College Football Rankings 2021: NCAA Top 25 Predictions After Opening Saturday
The Georgia Bulldogs made a strong case Saturday that they are the main contender to the Alabama Crimson Tide in college football this season.
Georgia's menacing defense held the Clemson Tigers to three points in the most notable matchup on the Week 1 slate.
The Bulldogs' victory over another College Football Playoff contender, combined with the average outings from the Oklahoma Sooners and Ohio State Buckeyes, could put it at No. 2 in the new polls.
Clemson is one of three ACC programs that will experience a drop from their preseason spots. The North Carolina Tar Heels fell on the road to the Virginia Tech Hokies, and the Miami Hurricanes were blown away by Alabama.
The Wisconsin Badgers, LSU Tigers, Indiana Hoosiers, Washington Huskies and Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns are expected to fall as well after their respective defeats.
The UCLA Bruins, who beat LSU at home Saturday, are expected to lead the wave of new entrants in the polls. Chip Kelly's side is off to a 2-0 start following wins over LSU and the Hawai'i Warriors.
Top 25 Predictions
1. Alabama (1-0)
2. Georgia (1-0)
3. Oklahoma (1-0)
4. Ohio State (1-0)
5. Texas A&M (1-0)
6. Iowa State (1-0)
7. Clemson (0-1)
8. Cincinnati (1-0)
9. Notre Dame (0-0)
10. Oregon (1-0)
11. Florida (1-0)
12. Iowa (1-0)
13. Penn State (1-0)
14. USC (1-0)
15. Texas (1-0)
16. UCLA (2-0)
17. North Carolina (0-1)
18. Wisconsin (0-1)
19. Coastal Carolina (1-0)
20. Utah (1-0)
21. Arizona State (1-0)
22. LSU (0-1)
23. NC State (1-0)
24. Miami (0-1)
25. Indiana (0-1)
Georgia Expected to Rise
Georgia's defensive masterpiece in the most important Week 1 game should earn it consideration for the No. 2 position.
The Bulldogs held Clemson to 180 total yards, and their front seven limited third-ranked Clemson to two rushing yards.
Christopher Smith's 74-yard interception return for a touchdown provided Georgia with the separation it needed on the scoreboard in the second quarter.
J.T. Daniels led the Georgia offense on an 11-play, 81-yard drive to set up a Jack Podlesny field goal in the third quarter to make it a two-possession game.
At that time, the 10-0 advantage felt more like a 30-point lead with how well the Georgia defense was performing.
Georgia deserves to be the No. 2 team behind Alabama because it turned in the best overall performance outside of the Crimson Tide in Week 1.
Ohio State defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers by 14 points, but it struggled for a half on the road. Oklahoma let the Tulane Green Wave hang around, and the AAC side got within one score in the fourth quarter.
If Georgia moves up to No. 2, it could hold that position until the SEC Championship Game. Kirby Smart's team should run through the SEC East, where one other ranked team resides, and it does not have a difficult crossover game against SEC West foes.
ACC Takes Significant Hit in Playoff Quest
The ACC had the worst Week 1 of the power five conferences.
Clemson's offense could not move the ball against Georgia, and the loss put a serious dent into its playoff hopes.
The Tigers are still capable of running the table in the ACC and finishing with one loss, but their margin for error is gone. Another loss would eliminate Clemson from playoff contention.
Miami and North Carolina were viewed as the top challengers to Clemson in the ACC, but neither team lived up to expectations in Week 1.
North Carolina struggled Friday night against Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels went into Blacksburg, Virginia, needing to replace two 1,000-yard rushers and their top two receivers.
UNC's losses to the NFL and graduation on offense were apparent over 60 minutes. Quarterback Sam Howell could still have a strong season, but he needs to be perfect for the Tar Heels to have any chance of representing the ACC on the sport's biggest stage.
Miami could not keep pace with Alabama at any instant of its Saturday afternoon loss in Atlanta. The Hurricanes should remain in the Top 25 for most of the season since they have one other ranked foe on their schedule, but they likely will not be talked about in the upper echelon of the sport.
To make matters worse for the ACC, the Duke Blue Devils lost to the Charlotte 49ers on Friday, and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets fell at home to the Northern Illinois Huskies.
The lone bright spot was the performance of the NC State Wolfpack on Thursday night. NC State's 45-0 win over the South Florida Bulls, combined with the losses across the Top 25, should make it one of the top candidates to join the Week 2 rankings.