The latest AP Top 25 poll was released Sunday, with Clemson taking the No. 1 spot to match the College Football Playoff rankings. The Tigers were ranked No. 3 last week, while Ohio State held the No. 1 spot. Alabama jumped up to No. 3 this week after beating LSU, and Oklahoma State made a seven-spot leap to No. 5 following its blowout win over TCU.
1. The AP appears to be responding to the playoff committee
Clemson’s jump to No. 1 was probably aided by the playoff committee as much as by the Tigers' win over Florida State. Clemson occupies the top spot in the poll for the first time since Jan. 3, 1982, when they won their first and only national title. The Tigers weren't the only team whose AP ranking appeared to be influenced by the playoff seeding; Mississippi State, which beat Missouri 31–13 on Thursday, rose four spots to No. 20, the same ranking it holds with the playoff committee. With the ACC all but wrapped up—Clemson clinched the Atlantic Division title with its win over the Seminoles—the Tigers seem to be the surest bet to make the playoff. The rest of the AP’s top four—Ohio State, Alabama and Baylor—each have tough tests remaining.
2. Alabama and Oklahoma State make their poll push
The Crimson Tide and Cowboys shot up the poll after marquees wins Saturday with Alabama rising from No. 7 to No. 3 and Oklahoma State climbing from No. 12 to No. 5. Both teams earned huge conference victories in games with playoff implications, but their wins are far from assuring them a spot in the final four. The Cowboys beat up on TCU 49–29, knocking the Horned Frogs from No. 5 to No. 13. But Mike Gundy's squad still has matchups with No. 4 Baylor and No. 12 Oklahoma looming to try to solidfy its playoff resume and win a Big 12 title. Alabama played perhaps its best game of the season in a 30–16 win over LSU, which dropped the Tigers from No. 4 to No. 9. The Crimson Tide’s reward if they can hang on to win the SEC West will be a conference title matchup with a resurgent Florida team, which stayed at No. 11 in Sunday's rankings.
3. Navy makes a long-awaited return to the top 25
The Midshipmen enter the top 25 for the first time since the final poll in 2004. The last time Navy made a regular season poll was on Oct. 22, 1979. Although the focus late in the season is on the jockeying for playoff spots, a move into the AP poll is still meaningful for a team like the Midshipmen, who earned their spot with a hard-fought 45–20 win over previously unbeaten Memphis. Assuming Navy sees a similar rise in the College Football Playoff rankings, it'll be firmly in the hunt for the Group of Five's automatic berth in a New Year's Six bowl. Earning that would be contingent on the Midshipmen winning their remaining games and claiming the American Athletic Conference title; that's no easy task considering four AAC teams are in this week's top 25.
Here’s the full poll:
2. Ohio State
5. Oklahoma State
6. Notre Dame
14. Michigan State
17. North Carolina
19. Florida State