College Football Top 25 Rankings: Notre Dame climbs, Penn State plummets into Week 9
The college football rankings are the bottom-line determination of a team’s fate. Beginning with the Associated Press and coaches polls, and followed by the College Football Playoff rankings, the college football pecking order becomes clearer as the season goes on.
At Sportsnaut, we’ll continue to spice up your college football rankings leading up to the 2021 campaign. Instead of sticking to the status quo of the AP or Amway polls, or even the CFP rankings, check out our own editorial NCAA gridiron hierarchy, which are liable to feature some bold departures from how the primary polls stack up.
College football rankings: Top-25 teams entering Week 9
25. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (Last Week: 15)
Appalachian State was the one opponent that could have allowed Coastal Carolina to move up top-25 rankings. Instead, the Chanticleers suffered their first regular-season loss since Nov. 23, 2019. This is a great Sun Belt team, but the Week 8 loss showed why Coastal Carolina will never belong in the College Football Playoff discussion.
24. NC State Wolfpack (LW: 19)
The buzz around NC State got a little too much, but the brick wall of reality in college football brought that to a stop in Week 8. Leading 17-14 at the half, the Wolfpack let freshman Tyler Van Dyke pull Miami back into this game and that got the fans into it. A tough 31-30 loss for NC State and that early win over Clemson looks far less impressive, too.
23. Iowa State Cyclones (LW: Unranked)
Iowa State knew Saturday’s duel with Oklahoma State would be one of its last opportunities to make a case for top-25 voters. The Cyclones tore through Kansas, but decimating the Cowboys would catch the attention of the college football world. Sure enough, a big second half put Iowa State on top and could be huge for a crucial November schedule.
22. UTSA Roadrunners (LW: 24)
Sincere McCormick and Zakhari Fraklin put on an offensive clinic in Week 8. McCormick, who got bottled up early, ripped off some jaw-dropping runs to finish with 149 rushing yards and three scores. Franklin, who hauled in a 75-yard touchdown, finished with 118 receiving yards and two scores. What really matters for UTSA, the program is celebrating another victory and an undefeated season is becoming plausible.Also Read:
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21. Auburn Tigers (LW: 17)
The blowout loss to Georgia sent Auburn plummeting down the college football rankings, but Auburn rebounded nicely with a thrashing of Arkansas. Coming out of the bye, we’re excited to see how the Tigers fare against Ole Miss. This should be a shootout, putting a lot of pressure on Bo Nix’s shoulders. If he comes out on top, it will be a statement win for the program before they face Texas A&M on Nov. 6.
20. SMU Mustangs (LW: 23)
SMU Mustangs quarterback Tanner Mordecai is one of the best stories from the college football season. He gave Oklahoma three seasons and when a starting opportunity didn’t come, transferred to SMU. Needless to say, he’s a natural fit in this offense. Coming off another blowout win, Mordecai (2,320 passing yards, 29 touchdowns) will take the 7-0 Mustangs into Houston for a fantastic game.
19. Penn State Nittany Lions (LW: 10)
Penn State faced a fantastic opportunity to climb in our college football rankings Saturday, putting that loss to Iowa in the review mirror. In fact, the Nittany Lions had nine different chances in overtime to preserve their spot. Instead, Penn State’s offense couldn’t do anything after it took a 10-0 lead and the defense could only preserve the lead for so long. It’s fair to wonder why so many think LSU or USC should hire James Franklin.
18. San Diego State Aztecs (LW: 21)
San Diego State faced its biggest test of the 2021 season, a road battle against 6-1 Air Force. Coming in as the underdog, the Aztecs took control of the game early with a 20-0 lead and it was all they needed. Against one of the best run defenses in the country, Chance Bell and Jordan Byrd came up huge. Fresno State is up next and the Aztecs should feel confident about their chances of staying undefeated.
17. Pittsburgh Panthers (LW: 22)
Already one of the best quarterbacks in college football, Kenny Pickett entered the Heisman and the 2022 NFL Draft discussion on Saturday. Pittsburgh’s star quarterback put the team on his back, finding holes in Clemson’s defense in the crucial moments. The Panthers move to 6-1 and should be heavily favored in their upcoming games (vs. Miami, @ Duke, vs. UNC).
16. Baylor Bears (LW: 18)
Baylor should consider itself victorious, even on a bye week. With other ranked college football teams suffering defeats in Week 8, Baylor climbs up the rankings. Two weeks to prepare for Texas and playing at home are huge reasons to believe the Bears can defeat the Longhorns. Of course, the real factor that should swing this looming matchup is head coach Dave Aranda. With a win, Baylor will claim a top-15 spot in Week 9.
College football top-25: Programs with something to prove in November
15. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (LW: 16)
Wake Forest’s defense got lost on a tour of West Point on Saturday, watching the Black Knights move up and down the field with ease. Fortunately for the Demon Deacons, quarterback Sam Hartman (458 yards, six total touchdowns) had the game of his life. If Wake Forest isn’t careful, it’s going to lose and disappear from our college football rankings.
14. Kentucky Wildcats (LW: 12)
Kentucky will be lower in a lot of other college football rankings. But entering Week 8, the Wildcats’ resume included victories over Florida and LSU. Those programs certainly aren’t at their peak right now, but a 6-1 record is better than the resumes of teams behind them. Coming out of the bye, Kentucky can easily win out.
13. Texas A&M Aggies (LW: 15)
At this point, Texas A&M needs to be looked at under a different lens. This isn’t the same Aggies team that lost consecutive games to Arkansas and Mississippi State. That stunning victory over Alabama sparked something in Jimbo Fisher’s program, culminating in a three-game win streak. The Aggies are dominating entering the bye week and could move into the top-10 if the momentum carries into November.
12. Oklahoma State Cowboys (LW: 7)
Trailing 24-21, Oklahoma State’s offense received two opportunities for a game-tying or winning drive. The first series lost 11 yards and the final drive ended with Brennan Presley falling inches short of the first down. The Cowboys’ playoff hopes are squashed for good.
11. Iowa Hawkeyes (LW: 9)
The Iowa Hawkeyes’ biggest victory of the season, a 23-20 over Penn State after Sean Clifford got hurt, is looking worse after Week 8. There’s no doubt about this defense, it’s one of the best in the country. But when your offense ranks outside the top 100 in passing yards, rushing yards and points, you basically need a shutout or defensive touchdowns to beat quality opponents
College football rankings: Top 10 teams entering Week 9
10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (LW: 14)
Beating your rival is rarely easy, even when that program is at a low point. Notre Dame entered Saturday’s matchup with USC as a slim favorite over the Trojans, but it didn’t take long for the gap between these two teams to become evident. Behind great defense and a few timely runs from Kyren Williams easily decided this one.Also Read:
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9. Oregon Ducks (LW: 13)
Kayvon Thibodeaux demonstrated on Saturday why he should be the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. UCLA had no answer for Oregon’s dominant pass rusher, who racked up 4.5 tackles for loss and two scouts with NFL general managers in attendance. When Thibodeaux plays like this and quarterback Anthony Brown Jr. makes enough plays, the Ducks win games.
8. Ole Miss Rebels (LW: 11)
Whether Lane Kiffin was being deceptive or not, Matt Corral played through pain in Week 8. It might explain the slow start, but we saw the explosive Rebels’ offense a few minutes later. Corral is firmly in the Heisman Trophy race and he could move into the lead with a big performance against Auburn next Saturday.Also Read:
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College football rankings: Best teams in college football right now
7. Michigan State Spartans (LW: 6)
It didn’t take long for Michigan State Spartans head coach Mel Tucker to turn this program around. Kenneth Walker III (997 rushing yards) is leading the show and will firmly be in the Heisman Trophy hunt as long as MSU is undefeated. With the Wolverines coming to town for the Paul Bunyan – Governor of Michigan Trophy, a huge game from walker against Michigan’s defense (119.3 rush yards/game allowed) would thrust the Spartans into the thick of the College Football Playoff race.
6. Michigan Wolverines (LW: 8)
Michigan, like so many other top-10 teams in our college football rankings, started slow. But the Wolverines’ offense, led by sophomore running back Blake Corum, took this game over in the final three quarters. Corum went off for 119 yards and two scores, leading the team on a day when they rushed for 294 yards. Week 9 means rivalry time and that matchup against the Spartans will be decided by the running backs.Also Read:
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5. Ohio State Buckeyes (LW: 5)
Freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson isn’t going to be a Heisman Trophy finalist at the end of the year, especially with C.J. Stroud heating up. But Ohio State’s electrifying back is still playing outstanding football, instantly becoming one of the best runners in the country. Ohio State should be a double-digit favorite over the Nittany Lions in Week 9.
4. Oklahoma Sooners (LW: 3)
The Oklahoma Sooners didn’t show up against Kansas for the first 40 minutes on Saturday. Fortunately, this roster is so talented that it can afford to overcome a disappearing act when facing weak competition. The Heisman buzz for quarterback Caleb Williams is a year premature, but his playmaking ability should keep the Sooners undefeated through Week 10.Also Read:
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3. Alabama Crimson Tide (LW: 4)
The Alabama Crimson Tide didn’t approach the spread until the final, which will be viewed by some as a knock on this team. But the Tennessee Volunteers are better than most of the country thinks, just look back at the Ole Miss game. What matters is Alabama won, Bryce Young boosted his Heisman odds and things will get easier after the bye against LSU.
2. Cincinnati Bearcats (LW: 2)
We’ll remember Week 8 of the college football season for a lot of top-10 teams winning ugly. It happened to Cincinnati, who trailed Navy 10-7 midway through the second quarter and only held a three-point lead at halftime. But great teams find ways to win, even when they make a lot of mistakes, that’s exactly what the Bearcats did. Things should be much easier for Desmond Ridder in Week 9 against Tulane.
1. Georgia Bulldogs (LW: 1)
The Georgia Bulldogs are the best team in college football right now, it’s not even a question. Entering the Week 8 bye, Georgia’s defense held opponents to 46 total points through seven games with 207.1 total yards per game and the eight-lowest conversation rate on third downs (31.13% allowed). When the Bulldogs return to the field in Week 8 against Florida, potentially with quarterback J.T. Daniels back leading Georgia’s offense, expect them to dominate.