The No. 1 vs. No. 2 game between Alabama and LSU in two weeks looks set, though the order of the Crimson Tide and Tigers changed in the AP top 25 in one of the closet votes ever.
Heading into an off date for both teams, LSU flip-flopped with Alabama to become the new No. 1 in the Associated Press college football poll. The Tigers received 1,476 points, two more than Alabama, for the closest margin between first and second since No. 1 Florida State was two points ahead of Auburn on Oct. 5, 2014.
No. 3 Ohio State was not far behind with 1,468 points. Eight points separating first from third is the fewest in the regular season since Dec. 3, 1979, when No. 1 Ohio State was 10 points ahead of No. 3 USC, with Oklahoma in between, two back of the Buckeyes.
Alabama received the most first-place votes this week with 21. LSU and Ohio State both got 17 first-place votes while No. 4 Clemson received seven.
There was a lot going on at the top of the ranking this week.
This is the second time this season the No. 1 team won and dropped out of the top spot. Preseason No. 1 Clemson was the first, back in late September. The last time it happened twice in a season with different teams was 2009, when Florida and Alabama dropped out in consecutive weeks.
The last time the No. 1 team did not receive the most first-place votes was Nov. 30, 2014, when No. 2 Florida State had 29 and No. 1 Alabama had 25.
The eight-point margin between the top 3 teams is the closest since 1978, when the weighting of the votes changed to its current format. The smallest margin in the top three in the current format previously was nine in the 1994 preseason poll — No. 1 Florida, 1,416; No. 2 Notre Dame, 1,414 and No. 3 Florida State, 1,407.
GAMES OF THE CENTURY
Barring some weirdness with the voters next week, Alabama-LSU will be the 26th 1 vs. 2 regular-season game, including conference championship games. The No. 1 team is 15-8-2, including LSU’s 9-6 victory at Alabama in 2011, the last time 1 and 2 met in the regular season.
The advent of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998, and then later the College Football Playoff, have created frequent 1-2 matchups during bowl season. Overall, No. 1 is 28-21-2. After LSU and Alabama played as 1 and 2 in the regular season, they had a rematch in the BCS championship game in January 2012 won by the Crimson Tide.
— No. 22 Kansas State returned to the rankings after a brief stint in September.
— No. 24 Memphis also returned after a one-week stay earlier this month.
— No. 25 San Diego State is the ranking for the first time since the final 2017 poll.
— Texas fell out of the rankings for the first time this season after losing its third game, this time to unranked TCU. The Longhorns’ other losses were to LSU and Oklahoma.
— Iowa State continues its yo-yo season, falling out of the rankings again after losing at home to Oklahoma State.
— Arizona State is out again after being upset by UCLA.
Big Ten — 6 (Nos. 3, 5, 13, 14, 18, 19)
SEC — 5 (Nos. 1, 2, 6, 8, 11)
Big 12 — 3 (Nos. 10, 12, 22)
American — 3 (Nos. 15, 17, 24)
ACC — 2 (Nos. 4, 23)
Pac-12 — 2 (Nos. 7, 9)
Mountain West — 2 (Nos. 21, 25).
Sun Belt — 1 (No. 20).
Independent — 1 (No. 16).
RANKED v. RANKED
No. 6 Florida vs. No. 8 Georgia. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will likely decide the SEC East.
No. 15 SMU at No. 24 Memphis. First on the line in the AAC West, maybe the country’s most entertaining division.