If the Amway Coaches Poll sets the table for preseason college football rankings, and the College Football Playoff committee‘s rankings announced later in the year are dessert, then dinner is now being served.
The first Associated Press poll was taken in 1936 and ranks the Top 25 teams in college football, as well as men’s and women’s basketball. There are 65 sportswriters and broadcasters from across the nation who contribute to the weekly rankings, and they’ve finally weighed in on the AP Top 25 Poll for the first time in 2018.
There are a few surprises, more than a few teams with a lot to prove, and even more questions about how the preseason AP poll is shaking out before the first game of the season is even underway.
The Top Four
Wisconsin is the most easily forgotten team in all of college football. In the last seven Big Ten Championship games, Wisconsin has played in five of them. The Badgers won the conference last season, and with Ohio State entrenched in scandal, this could be a special for Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor and Wisconsin.
As for the other three up top, are you really surprised? The Crimson Tide, Tigers and Bulldogs are the best teams in college football, and there’s no other argument to be made until one loses.
First Four Out
5. Ohio State
8. Miami (FL)
The Buckeyes stay high for talent alone, but they might not have that same Ohio State swagger if they lose Urban Meyer on the sideline.
Washington is the favorite to win the Pac 12, but this feels a little high. CFBMatrix creator Dave Bartoo predicts the Huskies finishing 9-3 in the regular season, including an opening week loss to Auburn. They have to earn their spot ahead of the Big 12’s lone top-10 representative, Oklahoma.
The Next Four
10. Penn State
11. Michigan State
12. Notre Dame
This is becoming a theme: if you want to compete, you need a top-flight quarterback. Every one of these four has just that.
Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, Penn State’s Trace McSorley and Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke were all named to the Davey O’Brien Preseason Watch List (given to college football’s top quarterback), and Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush is the unquestioned leader of a talented Fighting Irish team.
Any team out of this group that maintains all season absolutely has a shot to win the national championship.
The Question Marks
Now, we’re starting to get muddy.
CFBMatrix’s Dave Bartoo only gives Stanford seven wins this year, and also predicts Michigan will lose all of its key road games to Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State. With USC still searching for its next quarterback and Gary Patterson still losing his mind about college football rules, these rankings feel like they’re more about reputation than legitimate Top-25 credentials.
The Offensively Gifted
17. West Virginia
18. Mississippi State
19. Florida State
20. Virginia Tech
What do head coaches Dana Holgorsen, Joe Moorhead, Willie Taggart and Justin Fuente have in common? They’re all offensive gurus that could easily have top units in their respective conferences come the end of the season.
All of these teams are about scoring points, and that’s the only that’s either going to keep them afloat this season, or sink the ship really quickly.
The Final Five
22. Boise State
Defending national champs, Central Florida, probably still aren’t satisfied being the highest ranked Group of 5 school on the Top-25. They’ll start in good position to break the mold and earn a spot in the CFP final if they dominate the AAC and go undefeated again.
Dave Bartoo has Boise State only losing one game (on the road against Oklahoma State) before finishing the regular season 11-1. The Broncos put a season like this together, and we’ll see them in a New Year’s Day bowl game.
In classic AP Poll fashion, the has-beens at the top of college football bring up the rear. Neither Oregon or LSU seem like serious contenders, only because they haven’t proven it in recent years — the talent is there, but it needs proven.
Your national title dark horse is the Texas Longhorns — Bartoo predicts Texas rolling through the Big-12 finishing with a perfect 12-0 record, which would surely earn them a spot in the College Football Playoff.
South Carolina, Florida, Utah, Oklahoma State, FAU, Arizona, NC State, Texas A&M, Boston College, Northwestern, Kansas State, Iowa State, Houston, Memphis, Troy, Iowa, Kentucky, Arkansas State, Fresno State
Who was left out? Who is WAY too high? Debate it, respect it, love the AP Top 25 Poll.
College football starts in less than two weeks.