Sports

2012 College Football Rankings: Week 13 BCS, AP and USA Today Polls

| by Alex Groberman

Heading into Saturday there was a lot of trepidation about which two teams would ultimately play in the BCS National Championship Game. Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame all had legitimate reasons to believe that they belonged in the outing, and each would have had equally legitimate reasons to be upset when and if they didn’t get their title shot. The only thing that could avert a seemingly inevitable crisis, really, was one of the three losing, and thus clearing the path for a controversy-free top two atop the polls. 

That’s sort of what ended up happening this weekend. Only instead of one of the Big Three suffering a defeat, two decided to choke away their claims to a National Championship. Kansas State and Oregon, the Nos. 1 and 2 ranked teams in the nation, lost to Baylor and Stanford, respectively.

Let’s start with the last game first. About a month ago, there were two popular theories on how Oregon might ultimately fall. The first one was this: USC’s style of play was supposedly ideally suited to compete with that of the Ducks’ and, thus, the Trojans would be the ones to knock Chip Kelly and Co. off their pedestal. (This was before people came to terms with how truly awful USC is this year.) The second theory, a far more reasonable one in retrospect, noted that Stanford’s style of play -- because it was so different from Oregon’s -- was the perfect way to counter Oregon’s high-octane offense. (Mind you, this was before the Colorado game, and before anyone really knew what Kevin Hogan could bring to the table.)

Obviously the latter theory proved to be true. Hogan (211 yards, one touchdown, one interception) did just enough to outduel Marcus Mariota (207 yards, one touchdown, one interception), and the highly-touted Oregon ground game (198 total yards) got outperformed by Stanford’s rushing attack (200 total yards). With the whole world watching, Stepfan Taylor (who is not a Heisman candidate) racked up 161 yards on 4.9 yards per carry; Kenjon Barner (who is -- or was -- a Heisman candidate) racked up 66 yards on 3.1 yards per carry. Bottom line: Stanford was the better team on Saturday night. They were sufficiently motivated, looking to make a statement, and hungry to earn a big win.

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My tweet before the game:

Stanford can kill Oregon's title bid, Kenjon Barner's Heisman hopes and Chip Kelly's NFL value with one win. Solid motivation.

— Alex Groberman (@agroberman) November 18, 2012

Oregon, despite the fact that the Pac-12 is unquestionably the second best conference in the nation right now, doesn’t deserve a title shot.

While the Ducks falling was mildly surprising just because everyone had them penciled in as one of the nation’s two best teams, them losing to Stanford isn’t that crazy. Similarly, Kansas State falling to Baylor isn’t that unbelievable. The Wildcats hadn’t looked particularly impressive against TCU one week earlier; the Bears had proven they could score on just about anyone (except, weirdly, TCU). What was truly shocking about the outcome of this outing was the way that Kansas State fell. It was never even close. Baylor took control in the first quarter, and then they never relinquished that control.

Collin Klein, the Heisman favorite by default, offered up a pedestrian showing (286 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions) and gave his running game practically nothing to work with. When it was all said and done, Baylor had 342 yards on the ground as compared to K-State’s 76. Top to bottom, start to finish, the Wildcats were just outclassed in every possible way. From coaching to on-the-field execution, they didn’t look like the nation’s best team. Much like Oregon, they made it abundantly clear that while they’re clearly a solid team (although, unlike Oregon, their conference is nothing to write home about), they are definitely not a team worthy of playing for a championship.

Which brings us to Notre Dame. Once again, the Fighting Irish quietly locked up yet another win on Saturday with relatively little fanfare. Is a 38-0 victory over a Wake Forest group that got a 52-0 shellacking from Florida State at one point a huge signature win? No. But it’s a win. And at this point in the season, when you’re undefeated and vying for a berth in the National Championship Game, a win is a win. The Fighting Irish will head into Southern California next week as the country’s top team  and -- with Matt Barkley out -- a road favorite. The Trojans don’t have what it takes to compete with this Notre Dame defense so, barring something totally inexplicable happening, Brian Kelly’s squad will leave town as one of the two teams slated to play for a title.

The question then becomes: who will they play? As of this moment, Alabama would appear to be the logical choice. Despite the Texas A&M loss, being the top team in the nation’s best conference should be enough to make the Crimson Tide the best one-loss group around. They will trounce Auburn next week just like they destroyed Western Carolina this week (49-0); the question is, can Nick Saban’s boys hold off Georgia in the SEC title game? Georgia’s propensity for collapsing when it matters most would indicate that the answer to that question is yes. However, Alabama has had three legitimate SEC tests this year. In the first, they beat Mississippi State by 31 points. In the second, they barely squeaked by LSU (admittedly, on the road) by four. And in the final, against Johnny Football, they fell (at home) by five. Alabama should beat Georgia and should end up in the National Championship Game. Is it a lock, though? Nope.

If Notre Dame or Alabama fall before season’s end, Florida’s showdown with Florida State next week could ultimately decide who plays the nation’s top team for a title.

In other SEC news: LSU almost choked away a game most figured they would win handily to Ole Miss. In the end, though, Hugh Freeze and his boys decided to give the game right back to LSU in hilarious fashion. Similarly, South Carolina looked inexplicably terrible against Wofford. Had it not been for a timely fourth quarter push, the Gamecocks might have ended this year on a really embarrassing note. Vanderbilt destroyed Tennessee on Saturday night, so the powers that be finally decided to put Derek Dooley out of his misery. Texas A&M beat Sam Houston by 19, however, at this point, there is really no scenario that puts the Aggies in the National Championship race.

Over in the Big Ten, Ohio State beat Wisconsin 21-14 in the most interesting early game of the day. Ground game and defense is what this one ultimately came down to, and while Montee Ball put up the more impressive stats (191 yards, one touchdown), Carlos Hyde (87 yards, two touchdowns) was the one who made all of the clutch plays necessary to secure victory for his squad. Despite the loss, Wisconsin will play Nebraska (who beat Minnesota this week 38-14) for the Big Ten Title because the two teams ahead of them (Ohio State and Penn State) are bowl ineligible. By the way, Penn State won again this weekend. Just saying.

In the Pac-12, Oregon State absolutely crushed Cal 62-14. It’s hard to envision the Beavers beating Oregon next week, however, stranger things have happened. One word of caution: don’t try to apply the “they almost beat Stanford, who beat Oregon...” line of thinking to this game. It just doesn’t work. Completely different styles, completely different situation. Again, the upset could happen – but it won’t have anything to do with how each team performed versus Stanford.  

Finally, on the USC-UCLA front, there is really no point in even breaking the game down. We all saw it coming. Lane Kiffin is terrible. USC’s year is done. This wasn’t a good hire, and the faster everyone owns up to that and does what will inevitably be done no matter what, the faster all involved can move on.

Rather than delving into just how bad Kiffin is and how done the Trojans are with him at the helm, I’ll just let my gametime tweets do the talking for me:

Matt Barkley should sue Lane Kiffin.

— Alex Groberman (@agroberman) November 17, 2012

USC should be allowed to deflate as many footballs as they want to at halftime.

— Alex Groberman (@agroberman) November 17, 2012

The student manager who runs USC's defense should definitely be fired.

— Alex Groberman (@agroberman) November 17, 2012

The USC drum major should stick a fork in Lane Kiffin's career.

— Alex Groberman (@agroberman) November 17, 2012

Those tweets sum up my feelings entirely. Pat Haden says Kiffin isn’t going anywhere this year. Okay. Check back next week when a Matt Barkley-less Trojans group catches a beating from Notre Dame. Being a great recruiter is fantastic, but being a good head coach means actually being able to harness the talent of those recruits. Over many years and many jobs, Kiffin has proven that he is incapable of doing that. Hopefully his run of failing up is officially over.

With all of that in mind, here are this week’s rankings:

BCS

1. Notre Dame

2. Alabama

3. Georgia

4. Florida

5. Oregon

6. Kansas State

7. LSU

8. Stanford

9. Texas A&M

10. Florida State

11. Clemson

12. South Carolina

13. Oklahoma

14. Nebraska

15. Oregon State

16. Texas

17. UCLA

18. Rutgers

19. Michigan

20. Louisville

21. Oklahoma State

22. Boise State

23. Kent State

24. Arizona

25. Washington

AP

1. Notre Dame

2. Alabama

3. Georgia

4. Ohio State

5. Oregon

6. Florida

7. Kansas State

8. LSU

9. Texas A&M

10. Florida State

11. Stanford

12. Clemson

13. South Carolina

14. Oklahoma

15. UCLA

16. Oregon State

17. Nebraska

18. Texas

19. Louisville

20. Michigan

21. Rutgers

22. Oklahoma State

23. Kent State

24. Northern Illinois

25. Mississippi State

25. Utah State

USA Today

1. Notre Dame

2. Alabama

3. Georgia

4. Oregon

5. Florida State

6. Florida

7. LSU

8. Kansas State

9. Clemson

10. Texas A&M

11. Stanford

12. South Carolina

13. Oklahoma

14. Nebraska

15. Texas

16. UCLA

17. Oregon State

18. Louisville

19. Rutgers

20. Michigan

21. Oklahoma State

22. Boise State

23. Northern Illinois

24. Mississippi State

25. Kent State

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