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


The AP Top 25 college football poll is out, and after a wild Saturday of games, especially in the SEC, there’s some movement near the top of the rankings. Here’s what’s next for each ranked team:

No. 1 Clemson (4-0)

Travis Etienne is really good. This isn’t news. We didn’t need Saturday’s game to prove it. But for a guy who has played second fiddle on his own team for nearly all of his career, it’s good to remind ourselves every so often that there’s another generational talent on Clemson’s offense besides Trevor Lawrence. Etienne was unstoppable against Miami, starring as both a rusher and receiver, and scoring a touchdown in the 39th different game in his career to set an FBS record. Etienne’s success is just another reminder that, to beat Clemson, defenses need to pick their poison, and that sets up a nearly impossible scenario for anyone else in the ACC to overcome. — David M. Hale

No. 2 Alabama (3-0)

There’s no doubt now that Mac Jones is a capable replacement for Tua Tagovailoa, and that Alabama’s offense can hang with anyone. But that defense? Sheesh. After what Ole Miss was able to do to it, racking up 48 points and 647 yards, there are more questions than answers. There’s talent on that side of the ball, no doubt, but there were so many uncharacteristic missed tackles and blown assignments. If Saban and defensive coordinator Pete Golding can’t get it fixed in a hurry — remember, Georgia’s up next — then the Crimson Tide could be in trouble. — Alex Scarborough

No. 3 Georgia (3-0)

Georgia had a half of football that allowed Tennessee to stay close, but after that, it grinded out a game and continued to look like one of the best teams in college football. The Bulldogs have Alabama next. If they’re able to have a consistent game on offense, and let their defense shine as they usually do, it could be a big weekend for Kirby Smart’s crew. — Harry Lyles Jr.

No. 4 Notre Dame (3-0)

The run game exploded for Notre Dame against Florida State with 353 yards on the ground and four rushing touchdowns. Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree provided a good one-two punch for Notre Dame that should continue to get better. The offense is going to need that production with Louisville, Pitt, Georgia Tech and Clemson as the next games on the schedule. The defense might have been a little rusty from its three-week layoff, giving up 405 total yards to Florida State, but it’ll need to get back on track as all four of its next opponents rank in the top 20 for offensive touchdowns scored this season. — Tom VanHaaren

No. 5 North Carolina (3-0)

The Tar Heels pounded the football on the ground against Virginia Tech, rushing for 399 yards. So heading into their game against Florida State, it stands to reason they will want to once again rely on Michael Carter and Javonte Williams — especially since the Seminoles gave up over 300 yards rushing in a loss to Notre Dame. But one of the key focuses for the week will be on shoring up the defense. Among the areas with which coach Mack Brown is concerned: giving up too many rushing yards and third-down conversions against the Hokies, and an inability to create turnovers. — Andrea Adelson

No. 6 Ohio State (0-0)

The Buckeyes are ranked as a top-10 team without even playing a down of football yet this season. That’s probably a good indication of the potential for the 2020 season. This team has an opportunity to play for a title with quarterback Justin Fields back and some outstanding pieces around him. As long as the Buckeyes can find a replacement for J.K. Dobbins at running back, the offense should be just as potent as last season. Some of the young receivers coming in this season will make an impact, and returning Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson gives Fields a ton of options in the passing game. — VanHaaren

No. 7 Oklahoma State (3-0)

The Cowboys had an open week after showcasing an improved defense the first three weeks. They haven’t given up more than 13 points. Granted, Oklahoma State is going to face offenses much more capable of putting up big points down the road, but the balance of this Cowboys’ defense has been what has stood out to this point. Mike Gundy said before the season that he thought this defense had a chance to be the best he has had in his 16 years as Oklahoma State’s coach. Check back in a month or so to see if he was right. — Low

No. 8 Cincinnati (3-0)

The highest-ranked Group of 5 team had the week off, and will come back next week on the road at Tulsa, which gave Oklahoma State a fight to open the season, and upset UCF on Oct. 3. Despite having plenty of time to prepare, the Golden Hurricane are a team that the Bearcats shouldn’t take lightly at all. A win would help bolster their case as one of the best G5 teams in the country. — Lyles

No. 9 Penn State (0-0)

Only one more Saturday off before Penn State kicks off, and before their Halloween battle with Ohio State, James Franklin’s Nittany Lions travel to face a tricky Indiana team that could be borderline Top 25. PSU wasn’t as lucky as conference mates in the opting-back-in department — star linebacker Micah Parsons elected to remain out — but they should learn quite a bit about what they do and don’t have against Indiana’s sharp passing game. Win that, and the Big Ten’s game of the year is on deck. — Bill Connelly

No. 10 Florida (2-1)

The Gators did enough offensively to score a road win but not enough defensively, allowing 543 yards. That’s the biggest glaring issue for Dan Mullen’s team moving forward. The Gators’ next opponent, LSU, has its own defensive problems but has scored at least 34 points in every game this season, including 40+ twice. Todd Grantham’s unit has work to do, quickly before facing the rival Tigers. And with Georgia at 3-0, the Gators can’t afford to lose much more ground in the SEC East race. — Sam Khan Jr.

No. 11 Texas A&M (2-1)

What a difference a week makes. After licking their wounds off an Alabama loss, the Aggies made a statement with an impressive win over the then-No. 4 Gators. Kellen Mond played lights out as did running back Isaiah Spiller. The offensive line was a marvel, controlling the line of scrimmage for much of the day. Keeping up that effort would go a long way for the Aggies, who have a much more manageable schedule ahead. Four of the next five Texas A&M opponents are currently unranked, and, quite frankly, every game left on the Aggies’ schedule looks reasonably winnable. — Khan

No. 12 Oregon (0-0)

The Ducks opened training camp last week after getting doses of good and bad news. Rose Bowl MVP safety Brady Breeze announced he would opt out of the 2020 season, but cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, a first-team All-Pa-12 pick in 2019, made the opposite decision, opting back in. Oregon is the official media pick to win the conference title. — Kyle Bonagura

No. 13 Miami (3-1)

How much did Miami fans really believe Saturday’s game was a potential win? The recent history against Clemson was ugly, and the Tigers delivered another drubbing Saturday. So where does that leave Miami? If expectations were set high before Saturday’s loss, this feels like a real setback. But the truth is, it simply exposed some obvious differences in talent that Clemson probably would have exposed against nearly any team. Miami’s future might still end with a rematch of this one in the ACC title game, and the real measure of progress for this Canes team is probably better determined by how it responds from here. — Hale

No. 14 Auburn (2-1)

It was anything but pretty, but coach Gus Malzahn is going to take a win over Arkansas however he can get it. But at 2-1, he has to get his offense in a better place in a hurry, specifically at quarterback where Bo Nix has not shown the kind of growth from his freshman to sophomore year that you’d expect. Through three games, Nix is averaging 136.7 yards and one touchdown passing per game. Sooner or later, those numbers are going to have to improve for the Tigers to have a successful season. — Scarborough

No. 15 BYU (4-0)

After their first disappointing performance of the season — a 27-20 win as a five-touchdown favorite over UTSA — Kalani Sitake’s Cougars must turn the page a little more quickly than normal: their next opponent is a Houston team that handed Tulane two defensive touchdowns and still won by three scores. BYU was a little too generous to the UTSA passing game and have some things to shore up if it doesn’t want to get sucked into a high-scoring affair in Houston. — Connelly

No. 16 Wisconsin (0-0)

Quarterback Jack Coan underwent successful surgery on his foot, but an expected return date is not known. Second-string quarterback Graham Mertz has been taking reps with the first team in practice, and coach Paul Chryst says he has full confidence in Mertz running the offense. Mertz was the highest-ranked quarterback the program has ever landed and many thought he would play last season as a true freshman. His debut might be earlier than the coaches had anticipated, but with Wisconsin opening with Illinois and Nebraska, Mertz will get a chance to show what he can do and why he was so highly rated out of high school. — VanHaaren

No. 17 SMU (4-0)

The Mustangs were off this week before they travel to Tulane on Friday and hope senior quarterback Shane Buechele stays red-hot. Buechele passed for a career-high 474 yards last week in a win over Memphis to go along with three touchdowns. Buechele has thrown for 1,326 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first four games and completed 68.6% of his passes. He’s playing at a level right now that will make SMU a tough out against anybody Sonny Dykes’ Mustangs play. — Low

No. 18 Tennessee (2-1)

The Vols showed for a half that they might be able to keep up with Georgia … until they couldn’t. Tennessee failed in its “We’re back” game against Georgia, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a team the rest of the SEC should sleep on. The Vols will get a chance to make up for last week against Kentucky, before they get to really sweat again against Alabama in a couple of weeks. — Lyles

No. 19 Michigan (0-0)

Quarterback Joe Milton has been getting more and more praise from his teammates and coaches. He hasn’t been named the starter yet, but he is probably the presumed leader. Milton gives Michigan a runner and passer at quarterback with a big arm, and without Nico Collins at receiver, Milton is going to have to rely on some of his younger teammates to step up and help out. Mike Sainristil, Giles Jackson, A.J. Henning, Cornelius Johnson and Roman Wilson are all going to need to play a role. Michigan’s depth at running back is optimal, so it’s the receivers and quarterback who are going to be the pieces that keep the momentum rolling from last season. — VanHaaren

No. 20 Iowa State (3-1)

Matt Campbell’s squad is off to its best conference start since 2002. Saturday’s effort against Texas Tech was ideal, with proficient offense and dominant defense. The Cyclones get an off week coming up before meeting Oklahoma State, who at this moment is also unbeaten in league play. The winner of that game will have an inside track to a Big 12 title game berth and right now, the Cyclones’ body of work looks like the best of any team in the league. — Khan

No. 21 Louisiana (3-0)

After their big midweek game with Appalachian State was postponed, Billy Napier’s Ragin’ Cajuns got a bye week in preparation for a DIFFERENT big midweek game: Wednesday’s visit from a smoking-hot Coastal Carolina team. Louisiana has eked out conference wins over Georgia State and Georgia Southern since its upset of Iowa State, and the Ragin’ Cajuns will need to find a new level to deal with an unbeaten Chanticleers squad that dominated Arkansas State a week ago. — Connelly

No. 22 Kansas State (3-1)
Without injured QB Skylar Thompson, the Wildcats went on the road to get a conference win over TCU. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but K-State’s defense carried the day. Thompson’s health — which coach Chris Klieman said he’ll have an update on Monday — is pivotal to K-State’s ability to contend for a spot in the Big 12 title game, but fortunately for the Wildcats, they have an off week next week then a date with rival Kansas. But if the defense keeps playing like it did Saturday, the Wildcats are in good shape regardless. — Khan

No. 23 Virginia Tech (2-1)

The Hokies did not play up to their standard on defense in a loss to North Carolina, and part of that is because they were missing so many players against the best offense they have faced to date. Virginia Tech struggled across the board, and gave up far too many explosive plays. For the first time this season, Virginia Tech played Braxton Burmeister and Hendon Hooker and both led scoring drives but trying to figure out the right balance between the two remains a work in progress headed into its next game against improved Boston College. — Adelson

No. 24 Minnesota (0-0)

Getting wide receiver Rashod Bateman back is going to be a big help for an offense that’s looking to replace a lot of production. The Gophers are going to get tested in their first week of the season, taking on Michigan. There are no cupcakes this season, so Minnesota is going to need to come out swinging early. With quarterback Tanner Morgan still at the helm, the offense should be able to make plays in the passing game, but the team will need someone else alongside Mohamed Ibrahim at running back to help replace Rodney Smith, who had over 1,000 yards rushing in 2019. — VanHaaren

No. 25 USC (0-0)
USC was officially voted as the favorite in the Pac-12 South and was only slightly behind Oregon in the media poll to win the conference title. With approvals from both state and local government to practice, the Trojans head into another important season for head coach Clay Helton. — Bonagura

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