NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Predicting the AP Top 25 After Week 10

Justin Ferguson@@JFergusonBRCFB National AnalystNovember 8, 2015

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
Clemson QB Deshaun WatsonStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

The all-important month of November in college football kicked off with quite a big bang on "Separation Saturday."

Week 10 featured the biggest slate of high-profile matchups this season along with some more late-game drama and outright insanity.

Those big-time games, from the latest heavyweight clash in the SEC West to an important statement victory down in the Big 12, will undoubtedly lead to serious shakeups in rankings everywhere this weekend. There's now real intrigue at the No. 1 spot and some important sorting to do throughout the Top 10.

As we do at this time each week, here are the latest predictions for the Associated Press Top 25not the College Football Playoff rankings, which were recently unveiled for the first time this season. This is for the poll that will come out Sunday afternoon.

In this week's edition of the projections, I've circled more risers than fallers, as I'll touch on the two Top-Five teams that fell this weekend in the "moving up" category.

Predicted Week 11 Associated Press Poll
TeamPreviouslyRecordWeek 10 Result
1. Clemson39-0Won 23-13 vs. No. 17 Florida State
2. Ohio State19-0Won 28-14 vs. Minnesota
3. Baylor28-0Won 31-24 at Kansas State
4. Alabama78-1Won 30-16 vs. No. 4 LSU
5. Notre Dame88-1Won 42-30 at Pittsburgh
6. Stanford98-1Won 42-10 at Colorado
7. Oklahoma State129-0Won 49-29 vs. No. 5 TCU
8. Iowa109-0Won 35-27 at Indiana
9. LSU47-1Lost 30-16 at No. 7 Alabama
10. TCU58-1Lost 49-29 at No. 12 Oklahoma State
11. Florida118-1Won 9-7 vs. Vanderbilt
12. Utah138-1Won 34-23 at Washington
13. Oklahoma148-1Won 52-16 vs. Iowa State
14. Michigan State68-1Lost 39-38 at Nebraska
15. Michigan167-2Won 49-16 vs. Rutgers
16. Houston189-0Won 33-30 vs. Cincinnati
17. North Carolina218-1Won 66-31 vs. Duke
18. UCLA227-2Won 41-0 at Oregon State
19. Temple238-1Won 60-40 at SMU
20. Mississippi State247-2Won 31-13 at Missouri
21. Florida State177-2Lost 23-13 at No. 3 Clemson
22. NavyNR7-1Won 45-20 at No. 15 Memphis
23. WisconsinNR8-2Won 31-24 at Maryland
24. Memphis158-1Lost 45-20 vs. Navy
25. NorthwesternNR7-2Won 23-21 vs. Penn State
Justin Ferguson

Moving up

Clemson

Clemson was already riding high heading into this weekend's matchup against one-loss Florida State in Death Valley. The playoff committee had the Tigers at No. 1 in the country in its initial Top 25 earlier this week, and they defended it with a 23-13 comeback win over the Seminoles.

Clemson HC Dabo Swinney
Clemson HC Dabo SwinneyRichard Shiro/Associated Press

The Tigers rallied to put up 512 yards of offense through the excellent Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman, and the defense came up with several big stops after allowing a huge touchdown run to Dalvin Cook on the second play from scrimmage. FSU didn't find the end zone again and turned the ball over twice in the contest.

With the major victory and Ohio State and Baylor's tight results this week, the AP pollsters could follow the committee's lead and put Clemson at No. 1 over the undefeated Buckeyes and Bears. Overtaking Baylor would be easy—the Tigers had the same number of first-place votes and trailed the Bears by just 27 points in the Week 10 poll.

Ohio State, though, entered the week with 33 more first-place votes and a sizable points advantage over Clemson. That's a big gap, but I think the Tigers will jump the less-than-impressive Buckeyes this week. Having that No. 1 next to their name all day thanks to the playoff committee should give them a strong wave of momentum with the pollsters.

Alabama

Alabama backed up its lofty ranking from the playoff committee with a 30-16 victory over fellow SEC West heavyweight LSU, which entered the game with an undefeated record.

Alabama RB Derrick Henry
Alabama RB Derrick HenryKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Derrick Henry led the way for Alabama with 210 rushing yards and three touchdowns against the LSU defense, completely taking the Heisman spotlight away from Leonard Fournette. The runaway Heisman favorite heading into Saturday had only 31 rushing yards after entering the game with an average of 193 per contest.

"There just wasn't any real estate for Fournette to stretch his legs," Michael Casagrande of AL.com wrote. "He was thrown for losses on four occasions with a long run of 18 yards. A few of Alabama's defensive linemen said Wednesday they were sick of the talk leading up to the game. It delivered that message Saturday night."

The Crimson Tide already had a great chance to make a big AP poll jump with a win over LSU, and a couple of high-profile losses ahead of Alabama should've ensured a spot in the top four from the media. Alabama probably doesn't have enough to overtake undefeated Baylor, but it's more than fine as a red-hot No. 4 team.

Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State entered Week 10 as the lowest-ranked undefeated team from the Power Five conferences. The Cowboys' close calls earlier in the season didn't earn them much favor with the pollsters in the first two months.

Oklahoma State WR James Washington (right)
Oklahoma State WR James Washington (right)Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

But Oklahoma State opened a major month of November in the Big 12 with a 49-29 win over previously undefeated TCU in Stillwater. Despite TCU's 663 yards of offense, the Cowboys' defense picked off Heisman contender Trevone Boykin four times and became only the second team this season to hold the Horned Frogs to fewer than 30 points.

Offensively, Oklahoma State hit TCU for big plays time and time again. Three of its six offensive touchdowns went for 50 or more yards, and another one—its first of the day—totaled 48 yards.

Oklahoma State should get plenty of respect in the polls this week after knocking off TCU. The Cowboys might not be able to jump one-loss Notre Dame and Stanford in these rankings, but they've now got a much-bigger win than any this season from undefeated Iowa, which held off Indiana to win by eight points Saturday. They move just ahead of the Hawkeyes and settle at No. 7 here.

Wisconsin and Northwestern

With Ole Miss, Toledo and Texas A&M taking upset losses in Week 10, there's plenty of room for some new blood in the AP Top 25.

Joining Navy—more on the Midshipmen in a bit—in this week's predicted poll is the Big Ten combo of Wisconsin and Northwestern, a pair of two-loss teams with decent resumes.

Wisconsin HC Paul Chryst
Wisconsin HC Paul ChrystPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

Wisconsin's only two losses this season came against SEC West front-runner Alabama and undefeated Iowa, with the latter coming by four points at the beginning of October. Since then, the Badgers have won five straight, including Saturday's narrow road victory over Maryland. Wisconsin led the receiving votes category in Week 10 and will slide into the poll here without much problem.

No. 25 is a bit trickier, as three-loss USC entered the week with more votes than Northwestern, which snatched a spot in the committee's rankings on Tuesday night. With USC needing a fourth-quarter rally to secure a win over disappointing Arizona, the Wildcats should have enough momentum to break into the poll again after their victory over a better Penn State team.

Moving down

Michigan State

The Spartans will be the latest group of fans to feel completely shafted by a late refereeing decision, as officials appeared to blow a possible illegal touching call on Nebraska wide receiver Brandon Reilly's game-winning touchdown catch.

Michigan State HC Mark Dantonio
Michigan State HC Mark DantonioNati Harnik/Associated Press

But Michigan State, a team that has flirted with disastrous losses several times this season, only got in that position because of a defensive breakdown in the second half. A six-loss Nebraska team scored four touchdowns on five possessions after halftime to pull off the 39-38 shocker.

"Michigan State couldn't stop [Nebraska] because Michigan State, in its present form, can't stop anybody," Bleacher Report's Brian Leigh wrote. "In that way, the controversial ending will bury the lede from this game. Sparty got what's been coming to it all season."

Michigan State should slide a good ways out of the Top 10 following its first loss of the season—one that came against a Nebraska squad coming off a high-scoring defeat to Purdue. The Spartans land ahead of two-loss Michigan, a team that was seconds away from beating Michigan State a few weeks ago, in this week's AP projection.

Memphis

A funny thing happened on the way to next week's massive showdown between Houston and Memphis in the increasingly important AAC West race. The Tigers won't visit Houston with an unbeaten record or hopes of a playoff run in Week 11 thanks to Saturday's 45-20 loss to divisional foe Navy.

Memphis HC Justin Fuente
Memphis HC Justin FuenteMark Humphrey/Associated Press

The option-running Midshipmen picked apart Memphis' struggling defense, and quarterback Keenan Reynolds even unloaded a 75-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to give Navy a 24-17 lead. Navy ran for 374 yards against the Tigers, with three different runners finding the end zone.

On offense, Memphis turned the ball over three times and failed to convert a pair of fourth-down tries. As Tigers head coach Justin Fuente simply put it, per ESPN, Navy "kicked [Memphis'] tail" and proved it is a "nightmare" for any opponent.

Memphis' first defeat of the season won't knock it out of the Top 25, although its most impressive win of the season looks worse now that Ole Miss has three losses. Navy, on the other hand, only has a loss to Notre Dame to its name and should crack the polls as a strong Group of Five contender.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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