After a Week 2 slate that saw six top-25 teams lose, a road favorite win in a top-10 showdown and the return of #ThePac12AfterDark, the Week 3 AP Top 25 poll was released Sunday and there were major changes.
Three teams that were ranked in the 20s last week fell out of this week’s poll, making room for three Power Five schools that made their 2019 debut in the AP poll.
In total, 22 of the 25 spots feature a new team this week.
Here are our reactions to the latest AP Top 25 poll.
A new top four
Only three teams kept their ranking from last week – No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia.
That’s because No. 4 LSU, fresh off of its win at Texas on Saturday night, when Joe Burrow put up the most passing yards by a Tigers quarterback in 18 years, climbed two spots, leapfrogging Oklahoma and Ohio State. That gives the SEC three of the top four teams, four of the top eight and five of the top 10.
Much was made about the rough Week 1 that plagued the SEC, particularly the SEC East, but there’s no denying the upper echelon of the conference has looked very, very good through two weeks.
We saw the SEC put multiple teams in the College Football Playoff in the 2017 season, when SEC Champion Georgia and one-loss Alabama both finished among the committee’s top four teams.
The early returns from the 2019 season suggest the conference could make a run at claiming multiple playoff spots yet again, particularly if both division winners are undefeated when they meet in Atlanta for the SEC Championship, or if the second-place SEC West team only has one loss that comes against the SEC West champion.
Also, after Clemson cruised against Texas A&M, don’t be surprised if the Tigers keep the No. 1 ranking through December.
Three new faces
Welcome back to the AP Top 25, No. 21 Maryland, No. 24 USC and No. 25 Virginia.
The Terps haven’t been ranked since the 2013 season, when they were ranked No. 25 for exactly one week.
USC’s drought hasn’t been nearly as long because, well, it’s USC. The Trojans debuted at No. 15 in the 2018 preseason AP Top 25, fell to No. 17, then No. 22, in the next two polls, then remained unranked for the rest of the season.
For USC Coach Clay Helton’s sake, the Trojans better hope they can recreate their AP poll evolution from 2016 – Helton’s first season as USC’s full-time head coach. They were No. 20 in the preseason poll but finished at No. 3.
Virginia reached No. 23 in the AP Top 25 poll last season, which ended roughly a seven-year poll drought, so their return to the top 25 marks the first time the Cavaliers have been ranked in back-to-back seasons since 2005.
If you’re trying to guess which of the three teams will stay ranked the longest without falling out of the poll, Maryland might actually be the best choice. The Terrapins travel to Temple, then host No. 13 Penn State (which is certainly no gimme, but a competitive loss shouldn’t drop Maryland from the top 25), before traveling to Rutgers and Purdue, then hosting Indiana and going to Minnesota.
If Maryland’s offense continues to put up points at a ridiculous rate, maybe the Terrapins surprisingly reach bowl eligibility in October before facing a backloaded Big Ten schedule.
That was fast
Nebraska didn’t receive a single AP Top 25 vote in the Week 3 poll after the Huskers blew a lead at rival Colorado on Saturday and lost in overtime. The country’s preseason No. 24 team, which went 4-8 last season, benefitted from an offseason full of hype is currently 1-1 and hasn’t looked like the media’s Big Ten West preseason favorite in either of its two games.
Saturday’s loss obviously doesn’t count in the Big Ten standings for the Huskers but given that Wisconsin has outscored its opponents 110-0 through two weeks and how Iowa shut out Rutgers 30-0 in its conference opener, not to mention an explosive Purdue offense, a Minnesota team that has found ways to win ugly in the first two weeks, reigning division champion Northwestern or even an improved Illinois squad, it’s hard to label Nebraska the favorite, or even the second choice, to win the division.
Maybe it’s better to take a wait-and-see approach with Nebraska for now.