Georgia on top while five Pac-12 teams make the cut


Highlights from the ballot …

*** No changes at the top with Georgia entrenched in the No. 1 spot, followed by Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and Oklahoma.

There are five Pac-12 teams on my ballot for the first time since who-knows-when.

The conference might not have a playoff-caliber team — that remains to be seen — but the results thus far suggest the presence of significant depth.

Let’s go team-by-team.

*** We slotted USC into the No. 7 position after another blowout victory, this one over Fresno State.

The Trojans haven’t faced a high-level opponent, so their ranking is based largely on optics. They look darn good, unstoppable on offense and opportunistic on defense.

And therein lies one of the issues with ballot formation this early in the season: The schedules aren’t balanced. Some teams have faced first-rate opponents; others haven’t.

*** Next up is No. 13 Washington State, which is 3-0 and owns a road win over Wisconsin.

WSU’s resume is comparable to Washington’s in that each has defeated a Big Ten opponent. I don’t know if Wisconsin is better than Michigan State, or vice versa. But the Cougars won on the road and the Huskies were at home — that difference cannot be ignored.

Washington is No. 16, its first appearance on my ballot since at least the 2021 preseason edition.

And for what it’s worth, I did not have Michigan State ranked nearly as high as its No. 11 position in the AP poll — the Spartans were 21st on my ballot.

*** Utah is next, in the No. 19 spot, three below UW.

The Utes could very well be the best team in the Pac-12 and finish in the top 10. Certainly, they have been impressive in the two games since the loss at Florida.

But for the moment, their ballot position is tied to the Gators, who lost at home to Kentucky in Week Two, then escaped South Florida this weekend.

We slotted them No. 18, one ahead of Utah.

*** Next, in the No. 20 position, is Oregon.

The Ducks walloped BYU on the same day Georgia picked apart South Carolina.

Clearly, the Bulldogs are on a different level. And now that the Ducks have a result against an FBS team that’s not Georgia, we have more clarity on their quality.

They are one spot ahead of BYU, which is one ahead of Baylor. After all, the Cougars beat the Bears in Week Two, and head-to-head matchups carry significant weight this early in the season, when each team’s sample size is small.

*** Oregon State dropped off the ballot after holding the No. 23 spot last week — the Hotline was one of the few voters to include OSU.

And we gave the Beavers serious consideration again this week but ultimately opted against including them because of the schedule: Are either of their FBS victims, Boise State or Fresno State, any good?

The Bulldogs, who pushed OSU to the brink in Week Two, were beaten soundly at USC on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Broncos have wins over New Mexico and Tennessee-Martin.

Yes, the Beavers were impressive against Montana State, but results are both fluid and relative. While one team hammers an FCS opponent, another could be recording a victory over an FBS team that creates a stronger resume than existed the previous week.

Which brings us to our top-25 ballot admission for the week: Oregon State could very well warrant a loftier ranking than USC.

The disparity in how we’re treating each team this week is largely rooted in a subjective assessment and partly in the comparative scores against Fresno State.

And the good news is that with the matchup in Corvallis on Saturday evening, we’ll have clarity by the close of Week Four.

To the ballot …

1. Georgia
2. Alabama
3. Ohio State
4. Michigan
5. Oklahoma
6. Clemson
7. USC
8. Arkansas
9. Oklahoma State
10. Kentucky
11. Mississippi
12. Florida State
13. Washington State
14. Cincinnati
15. Tennessee
16. Washington
17. Texas
18. Florida
19. Utah
20. Oregon
21. BYU
22. Baylor
23. Penn State
24. North Carolina State
25. Kansas


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