Sports, Thrill of Victory

Florida State moves to the top of the class

Auburn stunned Alabama last weekend, and with that, we have a new No. 1 for the first time all season as Florida State takes the top spot. There was also a big shuffle throughout the rankings — here’s my new Top 50 for this week, which takes us through last night’s Louisville win over Cincinnati.

1. Florida State (12-0): Now that Jameis Winston’s continuing eligibility is ensured, it’s hard to imagine FSU not being in the BCS title game. Seminoles have the highest average margin of victory in the country (42.7) but keep in mind, Clemson’s the only ranked team the ‘Noles have faced.

2. Auburn (11-1): Considering where Auburn was last year, who it has beaten, and how it has won those games, has there been a more stunning season in recent college football history?

3. Alabama (11-1): A lot of people, me included, still feel Alabama’s the best in the country. But the games have to count for something, and ‘Bama’s now paying the price for not finishing.

4. Ohio State (12-0): Buckeyes also have just one win over  a Top 25 team (Wisconsin) and that one lost some luster this weekend. But there’s no denying that the Buckeyes have an explosive offense and have a place among the nation’s elite.

5. Missouri (11-1): The Tigers seem to be the consensus fifth team in the five-team mix, and I’m not sure that’s how this will end. Remember, an upright stands between Mizzou and a chance at overtime to preserve an undefeated season.

6. Stanford (10-2): If beating good teams is your thing, nobody can top the Cardinal’s body of work with victories over Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA, Washington, Notre Dame, Washington State and Oregon State.

7.  South Carolina (10-2): Gamecocks zoom up the rankings with an impressive beat-down of Clemson.

8. Arizona State (10-2): Sun Devils, riding a seven-game winning streak, are really getting it done on both sides of the ball.

9. Oregon (10-2): Putting the Ducks this high is more out of respect of the season-long body of work rather than how OU has looked lately in liming to the regular-season finish line.

10. Oklahoma State (10-1): I’m not as sold on the Cowboys as everyone else — Baylor is the only great win — but beating Oklahoma this weekend would help make an impression.

11. Baylor (10-1): Bears must have been hung over from the previous weekend’s OSU beat-down, because they nearly suffered what would have been a bad loss to TCU.

12. Michigan State (11-1): Michigan State has one of the nation’s best defenses for sure, but it’s just hard to know how good the Spartans are when their best win is over Iowa. The OSU game this weekend should answer a lot of questions.

Coach Mark Dantonio leads Michigan State's super defense into the Big Ten title game vs. Ohio State on Saturday.

Coach Mark Dantonio leads Michigan State’s super defense into the Big Ten title game vs. Ohio State on Saturday.

13. LSU (9-3): Tigers’ crazy season takes another strange turn when freshman QB Anthony Jennings, subbing for the injured Zach Mettenberger, arrived in the nick of time to prevent a disastrous loss to Arkansas in the final minute.

14. Clemson (10-2): Tigers haven’t accomplished a whole lot after that season-opening win over Georgia.

15. UCLA (9-3): Solid Bruins just picked up their best win of the year with a 21-point defeat of USC.

16. Georgia (8-4): Bulldogs are living proof that the pollsters spend little time looking at those little details of the schedule — you know, like who you beat, who you lost to, and how it happened — and strictly pay too much attention to W-L records. How else to you explain Cincinnati, which has two losses and no real wins of consequence, being ahead of a  Georgia team that beat South Carolina and LSU? Do you honestly think the Bearcats would have done the same?

17. Wisconsin (9-3): I’ve been high on the Badgers all year, but it was also partially a leap of faith based on the Badgers destruction of everyone in their path and the crazy loss to Arizona State that probably shouldn’t have been a loss. But losing to Penn State (at home, no less) was a big blow to Wisconsin’s resume´.

18. Washington (8-4): Huskies lack a real signature win, but they’ve been solid most weeks and have sustained four losses to top 20 teams.

19. Central Florida (10-1): Golden Knights have a few solid wins, but have been very, very shaky in the last month.

20. Oklahoma (9-2): This isn’t one of Bob Stoops’ better teams, but the Sooners have been really consistent from week to week outside of the losses to Baylor and Texas.

21. Southern Cal (9-4): UCLA snaps coach Ed Orgeron’s six-game winning streak as coach O squeals “Oy, oy, oy!” on his way out of LA.

22. Texas A&M (8-4): Aggies have no wins over ranked foes, but they still have Johnny Football — at least for a few more weeks.

23. Louisville (11-1): Cards have zero wins over teams in my top 50. Every other team ranked 37th or higher can claim at least one.

24. Notre Dame (8-4): Going strictly by best two wins, nobody in my Top 25 except Stanford and Auburn has two better than Notre Dame’s victories over Arizona State and Michigan State.

25. Northern Illinois (12-0): I’ve slow-played the Huskies all year, not because of an agenda, but because I needed to be convinced. But the season-opening win over Iowa looks better each week, and NIU is now blowing out opponents each week instead of just squeaking by.

26. Ole Miss (7-5)

27. Duke (10-2)

28. Texas (8-3)

29. Arizona (7-5)

30. Iowa (8-4)

31. BYU (8-4)

32. Vanderbilt (8-4)

33. Kansas State (7-5)

34. Virginia Tech (8-4)

35. Oregon State (6-6)

36. Washington State (6-6)

37. Mississippi State (6-6)

38. Bowling Green (9-3)

39. Fresno State (10-1): I know they’re still ranked, but when you lose to San Jose State by 10 and your best win is a one-pointer over Boise State, how good are you, really?

40. Miami, Fla. (9-3)

41. Georgia Tech (7-5)

42. Boise State (8-4)

43. Nebraska (8-4)

44. Penn State (7-5)

45. Michigan (7-5)

46. Utah (5-7): According to Jeff Sagarin, the Utes have played the country’s toughest slate. Looking at that schedule, I believe him. Remember, these guys did beat Stanford.

47. Minnesota (8-4)

48. Texas Tech (7-5)

49. Utah State (8-4)

50. Pitt (6-6)