For the third time in four weeks, an unbeaten (and potential championship contender) has gone down, clearing up the national title picture. This week, Alabama fell from the ranks of the undefeated thanks to one of the greatest finishes in college football history. For those of you living under a rock for the last six days, the Crimson Tide decided to kick a 57-yard field goal with one second left when knotted at 28. Bama’s kick fell short, with Chris Davis catching it about nine yards deep in the end zone. After evading a few defenders and tiptoeing down the sideline, Davis easily trotted into the end zone, delivering an Iron Bowl win to Auburn and likely eliminating Alabama from the BCS National Championship.
Now we’re left with just two unbeaten teams from major conferences: Florida State and Ohio State. The Seminoles seem to all but have a spot in the national title game as their ACC Championship opponent is a surprising 10-2 Duke. The Blue Devils have won eight straight after dropping back-to-back games against Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh, but will likely offer little resistance against a complete FSU squad. With Jameis Winston now being cleared of sexual assault allegations, Florida State fans should all but purchase their tickets to Pasadena.
The Buckeyes face a much more difficult challenge in the form of Michigan State. The Spartans finished the regular season fourth in points allowed per game, thanks to five contests in which they didn’t allow a touchdown. However, their schedule was third easiest in the top 25, a big reason why they are several slots below their BCS mark in these rankings. Even with their defensive rankings being taken with a grain of salt, Sparty should give the Buckeyes one of their biggest challenges of the season. Will Urban Meyer’s team rebound from a narrow victory over Michigan in the Big Game, or did the Wolverines identify flaws their intra-state brethren can use to win the Big Ten?
If you missed last week’s rankings while Oregon Sports News enjoyed the holidays, you can find them on my blog. If you’re wondering where all these numbers come from, a general explanation can found here.
- Florida State (100.00) – With Alabama falling to Auburn and the Seminoles running over the Gators, FSU’s developed a substantial lead in the rankings. In fact, their lead is so large that even with a narrow loss, they would likely stay in the top two, if not retain the number one spot.
- Ohio State (89.20) – No debate here about putting a one-loss team above an undefeated Buckeyes squad. A win over Michigan State will let the BCS period ironically close without any controversy. Should they lose? Pandora’s Box will come crashing open.
- Alabama (88.59) – The Tide dropped just one spot because the rest of their season has been so impressive. Losing to fourth ranked team on the road by a literal last second touchdown shouldn’t send Bama plummeting. We won’t get into the philosophical debates about whether you should have to win your division or conference to reach the national title game, but if the Buckeyes were to fall, Alabama would have a legitimate argument to make the contest.
- Baylor (86.72) – The Bears have single-handedly made me want to adjust my rankings to weight recent performance over early season success. After jolting out to a record-setting pace, Baylor has struggled recently. Two weeks ago Art Briles’ team was tattooed by Oklahoma State and barely escaped with a three-point victory this weekend over 4-8 TCU. A loss this week to 8-3 Texas wouldn’t be the least bit surprising.
- Missouri (84.15) – Despite being ahead of Auburn in these rankings, Mizzou trails their Tiger counterparts by a hefty margin in the BCS rankings in addition to remaining behind Alabama. Gary Pinkel’s group will have to put on a shining performance if they are to have any chance of crashing the BCS title game.
- Auburn (84.08) – How does the third-ranked team in the BCS land at sixth in the Rankings? By winning their last two games with one-of-a-kind miracles. Relying on improbable last-second touchdowns to win games is a surefire way to lose them.
- Oklahoma State (82.41) – The Pokes have been one of the biggest risers over the last few weeks, putting to rest the memory of their bad loss to West Virginia. A win over Oklahoma in the Battle of Bedlam secures a BCS bowl for the Cowboys.
- Oregon (80.59) – What has happened to the Ducks of late? With the exception of their fourth quarter against Stanford, Oregon has looked relatively anemic over their last four games. On the bright side, star quarterback Marcus Mariota committed to coming back for another year.
- Arizona State (79.79) – The Sun Devils secured home field for the Pac-12 Championship with a win over the rival Wildcats. Having lost to the Cardinal by 14 in Stanford earlier this year, ASU will hope the warm Tempe weather is what it needs to clinch it’s first Rose Bowl berth since 1997.
- Stanford (78.47) – The Cardinal and the Sun Devils have faced seven common opponents in 2013. Stanford went 5-2 with an average victory of 8.7 points per game, on average; ASU was 6-1 and won by 14.3 on average.
- Clemson (76.94) – The Tigers fell to the Gamecocks for the fifth straight game, with every time being by at least 10 points. Dabo Swinney is going to have to win a big game eventually if he expects to keep his job.
- Northern Illinois (76.82) – The incredible Jordan Lynch kept up his Heisman candidacy with an amazing 321 rushing yards against lowly Western Michigan. With Fresno State falling to San Jose State over the weekend, NIU just needs a victory over a surprising Bowling Green squad to get a BCS berth.
- South Carolina (76.29) – The Gamecocks come in so low because they are incredibly unreliable. On Saturday, they beat a very good Clemson team by 14. Two weeks prior, they barely beat a 4-8 Gators team by five points (FCS team Georgia Southern beat Florida the following week by six). With losses to Tennessee and narrow victories like the previously mentioned Florida game or a seven-point victory over Kentucky, it’s a hard to have much faith in Steve Spurrier’s club.
- Michigan State (76.22) – No disrespect to Mark Dantonio or the Spartans, but even with a win over Ohio State on Saturday, Michigan State has no right to be in the national championship. Their game against the Buckeyes will be the first against a team that will finish the season ranked.
- UCF (75.14) – In the five games the Knights have played as a ranked team, they have won three by five points or less, including a pair of three-point victories over two teams with a combined four wins.
- Louisville (74.88) – Instead of thinking about this season’s aspirations that never came to fruition (an undefeated season, BCS bowl, etc.), Cardinals fans should relish their last two chances to watch Teddy Bridgewater before he becomes the starting quarterback of the Houston Texans.
- Wisconsin (73.51) – What the heck happened to the Badgers against Penn State? That performance was outright embarrassing for a talented Wisconsin team.
- UCLA (71.96) – The Bruins missed out on their chance to appear in their second-straight Pac-12 Championship, but they did beat up on crosstown rival USC for the second-straight year. The win likely gave Jim Mora his extension and cost Ed Orgeron on his chance to become USC’s full-time coach.
- LSU (71.55) – The Razorbacks made it close, but ultimately the Bayou Bengals and their backup quarterback sent Bret Bielema and Arkansas to their ninth-straight loss and an o-fer in conference play.
- Fresno State (71.39) – The Bulldogs lost their BCS chances as the 6-6 Aztecs hung up 62 points on Fresno. On the bright side, they were part of a memorable first half that included 83 combined points.
- Oklahoma (70.81) – A win in the Bedlam series would eliminate the Cowboys from a BCS bowl. On the otherhand, it would open the door for the Longhorns to potentially take the spot. I wonder what scenario irks Bob Stoops more.
- Duke (69.02) – It took a late field goal, but the Dukies sealed up their first ever 10-win season. Before heading off to their first decent bowl game, they must face a downright scary Florida State.
- Washington (67.80) – The Huskies are just a bleep on the polls’ radars, registering seven points in the Harris Poll and six in the USA Today poll, but come in at 23rd in the Rankings due to a strength of schedule that ranks second in the top 25.
- Texas A&M (66.95) – The four teams to beat the Aggies have are a combined 42-6 record.
- Ball State (66.76) – The Cardinals take over for East Carolina in my joke ranking of the week. The 10-2 Cardinals will likely get a chance to beat up on a lowly Sun Belt team in the GoDaddy bowl.
BCS Teams That Didn’t Make the Cut
Georgia, 22nd in the BCS behind a strong computer ranking, came in 26th in the Rankings, 0.11 behind Ball State. Georgia likely benefits from their position in the SEC, but a four-point loss to Vanderbilt, as well as four wins of seven points or less keep the Dawgs just outside the rankings. The Longhorns came in at 25th in the BCS but just 32nd in the Rankings. Texas is hurt by a score differential of +88, which is 46th in the country.
The Ducks dropped the Beavers to 6-6 with a last-minute touchdown. The win keeps Oregon on pace for the Alamo Bowl, where they’ll likely face Oklahoma. Mark Helfrich must get his team playing better if they want to win in San Antonio. The Beavers, meanwhile, face the prospects of playing in the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Not exactly where they hoped their season would end.
Other Notable Teams
East Carolina dropped to 28th after their 31-point loss to Marshall, who has ascended to 30th. Cincinnati, 31st, faces off against Louisville this weekend. Iowa rose to 36th after their thumping of Nebraska. Boise State finds themselves at 41st afollowing an easy win against New Mexico. Michigan comes in at 48th on the heels of their one-point loss to the Buckeyes. Louisiana-Lafayette continues to be our highest-ranked Sun Belt team, but fell 11 spots to 49th after their loss to rival (I think, but who knows anything about the Sun Belt), Louisiana-Monroe.
Our bottom five this week starts of with the University of Idaho, who lost to 2-10 New Mexico State. Southern Miss, coming off their first win in two seasons, is next, followed by FIU, Georgia State and Miami (OH), who brings up the final Caboose.