It was a weekend of separation in college football and especially in the SEC as the tiers of the sport revealed themselves in a way that should be reflected when the new AP Top 25 is released on Sunday. The college football rankings on a national level serve as a way to judge conferences as a whole with the number of ranked teams and the locations of those rankings providing talking points for how things are going. The SEC has a lot going in its favor after the conclusion of Week 7, including a national championship contender with Alabama, a worthy rival in Georgia and two more New Year’s Six hopefuls with Texas A&M and Florida.
When the 12 best teams in the country are awarded spots in the best bowl games, it seems likely that at least three of these four teams — that we expect to all be in the top 10 of the new AP Top 25 — will be involved, but the league took a hit with Tennessee and Auburn both falling to unranked opponents. We’re predicting that both teams will drop out of the top 25, leaving the SEC with just four ranked teams. So while the SEC has four teams that we project to be in the top 10 on Sunday, those could be the only teams receiving enough votes from the AP balloting to warrant a national ranking.
That’s less than the ACC and the Big Ten, though there is certainly plenty of shakeup ahead for the Big Ten once it finally starts to log results for the 2020 season. The collapse of preseason hopes for LSU and early season hype for Mississippi State and Tennessee has left the SEC with a very strong tier of elite teams and very little separation between the rest of the conference. Considering how Auburn has yet to show the top-10 potential associated with its preseason ranking, you could argue that Arkansas, the team that just snapped a multiple-year losing streak in SEC play, is the second-best team in the SEC West.
There’s plenty of room for error in this projection, including the potential return of Kentucky to the rankings and a future ranking that could loom for the Razorbacks if they continue their winning ways; however, as we put the fourth full week of SEC play in the books, it’s clear that Alabama and Georgia are operating on another level, Florida and Texas A&M are close in pursuit, and the rest of the conference is all capable of beating each other. That’s great for entertainment, but not ideal for attaining a top 25 ranking.
Here’s how we believe the new AP Top 25 will look on Sunday:
1. Clemson (Last week — 1): One advantage of those nonconference games against FCS or lower-tier FBS programs is the opportunity for power conference teams to develop depth by letting their backups get in game reps. Clemson treated Georgia Tech like its FCS opponent in a 73-7 win, with