- Bill Connelly is a staff writer for ESPN.com.
From a 20,000-foot view, it almost seems like college football never changes. Georgia ranks first in both the AP poll and College Football Playoff rankings, just as it finished last season. Ohio State is the current betting favorite to win its fifth Big Ten title in six years and has excellent odds of making its fifth playoff appearance in nine years with its ninth straight top-10 finish. Clemson is the betting favorite to win the ACC for the seventh time in eight years, and its hopes for a seventh CFP appearance remain alive. Alabama loses only to top-10 teams on the road; we still freak out if the Crimson Tide lose even twice in the same season.
Most of the teams that were good last year are good this year. Same with the teams that were bad. With a wide lens, the landscape always looks approximately the same.
And yet, when you zoom in, you start to get disoriented. Hey, wait, am I missing Oklahoma’s name in the AP Top 25? (The Sooners fell to 5-5 Saturday.) And wasn’t Texas A&M supposed to be really good this year? (The Aggies loss against Auburn was their sixth in a row.) Wasn’t TCU bad enough to fire its legendary coach last season? How is it in the top five? And … wait … is that a 6 in the win column next to Kansas’ name? And UConn’s??
While the big stuff might have changed only so much, each year provides us with some absolute shocks. As we gear up for the final two weeks of the college football regular season, and the chaos they entail, let’s take a moment to step back and observe what has changed. Who has improved the most this fall? Who has fallen off course in the most dramatic fashion?
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