Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
College football has technically been back for more than a month, but in Week 6, it feels like it is back full-force.
That’s because the Top 25 could see a major shakeup, with four games in which ranked teams will play each other—including a top-10 matchup between No. 1 Clemson and No. 7 Miami in ACC action.
With a truncated schedule and teams starting the season late, the margin for error is slim. Each game counts, and it’s going to be harder to bounce back from a loss even at this point in the campaign. There are quite a few teams facing their toughest challenge of the season, so this is as important a Saturday as there has been so far.
Here’s a final overview of the AP Top 25 poll and the standings heading into the vital Saturday slate of games.
AP Top 25 Poll
1. Clemson (3-0)
2. Alabama (2-0)
3. Georgia (2-0)
4. Florida (2-0)
5. Notre Dame (2-0)
6. Ohio State (0-0)
7. Miami (3-0)
8. North Carolina (2-0)
9. Penn State (0-0)
10. Oklahoma State (3-0)
11. Cincinnati (3-0)
12. Oregon (0-0)
13. Auburn (1-1)
14. Tennessee (2-0)
15. BYU (3-0)
16. Wisconsin (0-0)
17. LSU (1-1)
18. SMU (4-0)
19. Virginia Tech (2-0)
20. Michigan (0-0)
21. Texas A&M (1-1)
22. Texas (2-1)
23. Louisiana-Lafayette (3-0)
24. Iowa State (2-1)
25. Minnesota (0-0)
Top 25 Schedule—Saturday, October 10
No. 4 Florida at No. 21 Texas A&M, noon, ESPN
No. 19 Virginia Tech at No. 8 North Carolina, noon, ABC
Missouri at No. 17 LSU, noon
No. 22 Texas at Oklahoma, noon, Fox
No. 14 Tennessee at No. 3 Georgia, 3:30 p.m., CBS
UTSA at No. 15 BYU, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
Texas Tech at No. 24 Iowa State, 3:30 p.m., ABC
Arkansas at No. 13 Auburn, 4 p.m., SEC Network
No. 2 Alabama at Ole Miss, 6 p.m., ESPN
No. 7 Miami at No. 1 Clemson, 7:30 p.m., ABC
Florida State at No. 5 Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC
No. 4 Florida at No. 21 Texas A&M
Florida won’t get a chance to play Alabama this season unless they meet in the SEC Championship Game, but they’ll get a crack at a direct comparison this week. The Crimson Tide blew out the Aggies 52-24 in Week 5, and now the Gators will go to Kyle Field.
Awaiting them will be an Aggies team that is difficult to get a read on just two games into the season. Expectations were high with Kellen Mond and Jimbo Fisher entering their third year together. The results thus far have been less than inspiring, though.
The Aggies offense generated just 17 points in their five-point win over Vanderbilt to open the season, and then Mond was unable to keep up with Mac Jones and the Alabama offense in a 52-24 loss.
Another crushing loss would be devastating for A&M.
On the other side, Florida’s duo of Kyle Trask at quarterback and Kyle Pitts at tight end is among the most explosive quarterback-receiver combos in the nation. Pitts has caught 12 passes for six touchdowns in two games, and the Gators are 2-0. Trask is making an early case for Heisman consideration with 10 touchdowns and one interception.
PFF College @PFF_College
Highest-graded power-five non-QBs in College Football:
1. Kyle Pitts, Florida TE – 95.6
2. Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame OT – 93.7
3. Christian Darrisaw, VA Tech OT – 92.3
4. Jarrett Patterson, Notre Dame C – 91.4
5. Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma St OT – 90.8 https://t.co/I2MbhnP8xD
Another performance like their first two on the road against a ranked team will only further solidify their status as major players come awards season.
No. 19 Virginia Tech at No. 8 North Carolina
This ACC battle is a great example of strength versus strength in a pivotal conference game. The Hokies have established a strong ground game with over 300 yards rushing in each of their last two games. The Tar Heels are third in the nation in rushing yards allowed per carry.
The Hokies offense has been spearheaded by running back Khalil Herbert. He chipped in 208 rushing yards and returned a kick for a touchdown to boot against Duke.
The quarterback position has been an issue, with Oregon transfer Braxton Burmeister struggling with efficiency. He’s only completed 44.4 percent of his passes through two games, but help could be on the way in Hendon Hooker.
The junior threw 13 touchdowns to two interceptions last season and is expected to be in the mix to return after missing multiple practices because of having to quarantine because of the coronavirus. Head coach Justin Fuente has been non-committal about who will get the start.
“Two weeks before the Virginia game, we felt like it was Hendon that gave us the best chance to win. Hendon has missed time, the game was postponed—all those things you guys already know,” Fuente said, per Jimmy Robertson of Hokie Sports. “Heading into this last week, we felt like it was Braxton. I’ll [tell] you this: we’ll go out this week and practice, and like we do at every single position, we’ll evaluate it and try to make the best decision we can for the football team.”
For the Tar Heels, the quarterback play from Sam Howell has been a little underwhelming compared to expectations. He has three touchdowns to three interceptions through two games. He’ll play a Hokie defense that is 18th in the country in passer rating allowed and has three interceptions in two games.
If Mack Brown and Co. are to live up to their top-10 ranking, they will need the defense to hold strong against the running game while Howell and the offense live up to the expectations that were set after the quarterback’s strong freshman campaign.
No. 14 Tennessee at No. 3 Georgia
It only took two weeks for the SEC East to be divided into the haves and have nots. Three teams—Florida, Tennessee and Georgia—sit at 2-0, while the rest of the division is 0-2. On Saturday, the number of teams in control of their own destiny will dwindle to at most two.
The winner of Tennessee and Georgia will be in the driver’s seat of the division with a matchup against Florida on the horizon for either team.
The Vols have shown a lot of growth under Jeremy Pruitt, winning eight games in a row going back to last season. But the losses before that streak began were routs against Alabama (35-13) and Georgia (43-14) and Florida (34-3).
This is the first chance of 2020 for Pruitt and his team to prove they’re closing the gap against the elite in the conference.
Doing so will be difficult against a Bulldogs team that has lived up to the hype in the first two games. Playing a fellow top-10 team in Auburn last week, the Dawgs were more impressive with a 27-6 win at home.
The defense has been exceptionally nasty, giving up just 3.84 yards per play, which is good for second in the country.
How well senior quarterback Justin Guarantano can attack the secondary, get in a rhythm and find success will be crucial to the Vols keeping this one close and having a shot in the fourth quarter.
No. 7 Miami at No. 1 Clemson
Last season, the Tigers faced few challenges from their ACC schedule, but this season is already looking different, with the No. 7 Hurricanes playing well and earning top-10 votes.
For Clemson, it’s business as usual. At this point, we all know the names and dominance. The Tigers have been led once again by quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and their regular-season form from 2019 has rolled right over into their ACC schedule.
Pound-for-pound, Clemson appears to be the more talented team on paper, but turnovers will be worth keeping an eye on. The Hurricanes have caused six turnovers in their three games, and quarterback D’Eriq King is yet to throw an interception.
Lawrence is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in college football history, so turnovers are hard to come by—they’ve only turned it over twice this season.
This is a Clemson program that has only lost two games since 2017. One was to a supremely efficient LSU team in last year’s championship game, and the other was another championship game to Alabama, who was another well-oiled machine.
Despite their ranking, Miami is an underdog in this game—and deservedly so—but this is the rare team in the ACC that appears to have the ability to make the Tigers work for the win. That’s must-see television on a good slate of games that will have an undeniable impact on the Top 25 next week.