The first official College Football Playoff rankings of this fraught 2020 season will be unveiled this week, giving us our first concrete idea of which teams the selection committee likes most. Of course, the final rankings won’t come out until Dec. 20, so there’s still plenty of time for every team to make its case to be one of the four teams that gets to compete for the national championship.
Meanwhile, we’ve got this week’s updated Associated Press poll, which features teams from eight different conferences and one independent program represented among its top 25 teams. Here’s a look at the 25 best teams in the country right now.
25. North Carolina
Last Week’s Ranking: Not ranked
The reemergence of North Carolina in this week’s poll meant the end of Liberty’s Cinderella run in the rankings after that team met a narrow defeat. The Tar Heels were knocked out of the AP Top 25 on Nov. 2, but made a triumphant return after consecutive high-scoring wins against ACC opponents. They are one of four teams from that conference on this week’s list and the only one outside of the top 10. Quarterback Sam Howell has been just as good as he was during his remarkable freshman season in 2019, throwing for nearly 330 yards per game.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 25
Tulsa kept its wild season going in the right direction with a close win over Tulane last weekend on national TV. The tight fashion with which the Golden Hurricane pulled off the victory was par for the course, as five of their six games in 2020 have been decided by eight points or less. They will meet a Houston team that has been up and down this season on Saturday as they try to keep their hopes for an American Athletic Conference title alive.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 24
The Ragin’ Cajuns had their non-conference game against Central Arkansas canceled last weekend after the team had some positive COVID-19 tests come back, including one for head coach Billy Napier. It was the first time the team had seen its schedule altered because of the virus during a season where nearly every team has faced that issue. Louisiana is riding a four-game winning streak and have piled on more than 30 points in four of their seven wins so far. Provided the virus issue gets under control, they will meet in-state rival UL Monroe this weekend in a game where they should be heavy favorites.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 23
The Tigers overcame an early 10-0 deficit against Tennessee on Saturday to continue a late-season climb in the AP rankings. Quarterback Bo Nix had one of his weaker games of the season in the winning effort as Auburn’s offense was outgunned in every statistical category by the Volunteers. It was the team’s first game since Oct. 31 following some virus issues, and they looked rusty. They’ll need to clean up their act to have a chance on the road against their arch-rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Saturday.
21. Oklahoma State
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 14
The past few weeks have brought the Oklahoma State Cowboys back down to earth and to their usual place in the Big 12 pecking order. The team was ranked No. 6 on Oct. 31 and looking like the conference’s best shot at a playoff team before two losses in the span of three games sent them tumbling out of the top 20. Last weekend’s 41-13 drubbing at the hands of Oklahoma also likely ended their hopes for a shot at the Big 12 title. The good news is that their last three games of 2020 are winnable ones against Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 22
Texas fans were likely pumped for last weekend’s scheduled game with a winless Kansas team, but that game had to be postponed until Dec. 12, giving the Longhorns an unexpected bye week. They will now have to turn their attention to a much tougher opponent in Iowa State on Friday afternoon in one of the best games of the college football weekend. Coming into the matchup, both teams are averaging 437 yards of total offense, which puts them near the top of all Big 12 teams.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 20
USC’s Kedon Slovis has shown himself to be one of the most consistent passers in the country, even during a shortened Pac-12 season this year. He’s the only quarterback in the conference throwing for more than 300 yards per game and it has helped the Trojans keep their record perfect halfway through a brisk, six-game regular season. The team’s defense has also been one of the best in the conference, allowing 387.7 yards of total offense per game so far. This weekend they will meet a Colorado team that’s giving up 37 points per game.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 10
Many would probably argue that Wisconsin should’ve been jumped by USC in this week’s AP poll but the voters are clearly still impressed with the Badgers. The team’s offense looked horrible against Northwestern last weekend, putting up just seven points and committing an unforgivable five turnovers. Their defense looked stout again and continues to rank as the best in the entire nation, allowing just 218.5 total yards per game through three contests. Next up, they’ll meet a Minnesota team that has been wildly inconsistent in 2020.
Last Week’s Ranking: T-No. 15
The Thundering Herd was yet another hot team that saw its momentum halted by COVID-19 issues. They were scheduled to take on Charlotte over the weekend but had the game postponed when that team had positive tests come back. Marshall has a bye scheduled for this weekend, so they run the risk of being rusty when they finally get back on the field on Dec. 5 against Rice. They currently have the best scoring defense in the nation, allowing just 10.1 points per game, and have a great chance to finish the year undefeated.
16. Coastal Carolina
Last Week’s Ranking: T-No. 15
Despite improving to 8-0 last weekend, Coastal Carolina slipped a spot in this week’s AP poll. The Chanticleers took out a dangerous Appalachian State team in a 34-23 game that was back and forth until the final minutes. Freshman quarterback Grayson McCall didn’t have his most prolific game throwing the ball, but he extended his streak of interception-free games to four. They battle Texas State this weekend and will have to avoid falling into a trap before their anticipated game against Liberty on Dec. 5.
15. Iowa State
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 17
Clinging on to first place in the Big 12, Iowa State pulled off its best game of the season last weekend against Kansas State. The Cyclones blanked their opponents 45-0, holding the Wildcats to 149 total yards of offense and dominating every statistical category on the books. Meanwhile, Iowa State’s backfield tandem of Brock Purdy and Breece Hall combined for 431 yards of offense and five touchdowns themselves. It was precisely the kind of performance fans needed to see before a Black Friday date with Texas.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 18
The Sooners have really clawed their way back into the good graces of the AP poll voters in the weeks since their last loss, which came against Iowa State on Oct. 3. It seems weird that they are now outranking that team that beat them head to head, but Oklahoma has looked tremendous in the past few games. Their offense is averaging 45.5 points per game, which is fifth best in the nation. Dismantling a good-looking Oklahoma State team 41-13 was just the latest statement of their impressive capabilities.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 13
It wasn’t easy, but Georgia earned their fifth win of 2020 against Mississippi State last weekend. The game was tied heading into the fourth quarter, but sophomore JT Daniels threw his fourth touchdown of the day and the Bulldogs defense locked down to get a 31-24 victory. It was their first action since that embarrassing loss to Florida on Nov. 7, after they had a game nixed for a virus outbreak in Missouri’s locker room. They’ll meet a South Carolina team that’s lost four in a row this weekend on the road.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 9
Indiana’s time inside the top 10 came to an end last weekend, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The Hoosiers could’ve gotten embarrassed by a top-notch Ohio State team on the road, and instead they mounted a late comeback and fell 42-35. Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. outplayed Ohio State’s Heisman Trophy favorite Justin Fields by throwing for 491 yards and five touchdowns on the day and many were more impressed by his team’s efforts than the Buckeyes’. They’ll meet a good Maryland team that has been hammered by COVID-19 in recent weeks this weekend at home.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 19
The Wildcats pulled off one of the most impressive wins of the weekend in beating Wisconsin at its own game and grinding out a 17-7 victory. The win made Northwestern one of only two undefeated teams in the Big Ten and gave them their highest ranking in the AP Top 25 since 1996, when head coach Pat Fitzgerald was a player. They’ve got the second-best defense in the conference and are allowing just 314.6 yards per game. This weekend will see them travel to East Lansing to take on a Michigan State team that has only scored seven total points in the past two games.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 12
Miami has risen back to the top 10 despite having an unplanned bye week because of a COVID-19 outbreak at the team’s facility. The scheduling of their final three games of the regular season was shuffled as a result and they will now meet Wake Forest on Dec. 5 for their next game. The outbreak came right as the Hurricanes were establishing themselves as a real contender in the ACC title hunt, where they are now tied for second place with Clemson.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 11
The Ducks kept their hopes of going 6-0 in their brief 2020 season alive with a close victory against UCLA on Saturday. Their defense held on in the fourth quarter and sophomore passer Tyler Shough was impressive, throwing for 334 yards and three touchdowns in his best performance of the season so far. Their offense is averaging just under 500 total yards per game and is currently the best in the Pac-12. They’ll meet their arch-rival Oregon State this weekend on the road.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 8
A great argument can be made that BYU is the best of all the teams outside the Power Five conferences, although their ranking here is second among those teams. The Cougars put up yet another dominant performance last weekend, taking down North Alabama 66-14. It was the fifth consecutive game where they’ve scored at least 40 points and the fourth consecutive where they’ve allowed less than 20 points. They’ll be off until Dec. 12, when they’re scheduled to meet San Diego State in a bid for the program’s first undefeated season in more than 30 years.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 7
Cincinnati kept its spot at No. 7 despite a tight win over UCF that saw them holding on for dear life in the final minutes. The Bearcats are now two games from their first undefeated regular season since 2009 — but it won’t be easy. After facing Temple in a game they should handily win this weekend, they will prepare for a Dec. 12 meeting with a Tulsa team that will decide the best team in the AAC for 2020.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 6
Florida continues to impress and the team looks poised to win out the rest of its schedule, which includes three games against unranked SEC foes. They blew up Vanderbilt 38-17 last weekend in a game that saw senior Kyle Trask throw for nearly 400 yards and three touchdowns without a pick. It was just another one of those immaculate games for Trask, who has helped give the Gators the best passing offense in the nation, averaging 377.6 yards per game.
5. Texas A&M
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 5
Texas A&M hasn’t played a game since Nov. 7, thanks to a COVID-19 outbreak that’s been running through the program. Their last two games have been postponed, meaning they’ll need to shake off some rust at home against LSU this weekend. It’ll be their first action since destroying South Carolina 48-3 and sliding into the top five. That game saw senior passer Kellen Mond contribute five total touchdowns in the air and on the ground for another standout performance.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 4
Trevor Lawrence hasn’t played quarterback in a Clemson game since Oct. 24, which means he’ll have had more than a month on the sideline when he finally takes the field against Pitt this weekend. His own battle with COVID-19 forced him to miss two games before a scheduled bye week and a virus-related postponement of last weekend’s Florida State duel turned it into a four-week break. The Tigers should be back at full strength on Saturday in a game the team has likely been salivating to play since their heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame last time out.
3. Ohio State
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 3
Ohio State finally looked mortal in its 42-35 win over Indiana last weekend. Despite perhaps showing some weaknesses, the Buckeyes still looked pretty tough, putting up more than 600 yards of total offense against a very good team. Justin Fields remains the most accurate quarterback in the nation — completing 79.6% of his throws — but threw a career-high three interceptions against the Hoosiers. They’ll meet Illinois on Saturday in a game that should see them get back to their best selves.
2. Notre Dame
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 2
The Irish were off last weekend but, unlike many other teams that stayed home, it was a scheduled bye week. The top dogs in the ACC are getting ready for a road test against North Carolina, who would be thrilled to spoil their bid at an undefeated year and a surefire playoff berth. Last time out, the team crushed Boston College 45-31 thanks to a brilliant effort from quarterback Ian Book. The steady passer hasn’t thrown an interception since the first game of the season on Sept. 12.
Last Week’s Ranking: No. 1
It’s almost frightening how much Alabama continues to improve on a weekly basis. They wrecked a previously ranked Kentucky team 63-3 last weekend and that came a couple weeks after dismantling Mississippi State 41-0. Their biggest test of the rest of this regular season will come this weekend as they take on in-state rivals Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl. No team in the country that has played more than three games in 2020 is scoring more points than the Crimson Tide, with quarterback Mac Jones and his teammates averaging 49.4 points per game.