Predicting How the College Football Top 25 Polls Will Look After Week 1

T.J. Mcaloon@@tjmcaloonContributorSeptember 2, 2012

Predicting How the College Football Top 25 Polls Will Look After Week 1

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    With an uneventful first week of college football—no major upsets to highly ranked teams, unless Louisville or Virginia Tech lose on Sunday or Monday—the new Associated Press and USA Today coaches' polls should not be different from what they looked like in the preseason. 

    However, there were a few teams that took on a higher ranked team Week 1 and failed to shoot up the polls with an upset. So, for those teams, their slide down in the new polls will not crush their chances at playing in a BCS bowl game. Luckily, there are still three months left of football for them to climb their way back up. 

    But for one team, their Week 1 victory will place them in a very familiar spot in the new polls: a spot they should have started the season at after the way they finished the 2011 season. 

No. 25 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: Not Ranked

    USA Today: No. 24

    Notre Dame will take over the No. 25 spot in the AP Poll when Boise State drops from the poll and Louisville beats Kentucky. However, they should rise up to No. 23 in the new USA Today coaches' poll when the coaches drop Boise State. 

    The Fighting Irish's 40-point victory over Navy may even push them higher in each poll. However, I can see the voters looking past the 50 points against a team that only won five games last year and just move them up one spot in the new polls. 

No. 24 Louisville Cardinals

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 25

    USA Today: Not Ranked

    Louisville should open their 2012 season with a victory against their in-state rival Kentucky. The win should vault them past Notre Dame in the new Associated Press poll and place them at No. 24 in the new USA Today poll when they drop No. 25 Auburn. 

    Now the difference between Notre Dame and Louisville's victories will be that Notre Dame defeated an independent school, while Louisville not only took down a rival, but also a team from the Southeastern Conference. 

No. 23 Stanford Cardinal

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 21

    USA Today: No. 18

    Now, before you call me a "West Coast hater" because I'm predicting the fall of the Cardinal, hear me out. 

    Stanford was the only team, in the preseason top 18-25, that won its game against a non-BCS opponent by a single-digit margin, surviving against San Jose State with a 20-17 victory. 

    Sure, they started off great with a 17-3 halftime lead. But getting outscored 14-3 in the second half and almost blowing their first game in the post-Andrew Luck era should drop them in the new polls. 

No. 22 Florida Gators

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 23

    USA Today: No. 23

    I'm giving Florida the benefit of the doubt in the new polls that they were rusty in their home opener. That's why I'm going to predict that because the voters will move Stanford down, they'll raise the Gators up one spot in the next polls. 

    With that being said, Florida looked very average in their home opener—against Bowling Green. Their passing game was awful, gaining only 145 yards, and their defense allowed Bowling Green to gain a combined 327 yards. 

    If it weren't for the Gators' rushing game, carrying them with 220 yards and two touchdowns, they may have lost their home opener. 

No. 21 TCU Horned Frogs

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 20

    USA Today: No. 17

    TCU only drops in next week's polls because they took the first week off. Next week they'll open their season against Grambling State, blow them out by 40 and then rise back up to the low teens or even higher. 

No. 20 Kansas State Wildcats

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 22

    USA Today: No. 21

    Kansas State is this year's sleeper team in the Big 12.

    They opened their 2012 season with a blowout win over Missouri State, 51-9. Once the Wildcats got their offense rolling, there was no stopping this team from putting up points, as they scored 35 fourth-quarter points to put their Week 1 game away. 

    Next week, Kansas State will have a chance to move into the range of Nos. 18-15 if they can blow out the Miami Hurricanes. 

No. 19 Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 19

    USA Today: No. 19

    Oklahoma State was favored by a whopping 66 points in their Week 1 game against Savannah State. Not only did Oklahoma State cover, they could have allowed Savannah State to score two touchdowns and still had enough to cover, as the Cowboys won 84-0.

    However, the blowout win will not be enough to vault them over these next two teams, who had the same type of victories. 

No. 18 Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 18

    USA Today: N/A

    Ohio State may end this year as one of the Top 10 teams in the Associated Press poll. However, because of NCAA sanctions against their program, they will remain unranked in the USA Today coaches' poll. 

    So, when the new AP poll comes out next week, you'll see the Buckeyes stay the same at No. 18 after their dismantling of Miami (OH).  

No. 17 Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 17

    USA Today: No. 16

    Nebraska looked very impressive in Week 1. Their offense looked flawless, torching Southern Miss for 632 combined yards, finishing with 49 points.

    Cornhusker quarterback Taylor Martinez was the star of Week 1, as his 354-yard, five-touchdown home opener performance gave a glimpse as to what the junior quarterback could do in 2012.

    However, as great as their victory was, Cornhuskers fans have to be concerned as starting running back Rex Burkhead left the game with a sprained MCL.  

    But they will stay in the same spot when the new polls are released. 

No. 16 Texas Longhorns

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 15

    USA Today: No. 15

    Texas didn't impress in their Week 1 victory over Wyoming, but they didn't do anything to raise any red flags as to any problems. They just played a solid game, scoring in each quarter, and did enough to keep Wyoming off of the scoreboard to win 37-17. 

    This Longhorns team should hover around the No. 15 ranking throughout the 2012 season. Sure, they'll move up to No. 13 one week—probably by Sept. 29 vs. Oklahoma State—but then fall back to No. 20 after they lose. 

    As far as this week goes, Texas will drop one spot because they opened their season against Wyoming. 

No. 15 Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 16

    USA Today: No. 20

    I'm not sure what the coaches were thinking by voting Virginia Tech No. 20 to open the season, but this will be the Atlantic Coast Conference champion this year. 

    By leaping them over Texas in the AP poll, and Oklahoma State, Stanford, TCU, Nebraska and Texas in the USA Today poll, I'm predicting a victory against Georgia Tech in their season opener. 

    Just like Louisville leaping Notre Dame, I'm giving the benefit to Virginia Tech for playing a BCS school in their opener and not a cupcake team just to pad their stats. 

No. 14 Michigan Wolverines

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 8

    USA Today: No. 8

    I was wondering how far I would drop Michigan in next week's poll, but looking at how every other team did in between them, I came to the assumption that No. 14 is a reasonable spot. 

    Michigan's loss to Alabama was bad. However, if they had been competitive but still lost in their opener, then maybe their fall down in the polls wouldn't have been as steep. But, because they were down 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, they never had a chance in the game. 

    Luckily for Michigan, they still have 11 games left to pick up the pieces and move back into BCS Championship game contention. 

No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 12

    USA Today: No. 12

    The defending Big Ten champion looked flat in their Week 1 victory over Northern Iowa, 26-21. This year they are starting a new season without quarterback Russell Wilson and leading receiver Nick Toon. 

    If it weren't for Heisman Trophy finalist running back Monte Ball rushing 32 times for 120 yards and one- touchdown, Wisconsin may have lost to Northern Iowa. 

    The Badgers have to get a better second-week performance from new quarterback Danny O'Brien, as his Week 1, 19-of-23, 219 yards, two-touchdowns game wasn't enough to put Northern Iowa away in the opener. 

    Because of their five-point Week 1 victory, they will drop one spot in next week's polls. 

No. 12 Clemson Tigers

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 14

    USA Today: No. 14

    Clemson fans must have been worried when they saw Auburn fly out to a 7-3 lead in the first quarter after Auburn's Emory Blake caught a 54-yard touchdown. 

    After that first touchdown, Clemson's defense shut Auburn's offense down, not allowing the Tigers to get into the end zone after that first-quarter touchdown.

    However, the main reason for Clemson's Week 1 victory was running back Andre Ellington.

    Ellington carried Clemson with a huge performance of 26 carries and 231 yards. Plus, quarterback Tajh Boyd put this game away with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to give Clemson the lead 23-19. 

    The win over Auburn should move the Tigers up two spots in both of the polls when they are announced next week.

No. 11 Michigan State Spartans

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 13

    USA Today: No. 13

    Michigan State survived Week 1 at home against No. 24 Boise State.

    The Spartans controlled every aspect of the game, as they out-gained Boise State 461-201, had the better time of possession of: 39:19-20:41 and were able to convert on 10 of their 19 third-down attempts. 

    That being said, they committed 10 penalties, turned the ball over four times and had to squeak out a four-point victory.

    The win will move them right outside of the top 10, but it will not be enough to enter that realm.  

No. 10 West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 11

    USA Today: No. 11

    West Virginia cracks the top 10 in the new polls because of Michigan's crippling loss at the hands of Alabama. 

    However, before the season is over, this West Virginia team may be in the top three. They have a very good defense, a running game that is built on speed and a potential Heisman trophy finalist at quarterback. 

    Geno Smith's Week 1 performance of 32-36, 320 yards, four passing touchdowns, 64 rushing yards and one touchdown shot him into Heisman contention. 

    Once West Virginia plays their Big 12 schedule, you'll then see them move into the top five in these polls. 

No. 9 Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 10

    USA Today: No. 10

    Arkansas opened their 2012 season the same way they finished 2011—airing the ball out and scoring touchdowns. 

    Arkansas senior quarterback Tyler Wilson had another 300-yard passing game—his sixth career 300-plus-yard passing game at Arkansas—and three touchdowns against Jacksonville State in a 49-24 victory. 

    Arkansas is good enough to move past the upper-tier of the SEC West (Alabama and LSU). Plus, they play both of these teams at home, unlike last year when they had to travel to both places. 

    Arkansas will move up one spot in next week's polls; they could be ranked No. 1 some time this year. 

No. 8 Georgia Bulldogs

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 6

    USA Today: No. 6

    Georgia will drop in the next polls, only because for three quarters they struggled against the Buffalo Bulls. 

    If it weren't for two-straight scores to open the fourth quarter, then who knows if the Bulldogs would have been able to survive Week 1 with a victory. 

    But senior quarterback Aaron Murray thew for 258 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and senior Tavarres King caught six passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. So we will chalk this first game up to being rusty and assume that the Bulldogs will look better in the upcoming weeks.

No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 9

    USA Today: No. 9

    In previous rankings, I moved teams ahead of other schools because they opened their season with a BCS school rather than a weaker team. You may be wondering then, why is South Carolina moving only two spots up in the rankings? 

    Good question. 

    South Carolina's win on the road over Vanderbilt was impressive. However, the team ahead of South Carolina in next week's polls (keeping the Gamecocks out of the top five) had a win that was never in doubt, blowing their competition away. 

    So, South Carolina moves up two spots, leaping fellow SEC East division companion Georgia. 

No. 6 Florida State Seminoles

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 7

    USA Today: No. 7

    Florida State looked very impressive in their Week 1 victory over Murray State, 69-3. Their first game was a complete domination, as their offense gained 606 yards while their defense held Murray State to only 156. 

    But for as good as the offense looked, Seminoles starting quarterback E.J. Manuel looked subpar in the season opener, throwing for only 185 yards and one touchdown. 

    I could be undervaluing the Seminoles performance in Week 1 by putting them at No. 6, but because of the opponent, they should be just outside of the top five.  

No. 5 Oklahoma Sooners

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 4

    USA Today: No. 4

    This was the one team that I may be wrong with how far they fall down in the polls when they come out next week. But I could see them only dropping one spot after they struggled in their opener on the road against UTEP, winning 24-7. 

    Without wide receiver Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones struggled, completing only 21-of-36 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns. 

    If you compare that to Jones' first game last year when he completed 35-of-47 passes for 375 yards and one touchdown, you can see that this year may be a down year for the senior quarterback. 

No. 4 Oregon Ducks

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 5

    USA Today: No. 5

    Oregon could have contended with Oklahoma State for the most points scored in Week 1. At halftime, the Ducks had scored 50 points, leading Arkansas State 50-10. 

    However, Oregon took its foot off of the gas pedal, scoring seven points in the second half ending with just 57 points. 

    But the first half was enough to say to the Pac-12 and the rest of the college football world that despite losing their starting quarterback and running back, this team can still score whenever they want to. 

    So, with Oklahoma struggling, Oregon will move up one spot in the next polls. 

No. 3 LSU Tigers

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 3

    USA Today: No. 1

    The Tigers looked about exactly what their fans and the rest of the college football world expected they'd look like: a team built around their defense and special teams with an offense that has a crushing running game. 

    Their Week 1 victory over North Texas wasn't earth-shattering, but it will not be enough to keep them in the top spot of the USA Today coaches' poll. They will drop to No. 2 in that poll while staying at No. 3 in the AP poll, thus making them the third best team in the country. 

No. 2 USC Trojans

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 1

    USA Today: No. 3

    In their home-opening victory over Hawaii, USC looked like the preseason BCS Championship contender they were built up to be. 

    Senior quarterback Matt Barkley threw for 372 yards and four touchdowns, sophomore wide receiver Marqise Lee caught 10 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown, and the defense held Hawaii to only 208 passing yards and 264 total yards. 

    But they opened their season against Hawaii, which drops them to the second best team in college football. 

No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Preseason Polls

    AP: No. 2

    USA Today: No. 2

    The new No. 1 when the polls come out will be the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

    Their performance against defending Sugar Bowl Champion Michigan was not only impressive, it was flawless. They held Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson to only 200 passing yards and 27 rushing yards, while forcing two interceptions. 

    Aside from the defensive play, we may have seen the emergence of the next great Alabama running back, as freshman T.J. Yeldon exploded for 111 yards and a touchdown.

    Alabama deserved to open the season as the No. 1 team in the country. However, they were pushed aside for USC and LSU for whatever reasons.

    For those of you who doubted if they are the best team in the country, you got a wake-up call after their 41-14 thrashing of Michigan. They will be No. 1 in both the AP and USA Today coaches' polls when they come out.