College football rankings: SEC on top as Oklahoma State enters top 10 of new CBS Sports 76

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The college football rankings have been relatively easy for most of this unique 2020 season. With only 76 teams in the picture and nearly two dozen of them not even in action until Sept. 26, each week only brought slight adjustments to the way a voter viewed the landscape of the sport. Then Week 5 happened, and now everything is up in the air. 

Granted, the top of the CBS Sports 76 is not where you’ll find the drama. Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Notre Dame remain our top five teams in the country with only a minor adjustment of the SEC East rivals swapping spots following the Bulldogs’ impressive win against Auburn. But our rankings are meant to highlight the entire sport, and that’s where we see major movements both within and outside of the top 25 spots. 

Oklahoma State lands in the top 10 at No. 8 after moving up seven spots, and normally, such a rise would warrant a note in our Mover’s Report below but the shake up in the rankings this week leaves the Cowboys as one of the more subtle adjustments. More than half of our top 25 teams this week are at least five spots removed (10 higher, five lower) from where they were a week ago with the extremes being TCU’s rise from No. 45 to No. 20 and double-digit drops for Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. 

These dramatic shifts in the rankings are reflective of how quickly our perceptions change in these early weeks of a season that is lacking for the usual nonconference fare. While those games give us at least one surprising upset and a handful of high-profile matchups every year, the results mostly reinforce preseason expectations for the top teams in the country. That’s not the case in 2020, where instead of easing into the water most teams doing a cannonball off the high-dive.

These are swift and dramatic reactions to what we’ve seen so far, but the teams on the move this week will have the opportunity to adjust and bounce back so their positions will be more entrenched by the time the Big Ten and Pac-12 crash the rankings and provide the same kind of shake up all over again.

College football experts from CBS Sports and 247Sports contribute ballots each week, which are averaged together for our rankings. You can see the top 25 below and 26-76 on our rankings page. Teams from the five conferences not yet playing in the 2020 college football season will be eligible for the CBS Sports rankings beginning Monday, Oct. 19.

Biggest movers 

  • No. 28 Arkansas (+34): Two weeks into the season and we’re already optimistic about the Sam Pittman era. That’s saying something for a program that hadn’t won an SEC game in years, but the competitiveness against Georgia was proven to be legit with an upset win against Mississippi State. 
  • No. 26 Tulsa (+25): A boost following the win against UCF is deserved, but I will note the spot and point out that holding on to a top 30 position will be difficult for the Golden Hurricane with Cincinnati up next on the schedule after a bye week. Now, if they take down the Bearcats as well, we’re not only talking about a top 25 team but a AAC title and New Year’s Six contender. 
  • No. 20 TCU (+25): Max Duggan is one of the great stories of this college football season, and he’s emerging as a quarterback star worthy to stand on the same level as anyone else in the Big 12. The grittiness and playmaking against Texas doubles down on the promise showed during his freshman year, and the Horned Frogs are off and running the muddled Big 12 race. 
  • No. 16 Iowa State (+14): Things have appeared decidedly different since that second half collapse against Louisiana, and the Cyclones’ wins against TCU and Oklahoma have them moving up in the rankings. 
  • No. 15 SMU (+12): The only 4-0 team in the country finally gets a nod from the voters with a surge in the rankings following its win against Memphis.  
  • No. 21 Oklahoma (-11): Our voters were not nearly as harsh on Oklahoma as the AP Top 25 or Coaches Poll. I can’t speak for everyone, but I still consider the Sooners as one of the better teams in the country, just one currently working through some things. It makes me sound like a loving relative, I know, but I just can’t quit Lincoln Riley as a Big 12 title contender until it’s no longer mathematically possible. 
  • No. 31 Pitt (-11): Losing to NC State is going to come with a swift reaction from our voters, who have moved the 3-1 Panthers from the upper third to decidedly in the middle tier of the FBS picture.  
  • No. 24 Texas A&M (-12): Losing to one of the best teams in the country doesn’t always result in a major fall in the rankings, but our voters seem to be selling the Aggies’ stock. “Year 3 of Jimbo Fisher” is a phrase that brought expectations, in part due to strong recruiting results and the return of Kellen Mond, but the on-field product is not on the same level as the best teams in the SEC. 
  • No. 27 UCF (-18): Does Tulsa have UCF’s number or is this a preview of another step-back season for the Knights after failing to make the AAC Championship Game in 2019? There’s a lot to prove in the coming weeks and ground to make up in the standings to guarantee they’ll have a shot at the league title and a New Year’s Six bid in December. 

Check out the rest of the CBS Sports 76: Teams ranked 26-76

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