AP Top 25 college football poll reaction: What’s next for each ranked team


The first AP Top 25 poll to feature only teams playing this fall is out, and Clemson, off a season-opening win over Wake Forest on Saturday night, remains on top. How does the rest of the list shake out, and what’s in store for every ranked team? Let’s break it down.

No. 1 Clemson (1-0)

The Tigers play their only nonconference game of the season in Week 2 against The Citadel. Just like the Wake Forest game, do not expect stars like Trevor Lawrence or Travis Etienne to play a full game. This will be a good opportunity for Clemson to get more reps for the freshmen we saw in Week 1, including quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, running back Kobe Pace, receiver Ajou Ajou and defensive standouts Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee. One of the biggest objectives in the early part of the season is to build depth, and this game should provide the opportunity to do that before Clemson resumes ACC play the rest of the way. — Andrea Adelson

No. 2 Alabama (0-0)

The return of Dylan Moses can’t be overstated. When the veteran linebacker was lost for the season because of a knee injury last year, the defense took a major step back. You saw it against LSU and Auburn, and in games in between. But now that he’s back and there’s some real depth on the defensive side of the ball, don’t be surprised if we see more of the Alabama of old. — Alex Scarborough

No. 3 Oklahoma (1-0)

It’s hard not to look at OU’s schedule as anything but a run-up to Red River. The Sooners get a bye week following their easy jaunt past Missouri State, and they’ll face a pair of conference foes licking their wounds after that (Kansas State on Sept. 26, Iowa State on Oct. 3). Then it’s time for a Texas team that looked about as good as the Sooners did Saturday evening. Honestly, the biggest hurdle for Oklahoma, as with about everyone else, is getting its positive COVID-19 tests under control: 17 players sat out Saturday’s win. — Bill Connelly

No. 4 Georgia (0-0)

At the very least, the loss of Jamie Newman was a blow to the quality and depth of the quarterback room during a season in which depth could mean more than ever. What’s more, the transfer everyone expects to jump right in for Newman is JT Daniels, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last year and still hasn’t been officially cleared to play. If Daniels is cleared and is half the player Bulldogs fans hope he’ll be, a trip to the playoff might not be out of the question. — Scarborough

No. 5 Florida (0-0)

The Gators lost their top four receivers from a year ago, and though there are known players with the opportunity to step up such as Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney, watch for some new faces to potentially emerge. So far through camp, true freshman Xzavier Henderson (the brother of former Gators cornerback CJ Henderson) and Jaquavion Fraziars have earned praise. Then there is Penn State transfer Justin Shorter, now eligible to play this season. — Adelson

No. 6 LSU (0-0)

Depth is a huge concern in Baton Rouge, where the 2020 NFL draft robbed the Tigers of 15 starters from a year ago — not to mention the recent opt-outs of star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and defensive lineman Tyler Shelvin. Sure, Derek Stingley Jr. and Terrace Marshall Jr. are back, but if you’re Myles Brennan and you’re finally getting your chance to start at quarterback, you have to wonder where the heck everybody went. — Scarborough

No. 7 Notre Dame (1-0)

Coach Brian Kelly said it’s going to take some time for quarterback Ian Book to build chemistry with some of the new offensive players, which includes running back Kyren Williams, a transfer receiver in Ben Skowronek and freshmen Michael Mayer and Chris Tyree all trying to get into a rhythm. It looked as though they started to find that rhythm in the second half of Saturday’s win over Duke, but they’re going to need to keep building with Louisville, Pitt, Clemson and North Carolina all on the schedule. The defense should be fine, but Notre Dame’s shot at making it to the College Football Playoff probably will rest on how far the offense can take it. — Tom VanHaaren

No. 8 Auburn (0-0)

Pay close attention to both lines of scrimmage when the Tigers kick off the season. The offensive line is going to be almost entirely rebuilt, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on how you view last season. And the defensive line, without stars Derrick Brown and Montravius Adams, has some huge holes to fill. The good news is there’s confidence in the young talent up front on defense, anchored by the return of veteran Big Kat Bryant. — Scarborough

No. 9 Texas (1-0)

After cruising past UTEP, the Longhorns will travel to Texas Tech in two weeks looking to pick up another win against a team from West Texas. The Red Raiders look vulnerable after sleepwalking their way through a 35-27 win against FCS Houston Baptist in their opener. Then, it’s only TCU between the Longhorns and Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry on Oct. 10. — Kyle Bonagura

No. 10 Texas A&M (0-0)

Year 3 of the Jimbo Fisher era was scheduled to be a big opportunity following a grueling 2019 schedule. The 10-game SEC schedule will pose a tougher test than anticipated, but hopes are still high. Quarterback Kellen Mond is a senior and has earned praise from Fisher, and Mike Elko’s defense has depth and an SEC-ready front line. We’ll find out quick: a Sept. 26 visit from Vanderbilt will be followed by a test against Alabama on Oct. 3. — Dave Wilson

No. 11 Oklahoma State (0-0)

Mike Gundy’s high-upside Cowboys had their season opener against Tulsa postponed for a week, so we have to wait a little bit longer to get our primary OSU questions answered: Is quarterback Spencer Sanders ready for a breakthrough? Is the remodeled offensive line stable out of the gates? Is the Pokes’ defense going to stand up against the run better than it did last year? Get positive answers in two of those three, and OSU could live up to its top-15 hype. — Connelly

No. 12 North Carolina (1-0)

North Carolina made plenty of mistakes in its opener vs. Syracuse, but that might be a positive in the long run. It’s clear the O-line has some work to do, and a bevy of special-teams blunders should provide plenty of fodder for Mack Brown to push his team in practice this week. But the next few weeks — vs. Charlotte and at BC — should provide some additional runway to refine some of the rough edges before the Heels host Virginia Tech on Oct. 10, a game that should provide a lot more evidence on whether this team is genuinely ready to contend for an ACC title. — David M. Hale

No. 13 Cincinnati (0-0)

The first game of the season doesn’t start until Saturday for the Bearcats, which could be an advantage compared to some of the other Top 25 teams with a little more time to prepare. Any advantage will help as this season could be another step forward for this program after it went 11-3 in 2019. Among those three losses, two came to Memphis, including a loss to the Tigers in the conference championship game. This season, Cincinnati returns a lot of key players, including quarterback Desmond Ridder, leading receiver Alec Pierce and the leader in tackles on defense, Darrick Forrest. The Bearcats will be tested early with Army in their second week and will have to get through SMU, Memphis and UCF later in the season, but there is a good chance they take home the top spot in the AAC. — VanHaaren

No. 14 UCF (0-0)

The Knights have only one nonconference game against a Power 5 team this season, and it happens this Saturday in their opener against Georgia Tech. While the Yellow Jackets are not among the top tier in the ACC, this will be UCF’s only opportunity in that all-important strength of schedule category the College Football Playoff always points to during selection time (it’s never too early to look ahead). UCF had 10 players decide to opt out, and one of the biggest names was starting cornerback Tay Gowan. Watch for Zamari Maxwell to step into the starting lineup. — Adelson

No. 15 Tennessee (0-0)

The Vols are waiting to hear whether Georgia transfer Cade Mays’ appeal to be eligible right away is successful. If he’s granted eligibility to play this season, Tennessee should have one of the best offensive lines in the SEC. And even if Mays doesn’t win his appeal, one of the strengths of the Vols will be their offensive line with All-American guard Trey Smith and veteran center Brandon Kennedy manning the interior. There also has been some good competition this preseason up front, creating the kind of depth that will come in handy for the Vols as they work their way through an all-SEC schedule. — Chris Low

No. 16 Memphis (1-0)

The Tigers are going to have the upcoming week off, after their AAC opener against Houston was postponed because of issues related to COVID-19. Memphis stopped because a “significant number of individuals” inside the program were put into quarantine, per coronavirus protocols. Now, at the earliest, we’ll see Memphis on Sept. 25 in San Antonio when it takes on UTSA, which opened up its season with a win against Texas State. — Lyles

No. 17 Miami (1-0)

The Miami offense had a decent debut in the opener against UAB, and D’Eriq King gave just a small glimpse into why he can be such a game-changer. The matchup against Louisville gives Miami an opportunity to build on its start, specifically in the passing game, against a defense that has many questions. The Hurricanes torched the Cards for 52 points and nearly 500 yards of offense in their game last November — and that was before its move to the tempo spread. — Adelson

No. 18 Louisville (1-0)

The Cardinals host the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday night, kicking off ACC play for both teams. Miami was the first Power 5 school to play football this season, beating UAB 31-14 on Thursday night. The Hurricanes had 493 yards of total offense under new coordinator Rhett Lashlee. If Louisville has a similar night on offense as it did against Western Kentucky, this one could be a barn burner. — Lyles

No. 19 Louisiana (1-0)

Louisiana: The Cajuns just scored their first win over a ranked opponent since 1996 and now find themselves ranked for the first time ever. You never know how a team will respond to firsts like that, but if Billy Napier’s team keeps its wits, it should plow through Georgia State and Georgia Southern to set up an Oct. 7 battle against Appalachian State, the only Sun Belt foe to beat the Cajuns a year ago. How far can they take this run? — Connelly

No. 20 Virginia Tech (0-0)

The Hokies’ season opener on Sept. 19 against in-state rival Virginia was postponed because of COVID-19. Virginia Tech is now scheduled to open the season against NC State on Sept. 26. The school has not been releasing athlete-specific results, but reported Sept. 11 that it had 219 positive tests for the coronavirus in the previous seven days. If more ACC schools are forced to postpone, the ACC season could be halted. — Lyles

No. 21 BYU (1-0)

Being able to piece together a schedule at the last minute was impressive enough for BYU after the Pac-12, Big Ten and Mountain West all bailed on the fall. Even more impressive, though, was the way BYU absolutely decimated Navy 55-3 on the road in its Labor Day opener. The scheduling challenges could linger. BYU’s game with Army this Saturday was postponed because of a “small number of positive COVID-19 test results” and resulting contact tracing within the BYU football program. — Low

No. 22 Army (2-0)

Army is the best 2-0 team on the planet at the moment. (The Black Knights are the only 2-0 team, but let’s not get caught up in minor details.) After last year’s injury-addled stumble to 5-8, it appears Jeff Monken’s squad has gotten back up to speed, beating its first two opponents by a combined 79-7. No, MTSU and ULM probably aren’t very good, but as I say early in a given season each year, blowing out bad teams is still a tell. It hints at what you’re capable of about as well as anything else early on. — Connelly

No. 23 Kentucky (0-0)

Could the Wildcats be the most underrated team in the SEC? It’s certainly possible when you consider what coach Mark Stoops has built in Lexington these past few years. The one overarching question is how healthy quarterback Terry Wilson is after missing most of last season because of an injury. His ability to run and pass the football, coupled with a strong offensive line and yet another solid defense, could make Kentucky a threat to SEC East powerhouses Georgia and Florida. — Scarborough

No. 24 Appalachian State (1-0)

The Mountaineers travel to Marshall, which is coming off a 59-0 win against Eastern Kentucky. The Thundering Herd have an experienced and talented bunch, but if App State is able to run the football the way it did against Charlotte, it could be a good trip for the Mountaineers. Marshall has won the past two contests in 1996 and 2002, though App State leads the series 14-8. — Harry Lyles Jr.

No. 25 Pittsburgh (1-0)

The Panthers got off to such a fast start against FCS foe Austin Peay — 42-0 at the break — that the teams agreed to 10-minute quarters in the second half due to the blowout. Pat Narduzzi’s squad rolled to a 55-0 win. That was good news for Pitt, but less so for gamblers who had the Panthers -30. The shortened quarters reduced the game to 50 minutes total, five minutes short of the requirement for Las Vegas books to pay out, so all bets were canceled. Things should get more challenging in ACC play, starting with Syracuse at home on Saturday. — Hale

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