AP College Football Poll 2016: Week 9 Top 25 Rankings Announced

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 23, 2016

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 22:  Penn State students rush the field after the Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 24-21 on October 22, 2016 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Offered its biggest test of the season, Alabama once again took care of business. Hours later, Ohio State folded under the Happy Valley pressure to send the college football landscape into a state of flux.

The second-ranked Buckeyes allowed 17 fourth-quarter points to Penn State, which secured a 24-21 upset victory that had students parading into the streets in celebration. The No. 24 Nittany Lions are a Top 25 team for the first time since the Jerry Sandusky scandal rocked the foundation of the program, while Ohio State descended to No. 6.

Michigan took the Buckeyes' spot at No. 2 and is followed by Clemson, Washington and Louisville in the latest Associated Press poll. Here is a look at the entire Top 25:

Penn State's win over Ohio State was its first since 2011, which came just weeks after head coach Joe Paterno was fired. The Nittany Lions won eight games in 2012 and seven in each of the last three seasons while competing under NCAA penalties.

Saturday night ranked among the unlikeliest upsets in program history. The Buckeyes held possession for more than 37 minutes, outgained Penn State 413-276 and did not commit a single turnover. But two critical special teams errors turned what looked like a sure victory into a loss.

First, the Nittany Lions blocked a punt to gain possession deep in Ohio State territory and set up a field goal to cut their deficit to 21-17 with 9:33 to play. Then, after the Buckeyes drove into field-goal range, Penn State blocked a 45-yard attempt, and Grant Haley returned it 60 yards for the game-winning score.

"We had two blocked kicks. Two blocked kicks. Offensively, we didn't control the line of scrimmage," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer told reporters. "[J.T. Barrett] was under pressure all night when we threw it, and then we didn't move them off the ball in the run game."

Penn State was not ranked at any point during the 2012, 2013, 2014 or 2015 season. After an embarrassing 49-10 loss at Michigan in September, it looked like the program was still years away from a return to relevance. Head coach James Franklin faced pressure from alumni, some of whom wanted the young coach to be sent packing.

"I don't even know that you can explain it, everything this program has been through the last five years," Franklin told ESPN.com's Chris Low. "No one understands what we're still going through. Nobody understands, so to see us all come together as a family and as a community, we don't do that by ourselves. It took all 107,000 fans in there going crazy."

Elsewhere, there was no celebrating for Kevin Sumlin. His sixth-ranked Aggies traveled to Tuscaloosa with a historic victory in mind, but they left as the latest victim of Alabama's tour de force. The Crimson Tide beat their third straight ranked opponent, with all those victories coming by 19 or more points.

Jalen Hurts accounted for three touchdowns, and Alabama rushed for 287 yards. It held possession for nearly 36 minutes and contained the Aggies offense to 278 yards. The Crimson Tide scored the game's final 20 points after going down 14-13 early in the third quarter.

"We can't be relieved that we won this game because there's a big difference in resting, relaxing and working to improve and being relieved," head coach Nick Saban said, per Dan Wolken of USA Today. "We have lots of good teams coming up, and that can have a tremendous impact on what kind of season we have, so we have to continue to be able to persevere as a team."

Besides the nation's top two teams, there was not much to write home about in Week 8. New No. 15 Auburn dominated Arkansas in a 56-3 shellacking that pushed the Razorbacks from No. 17 to out of the rankings, while Leonard Fournette's return spurred LSU's 38-21 win over Ole Miss and a return to the poll for the first time in a month.

Oklahoma, which stayed at No. 16, and Texas Tech set records for offensive performance and defensive futility, but that won't have much of an impact on the championship picture. Same goes for SMU's upset of then-No. 11 Houston, which fell out of the rankings. The Cougars' 5-0 start and five straight weeks in the Top 10 now appear like they were more of a mirage than anything; they've lost two of their last three contests.

"Like getting punched in the stomach and you can't catch your breath," Houston tight end Tyler McCloskey said, per Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle. "It was like everything was spinning a thousand miles, and you can't catch up. It's hard to put into words. It's devastating."

In addition to Penn State, No. 23 Colorado and No. 25 Virginia Tech also entered the poll this week.

    

Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.

Related

    Isaiah Simmons to NFL Draft

    Clemson LB and @nfldraftscout's No. 5 overall prospect will forgo senior season to enter the draft

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Isaiah Simmons to NFL Draft

    Timothy Rapp
    via Bleacher Report

    Best Moments from LSU's Title Parade 🎉

    😂 Coach O throws Mardi Gras beads 🎵 'We Are the Champions' in PMAC ➡️ Catch up on all the best moments

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Best Moments from LSU's Title Parade 🎉

    Adam Wells
    via Bleacher Report

    Benny LeMay Wins Offensive MVP as East Beats West 31-27 in 2020 Shrine Bowl

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Benny LeMay Wins Offensive MVP as East Beats West 31-27 in 2020 Shrine Bowl

    Mike Chiari
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Burrow to Skip Senior Bowl

    Heisman winner decides he won't play in all-star exhibition game to spend time with family

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Report: Burrow to Skip Senior Bowl

    Adam Wells
    via Bleacher Report