Alabama flirted with disaster all year before finally catching the Crimson Tide on Saturday. Tennessee — for the first time since 2006 — managed to upset No. 3 Alabama at Neyland Stadium 52-49.
This is the Volunteers’ 6-0 lead for the first time since 1998, which is also the last time they have won the national championship. The Volunteers will rejoice in the historic win and subsequent rise in the rankings, but this game is about more than just Tennessee and the Crimson Tide.
Speaking of which, Nick Saban and company can still make the SEC championship game — and arguably have an easier route to Atlanta than the Volunteers. Such is life in the Southeastern Conference.
Elsewhere, teams like Ohio State, Clemson, Michigan and USC followed Saturday’s game with keen interest.
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With that, The Sporting News examines how Tennessee’s win over Bama will impact the latest college football rankings.
The rankings reflect the AP Top 25 after Week 6
Previous rank: 1
Alabama’s loss shouldn’t affect the Bulldogs in the latest standings, especially considering they beat Vanderbilt 55-0. However, the victory of the Vols Kirby Smart and Co. should serve as a clue:
The SEC East will not be a given this season. The November 5 meeting at Samford Stadium suddenly looks a lot more interesting.
Ohio State (6-0)
Previous rank: 2
Ohio State was idle on Saturday, so the Buckeyes are unlikely to move away from second overall in the standings. They will return to action in Week 8 against an Iowa team with a steadfast defense.
Previous rank: 4
The Tigers are likely to remain No. 4 in the current standings based on the outcome of their game against Florida State: a 34-28 win. That probably won’t be enough to keep voters from jumping Tennessee all the way into the top 3 in the latest rankings, considering they beat No. 3 in Alabama.
Regardless, Clemson’s ability to control his destiny remains the same: win and win the ACC and the playoffs remain in play.
Previous rank: 5
Unless Clemson absolutely pulverizes Florida State, it’s possible Michigan could rise to No. 4 in the state after demolishing No. 10 Penn State in 41-17. The Wolverines overcame a brief comeback attempt by the Nittany Lions, but their second-half win was so overwhelming – beating Penn State 25-3 – that they should move up to No. 4 in the latest rankings.
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Previous rank: 6
The day’s biggest winner, Tennessee, will get a big boost in its rankings after beating Alabama. Michigan’s win over Penn State was more impressive, but the stage and historical significance of the Vols’ win likely propel them over Michigan and Clemson to replace No. 3-ranked Alabama in the nation.
However, Tennessee still has work to do: It has No. 1 Georgia on the road in two weeks, and fair or not, that could determine whether the Volunteers have access to the SEC championship game and beyond to the playoffs.
Previous rank: 7
The Trojans lost 43-42 to No. 20 Utah late Saturday, making every chance of moving forward due to the Crimson Tide loss. USC couldn’t put down the Utes and spoiled an undefeated season.
It’s still possible for USC to make the Pac-12 championship game, but it has to win the rest of the season — and Utah has to lose another game. And what about the Trojans’ college football playoff hopes? Georgia-Tennessee and Michigan-Ohio State results will help some, but the Trojans may need help to enter the playoffs for the first time in school history.
State of Oklahoma (5-1)
Previous rank: 8th
The Cowboys failed to capitalize on the loss in front of them, falling to 13th TCU, 43-40 in overtime. The Cowboys are still playing for a Big 12 championship and won’t fall too far from the top 10.
But it’s likely they’ll need some help if they want to make the playoffs. And that’s with Texas and Oklahoma still on the regular-season schedule.
Previous rank: 3
The crimson tide is down but not out. They’ll likely drop about five spots, possibly down to 8th place. The good news for Alabama in this situation is that the loss didn’t come to another SEC West opponent. If the Tide can win against Mississippi State, LSU, Ole Miss and Auburn, the Tide will represent the SEC West Division in the SEC championship game.
Neither the Tide’s SEC Championship aspirations nor the College Football Playoffs can afford another loss. However, if they take care of business the rest of the way, it’s possible Alabama could get another shot at Tennessee in Atlanta.