The Bulldogs received 32 first-place votes and 1,535 points in the Top 25 to easily reclaim No. 1. They were just two points behind Alabama at No. 2 last week.
Ohio State moved up a spot to No. 2, receiving 20 first-place votes and 1,507 points.
No. 3 is a season low for Alabama, which was the preseason No. 1 but fell to No. 2 after Week 2. The Crimson Tide received 11 first-place votes.
There were two notable season debuts in the Top 25: No. 24 Illinois is ranked for the first time since 2011, and James Madison is in the AP Top 25 for the first time in its program history. The Dukes are playing their first season as a member of the Sun Belt in Division I college football’s highest level.
Tennessee moved up to No. 6, which is the best ranking for the undefeated Volunteers since No. 5 early in the 2005 season. Tennessee stumbled to a 5-6 and unranked finish that year.
The shuffle that Georgia has made from No. 1 to 2 and back to No. 1 over three polls hadn’t happened in more than a decade.
Florida went back and forth between Nos. 1 and 2 in 2009, flip-flopping with Alabama as both teams won in late October.
The Crimson Tide are the first team to drop from No. 1 to No. 3 off a victory in 25 years, when Nebraska beat Missouri in overtime on the famous “Flea Kicker.” Michigan jumped from No. 4 to No. 1 on Nov. 10, 1997, after it won 34-8 at No. 2 Penn State.
The week after Kansas handed the ignominious title of Power 5 conference team with the longest streak of being unranked to Illinois, the Illini are now off the schneid in their second year under coach Bret Bielema.
Illinois improved to 5-1 by beating Iowa and landed in the poll for the first time since Oct. 16, 2011, ending a drought of 178 polls.
• James Madison had been an FCS powerhouse for years, winning a national title in 2016 and losing to North Dakota State in the NCAA championship game in 2017 and 2019. The Dukes have had no issue moving up so far, going 5-0 and averaging 44 points per game.
James Madison’s move up has been different than transitions by other schools, which typically take a year or two to acclimate before playing a full FBS-type schedule as they build up from 63 scholarship players to 85.
Aided by temporary changes to eligibility rules due to the pandemic and loosened transfer rules, the Dukes were able to dive right in with a more FBS-ready roster, coach Curt Cignetti told the AP.
“There were a lot of unknows coming into the season,” Cignetti said. “The one thing about our program is we’ve had such great success from 2016 on. … There’s a culture here, a standard, an expectation. And our guys expect to win every time we go out.”
Since Division I football split into subdivisions in 1978, James Madison is the first team to be ranked in a season when it was transitioning up.
“All the national publicity that we have had is extremely positive for the university, the program, the athletic department and our boosters and supporters,” said Cignetti, the son of Hall of Fame coach Frank Cignetti, who died in September. “Making the Top 25, that’s just another step.”
• Washington dropped out of the rankings after a second straight loss.
• LSU‘s return to the Top 25 was brief after getting thumped at home by Tennessee.
The Sun Belt went from its inception in 2001 to 2015 without having a ranked team. The conference has now had at least one team ranked for at least one week each of the past five seasons and six of the past seven.
James Madison is the second Sun Belt team to reach the Top 25 this season, along with Appalachian State.
SEC — 6 (Nos. 1, 3, 6, 9, 16, 22)
Big 12 — 5 (Nos. 8, 13, 17, 19, 22)
ACC — 4 (Nos. 4, 14, 15, 18)
Big Ten — 4 (Nos. 2, 5, 10, 24)
Pac-12 — 4 (Nos. 7, 11, 12, 20)
American — 1 (No. 21)
Sun Belt — 1 (No. 25)
RANKED vs. RANKED
A season-high six games match ranked teams:
• No. 10 Penn State at No. 5 Michigan. Third top-10 matchup in the series and first since 1997.
• No. 3 Alabama at No. 6 Tennessee. The second top-10 matchup since 2000.
• No. 8 Oklahoma State at No. 13 TCU. The Horned Frogs have their best ranking since being No. 9 in 2017.
• No. 16 Mississippi State at No. 22 Kentucky. First time the teams will meet with both ranked in 49 games.
• No. 7 USC at No. 20 Utah. Second straight game against a ranked Los Angeles team for the Utes.