AP Top 25: Tennessee, NC State join top 10; Florida State returns

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
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Tennessee and North Carolina State broke into the top 10 of the AP Top 25 poll, and Florida State is back in the rankings for the first time in four years.

Georgia remained No. 1 and received 55 of 63 first-place votes in the Top 25, presented by Regions Bank. No. 2 Alabama (four first-place votes), No. 3 Ohio State (four first-place votes), No. 4 Michigan and No. 5 Clemson all held their places.

Oklahoma’s upset loss to Kansas State created room for teams to move up, like Southern California to No. 6 and Kentucky to No. 7.

Tennessee moved up three spots to No. 8, its best ranking since 2006 and first top-10 appearance since a few weeks at ninth in the first half of 2016. That was the last time the Volunteers started 4-0. The Vols knocked Florida out of the rankings by snapping a five-game losing streak in the rivalry.

Oklahoma State remained at nine and North Carolina State jumped two spots to No. 10. The Wolfpack have their best ranking since they were 10th in 2002.

Texas and Miami both dropped out of the rankings after being beaten by unranked teams to fall to 2-2. The Longhorns blew a 14-point lead second-half lead and lost in overtime at Texas Tech. while Miami, which started the season at No. 16, was upended by four-touchdown underdog Middle Tennessee State.

While the Hurricanes and Gators slipping out, No. 23 Florida State (4-0) moved in. The Seminoles are off to their best start since 2015 and in the AP Top 25 for the first time since beginning the 2018 season No. 19, snapping a streak of 69 straight polls unranked.

POLL POINTS

Florida State’s poll drought was remarkable considering how the Seminoles have been a Top 25 staple since the late 1970s.

Florida State’s streak of 211 straight weeks ranked from 1989-2001 is the third longest streak in the history of the poll and its streak of 42 straight seasons appearing in at least one poll from 1977-2018 is fourth all-time.

Before the current drought, Florida State had not gone consecutive seasons without being ranked for at least one poll since 1973-77, which was the late Bobby Bowden’s first season as coach.

IN

Two other teams are making their Top 25 debuts this week:

– No. 21 Minnesota enters the rankings after crushing Michigan State on the road. The Gophers are ranked for the first time since a short stay in 2020.

– No. 25 Kansas State upset a top-10 ranked Oklahoma team for the third time in the last four seasons. The Wildcats have been briefly ranked in each of the last three seasons, but never more than three weeks.

CONFERENCE CALL

SEC – 7 (Nos. 1, 2, 7, 8, 14, 17, 20).

ACC – 5 (Nos. 5, 10, 22, 23, 24).

Big 12 – 4 (Nos. 9, 16, 18, 25).

Big Ten – 4 (Nos. 2, 4, 11, 21).

Pac-12 – 4 (Nos. 6, 12, 13, 15)

Independent – 1 (No. 19).

RANKED vs. RANKED

No. 10 North Carolina State at No. 5 Clemson. The 87th meeting will be the first matching top-10 teams.

No. 7 Kentucky at No. 14 Mississippi. Wildcats and Rebels have played 44 times, dating back to 1944 and have both been ranked just once in 1958.

No. 2 Alabama at No. 20 Arkansas. Tide is 6-0 when both teams are ranked.

No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 16 Baylor. Cowboys and Bears played twice as ranked teams last season.

No. 22 Wake Forest at No. 23 Florida State. Only ranked meeting in 39 games was 2008, a Wake victory.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.