1. Alabama (9-0). The Crimson Tide beat a good LSU team pretty convincingly on Saturday, winning 38-17, erasing any doubt about their position atop the nation. As usual, Alabama’s strength is their defense, who leads the nation in points allowed per game (10.6). Now, the Tide have a pair of what should be extremely easy games, first at Mississippi, then at home against Chattanooga. If the Tide beat Mississippi State, and if Auburn happens to lose to Georgia, the Tide would clinch the SEC West division title. Otherwise, when the two schools meet in the “Iron Bowl” on November 30, it will be for the division title. Regardless, that game, which is at Auburn, will be huge, and is probably the most likely game Alabama could lose, including a potential SEC Championship game.
2. Florida State (9-0). The Seminoles scored 59 points on just 296 yards of offense against Wake Forest, helped by the strength of 7 forced turnovers, winning the game 59-3. The Deacons’ lone field goal even led to FSU points, as the ‘Noles ran back the ensuing kickoff. With Oregon’s loss to Stanford, Florida State is now the unquestioned 2nd-ranked team in the country. They have clinched the ACC Atlantic division title, and the ACC Championship game on December 7 will likely be their toughest remaining regular season test. Leading into that games at home against Syracuse and Idaho, before a trip to “The Swamp” to play a deflated Florida Gators team. Facing them in that ACC title game will be either Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, or Duke (all still have clinch scenarios). The Seminoles are 2nd in points per game (52.0) and 4th in points allowed per game (12.0).
3. Baylor (8-0). The Bears jump from 5th to 3rd in my rankings, helped by Oregon’s loss, but also jumping Ohio State, who did not play on Saturday. Baylor faced their toughest test yet on Thursday night, and was very impressive in a 41-12 win over Oklahoma. People have been talking about Baylor’s offense all season long, and rightfully so, considering they lead the nation in both points per game and yards per game. However, all this talk about their offense overshadows what a great job the Bears are doing on defense, which has allowed the 6th least points per game (15.4). Considering they play in the Big 12, which is a very offensive league, the fact that their defense ranks statistically among the best shows how legitimately good this team is, as a whole, not just on one side of the ball.
4. Ohio State (9-0). Even with the loss of Oregon, the Buckeyes stay steady at 4th this week, as they were jumped by Baylor. The Buckeyes had a bye, so they obviously didn’t do anything wrong to get jumped by Baylor; I was simply that impressed with Baylor’s performance against Oklahoma. In fact, Ohio State is still ahead of Baylor in both polls and the BCS standings. If the Buckeyes take care of business against Illinois and Indiana, they will be 11-0 when they go to “The Big House” to play Michigan on November 30. I was surprised when I looked at Ohio State’s stats, as they are 5th in points per game (48.2) and 8th in points allowed per game (17.0). Having seen the Buckeyes play a few games that were a little closer than they would have liked, I wouldn’t have guessed a 31 point margin in these two categories.
5. Stanford (8-1). Stanford pulled the upset over Oregon on Thursday night, 26-20, in a game they had led 26-0 early in the 4th quarter. Other than the fact they let the Ducks back in the game at the end, the Cardinal had quite a dominating performance, on national television for all to see. If it weren’t for Stanford’s loss to Utah, they would certainly be in the national title conversation. They may still end up there, since they’re 4th in the BCS, if 2 of the top 3 were to lose a game between now and the end of the regular season. While the loss to Utah remains a head-scratcher, the Cardinal practically erased the memory of that game with the big win over Oregon. Stanford can’t be caught sleeping, however, with games against USC and Notre Dame still to come, as well as a potential Pac-12 Championship game.
6. Oregon (8-1). The question of whether Florida State or Oregon should be #2 in the country was answered with the Ducks’ loss to Stanford on Thursday night. Also with that loss, the Ducks dropped out of the lead in the Pac-12 North division race, falling into a tie with Stanford, who holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. So what do the Ducks have to play for in their remaining games with Utah, Arizona, and Oregon State? Well, Stanford has 2 conference games left, so if they were to lose, Oregon could win out to win the division. Even if Stanford does win the division, the Ducks still have a bragging-rights game with Oregon State in the “Civil War”, and will almost certainly get a BCS at-large bowl bid if they win out.
7. Clemson (8-1). The more Florida State plays, and wins big, the less Clemson’s lone loss, which was to the Seminoles, hurts their résumé. Although the Tigers lost 51-14 to FSU, everyone else they’ve played has lost, and most of the time it’s been that bad, or worse. Clemson enjoyed a weekend off with a bye, coming after a 49-point win over Virginia last week. Now, after Florida State clinched the ACC Atlantic division title, the Tigers cannot win a conference championship. That is a feat that, despite the program’s success, that the Tigers have only accomplished once since 1991 (in 2011), and that dry spell will continue. With games against Georgia Tech, The Citadel, and South Carolina to come, the Tigers do still have a lot to play for. I was surprised to learn that Clemson hasn’t had a top-1o finish since 1990. In addition, I believe that if both schools win their other games, the game between South Carolina and Clemson will likely be for an at-large berth to a BCS bowl.
8. Auburn (8-1). In a game that was close early on Saturday, Auburn slowly pulled away from Tennessee to eventually win 55-23. Tennessee had previously been very tough to beat at home, with their only loss being in overtime to Georgia. The Tigers have rushed for 320 yards per game, which is 3rd in the nation. This week, they will play the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” against Georgia, at home. This will be a big game for Auburn, not only as a matchup with a ranked opponent, but also as the gateway to the “Iron Bowl” against Alabama. That’s because if Auburn beats Georgia, the Alabama game, which they have at home, will be a winner-take-all game for the SEC West division title. While it’s absolutely remarkable that Auburn is ranked 7th in the BCS a year after being 3-9 (and winless in the SEC), their season will be remembered for what they do in these last two regular season contests.
9. Missouri (9-1). No, I did not intentionally put 3 Tigers teams back-to-back-to-back. Missouri defeated Kentucky, 48-17, on Saturday, keeping their 1-game lead in the SEC East intact. The problem with that 1-game lead is that, should they lose one more game, and should South Carolina beat Florida, both teams would be tied at 6-2, but South Carolina has the tiebreaker, due to their 27-24, double overtime win on October 26 in Missouri. For Missouri to win the East, they will have to win both of their remaining games, and neither one will be easy. After a bye this weekend, they will play at Ole Miss. Although the Rebels are just 3-3 in conference play, they have played much better at home, and have upset LSU. After the game in Oxford on November 23, Missouri will host Texas A&M on November 30. Although Missouri is higher ranked than the Aggies, they might be underdogs when Johnny Manziel and company come to town. If the Tigers win the East, they will have earned it.
10. South Carolina (7-2). The Gamecocks make their first appearance in my rankings, even though they did not play on Saturday, after passing Oklahoma. To quickly recap their season, after starting 6th in the AP Poll and defeating North Carolina, they lost to Georgia, failing to stop Bulldogs RB Todd Gurley. They went on to play 3 consecutive, similar games against Vanderbilt, UCF, and Kentucky, in which they jumped out to a lead before holding on in the 4th quarter. After a drubbing of Arkansas, Tennessee upset the Gamecocks in Knoxville, in what was clearly the Gamecocks low point thus far. After the loss they were 21st in the BCS, but have since beaten Missouri, in 2OT after trailing by 17 in the 4th quarter, and Mississippi State to move up solidly, now inside the top 10 in the BCS and the top 12 in both polls. The Gamecocks host Florida this week, which will be their final conference game. They need to beat Florida and then have some help to win the SEC East division title. After the Gators leave Columbia, Coastal Carolina will visit, followed by a matchup with Clemson, potentially for an at-large BCS bowl bid.
Also Considered: Texas A&M (8-2), Fresno State (9-0), Northern Illinois (9-0), Michigan State (8-1), Oklahoma State (8-1), UCF (7-1), Louisville (8-1), Oklahoma (7-2), UCLA (7-2), Texas (7-2).
Dropped From Rankings: Oklahoma (7-2, lost to Baylor 41-12).