Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Athletic 133

We’re finally in the stretch run. The biggest games have arrived, and the shakeup at the top is underway.

Michigan finally played a notable team, taking care of Penn State in Happy Valley. Georgia crushed a top-10 Ole Miss team. Washington held on against Utah and Oregon handled USC. They all have more big games to come in the next two weeks before conference championships.

After all of that, there is a change at the top here. Georgia is back to No. 1 in this week’s Athletic 133.

The two-time defending national champs have rounded into form, beating up on Kentucky, Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss in their last five games. This past week was a reminder that Georgia at its best again looks like the best team in the country. Oh, and Brock Bowers, one of the nation’s best pass-catchers, is back. With consecutive wins over top-15 teams, the Bulldogs move back in front of Ohio State.

Still, a CFP spot is not yet guaranteed. Georgia finishes with Tennessee and Georgia Tech, then has the SEC championship game against an Alabama team that has also very much figured things out.

We have five 10-0 Power 5 teams for the first time since the College Football Playoff began, and none of them have an easy path to the top four. Buckle up.

Here is this week’s edition of The Athletic 133.


As I promised all season, Michigan has slid into the top three after beating Penn State, the Wolverines’ first opponent of note. The victory was very similar to Ohio State’s win over PSU, both in how the game played out with its lack of offensive fireworks, but also in the way the Wolverines and Buckeyes spent most of the game in control. The Buckeyes stay ahead of Michigan by virtue of their win at Notre Dame, but these teams look very even right now. Their meeting in Ann Arbor in two weeks should be another classic.

Among the one-loss teams, Oregon, Texas and Alabama all have a case to be the best. Alabama has the most quality wins. Texas beat Alabama. Oregon manhandled Utah, beat USC and has the best loss, coming at Washington when the Ducks were two yards away from victory. Oregon ultimately stays atop the group for now after notching a second notable win. The Ducks have No. 10 Oregon State in two weeks. While all the attention is on the 10-0 teams, all three of these teams very much have a path to the CFP. Does Louisville? It’s hard to say. The 9-1 Cardinals had to rally to beat Virginia and lack notable wins, but a potential ACC championship game win against Florida State might make things interesting.


Ole Miss continues to prove itself as a good team that is nowhere near the top teams in the country with the nature of its losses to Georgia and Alabama, and the Rebels drop to No. 11. Oklahoma is a tough team to grade. The Sooners lost consecutive games to Kansas and Oklahoma State but also have one of the best wins in the country (Texas), and their win over SMU (now 8-2) continues to look better. Penn State drops back to No. 15 after the loss to Michigan, and the Nittany Lions’ offensive struggles resulted in the firing of offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich on Sunday.

James Madison remains the top-ranked Group of 5 team, up to No. 17 after beating UConn 44-6. The Dukes have wins against Troy (8-2), Virginia, South Alabama and Marshall. Tulane is the top-ranked G5 team eligible for the New Year’s Six, but the Green Wave have had to hang on in four consecutive one-score wins against lesser opponents and stay at No. 21. Tulane is battling injuries, but it keeps the door open for Liberty, which is now 10-0 and up to No. 22 after beating Old Dominion 38-10.

Arizona moves up to No. 19 after beating Colorado on a last-second field goal, and North Carolina moves into the top 25 again after beating Duke in overtime. Oklahoma State and Kansas fall after losses to UCF and Texas Tech, respectively, but remain in the top 25 for now on the strength of their wins.


Iowa is back near the top 25 after a 22-0 win against Rutgers to move to 8-2. Troy, Toledo and SMU continue to move up after wins, and Toledo has won nine consecutive games. Tennessee falls out of the top 25 after a 36-7 loss to Missouri, and next up is Georgia.

Fresno State tumbles down to No. 35 after a stunning 42-18 loss to San Jose State. UNLV moves up to No. 36 after beating Wyoming, which beat Fresno State, but the Bulldogs have a win over UNLV. Miami lost 27-20 to Florida State but remains at No. 37 thanks to its wins against Clemson and Texas A&M. Auburn’s 48-10 win against Arkansas moves the Tigers up to No. 41. Air Force drops down to No. 45 after a second consecutive loss, this one against Hawaii. UCLA falls to No. 46 after losing 17-7 to Arizona State. Coastal Carolina has won five consecutive games and moves up to No. 50 after beating Texas State.

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