College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 6
For the first time in 25 tries, a former assistant coach finally defeated Nick Saban. Jimbo Fisher's unranked Texas A&M Aggies delivered one of the most shocking upsets of the first half of the 2021 college football season, knocking off No. 1 Alabama by a score of 41-38.
Two months ago, that result wouldn't have been much of a surprise. A&M was No. 6 in the preseason AP poll and it was the home team for this SEC West showdown. However, given how dreadful the Aggies looked on offense over the past four weeks, dropping 41 points on the reigning national champions was a most unexpected outcome.
What really won the game for the Aggies, though, was their ability to make Alabama's offensive line look like Swiss cheese. Bryce Young ended up with a solid stat line, but he was under near-constant duress in this one as the Crimson Tide struggled to protect their Heisman Trophy candidate.
So, now the big question: How far does Alabama fall in the rankings?
It was a loss to an unranked opponent, so surely the Crimson Tide will drop out of the Top Five, right?
Well, not so fast. No. 4 Penn State and No. 10 BYU also lost this week, while No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 9 Michigan both needed late comebacks to eke out Ws. And the gap between Georgia/Alabama and the rest of the country felt so wide heading into Week 6 that it's hard to imagine more than maybe three or four teams bypassing the Crimson Tide in the next AP poll. (Personally, I dropped them to No. 7, but we'll see what happens.)
That AP poll doesn't come out until 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, though. We've got updated rankings right now with input from our college football experts: David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard.
We have Alabama slipping to No. 5. But the biggest sliders is Arkansas, which plummets all the way from No. 9 to No. 21 for a nail-biter loss to Ole Miss. Texas A&M sneaks into our Top 25 following that marquee W over Alabama, and Houston also joins the rankings for the first time. And don't look now, but Coastal Carolina is in our Top 10.
B/R's Post-Week 6 Top 25
1. Georgia (Last Week: 2)
2. Iowa (t-3)
3. Cincinnati (5)
4. Oklahoma (6)
5. Alabama (1)
6. Penn State (t-3)
7. Ohio State (7)
8. Michigan (8)
9. Kentucky (10)
10. (tie) Coastal Carolina (t-14)
10. (tie) Michigan State (16)
12. Ole Miss (t-14)
13. Oregon (11)
14. Oklahoma State (18)
15. Notre Dame (12)
16. (tie) Arizona State (t-22)
16. (tie) SMU (t-22)
18. (tie) Florida (17)
18. (tie) Wake Forest (21)
20. San Diego State (24)
21. Arkansas (9)
22. Texas A&M (NR)
23. UTSA (t-25)
24. Houston (NR)
25. NC State (t-25)
Also receiving votes: Baylor, Texas, Clemson, Boise State
Who's Hot: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Don't worry, we'll have plenty to say later about Penn State-Iowa, the Red River Rivalry and more.
But I want to get this party started with an offensive juggernaut that isn't getting anywhere near the national attention it deserves.
AP No. 15 Coastal Carolina stomped a mudhole through Arkansas State en route to a 52-20 Thursday night victory. Grayson McCall connected with Isaiah Likely for a 99-yard touchdown reception on CCU's second offensive snap, and the Chants didn't slow down much from there.
On their first seven possessions, the Chanticleers scored five touchdowns and a field goal. The lone time they didn't score, they downed a punt at the ASU 2. And then they poured it on late with a pair of rushing touchdowns from more than 60 yards out by Reese White (64 yards) and Bryce Carpenter (67 yards).
They out-gained Arkansas State by more than 400 yards in what ended up only being their fourth-largest margin of victory of the season.
Coastal Carolina also opened the season with a 52-14 win over The Citadel, defeated Massachusetts 53-3 on the final Saturday of September and throttled Louisiana-Monroe 59-6 last week.
So, yeah, the Chants have won their past three games by combined score of 164-29.
Not too shabby.
In our Power Five-centric, College Football Playoff-focused national discourse, I can understand why this team gets little to no attention. Cincinnati—which had a 52-3 landslide victory of its own Friday night against Temple—is the Group of Five team du jour, as the Bearcats both opened the season in the AP Top 10 and have a massive road win over Notre Dame to their credit. Coastal Carolina's resume pales in comparison, leaving this team with no hope of crashing the CFP and, frankly, not a great chance at even playing in a New Year's Six Bowl.
However, this is a very good, fun-to-watch, mullet-wielding team that has now won 18 consecutive regular-season games. The Chanticleers need more love, and I'm happy to give it to them.
Coastal Carolina won't play next weekend, but set yourself a Wednesday night reminder for the big CCU at Appalachian State showdown Oct. 20. The winner of that one will likely draw Louisiana in the Sun Belt championship.
Who's Not: Penn State's Offensive Line
One quarter into Penn State at Iowa, the Nittany Lions clearly looked like the superior team.
Sean Clifford did throw a brutal interception on Penn State's first offensive snap of the game, setting up Iowa at the PSU 8. But the defense dug in its heels, forced a field goal and the offense bounced back with a vengeance. The Nittany Lions went 75 yards for a touchdown on their subsequent possession, threw an interception in the end zone on the next drive and scored a second touchdown shortly thereafter.
Less than 18 minutes into the game, Penn State was up 17-3 and already had 193 yards of total offense against one of the stingiest defenses in the nation.
Unfortunately, on the next-to-last play of that field-goal drive, Clifford took a hit on an incomplete pass and suffered an undisclosed injury that kept him out for the rest of the game.
And that's when Penn State's O-line began to collapse into itself like a dying star.
On the first possession after Clifford's injury, backup Ta'Quan Roberson fumbled (and recovered) the first snap, followed by the Nittany Lions committing three consecutive false start penalties. They didn't commit a single penalty in those first 18 minutes, but they would wind up with eight false starts when all was said and done.
Even when they were able to snap the ball without moving first, the O-line was relatively helpless against Iowa's pressure. The Nittany Lions only allowed one sack, but Roberson was in a constant state of running for his life. And even though he did have a few scrambles for first downs, Penn State managed just 60 rushing yards on 25 carries over the final 42 minutes (while Roberson went 7-of-21 through the air for 34 yards and a pair of interceptions).
So, to recap, 193 yards and 17 points in the first 18 minutes; 94 yards, three points and all of the false starts in the final 42 minutes.
Losing your starting quarterback in the middle of a game and needing to turn to a guy with eight career passing attempts over the past two-plus seasons is difficult. Doing so as the road team in a night game at Kinnick Stadium against an elite defense and a Top 5 Iowa is basically impossible. But the offensive line didn't do Roberson any favors whatsoever.
For what it's worth, this wasn't a new problem for Penn State, which had allowed 37 tackles for loss through its first five games. On literally the first possession of its season, Penn State had a one-yard loss on a rush, committed a false start and allowed Clifford to be sacked during a three-and-out series.
When Clifford was on the field, though, they were able to persevere through that problem. Now we wait to find out how long he'll be out.
The Nittany Lions are idle next week and host Illinois the following weekend, so as long as it's nothing too serious and he's back for the Oct. 30 showdown with Ohio State, there's still a chance they could win the Big Ten.
Iowa, meanwhile, is now staring an undefeated season straight in the face with six games remaining against unranked Big Ten West foes. The road games against Wisconsin and Nebraska won't be easy, but with a D that has now picked off 16 passes through six games, the Hawkeyes should at least get to the Big Ten title game with a goose egg in the loss column.
Fun Fact: 2 Rare Ranked-on-Ranked Scoring Explosions
In a week where the marquee matchup (No. 4 Penn State at No. 3 Iowa) was expected to be a defensive grind, there were two other ranked-against-ranked matchups in which defenses opted out of the afternoon.
The one that most folks had on their main screen was No. 6 Oklahoma rallying from a 28-7 first-quarter deficit for a 55-48 victory over No. 21 Texas in yet another outrageous installment of the Red River Rivalry.
Longhorns true-freshman wide receiver Xavier Worthy made a 75-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the game, and he finished the afternoon with nine catches for 261 yards and two scores. But it was Oklahoma's true-freshman quarterback Caleb Williams who stole the day with a combined 300 passing and rushing yards and three touchdowns in relief of an ineffective Spencer Rattler. Whether that will be a permanent switch remains to be seen, but the Sooners still have a strong College Football Playoff pulse because of Williams' heroics.
Oklahoma and Texas combined for 1,178 yards, but No. 17 Ole Miss and No. 13 Arkansas went for 1,287 yards in their own 103-point instant classic.
Ole Miss' Heisman candidate Matt Corral threw for 287 yards, rushed for 94 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, only to be outdone by KJ Jefferson racking up 326 passing yards, 85 rushing yards and six total touchdowns for Arkansas. Corral got the last laugh, though, when Jefferson's attempt at a game-winning two-point conversion sailed out the back of the end zone on the final play of a 52-51 Rebels victory.
Ranked-against-ranked games in which both teams score at least 48 points are—as you'd likely expect—pretty rare.
There were no such games through the first five weeks of this season. (Even if we remove the rankings criteria, Memphis' 55-50 win over Arkansas State was the only game to fit the bill prior to Saturday.)
There were no such games in 2020, either.
The only 2019 matchup in which ranked teams both reached 48 points was when No. 24 Memphis knocked off No. 15 SMU by a score of 54-48.
There were two instances in 2018, each of which came in Week 13. No. 6 Oklahoma beat No. 13 West Virginia 59-56 on Friday, Nov. 23, followed by the 74-72, seven-overtime special between No. 22 Texas A&M and No. 7 LSU the next day. (It was 31-31 at the end of regulation, but we'll still count it.)
But the last time there were two such games on the same day?
Best I can tell, it has never happened. And for those fireworks shows to be happening simultaneously made it that much sweeter.
Looking Ahead: Kentucky-Georgia Highlights a More Sedated Slate
It's important to preface this with a reminder that the weakest-looking slates often produce the most chaos.
However, after Week 5 and Week 6 featured marquee game after marquee game, Week 7 figures to be less persistently heart-pounding.
That's largely because of the sheer number of noteworthy teams not playing. Of the teams currently (and all but certain to remain) in the AP Top 25, No. 4 Penn State, No. 7 Ohio State, No. 9 Michigan, No. 14 Notre Dame, No. 15 Coastal Carolina, No. 19 Wake Forest and No. 24 SMU are all idle. Beyond that, No. 3 Iowa, No. 5 Cincinnati, No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 8 Oregon are all playing at home against unranked opponents.
Oklahoma's game against TCU will probably be close because that's seemingly the only way the Sooners know how to play this season, but most of the top team either have the week off or should win comfortably.
One big exception to that rule is the SEC East clash between Kentucky and Georgia.
Now, this may well play out like a repeat of Georgia's 37-0 win over Arkansas one week ago, in which the surprisingly undefeated team just runs into a wood chipper. But this Kentucky defense has been rock solid in recent years. The Wildcats held Georgia to 21 points in 2019, limited the Dawgs to 14 points last year, and this might be their best defense yet.
The second-most noteworthy game might be the SEC West matchup between Auburn and Arkansas. The Tigers are hoping to rally from a 34-10 loss to Georgia while the Razorbacks—fresh off that heart-breaking, high-scoring loss to Ole Miss—are hoping to avoid a three-game losing streak.
Elsewhere, Texas gets another chance to take down an undefeated team from Oklahoma. The Longhorns blew their early 21-point lead against the Sooners, but they might/should be favored at home against Oklahoma State.
And though BYU's quest for an undefeated season was just ruined by Boise State, the Cougars could work their way back into the mix for a New Year's Six Bowl with a road win over Baylor.