jonathan Brooks and C.J. Baxter who led the charge in those key moments to help Texas improve to 6-1.

8. Oregon (9): The Ducks bounced back from last week’s disappointing loss to Washington with a solid effort against Washington State, using a pair of explosive third-quarter touchdown runs by Bucky Irving to pull away from a fiery Cougars team. The final score of 38-24 is good enough to meet voters’ expectations.

9. Alabama (11): By rallying from a double-digit halftime lead to outscore Tennessee 27-0 in the second half, Alabama was able to not only avoid a sweep at home, but also cemented the notion that this year’s team has the tools to contend for the SEC title on the strength of elite defense and enough big plays from Jalen Milroe. An offense that got off to a slow start Saturday but got the job done after halftime.

10. Penn State (7): After a team loses for the first time in the season, especially after the opening weeks, voters start asking, “Who did you beat?” For Penn State, the basis of its high ranking was an undefeated record and an objectively excellent defense, not a resume in which Iowa and Western Virginia were the best wins. Because of that, the Nittany Lions will fall behind the one-loss teams with better wins — just not too far, as voters aren’t quick to punish losses to top-five teams.

11. Oregon State (12): The Beavers are off in Week 8 and will be back in action next week in Arizona.

12. Ole Miss (13): The Rebels continue to pile up wins, this time going into Auburn and getting a strong performance from Quinshon Judkins (124 yards, a touchdown on 21 carries) in a 28-21 win to improve to 6-1. Ole Miss’ only loss is to Alabama, and it has wins over LSU and Tulane that help its argument in the debate among the best one-loss teams.

13. Utah (14): The Utes and USC were tied at 14 in the third quarter before trading blows during the game. The Trojans ended up punting too early and the Utes were able to drive down the field for a field goal to prevail 34-32. Third quarterback Bryson Barnes, a former walk-on, had a gutsy performance for Utah to beat Caleb Williams.

14. North Carolina (10): It’s hard to know exactly where the Tar Heels will land, as I expect there to be wide-ranging responses from voters to the stunning home loss to previously 1-5 Virginia. As a one-loss team with five double-digit wins against Power Five opponents, there is some strength in the profile. However, UNC has no quality wins against teams anywhere near the current top 25 and has lost its undefeated luster.

15. Notre Dame (15): The Fighting Irish were shut out in Week 8 and will be back in action next week against Pitt.

16. LSU (19): No big changes in the LSU score, as the Tigers’ 62-0 win against Army did a lot for Jaden Daniels’ historic passing campaign (four total touchdowns), but will do less in terms of big moves in the rankings.

17. Missouri (20): South Carolina didn’t score a touchdown against Missouri, settling for four field goals in a 34-12 Tigers victory. Mizzou jumped out to a 24-0 lead and never looked back, driving a productive game to seal the win and make it 7-1 overall.

18. Louisville (21): The Cardinals were off in Week 8 and will be back in action next week against Duke.

19. Air Force (22): Although there was some doubt about his availability due to an injury during the week, quarterback Zach Larrier not only played against Navy, but made history with a 94-yard touchdown pass by Dane Kinnamon. The 94-yard run early in the second quarter started a scoreless game and gave the Falcons a boost, now 7-0 after a 17-6 victory.

20. Tulane (23): The Green Wave got a scare at North Texas in their first game as a nationally ranked team; however, a long touchdown run by quarterback Michael Pratt in the final minutes helped Tulane escape with a 35–28 victory.

21. Duke (16): Voters are unlikely to knock Duke all the way out of the rankings after many of them saw the Blue Devils’ strong start against the ‘Noles and will know how the contest turned after Leonard was knocked out of the game. Duke really needs more quality wins, but will get that opportunity next week against Louisville.

22. UCLA (25): Chip Kelly made a change at quarterback, giving Ethan Garbers most of the snaps in Saturday night’s win, but the Bruins’ defense remained their biggest strength as UCLA improved to 5-2 with a 42-7 win in Stanford.

23. James Madison (NR): The Dukes were the first team just outside the top 25 last week, then went on to throttle Marshall in a 20-9 road win to improve to 7-0. The AP break to 25 would mark the Dukes’ second appearance since last season’s one-week stint at No. 25 following a 5-0 start to the 2022 campaign.

24. Florida (NR): The Gators are off this week, but as a two-loss team, with both losses coming on the road — one to top-ranked Utah — Florida has to line up against a Tennessee team it beat by 13 points. The Gators received the 28 most voting points last week after perhaps their best offensive performance of the season, a come-from-behind win at South Carolina.

25. Tennessee (17): Alabama scored 27 unanswered points Saturday as Tennessee turned a 20-7 halftime lead into a 34-20 loss. Sitting at 5-2, the Vols should sit right behind the Gators given the head-to-head loss and the fact that UT doesn’t have a high-quality win this season.

Projected to fall: No. 18 USC, No. 24 Iowa

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