There could be a new No. 2 in the latest USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll as voters eye Tennessee’s increased body of work heading into next weekend’s key SEC game against Georgia.
After beating Kentucky 44-6, the Volunteers have five wins against teams then ranked in the Top 25, including a 52-49 shootout win against Alabama earlier this month. Ohio State remained unblemished by defeating Penn State 44-31, winning for the third time against teams that currently have a winning record, joining Notre Dame and Toledo.
Tennessee has a lot of ground to make up to No. 2 in this week’s poll, which will be released on Sunday.
In last week’s Top 25, Ohio State ranked second with 1,516 points and 17 first-place votes. Tennessee placed third with 1,424 points and two first-place votes. At least a week ago, the Buckeyes were closer to top-ranked Georgia than the Volunteers.
That gap should narrow in the new Coaches Poll, though it’s unlikely Tennessee will jump ahead to make it a rare matchup of the nation’s top two teams next Saturday. Instead, look for the Volunteers to fill the gap and then take over the No. 1 spot with a backup should they beat the Bulldogs.
Watch every game: NCAA College Football Live Scores
HIGHS AND LOWS:Week 9 college football winners and losers
WEEK 9 REVIEW:Results, top 25 recaps from each Saturday game
This week’s top 10 will have two new names after losses to Oklahoma State and Wake Forest. It should look like this:
1. Georgia (8-0)
Florida was able to pull away briefly in the third quarter before Georgia scored twice to seal its fourth win in five years against the Gators. While they were slowed by three turnovers, the Bulldogs topped 500 yards of offense for the sixth time this season.
2. Ohio State (7-0)
The Buckeyes are scary on spurts, like during the furious scoring outburst that opened the victory against the Nittany Lions. However, just like in the earlier win against Iowa, OSU tends to play one quarter or longer. It hasn’t been a fatal issue yet, but it could be something to watch as the Buckeyes prepare for Michigan and another run at the national championship.
THE BUCKEYES WILL SURVIVE:The defense is the catalyst as Ohio State’s top-ranked Penn State
3. Tennessee (8-0)
Kentucky had several chances to stay close to Tennessee in the first half, but was ultimately blown away by the Volunteers’ incredible offensive pace and stingy defense. For either side, the 38-point performance might be the best performance of the year — a strong statement considering how October included a win against Alabama and a 27-point victory against LSU.
4. Michigan (8-0)
A week after destroying Penn State with over 400 rushing yards, the Wolverines pushed past Michigan State for a 29-7 victory. The final score may not tell the whole story: Michigan outgained the Spartans by nearly 200 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry while allowing just 37 rushing yards on 23 carries.
Ugly scene:Michigan, Michigan State players fight in tunnel
5. Clemson (8-0)
Clemson’s home stretch of the regular season won’t be easy. Notre Dame has improved under coach Marcus Freeman. Louisville exploded for a 48-21 win against Wake Forest, knocking the Demon Deacons down in the Top 25. South Carolina was able to outlast more talented opponents and nearly reach bowl eligibility.
6. Alabama (6-1)
This weekend’s trip to LSU is suddenly the game of the year in the SEC West, with the winner in prime position to reach the conference championship game and land in a New Year’s Six bowl. There’s more on the Tide who can still get back to the national semifinals with one loss.
7. TCU (8-0)
The Horned Frogs’ 41-31 win at upset West Virginia was a breeze compared to recent comeback wins against Oklahoma State and Kansas State. With the Mountaineers trailing 28-24 in the third quarter and 34-31 in the fourth, TCU quarterback Max Duggan delivered the knockout blow with a touchdown pass with 20 seconds left, one of three Heisman scores on the afternoon. Trophy contender.
8. Oregon (7-1)
Oregon’s offense is operating at a clip matched by few teams in the Bowl Subdivision. After a 42-24 win against California, the Ducks have scored 40 points in every game since the season opener against Georgia and have gained at least 500 yards of offense in all but one game. Led by Bo Nix, who had six scores against the Golden Bears, Oregon is averaging 7.9 yards per game against Pac-12 teams.
9. Southern California (7-1)
USC had answers to Arizona’s second-half challenge in a 45-37 win fueled by Caleb Williams’ 411 yards and five touchdowns. After the Wildcats scored twice to take a 31-29 lead into the fourth quarter, the Trojans had touchdown drives of 75 and 83 yards to take a 16-point lead with 6:24 left. For Williams, two prolific performances in a row lifted Oklahoma’s move back into the Heisman race. He has 792 passing yards and 10 touchdowns in games against Utah and the Wildcats.
10. Mississippi (7-1)
The Rebels could leapfrog Southern California after bouncing back from an ugly loss to LSU with 390 rushing yards in a 31-28 win at Texas A&M. Either way, both teams will likely replace Oklahoma State and Wake Forest and return to the top 10 after a short absence.