UK & Ireland Top 25 College Football Rankings: Preseason
By Simon Carroll
If the AP and the College Football Playoff committee can’t get it right, then perhaps we can!
Week 11 delivered a lack of upsets, which actually makes life a little easier for the voting panel – certainly at the top of the rankings. Things get cloudier the further you go down, with teams vying for significant bowl spots. Let’s see how it all shakes out:
This is an interesting group. The bottom five of the rankings are propped up by a pair of Wildcats; Kansas State haven’t quite lived up to the promise of pre-season, but when you look at it now, they’ve been beaten by three ranked teams (Oklahoma State, Missouri & Texas). That seems enough for the panel to include them, despite some strong cases from the Group of Five. Arizona on the other hand, have lost three games by one score – two in overtime – and have three wins against ranked opposition (at the time) in a row. Jedd Fisch is working wonders in Tuscon.
Iowa have somehow forced their way into consideration, going 8-2 despite having no offense whatsoever. They’re such an unballanced team their success is admirable. Meanwhile, Notre Dame cling on to relevance, but nobody in South Bend will be celebrating this season.
Welcome to the rankings Toledo! The pride of the MAC FINALLY get the recognition they deserve after a campaign of dominance, with a two-point loss to Power 5 Illinois the only blemish on an otherwise impressive resume.
I didn’t rank LSU at all this week. I appreciate the Tigers have had a tough schedule, have beaten Missouri and genuinely have elite talent on the roster. But their lack of ability to challenge the heavyweights has left me uninspired. Thankfully, the ret of the panel have taken their case on merit and not on a foundation of disappointment like me.
North Carolina squeak an overtime win against a good Duke team and move up a little, but their relevance in the ACC is negligible at this point. As are Utah in the PAC-12, who have done admirably well surviving without Cam Rising as long as they have. Sadly, a tough schedule has finally finished off the battling Utes. They’ll be challenging for the new-look Big 12 next season.
Power to the Group of Five! Tulane and Liberty march on – the Flames undefeated, and the Green Wave with just a loss to Ole Miss. Can either of these programs push for a New Year Six bowl? Probably not, but they’ve had great campaigns nonetheless.
It was a disappointing weekend for Ole Miss and Penn State, who had the opportunity to challenge the elite and offered up tepid performances against Georgia and Michigan respectively. Both fanbases will be questioning how their schools can make that leap from good to great – and if their current head coaches can deliver such an improvement.
There were impressive wins elsewhere in this group, with Oklahoma slapping a feisty West Virginia, and Oregon State stomping all over Stanford. The Sooners & Beavers are likely out of playoff contention, but can certainly act as spoiler for the likes of Oregon, Washington and Texas down the stretch.
The JMU train keeps on rolling! Kurt Cignetti and the James Madison Dukes are undefeated and disrespected by the US media – and by the NCAA too, who have deemed them bowl ineligible after their step up from the FCS two years ago. The Dukes will take their fight to the courts, and probably lose. Still, they have earned the admiration of the UK & Ireland panel for their dogged displays.
The top ten falls nicely into two categories – the one-loss Power Five programs, and the undefeateds. Naturally, those holding an L sit in this group – but I like the chances of a couple of them to gatecrash the playoff party in the coming weeks…
Louisville, Oregon and Alabama top that list. All three of these will likely play one of the top five in their relevant Conference Championship Games, and all are playing at a very high level at the moment. Interestingly, the panel have decided to move The Tide above Texas despite the Longhorns’ win in Tuscaloosa – a ballsy call I didn’t make myself, but based on recent performances, it’s hard to disagree with.
There were wins for all five teams in this bracket this week – and perhaps Missouri’s dismantling of Tennessee was the best of the lot. The Tigers beat the Vols so soundly that Josh Heupel’s program fell out of the rankings altogether – another sign that Eli Drinkwitz has built a well-coached, complete football team. What a season for Mizzou – and with games against Florida and Arkansas still to come, ten wins is now a realistic outcome.
The top five is the top five. Meh. Michigan continue to be the odd team out, despite their first real win of note this weekend against Penn State. Fear not Wolverines fans – if (when) you beat Ohio State, you will take the Buckeyes’ place in the top four.
Georgia’s destruction of Ole Miss sees them finally resume their spot as the undisputed leader of the pack, apparently pulling away with votes this week. They could feasibly come unstuck against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, but the ‘Dawgs just play up to their competition every week.
Washington keep winning, and Ohio State breeze past a rudderless Michigan State. They’ve earned the right to be in the conversation – but with big challenges ahead, all could change. Tune back in next week to see how things stand after Week 12!
The next set of Top 25 Rankings from the UK & Ireland College Football Media Panel is in.— Owain Jones (@Owain_Jones_) November 14, 2023
🔹@GeorgiaFootball now clear at the top
🔹@LouisvilleFB are Top 10
🔹@ToledoFB are ranked!
Individual awards below⬇️#CollegeFootball #Top25 #CFBPlayoff #NCAA #CFB #NCAAF pic.twitter.com/ZlxBfbcJxV
Players of the Week
Offense: Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU
Defense: Javon Solomon, DE, Troy
PREVIOUSLY THE FOUNDER OF NFL DRAFT UK, SIMON HAS BEEN COVERING COLLEGE FOOTBALL AND THE NFL DRAFT SINCE 2009. BASED IN MANCHESTER, SIMON IS ALSO CO-CREATOR & WEEKLY GUEST OF THE COLLAPSING POCKET PODCAST.