Another weekend is in the books, which means it’s time for our Monday routine: college football rankings for all 128 FBS teams. As usual, they’re ranked based on what they’ve accomplished, not necessarily how good they are or how likely they’d be to win future games.
I should note that I’m now considering wins over 4-loss teams as quality wins. Other quality wins have been appropriately adjusted. I had planned on making these adjustments after the final week, but it turns out one FBS team has already played its final game (FIU, we hardly knew ye), so I figured it’d be fine to go ahead. As a result, it shook up the top 5 a bit, but the shake-up was coming anyway. Ok, on to the rankings.
1. Oregon Ducks (10-1)
Last week: defeated Colorado 44-10
Yes, the Marcus Mariota Heisman campaign keeps rolling, and it should – he has 3330 yards of offense this year, 38 TDs, and just 2 interceptions. However, how about freshman RB Royce Freeman, with 1048 yards from scrimmage and 14 TD of his own? The defense is underrated, led by ball-hawk safety Erick Dargan (5 INTs). Oregon is really good, folks. They may not have any more big games to really show off in, but they should get to the Pac-12 championship at 11-1 and are in great position for the playoffs. Why do I have them #1? They haven’t been tested much – 9 of the 11 games have been wins by 12 points or more, and their wins over Michigan State and UCLA are an excellent pair of quality wins, probably the best pair of wins that any single team can claim.
Next up: The Civil War @ Oregon State – Saturday
2. TCU Horned Frogs (9-1)
Last week: BYE
TCU isn’t getting as much respect nationally as they should. I suppose this is because the Kansas game, an ugly one, was followed by a bye. I don’t really believe in football momentum, but I do believe in media momentum, and TCU has completely lost theirs. They need to get it back over their last two games against Texas and Iowa State, preferably with blowouts of both. I think the Texas game could regain that momentum. Texas is better than it was in September, and I think voters and committee members would respect a solid win over the improved Longhorns. The biggest games for TCU, however, won’t involve TCU. A Kansas State win over Baylor would be great, because it’d prevent everyone from having to decide between H2H (edge: Baylor) or any other metric (edge: TCU) to pick a Big XII team. TCU will also have its eyes on this weekend’s de facto Big Ten West championship game between Wisconsin and Minnesota. A Gopher win sends UM to the Big Ten title game, and TCU’s 30-7 win over Minnesota will look great to voters.
Next up: at Texas – Thursday
3. Florida State Seminoles (11-0)
Last week: defeated Boston College 20-17
It kind of gets old typing the same thing over and over again. I’d like for the Seminoles to either look great or lose. Please, something just for a little script variety. I suppose they gave us some variety this week: instead of falling into an early hole and battling back with a great second half, FSU played their best in the first half and just managed to sort of hang on in the latter stages of the game. Still, another mediocre opponent, another way-too-close win. Frankly, FSU doesn’t really play or look like a championship team, but they have the record of one. Respect the record, even if you don’t respect the process that created it. FSU likely can’t make the playoffs with a loss, so their upcoming games against Florida and Georgia Tech are must-wins.
Next up: vs. Florida – Saturday
4. Alabama Crimson Tide (10-1)
Last week: defeated Western Carolina 48-14
Nobody at this point is rooting harder for Mississippi State than Alabama, considering the win over the Bulldogs is pretty much the entire foundation of their playoff case. Without it, what do they really have? Wins over Texas A&M, LSU, and Florida? At best, they’ll be able to add Auburn to that list of good but hardly great teams. Alabama has played well this year, averaging more than 2 yards per play more than they allow, and Blake Sims has been one of the best surprises in the SEC – as much as an Alabama QB protected by more OL talent than the NFC South has can surprise you. They’re good, but the schedule hasn’t really been an asset aside from MSU. The big question is who would Alabama rather face in Atlanta? With the media squarely on their side, I have to think it’s Missouri; Missouri is significantly less likely to upset the Tide than Georgia, so it would provide smoother sailing for the Tide’s march to the playoffs. If MSU loses the Egg Bowl, however, perhaps Alabama would prefer to play Georgia. It would give them another win with which to wow voters, and at that point, they might need to.
Next up: The Iron Bowl vs. Auburn – Saturday
The Rest of the Top 25
5. Marshall Thundering Herd (11-0)
Last week: defeated UAB 23-18
Finally, Marshall looked human. UAB isn’t a bad team, but they’re not good enough that Marshall should be pleased to escape with a 5 point win. Still, if we’re going to respect FSU’s record, you have to respect Marshall’s (unless you’re on a committee representing the interests of your conference, in which case you can apparently pretend Marshall doesn’t exist). Marshall is undeniably dealing with futility at this point, and futility can send a team in one of two directions. It could cripple them, undermining their motivation, or it could allow them to focus, zeroing in on their next opponent since that’s all that’s really left for them. If the UAB game is any indication, and I’m not sure it is, futility might be crippling Marshall. I suspect we’ll know for sure on Friday, the date I’ve had circled on Marshall’s schedule since mid-October as the one that might trip them up. WKU isn’t a great team, but they’re a dangerous one team capable of playing really well. If futility rules the week in Huntington, WKU can rule the day on Black Friday.
Next up: vs. WKU – Friday
6. Mississippi State Bulldogs (10-1)
Last week: defeated Vanderbilt 51-0
I realize the MSU-Vandy game was overlooked by pretty much everyone, and for good reason I suppose, but the Bulldogs did hand the Commodores their worst loss of the year. Even when it’s Vandy, that sort of thing is notable. MSU really needs Auburn to win the Iron Bowl this weekend. Not only does that preserve Auburn as a 3-win opponent MSU has beaten, which would remain their best win of the year, but an Auburn win, along with a MSU Egg Bowl win, would put MSU into the SEC Championship game. At that point, MSU would have a great chance to play into the playoffs against either Georgia or Missouri. I don’t see MSU getting in without either that SEC championship or a number of wild losses from teams above them. I suppose either is equally possible.
Next up: the Egg Bowl at Ole Miss – Saturday
7. Baylor Bears (9-1)
Last week: defeated Oklahoma State 49-28
Baylor is now tied with Marshall for the most 21+ point wins in the nation this year, with 8 each. Considering Baylor did it in just 10 games, that makes them arguably the most dominant team in the country. So why aren’t they top 4? The loss may have been Baylor beating themselves, but it came to a West Virginia team that has lost 5 other games, and worse, it was by multiple scores. Baylor also suffers a bit because their out of conference schedule was just terrible. I know many will look at the identical records and the head-to-head win and put the Bears over the Frogs, but a more careful look at their results show TCU has the advantage at this point. TCU played (and soundly beat) a team still competing for a Power 5 conference title. TCU has already faced Kansas State, who is either the #2 or #3 team in the conference. Baylor hasn’t. They may have the same record, but Baylor’s schedule has been considerably more favorable so far, and when you consider that their win over TCU was by 3 at home, you realize that more than head-to-head matters here. Still, Baylor can do some work on December 6 against the Wildcats.
Next up: The Texas Shootout vs. Texas Tech in Arlington – Saturday
8. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1)
Last week: defeated Indiana 42-27
The Buckeyes have nice wins over Michigan State, Minnesota, and Cincinnati, but the Virginia Tech loss still looms. The Buckeyes can’t really gain much this weekend, so it will come down to the B1G championship and other title games. Ohio State needs as good an opponent as possible, which means they have to be hoping Wisconsin beats Minnesota, as a rematch against the Gophers won’t turn any heads. It’d be nice if Virginia Tech could maybe at least become bowl eligible this weekend as well. More than anything, they’ll just need some losses from teams ahead of them.
Next up: The Game vs. Michigan – Saturday
9. Michigan State Spartans (9-2)
Last week: defeated Rutgers 45-3
Senior RB Jeremy Langford may be overshadowed by bigger names from the Big Ten, but he’s been excellent this year, with 1297 yards and 17 TD so far. Connor Cook isn’t overshadowed, as he’s getting 1st round hype with regard to next May’s NFL Draft, but he too has excelled with 2789 yards, 23 TD, and 5 INT. MSU needs a lot to happen to get into the playoff discussion, probably more than is possible. It seems like they’re in a great spot right now, but their problem at this point is mobility. Two of the teams they need to lose, Oregon and Ohio State, have already beaten them, so such losses would hurt their own resume as well. They don’t have the chance to impress with another big win; Ohio State has already clinched the East and MSU faces 5-loss Penn State this weekend. They’re a top 10 team without a top 10 chance at the playoffs. Others can jump them or fall behind, but MSU probably isn’t moving much.
Next up: Battle for the Land Grant Trophy @ Penn State – Saturday
10. UCLA Bruins (9-2)
Last week: defeated USC 38-20
UCLA seems to be the team that’s just happening to survive the Pac-12 South because someone had to. With wins over both Arizona schools, UCLA just needs to beat Stanford to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 championship game against Oregon. At that point, they’ll have a shot at redemption, a shot to take down one of the nation’s best teams. Considering their first loss against Oregon was in the Rose Bowl and came by 12 points, I’m not awfully optimistic about their chances of coming out of Eugene with a victory, but for now UCLA has to cling to that possibility. With some big losses from other teams, they have a very outside chance at still making the playoffs.
Next up: vs. Stanford – Friday
11. Arizona Wildcats (9-2)
Last week: defeated Utah 42-10
In a season that has featured close Pac-12 game after close Pac-12 game, Arizona’s dominant 42-10 win over Utah on Saturday was eye-catching. UCLA over Arizona State (62-27) and Oregon over Colorado (44-10, also on Saturday) are the only other conference games this year to be decided by over 30 points. To have done so against a good Utah defense is very impressive. The QB/RB combo of Anu Solomon (3576 yds, 26 TD, 7 INT) and Nick Wilson (1175 yds, 13 TD) have been wildly productive, and no team has arguably a bigger win this year than Arizona’s win over Oregon in Eugene. The Wildcats aren’t eliminated yet; with a win over ASU and a Stanford upset of UCLA, Arizona will head back to Eugene to see if lightning can strike twice. Like other 2-loss teams, they’d need some others to lose, but I think it’s still technically possible.
Next up: The Duel in the Desert vs. Arizona State – Friday
12. Kansas State Wildcats (8-2)
Last week: defeated West Virginia 26-20
Like Michigan State, it doesn’t seem likely that Kansas State can move up into the playoffs, but they still deserve top-15 recognition which they’ve earned to this point. WR Tyler Lockett (71 catches, 1083 yds, 6 TD, 2 PR TD) has been very impressive and is one of the Big XII’s best playmakers. K-State doesn’t really wow you when you watch them, but Bill Snyder’s teams rarely have. They just grind out victories, and fans shouldn’t ignore their ability to do that against teams you probably think they shouldn’t. Kansas State almost certainly won’t make the playoffs, but they could still have a major impact, thanks to a Dec 6 trip to Baylor.
Next up: vs. Kansas – Saturday
13. Colorado State Rams (10-1)
Last week: defeated New Mexico 58-20
After the early September loss to Boise, the Rams weren’t going to really have a shot at the playoffs. They’re ranked highly but will probably drop a bit even if they keep winning. A win over Air Force won’t move the needle too much, and they’ll need a Boise State loss (hurting their own resume) to advance to the MW championship, where they’d play a disappointingly bad team from the West. So at this point, CSU can just focus on the conference title, if it becomes available. I suppose it’s nice to have the burden of playoff contention, even the slimmest of possibilities of it, removed from the picture. The Rams can go 12-1 or 13-1 this year, and if they do the latter, it’ll be more wins in 2014 than they’ve had in any pair of consecutive seasons since 2002-2003. Jim McElwain will be a hot name on the coaching carousel this offseason, and it’s not hard to see why.
Next up: @ Air Force – Friday
14. Georgia Bulldogs (9-2)
Last week: defeated Charleston Southern 55-9
At first glance, I’ve got my Georgia Bulldogs much lower than most. However, UGA hasn’t really accomplished much yet. They’ve beaten Missouri, Clemson, and Auburn, which is nice, but it’s not nice enough to demand a top 10 placement. The reason they’re in the top 10 of polls and the Committee’s rankings on Tuesday is not what they have done but what they could do. The Dawgs, unlike several teams ahead of them in this ranking, are still very much in play for the playoffs. There’s mobility with this schedule. Like any 2-loss team, UGA will need help elsewhere. Some Big XII upsets, a Big Ten title for Minnesota or Wisconsin, maybe even an ACC title for Georgia Tech (gross, do not want, no championship is worth this), etc. But beyond that, UGA can still improve its station in life, and it starts with 9-2 Georgia Tech this weekend. They need a Missouri loss to get them to Atlanta for the SEC title game. The SEC West situation UGA is rooting for needs to be Auburn over Alabama (seriously, what is worth this) and Mississippi State over Ole Miss. This allows UGA to potentially beat MSU on Dec 6 and be a 11-2 SEC champ in a conference with no 1 loss teams. UGA would be the clear #1 SEC team at that point. All of this coming together is highly unlikely, but Georgia could take advantage if it did.
Next up: Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate vs. Georgia Tech – Saturday
15. Oklahoma Sooners (8-3)
Last week: defeated Kansas 44-7
I don’t want to delve into Oklahoma, to tell you the truth. They’re the best 3-loss team in the country, and they’re not making the playoffs. Now we can just get to this:
Next up: BYE
16. Wisconsin Badgers (9-2)
Last weekend: defeated Iowa 26-24
It’s a shame we didn’t have longer to really marvel at Melvin Gordon‘s game from the previous week. Sure, we still can, but it’s no longer the record, so the mystique is gone. Still, we’ll have a chance to marvel at Gordon in general plenty more. His production (1992 yards, 25 TD) will almost certainly have him in New York for the Heisman ceremony, and he might even win the thing. He’s expected to be the first RB drafted in May now that Todd Gurley‘s draft stock is as damaged as his ACL. Wisconsin has nothing but championship games in front of them: the Big Ten West championship this week against Minnesota, and with a win in that, the Big Ten championship against Ohio State on Dec 6.
Next up: The Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe vs. Minnesota – Saturday
17. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9-2)
Last weekend: BYE
Quick – which rivalry game this weekend features two QBs ranked in the top 10 of ESPN’s Total QBR metric? If you happened to read the team heading above this paragraph, you can probably guess the answer: Georgia vs. Georgia Tech. Total QBR, which is based on Expected Points Added, one of my favorite metrics with which I used to work regularly on College Football By The Numbers, is an opponent-adjusted measure of how well you increase your team’s odds of scoring every time you make a play. EPA doesn’t treat all yards as equal – 2 yards on 4th and 1 do much more than 2 yards on 3rd and 10, and EPA adjusts for all that. Without delving in too deeply in this post, just take my word that EPA (and subsequently, Total QBR) is a much better measure of offensive contribution than any other singular statistic. Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas currently ranks 5th nationally in Total QBR, while UGA’s Hutson Mason ranks 8th. The dual-threat Thomas has over 25 EPA passing and 25 EPA rushing (other members of the 25/25 club are Marcus Mariota, JT Barrett, Dak Prescott, and Cody Fajardo). He’s an excellent option QB, and it will be interesting to see how he does against a UGA defense that just dominated an Auburn offense that uses many of the same concepts – options, horizontal running, deep throws. With UNC’s Thursday night win over Duke, Georgia Tech clinched the Coastal Division title. I’m pretty sure Tech has no shot at the playoffs, but with enough upsets, what happens if Tech beats Georgia AND Florida State? They’d have a pretty compelling case. I don’t think enough of those things will happen, but it still bears watching if you’re a Yellow Jacket fan.
Next up: Clean Old-Fashioned Hate @ Georgia – Saturday
18. Clemson Tigers (8-3)
Last week: defeated Georgia State 28-0
Even at 9-2, it kind of feels like a lost season for Clemson. They found a great QB and couldn’t keep him healthy, and the offense as a whole sputtered with Cole Stoudt replacing Deshaun Watson. Even against arguably the worst FBS team in the country, at home, Stoudt managed just a mediocre performance. The QB situation really is a shame, because Clemson has one of the country’s very best defenses. They’ve given up 20 points or more just 3 times in regulation, and one of those times was to the SEC’s best offense, Georgia. They keep winning, and even though it’s not pretty, it’s going to earn them a nice bowl game.
Next up: The Battle of the Palmetto State vs. South Carolina – Saturday
19. Boise State Broncos (9-2)
Last week: defeated Wyoming 63-14
I’ve been saying it for weeks, and it just rings more true each week: it’s same old Boise, even with new HC Bryan Harsin. They get Utah State at home to finish the year, meaning they’ll almost certainly beat Utah State (because Blue Turf) and win the Mountain Division. They’d be even with or ahead of Colorado State if they hadn’t opened the year with a healthy Ole Miss. RB Jay Ajayi is putting up Gordonesque numbers this year: 1941 yards and 23 TD so far. Also worth noting – Boise State leads the country in home stadiums mistaken for water by geese.
Next up: vs. Utah State – Saturday
20. Auburn Tigers (8-3)
Last week: defeated Samford 31-7
The season so far has to qualify as a disappointment. Auburn has no shot at the playoffs, no shot at the SEC title. I suppose this makes them dangerous heading into the Iron Bowl, but Auburn tends to play its best when their personal stakes are high. I wouldn’t expect a win this weekend, but it would be no less strange than Auburn’s entire 2013 season. And remember, Auburn is 7-2 in Bryant-Denny Stadium. By the way, with Auburn’s elimination from the SEC race, this means that once again the SEC will have a non-repeat champion, their 16th straight. Tennessee remains the last back to back SEC champ, way back in 1997 and 1998.
Next up: Iron Bowl @ Alabama – Saturday
21. Ole Miss Rebels (8-3)
Last week: lost to Arkansas 30-0
One month ago today, Ole Miss was 7-0. It’s been a harsh 30 days, and that even included a bye! Still, I should find some nice things to say about Ole Miss. CB Senquez Golson has 9 interceptions and should be a front-runner for the Thorpe Award, as well as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Injuries have taken their toll on the Rebels, and so has the crunch-time decision making of Bo Wallace. Even if 2014 has effectively fallen apart, there’s a lot to build on here for next season. But first, they have the chance to ruin their biggest rival’s playoff chances.
Next up: The Egg Bowl vs. Mississippi State – Saturday
22. Arizona State Sun Devils (9-2)
Last week: defeated Washington State 52-31
The loss to Oregon State killed their playoff chances, but they still have the chance to wreck a few seasons. First is Arizona this weekend. If ASU and Stanford both win this weekend, they can add Oregon to the list. Competing for the Pac-12 will have to be enough at this point. RB D.J. Foster is one of the Pac-12’s best offensive players, with 1554 yards 12 TD so far this year.
Next up: The Duel in the Desert @ Arizona – Friday
23. Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-3)
Last week: lost to Minnesota 28-24
A few weeks ago Nebraska was in my top 10, and even at the time I noted it was their schedule that got them there. They had played next to no one, and had whipped those no ones. Then they started losing to good teams. What had worked for them now works against them. Nebraska can’t rise above its losses because it hasn’t beaten a single team with less than 5 losses. Not even Marshall or Baylor can say that.
Next up: @ Iowa – Friday
24. Missouri Tigers (9-2)
Last week: defeated Tennessee 29-21
With a win over Arkansas, Missouri will clinch the SEC East title. It will end Georgia’s playoff hopes, and then gives Missouri a shot to end someone else’s playoff hopes. So why doesn’t Missouri have playoff hopes? They were whipped by Georgia (34-0) and they lost to Indiana, which is basically like losing to Vanderbilt. Also, Missouri has underwhelmed even in many of their wins – outscoring SEC opponents by just 4 points per game. The Tigers have a good defense and an occasionally good offense, so never count them out.
Next up: vs. Arkansas – Saturday
25. Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-3)
Last week: defeated Nebraska 28-24
It’s Thanksgiving week and Minnesota is just one win away from the Big Ten Championship Game. Jerry Kill, coach of the year?
Next up: The Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe @ Wisconsin – Saturday
26. Louisville Cardinals (8-3)
27. Memphis Tigers (8-3)
28. LSU Tigers (7-4)
29. Texas A&M Aggies (7-4)
30. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-4)
31. Arkansas Razorbacks (6-5)
32. Utah State Aggies (9-3)
33. USC Trojans (7-4)
34. Georgia Southern Eagles (8-3)
35. Cincinnati Bearcats (7-3)
36. Northern Illinois Huskies (9-2)
37. Florida Gators (6-4)
38. West Virginia Mountaineers (6-5)
39. Utah Utes (7-4)
40. Maryland Terrapins (7-4)
41. East Carolina Pirates (7-3)
42. UCF Knights (7-3)
43. Duke Blue Devils (8-3)
44. Texas Longhorns (6-5)
45. Boston College Eagles (6-5)
46. Washington Huskies (7-5)
47. Rice Owls (7-4)
48. Miami Hurricanes (6-5)
49. Stanford Cardinal (6-5)
50. BYU Cougars (7-4)
51. Air Force Falcons (8-3)
52. Nevada Wolf Pack (6-5)
53. Western Michigan Broncos (8-3)
54. Iowa Hawkeyes (7-4)
55. Toledo Rockets (7-4)
56. Virginia Cavaliers (5-6)
57. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-5)
58. NC State Wolfpack (6-5)
59. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (7-4)
60. South Carolina Gamecocks (6-5)
61. Tennessee Volunteers (5-6)
62. Bowling Green Falcons (7-4)
63. Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-6)
64. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (7-4)
65. Houston Cougars (6-4)
66. Penn State Nittany Lions (6-5)
67. Temple Owls (5-5)
68. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-5)
69. Northwestern Wildcats (5-6)
70. California Golden Bears (5-6)
71. Navy Midshipmen (5-5)
72. Virginia Tech Hokies (5-6)
73. Kentucky Wildcats (5-6)
74. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (6-5)
75. Michigan Wolverines (5-6)
76. South Alabama Jaguars (6-5)
77. UTEP Miners (6-5)
78. Texas State Bobcats (6-5)
79. Pittsburgh Panthers (5-6)
80. WKU Hilltoppers (6-5)
81. San Diego State Aztecs (6-5)
82. Arkansas State Red Wolves (6-5)
83. Ohio Bobcats (5-6)
84. Appalachian State Mountaineers (6-5)
85. Illinois Fighting Illini (5-6)
86. UAB Blazers (5-6)
87. Central Michigan Chippewas (7-5)
88. Oregon State Beavers (5-6)
89. Akron Zips (5-6)
90. Old Dominion Monarchs (5-6)
91. Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-7)
92. Buffalo Bulls (4-6)
93. Syracuse Orange (3-8)
94. Fresno State Bulldogs (5-6)
95. USF Bulls (4-7)
96. Wyoming Cowboys (4-7)
97. Indiana Hoosiers (3-8)
98. Washington State Cougars (3-8)
99. ULM Warhawks (4-7)
100. Purdue Boilermakers (3-8)
101. New Mexico Lobos (3-8)
102. Kansas Jayhawks (3-8)
103. Colorado Buffaloes (2-9)
104. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (3-8)
105. Ball State Cardinals (4-7)
106. Vanderbilt Commodores (3-8)
107. Iowa State Cyclones (2-8)
108. Tulane Green Wave (3-8)
109. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-8)
110. FIU Golden Panthers (4-8)
111. Army Black Knights (4-7)
112. Florida Atlantic Owls (3-8)
113. Miami (OH) Redhawks (2-9)
114. San Jose State Spartans (3-8)
115. Troy Trojans (3-8)
116. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (4-8)
117. North Texas Mean Green (4-7)
118. Massachusetts Minutemen (3-8)
119. Connecticut Huskies (2-8)
120. UTSA Roadrunners (3-8)
121. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (2-9)
122. Kent State Golden Flashes (1-9)
123. SMU Mustangs (0-10)
124. Eastern Michigan (2-9)
125. Idaho Vandals (1-9)
126. New Mexico State Aggies (2-9)
127. Georgia State Panthers (1-10)
128. UNLV Rebels (1-10)
Closing song this week is dedicated to UNLV coach Bobby Hauck: