College football is back for two of the three Power Five leagues playing this fall. How will the first in-season edition of the AP Top 25 look on Sunday?
It is already shaping up to be one of the strangest FBS seasons in modern college football history, as schools around the country grapple with the persistent impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic. While the ACC and Big 12 started play this weekend, SEC teams wait another two weeks before getting started. The Big Ten and Pac-12 remain sidelined for the fall season.
At once it could make it much easier and much harder to predict how voters in the AP Top 25 will treat each team that continues to play. We already saw the preseason poll on Aug. 24 include Big Ten, Pac-12, and Mountain West teams — despite all three conferences announcing weeks earlier that they would not play in the fall.
A sport where uneven schedules make prognostication already difficult will now see most teams play predominantly or completely conference-only schedules. What that means for evaluation purposes remains to be seen, and we have yet to see how the College Football Playoff selection committee might treat the same data points from fall play.
That uncertainty is a big part of what makes college football so fun to follow as a fan, even if your team is sidelined this season. We will see a major reshuffling this week, as teams from conferences eschewing fall football drop out of the poll and a bunch of programs get a boost without even playing a single snap.
After the first full weekend of Power Five play, let’s dive in and project how the Week 3 edition of the AP Top 25 will look when it is released on Sept. 13.