Steve Wiseman’s AP ballot: Georgia loss, LSU win spawn changes to top 10

We all knew this day was coming because, yes, this is college football.

A weekend filled with upsets will fracture the Associated Press Top 25 rankings, sparing only the top two teams — maybe.

Alabama and Clemson (or Clemson and Alabama, in that order, on my ballot and many others) won handily. Behind them, top 25 teams Florida, Texas, Virginia, Wake Forest, Memphis, Texas A&M and Iowa all lost.

Wow, what a weekend to sort out.

No. 5 LSU strengthened its case to be the nation’s top team, showing its new-found offensive might to whip No. 7 Florida 42-28.

The Tigers surely earned more No. 1 votes, but not mine. I moved them up to No. 3. They’ll get the opportunity to be No. 1 when they play at Alabama on Nov. 9.

The No. 3 spot became available on my ballot when Georgia stumbled its way to a ugly 20-17 double-overtime loss to a mediocre South Carolina team. The Gamecocks are 3-3 and playing their third-string quarterback.

Teams that claim to be national-championship contenders don’t lose games like that, not at home and especially not in overtime where the format favors the more talented team.

The Bulldogs took a tumble and, combined with LSU’s win over Florida, caused me to shake up my top 10 teams.

Notre Dame beat USC, 30-27, but fell three spots on my ballot. How, you say? The Irish’s only loss was to Georgia. I kept Notre Dame at No. 7 based on that fact. So when Georgia tumbles, the Irish fall too. That sword cuts both ways.

I have Oklahoma and Ohio State at the fourth and fifth slots behind Clemson, Alabama and LSU. This is the first week I have Oklahoma ahead of Ohio State, a move built on the Sooners’ win over Texas. Ohio State doesn’t have a win nearly as impressive.

The Buckeyes will get a chance, though. Wisconsin comes to Columbus on Oct. 26.

Speaking of the Badgers, this is a team that could find its way into the College Football Playoff. Wisconsin routed Michigan State, 38-0, on Saturday. No, the Spartans aren’t the quality team we all thought they were in the preseason but beating a fellow Big Ten team like that is noteworthy.

Wisconsin has pitched four shutouts this season, allowing just 29 points in six games.

In addition to Ohio State, the Badgers have Iowa and Minnesota to play prior to the Big Ten Championship game. While there’s work to be done, Wisconsin looks capable and shouldn’t be dismissed.

OK, now for the changes on down the ballot in light of all the losses by ranked teams.

Wake Forest, Virginia, Texas A&M all fall off by ballot. The Demon Deacons suffered their first loss but it was a bad one, 62-59 at home to Louisville. Still think the Deacons could wind up in the Top 25 again this season but they’ll have to fight their way back.

Virginia’s loss to Notre Dame was acceptable but the 17-9 setback at Miami on Friday night showed the Cavaliers have problems I didn’t think existed. A team that looked like the Coastal Division’s best is now down in the muck with the rest of the division.

As for Texas A&M, the 3-3 Aggies finally have to go. Yes their three losses are to Clemson, Alabama and Auburn, but you have to beat someone of quality, too. Texas A&M has beaten Texas State, Lamar and Arkansas. Uh, no.

Minnesota, Washington and Missouri move into my top 25 to replace those three departing schools.

At 4-2, Washington has been in and out but is worthy of another look. The Huskies play Oregon and Utah at home over the next three weeks so we’ll know quickly if they should stay or go.

Missouri (5-1) was on my radar in the preseason only to stumble and lose at Wyoming in the season opener. But the Tigers have reeled off five in a row since then.

Minnesota is 6-0 and, with Big Ten dregs Maryland and Rutgers up next; it should be 8-0 when Penn State comes to Minneapolis on Nov. 9

Here is the full ballot I submitted to the AP Sunday morning (with last week’s ranking on my ballot in parenthesis):

  1. Clemson (1)

  2. Alabama (2)

  3. LSU (5)

  4. Oklahoma (6)

  5. Ohio State (4)

  6. Wisconsin (8)

  7. Penn State (12)

  8. Florida (9)

  9. Georgia (3)

  10. Notre Dame (7)

  11. Auburn (10)

  12. Oregon (13)

  13. Boise State (14)

  14. Texas (11)

  15. Utah (20)

  16. Arizona State (21)

  17. Baylor (22)

  18. Michigan (15)

  19. Cincinnati (23)

  20. SMU (25)

  21. Minnesota (NR)

  22. Appalachian State (24)

  23. Iowa (17)

  24. Washington (NR)

  25. Missouri (NR)

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An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.