Penn State is inching its way closer to the top 5.
The Nittany Lions (5-0) moved up two spots to No. 10 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll, which was released Sunday afternoon. Penn State started hot against Purdue on Saturday en route to a 35-7 win, but it wasn’t necessarily that performance that won over voters.
Auburn was the lone top-12 team to lose this week, so James Franklin’s squad was able to leap-frog it in the rankings. The Tigers fell five spots to No. 12 after losing 24-13 to No. 7 Florida. And the undefeated Nittany Lions also jumped one-loss No. 11 Texas, which stayed at last week’s spot.
Penn State now has 958 voting points; it had 878 last week.
As it stands, 247 Sports and CBS Sports have a slight difference of opinion in the Nittany Lions’ bowl destination. 247 projects Penn State to take on Florida in the Citrus Bowl, which kicks off 1 p.m. on Jan. 1. And CBS Sports predicts PSU will face Auburn in the Outback Bowl, which also kicks off at 1 p.m. on New Year’s Day.
It may not be the College Football Playoff, but Penn State still controls its own destiny. As long as it keeps winning, it should continue inching closer to the top 4.
Regardless, it’s not even the midpoint of the season. These projections tend to change every week. And, as we like to remind readers, the AP Poll offers a nice barometer to how experts are currently feeling about Penn State, before the College Football Playoff committee releases its first set of rankings Nov. 5.
The committee’s rankings are the ones that really matter. But, with nearly a month until then, the AP Poll offers some value — although it’s worth reminding Penn State was unranked in Week 7 of the 2016 season and, a month later, was a top-10 team. A lot can happen in a short period of time.
In the current AP Poll, Penn State remains in good position when it comes to the rest of the conference. Ohio State is still the team to beat as it came in tied at No. 3 (with Georgia) — followed by No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 10 Penn State, No. 16 Michigan and No. 17 Iowa.
Minnesota and Michigan State are both receiving votes in the poll; the Golden Gophers would be No. 26.
The next AP Poll will be released 2 p.m. Oct. 13.
The full top-25 rankings are below:
1. Alabama 1,503
2. Clemson 1,433
T-3. Georgia 1,393
T-3. Ohio State 1,393
5. LSU 1,352
6. Oklahoma 1,268
7. Florida 1,163
8. Wisconsin 1,105
9. Notre Dame 1,046
10. Penn State 958
11. Texas 947
12. Auburn 920
13. Oregon 828
14. Boise State 654
15. Utah 624
16. Michigan 618
17. Iowa 454
18. Arizona State 388
19. Wake Forest 380
20. Virginia 353
21. SMU 285
22. Baylor 260
23. Memphis 189
24. Texas A&M 165
25. Cincinnati 118
Others receiving votes: Minnesota 80, Missouri 64, Appalachian State 61, Washington 54, Tulane 25, California 20, Michigan State 17, Arizona 11, UCF 9, USC 5, Iowa State 5, Pittsburgh 2