There’s no doubt about which team will land first in this week’s USA TODAY Sports AFCA coaches poll.
Georgia removed all doubts with a 27-13 victory over Tennessee in one of the biggest games of the regular season. With the victory, the Bulldogs irresistibly took the lead in the SEC East and put a major handicap in the volunteers’ prospects of making it to College Football Playoff.
The only question is whether the Bulldogs will be unanimous No. 1. There is a chance based on the 14-point win and the way Ohio State struggled in sloppy weather to beat Northwestern.
Tennessee shouldn’t fall far. Buoyed by last month’s win against Alabama, the Volunteers should come in at least sixth and still look for the playoff.
Clemson’s fall place in the new top 25 list is worth discussing after the Tigers were bombed by Notre Dame in a 35-14 loss. The Tigers, previously ranked fifth in the Coaches poll and fourth in the top playoff standings, could have fallen out of the top ten based on several factors: a string of mediocre performances in September and October, low value placed on wins against Wake Forest and Syracuse, and belief year that the ACC does not rank fourth among the top five leagues.
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There is also the question of where Alabama will land after the second loss, this time to LSU. Defeat 32-31 in overtime ends Crimson Tide match hopes and may point to a new hierarchy in SEC West.
With Clemson, Alabama and Tennessee losing, TCU has a real chance of jumping from seventh to fourth after beating Texas Tech.
1 – Georgia (9-0)
Not all 14-point wins are the same. For Georgia, the 27-13 final belied the dominant performance on both sides of the ball against the first team in the play-off classifications. Going forward, it is difficult to find a team with enough balance on both sides of the ball and enough physical presence to prevent the Bulldogs from repeating as national champions.
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2 – Ohio State (9-0)
Ohio won’t fall out of second place, although there may be a few voters inclined to turn things around near the top of the poll given how lethal the Buckeyes looked in a 21-7 win over Northwestern. A huge favorite heading into Saturday, OSU couldn’t get into a rhythm in the rain and wind and failed to put in at least 300 yards for its first Big Ten game since losing to Michigan State in 2015.
ugly win: Ohio State struggles with Northwestern’s soon-to-be-expected win
3 – Michigan (9-0)
There was a very brief moment on Saturday when Michigan looked wobbly against Rutgers, who led 17-14 at the break. Then came the deluge: Michigan scored 28 points in the third quarter and beat 52-17. The Wolverines are not flashy, and there is a question as to how the offense would have occurred if he was forced to play from behind in the second half against a high-quality opponent. Still, this team pushes opponents.
4. TCU (9-0)
For the fifth game in a row, the Horned Frogs were in deep trouble in the second half but eventually pulled out to remain undefeated. Texas Tech grabbed the ball in the TCU in the fourth quarter, down 20-17, before failing to turn into fourth. The Horned Frogs scored quickly with Max Duggan’s touch pass to regain control of the game and stay in charge of the playoffs. Texas, Baylor and Iowa State are the last three regular season contenders.
5- Tennessee (8-1)
In addition to lagging Tennessee in the SEC and playoff, Saturday’s loss reopens the Heisman Trophy debate after Hendon Hooker moved to the front of the pack with an impressive first two months of the regular season. After throwing an interception and finishing with 195 yards against the Bulldogs, Hooker may still be leading Heisman but is no longer the favorite to become the number one winner in program history.
big hit: Tennessee playoff dreams in doubt after being bullied by Georgia
6- Oregon (8-1)
As expected, Oregon had no problem putting Colorado on an early holeshot and managed to win 49-10. Then, the Ducks embark on a three-game span that will determine what the Pac-12 Championship game will look like and whether the conference sends a team to the playoff. First comes Washington, then Utah, then rival state Oregon.
7. Southern California (8-1)
The Trojans are taking advantage of Saturday’s silliness and could see a two-point bulge after holding out for a 40-35 win over California. That brings USC two wins in a row, helping to remove some of the sour taste caused by last month’s 43-42 loss to Utah. What could it have been? With a late defensive pause against Utes, the Trojan may be No. 4 in this week’s poll.
8. LSU (7-2)
There is no doubt that LSU will be the highest ranked losing team in the country and a good chance Tiger will land somewhere in the back end of the top 10 – although that would be a huge jump from last week’s No. 17 rating. This sounds like a good landing spot even if LSU had to jump four single losing teams in Clemson, Mississippi, UCLA and North Carolina.
big call: LSU crashes No. 6 in Alabama after converting two points into overtime
9. Clemson (8-1)
Clemson may drop to number ten or fall out of the top ten altogether after being attacked by Irish fighters. The Tigers could also drop in eighth, hitting LSU for a spot. But there have been concerns and questions about the Tigers all season and plenty of skeptics, so Saturday’s loss could give a large group of voters the excuse to send Clemson to the top 25.
10- Mississippi (8-1).
How Ole Miss and LSU’s ratings could frustrate some voters: The Tigers won handily when the two met last month but lost to the Rebels’ loss. A win over Alabama means the difference, even if the victories on Crimson Tide don’t carry the same weight they used to. The Rebels get their next crack in Alabama next weekend in a match that will determine second place at SEC West and a berth 6 for the new year.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coach Poll Predictions: Tennessee, Clemson, and Alabama Losses Open the Door
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