Former Winston-Salem Journal columnist and ESPN Triad host Scott Hamilton is one of 61 voters in the Associated Press college football poll. Here’s how his Week 8 ballot shook out.
One-way street: Alabama maintained the No. 1 spot as it has since the preseason. The Crimson Tide beat Arkansas, 41-9, in yet another ho-hum victory over an overmatched opponent. With troubled Tennessee up next, the only question is if the Crimson Tide will be more than four-touchdown favorites.
Rest area: Kentucky (5-1, 2-1) once again didn’t crack my ballot, with the Wildcats idle before this week’s game at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs –– perhaps because of home field advantage or because their defense has showed glimpses of being a first-rate unite or perhaps simply because –– opened up as 10-point favorites.
Speed bump: Clemson was upset at Syracuse, 27-24, on Friday in a game that was one part the Orange playing at a higher level, another part the Tigers appearing distracted. It’s puzzling –– and easy to second guess –– Dabo Swinney’s decision to start Kelly Bryant. The quarterback was already dealing with a gimpy ankle he suffered during Clemson’s win over Wake Forest on Oct. 7 and he further aggravated the injury early on Friday before being knocked out of the game with a concussion with 45 seconds remaining before halftime. Still, the Tigers only dropped six spots to No. 8 and have a week off to heal before attempting another one-loss run for the playoffs as they did last year following a home defeat to Pittsburgh.
Caution: One year after giving a non-conference champion an invitation for the first time, the College Football Playoff selection committee could again be headed into uncharted territory. Georgia continues to look stronger with each outing, with the Bulldogs’ 53-28 win over Missouri being the most recent example. Georgia, now in the No. 2 slot, appear each week to be head and shoulders above the rest of the SEC East and perhaps even on par with Alabama. That begs the question: Would the CFP heads treat an SEC title game between a 12-0 Alabama and a 12-0 Georgia as a de facto national quarterfinal or give both teams a playoff spot?
U-Turn: West Virginia is back on my ballot only a week after I removed them. That’s what a 46-35 win over then-No. 24 Texas Tech –– the Mountaineers’ first victory over a ranked team in three years –– will do for you.
Roadkill: The weekend wasn’t kind to the Washington teams. The Huskies dropped seven spots to 11th after losing to Arizona State, 13-7. It was only a six-point defeat, but consider that the Huskies, now 11th, could only muster a 1-yard run from quarterback Jake Browning with 5:32 remaining in the game. And this was against a defense that was surrendering 36.4 point a game. Washington State also dropped out of the top 10, tumbling to No. 13 after getting blasted by Cal, 37-3. The highlight / lowlight for the Cougars? Washington State punter Mitchell Cox’s 1-yard punt on a 4th and 2 from his own 44-yard line shortly before halftime. Cal quickly drove the short field to go up 17-3.
No passing zone: There was a lot of shuffling on my ballot, what with four teams inside the top 10 losing, though a few didn’t budge. In addition to top-ranked Alabama, No. 16 Michigan and No.17 South Florida remained in place from the week before. The Wolverines again looked uninspired offensively while beating Indiana, 27-20, in overtime. South Florida had the week off.
Carpool lane: The Group of 5 has a conference that’s running with a different pack. The AAC has three teams on this week’s ballot, only two fewer than the Big Ten and one off each of the four remaining Power 5 leagues. It’s doubtful that the efforts of the AAC to promote a mythical Power 6 will reap benefits this season, though. Central Florida and South Florida, if each is still undefeated, should cancel each other out when they wrap up the regular season on Nov. 24 in Orlando. And the winner of that game will likely play Memphis in the AAC title game, leaving the league champ’s best hopes likely being an invitation to a New Year’s Six bowl.
This week’s rankings (previous week):
You can follow Scott Hamilton on Twitter: @ScottH_Sports.