AP Top 25: Tide retakes No. 1 from UGA; Kansas snaps drought

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
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Alabama reclaimed No. 1 from Georgia in The Associated Press college football poll in one of the closest votes in the recent years, and six teams – including Kansas – made their season debut on Sunday.

The Crimson Tide received 25 first-place votes and 1,523 points in the AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank, two points more than the Bulldogs. Georgia received 28 first-place votes to become the first team since Alabama in November 2019 to have the most first-place votes but not be No. 1.

The Tide was No. 2 behind LSU that year, with 21 first-place votes to the Tigers’ 17.

The last time there was a two-point margin between Nos. 1 and 2 was Nov. 1, 2020, when Clemson was ahead of Alabama. There have been three other polls with a two-point margin at the top since 2007.

Ohio State remained third, but the Buckeyes also gained some ground on the top two, getting 10 first-place votes.

The Crimson Tide started the season at No. 1, but the defending national champion Bulldogs took the top spot away from their Southeastern Conference rivals after Week 2 when Alabama needed a late field goal to beat Texas.

The Bulldogs remain unbeaten but needed a fourth-quarter rally to beat four-touchdown underdog Missouri on Saturday night. Earlier in the day, the Tide managed to pull away from Arkansas in the second half without Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.

Young sprained his throwing shoulder in the first half and missed most of the game in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Clemson and No. 6 Southern California all won and held their places this week, though the Wolverines and Tigers are now separated by just three points.

No. 7 Oklahoma State, followed by Tennessee, Mississippi and Penn State, round out the top 10.

The rest of the AP Top 25 got a major overhaul after 10 ranked teams lost, five to unranked opponents. That cleared the way for seven teams to move into the rankings this week, most notably No. 19 Kansas.

The Jayhawks are ranked for the first time since Oct. 18, 2009, which was the longest drought for a team currently in a Power Five conference.

POLL POINTS

The closest margin between Nos. 1 and 2 in AP poll history is zero. Oklahoma and Miami tied for No. 1 in the 2002 preseason poll, and Miami and Washington shared the top spot in mid-October 1992.

The last time there was a one-point margin between the top two teams was 1992, when the Hurricanes and Huskies were separated by a point in the weeks before and after they were tied.

With Kansas back in the rankings, the longest poll appearance drought belongs to Illinois, which was last ranked in 2011. And the Illini have positioned themselves to make the leap with a 4-1 start heading into their home game against Iowa next week.

Next up on the list is Rutgers (2012), Oregon State (preseason 2013) and Vanderbilt (final 2013).

IN

The voters generally decided to start from scratch at the back half of the rankings, flipping seven teams.

– No. 17 TCU is in the rankings for the first time since a brief stay in 2019 at 25th.

– No. 18 UCLA is off to its first 5-0 start since 2013.

– No. 19 Kansas stayed unbeaten by knocking off Iowa State. The Jayhawks last started 5-0 in that 2009 season, then proceeded to drop their next six games and fall to the bottom of major college football for more than a decade.

Both Kansas schools are ranked for the first time since Oct. 14, 2007.

– No. 22 Syracuse improved to 5-0 with an easy victory against Wagner and finally cracked the rankings. The Orange are ranked for the first time since early in the 2019 season.

– No. 23 Mississippi State has been ranked for only one week (after the first regular-season game of 2020) since the end of 2018 season.

Both Mississippi SEC schools are ranked for the first time since Nov. 11, 2015.

– No. 24 Cincinnati. The Bearcats are the one team to enter the rankings this week that already had been in this season. Cincinnati fell out after a Week 1 loss at Arkansas and has won four straight since.

– No. 25 LSU has its first ranking under coach Brian Kelly. The Tigers have won four straight, including two SEC games, since losing a heartbreaker to Florida State on Labor Day weekend.

OUT

Among the seven teams to drop out of the AP Top 25, five of them will be unranked for the first time this season: Oklahoma, Baylor, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Pittsburgh.

Florida State and Minnesota had brief stays in the AP Top 25. The Seminoles and Gophers were teams on the rise for a week and then both lost at home.

CONFERENCE CALL

SEC – 7 (Nos. 1, 2, 8, 9, 13, 23, 25).

Pac-12 – 5 (Nos. 6, 11, 12, 18, 21).

ACC – 4 (Nos. 5, 15, 16, 22).

Big 12 – 4 (Nos. 7, 17, 19, 20).

Big Ten – 3 (Nos. 3, 4, 10).

American – 1 (No. 24).

Independent – 1 (No. 16).

RANKED vs. RANKED

No 25 LSU at No. 8 Tennessee.

No. 17 TCU at No. 19 Kansas.

No. 11 Utah at No. 18 UCLA.

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.