AP Top 25 college football poll reaction: What's next for each ranked team?

ByESPN college football reporters ESPN logo
Sunday, October 16, 2022

The AP Top 25 college football poll is out after another wild weekend of games.

Alabama, which trailed by as many as 18 in the second quarter, lined up for a go-ahead field goal with less than 30 seconds left. But afterWill Reichard's field goal hooked right,Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker orchestrated a 15-second drive, culminating with a walk-off 40-yard field goal by Chase McGrathin a 52-49 thriller on Saturday.

In another battle of undefeated teams, TCU overcame a 17-point first-half deficit to beat Oklahoma State in double overtime, Kendre Miller's 2-yard run the final play before the Horned Frogs fans stormed Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Instead of kicking an extra point and playing for overtime, Utah went for 2 and the win with under a minute left. The Utes converted on Cameron Rising's dive to give the Utes a stunning 43-42 win over previously undefeated USC.

Meanwhile, the battle between Michigan and Penn State did not come down to the wire. Michigan scored 25 unanswered points in the second half and ran for 418 yards en route to a 41-17 blowout. Ohio State had an open week, while defending champion Georgia cruised to a 55-0 victory overVanderbiltentering its open date.

So what happens from here? We break down what's next for each ranked team.

1. Georgia Bulldogs(7-0)

Previous ranking: 1

Week 7 result:55-0 win vs. Vanderbilt

What's next: vs. Florida (Saturday, Oct. 29)

After seven straight weeks of playing, Georgia gets a bye week before taking on Florida in Jacksonville. It's the start of the Dawgs' toughest four-game stretch of the season and comes against teams with talented quarterbacks, which means more pressure could be on Georgia's offense to put points on the board. After Florida (Anthony Richardson), Georgia takes on Tennessee (Hendon Hooker) at home and then goes on the road in back-to-back weeks to face Mississippi State (Will Rogers) and Kentucky (Will Levis). -- Chris Low

2. Ohio State Buckeyes(6-0)

Previous ranking: 2

Week 7 result:bye

What's next: vs. Iowa (Saturday, noon ET)

The open week came at a good time for Ohio State, which has more injuries to key players than normal and should get several back this week against Iowa. The second-half schedule gets much tougher with trips to Penn State (Oct. 29) and point-producing Maryland (Nov. 19), as well as the home showdown against Michigan (Nov. 26). Ohio State has the offense to win a national title, but must continue to make strides on defense, especially a secondary that has been shaky at times.-- Adam Rittenberg

3. Tennessee Volunteers(6-0)

Previous ranking:6

Week 7 result:52-49 win vs. No. 3 Alabama

What's next: vs. UT Martin (Saturday, noon ET)

Beating Alabama at home felt like a breakthrough. Not only did they snap a 15-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide, the Vols also established themselves as national title contenders. With Hendon Hooker at quarterback, Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small at running back and a deep receiver room, led by Jalin Hyatt, the Tennessee offense is capable of scoring on anyone. And while there are questions about the defense coming out of the Alabama game, it should be noted that the Vols were without two starters in the secondary. -- Alex Scarborough

4. Michigan Wolverines(7-0)

Previous ranking:5

Week 7 result:41-17 win vs. No. 10 Penn State

What's next: vs. Michigan State (Saturday, Oct. 29)

Jim Harbaugh's team storms into the open week at 7-0 and fully in the mix to repeat as Big Ten champions and return to the College Football Playoff. Running back Blake Corum has bullied his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation behind an offensive line that, despite some turnover, looks better than the group that won the Joe Moore Award in 2021. Michigan's overall line play and ability to prevent deficits and keep young quarterback J.J. McCarthy comfortable bodes well entering a second-half schedule featuring Illinois and Ohio State. "We're on a roll," center Olu Oluwatimi said, "and we don't want this to stop." -- Adam Rittenberg

5. Clemson Tigers(7-0)

Previous ranking:4

Week 7 result:34-23 win vs. Florida State

What's next: vs. Syracuse (Saturday, noon ET)

The Tigers' defense, which went into the season with plenty of preseason hype, has not played as consistently as coach Dabo Swinney or defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin have wanted. Part of that is injuries that have hampered both the secondary and defensive front. But even with a healthy defensive line in a win against Florida State on Saturday, the Tigers gave up their largest rushing total on the season. That said, Clemson will be favored to win the remainder of its games in the second half of the season, and it once again will be a heavy favorite to make it back to the playoff. -- Andrea Adelson

6. Alabama Crimson Tide(6-1)

Previous ranking:3

Week 7 result:52-49 loss vs. No. 6 Tennessee

What's next:vs. Mississippi State (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET)

Nick Saban told his team after losing at Tennessee that every goal was still attainable. And that's technically true. Win out in the West and Alabama will reach the SEC title game and may even get a rematch with Tennessee. But something has to change for the Tide to look like a national championship contender. The sloppy play and penalties can't continue and some receivers need to step up to help Bryce Young in the passing game. -- Alex Scarborough

7. Ole Miss Rebels(7-0)

Previous ranking:9

Week 7 result:48-34 win vs. Auburn

What's next: at LSU (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

This might not be the Ole Miss team we expected entering the season, but it's nonetheless effective, sitting at 7-0 and solidly in the top 10 midway through October. In the past under coach Lane Kiffin, the Rebs have relied on a high-octane passing game to make up for a so-so defense. This season, the script has flipped with Ole Miss giving up only 17.3 points per game on defense while moving the ball on the offense via the running game. Against Auburn on Saturday, the Rebs racked up 448 yards on the ground. But the real test comes in a few weeks when Ole Miss welcomes Alabama to town. -- Alex Scarborough

8. TCU Horned Frogs (6-0)

Previous ranking:13

Week 7 result:43-40 win vs. No. 8 Oklahoma State (2OT)

What's next: vs. Kansas State (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET)

The Horned Frogs are already bowl eligible after not making the postseason last year. But they have bigger sights now, sitting in the driver's seat in the Big 12 at midseason. First up: Kansas State, coming off a bye week. TCU has lost three straight to the Wildcats. -- Dave Wilson

9. UCLA Bruins (6-0)

Previous ranking:11

Week 7 result:bye

What's next: at Oregon (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

For two straight weeks, UCLA has answered any and every question thrown its way by beating two ranked teams that were perceived to be better than them. The home stretch will feature at least two tests that will determine whether their season becomes a nice story or one to remember in games against Oregon and USC. Leading the charge will be quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who has been the standout but also remains the biggest question down the homestretch. After four seasons of up-and-down play, DTR has played like a man on a mission with a laundry list of things to prove. So far, the Bruins seem to go as he does, and as such, their second-half success might be determined by whether he can keep this run going or not. -- Paolo Uggetti

10. Oregon Ducks (5-1)

Previous ranking:12

Week 7 result:bye

What's next: vs. UCLA (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

Can the Ducks win with defense? We've seen the offense lead the way over the past five games, and while the defense has played well in spurts, it really hasn't had a complete performance. Incremental improvement is the key there if the Ducks hope to win the Pac-12, starting this week against UCLA. -- Kyle Bonagura

11. Oklahoma State Cowboys(5-1)

Previous ranking:8

Week 7 result:43-40 loss vs. No. 13 TCU (2OT)

What's next: vs. Texas (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

The Cowboys let a win slip away against TCU on Saturday, losing in double overtime after leading by as many as 17 points. Next up: A visit from Texas. OSU beat the Longhorns last season 32-24, with the eight-point margin of victory the biggest in the past five games. This has been a tight series in recent years, but the Cowboys need this one if they're going to stay alive in the Big 12 race with trips to Kansas State and Kansas following right behind it. -- Dave Wilson

12. USC Trojans(6-1)

Previous ranking:7

Week 7 result:43-42 loss vs. No. 20 Utah

What's next: at Arizona (Saturday, Oct. 29)

The loss to Utah certainly changes the tone of USC's season so far, but not much has changed when it comes to which questions still need to be answered in the second half. The offense looks as explosive as ever under Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams, but the defense has been inconsistent -- and by inconsistent, I mean violently swinging from a takeaway machine and a sieve in the running game. Injuries have been a factor, but the Trojans know that to be a legitimate contender this season, they'll need much better performances from that side of the ball. -- Paolo Uggetti

13. Wake Forest Demon Deacons(5-1)

Previous ranking: 14

Week 7 result:bye

What's next: vs. Boston College (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

The bulk of the ACC schedule remains for the Demon Deacons, one that will present challenges across the board. Four of their six final opponents have winning records -- including rivals North Carolina and Duke. But it is also possible Wake Forest could top its 11-win season from a year ago based on the way Sam Hartman and the offense have played so far, along with the defensive improvements that coach Dave Clawson expects will get better as the season progresses. Anyone underestimating this team, which has proven itself time and again, would be doing so at their own peril. -- Andrea Adelson

14. Syracuse Orange (6-0)

Previous ranking:18

Week 7 result:24-9 win vs. No. 15 NC State

What's next: at Clemson (Saturday, noon ET)

The Orange have gotten off to a 6-0 for the third time since 1935. Junior quarterback Garrett Shrader (1,425 passing yards, 12 TDs) will have to continue to keep opponents honest because of defenses loading the box to try and limit sophomore running back Sean Tucker, whose 644 rushing yards are among the best in the ACC. Will the ACC's stingiest defense (13.2 PPG, 268.8 YPG), which has allowed over 20 points just once, maintain its momentum and progress when it heads to Death Valley to face Clemson? -- Blake Baumgartner

15. Utah Utes(5-2)

Previous ranking:20

Week 7 result:43-42 win vs. No. 7 USC

What's next: at Washington State (Thursday, Oct. 27)

The team that matched Ohio State blow for blow in the Rose Bowl last season has regressed, especially on defense, but there's no doubt Utah still has plenty of fight to defend its Pac-12 title. That's in large part because quarterback Cameron Rising seems to keep getting better and showing up in big games. At times, the Utes' defense has given Rising little to no margin for error, and like he did against USC on Saturday, he has answered the call. Few expected the Utes to have two losses at this point in the season with a win over USC, but Kyle Whittingham's team has battled enough to stay alive. The defense's performance may be what determines how good Utah's second half can be. -- Paolo Uggetti

16. Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1)

Previous ranking:10

Week 7 result:41-17 loss vs. No. 5 Michigan

What's next: vs. Minnesota (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET)

After being exposed at Michigan Stadium, Penn State must reevaluate and regroup, as all is not lost in the Big Ten race. The Nittany Lions need to regain their swagger in the run game, and could face a quarterback decision as starter Sean Clifford left the Michigan loss with an injury in the second half. The remaining schedule isn't too daunting, as Penn State faces its best opponents (Ohio State, Minnesota, Maryland) at Beaver Stadium. -- Adam Rittenberg

17. Kansas State Wildcats (5-1)

Previous ranking: 17

Week 7 result:bye

What's next:vs. TCU (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET)

In Chris Klieman's best season at Kansas State, the Wildcats went 8-5 overall and 5-4 in the conference in 2019, his first season replacing the legendary Bill Snyder. The Wildcats are already 5-1 and 3-0 in the league, and they are looking to hand TCU its first loss of the season on Saturday. Klieman is 3-0 against the Horned Frogs since arriving in Manhattan. -- Dave Wilson

18. Illinois Fighting Illini (6-1)

Previous ranking:24

Week 7 result:26-14 win vs. Minnesota

What's next: at Nebraska (Saturday, Oct. 29)

Can junior running back Chase Brown (1,059 rushing yards) keep up his torrid pace? Seven straight 100-yard games this season make him only the third running back in program history to record consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Senior quarterback Tommy DeVito (1,415 passing yards and 12 TDs) and a strong defense (221.1 YPG) will need to continue to complement Brown down the stretch. The Fighting Illini head into games against Nebraska and at Michigan State on a five-game winning streak with an open date Saturday, as their quest for a Big Ten West title rolls along. -- Blake Baumgartner

19. Kentucky Wildcats(5-2)

Previous ranking:T-22

Week 7 result:27-17 win vs. No. 16 Mississippi State

What's next: at Tennessee (Saturday, Oct. 29)

The Wildcats are 5-2, but they committed a litany of mistakes in a 22-19 loss to Ole Miss on the road and were without quarterback Will Levis in a 24-14 home loss to South Carolina. The best news for Kentucky is that star running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. is rounding into shape after missing the first four games. He had 196 yards in the win over Mississippi State. The Cats get a bye this week, but then visit Tennessee and have Georgia coming to town on Nov. 19. Some of the toughest tests remain. -- Chris Low

20. Texas Longhorns (5-2)

Previous ranking:T-22

Week 7 result:24-21 win vs. Iowa State

What's next: at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

Steve Sarkisian's Longhorns survived a trap game with a 24-21 win over Iowa State, but their challenges are only beginning to ramp up in Big 12 play. Their next three games -- at Oklahoma State, at Kansas State, vs. TCU -- are against teams that have gone a combined 8-1 in conference, 7-0 in games that weren't against each other. Texas is unbeaten with quarterback Quinn Ewers on the field, and the UT defense has improved dramatically since last season, but it will take a genuinely awesome team to get through the next few weeks unblemished. -- Bill Connelly

21. Cincinnati Bearcats (5-1)

Previous ranking:21

Week 7 result:bye

What's next: at SMU (Saturday, noon ET)

Cincinnati has run off five consecutive victories since dropping its season opener against Arkansas. A third straight AAC title before the program's departure to the Big 12 is well within reach. To that end, while quarterback Ben Bryant has replaced Desmond Ridder nicely, more consistency in the running game would be welcomed. The Bearcats are averaging about 15 yards per game fewer than they did in 2021. Visits to both SMU and Central Florida (Oct. 29) await Cincinnati after having this past week off. -- Blake Baumgartner

22. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-1)

Previous ranking:unranked

Week 7 result:38-35 win vs. Duke

What's next: vs. Pitt (Saturday, Oct. 29)

The Tar Heels' 6-1 record is a product, at least somewhat, of what wouldn't exactly be described as a difficult schedule. None of the teams they've played are even among the receiving votes category of the AP Top 25. If Carolina is going to earn national respect, it will likely have to earn it by beating a ranked team -- an opportunity that likely won't come until Nov. 12 at Wake Forest. -- Kyle Bonagura

23. NC State Wolfpack(5-2)

Previous ranking:15

Week 7 result:24-9 loss vs. No. 18 Syracuse

What's next: vs. Virginia Tech (Thursday, Oct. 27)

The news that junior quarterback Devin Leary will miss the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral changes NC State's outlook completely. Leary (1,265 passing yards and 11 TDs) got hurt in the Wolfpack's victory over Florida State on Oct. 8 and all eyes now turn to Charleston Southern graduate transfer Jack Chambers. Their ACC title hopes may have taken a hit with Saturday's loss to Syracuse. Chambers will have to prove to be a quick study with a home game against Virginia Tech coming up following a bye week. -- Blake Baumgartner

24. Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-2)

Previous ranking:16

Week 7 result:27-17 loss vs. No. 22 Kentucky

What's next: at Alabama (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET)

Who are the Bulldogs: the team that whipped up on Texas A&M and Arkansas or the team that was held to a combined 33 points in losses to LSU and Kentucky? Now 5-2, Mississippi State has three of its toughest games remaining starting with Alabama on the road. Georgia comes to Starkville on Nov. 12, and there's the regular-season finale at Ole Miss on Thanksgiving night. -- Chris Low

25. Tulane Green Wave (6-1)

Previous ranking:unranked

Week 7 result:45-31 win vs. South Florida

What's next: vs. Memphis (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

A year after finishing 2-10, Tulane is bowl eligible thanks to a defense that ranks second in the American Athletic Conference in points per game (15.9), a drastic improvement from the 34.0 points per game it allowed a year ago. Sure, the Green Wave surrendered 31 points to a dismal USF squad on Saturday, but they forced two fumbles. They still have five games until they play a road contest against Cincinnati to end the year; before that, they face a reeling Memphis squad that has lost its past two games by three combined points.-- Matt Eisenberg

Dropped out: Kansas (19), James Madison (25)