College Football Rankings Week 5: Cincinnati enters the playoff conversation

As we head out of Week 5, let's take another look at our current Top 25 NCAA College Football Rankings. Which teams are moving up the board?

After a Week 5 slate that saw four top 10 teams lose, our latest college football top 25 rankings article might as well just be a GIF of a Jenga tower collapsing. The order is changing. Old contenders are falling, and new challengers are rising up. Let’s take a look at the details.

College Football Rankings | Week 5

Which teams comprise the top five in our Week 5 Top 25 College Football Rankings?

1) Alabama Crimson Tide (–)

The most hyped game of Week 5 quickly turned into a rout on Saturday, as Alabama made short work of Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss Rebels. Matt Corral never made a difference, as the Alabama defense suffocated any efforts to gain momentum early on. The Crimson Tide’s squad is the most well-rounded team in the nation, and Week 5 only proved that.

2) Georgia Bulldogs (–)

Before Week 5, Ole Miss and Arkansas were both touted as potential challengers in the SEC. Now, however, there’s a clear two-team pantheon at the top. It’s Alabama at 1 and Georgia at 2 — and nothing else matters. Georgia’s defense is a fast-flowing unit that’s loaded with talent. All Stetson Bennett has to do is be serviceable — for now, anyway.

3) Oklahoma Sooners (+1)

Oklahoma’s placement this high is still more a product of ineptitude around them. Nevertheless, there is something to be said about Oklahoma’s ability to finish out games. They’ve had four close wins this season, and they still haven’t played to their potential. Spencer Rattler was up and down again versus Kansas State, but the Sooners could be dangerous if things start to pick up.

4) Cincinnati Bearcats (+2)

The Bearcats did it. They beat Notre Dame, proving they belong in the playoff conversation. The Fighting Irish were known pretenders through four weeks. But Cincinnati still beat a top-25 team with decisiveness. Cincinnati might not emulate your usual CFB playoff team, but how many teams this year are any different? The Bearcats have the talent, and they’re starting to compile the résumé.

5) Ohio State Buckeyes (–)

Rutgers looked like a potentially problematic team for Ohio State given their defensive talent, but the Buckeyes put any concerns to bed in Week 5, blasting away the Scarlet Knights by a score of 52-13. Young signal-caller C.J. Stroud seems to be progressing well, as he completed 17 of 23 attempts for 330 yards and 5 scores. If Ohio State’s offense keeps following this upward trend, they could resurrect their playoff hopes.

College Football Rankings | 6-15

Who follows up the top five teams in our Week 5 Top 25 College Football Rankings?

6) Iowa Hawkeyes (+3)

I may have been a bit harsh on the Hawkeyes last week. There is something super about this team — their defense. In five games, Iowa’s defense has intercepted 11 passes. In a 2021 college football season starved for avengers, we’ll make do with Hawkeye. Iowa’s offense may not be elite, but their defense is. And that’s enough in this league.

7) Penn State Nittany Lions (+8)

Quietly, Penn State is becoming a playoff contender. And already, they’ve snuck into the top 10 in our Week 5 Top 25 College Football Rankings. The Nittany Lions just shut out the Indiana Hoosiers 24-0. Offensively, the Sean Clifford-Jahan Dotson connection is more than enough to lean on. And a defense that includes Arnold Ebiketie, Brandon Smith, Ellis Brooks, Joey Porter Jr., Jaquan Brisker, and others is very tough to contend with.

8) Ole Miss Rebels (-1)

Ole Miss’ chance to unseat Alabama came and went, and it never truly felt like the Rebels were ever in the game. Alabama is clearly a couple of tiers above Mississippi from an overall talent perspective. Matt Corral didn’t necessarily have a bad game, but he failed to find a rhythm through four quarters. Ole Miss doesn’t move down much, but their bid for SEC supremacy yielded no glory.

9) Oregon Ducks (-6)

Boy, this was disappointing. Oregon had a win against Ohio State on their record. They had a playoff spot in the palm of their hands, and they squandered it — to Stanford. Anthony Brown seemed to take a step back, and the Ducks might’ve lost CJ Verdell for an extended period of time. Things may be crumbling in Eugene, but the defense has the talent to keep the Ducks afloat.

10) Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (+3)

Congratulations, Coastal Carolina! You’ve cracked the top 10. Of course, this is more due to teams like Arkansas, Florida, and Texas A&M all falling. Nevertheless, the Chanticleers remain a formidable Group of Five squad. Their upside is still limited because of their strength of schedule, but they can earn a high end-of-season ranking if they keep it together.

11) Michigan Wolverines (+7)

So… is Jim Harbaugh good again? What’s going on? Not long ago, there was speculation that Harbaugh might not have much time left as Michigan’s coach. Now, however, his team is 5-0, with solid wins against Western Michigan, Washington, and Wisconsin. Like many other schools, Michigan wins with stifling defense. And with top-tier talents like Aidan Hutchinson and Daxton Hill, they can keep terrorizing offenses.

12) Arkansas Razorbacks (-2)

There had to be two losers in our high-level SEC matchups this past weekend. Unfortunately for Arkansas, they fell hard into that category. Georgia shut out the Razorbacks 37-0, completely extinguishing an offense that had been riding high with talents like KJ Jefferson, Trelon Smith, and Treylon Burks. Games against Ole Miss and Auburn will further test Arkansas’ resolve in the coming weeks.

13) Texas Longhorns (+4)

I could just write “Bijan Robinson” and end this paragraph. The Texas running back is a premier talent, and one of the best players in college football, period. In Week 5, Robinson tore apart TCU to the tune of 35 carries, 216 yards, and 2 scores. With a talent like Robinson, Texas always has a shot to win the time of possession battle, tipping the odds in their favor.

14) Arizona State Sun Devils (+6)

Finally, someone in the Pac-12 is starting to play. Arizona State hasn’t been the most confidence-inducing team so far this year, but that changed in Week 5 against the Bruins. The Sun Devils sent UCLA the way of Icarus, searing their wings in a 42-23 rout. An 18-0 second-half performance sealed that outcome. Arizona State is solid. Maybe nothing more, but solid counts when mediocrity abounds.

15) Florida Gators (-7)

The Gators couldn’t keep getting out of their own way in Week 5, and now, they’ve fallen down our Top 25 College Football Rankings. The Gators are undoubtedly a good team, but they played a beatable team in Kentucky and made too many mistakes. Now, with a second loss on record and a matchup against Georgia still on their schedule, Florida’s playoff hopes are all but dashed.

College Football Rankings | 16-25

Three new teams break into our Week 5 Top 25 College Football Rankings, including a rising ACC school with a Heisman candidate at quarterback.

16) Clemson Tigers (–)

Our previous college football rankings would imply that Clemson deserves a jump up in the Week 5 Top 25 standings after besting the Boston College Eagles. However, while Boston College was ranked highly, they got that ranking with Phil Jurkovec still healthy. They don’t present nearly as much of a challenge with their backup QB, and the Clemson Tigers still clearly don’t have the teeth they’ve had in years past.

17) Kentucky Wildcats (+8)

Kentucky needed a statement game to stay in our Week 5 Top 25 College Football Rankings, and that’s exactly what they got. The Wildcats won against Florida, keeping their undefeated record alive for another week. The scary part is, they’re not even playing to their potential right now. Will Levis still has room to grow. Kentucky has talent, and they can exceed expectations if they reach their potential.

18) Michigan State Spartans (+5)

Western Kentucky was a potential trap game for the Michigan State Spartans, but Mel Tucker’s squad responded perfectly, outscoring the hellacious Hilltoppers’ offense 42-16 in the first half. Kenneth Walker III is the irreplaceable engine of this offense, but the Payton Thorne-to-Jayden Reed connection is quickly becoming dangerous and explosive.

19) BYU Cougars (+2)

Before Week 5, BYU rode respectable wins against Arizona State and Utah into our Top 25 College Football Rankings. We’re still not quite convinced, however. The Cougars barely edged out South Florida two weeks ago, then scored a routine victory against Utah State this past Saturday. BYU certainly isn’t a bad team, but upcoming games against Boise State and Baylor will be pivotal.

20) SMU Mustangs (+2)

SMU got their statement win against TCU. Now, they should be able to stay undefeated until their battle with Cincinnati late in the year. It was an easy Week 5 victory for the Mustangs over South Florida. Tanner Mordecai is still clicking within his offense, and the coaching staff has SMU rolling in October.

21) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-7)

And the first domino has fallen. Even when they won, the Fighting Irish didn’t look very imposing. Now, they officially have their first loss on record, courtesy of Cincinnati. Notre Dame isn’t devoid of talent, but they don’t have a steady QB who can elevate the offense. The offensive line has taken a step back, and the defense can’t keep bailing them out.

22) Texas A&M Aggies (-11)

Five weeks into the season, Texas A&M — a team once hailed as a sleeper playoff candidate — is 3-2. Granted, both losses came with their backup quarterback under center. Nevertheless, the Aggies have proven that their talent alone can’t buoy them through adversity. They’re taking a tumble in our Week 5 Top 25 College Football Rankings.

23) Wake Forest Demon Deacons (N/A)

Don’t look now, but Wake Forest is 5-0, and four of their wins have been by 20+ points. Sam Hartman is the quintessential college football quarterback. It’s not always conventional or orthodox, but Hartman can sling it, and he doesn’t care about consequences. The Deacons’ high-flying passing attack makes them a threat in any contest.

24) Pittsburgh Panthers (N/A)

It was between Boston College and Pittsburgh for this spot in our Week 5 Top 25 College Football Rankings. It felt harsh to drop the Eagles out after their loss to Clemson, but let’s face it — with Jurkovec out of the picture, Pittsburgh is the more imposing team. Kenny Pickett is one of the best QBs in the league, and the defense is talented and imposing. Pitt could very well win the ACC.

25) Oklahoma State Cowboys (N/A)

This is the worst I’ve felt about adding a team into the Week 5 Top 25 College Football Rankings. Oklahoma State is 5-0, and they just beat Baylor — so they kind of have to be in. But they’ve played a lot of ugly football to this point. Their defense is solid, but it’s hard to trust Spencer Sanders through a season-ending stretch that includes Texas, Iowa State, TCU, West Virginia, and Oklahoma. This stay may be short-lived.

Moving Out

  • Boston College Eagles
  • UCLA Bruins
  • Fresno State Bulldogs

Closing In

  • UTSA Roadrunners
  • NC State Wolfpack
  • Auburn Tigers
  • Stanford Cardinal
  • Appalachian State Mountaineers
  • Western Michigan Broncos


Have some thoughts you want to share on this article? Notice anything that you think might not be accurate? Join in on the conversation by clicking here to jump to the bottom of the page to get involved!


Follow along each week in our NFL Podcast - More than Football with Trey Wingo. Trey and co-host Brett Yarris host an exclusive interview series where they sit down with some of the most prolific names in sports media and the football world to dive deeper into the people who did More Than Football. Follow and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform, including Apple and Spotify.


Every day, get free NFL updates sent straight to your inbox!