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  • Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and the Irish moved up one spot to No. 9 in the AP Poll this week. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Sunday, September 29, 2019 8:30 pm

Sinn's AP Poll: Week 5

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The college football season is zipping along at a rapid pace. After five weeks of play, nearly everyone in FBS has played a third of the schedule. It's still relatively early in the season, but we're beginning to see teams separate themselves from the pack and stake their claim for a top four spot in the rankings. Conference matchups are beginning and there will be more and more high-profile games over the next several weeks.

This week nearly saw a massive shakeup at the top of the rankings as North Carolina threw a scare into top-ranked Clemson and the Tigers escaped with a 21-20 victory only after Mack Brown's team tried and failed to convert a go-ahead two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter. That scare, combined with another dominant win for Alabama – a 59-31 decision against Ole Miss – was enough for many voters to flip the top two spots in this week's AP Poll, sliding the Crimson Tide into the No. 1 spot for the first time this season. It was enough for the Tide to move into the top spot in the composite poll, making it the 12th straight season that Alabama has reached No. 1 at some point in the year, easily the longest stretch in Division I history (Miami from 1986-92 is second). 

For my part, I kept the top two the same as I have had them all year, with Clemson No. 1 and Alabama No. 2. My philosophy on rankings is that I put the previous year's national champion at No. 1 until that team loses. They're the champions until they're knocked off their throne, in my opinion. Incidentally, I also happen to think Clemson's issues this year have been largely overblown. The Tigers haven't been quite as dominant as people expected, but last year's team was so good and so many players left that it was tough to expect Clemson to reload immediately. The Tigers are still the best team in the country, though Alabama and Ohio State appear to be right there.

Here are my full rankings following Week 5:

1. Clemson (5-0)

2. Alabama (5-0)

3. Ohio State (5-0)

4. Georgia (4-0)

5. LSU (4-0)

6. Oklahoma (4-0)

7. Auburn (5-0)

8. Penn State (4-0)

9. Notre Dame (3-1)

10. Wisconsin (4-0)

11. Florida (5-0)

12. Texas (3-1)

13. Iowa (4-0)

14. Oregon (3-1)

15. Boise State (4-0)

16. Washington (4-1)

17. Utah (4-1)

18. Wake Forest (5-0)

19. Virginia (4-1)

20. Appalachian State (4-0)

21. SMU (5-0)

22. Arizona State (4-1)

23. Texas A&M (3-2)

24. California (4-1)

25. Central Florida (4-1)

To view the full AP Poll, go to https://www.collegefootball.ap.org/poll

I moved Notre Dame up one spot in this week's poll to No. 9, which agrees with the overall voter consensus. No one in front of the Irish lost, but I dropped Wisconsin behind them after Notre Dame had a convincing 35-20 win over Virginia and the Badgers barely escaped against Northwestern, triumphing 24-15. It seems to me as though Wisconsin is a little bit one-dimensional (as has been the case for close to two decades now) and the Badgers are slightly overrated outside of Jonathan Taylor, who is an absolute monster. If a team can slow Taylor down, I think Wisconsin is beatable. Notre Dame has more weapons overall and its defense is at least as good. The win over Michigan was impressive, but I need to see more from Bucky before I buy him as a national title contender.

One Big Ten team I'm already convinced is in the championship picture is Ohio State. The Buckeye offense of course has a ton of explosive playmakers and quarterback Justin Fields is showing why some recruiting analysts thought he'd be better than Trevor Lawrence coming out of high school (seriously, the fact that he couldn't get on the field at Georgia says more about how good Jake Fromm is than it does about any shortcoming Fields has). But Ohio State had an outstanding offense in 2018 with Dwayne Haskins under center and the Buckeyes still had to hold on by the skin of their teeth in games against Nebraska and Maryland, among others. The difference this year is OSU has a defense. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano is gone and in his place are co-coordinators Greg Mattison (formerly of Michigan) and Jeff Hafley. Hafley and Mattison appear to have figured out that "give up a bunch of big plays against overmatched teams and thereby let them hang around" is probably not the best defensive strategy. This week, the Buckeyes blasted Nebraska 48-7 and gave up barely 250 yards in the process. In Ryan Day's first season at the helm, Ohio State appears to have not missed a beat and I think Clemson-Alabama-OSU (in some order) is a pretty clear top three at this point in the season. 

Bold Pick of the Week: No. 7 Auburn 35, No. 10 Florida 13

I've been really impressed by the Tigers this season. They have a terrific stable of running backs, a dominant defense and maybe the most impressive resume so far (wins over Oregon, Texas A&M and a blowout against Mississippi State). They have to go to the Swamp, but Florida has been just okay so far despite winning all of its games and we don't really know how good quarterback Kyle Trask is. Here's betting that he won't be good enough to beat Auburn.

Last Week: Indiana 17, Michigan State 16

Even though this was a homer pick, it almost hit for me. Michael Penix Jr. is the real deal (he completed an Indiana record 20 straight throws) and the Hoosiers had a chance to win this game before giving it away with penalties and inconsistency late. They fell short against a good team, losing 40-31 (it was 34-31 until MSU scored a meaningless defensive touchdown on the last play of the game). Where have we seen that one before?

Season record: 2-2

dsinn@jg.net