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

ByESPN staff ESPN logo
Sunday, November 7, 2021

The AP Top 25 college football poll is out, and after a wild weekend of games, there's some movement high in the rankings. Here's what's next for each ranked team:

1.Georgia Bulldogs (9-0)

Previous ranking: 1

Week 10 result:43-6 win vs. Missouri

What's next: at Tennessee (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

X factor:Like many of Georgia's receivers, Jermaine Burton's development has been hampered by injuries this season. He finally returned from a groin injury and had a big day against Missouri, with three catches for 76 yards with one touchdown. Arian Smith, who hadn't played since the UAB game on Sept. 11, was also back and caught a 35-yard score. "Arian might be the fastest dude in the country playing football," quarterback Stetson Bennett said. "I just trusted him to get to a spot, he got there and finished the play off." Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (ankle) had two catches for 18 yards.

What you need to know:Georgia's defense, which leads the FBS while allowing only 6.6 points per game, might get one of its more difficult tests from the Volunteers' high-flying offense. Under first-year coach Josh Heupel, the Volunteers rank third in scoring (38.2 points) and fourth in total offense (457.7 yards). Quarterback Hendon Hooker completed 15 of 20 passes for 316 yards with four touchdowns in a 45-42 upset of No. 18 Kentucky on the road on Saturday. Georgia has won four straight games in the series, each by at least 23 points, and has won nine of the past 11 overall. --Mark Schlabach

2.Cincinnati Bearcats (9-0)

Previous ranking: 2

Week 10 result:28-20 win vs. Tulsa

What's next:at South Florida (Friday, 6 p.m. ET)

X factor:RB Jerome Ford. The Bearcats' leading rusher left the game in the second quarter of the 28-20 win over Tulsa with what appeared to be a lower left leg injury and didn't return. Coach Luke Fickell is hopeful of getting Ford back soon, and the Bearcats need his punch in the running game.

What you need to know: Even with their unblemished record, the Bearcats are hardly playing their best football right now. Perhaps the outside noise of needing to win impressively is starting to take its toll, but this is a team that needs to play better down the stretch if it's going to stay unbeaten. A road game Friday against South Florida is followed by a home date with SMU and a trip to East Carolina to close the regular season. -- Chris Low

3.Alabama Crimson Tide (8-1)

Previous ranking: 3

Week 10 result:20-14 win vs. LSU

What's next:vs. New Mexico State (Saturday, noon ET)

X factor: The offensive line continues to be a major problem area, giving up four sacks to LSU. The same things that have plagued the unit all season long -- too many penalties, too many negative plays, too much pressure on the quarterback -- showed up against the Tigers and are in desperate need of being fixed.

What you need to know:As if things up front couldn't get worse, starting center Darrian Dalcourt went down against LSU with an injury and didn't return, causing Chris Owens to shift from tackle to center and throwing off what little chemistry existed among the group. -- Alex Scarborough

4.Oklahoma Sooners (9-0)

Previous ranking: 4

Week 10 result:No game

What's next:at Baylor (Saturday, noon ET)

X factor:LB Nik Bonitto. Baylor's Abram Smith, who had 125 yards against TCU, has already run for more than 1,000 yards this year, and the Bears have had seven different players score rushing touchdowns. Bonitto said last week that he has been embarrassed by the Sooners' defensive performance this season and vowed to lead the younger players to turn it around.

What you need to know:Lincoln Riley is 5-0 against Baylor, and the College Football Playoff rankings could potentially light a fire under the Sooners. Against Texas Tech, Caleb Williams completed 23 of 30 passes and finished with a 255.2 passing efficiency rating, which was the best in the country this season among quarterbacks who attempted at least 30 passes. -- Dave Wilson

5.Oregon Ducks(8-1)

Previous ranking: 7

Week 10 result:26-16 win vs. Washington

What's next:vs. Washington State (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET)

X factor:RB Travis Dye. When in doubt, give the ball to Dye. It has been Oregon's unspoken mantra this season after starter CJ Verdell went down for the year with an injury. Dye has gone above and beyond to fill the void. On Saturday, he ran for 211 electric yards and a touchdown while Oregon only passed for a mere 98 yards in the air. To say Dye carried the Ducks would be an understatement.

What you need to know: The Ducks get another late-night affair next weekend when they host a Washington State team that has shown a ton of fight since losing half of their coaching staff to a vaccine mandate. At this point of the season, for a team handling as much pressure as Oregon is, no game will be easy. -- Paolo Uggetti

6.Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1)

Previous ranking: 6

Week 10 result:26-17 win vs. Nebraska

What's next:vs. Purdue (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

X factor:QB C.J. Stroud. When a quarterback throws for 400 yards, it is hard to nitpick. But for the quarterback at Ohio State, that is bound to happen -- especially with two crucial interceptions, a strip-sack fumble that the Buckeyes were able to recover and several missed opportunities to score an even bigger win against Nebraska. As coach Ryan Day said after the game, "There's going to be a lot of learning lessons along the way, but he also did some really good things, threw some really good footballs, and made some good decisions. All part of the process."

What you need to know: The final stretch of the season doesn't get any easier for the Buckeyes, who are going to continue to field questions about their inconsistent performances against good teams as they make a push for a playoff spot. Purdue is up next, and Ohio State won't need any reminders about the way the Boilermakers have been known to ruin a season or two.-- Andrea Adelson

7.Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-1)

Previous ranking: 8

Week 10 result:34-6 win vs. Navy

What's next:at Virginia (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET)

X factor:Quarterback Jack Coan has had an up-and-down season at Notre Dame. He has dealt with injuries and inconsistent play, but was able to put together a solid game against Navy. Getting Coan into a groove and performing consistently would be a big help down the stretch.

What you need to know: Notre Dame only has one loss, and it was to a ranked Cincinnati team. The Irish still have Virginia, Georgia Tech and Stanford left on the schedule, so there won't be any marquee games to try to wow the College Football Playoff selection committee, but finishing the season with one loss could end up being enough depending on how the rest of the season plays out. The way Notre Dame is playing right now, it seems realistic to think this team is sitting at 11-1 when the season is finished. -- Tom VanHaaren

8.Michigan State Spartans (8-1)

Previous ranking: 5

Week 10 result:40-29 loss vs. Purdue

What's next:vs. Maryland (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET)

X factor:Running back Kenneth Walker III is a Heisman candidate, but despite 146 yards and a touchdown was for the most part corralled against Purdue. The Spartans are going to need him to be at his peak if the team is going to have a shot to finish the season with one loss.

What you need to know:The loss to Purdue is a blow to Michigan State's playoff chances, but there is still a shot at the Big Ten title, and who knows what happens from there. The Spartans have to play Maryland, Ohio State and Penn State in the last three games. It's not going to be an easy stretch, but given the way Michigan State is playing, the Spartans have a shot. The problem will come in Michigan State's secondary when the team takes on the Buckeyes. Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is averaging over 324 yards per game while Michigan State just gave up 536 to Purdue quarterback Aidan O'Connell. -- Tom VanHaaren

9.Michigan Wolverines (8-1)

Previous ranking: 9

Week 10 result:29-7 win vs. Indiana

What's next:at Penn State (Saturday, noon ET)

X factor:QB Cade McNamara. If Michigan is going to beat Penn State and Ohio State, the offense is going to need the passing game to help move the ball. The offense has relied on the run game, but McNamara had Michigan in the game against Michigan State by throwing the ball. Jim Harbaugh said McNamara was working through an injury in the Indiana game that he sustained against Michigan State. Michigan needs McNamara fully healthy to finish this season.

What you need to know: Michigan has one loss on the season, but still has Penn State and Ohio State as two of its last three games. Wins in those two games would go a long way for the Michigan program outside of just its record. Harbaugh hasn't beaten Ohio State and has already received criticism for losing to Michigan State two years in a row. Wins would also show that Michigan is on the right path and moving in the right direction. That is a big task, though, and while not impossible, it is going to be a challenge for Michigan to finish the season with just one loss. -- Tom VanHaaren

10. Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-1)

Previous week: 11

Week 10 result:24-3 win vs. West Virginia

What's next:vs. TCU (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET)

X factor:The entire Cowboys pass rush is dynamite, and defensive end Brock Martin was its leader Saturday. The Pokes sacked West Virginia quarterbacks eight times in only 32 pass attempts and completely controlled a 24-3 road win.

What you need to know: OSU controls its destiny in the Big 12 title race. The Cowboys are alone in second place with a 5-1 conference record, and they'll be favored in their next two games before a Nov. 27 meeting with Oklahoma. -- Bill Connelly

11. Texas A&M Aggies (7-2)

Previous week: 13

Week 10 result:20-3 win vs. Auburn

What's next:at Ole Miss (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET)

X factor:The Aggies' secondary has been incredible in 2021 -- A&M held Auburn QB Bo Nix to just 20-for-41 passing for 153 yards and an interception in Saturday's 20-3 win -- and nickelback Antonio Johnson might be its surest tackler and best cover guy.

What you need to know: Now 4-2 in SEC play and 7-2 overall, the Aggies are still alive in both the SEC West and CFP races, even if they'll need lots of help in both. Win out, hope Alabama suffers an upset, and potentially play themselves into the top four with a game against Georgia in the SEC championship. -- Bill Connelly

12.Ole Miss Rebels(7-2)

Previous ranking: 15

Week 10 result:27-14 win vs. Liberty

What's next:vs. Texas A&M (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET)

X factor:QB Matt Corral has been hobbling around for a while now, but he continues to produce. His 20-for-27 passing and 324 yards paced a 27-14 win over Liberty that was more comfortable than the spread suggested it would be.

What you need to know: The Rebels hadn't won more than six games in a season since Hugh Freeze led them to a 10-3 finish in 2015. Against Freeze's Flames on Saturday, they won their seventh game of 2021. Getting to double digits isn't out of the question. -- Bill Connelly

13. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-1)

Previous week: 10

Week 10 result:58-55 loss vs. North Carolina

What's next:vs. NC State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET)

X factor:Sam Hartman has been a huge piece of Wake Forest's success this season, and the game against North Carolina proved how much the team needs him in big situations. Hartman accounted for 398 yards and five touchdowns through the air and 78 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

What you need to know: With a loss, Wake Forest's hopes of making the College Football Playoff have narrowed. That doesn't mean there isn't still a lot to play for, though, as the team still has Clemson, NC State and Boston College left on the schedule. The Demon Deacons could win the conference, and with as much chaos as there has been this season, who knows? Maybe a one-loss ACC champ has a shot in the end. -- Tom VanHaaren

14.BYU Cougars (8-2)

Previous ranking: 17

Week 10 result:59-14 win vs. Idaho State

What's next: at Georgia Southern (Nov. 20, 4 p.m. ET)

X factor:WR Puka Nacua. The sophomore wideout crossed 100 receiving yards in a game Saturday for the fourth time this season. He only has two touchdowns on the season, but is averaging nearly 20 yards per catch.

What you need to know: BYU has a bye next week before it wraps up the season with the Clay Helton two-step. The Cougars face Georgia Southern (who just hired Helton as head coach) in two weeks, before finishing their season with Helton's former team, USC.-- Paolo Uggetti

15. UTSA Roadrunners (9-0)

Previous week: 16

Week 10 result: 44-23 win vs. UTEP

What's next:vs. Southern Miss (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

X factor:RB Sincere McCormick. Even though McCormick earned All-America honors last year and was a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, there is still a sense the country hasn't been quite able to appreciate how good he is. He's an NFL talent that college fans should make sure to watch before the junior's time at UTSA is up.

What you need to know: The Roadrunners are off to a historic 9-0 start that should not be ignored by the College Football Playoff selection committee. This is a top-25 caliber team and one of just four unbeaten teams left in college football. After what should be a relatively easy game against Southern Miss this week, a key game against UAB awaits on Nov. 20. It will likely decide the Conference USA West.-- Kyle Bonagura

16. Auburn Tigers (6-3)

Previous week: 12

Week 10 result:20-3 loss vs. Texas A&M

What's next: vs. Mississippi State (Saturday, noon ET)

X factor:As Bo Nix goes, so goes Auburn. Nix was outstanding in comfortable wins over Arkansas and Ole Miss, but he struggled mightily (20-for-41 with two turnovers) in a meek 20-3 loss at Texas A&M on Saturday.

What you need to know: There's no rest for the weary in the SEC West. The Tigers must put a frustrating loss behind them immediately and prepare for Mike Leach's tricky and unique Mississippi State Bulldogs, who ranked 17th in last week's playoff rankings before a loss at Arkansas. -- Bill Connelly

17. Houston Cougars (8-1)

Previous week: 20

Week 10 result:54-42 win vs. South Florida

What's next: at Temple (Saturday, noon ET)

X factor:QB Clayton Tune. In his past four games, Tune has thrown 12 touchdowns and no interceptions. On the season, he's completing 70% of his passes, a 10% bump over last year.

What you need to know: If the Cougars beat Temple on Saturday, they would clinch a spot in the AAC championship game for the first time since 2015. ESPN's FPI gives Houston a 92.7% chance of winning. -- Dave Wilson

18. Baylor Bears (7-2)

Previous week: 14

Week 10 result:30-28 loss vs. TCU

What's next:vs. Oklahoma (Saturday, noon ET)

X factor:QB Gerry Bohanon. The junior quarterback was off to a blazing start with no interceptions in his first 152 pass attempts this season, but has now thrown five in his last 78. The Bears can't afford those mistakes if they get into a shootout with Oklahoma on Saturday.

What you need to know:The Bears could face a newfound crisis of confidence on defense after TCU's Chandler Morris put up 531 total yards against them. With Caleb Williams coming to town, Baylor, which came into the game allowing just 209 passing yards per game, will need to get things straightened out in a hurry. -- Dave Wilson

19.Iowa Hawkeyes (7-2)

Previous ranking: 19

Week 10 result:17-12 win vs. Northwestern

What's next:vs. Minnesota (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

X factor:RB Tyler Goodson hadn't topped 100 rushing yards since Iowa beat Kent State in mid-September, but the junior ran for 141 yards and a touchdown in a 17-12 win over Northwestern on Saturday. Goodson has 961 total yards of offense this season.

What you need to know: Iowa fell from grace after its 23-20 win over Penn State, being outscored 51-14 in consecutive losses to Purdue and Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes have a crucial home game against Minnesota next week.-- Matt Eisenberg

20. Wisconsin Badgers (6-3)

Previous week: unranked

Week 10 result: 52-3 win vs. Rutgers

What's next: vs. Northwestern (Saturday, noon ET)

X factor: Braelon Allen's emergence at running back has provided stability and production for Wisconsin's offense after a poor start to the season. The freshman recorded his fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance, gaining 129 yards and a touchdown on only 15 carries. If Chez Mellusi (leg) is out for any significant period, Allen's role will become even more significant.

What you need to know: Wisconsin has turned around its season and enters the stretch run filled with confidence. The Badgers return home to face struggling Northwestern and Nebraska teams the next two weeks, before visiting Minnesota in a game that could decide the Big Ten West Division. Wisconsin and Northwestern have split their past six meetings. -- Adam Rittenberg

21. NC State Wolfpack (7-2)

Previous week: unranked

Week 10 result: 28-14 win vs. Florida State

What's next: at Wake Forest (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET)

X factor:QB Devin Leary. Because the quarterback play across the ACC has been so strong this season, what Leary has done in leading the Wolfpack has been overlooked on a national level. After an injury cut short a promising 2020, Leary has shown exactly why he is such a difference-maker, completing 66% of his passes with 2,161 yards passing, 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

What you need to know: The Atlantic Division could be decided Saturday in Winston-Salem, when NC State travels to play Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons sit atop the division at 5-0; NC State is right behind at 4-1. Wake Forest has won three of the past four meetings, though the Wolfpack won a wild 45-42 game a year ago.-- Andrea Adelson

22.Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (8-1)

Previous ranking: 21

Week 10 result:28-8 win vs. Georgia Southern

What's next:vs. Georgia State (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET)

X factor:RB Shermari Jones. Without QB Grayson McCall and RB Reese White against Georgia Southern, Jones was even more important than usual. He came up just shy of his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the year, but his 96 yards on 20 carries was a significant boost in a key win.

What you need to know: With Georgia State, Texas State and South Alabama left on the schedule, the Chanticleers will expect to run the table, but a 7-1 Sun Belt record might not be good enough to win the East. Appalachian State, which has South Alabama, Troy and Georgia Southern remaining, would also need to lose. -- Kyle Bonagura

23.Penn State Nittany Lions (6-3)

Previous ranking: 22

Week 10 result:31-14 win vs. Maryland

What's next:vs. Michigan (Saturday, noon ET)

X factor:Jahan Dotson continues to show why he's one of the Big Ten's top wide receivers, torching Maryland for 242 yards and three touchdowns on 11 receptions. Dotson has 22 receptions and 369 yards in his last two games. He continues to be quarterback Sean Clifford's top target in an offense that consistently struggles to run the ball.

What you need to know: Penn State will play the role of spoiler the rest of the season, beginning this week as Michigan visits Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions have won consecutive games against the Wolverines and three of the past four meetings. Penn State has some clear limitations, especially the run game and offensive line, but also some obvious strengths, such as Clifford and an incredible red zone defense. The Lions are still capable of winning out to finish 9-3. -- Adam Rittenberg

24. Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns (8-1)

Previous week: 24

Week 10 result:21-17 win vs. Georgia State

What's next: at Troy (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

X factor:With Chris Smith ineffective against Georgia State, Montrell Johnson helped Louisiana rally for the win with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Johnson has totaled more than 90 yards in three of his past four games.

What you need to know: Levi Lewis and the Ragin' Cajuns face a Troy team that has won three of its past four games next week. Then, they face Liberty, which will have an extra week to prepare.-- Matt Eisenberg

25. Pittsburgh Panthers (7-2)

Previous week: unranked

Week 10 result: 54-29 win vs. Duke

What's next: vs. North Carolina (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET)

X factor: Kenny Pickett obviously is Pitt's engine, but wide receiver Jordan Addison continues to impress. Addison led the Panthers with seven receptions for 171 yards and a touchdown, his second consecutive game of more than 140 receiving yards and his fifth 100-yard performance of the season. The sophomore's 11 touchdown receptions this season are the most for a Pitt player since Larry Fitzgerald's 22 in 2003. He also had a short rushing touchdown.

What you need to know: Pitt enters its most important stretch of the season, beginning Thursday night at home against North Carolina. The Panthers ended their six-game losing streak to UNC in 2019. After North Carolina, Pitt will host Virginia in a game that is likely to decide the ACC Coastal Division. -- Adam Rittenberg

Dropped out:Kentucky (18), SMU (23), Fresno State (25)

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