The scores and results from Week 1 of the 2023 college football season are finally in the books after Duke’s stunning takedown of Clemson on Monday night. The Blue Devils’ 28-7 win over a Tigers’ program that has won seven of the last eight ACC championships proved to be one of the few surprising results of the weekend. In the wake of that upset, Clemson’s drop is among the most significant changes we will see to the college football rankings.
Ranked teams went 21-2 against unranked teams, and 17 of those wins were by 21 points or more. There’s plenty of nitpicking to be done for the favorites — like slow-starting offenses or other Week 1 miscues — but at the end of the day, most of the teams that were favored to win followed through on that expectation.
So, when there is an unexpected result, the rankings adjustment is going to be dramatic. Clemson will see a significant tumble down the top 25, though we are projecting that the Tigers will not fall all the way out of the rankings after the road loss. The same can not be said for TCU, which entered Week 1 eight spots behind Florida State and will likely find itself out of the AP Top 25 after its stunning home loss to Colorado. Deion Sanders and the Buffaloes should be breaking into the rankings after taking down the Horned Frogs on the road, marking their first AP Top 25 appearance since 2020.
And though it wasn’t a major upset, the fact that FSU was able to take control of the game in the second half against LSU and cruise to one of those 21+ point wins suggests that a big jump is coming in the AP Top 25. We’re projecting that lands the Seminoles in the top five, which would be the first such ranking from the AP voters in five years.
Here’s how we think the new AP Top 25 poll will look Tuesday after Week 1:
1. Georgia (Last week — 1): Panic over a slow start against UT-Martin is behavior reserved for fans, not AP voters. A 41-point win and an absence of an obvious replacement for No. 1 is enough to keep the Bulldogs on top.
2. Michigan (2): If any voters are looking for a non-Georgia option, the Wolverines increased their claim as the second-best team in the country. Saturday’s 30-3 win against ECU was a showcase game for quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who had nearly as many touchdown passes (three) as incompletions (four) while racking up 280 passing yards averaging 9.3 yards per attempt. Michigan’s offense has been efficient and excellent throughout this run of College Football Playoff appearances, but it has not been a group that revolves around the star power of its QB. If McCarthy has more performances like this, the debates over first-place votes will become more difficult to resolve.
3. Alabama (4): Voters likely put Alabama at No. 4, the program’s lowest preseason AP Top 25 ranking since 2009, in part because the QB position was a major question mark. Jalen Milroe seems to have answered that question, totaling five touchdowns in a 56-7 win against Middle Tennessee. Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson also played, but until it was 42-0 in the third quarter Alabama’s offense was in Milroe’s hands. With QB questions seemingly addressed, we should see a bump up in voting points for the Crimson Tide.
4. Ohio State (3): In the preseason balloting of AP voters, Ohio State had a razor-thin two-point edge on Alabama for No. 3 in voting points — 1,400 points for the Buckeyes, 1,398 for the Crimson Tide. Both teams are loaded with talent but also replacing quarterbacks who are about to be Week 1 starters in the NFL as rookies. While Alabama’s offense steamrolled its competition, Ohio State managed just two touchdowns in a 23-3 win at Indiana. The different levels of competition and situation matter, but if it’s only going to take a couple of voters to change their minds on Ohio State and Alabama, we’re going to see those two teams swap spots.
5. Florida State (8): Sunday’s win against LSU, coupled with Clemson’s performance against Duke, has clearly positioned the Seminoles as the team to beat in the ACC. That makes them a legitimate CFP contender. No Week 1 win was more impressive than beating the Bayou Bengals by 21, and that’s a tiebreaker for enough voters that should lead to a bump up in the rankings.
6. USC (6): Guaranteed to be the top-ranked 2-0 team in the country, USC has put up 56 and 66 points in its two victories with Caleb Williams already totaling nine touchdowns in a pair of blowout wins. Though there are some moving pieces within the top 10, voters should leave the Trojans right were they were as a fringe top-five team. There’s plenty of reason to think USC will be challenging for those top rankings spots soon, but wins against San Jose State and Nevada won’t move the needle enough for the voters.
7. Penn State (7): Drew Allar’s arrival moment has been foretold for years in Penn State circles, and finally, Nittany Lions fans experienced it this weekend when the former five-star prospect threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-15 win against West Virginia.
8. Washington (10): Five touchdowns and 450 yards passing from Michael Penix Jr. — against a quality Boise State program — suggests that Washington is not going to see any kind of setback from last year’s form of being one of the best offensive teams in the entire country.
9. Notre Dame (13): Projecting a small jump for Notre Dame factors in voter uncertainty regarding the offense after a change in coordinator and the arrival of Sam Hartman from Wake Forest via the transfer portal. Hartman has six touchdowns across two wins, and the defense has yet to allow a touchdown, so that narrow voting points gap between the Fighting Irish and Tennessee at No. 12 or even Texas at No. 11 could be closed by the strong start to the season.
10. Texas (11): Voters won’t be swayed either way by a 37-10 win against Rice, and they’re likely to be even more hesitant to make any dramatic moves to Texas’ spot when they can just wait to see what happens when the Longhorns square off against Alabama in Week 2.
11. Tennessee (12): No major adjustments for the Vols after a 49-13 win against Virginia that saw an impressive performance from the Tennessee defense and four total touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) from new starting QB Joe Milton.
12. LSU (5): The Tigers are the toughest team to project coming out of their loss to the ‘Noles as it is difficult to know how aggressive voters will be in dropping them. If voters choose to be kind to LSU because of the quality of Florida State, the Tigers could land closer to No. 9 or No. 10. However, LSU in the second half looked nothing like a top-10 team. There are not many teams on LSU’s schedule that pose the kind of matchup advantages that FSU did on Sunday night, but the fact that it was exploited possession after possession is worth a notable downgrade in the rankings.
13. Utah (14): No Cam Rising, no problem for an Utah team that remains one of the toughest in the country to beat in its own house. The Utes have a huge game ahead at Baylor that will play a role in whether there’s a move up in the rankings, but Thursday night’s win against Florida seemed quite “business as usual” for what happens when teams come to play Kyle Whittingham’s squad in Rice-Eccles Stadium.
14. Oregon (15): The Ducks scored touchdowns on each of their first nine possessions against Portland State, cruising to an 81-7 that will not lead to any major changes in the rankings but certainly instilled confidence in the offensive ceiling for this team in 2023.
15. Kansas State (16): No major changes after a 45-0 win against FCS Southeast Missouri State.
16. Oregon State (18): The DJ Uiagalelei era got off to a strong start as the Beavers went on the road against San Jose State and never trailed in a 42-17 win. DJU finished with five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing), but the performance was also a great reminder of what Oregon State has returning from last year’s breakthrough 10-win season. Reigning Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year Damien Martinez impressed with 145 rushing yards on 18 carries.
17. North Carolina (21): It’s not just the fact that North Carolina beat South Carolina — a team that was on the fringe of making the top 25 in the preseason voting — but the manner of the victory with the Tar Heels defense stepping up to more than half as many sacks as it had in the entire season in 2022. A defensive improvement combined with Drake Maye’s ceiling is worth considering a slight bump up in the rankings, and that’s what we’ll see after the 31-17 win against the Gamecocks.
18. Oklahoma (20): Like Oregon, voters will have to consider how to rate Oklahoma after running it up in a game the Sooners clearly had won in the early stages. The backups were in just after halftime, and the final tally of 73-0 against Arkansas State is not going to hurt their stock by any means. The difference in voting points among teams in this range were so close in the preseason we’re projecting a reshuffle that has the Sooners moving just one spot up, but the ceiling for their upward moves could be as high as No. 16 or No. 17.
19. Colorado (NR): There is no ceiling to what Colorado can accomplish this season as Saturday’s win at TCU contributed to the narrative of the Buffs proving doubters wrong. There’s an opportunity to build on that against Nebraska this Saturday.
20. Wisconsin (19): I don’t have Wisconsin dropping as much as it it being jumped by other teams in this range after a 38-17 win against Buffalo. There was plenty to be excited about from the first win of the Luke Fickell, including 298 yards rushing from the combination of Chez Mullusi (157 yards, two touchdowns) and Braelon Allen (141 yards, two touchdowns). But this was also a 14-10 game at halftime and slightly less dominant of a performance than many expected.
21. Ole Miss (22): No major rankings changes expected after the Rebels beat Mercer by 70 on Saturday. Notable takeaways include Jaxson Dart retaining his starting job in a competitive QB room (334 yards, four touchdowns) and Quinshon Judkins getting back to his 2022 ways with a couple scores as well.
22. Texas A&M (23): A classic Week 1 overreaction is to hail the hire of offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino as the game-changer that Jimbo Fisher has been seeking, but Conner Weigman’s five touchdown passes could have been a result of the opponent (New Mexico) as well.
23. Duke (NR): Mike Elko’s group was more physical, played with more urgency and had slightly sharper execution — even with some mistakes along the way — than Clemson, a team that was ranked in the top 10 prior to Monday night’s 28-7 win in Durham, North Carolina. Much was made about how last year’s nine-win team might get a heat check with a tougher schedule in 2023, but the early results say there is no reason to adjust expectations for this new vintage Duke.
24. Clemson (9): In a vacuum, Clemson not being a top 25 team is an argument that carries some weight. But in the context of this season at this moment, there are not a lot of the “next team up” options that are for sure better than the Tigers. Monday night’s loss at Duke represents a low point in the modern era for Clemson football, but one poor performance can be righted with a quality win, and there are opportunities for that to occur with the toughest foes on the schedule coming to Death Valley.
25. Tulane (24): We’re not going to project a major rankings move for the reigning Cotton Bowl champions, but the 37-17 win against South Alabama is an encouraging sign for Michael Pratt and the Green Wave maintaining the standard of competing for a conference championship and a New Year’s Six bid. South Alabama is one of the best teams in the Sun Belt, and handling the Jaguars like they did suggests Tulane has a shot to make a bigger splash nationally when it faces Ole Miss in Week 2.
Projected to drop out: TCU (17), Iowa (25)