Wake Forest, Baylor, Minnesota and Cincinnati are the newcomers on my Associated Press Top 25 ballot, replacing Washington, Central Florida, Michigan State and Oklahoma State.
I have Texas A&M just outside the Top 25. A&M is one of 24 Power Five Conference teams with two losses. Ditto Washington, Michigan State and Oklahoma State which all lost on the road Saturday. It's make-or-break time for them.
Texas A&M probably makes a big jump in the rankings if it upsets top-ranked Alabama, but what if the Aggies play great and lose by a field goal or less? I think A&M could be ranked at 3-3, but maybe not.
Don’t look now, but Arizona has won four straight since that horrible loss at Hawaii to open the season. The Wildcats are getting plenty of Top 25 votes with victories over Texas Tech and UCLA, but Arizona and second-year head coach Kevin Sumlin haven’t turned the corner just yet. They need two more victories to be bowl-eligible and it won’t be easy with a remaining schedule of Washington, Southern Cal, Stanford, Oregon State, Oregon, Utah and Arizona State.
By the way, it typically takes nine victories to be ranked at season’s end. Northwestern at 8-5 was ranked in both polls last year and Mississippi State at 8-5 made the coaches poll. Stanford at 9-5 was the only five-loss team to be ranked in 2017. And Auburn (8-5) was the lone five-loss team ranked in ’16.
Alabama is a 19-point pick over A&M, up two points from the opening line.
Alabama has beaten A&M by 19 or more points three times in the previous seven meetings – 59-0 in 2014, 33-14 in ’16 and 45-23 last year. Those were all in Tuscaloosa. Alabama’s average margin of victory in three games at Kyle Field has been 11 points.
As for this year, Alabama is 2-3 against the point spread and A&M is 3-2. In other words, flip a coin, but only if you want to risk losing it.
MY TOP 25 BALLOT
5. Ohio State
9. Notre Dame
12. Penn State
14. Boise State
21. Wake Forest
26. Texas A&M
28. Appalachian State