1. Alabama (8-0). Alabama remains the top-ranked team in each poll, the BCS, and in my ranking. The Tide now have the nation’s top-ranked defense (they’re usually at or near the top here), having allowed more than 10 points just once (although that game was 42 points allowed vs. Texas A&M). They have a week now to take a breather and prepare for what has become possibly the nation’s premier annual matchup between the Tide and LSU. That game is in Tuscaloosa on November 9.
2. Oregon (8-0). At halftime on Saturday, there were doubts if Oregon would stay undefeated against UCLA, as the game was tied. Luckily for Oregon, the game is 60 minutes, not 30, because they blew away the Bruins in the 2nd half, eventually winning 42-14. By the way, the trend I mentioned last week of the Ducks allowing more points each week has ended; they had allowed 38 to Washington State before holding UCLA to 14. Like the Tide, they have a bye week this weekend, but their next game will be worth the wait. The Ducks travel to Stanford for a Thursday night game on November 7 that will likely decide the Pac-12 North and will also have major national championship implications, no matter which team wins.
3. Florida State (7-0). The Seminoles avenged their only conference loss from 2012 in a big way on Saturday, beating NC State 49-17, after a 35-point 1st quarter and a 42-point halftime lead. Ironically enough, although the Seminoles have played 2 ranked teams, their closest game was a 48-34 win against Boston College. Now, they move into a rivalry game against another undefeated team, the Miami Hurricanes, in a game that will be tougher than the 22-point spread given by the oddsmakers to the ‘Noles. This is the biggest Miami-Florida State game 2004.
4. Ohio State (8-0). The Buckeyes are, like the 3 teams above them, undefeated. The difference that holds the Buckeyes down is a weaker schedule in a Big Ten conference that is having a down year, and not blowing out their opponents. However, the tide may have begun to turn, after the Buckeyes won a big divisional showdown against Penn State, 63-14, which was Penn State’s 3rd largest loss ever (and largest since 1900). The Buckeyes need some big wins to catch the top 3, but their schedule won’t allow that to happen. Their next 3 games are against Purdue, Illinois, and Indiana, who have 7 wins between them, before their big rivalry game against Michigan in Ann Arbor on November 30, which will be their toughest test remaining. Looking ahead to a potential Big Ten Championship game, they could face Michigan (again), Michigan State, or Nebraska, should they clinch the division and play in the title game on December 7.
5. Baylor (7-0). Baylor, like Ohio State, is lagging behind the top 3, although that may change over the next 3 weeks. The problem has been a weak schedule, since their toughest opponent so far is Kansas State, but that will change. Each of the next 3 teams the Bears play are in the top 18 in the BCS rankings, beginning with Oklahoma, at home, on November 7. Next, they play Texas Tech at a neutral site, then they will play at Oklahoma State, a team that is very quietly 6-1 on the year. After those 3 games, they will play in-state rivals TCU (on the road) and Texas (at home) to close out a tough final month of the season. If they can survive those games and stay undefeated, they should climb into title contention.
6. Stanford (7-1). Stanford survived a trip to Corvallis, where they beat the Oregon State Beavers 20-12. Stanford’s lone loss was on the road to unranked Utah. They now have a bye week to prepare for their showdown with Oregon on Thursday night, November 7. After Oregon, the Cardinal play in-state rivalry games against USC and Cal, before hosting Notre Dame on November 30 in a game that may be for an at-large BCS bowl berth.
7. Miami (FL) (7-0). The Hurricanes are, somehow, still undefeated, although they’ve had a couple of close calls in games with North Carolina and Wake Forest. In both games, the Hurricanes scored in the final minute to avoid being upset. Also, since last week’s rankings were published, they escaped a bowl ban in the NCAA sanctions for the Nevin Shapiro scandal, although they will lose scholarships. Now, Miami will have to go to Tallahassee, where they will have to play much better than they did against the Deacons and the Tar Heels if they want to upset Florida State. No one is giving the ‘Canes a chance in this game, and they are 22-point underdogs. Then again, they almost lost last week as 23-point favorites, so you never know.
8. Clemson (7-1). Clemson struggled against Maryland on Saturday, eventually winning 40-27, in their first game since their blowout loss to Florida State. While Clemson has dominated most of their opponents, their marquee win remains an opening night victory against a Georgia team that was ranked 5th at the time, but has since lost to Missouri and Vanderbilt as they battled injuries. While most admit the Georgia team that Clemson beat is much better than the injury-riddled one that lost to Vanderbilt, the question still remains about how big that win really should be when considering the Tigers season. They will have a couple of chances for a marquee win the rest of the way. After a trip to Virginia which shouldn’t be much of a problem, they will host Georgia Tech in a Thursday night game on November 14. While the opponent may not necessarily be marquee, the stage will be, as the Tigers can show themselves off to the nation. The other game they can showcase themselves in will be November 30 against South Carolina. That should be a big game for both teams, who should still be hoping for a BCS at-large berth (although the Gamecocks may have a conference title opportunity as well).
9. Oklahoma (7-1). Oklahoma is an odd team to look at over the course of the season. While their only blowout wins are against Louisiana-Monroe and Tulsa, they just keep winning. Other than the loss to Texas, they’ve found a way to win, even when they have been in some games that were probably closer than they should have been, given their opponent. But, as the cliché says, you play to win the game, and with one exception, the Sooners have done that. This past week, they defeated a top-10 opponent in Texas Tech, easily their biggest win of the season, as it handed the Red Raiders their first loss, resulting in their first appearance in this ranking. After a bye this week, they will get an even bigger stage on Thursday night, November 7, in a game at Baylor, when they will likely go in as underdogs against the undefeated Bears. A win there would put them in the Big 12 drivers seat, with a little help from Texas’ opponents, with 3 games remaining.
10. Auburn (7-1). A year ago, I never would have dreamed Auburn would crack my top-10 list at 7-1 under first-year head coach Gus Malzahn. Keep in mind that last year, this program won just 3 games (against Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, and Alabama A&M), and none in the SEC. They have acquired 2 wins against ranked opponents, at home against Ole MIss and at Texas A&M, with their lone loss coming in a 14-point game at LSU. Their next 3 games are at Arkansas, at Tennessee, and at home against Georgia. If they can win these 3 games, they would have a bye week to prepare for top-ranked Alabama on November 30 in the Iron Bowl, at home, with the SEC West title on the line.
Also Considered: Missouri (7-1), South Carolina (6-2), Texas A&M (6-2), LSU (7-2), Fresno State (7-0), Northern Illinois (7-0), Texas Tech (7-1), UCF (6-1), Louisville (7-1).
Fell From Rankings: Missouri (7-1, lost to South Carolina 27-24 in 2OT), Texas Tech (7-1, lost to Oklahoma 38-30)
Note: If there weren’t still 8 undefeated teams, with 6 from BCS conferences, there might be room for some of these very good 2-loss teams, like South Carolina, Texas A&M, LSU, etc., in the top-10. South Carolina, for instance, showed they have top-10 talent and resiliency with their amazing 17-point 4th quarter comeback to beat Missouri in 2OT.