College football Coaches Poll prediction: Will Georgia replace Alabama at No. 1?

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  • Stetson Bennett threw for 284 yards, two TDs as Georgia cruised past South Carolina.
  • Michigan crushed UConn to cap impressive three-game run through non-conference play.
  • Arkansas moved to 3-0 after avoiding a monumental upset against Missouri State.

This week’s USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll will see its share of shakeups and changes, but not near the top.

The best teams in the Bowl Subdivision were rolling in Week 3, with the top eight teams in last week’s Top 25 winning by a combined score of 452-93. That should leave those same eight names atop this week’s poll, which will be released early Sunday afternoon.

In fact, just one team in last week’s top 10 lost: Michigan State fell 39-28 at Washington, which will send the Spartans down the rankings.

For the third week in a row, the biggest question posed by this week’s poll asks whether Georgia will continue to hammer at Alabama and replace the Crimson Tide at No. 1. After getting closer following the Crimson Tide’s close win at Texas, the Bulldogs might have the ammunition to take over atop the Top 25.

Georgia defensive back Malaki Starks intercepts a pass intended for South Carolina running back Juju McDowell during the first half Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Columbia, S.C.

Also in the top five, Michigan could replace Clemson at No. 4 after concluding a dominant run through non-conference play. In comparison, the Tigers continue to struggle against weaker competition.

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Here’s how the top 10 of this week’s poll should look:

1. Alabama (3-0)

After a close call last Saturday against Texas, the Crimson Tide stepped out to a 28-0 lead after the first quarter against Louisiana-Monroe and cruised to a 63-7 win. Included in the scoring were three non-offensive touchdowns, two on special teams. That should be enough to keep Alabama at No. 1, but Georgia is closing fast.

2. Georgia (3-0)

The Bulldogs were done with South Carolina in about 10 minutes, give or take. The 48-7 final featured the same combination that paved the way to wins against Oregon and Samford to open the year: Georgia adds an explosive and balanced offense to a shutdown defense. Stetson Bennett threw for 284 yards and tossed another two touchdowns.

3. Ohio State (3-0)

The Buckeyes’ defense gave up two 75-yard touchdown drives to Toledo in the first half and looked somewhat vulnerable for the first time under new coordinator Jim Knowles. Meanwhile, the offense was rolling behind C.J. Stroud, who had five touchdowns, and OSU was able to put up points and yards in bunches to win 77-21 against what may end up being one of the top teams in the Group of Five.

4. Clemson (3-0)

This offense remains an enigma after a 48-20 win against Louisiana Tech. The Tigers stumbled into halftime ahead 13-6 but scored three times in the third quarter, including a 14-play, 90-yard march that put the game away. There are nice flashes of play but the consistency isn’t there for Clemson.  

5. Michigan (3-0)

Sailing past Connecticut 59-0 capped an impressive run through non-conference play: Michigan combined to beat Colorado State, Hawaii and the Huskies 166-17. With quarterback J.J. McCarthy entrenched in the starting role and both sides of the ball in top form, the Wolverines are ready to start Big Ten play next Saturday against Maryland.

6. Oklahoma (3-0)

The Sooners gave up a touchdown on Nebraska’s first possession and then rolled off 49 points in a row to hand the Cornhuskers another embarrassing loss. Oklahoma passed the first road test of Brent Venables’ tenure with flying colors, putting up 580 yards of total offense and holding Nebraska to just 4.3 yards per play.

7. Oklahoma State (3-0)

Nothing to see here: Oklahoma State led Arkansas-Pine Bluff 42-0 just four minutes into the second quarter and cruised to a 63-7 win. The Cowboys are off next week before taking on No. 19 Baylor in one of the biggest games of the year in the Big 12.

8. Southern California (3-0)

Beating Fresno State is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you do it with style points: USC went up 21-3 midway through the second quarter and kept pouring it on, eventually winning 45-17 behind another outstanding night from sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams. The Trojans won’t budge in the poll after another flashy win.

9. Kentucky (3-0)

Will Levis completed 77.1% of his attempts for 377 yards as the Wildcats beat Youngstown State 31-0 for the program’s first shutout since the 2009 season opener against Miami (Ohio). While the offense has yet to get off the ground under new coordinator Rich Scangarello, all-conference running back Chris Rodriguez is set to return from suspension for the SEC opener against Mississippi to open October.

10. Arkansas (3-0)

North Carolina State is an option here after beating Texas Tech 27-14. The Wolfpack have rebounded from an early scare against East Carolina to look the part of one of the top teams in the ACC. But the pick should be Arkansas, No. 11 last week, which moved to 3-0 after racing back in the fourth quarter to avoid a monumental upset against Missouri State.

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