NCAA Football Rankings 2016: Predicting the Top 25 After Week 10

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Mississippi State had plenty to celebrate after ending Texas A&M’s College Football Playoff hopes Saturday.

The first Saturday following the release of the initial College Football Playoff Top 25 poll is always intriguing. Was the selection committee on target with its rankings? Or were we in for a week of upheaval with ranked teams and further muddling next week’s poll?

The answer: A little of both. A Top 10 showdown was a highlight, while No. 1 Alabama traveling to No. 13 LSU loomed as one of the most difficult tests remaining on the Crimson Tide’s schedule. We wound up with a week that will give the committee plenty to think about as they prepare the new Top 25 for release Tuesday night.

Here’s a look at what those rankings could look like, along with teams that will be moving up and moving down in the new rankings.

Predicted Week 11 College Football Playoff Top 25 Poll
Rank Team Previous Record Week 10 Result
1. Alabama 1 9-0 Won vs. LSU 10-0
2. Clemson 2 9-0 Won vs. Syracuse 54-0
3. Michigan 3 9-0 Won vs. Maryland 59-3
4. Washington 5 9-0 Won vs. Cal 66-27
5. Ohio State 6 8-1 Won vs. Nebraska 62-3
6. Louisville 7 8-1 Won vs. Boston College 52-7
7. Wisconsin 8 7-2 Won vs. Northwestern 21-7
8. Auburn 9 7-2 Won vs. Vanderbilt 23-16
9. Penn State 12 7-2 Won vs. Iowa 41-14
10. Texas A&M 4 7-2 Lost vs. Mississippi State 35-28
11. Oklahoma 14 7-2 Won vs. Iowa State 34-24
12. Colorado 15 7-2 Won vs. Colorado 20-10
13. Utah 16 7-2 Open Date
14. Oklahoma State 18 7-2 Won vs. Kansas State 43-37
15. LSU 13 5-3 Lost vs. Alabama 10-0
16. Nebraska 10 7-2 Lost vs. Nebraska 62-3
17. Virginia Tech 19 7-2 Won vs. Duke 24-21
18. Florida 11 6-2 Lost vs. Arkansas 31-10
19. West Virginia 20 7-1 Won vs. Kansas 48-3
20. North Carolina 21 7-2 Won vs. Georgia Tech 48-20
21. Florida State 22 6-3 Won vs. N.C. State 24-20
22. Western Michigan 23 8-0 Won vs. Ball State 52-20
23. Boise State 24 9-0 Won vs. San Jose State 45-31
24. Washington State 25 7-2 Won vs. Arizona 69-7
25. Arkansas NR 6-3 Won vs. Florida 31-10

Greg Wallace

Moving Up

Washington

It was slightly surprising when the initial College Football Playoff Top 25 poll slotted Washington below Texas A&M at No. 5. The Huskies had largely been dominant en route to an 8-0 start; save seven-point wins at Arizona and Utah, no team had come within 24 points of Chris Petersen’s group.

It was early, and there was no reason to panic for Washington. Just keep winning and everything will take care of itself. We saw that hours before the Huskies took the field at Cal when Mississippi State upset the Aggies. Washington indeed took care of business against the Bears, pulling away from Cal for a 66-27 victory. The Huskies will face a challenge from Ohio State for the No. 4 spot, but they’ve done enough to move up and hold onto the spot. 

Ohio State

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J.T. Barrett and Ohio State showed they’re ready to push for the College Football Playoff Saturday.

A surprising 24-21 loss at Penn State was a blow to Ohio State’s College Football Playoff hopes, but it was anything but fatal. We’ve seen why over the past week. The Buckeyes wound up at No. 6 in the first playoff Top 25, and Saturday showed Urban Meyer and Co. that they have little to worry about.

Texas A&M’s loss to Mississippi State eliminated an obstacle to the CFP field and gave the Buckeyes an opportunity for upward mobility. They took it with a complete domination of No. 10 Nebraska, racing to a 28-point halftime lead in a 62-3 rout. J.T. Barrett threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns and got Curtis Samuel involved in the offense with 178 yards of total offense and two touchdowns, including a 75-yard catch-and-run score.

Ohio State should be at least No. 5 this week, and with a regular-season finale against Michigan, the Buckeyes will have every opportunity to win their way into the playoff field. No worries, Columbus.

Louisville

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Lamar Jackson dominated Boston College’s defense Saturday.

At No. 7 in the initial Top 25 rankings, one-loss Louisville needs to win out (and do it in style) to have any chance at the College Football Playoff. The Cardinals need more performances like Saturday’s 52-7 blitzing of Boston College. Louisville never looked back after Lamar Jackson’s 69-yard touchdown run on the fourth play from scrimmage.

Jackson showed why he is the clear favorite for the Heisman Trophy, torching BC’s defense for seven total touchdowns. He completed 12 of 17 passes for 231 yards and four touchdowns with an interception, adding 185 rushing yards and three scores on 15 carries. Louisville was truly impressive and will inch closer to the top four this week with three games left on its schedule.

Arkansas

Arkansas entered Saturday near the bottom of the SEC West with a 5-3 overall record. But Florida’s visit was a reminder of just how deep the West is, especially compared with the SEC East. The Razorbacks brought the pain to the SEC East-leading Gators, rolling to an impressive 31-10 win in Fayetteville.

Arkansas completely controlled the game, outgaining Florida 466-241 yards, and got some balanced offense. Tailback Rawleigh Williams was powerful, carrying 26 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-clinching 42-yard scoring dash with less than five minutes to play. That effort came against the nation’s No. 2 scoring defense, which entered allowing 11.7 points per game.

It was a physical mismatch, and while the Razorbacks won’t win the West, they could finish the season with nine wins and make a nice warm-weather bowl game. They should earn some notice from the selection committee this week.

Moving Down

Texas A&M

When the first College Football Top 25 rankings were unveiled, Texas A&M’s inclusion at No. 4 raised a few eyebrows. Associated Press voters slotted Washington at No. 4, but A&M’s victories over Auburn, UCLA, Arkansas and Tennessee gave them the nod over the unbeaten Huskies.

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Trevor Knight and Texas A&M couldn’t capitalize on their No. 4 College Football Playoff ranking at Mississippi State.

Given the opportunity to validate that ranking, the Aggies fell on their collective face Saturday. A&M looked listless on both sides of the ball, let a 3-5 Mississippi State team build a 21-point halftime lead and never recovered in an 35-28 defeat. The post-Dak Prescott Bulldogs are not good; they entered with just one SEC win (over South Carolina) and were pushed hard before pulling out a 56-41 win over Samford.

Standout quarterback Trevor Knight left the game with a shoulder injury, and the Aggies couldn’t stop MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who threw for 209 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns. The 7-2 Aggies will surely slide in the polls this week.

LSU

LSU did not play poorly Saturday night. Far from it. For three quarters, the Tigers battled No. 1 Alabama to a scoreless tie, the first FBS game this season to be 0-0 going into the fourth quarter. Before a raucous, rowdy Tiger Stadium crowd, LSU did almost everything necessary to upset the Crimson Tide and hand interim coach Ed Orgeron a crucial victory.

Everything, that is, except score. With a little offense, LSU could have taken a victory that would have shaken up the playoff picture and perhaps secured Orgeron’s future in Baton Rouge. But the Tigers couldn’t manage anything against a nasty Alabama defense, and left on the wrong end of a 10-0 defeat. The difference? A 15-play, 50-yard Alabama drive that consumed 9:51 of the fourth quarter and resulted in a 25-yard Adam Griffith field goal.

Quarterback Danny Etling couldn’t move the ball, completing 11 of 24 passes for 92 yards and an interception. Star tailback Leonard Fournette was held in check for the second consecutive season against the Tide, gaining just 35 yards on 17 carries. It was a frustrating evening, but LSU surely gained some national respect and shouldn’t drop much in the polls entering ther final stretch against Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M.

Baylor

In the first half of 2016, it looked like an off-field scandal that rocked Baylor’s program and led to the ouster of coach Art Briles, athletic director Ian McCaw and president Kenneth Starr hadn’t affected the on-field product much. The Bears were 6-0 and looked like a fringe College Football Playoff candidate.

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Seth Russell and Baylor’s offense struggled to get anything going vs. TCU.

That’s not the case anymore. Following a 35-34 loss to Texas, Baylor looked totally unprepared in an ugly 62-22 loss to rival TCU. Wearing all-black uniforms, the Bears performed with little to no energy after grabbing a 7-0 lead on Seth Russell’s 81-yard touchdown pass to Ishmael Zamora on the second play of the game. TCU reeled off a 31-0 run to grab a 31-7 second-quarter lead, and Baylor never challenged again.

At this rate, a trip to Oklahoma, Kansas State, a neutral-site game with Texas Tech and a visit to West Virginia are all dangerous games for the Bears, who are quickly falling off the national radar.

Nebraska

Nebraska’s impressive 7-0 start hit a speed bump in last week’s 23-17 overtime loss at Wisconsin, but the Cornhuskers had a big opportunity to show America (and the CFP selection committee) that they were worthy of their respect with a visit to No. 6 Ohio State.

Their trip to Ohio Stadium was a nightmare for a number of reasons. No. 6 Ohio State was clearly the better team, bolting to a 21-point second-quarter lead and rolling to a 62-3 victory.

Making matters worse, senior quarterback and team leader Tommy Armstrong Jr. was knocked out of the game following a second-quarter run, leaving the game in an ambulance after having his jersey and pads cut away (but showing the ABC-TV audience a thumbs-up sign after doing so). Nebraska officials reported that Armstrong was able to move all extremities. 

Armstrong completed just four of 15 passes for 74 yards with an interception while in the game. Backup Ryker Fyfe also struggled. The Huskers lost control of their destiny in the Big Ten West, falling into a first-place tie with Wisconsin, who owns the tiebreaker between them. Their playoff hopes likely evaporated, and Mike Riley must find a way to rally his team.

Florida

Jim McElwain’s first season at Florida ended in ugly fashion. The Gators began the season 10-1 and won the SEC East, but they lost their final three games by a combined 97-24 score. This fall, Florida remains in control of its own SEC East destiny, but after Saturday’s 31-10 loss at Arkansas, McElwain has to be feeling a little bit of déjà vu.

The Gators were completely outclassed by Arkansas, getting outgained 466-241 and getting their only touchdown from an interception return by cornerback Duke Dawson. Quarterback Luke Del Rio could do little right, completing 19 of 37 passes for 229 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Arkansas outgained Florida on the ground 223-12. Ouch.

Florida is a half-game ahead of Kentucky and owns the head-to-head SEC East tiebreaker, but with an improving South Carolina team and LSU left on the schedule, as well as a season-ending trip to Florida State, the signs in Gainesville are ominous, indeed.

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