The college football rankings are the bottom-line determination of a team’s fate. Beginning with the Associated Press and coaches polls, and followed by the College Football Playoff rankings, the college football pecking order becomes clearer as the season goes on.
At Sportsnaut, we’ll continue to spice up your college football rankings leading up to the 2021 campaign. Instead of sticking to the status quo of the AP or Amway polls, or even the CFP rankings, check out our own editorial NCAA gridiron hierarchy, which are liable to feature some bold departures from how the primary polls stack up.
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College football rankings: Top-25 teams entering Week 7
25. UTSA Roadrunners (Unranked)
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Program turnarounds don’t typically happen this quickly, especially at programs like UTSA. The Roadrunners won seven combined names from 2018-’19, went 7-5 in 2020 and are now 6-0 on the season. This undefeated start has come out of nowhere and UTSA has earned a spot in our college football rankings.
24. Baylor Bears (Unranked)
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well-coached teams respond following a tough loss. Following an eye-opening defeat in Stillwater, Baylor roared back by thrashing West Virginia 45-20. Standing at 5-1, Baylor has a great chance to improve its spot in the college football rankings when BYU visits in Week 7.
23. North Carolina State Wolfpack (21)
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A week of rest offered North Carolina State plenty of time to prepare for a huge Week 7 matchup. Both the Wolfpack and the Boston College Golden Eagles are playing well this season, creating an intriguing ACC matchup with a top-25 spot on the line.
22. SMU Mustangs (24)
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Maybe SMU got caught up in the experience of a trip to Annapolis. A 14-point favorite over Navy (1-4), the Mustangs had to claw their way back from a 21-7 deficit midway through the second quarter. Fortunately, Tanner Mordecai delivered some heroics and the Mustangs will return home with a 6-0 record to face Tulane.
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21. San Diego State Aztecs (25)
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San Diego State finds itself in a very familiar position, rolling through its schedule early in the season. Quarterback play is still a problem, but it doesn’t matter for a team that constantly dominates with the rushing attack. Upcoming matchups against San Jose State and Air Force should be fairly winnable, but that Oct. 30 battle against Fresno State will be a dogfight.
20. BYU Cougars (13)
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BYU got starting quarterback Jaren Hall back on Saturday and any slim hopes at being in the CFP consideration ended hours later. Boise State went into Provo and used a 17-point second quarter to take down the Cougars. A trip to Baylor is looming and that could end in consecutive losses and removal from all top-25 rankings.
19. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (23)
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Wake Forest may enter Week 7 higher in the AP Top 25. But the Demon Deacons ranked 32nd in the Football Power Index (6.6) entering Saturday’s game and they needed overtime to beat Syracuse (3-3). An undefeated record is still impressive, but even the upcoming games (Army, Duke) won’t help Wake Forest much.
18. Arizona State Sun Devils (Unranked)
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Coming off a big win over UCLA in Week 5, Arizona State found itself on a collision course with another team feeling really confident. The Sun Devils made sure any good feelings Stanford had taking the field, faded away within minutes. While 14 first-quarter points would have been all Arizona State needed, they finished with a decisive 28-10 victory. Up next, a tough road test at Utah on ESPN.
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17. Florida Gators (16)
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Emory Jones is taking the Florida Gators on a roller coaster ride. Coming off losses, the Gators’ junior quarterback has six passing touchdowns m 482 passing yards and 184 rushing yards in two games. He can certainly deliver another great outing against LSU in Week 7. But that Oct. 30 meeting with Georgia, it could be rough.
16. Ole Miss Rebels (17)
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Ole Miss delivered the thriller fans witnessed every Saturday in 2020. The rebels and Arkansas Razorbscka kept swapping touchdowns on Saturday, especially in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the Razorbacks’ bold attempt to win it failed and quarterback Matt Corral (287 pass yards, 94 rush yards, four TDs) made the difference Saturday. Up next, a potentially underrated game against a lightning-quick Tennessee offense.
15. Texas A&M Aggies (Unranked)
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Zach Calzada became a hero across the country on Saturday night. The backup quarterback sliced Alabama’s secondary apart, especially late, leading Texas A&M to an upset no one saw coming. Jimbo Fisher got his big win, becoming the first former Nick Saban assistant to beat the legendary coach. A day College Station will never forget with Calzada the hero no one knew they needed. This Aggies’ team can win out.
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14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15)
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Notre Dame needed some incredible late-game heroics to save its season on Saturday, but it happened. Trailing by eight with under four minutes to play, Jack Coan came through in the clutch and then did it once again to set up the game-winning field goal. The Fighting Irish just need to be thankful they aren’t facing a strong USC team next week.
13. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (12)
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Coastal Carolina is throttling every opponent on their schedule. Thursday’s blowout victory over Arkansas State (52-20) on a short week is just the latest obliteration by this Sun Belt powerhouse. The problem is, despite outscoring opponents 164-29 in the past three games, a lack of quality wins prevents the Chanticleers from moving up.
12. Oklahoma State Sooners (14)
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After statement victories over two previously ranked opponents (Kansas State, Baylor), Mike Gundy and the Oklahoma State Cowboys enjoyed an opportunity to rest in Week 6. The extra time for preparation will certainly do this team some good. The real question for Week 6, whether a trip to Austin sees a matchup against a defeated Longhorns’ roster or a team determined to put that epic collapse in the rearview mirror.
11. Oregon Ducks (8)
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Coming off a loss to Stanford, a bye week wasn’t supposed to make life worse for the Oregon Ducks. But starting running back C.J. Verdell and safety Bennett Williams are lost for the seasons. Meanwhile, that loss to Stanford looks even worse a week later. There was nowhere to go but down for Oregon in our rankings.
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10. Penn State Nittany Lions (5)
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The Sean Clifford injury wiped away any shot Penn State had on Saturday. Once he went down, thrusting untested sophomore quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson into the game, Iowa took control of the game. Playing with a backup quarterback and losing the turnover battle, it’s no surprise the Nittany Lions scored just six points in the final three quarters. We’ll keep Penn State in the top-10 of our college football rankings for now, but that won’t last until November.
9. Michigan Wolverines (8)
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Leading 13-0 in the first quarter, Michigan was poised for a nice bump in the college football rankings. But the Wolverines fell apart, getting outscored 22-6 in the third quarter. Fortunately for UM, Blake Corum and Jake Moody saved the day. As of right now, though, this isn’t the best team in the state.
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8. Alabama Crimson Tide (1)
Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports
Bad offensive line play, losing the turnover battle and repeated defensive gaffes. The little mistakes that Alabama rarely makes all made an appearance on Saturday night. Nick Saban’s undefeated record vs. his assistants and the Crimson Tide’s 19-game win streak are over. It’s going to be a rough ride back to Tuscaloosa.
7. Kentucky (10)
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When Kentucky rolled out to a 4-0 start, the criticism was they hasn’t faced legitimate competition. Now, the Wildcats have back-to-back wins against No. 10 Florida and an LSU Tigers team with plenty of talent. Kentucky has earned a top-10 spot in our college football rankings. Now, a must-see matchup looms against Georgia. Don’t expect a ton of points.
6. Michigan State Spartans (11)
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Say what you want about Michigan State’s schedule, the Spartans are putting down every opponent that steps into their path. The latest victim, a previously 3-2 Rutgers program that had no answer for Jalen Nailor (221 yards, three touchdowns). Standing at 6-0, Michigan State needs to take care of business against Indiana before a huge Oct. 30 battle vs. Michigan.
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5. Oklahoma Sooners (7)
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Caleb Williams saved the Oklahoma Sooners. If Lincoln Riley doesn’t make the quarterback change, the memorable Marvin Mims catch and improbable comeback don’t happen. Williams delivered the version of Oklahoma’s offense we’ve waited for. He is pushing the Sooners up our college football top-25 rankings.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes (6)
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) looks the throw the ball against Maryland Terrapins during the second quarter of their NCAA college football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on October 9, 2021.
Osu21mary Kwr 25
The Ohio State Buckeyes got a wake-up call early in the season and quarterback C.J. Stroud heard the fans calling for a change. The freshman finished Saturday’s win with 406 passing yards and five touchdowns against Maryland, giving him 10 scores in the past two games. Ohio State needs to keep this momentum rolling before the Oct. 30 matchup against Penn State.
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3. Cincinnati Bearcats (3)
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
Playing on a short week brought no added trouble for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Desmond Ridder, squarely in the Heisman Trophy race, racked up three touchdowns and the Bearcats’ suffocating defense held Temple to three points and a 23% third-down conversion rate. Sitting at 5-0, the Bearcats’ schedule moving forward is a cakewalk and they should coast to an undefeated regular season.
2. Iowa Hawkeyes (4)
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
A look at the latest college football top-25 rankings tells you how important great defense is in 2021. The Iowa Hawkeyes have snagged 10 interceptions in the last two games, picking off Penn State four times. Dominating time of possession 36 minutes to 24 minutes) and owning the turnover battle is carrying Iowa into the College Football Playoff picture. Purdue’s offense is in deep trouble next Saturday.
1. Georgia Bulldogs (2)
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The way Georgia is playing right now, there’s zero incentive to rush quarterback J.T. Daniels back too quickly. After allowing a 17-play, 68-yard drive to Auburn on Saturday, resulting in just three points, the Bulldogs’ defense came alive as it always does. We expect that trend to continue in Week 7, facing Kentucky.
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