SALT LAKE CITY — Now halfway through the season, we’re starting to see the top teams in the country isolate themselves from the pretenders, and it feels like it’s not even close after Week 6 of play.
In a week where there were seven bye games and five “upsets” among the Top 25 teams, I decided to recalibrate my top five programs in the country and shake up my ballot. It was in need of some shakeup, and the midway point in the season is about as good as any time to do it.
My No. 1 team remains Alabama, though they haven’t really been challenged up to this point in the season. This is a soft ranking, but Nick Saban gets the benefit of the doubt here (or SEC bias, depending on the narrative that you feel most comfortable telling yourself).
Behind the Crimson Tide, I’ve moved up Ohio State to No. 2, essentially switching spots with Clemson. The Buckeyes have blown out every team they've played and have been played some great football. SP+ loves Ohio State and has them ranked in the top five in both offense and defense, so it’s not just the eye test they’re passing.
Call it recency bias but now a week removed from Clemson’s narrow win over a rebounding North Carolina program and it appears Ohio State, LSU and Georgia have played more consistent football. Clemson has dropped to sixth overall in SP+ rankings, and need a good bounce-back game in Week 7 to reaffirm their top spot atop the rankings.
Rising: Arizona State, Baylor, Florida, Memphis, Virginia
The biggest story here among the risers in my ballot is Florida. The Gators welcomed then-No. 7 Auburn to town and controlled the game from start to finish. Florida pressured Bo Nix and made him look average for much of the game, particularly the second half. I’ve doubted the Gators a bit this season, but they’re starting to show they’re real, and now they have a nice win to backup their play this season.
Falling: Auburn, Iowa, Michigan State, Washington, UCF
Auburn: tough loss to a ranked opponent; Iowa: more sloppy than Michigan; Michigan State: never really had a chance; UCF: national championships go through Cincinnati… but the Knights failed.
Washington wins the what-just-happened award of the week for their 10-point loss to a bad Stanford program that narrowly defeated Oregon State the week prior. The Huskies lacked an aggressiveness on the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Jacob Eason looked lost, and his receivers appeared to be content being covered by Cardinal defenders. Woof … and I don’t mean that in a good way.
Added: Arizona State, Baylor, Memphis, Minnesota, SMU
Baylor has been playing some good football as of late and remains undefeated after a comfortable win over Kansas State, a once-ranked team just a couple weeks ago. It’s the Bears’ first conference road win since 2017, but the program is trending upward. The defense got after Wildcats QB Skylar Thompson and sacked him six times, in addition to racking up 15 tackles for loss on the night.
Dropped out: Cal, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, UCF
I’m a little hurt by Oklahoma State this week. I’ve been praising them for much of the season and then they laid an egg against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are a team on the rise and got the better of the Cowboys Saturday. Texas Tech QB Jett Duffey finished with four passing touchdowns and ran for another, all while staying perfect in the turnover column. Conversely, the Cowboys committed four turnovers, including three interceptions, which led to a 10-point loss.
Teams in consideration: Arizona, Appalachian State, Cincinnati, Missouri
As always, hit me up on Twitter (@JFurKSL) if you have any questions about my ballot.