Heading into the season, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit mentioned he thought the winner of the Penn State-Wisconsin game could make a quick move into the top 10 of the major college football polls. After Week 1, it is looking more and more as though Herbstreit was on to something.
Penn State started the season ranked No. 20 in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll and took care of business on the road against No. 15 Wisconsin (Penn State was ranked No. 19 in the AP Top 25, Wisconsin at No. 12). After a 16-10 victory in Madison, Penn State is already a lock to be moving ahead of at least one team in the rankings heading into Week 2 as the Nittany Lions will surely move ahead of the Badgers on the coaches ballots and AP ballots this week. But just how high will Penn State rise in the next round of the polls?
Let’s first take a look to see the handful of teams ranked ahead of Penn State that suffered a loss in Week 1, because there were a good number of them.
The highest-ranked team ahead of Penn State to lose a game was No. 2 Clemson (No. 3 in AP). The Tigers came up short in a 10-3 battle with No. 5 Georgia (No. 5 in AP too) in the Duke’s Mayo Classic in Charlotte. Despite only scoring three points, you shouldn’t count on Clemson dropping too far in the polls in Week 2. They should still stay ahead of Penn State for now. After Clemson, things get interesting for Penn State’s poll rankings.
No. 9 North Carolina (No. 10 in AP) was a victim on the road in ACC play against Virginia Tech. The Hokies picked off Sam Howell three times in the 17-10 upset victory. The Hokies will likely be making a nice debut in the rankings as a result while the Tar Heels could take a tumble. Penn State could easily be about to jump Mack Brown’s Tar Heels as the polls reshuffle the deck this week.
No. 16 Miami (No. 14 in AP) is also about to fall behind Penn State. The Hurricanes shouldn’t be punished for losing a neutral site game to Alabama, but a 44-13 setback against the Crimson Tide will make it easy to drop Miami within the top 25. Penn State should move ahead of them in the process.
No. 13 LSU (No. 16 in AP) was also a road victim in Week 1 with their west coast loss to Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins. This one will be interesting to see because UCLA should be moving into the top 25 rankings. With a 2-0 record already and a win against LSU, how high will UCLA’s top 25 debut be, and will the voters slide UCLA in ahead of Penn State? Penn State will move ahead of the LSU Tigers, but it may be interesting to see just how the voters fall on UCLA.
No. 17 Indiana (No. 17 in AP) was roughed up on the road in Big Ten play by No. 18 Iowa (No. 18 in AP), 34-6. This will be another interesting ranking to keep an eye on. Penn State will move ahead of the Hoosiers, but will the voters give more credit for a hard-fought defensive victory on the road against a higher-ranked Wisconsin or give the nod to Iowa for blasting what was perceived to be a pretty even opponent at home? Iowa is probably more deserving of a higher-ranking than Penn State based solely on the results of Week 1, but time will tell.
There is one more opportunity for a team ranked ahead of Penn State to suffer a loss in Week 1. No. 7 Notre Dame (No. 9 in AP) is on the road against Florida State on Sunday night. If the Seminoles can score a major upset of the Fighting Irish, Penn State could find a way to move ahead of another top 10 team after just one week of play.
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