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

ByESPN staff ESPN logo
Sunday, November 14, 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 (10-0)

Previous ranking: 1

Week 11 result:41-17 win vs. Tennessee

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

X factor:RB James Cook. The Dawgs have spread it around this season in their running game, and Cook led the way against Tennessee with 104 rushing yards, matching his career high. Cook, a 5-foot-11 and190-pound senior, finished with two rushing touchdowns and also caught a 23-yard touchdown pass. Coach Kirby Smart said Cook is playing his best football as Georgia readies for the postseason.

What you need to know: Georgia finished its SEC schedule with an 8-0 record for the first time in school history. They get Charleston Southern at home next Saturday and then Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Nov. 27 to wrap up the regular season. Tennessee tested Georgia with its up-tempo offense, but the Dawgs answered an early Vols touchdown by outscoring them 41-3 until Tennessee scored a late touchdown. Not since the season-opening 10-3 win over Clemson has Georgia had a close game, and that doesn't figure to change in the next two weeks leading into the SEC championship game. -- Chris Low

2.Alabama Crimson Tide (9-1)

Previous ranking: 3

Week 11 result:59-3 win vs. New Mexico State

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

X factor:The offensive line looked much improved against New Mexico State compared to the week before against LSU, but it needs its starting center, Darrian Dalcourt, back to 100% after suffering an ankle injury that kept him from playing Saturday.

What you need to know:Don't look now, but Alabama's pass rush is picking up at the right time with games against Arkansas and Auburn remaining. A week after sacking LSU's Max Johnson five times, Will Anderson Jr. and Co. brought down New Mexico State's Jonah Johnson seven times on Saturday. -- Alex Scarborough

3.Cincinnati Bearcats (10-0)

Previous ranking: 2

Week 11 result:45-28 win vs. South Florida

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

X factor:RB Ryan Montgomery. Senior quarterback Desmond Ridder can't be asked to carry too heavy of a load. He has been effective passing and running, but Montgomery may have to increase his role. Leading rusher Jerome Ford has missed most of the past two games with a leg injury, and junior running back Charles McClelland also left the South Florida game with an injury. Montgomery closed Friday's game with a 55-yard touchdown run.

What you need to know: The Bearcats are still not wowing anybody over and are allowing opponents they're heavily favored against to hang around in games. Nonetheless, they keep winning and are now 10-0 heading into Saturday's home game against SMU before closing the regular season on the road against East Carolina. Ranked No. 5 in last week's CFP rankings, Cincinnati will again give the committee plenty to think about when the newest rankings are released. -- Chris Low

4.Oregon Ducks(9-1)

Previous ranking: 5

Week 11 result:38-24 win vs. Washington State

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

X factor:Running back Byron Cardwell ripped off a 27-yard touchdown run in the second half that all but sealed the Oregon win. Cardwell has been key as of late, alongside Travis Dye, in fueling the Ducks offense when it is in need of a boost.

What you need to know: In what could be a preview of the Pac-12 title game, Oregon heads to Salt Lake City next week to face Utah in what's certainly its toughest test yet. A win for the Ducks will likely ensure the Pac-12 title game also doubles as a playoff game for them (likely against Utah again), while a loss would derail their season. The Utes appear up to the challenge.-- Paolo Uggetti

5.Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1)

Previous ranking: 6

Week 11 result:59-31 win vs. Purdue

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

X factor:QB C.J. Stroud has 766 yards and seven touchdown passes in the last two games for Ohio State. Stroud has helped take the Buckeyes offense to a new level.

What you need to know:The Buckeyes are 9-1 with games against Michigan State and Michigan still on the schedule. Those are two top-10 teams to finish out the season, which will present a challenge. The Ohio State defense gave up 390 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air against Purdue. Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne has thrown for 563 yards and six touchdowns over the last two games. Ohio State's defense will need to shut down both Thorne and running back Kenneth Walker III if the Buckeyes want to avoid a shootout. -- Tom VanHaaren

6.Notre Dame Fighting Irish(9-1)

Previous ranking: 7

Week 11 result:28-3 win vs. Virginia

What's next:vs. Georgia Tech (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET)

X factor: The Irish defense. For the second straight game, it held a team to only field goals, and it has held six of its last eight opponents to 16 points or fewer. With an offense that has been up and down all season, this kind of defensive performance from the Irish at least gives them the appearance of an elite team.

What you need to know: Brian Kelly's team only has two games left in the season, both against teams with just three wins on the year so far. The Irish host Georgia Tech next weekend before traveling to Stanford. Anything less than an 11-1 finish would be a shock. Missing the playoff despite being 11-1, though, would not.-- Paolo Uggetti

7.Michigan State Spartans (9-1)

Previous ranking: 8

Week 11 result:40-21 win vs. Maryland

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

X factor:QB Payton Thorne. As defenses key in on running back Kenneth Walker III, Thorne has been putting up big numbers of his own. He has thrown 21 total touchdowns on the season and has 563 yards and six touchdowns in his last two games.

What you need to know: Michigan State has a key game against Ohio State with both teams holding one loss and both teams still vying for the Big Ten Championship game and ultimately the College Football Playoff. The Spartans are giving up 314.5 pass yards per game, one of the worst rates in FBS, and Ohio State's offense is averaging 389.7 yards. It's going to be Michigan State's toughest test yet on defense, and the Spartans will have to find a way to slow down the Ohio State offense to have a shot in this game. -- Tom VanHaaren

8.Michigan Wolverines (9-1)

Previous ranking: 9

Week 11 result:21-17 win vs. Penn State

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

X factor:Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. The Michigan defenders caused havoc against Penn State, helping Michigan's defense account for seven sacks. The two defensive ends have been a big part of the Wolverines' defensive success this season, especially during the last few games.

What you need to know:With only one loss on the season to a top-five Michigan State team, Michigan has Maryland standing between a potential top-five matchup with Ohio State. Michigan might have to do it without running back Blake Corum, who missed Saturday's game with an ankle injury. If the Buckeyes make it unscathed against Michigan State the week prior, this could be one of the more consequential matchups between Michigan and Ohio State since 2018, when both teams came into that game with one loss. -- Tom VanHaaren

9. Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-1)

Previous week: 10

Week 11 result:63-17 win vs. TCU

What's next:at Texas Tech (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET)

X factor: Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. His Cowboy defense seems to get better every single week, and in Saturday's 63-17 destruction of TCU, he got seven combined sacks from seven different defenders. The offense came alive on Saturday, too -- hence the 63 points -- but this defense is absolutely nasty.

What you need to know: The Pokes are the hottest team in the Big 12. They've won their last three games by a combined 119 points and their offense has fully embraced its bullyball identity; if they can avoid a land mine against Texas Tech next week, they could be headed for not one, but two Bedlam battles with CFP implications. -- Bill Connelly

10.Ole Miss Rebels(8-2)

Previous ranking: 12

Week 11 result:29-19 win vs. Texas A&M

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

X factor:If the offensive line can play like it did against Texas A&M, creating push up front and paving the way for Jerrion Ealy to run for more than 100 yards, then Ole Miss could close the season strong.

What you need to know: Alabama would have to lose to both Arkansas and Auburn for Ole Miss to win out and sneak into the SEC Championship game. That said, double-digit regular-season wins are in sight, with games remaining against Vanderbilt at home on Saturday and on the road at Mississippi State the following week. -- Alex Scarborough

11. Baylor Bears (8-2)

Previous week: 18

Week 11 result: 27-14 win vs. Oklahoma

What's next:at Kansas State (Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ET)

X factor:QB Gerry Bohanon. The sophomore had the fewest passing yards he has had as a starter in an upset win over Oklahoma, throwing for 117 yards with one touchdown and one interception. But he provided a spark with his legs, particularly in the second half, running for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

What you need to know: Kansas State, up next for the Bears, was one of only two Power 5 opponents Baylor beat last year in Dave Aranda's first season before overhauling his coaching staff in the offseason. The Bears kicked a 30-yard field goal to win 32-31 as time expired. -- Dave Wilson

12.Oklahoma Sooners (9-1)

Previous ranking: 4

Week 11 result:27-14 loss vs. Baylor

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

X factor:QB Caleb Williams. How will the freshman respond to his first adversity and first loss? Williams struggled against the Baylor defense, going 8-for-14 for 84 yards with two interceptions before being benched in the third quarter. He returned to lead a late scoring drive after the game was out of reach.

What you need to know: Oklahoma and Iowa State have been almost evenly matched over the past four years, with a 2-2 split in the regular season -- including a 37-30 Iowa State win in Ames last year. Oklahoma rebounded to win the Big 12 title game, 27-21. But the average score of those last five games shows just how tight the margin is: Oklahoma 33.4, Iowa State 32.8. -- Dave Wilson

13. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (9-1)

Previous week: 13

Week 11 result:45-42 win vs. NC State

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

X factor:WR A.T. Perry. His five receptions for 73 yards and a score ended a streak of four straight 100-yard receiving games, but Perry remains one of the best deep-threat receivers in college football.

What you need to know: Wake Forest remains undefeated in conference play and needs just one win over the final two games -- at Clemson, at Boston College -- to clinch the ACC Atlantic Division. The Demon Deacons haven't finished with fewer than two conference losses in a season since 1970, when they went 5-1. -- Kyle Bonagura

14.BYU Cougars (8-2)

Previous ranking: 14

Week 11 result:No game

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

X factor:RB Tyler Allgeier. While he is a strong candidate for the Doak Walker Award, Allgeier should already have the Burlsworth Award locked up as the best player in the country who started their career as a walk-on.

What you need to know: BYU hosts the team Clay Helton was hired to coach (Georgia Southern) this week before traveling to play the team Helton was fired from coaching (USC) to wrap up the regular season. Then it's likely a matter of who the Cougars will play in the Independence Bowl.-- Kyle Bonagura

15. UTSA Roadrunners (10-0)

Previous week: 15

Week 11 result: 27-17 win vs. Southern Miss

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

X factor:The WR duo of Zakhari Franklin and Joshua Cephus. Running back Sincere McCormick is the star, but C-USA opponents have found that they can't slow both of UTSA's key wideouts at the same time -- they had 11 combined catches for 170 yards in Saturday's win over Southern Miss.

What you need to know: Sloppiness and missed opportunities slowed the Roadrunners against Southern Miss on Saturday, but they eventually secured their 10th straight win of 2021. Now comes the biggest game of the year: a visit from UAB that will probably decide the C-USA West title. -- Bill Connelly

16. Texas A&M Aggies (7-3)

Previous week: 11

Week 11 result:29-19 loss vs. Ole Miss

What's next:vs. Prairie View A&M (Saturday, noon ET)

X factor:It's easy to lay last Saturday's loss at the feet of quarterback Zach Calzada and his two fourth-quarter interceptions. But the running game wasn't exactly doing him any favors. Isaiah Spiller's 41 rushing yards were the fewest he's had in a game since Week 2 against Colorado.

What you need to know:The chance at competing for the SEC Championship is lost, but double-digit wins are still within reach, with regular-season games at home against Prairie View on Saturday and on the road at LSU the week after that. -- Alex Scarborough

17. Houston Cougars (9-1)

Previous week: 17

Week 11 result:37-8 win vs. Temple

What's next: vs. Memphis (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET)

X factor:RB Alton McCaskill. McCaskill has only gotten more than 20 carries twice this season, but both have come in the past two weeks and account for two of the three 100-yard games he has had this season. In that time, he's averaging 5.9 yards per carry with five touchdowns.

What you need to know: Memphis has beaten Houston five straight times, including a 30-27 win last year despite a furious UH rally to tie it up with 28 seconds left after being down 21 points in the fourth quarter. The Tigers drove 46 yards in five plays to kick a 47-yard field goal with no time remaining. -- Dave Wilson

18.Iowa Hawkeyes (8-2)

Previous ranking: 19

Week 11 result:27-22 win vs. Minnesota

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

X factor:Defensive end Zach VanValkenburg. Iowa's primary defensive disruptor recorded three of the Hawkeyes' four tackles for loss, three third-down stops and a sack in Saturday's win over Minnesota.

What you need to know: They'll need help, but Saturday's win kept the Hawkeyes alive in the Big Ten West race. They're tied with Wisconsin at 5-2, and if the Badgers slip up to either Nebraska or Minnesota, Iowa could still book a trip to Indianapolis. Either way, they're two wins from their second 10-win season in three years and their seventh under Kirk Ferentz. -- Billl Connelly

19. Wisconsin Badgers (7-3)

Previous week: 20

Week 11 result:35-7 win vs. Northwestern

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

X factor:With starting tailback Chez Mellusi out for the year after suffering a leg injury last week against Rutgers, freshman Braelon Allen got the start against Northwestern and turned in his best game of the year. Allen carried 25 times for 173 yards and three touchdowns -- all season highs -- in a 35-7 win over Northwestern. It was Allen's sixth straight game topping 100 yards.

What you need to know: The Badgers' defense has been exceptional, allowing just 44 points in their last six games combined. Given the offensive woes of both Nebraska and Minnesota this season, Wisconsin has a strong chance to win out and head to the Big Ten title game. More importantly for Wisconsin, however, the offense finally appears to be clicking. Even without Mellusi, the Badgers topped 30 points for the third time in their last four games, and they've racked up more than 1,000 yards over their past two.-- David Hale

20. Pittsburgh Panthers (8-2)

Previous week: 25

Week 11 result:30-23 win vs. North Carolina

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

X factor:RB Israel Abanikanda. We know what QBKenny Pickett can do, but it remains a concern that Pitt does not run the ball as consistently as it wants -- especially in games in which it has a big lead and needs to chew up the clock. That issue came back up again in a 30-23 OT win over North Carolina. Abanikanda had 12 carries for 63 yards and has the capability of making big plays in the run game.

What you need to know: Pitt's next game against Virginia has huge Coastal Division implications. If Pitt wins, the Panthers will remain the heavy favorite to reach the ACC championship game. But if Virginia wins and then beats Virginia Tech the following weekend, the Cavaliers will go to the ACC championship game.-- Andrea Adelson

21. Arkansas Razorbacks (7-3)

Previous week: unranked

Week 11 result:16-13 win vs. LSU

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

X factor:CB Montaric Brown. He's physical, he's battle-tested and he picked off his fourth pass of the season in overtime on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, paving the way for a 16-13 win (the Razorbacks' seventh) and bringing the Golden Boot back to Fayetteville for the first time since 2015.

What you need to know: Arkansas has won at least seven of its first 10 games for the first time since 2011. Sam Pittman's turnaround efforts have borne fruit in just his second year, and even if the Razorbacks can't upset Alabama next week, they'll have a chance at wins eight and nine against Missouri and in their bowl game. -- Bill Connelly

22. Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns (9-1)

Previous week: 24

Week 11 result:35-21 win vs. Troy

What's next: at Liberty (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET)

X factor:QB Levi Lewis accounted for four total touchdowns in Saturday's win over Troy. He certainly knows how to make a big play with his arm, throwing a 52-yard touchdown to Michael Jefferson, and with his legs, scrambling 27 yards for another score.

What you need to know: Louisiana has won 12 straight conference games dating back to last year. The Ragin' Cajuns, who close the regular season with games against Liberty and UL Monroe, have outscored opponents 294-154 since their season-opening loss to Texas.-- Matt Eisenberg

23. San Diego State Aztecs (9-1)

Previous week: unranked

Week 11 result:23-21 win vs. Nevada

What's next: at UNLV (Friday, 11:30 p.m. ET)

X factor:Aside from vaunted punter Matt Araiza, running back Greg Bell continues to carve up 100-yard games for the Aztecs. This was his sixth game of 100 rushing yards or more, and it included a roaring 50-yard run to boot.

What you need to know: San Diego State heads to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas Friday night to face 2-8 UNLV before hosting Boise State in what should be an entertaining matchup.-- Paolo Uggetti

24. Utah Utes (7-3)

Previous week: unranked

Week 11 result:38-29 win vs. Arizona

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

X factor:QB Cameron Rising. Rising's performance against Arizona -- completing 19 of 30 passes for 294 yards with two touchdowns -- was one of his best of the season. His ability to take pressure off the run game will be key for the Utes the rest of the way.

What you need to know: Utah needs one win over its final two games -- Oregon, Colorado -- to clinch the Pac-12 South. This week's game against the Ducks in Salt Lake City is likely a preview of the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 3 in Las Vegas. The Utes have won three in a row and six of seven since starting the year 1-2. -- Kyle Bonagura

25. NC State Wolfpack (7-3)

Previous week: 21

Week 11 result:45-42 loss vs. Wake Forest

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

X factor:QB Devin Leary. After throwing for a season-high 408 yards and four touchdowns against Wake Forest, Leary is up to 2,883 yards with 29 touchdowns on the season.

What you need to know: Losing to Wake Forest eliminated NC State from the ACC title race with two regular-season games to play. The Wolfpack host Syracuse next week before finishing the season against North Carolina on Nov. 26. -- Kyle Bonagura

Dropped out: Auburn (16), Coastal Carolina (22), Penn State (23)

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