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College football rankings: Big Ten makes big splash in newly expanded CBS Sports 127

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CBS Sports graphic

After seven weeks with a limited field for our comprehensive FBS rankings, the return of Big Ten action marks the expansion of the CBS Sports 76 to the CBS Sports 127. Though there are 130 FBS teams in total, three will not be taking the field at all this season: New Mexico State, Old Dominion and UConn.

Ohio State checks in at No. 3 in our reset of the national landscape, joining Clemson and Alabama as favorites to make the College Football Playoff. When the Buckeyes kick off their season on Saturday against Nebraska, they will do so with one of the most talented rosters we’ve seen since the national championship team in 2014. 

Quarterback Justin Fields is going to jump right into the Heisman Trophy discussion and the nine-week sprint (eight regular season games plus one championship week on Dec. 19) between now and the CFP Selection Committee’s final rankings will be filled with debates on how this limited schedule stacks up against the resumes for the Tigers and the Crimson Tide. 

But Ohio State isn’t the only Big Ten team with playoff hopes and expectations, and our discussion and ranking of the league’s contenders could take a turn if Penn State, which checks in at No. 6 in the CBS Sports 127, can knock off Ohio State when they play on Oct. 31. While not the raucous white-out scene that has defined many of Ohio State’s road trips in the series, the game still carries all the weight of setting the stage for the division title race in the Big Ten East. 

In total, the Big Ten has five teams in the top 25 of the CBS Sports 127, and they are joined near the top of the rankings by Oregon (No. 9) and USC (No. 16) from the Pac-12. These additions in the rankings expansion had an impact on the week-to-week movement. The falls are more dramatic for teams like Auburn and Tennessee, and there was a ceiling on the rise for a team like BYU, which improved to 5-0 on the season and could have been higher in the top 10 if not for the arrival of Ohio State, Penn State and Oregon. 

Other teams near the middle of the rankings fell by a handful of spots even after wins or an idle week just based on the shuffle, but now there’s no disputing where anyone stands with all active FBS programs represented. 

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 26-127 on our rankings page.

Biggest movers 

  • No. 37 South Carolina (+9): A triumphant home win against Auburn, the program’s first in 87 years, set up for a big jump in the rankings as the Gamecocks settle into their role as one of the many tough outs in league play. There aren’t many games where you would saddle up to South Carolina as a surefire winner, but there aren’t any games where you can count the Gamecocks out. 
  • No. 28 Arkansas (+7): One of the lingering talking points from a wild weekend in the SEC is wondering whether the Razorbacks, now 2-2 on the season after defeating Ole Miss, are the second-best team in the SEC West. The loss to Auburn, however controversial the ending may have been, will likely prevent a second-place finish in the final standings but the argument is worth exploring as we move ahead in the schedule. 
  • No. 13 North Carolina (-8): A slow start and some critical mistakes put the Tar Heels in a 31-7 halftime hole at Florida State that was too much to overcome, even with a 21-0 shutout of the Seminoles in the second half. The defeat hurts North Carolina’s chances of making the ACC Championship Game and bounces it from the top 10 in our rankings, now sitting a little bit closer to the Tar Heels’ preseason position.  
  • No. 30 Louisiana (-12): After weeks of squeaking out close wins, the Ragin’ Cajuns came up short on Wednesday night against Coastal Carolina. The inability to get stops against the Chanticleers offense proved to be the thing that did Louisiana in, and now it’s set up a fierce race for the Sun Belt championship over the second half of the season. 
  • No. 32 Auburn (-17): It’s not just losing at South Carolina but the manner in which Auburn lost that really stings. Even if Auburn had converted on its late efforts to come back and win, there would be an unsettling feeling about the team’s offense heading into the rest of the SEC schedule. It’s a group that has yet to look dominant in 2020, which is not what was expected with the addition of new offensive coordinator Chad Morris. 
  • No. 41 Tennessee (-29): Repeating the theme from Auburn’s week: It’s not just the loss but the manner in which Tennessee lost. In the Vols’ case, it’s not an offense that tends to run in place or lack consistency but an offense — more specifically a quarterback — that is actively contributing to points on the scoreboard for the opponent. Kentucky rode a couple pick-sixes to an easy win, and that’s this an unhappy week for Jarrett Guarantano and the Vols’ offensive staff. 

Check out the rest of the CBS Sports 127: Teams ranked 26-127

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