Florida State’s Jameis Winston has been cleared of rape charges, Auburn has beaten Missouri for the Southeastern Conference title, and now, those two teams will meet to determine who’s the national champ. I’ve got those two teams ranked atop my rankings this week, but there are a lot of surprises from No. 4 on down.
1. Florida State (13-0): A 38-point pasting of a ranked Duke team was on par with how the Seminoles pound everyone week-in and week-out.
2. Auburn (12-1): I may have FSU ahead of Auburn in my poll, and that’s based on the snapshot of the whole season. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean I like the ‘Noles to win it all…
3. Alabama (12-1): Crimson Tide will go down as one of the better teams to be left out of the national title game in recent memory.
4. Stanford (11-2): It’s worth saying again: nobody can match Stanford’s resume of marquee wins, which now includes Oregon, Arizona State (twice), UCLA, Washington and Notre Dame.
5. Michigan State (12-1): I guess defense still does win championships…
6. South Carolina (11-2): I’m a bit hesitant to rank the Gamecocks this high — they did lose to Tennessee — but it’s a close call between them and Missouri, and Carolina won that game on the road. They also have three wins over teams in my top 25, and five over teams in my top 40.
7. Missouri (11-2): Missouri’s defense had looked great most of the year until Auburn made it look awful on Saturday. Still, the Tigers lost just one game (in overtime to Carolina) besides that.
8. Baylor (11-1): Bears 32.1-point scoring margin ranks behind only FSU, but with the only Top 25 win coming over Oklahoma, I’m still not quite sure how good they are.
9. Ohio State (12-1): The problem with playing in a weak Big Ten is that losing just one game can knock you way down the ladder. Thus, Buckeyes go from potentially playing in a title game to out of the top five of all the major polls, and if you think I’ve got them too low, Jeff Sagarin’s got them 11th.
10. Oregon (10-2): Ducks lost some of their “quack” down the stretch, which obscured just how great they were early on.
11. Arizona State (10-3): Sun Devils may be the toughest team in the poll to size up: Sagarin has them eighth, the polls have them 14th and 16th, and even though the schedule was brutal, ASU didn’t beat a team in anyone’s top 15.
12. LSU (9-3): Tigers remain the only team to beat Auburn.
13. Oklahoma (10-2): It’s hard to know what to make of a down Big 12 — the Sooners, Oklahoma State and Baylor all went 1-1 against each other — and I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather play the Sooners than some teams below them. But a win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater gave OU a chance to zoom up the polls, so give credit where credit’s due.
14. Clemson (10-2): Tigers got a season-opening win over Georgia back when Georgia was at full-strength, but have little to brag about since.
15. Oklahoma State (10-2): Cowboys have that blowout over Baylor, but not much to shout about otherwise outside of three lower-part-of-the-top-40 wins.
16. UCLA (9-3): The Bruins, coming off a blowout of Southern Cal, seem poised for a climb with a very winnable bowl game vs. Virginia Tech.
17. Georgia (8-4): The same goes for UGA, which gets a re-match of last year’s bowl game with Nebraska. UGA is without Aaron Murray, but ‘Huskers are without Taylor Martinez, which helps even the scales.
18. Wisconsin (9-3): Badgers’ 195-yard-per-game edge in total offense ties UW with Louisville, ranking behind only FSU and Baylor. But that signature win was elusive for the Badgers, who failed to beat a ranked team.
19. Washington (8-4): If you love watching teams that can run, then you’ll want to tune in to UW’s bowl game (the Kraft Fight Hunter Bowl) with BYU.
20. Notre Dame (8-4): If the Fighting Irish wanted to avoid a repeat of last year’s spanking by Alabama that the whole world saw, they got what they wanted: a terrible Rutgers team in the Pinstripe Bowl, which absolutely nobody will care about outside both fan bases.
21. Texas A&M (8-4): How motivated will the Aggies be for what should be Johnny Football’s last game? It’s hard to say — Aggies are far better than Duke, but they didn’t look that impressive in their final three games.
22. Southern Cal (9-4): The win over Stanford gained a little more shine over the weekend.
23. Central Florida (11-1): Golden Knights are closing more poorly than any team in the rankings, beating Temple, South Florida and SMU by four points or less in the last month…
24. Louisville (11-1): … which in turn destroys the Cardinals’ credibility, since UCF beat them.
25. Ole Miss (7-5): Nobody from here down seems to want to be in the rankings — Fresno State recently lost to San Jose State, and Northern Illinois was blown out by Bowling Green — so the Rebels, who have far better wins and better losses than anyone from here down — get the spot basically by default. Of course, the problem is that Ole Miss (beaten by rival Mississippi State) lost their last game, too.
26. Arizona (7-5)
27. Iowa (8-4)
28. BYU (8-4)
29. Vanderbilt (8-4)
30. Duke (10-3)
31. Texas (8-4)
32. Bowling Green (9-3)
33. Kansas State (7-5)
34. Northern Illinois (12-1)
35. Virginia Tech (8-4)
36. Fresno State (12-1)
37. Oregon State (6-6)
38. Washington State (6-6)
39. Miami, Fla. (9-3)
40. Mississippi State (6-6)
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)
47. Minnesota (8-4)
48. Cincinnati (9-3)
49. Houston (8-4)
50. Pitt (6-6)