College football rankings: LSU, Michigan soar as Tigers crash top five of the CBS Sports 129

Ask any of the voters in the CBS Sports 129 balloting — ranking the FBS teams is never harder than in October. Preseason expectations or belief of what a team might be have to be thrown out at this point, but you can’t exactly rely exclusively on head-to-head results either. The transitive property leaves everyone’s brain spinning as you try to reconcile what to do with one-loss and two-loss teams occupying that upper crust of college football at the season’s midpoint. 

LSU made one of the biggest jumps — but not the biggest, you can find that below — after its 20-point throttling of Georgia at home on Saturday, landing at No. 5 in this week’s edition of the CBS Sports 129. Taking down the then-undefeated and No. 2-ranked Bulldogs easily ranks as the best win of the season, but what’s mind-blowing is how differently the Tigers’ resume might look with a different result. 

Breaking down LSU’s profile requires looking past comments like “three top-10 wins” and further evaluating the quality of those wins with more data from the 2018 season. On the same Saturday when LSU bolstered its top-five status, two of those “top-10” teams (Auburn and Miami) suffered losses that bounced them from the national rankings. LSU didn’t just need that win against Georgia to remain in the hunt for the SEC West, SEC championship and College Football Playoff, but to replace the Auburn and Miami as its best wins on the profile. 

Similarly, what do we make of Ohio State’s win against TCU now that the Horned Frogs are in free-fall? Or what about Florida, who has wins against Tennessee (who beat Auburn), LSU and Mississippi State but an early season loss to Kentucky at home? 

It gets confusing, but we try our best to balance the on-field results with what our eyes see on Saturdays to bring you the most comprehensive college football rankings around. Thank goodness these things will get played out on the field by the end of the month, we hope to get a little more clarity. Until then just buckle up because the upsets are going to continue. 

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 26-129 on our rankings page.

2Ohio State7-02
4Notre Dame7-05
7Texas 6-18
13NC State5-019
16West Virginia5-16
17Penn State4-27
19Texas A&M5-222
20Appalachian State4-128
21Cincinnati 6-023
22Mississippi State4-226
24South Florida6-024

Biggest movers 

  • Michigan State (+16): Our experts had mostly given up on Sparty in 2018. Heading into the weekend, Michigan State was ranked at No. 43. Then, like they always do, the Spartans made us look dumb. After a quick correction following the Penn State win they’re on the edge of the top 25 at No. 27. 
  • LSU (+9): No surprise to see this kind of move following one of the most impressive wins of the season. LSU’s defense is elite, but its status as a contender remains on shaky ground as even one more loss before Nov. 3 drastically changes the SEC title picture. 
  • Virginia (+9): Bronco Mendenhall’s fingerprints are starting to show up all over this Virginia program. Miami never looked comfortable on Saturday night, couldn’t get anything going on offense and yet weren’t out of the game until late. The Wahoos are playing at a high level that closes such talent gaps, and now they’re inside that top 50, up from No. 56 to No. 47. 
  • Appalachian State (+8): A convincing #FunBelt Tuesday win has the defending conference champs up into the top 20 of our rankings here at CBS Sports, as the Mountaineers continue to be the class of the Sun Belt.  
  • West Virginia (-10): A big adjustment here after WVU’s first loss of the season, but not enough to give up on the Mountaineers chances in the Big 12. Others (like TCU below) played themselves out of the Big 12 title race while Will Grier and West Virginia still have everything in front of them. 
  • Penn State (-10): A second straight loss is going to be penalized much more than the first, especially when it comes to a team that we had ranked in the 40s going into the week. 
  • TCU (-16): The TCU offense just doesn’t look right. After falling to Texas Tech on Thursday night, the Horned Frogs dropped from sitting right outside the top 25 at No. 30 to barely hanging on in the top 50 at No. 46. 
  • Auburn (-24): In the first half of the season, Auburn has fallen from the top of the CBS Sports 129 to the middle third. Last week the Tigers were at No. 25, and after losing at home to Tennessee you can find Gus Malzahn’s team on the No. 26-No. 129 page at No. 49. 

Check out the rest of the CBS Sports 129: Teams ranked 26-129

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