An anticipated Thursday came and went, leaving contenders and hopefuls in its wake. From the debris rose a clearer picture to the national championship. With the Ducks falling to Stanford for a second consecutive year, we now have two teams that control their own destiny; though there are teams with semi-legitimate gripes, should they be left out.
We are now left with just four undefeated AQ teams in college football, falling into two different categories: The Contenders (Alabama, Florida State) and The Hopefuls (Ohio State, Baylor). Alabama and Florida State both face a favorable regular season slate before they square off in their respective conference championship. Win out and they find themselves in Pasadena. Trip up and we’ll have a very interesting situation on our hands.
Should one stumble, there are two, or possibly three teams with legitimate claims at a title shot. Ohio State, which is running roughshod on the (I can’t believe I’m saying this) under-appreciated Big Ten; Baylor, who’s playing at a historic offensive pace (complimented with an almost equally impressive defense); and Stanford, who’s schedule has been one of the toughest in the nation and just beat the number-three team in the country. Should Michigan State fall,and lower the quality of the Big Ten Championship, and Stanford impressively beat a highly-ranked UCLA team in the Pac-12 Championship, the BCS formula may give the edge to the one-loss Cardinal.
As many college football fans know, with the BCS, anything is possible.
- Florida State (100.00) – The Noles sit on top again after a thorough thrashing of Wake Forest. All that stands between Jumbo Fisher’s team and an undefeated regular season are Syracuse, Idaho (well, they mostly lay down) and Florida.
- Alabama (96.63) – Nick Saban is back at the deuce, thanks to Stanford’s defensive effort against Oregon. The Tide also gained a decent chunk of ground this weekend with a decisive victory over the Bayou Bengals. Up next is a disappointing Mississippi State squad.
- Baylor (95.16) – Yes, I have the Bears at number three (and you’ll see it’s not that close). Baylor’s win over Oklahoma was a completely dominating effort. Art Briles’ team proved that they don’t have to put up 60 points a game to win with that stingy defense of theirs.
- Ohio State (92.85) – The Buckeyes had a bye week as they prepare for an Illinois team that’s lost 19 straight Big Ten game. That’s not a misprint, 19 straight.
- Oregon (89.71) – Here comes the backlash. How can I have Oregon over the team that just beat them? If it were up to me, I’d put Stanford ahead, although I do think a game in Autzen would’ve played differently (don’t tell me the details of 2012; I know, I watched it). The numbers put Oregon ahead due to their offensive pedigree.
- Stanford (86.89) – The ultimate difference between these two teams? Oregon’s point differential: 304; Stanford: 122. (Note: I’ve created a new formula that I’ll be rolling out next season that revises point differential to normalize it. This would have placed Stanford ahead of Oregon, had it been implemented now).
- Missouri (84.89) – I’m not sure what the BCS saw to drop the Tigers two spots, but I don’t agree with it. The Tigers continue to sport the SEC’s second-best point differential.
- Auburn (84.53) – No hickup at Old Hickory for Gus Malzahn’s crew. Things get a little tougher with Georgia and Alabama coming to town to close out the season.
- Clemson (82.10) – The third group of Tigers had a bye this weekend. With FSU failing to slip up, or even slow down, the Orange and White are likely forced to play for a BCS at-large bid.
- Fresno State (78.10) – Ok, all mayhem (not to be confused with the All State Mayhem) has broken loose. A non-Boise State MWC in the top 10? Yep, the Bulldogs have ascended to the top of the mole hill on the strength of an undefeated record and, well … that’s really it. Although their strength of schedule is higher than most realize.
- Oklahoma State (77.06) – The Cowboys have been playing hot ever since a shocking upset to West Virginia. That said, the Pokes will likely have to win out for a chance at the Big 12 title and a BCS bowl.
- Texas A&M (76.76) – Johnny Manziel has been even better this year than his historic Heisman season of a year ago. But with the Aggies porous defense, he’s had to be.
- UCF (76.43) – The Knights held the high-scoring Cougars to just 14 points and look like a lock to finish undefeated in AAC play.
- Louisville (75.17) – The Cardinals have the second-easiest schedule of anybody in the top 25. Their non-UCF opponents have lost over 75-percent of their games on average.
- Arizona State (74.80) – The Sun Devils were able to sneak away with a win in Utah this weekend. Next up is a floundering Oregon State team that is trying to salvage its season.
- Michigan State (74.09) – The Spartans were almost gifted the Legends title on their bye week, but Michigan wasn’t able to take down Nebraska. It’s all moot as Sparty has a chance to put away the Cornhuskers themselves Saturday.
- Northern Illinois (74.09) – Fresno and NIU are both undefeated, but the Huskies come in seven spots lower? That’s what happens when your opponents lose almost 80-percent of their games on average.
- UCLA (73.66) – The Bruins took care of one Arizona school over the weekend. If they can beat the Sun Devils on the 23rd, they’ll take control of the Pac-12 South lead.
- South Carolina (73.55) – The Gamecocks stay at 19 for the same reasons I listed last week. A big win over Florida should help their status, though.
- Wisconsin (72.58) – Gary Andersen was able to knock off former mentor, Bronco Mendenhall over the weekend, ending the Cougars outside shot at a BCS bid. By doing so, he keeps his teams slim chances of a Rose Bowl bid in tact.
- Oklahoma (70.70) – The Sooner fell to Baylor for just the second time in 23 matchups, ending a chance to win the Big 12. They’ll look to rebound against the 1-8 Cyclones of Iowa State.
- LSU (69.81) – The Tigers gave Bama a run during the first half, but the Crimson Tide proved to be too much. Things don’t get much easier with the Aggies coming to town.
- Miami (FL) – Al Golden didn’t seem to have his squad prepared for the messy conditions they faced Saturday against the Hokies. In just two games, the Canes went from being a lock in the ACC championship to fourth in the Coastal Division.
- Ball State (68.15) – This spot is more of an indictment on the poor play of normally premier programs (Texas, Michigan, Notre Dame, to name a few) than it is a boast about the Cardinals’ play. (Note for the future: a team like Ball State will likely struggle with my revised formula in 2014, so if you’re upset about them being here, it will be remedied next season.)
- Virginia Tech (66.73) – Frank Beamer’s squad proved that they can play with almost anybody Saturday, with their impressive victory in Miami. Now, if they can just become consistent.
BCS Teams That Didn’t Make the Cut
For the third consecutive week, the Rankings disagree with the BCS on two teams (note that last week, both of those BCS teams lost). This week, I’m staying away from BCS newcomers Texas (32nd) and Georgia (28th). Both teams have admittedly been playing better football of late, with Texas having that impressive victory over Oklahoma. However, the Horns have only beat two teams with winning records, including 5-4 Kansas State. That’s why they fall from the BCS’ 24th spot to my 32nd spot. Georgia came in at 25th in the BCS but 28th in my rankings largely based on their 6-3 record and poor point differential. A win over Auburn would certainly change that.
Other Notable Teams
Washington just missed the 25th spot, coming in 0.19 points behind the Hokies. Ole Miss continues to rise, currently occupying the 29th spot. East Carolina remains Conference USA’s highest-ranked team, coming in at 34th, right behind Nebraska. Notre Dame fell to 44th after their loss to 56th-ranked Pitt. Louisiana-Lafayette is the highest-ranked Sun Belt team, coming in at 40th. And Boise State continues to tread in mediocrity at 48th.
Our bottom five for the week gets a minor shake up this week. Idaho joins the party at 122nd after being shredded by FBS-newcomer Old Dominion. FIU rejoined the ranks of pitiful as well, thanks to their lambasting at the hands of Middle Tennessee. They are followed by Georgia State, Southern Miss (now on 21 straight losses) and Miami (OH), who reclaimed the Caboose with their 42-point loss to Bowling Green.