AP Top 25 risers and fallers: Auburn's free fall continues
Week 7 of the 2020 college football season was a big one as we saw a matchup of top three teams, and saw a top five team fall to an unranked foe. The weirdest part of this week’s rankings is that seven of the AP Top 25 teams have yet to take a snap, although that will finally change on Friday when Wisconsin kicks off Big Ten play.
Let’s take a look at the AP Top 25 and see which college football teams helped and hurt their poll standings most.
Last week's ranking: 15th. This week: Unranked
For the first time this season, we start with a team that has plummeted out of the rankings. The Tigers received only 48 votes this week, making them unofficially the 30th-ranked team in the nation. Officially, they dropped 10 spots after losing 30-22 to an unranked South Carolina team.
The Tigers led 16-7 in the second quarter, but saw that lead shrink to two at halftime. After the break, the Gamecocks outscored Auburn 17-6 and shut down Bo Nix and company. The Tigers turned the ball over three times, a big reason why they lost despite outgaining the Gamecocks 481 to 297 in total offense. The biggest turnover came late in the third quarter, when Bo Nix threw a pick that was returned to the Auburn eight-yard line and punched in one play later.
Gus Malzahn’s seat has never been hotter, and questions are being asked of Nix. If the two cannot figure things out, and quickly, they could be looking at a 2-3 record following their game against Ole Miss this weekend.
Rising: Texas A&M
Last week's ranking: 11th. This week: 7th
For the second straight week, the Aggies are the biggest riser in the rankings. Up four spots from last week, and fourteen in two weeks, the Aggies moved to 3-1 with a 14-point win over Mississippi State on Saturday. RB Isaiah Spiller had a solid game as he rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns, and the Aggies held the Bulldogs to just 217 yards of total offense on 60 plays.
Texas A&M has navigated what seems to be the toughest part of its schedule, with two games played against top five teams. Without another team on their schedule currently ranked, they could easily roll through the rest of the regular season. Arkansas is up next, before a bye week will give them time to prepare for South Carolina, Tennessee, and Ole Miss.
Falling: North Carolina
Last week's ranking: 9th. This week: 14th
The Tar Heels and Mack Brown were just rolling along, coming off a game where they scored 56 points on Virginia Tech. That was before Florida State, a team that was sliding the wrong direction in a fast way, punched them in the mouth with a 31-point first half, and then held on to win by three points.
North Carolina trailed just 10-0 with four minutes left in the first half, but it quickly got worse. After allowing a touchdown drive to fall behind 17-0, they threw an interception in their end of the field which the Seminoles returned for a touchdown. After the Tar Heels then drove down the field in under two minutes to finally get a touchdown of their own, they allowed Florida State to go 75 yards in 45 seconds, as they scored another touchdown to lead 31-7 at the break.
While North Carolina played much better in the second half, they continued to shoot themselves in the foot, starting with a failed fourth-down conversion at Florida State’s six-yard line to begin the half, and ending with a missed field goal that would have tied the game. While North Carolina can still make the ACC title game if they win out, things won’t get any easier as they host rivals NC State on Saturday.
Rising: Virginia Tech
Last week's ranking: 23rd. This week: 19th
Staying in the ACC, the aforementioned Hokies of Virginia Tech got a lot of their players back who missed the UNC game with COVID-19, as they steamrolled Boston College 40-14 on Saturday. QB Hendon Hooker made a statement, rushing for 164 yards and three touchdowns while throwing for another touchdown and 111 yards.
The Hokies’ defense gave up quite a few yards and third-down conversions, but they came up big when it mattered. They forced fumbles on the first two BC drives, and later picked off a pass in the second quarter. They forced two more turnovers in the second half to help put their offense in great position for points. They now face two very winnable games with trips to Wake Forest and Louisville, before facing a 5-0 Liberty team that is making a bit of noise this season.
Last week's ranking: 18th. This week: Unranked
Saturday’s 34-7 loss to Kentucky was much more concerning for Tennessee fans than simply losing at home to the Wildcats for the first time since 1984. They committed numerous penalties in the second half, including a Vols player kicking a Kentucky player in the man region, and their defense seemed to quit in the fourth quarter. Today, news broke that head coach Jeremy Pruitt fired defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh DURING the game.
The pressure continues to grow on Pruitt, who has seen his teams capitulate in the second half in consecutive weeks and who lost yet again as a favorite. Many fans are calling for the benching of QB Jarrett Guarantano, who was benched after committing three turnovers in the first 20 minutes, including two pick-sixes on consecutive drives. After the backup threw a pick on his first attempt, he quickly came back in, but with Alabama coming to town this weekend, things could get very ugly in Knoxville in a hurry.