The college football rankings will have a new look when they are updated on Sunday after more than a handful of ranked teams took losses during Week 8. When all the scores and results are settled, we should expect some movement in the top 10 and a return to the AP Top 25 for a surging LSU team that beat previously unbeaten Ole Miss handily in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week.
The Tigers’ 45-20 win in the Magnolia Bowl was the program’s sixth victory in the last seven meetings in this historic rivalry; it also extended their winning streak in Death Valley to seven games. Just like in 2014, Ole Miss showed up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, undefeated with hopes of contending for the SEC West only to leave with a loss. The Rebels will take a step back in the standings and fall in the new AP Top 25 as LSU — now 6-2 overall and sitting first place in the SEC West — will return to the national rankings for the first tie since its one-week showing earlier this month.
Ole Miss wasn’t the only team that started the day undefeated but will no longer have the rankings advantage of that zero in the loss column. Of the nine teams that entered Week 8 unbeaten, six of them of played an FBS opponent (Georgia and Michigan were off, Tennessee played UT-Martin). Three of the remaining six lost. UCLA took its first defeat of the season at Oregon, Ole Miss fell at LSU, and Clemson took down Syracuse. Of course, the matchup between the Tigers and Orange guaranteed that one unbeaten team would lose, but it was an example of how tough it is to remain undefeated with ugly showings sure to occur along the way.
AP Top 25 voters have a habit of slowly sliding up teams that avoid taking that first loss, resulting in the kind of high rankings the later you get in the year. But with a loss, those teams become less special and more subject to scrutiny in terms of quality wins. In this case, the big shake ups in the college football rankings after Week 8 will be as much teams like LSU and Oregon making a jump as seeing where the previously undefeated teams land in their rankings fall.
Here’s how we think the new AP Top 25 will look on Sunday:
1. Georgia (Last week — 1): The Bulldogs were off in Week 8 and will be back in action next week in their annual rivalry game against Florida.
2. Ohio State (2): Though the start was sloppy, the Buckeyes tightened up and scored 38 unanswered points in a 54-10 win against Iowa. C.J. Stroud threw four touchdowns to increase his season total to 28, which leads all FBS quarterbacks.
3. Tennessee (3): The ability to simply out-score any threat remains Tennessee’s greatest strength. Any threat of an Alabama hangover against UT-Martin was cured by points as the Volunteers got out to a 52-7 halftime lead and cruised to a 65-24 victory.
4. Michigan (4): The Wolverines were off in Week 8 and will be back in action next week against rival Michigan State.
5. Clemson (5): While DJ Uiagalelei getting benched for Cade Klubnik generates plenty of conversation, I’m wary of the idea that DJU’s struggles against Syracuse will lead to the Tigers getting jumped by Alabama for No. 5. Clemson was closer to Michigan than Alabama in last week’s voting points, and though the Tigers did not meet the expectations of a two-touchdown spread, they did win against a top-15 and previously undefeated opponent.
6. Alabama (6): After getting shredded for 52 points, Alabama held Mississippi State to just six points. And after committing a program-record 17 penalties, the Crimson Tide had just three for 20 yards in a 24-point get-right win.
7. TCU (8): Though the move up in the rankings may only be one or two spots, the Horned Frogs having something special going this season that should shift our focus to what they can accomplish at year’s end. Kansas State is the fourth straight opponent ranked at the time of its loss to TCU, and now this 7-0 team is staring down a conclusion the schedule with mostly unranked opponents. Sonny Dykes’ squad has proven to be a resilient group, overcoming a double-digit deficit for the second straight week, and now the challenge becomes maintaining that edge without the kind of week-to-week hype that this last month has provided.
8. Oregon (10): Bo Nix was one of the big winners of Week 8 as he accounted for five touchdowns with the Ducks tearing up UCLA in a 45-30 win. After putting up good numbers against some of the lesser opponents in the Pac-12, this was a group that needed a quality win on its profile, and now there’s a victory that backs up what Oregon fans have been saying for several weeks: Nix, and the Ducks, are not the team that got blown out by Georgia in Week 1. Oregon has improved (as teams do), and suddenly, a 6-1 record with the only loss coming to No. 1 stands out as one of the best one-loss profiles in the country.
9. Oklahoma State (11): One week after falling in double overtime to TCU as a result of being unable to score enough points late in the game, it was the Cowboys who won the fourth quarter in a 41-34 victory over Texas. Oklahoma State outscored Texas 17-0 over the final 16 minutes of the game, and the defense came up when it counted with a game-sealing interception.
10. USC (12): The Trojans were off in Week 8 and will be back in action next week at Arizona.
11. Wake Forest (13): Sam Hartman was electric as the Demon Deacons returned from the off week in style with a 43-15 home win against Boston College that saw the star quarterback account for six total touchdowns and throw for 314 yards in the victory.
12. UCLA (9): The Utah win provides a floor for the Bruins’ drop, and since the AP Top 25 voters have dubbed Utah a top-15 team with two losses, there is not an expectation we see UCLA fall too far in the rankings.
13. LSU (NR): There was already a significant amount of voter support for the Tigers in last week’s balloting as LSU checked in at No. 27 behind a Purdue team that lost at Wisconsin and less than 30 voting points behind No. 25 Tulane. So after not just beating Ole Miss but imposing its will after halftime in the 45-20 win, LSU is poised to be the highest-ranked two-loss team in the country.
14. Ole Miss (7): Now being judged against one-loss and two-loss teams, the Rebels could see a steep drop in the rankings. The best win on the profile is a 22-19 home victory against Kentucky, and the next-best win is a debate between Troy and Auburn.
15. Penn State (16): AP voters sometimes have “sticker shock” movements as a result of wins that seem out of line with pregame expectations. Penn State was nearly on upset alert as a home favorite of less than a touchdown against Minnesota, but the Nittany Lions delivered the exact kind of performance needed to flush out memories of last week’s Michigan loss and build anticipation for next week’s showdown with Ohio State. Will the 45-17 win be enough to jump ahead of one-loss teams (like UCLA, Ole Miss) that took defeats in Week 8? We’re predicting no, but its close to cracking the top 12.
16. Utah (15): The Utes were off in Week 8 and will be back in action on Thursday night at Washington State.
17. Illinois (18): The Fighting Illini were off in Week 8 and will be back in action next week at Nebraska.
18. Kentucky (19): The Wildcats were off in Week 8 and will be back in action next week at Tennessee.
19. Syracuse (14): AP voters were slow to give attention to Syracuse during its undefeated start, and that usually results in a quick knock down after a loss. Two things should help provide a floor for Syracuse from a rankings perspective, the first is how close the Orange came to pulling off the road upset in Death Valley and the second is the head-to-head win against NC State, which is in danger of getting jumped on some ballots but should still remain in the top 25 on Sunday.
20. Kansas State (17): Quarterback injuries — the Wildcats were down to their third signal caller in the loss at TCU — will be taken into consideration by the voters to prevent falling all the way out of the rankings … just not enough to avoid getting knocked down a couple of spots.
21. Cincinnati (21): Teams like South Carolina and Liberty were hoping SMU’s late flurry of scores and 2-point try to tie would result in a Bearcats loss and open spot in the top 25. However, the Bearcats defense, which overall had a strong performance in the 29-27 win at SMU, came up with the game-winning stop on the 2-point attempt to keep the Bearcats ranked at 7-1.
22. North Carolina (22): The Tar Heels were off in Week 8 and will be back in action next week against Pittsburgh.
23. NC State (23): The Wolfpack were off in Week 8 and will be back in action on Thursday night against Virginia Tech.
24. Tulane (25): Like Cincinnati, Tulane had to hold off a late charge, but unlike the Bearcats, the lead the Green Wave had built (35-0) left much of Memphis’ scoring to be unofficially logged as garbage time scores.
25. South Carolina (NR): The Gamecocks faced a large margin in voting points from the top 25 cut off, but in terms of ranking, they were tied for 28th with UCF, who lost handily at ECU on Saturday night. But it wasn’t just losses by Purdue and UCF that opened the door for South Carolina’s first AP Top 25 appearance since 2018, it was how South Carolina jumped all over Texas A&M early and held the Aggies off late in the 30-24 win.
Projected to drop out: Texas (20), Mississippi State (24)