Georgia took over at No. 1 in last week’s USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll and will be very difficult to unseat, given the way the Bulldogs bulldozed through September.
As the first month comes to a close, a clear top five has emerged: Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and Clemson.
It will get interesting from there in this week’s poll, which will be released later on Sunday. Oklahoma’s loss at home to Kansas State will shake things up after No. 6, with several teams moving up in the poll and at least two set to make their debut in the top 10.
Southern California is the most likely to replace Oklahoma at No. 6 after moving to 2-0 in Pac-12 play with a tough win against Oregon State. North Carolina State should break into the top 10 for the first time in almost 20 years after demolishing Connecticut.
The top 10 should also include the return of a familiar face: Tennessee will move up from No. 12 after beating rival Florida for the second time since 2005.
Here’s how this week’s top 10 should look after Week 4:
1. Georgia (4-0)
Horror of horrors: Georgia gave up 22 points in a win against Kent State. While that doesn’t sound like much, the Bulldogs allowed just 10 points and one touchdown through three games and gave up only 23 points all of last September. Standards are high for the defending national champions.
HIGHS AND LOWS:Winners and losers led by Clemson, Tennessee
WHAT YOU MISSED:Texas A&M, Kansas State top five biggest things
LETTER GRADES:Our report card looks at the best and worst of Week 4
MISERY INDEX:Miami still mediocre despite massive investment in Cristobal
TOP 25 RUNDOWN:Scores and results from the biggest games in Week 4
2. Alabama (4-0)
Bryce Young had 316 yards and four touchdowns at halftime as Alabama rolled to a 55-3 win in its SEC opener against Vanderbilt. The Crimson Tide now head into a crucial stretch of games that will determine the SEC West, starting with next Saturday’s trip to Arkansas.
3. Ohio State (4-0)
The first Big Ten test went pretty well: Ohio State whipped Wisconsin 52-21 behind a combined 222 rushing yards from TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams. After an overly conservative game plan in the opener against Notre Dame, the Buckeyes have become the nation’s most explosive offense as a rebuilt receiver corps gains experience. While OSU won’t overtake Alabama, it’s worth asking whether the Buckeyes have earned the No. 2 spots ahead of the Tide.
4. Michigan (4-0)
The thin difference between Michigan and Clemson in last week’s poll could put the Tigers back into fourth place after winning at Wake Forest. Michigan was sleepwalking for a good chunk of a 34-27 win against Maryland but was mostly in control against a team that should finish fourth in the very deep Big Ten East. A better evaluation will come next week against Iowa.
5. Clemson (4-0)
While the defense struggled to stop Sam Hartman and Wake’s passing game, the Tigers had a second 500-yard game in a row to quiet some of the questions surrounding the state of the offense. In the long run, Clemson’s biggest issue may not be DJ Uiagalelei or the offensive line but a secondary that’s lacking experience and depth.
SWEET WIN:Clemson earned its donuts with a wild defeat of Wake Forest
6. Southern California (4-0)
USC will start a run of teams moving up one or more spots in the wake of Oklahoma’s loss. The real secret to the Trojans’ unbeaten start can be seen in the turnover margin. Through four games, USC has 14 takeaways behind new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch while committing zero turnovers on offense. It’s hard to lose when you’re plus-14. That ratio is easily good enough to rank No. 1 among all 131 teams in the Bowl Subdivision.
7. Oklahoma State (3-0)
The Cowboys were off Saturday after a clean sweep through non-conference play. One of the positives from this opening stretch has been the play of quarterback Spencer Sanders, who has rebounded from an uneven 2021 season with 13 touchdowns and just one turnover so far. Next weekend’s game against Baylor is one of the biggest of the year in the Big 12.
8. Tennessee (4-0)
The Volunteers are back on the national map after ending another long losing streak to Florida. In coach Josh Heupel’s second season, Tennessee has developed a potent offense keyed by the Heisman Trophy-level play of Hendon Hooker, who accounted for 461 yards of total offense against the Gators. The next month will tell whether the Volunteers are good enough to take down the best of the SEC.
9. Kentucky (4-0)
While quarterback Will Levis had four touchdowns without an interception after struggling with turnovers through his first three games, Kentucky’s offense remains a question mark following a 31-23 win against Northern Illinois. After going for 103 yards on 35 carries against the Huskies, the Wildcats are averaging just 81.5 yards per game on 2.4 yards per carry. The good news is running back Chris Rodriguez will return from suspension next weekend.
10. North Carolina State (4-0)
NC State should move into the top 10 for the first time since Oct. 28, 2002. The Wolfpack have quietly stayed on course after a brush with disaster in the opener against East Carolina, setting up Saturday’s potential winner-take-all matchup in the ACC Atlantic with Clemson.