Notre Dame and Arkansas are poised for big moves up in the new college football rankings after both won as underdogs in the two spotlight games between teams in the AP Top 25 in Week 4. In a day that was defined by upsets, it’s fitting that the narrow underdogs of less than a touchdown took the headlines.
The Razorbacks’ win over Texas A&M marked one of two top-10 teams to fall, pairing with NC State’s double-overtime win against Clemson to provide some room for the Fighting Irish and Razorbacks to move up in the rankings. Notre Dame’s blowout win against Wisconsin is sure to spark some of the biggest moves at the top of the rankings for this week’s AP Top 25 voters, as the Fighting Irish overcame an injury to starting quarterback Jack Coan and still ran it up on the Badgers, who are likely to fall out of the rankings after taking their second loss of the season.
Where Arkansas falls in relation to the top 10 is uncertain. AP voters have, at times, taken a replacement theory to these early season upsets between two ranked teams. For example, if No. 7 and No. 16 are both undefeated and the lower ranked team wins, then it only makes sense that team enters the debate for the same spot as the team it beat. Arkansas also has an extremely impressive profile with wins against Texas and Texas A&M.
But the issue here might be the roadblock that is Ohio State and Florida, two teams that won handily and entered the season with higher expectations than the Razorbacks.
Here’s how we think the new AP Top 25 will look on Sunday.
1. Alabama (Last week — 1): No change at the top after an as-expected win against Southern Miss.
2. Georgia (2): There may be a transition of first-place votes from Alabama to Georgia given the dominance of the Bulldogs’ win against Vanderbilt, but not enough to lead to a swap of the top two spots.
3. Oregon (3): No one expected to be monitoring Arizona’s upset chances late on Saturday but the Ducks did let the Wildcats climb back within one score before pulling away in the fourth quarter.
4. Oklahoma (4): There is a possibility that the Sooners drop for the close call against West Virginia, but the absence of a strong performance from Iowa makes that far less likely.
5. Iowa (5): Tied at 14-14, things looked a little dicey for Iowa against the Fighting Steve Addazios, but the Hawkeyes pulled away for a comfortable win that should keep their top-five status in check.
6. Penn State (6): Not too many sweats after a win against Villanova on Saturday in Week 4.
7. Notre Dame (12): While the Fighting Irish have a more impressive win against a common opponent (Wisconsin) than Penn State, I think the overall profile with the Nittany Lions also having the Auburn win keep Notre Dame positioned here just two spots outside the top five.
8. Cincinnati (8): The Bearcats were off in Week 4 and are back in action next week in a huge showdown at Notre Dame.
9. Ohio State (10): There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the big-picture outlook on Ohio State, but there’s very little to fret about in terms of the on-field performance against Akron.
10. Florida (11): Emory Jones continues to settle in as the leader of this Florida offense, and the Gators defense did a good job of locking down Tennessee into the second half after a frisky start from the underdog Volunteers.
11. Arkansas (16): One of the best stories in all of college football has been the way that Sam Pittman and his staff have changed the expectations in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks overcame an injury to starting quarterback KJ Jefferson and still ended up controlling the game against a top-10 foe, thereby building the argument that they are one of the 10 best teams in the country.
12. Ole Miss (13): The Rebels were off in Week 4 and are back in action against Alabama in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week on Oct. 2.
13. Texas A&M (7): I think the Aggies land still inside the top 15, but that’s mostly thanks to voter respect for Arkansas. The wins aren’t going to anchor the profile, but I think the talent on the roster and preseason expectations are going to keep a high floor from a rankings perspective.
14. BYU (15): The Cougars jumped to a 21-point lead in the first quarter against USF and defended that lead the rest of the way, cutting it a little close in the 35-27 win but not doing enough for a downgrade in last week’s order among similar teams.
15. Coastal Carolina (17): The Chanticleers should hold in the order behind BYU but ahead of Michigan after hanging a 50-burger on UMass.
16. Michigan (19): Things were way too close for Michigan’s comfort in the second half but holding on for the win against Rutgers should keep the Wolverines on pace with the rest of the teams in the 15-20 range.
17. Michigan State (20): A thriller overtime win against Nebraska has added to the Spartans’ mystique during this strong start to Year 2 with Mel Tucker.
18. Fresno State (22): Avoiding the upset loss to UNLV was all they needed from Jake Haener, and once again, Haener delivered for the Bulldogs on Friday night.
19. UCLA (24): Dorian Thompson-Robinson showed some fight in guiding the Bruins past Stanford in a key bounce-back game that keeps the Bruins right in the middle of the Pac-12 South title race.
20. Auburn (23): No one expected it to be so close with Georgia State, but TJ Finley saved the day after Bo Nix was knocked out of the game, and the Tigers will remain in the rankings after avoiding the upset.
21. Clemson (9): Part of projecting that Clemson remains in the rankings is knowing that there isn’t a ton of precedent for a team dropping from the top 10 to out of the rankings this early in the season, but there also isn’t a lot of precedent for those teams being 2-2. Even though the quality wins aren’t there, I think Clemson hangs on in the top 25.
22. Oklahoma State (NR): The Cowboys defense has carried the team at times during this start to the season, but Saturday was a strong showing for Spencer Sanders against a solid Kansas State team.
23. Maryland (NR): There’s a massive showdown with Iowa on the horizon, which shouldn’t but definitely does influence the anticipation for seeing how this 4-0 Terrapins team performs against a ranked opponents.
24. Baylor (NR): Now 4-0 after a win against Iowa State, the Bears are one of the early surprises in the Big 12 and should definitely jump ahead of other teams that have been showing up on ballots in the early weeks of the season.
25. NC State (NR): Even though they fell to Mississippi State, the Wolfpack should be in the rankings based on Saturday’s win against Clemson. It’s the same kind of magnet theory that pulls Fresno State way up into the rankings after beating UCLA, where voters’ confidence in the team that got upset helps the underdog who got the win.
Projected to drop out: Iowa State (14), Wisconsin (18), North Carolina (21), Kansas State (25)