AP College Football Poll: More No. 1s than playoff spots

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers slipped out of the No. 1 spot in the AP poll after a shaky win at North Carolina on Saturday. / Associated Press photo by Chris Seward

That midnight train to Georgia picked up three passengers this week, and the Bulldogs didn’t even play a game.

Fellow Associated Press pollsters Gene Henley (Chatanooga Times/Free Press), Nathan Baird (Cleveland.com) and Tom D’Angelo (The Palm Beach Post) joined me with UGA at the top of the ballot. Georgia’s win over Notre Dame is still the best win of the season, by anyone.

But that’s just one butterfly effect aspect of Clemson’s 21-20 victory over North Carolina, salvaged only by the Heels’ failure to score a 2-point conversion with less than two minutes left.

“Sometimes when you win, you really lose,” said Rosie Perez’s “Gloria” in “White Men Can’t Jump.” And that is why Clemson is no longer No. 1 this week. The Tigers are still undefeated and the defending national champions, but winning ugly won’t keep you at the top, especially when there are more than 10 other unbeaten teams nipping at your heels.

Four of those teams got first-place votes, with Alabama’s 29 after its destruction of Ole Miss giving it enough to unseat Clemson.

Ohio State at No. 4 got seven first-place votes, and Auburn, ranked seventh, got three. It’s funny when you look at it this way: There aren’t enough playoff spots for all of the teams that at least a few of the voters see as No. 1 right now. And I’m certain a voter or two thought about putting LSU, Oklahoma or maybe even Wisconsin at No. 1.

That all adds more fuel for an eight-team tournament, if you ask me.

The website collegepolltracker.com deemed my ballot “Most Extreme” this week. That’s because I’ve got a couple of brand-name schools lower than most of the other voters, and undefeated upstart Appalachian State in there. Also, most voters weren’t very impressed by Memphis’ victory over Navy last Thursday. They’re another unbeaten Group of Five team I like.

Southern Methodist and Oklahoma State were tough choices to leave out. Hawaii? Well, if we were to base it strictly on that total domination at Nevada, yeah, the Warriors would be in. But that not-ready-to-play loss at Washington won’t be forgotten by voters unless UH wins at Boise State in two weeks, after this Saturday’s bye. Sometimes when you lose, you really lose, too — and it stays with you a while.

It looks like Cole McDonald may have come to his run-and-shoot epiphany … the point of enlightenment where quarterbacks have gained enough experience in this offense where they see what will work without having to think about it. If that’s the case, he could become as unstoppable as Colt Brennan was in ’06 and ’07 after it clicked for him.

Alabama and Clemson both have byes this week and Georgia is at Tennessee. But Ohio State and Auburn both can add to their resumes and their No. 1 vote counts, as both play Top 25 teams: the Buckeyes host Michigan State, and the Tigers are at Florida.

It’s going to be an interesting second half of the season.

Here’s the entire AP poll, followed by my ballot (first-place votes and last week’s ranking for team’s that moved in parentheses):
1. Alabama (29 first-place votes, 2nd last week)
2. Clemson (18 first-place votes, 1st)
3. Georgia (4 first-place votes)
4. Ohio State (7 first-place votes, 5th)
5. LSU (4th)
6. Oklahoma
7. Auburn (3 first-place votes)
8. Wisconsin
9. Notre Dame (10th)
10. Florida (9th)
11. Texas
12. Penn State
13. Oregon
14. Iowa
15. Washington (7th)
16. Boise State
17. Utah (19th)
18. UCF (21st)
19. Michigan (20th)
20. Arizona State (NR)
21. Oklahoma State (NR)
22. Wake Forest (NR)
23. Virginia (18th)
24. Southern Methodist (NR)
T25. Michigan State (25th)
T25. Texas A&M (23rd)
Also receiving votes: California, Memphis, Appalachian State, Army, Missouri, Baylor, Colorado, Minnesota, USC, Kansas State, Tulane

Here’s the ballot I submitted:
1. Georgia (1st last week)
2. Alabama (3rd)
3. Ohio State (4th)
4. Oklahoma (5th)
5. Clemson (2nd)
6. Florida
7. LSU
8. Auburn
9. Wisconsin
10. Iowa (12th)
11. Penn State (13th)
12. Notre Dame (15th)
13. Oregon (11th)
14. Texas (10th)
15. Boise State (14th)
16. Arizona State (NR)
17. Michigan State (20th)
18. California (17th)
19. Washington
20. Michigan (NR)
21. Memphis (23rd)
22. UCF (NR)
23. Appalachian State (21st)
24. Wake Forest (18th)
25. Utah
Dropped out: Virginia (16th), USC (22nd), Texas A&M (24th)


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