AP College Football Poll: Most No. 1 votes doesn’t always make you No. 1

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) walked off the field against Arkansas in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday, having missed the game due to a previous injury. / Associated press photo by Vasha Hunt

More of the 62 voters in the AP Top 25 college football poll picked Alabama as the best team in the country after Saturday’s games. But LSU is ranked No. 1.

How can that be?

Two reasons: Ohio State and Clemson.

Alabama got 21 first-place votes. LSU received 17 (including mine). Ohio State got 17, too, and Clemson, the preseason No. 1, garnered the remaining seven.

Without having seen the other ballots yet, we can infer Alabama is a couple of spots lower than LSU on enough of them — courtesy of the Buckeyes and the other Tigers — to make up for those four first-place votes.

All four are undefeated. But the Tigers from Baton Rouge have wins against better competition, and it’s not even close. LSU has more victories against current Top 25 teams than the other three, combined.

Yesterday it held on to beat No. 9 Auburn and two weeks ago dealt No. 6 Florida its only loss of the season.

None of the other three has played a team that was in the top 10 at the time of the meeting. Ohio State beat Wisconsin convincingly 38-7 yesterday, but the Badgers — who were rated as high as sixth — had dropped out of the single-digit rankings with their first loss, to Illinois the previous week.

Michigan State and Texas A&M are the only teams the others have faced that have even sniffed the Top 25 after the preseason poll.
Also, Auburn (as mentioned above, one of LSU’s victims) beat A&M, too.

Yes, you can only go so far with this kind of reasoning … and that’s why it’s good we’ve got some big showdowns coming up soon, where things can be settled on the field.

A week from Saturday — after both teams have byes — LSU visits Alabama. This mammoth matchup will likely decide who is No. 1 … well, at least until Nov. 23, when Ohio State plays No. 5 Penn State. (But before that, the Nittany Lions must put their unbeaten record on the line Nov. 9 at No. 13 Minnesota, which also has yet to lose.)

Clemson? Of the remaining Power Five conference undefeateds, the defending national champs appear to have the best chance to run the regular-season table.

However, their final two games are against No. 23 Wake Forest and rival South Carolina. The Demon Deacons have no eye-catching wins and a loss to Louisville. The Gamecocks are just 3-5, but have shown they can play the spoiler role, knocking Georgia from the unbeaten ranks earlier this month.

With Oklahoma losing to Kansas State and dropping to No. 10, LSU, Bama, Ohio State and Clemson look like a nice tidy playoff four, don’t they? So much more is yet to come, however, and lurkers in addition to Penn State abound … teams like Baylor, Oregon and Utah.

By the way, that LSU-Bama game could also have a huge impact on the Heisman race, especially if Tua Tagovailoa is healthy enough to outplay Joe Burrow.

Is this award truly for the most outstanding player in college football and not just the quarterback with the flashiest stats and late-season highlights? If so, everyone else should be chasing Chase Young, the unblockable defensive end from Ohio State.

Here’s the entire AP poll (last week’s ranking in parentheses):
1. LSU (2)
2. Alabama (1)
3. Ohio State (3)
4. Clemson (4)
5. Penn State (6)
6. Florida (7)
7. Oregon (11)
8. Georgia (10)
9. Utah (12)
10. Oklahoma (5)
11. Auburn (9)
12. Baylor (14)
13. Minnesota (17)
14. Michigan (19)
15. Southern Methodist (16)
16. Notre Dame (8)
17. Cincinnati (18)
18. Wisconsin (13)
19. Iowa (20)
20. Appalachian State (21)
21. Boise State (22)
22. Kansas State (NR)
23. Wake Forest (25)
24. Memphis (NR)
25. San Diego State (NR)
Dropped Out: Texas (15), Iowa State (23), Arizona State (24)
Others Receving Votes: Texas, Navy, UCF, Washington, Texas A&M, USC, Louisiana Tech, Indiana, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma State, Iowa State

Here’s the ballot I submitted:
1. LSU (1)
2. Alabama (2)
3. Ohio State (5)
4. Clemson (4)
5. Penn State (7)
6. Florida (6)
7. Georgia (8)
8. Baylor (14)
9. Utah (13)
10. Oregon (11)
11. Oklahoma (3)
12. Minnesota (15)
13. Auburn (10)
14. Wisconsin (12)
15. Michigan (16)
16. SMU (18)
17. Appalachian State (19)
18. Cincinnati (20)
19. Notre Dame (9)
20. Kansas State (NR)
21. Memphis (22)
22. Navy (24)
23. Boise State (23)
24. Louisiana Tech (25)
25. San Diego State (NR)
Dropped Out: Texas (17), Arizona State (21)