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2012 College Football Rankings: Week 12 BCS, AP and USA Today Polls

| by Alex Groberman

Heading into this Saturday, everyone had a rough idea of how Alabama versus Texas A&M would go. Inevitably, Johnny Manziel would lead the Aggies to an early lead. The home crowd would get nervous and the announcers would get excited. But then, just like LSU had three weeks earlier, Nick Saban’s bunch would claw their way back in and ultimately overpower a Texas A&M team that wasn’t ready to play at this level.

At the half, this outing looked like it was holding to script. Texas A&M had scored 20 points in the first quarter (which, admittedly, was probably more than anyone forecasted), and Alabama went on to score 14 in the second. More important than that, though, the Crimson Tide shut Manziel and the Aggies out in that second quarter. When the same thing happened in the third quarter, all of the naysayers (read: yours truly) were sure that this game was over. Alabama down by only three, at home, with Saban at the controls? No way Texas A&M could pull it out. It would be a tough feat at home; in Tuscaloosa? No. Way.

As it turns out: yes way.

Manziel was masterful in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M made all of the plays it needed to make, on both ends. And ultimately, A.J. McCarron, last week’s unsung hero, couldn’t duplicate his magic on this go-round. His interception on Alabama’s final drive sealed the game and, in all likelihood, the Crimson Tide’s hopes of defending their National Title.

At the end of the day, two things did this Alabama team in on Saturday: 1.) McCarron’s inability to come through with the game on the line and 2.) a lack of defensive playmakers.

The latter was a point that the announcers made during the game, but it bears repeating: Alabama has a fantastic team defense this year, but it doesn’t have any individual playmakers on that side. It doesn’t have those one or two defensive mismatches that you have to account for.

As far as McCarron: he was the key to this team’s success all season long, so it would make sense that he also proved to be the key to their downfall. What set this Crimson Tide squad apart from prior ones was the fact that, on top of being really good defensively, they were also surprisingly good offensively. Them being so complete was supposed to take them to the promise land. McCarron didn’t need to match Manziel touchdown for touchdown, play for play. His team was in this one, despite his two picks. (Yes, the first one was still his fault. When you throw into a crowd, you understand the risks.) He just needed to limit his mistakes and produce a little bit more. He couldn’t. And because he and the offense sputtered, the entire team paid the price.

On a broader scale, Ty Duffy over at The Big Lead put this win in perspective quite nicely. Via his piece:

This is “the SEC,” the baddest damn conference in the land. Texas A&M just joined with a mediocre track record. The Aggies just knocked off the conference’s best team on the road and did it by raising the tempo and running the freaking Air Raid (paging Sonny Dykes). This discredits the entire Gospel According to Nick. SEC coaches, fans and pundits will whine about how this is cheap, gimmicky, unfair and not “football.” They will sound just like the Big Ten did about ten years ago.

Outside of Alabama-Texas A&M, nothing all that exciting happened in the SEC. Georgia destroyed Auburn 38-0, locking up a berth in the SEC Title Game. Florida nearly lost to Louisiana-Lafayette, but ultimately pulled out a flukey 27-20 victory. South Carolina half-heartedly dispatched Arkansas 38-20. LSU, in similarly lackluster fashion, woke up in the second quarter and beat Mississippi State by 20. Derek Dooley embarrassed himself once again, this time in a four overtime 51-48 loss to Missouri.

In the Big Ten, Wisconsin secured its place in the title game with a 62-14 win over Indiana. Because it’s Indiana, and because of how disappointing the Badgers have been this year, it’s hard to take much away from the blowout. Yes Montee Ball and James White combined for 359 yards and five touchdowns. Yes, Wisconsin earned the dubious honor of being the best non-Ohio State team in the Leaders Division. But man – they should have been so much more this year. The Big Ten was wide open. The Badgers should not have had to stumble into the championship game thanks to everyone else’s ineptness. It is what it is, though.

Meanwhile, in the Legends Division, Nebraska got a 32-23 win over Penn State handed to them by the officials. Unless they trip up against Minnesota or Iowa, the Huskers appear to have a championship game berth locked up. The only other moderately interesting outing in the Big Ten this week was Northwestern versus Michigan, which the latter squad won by the skin of their teeth in overtime.

Outside of Kansas State, as has been the case practically all year, the Big 12 was unwatchable this weekend. Even the Jayhawks' game kind of sucked, really. TCU was never in it (ultimately lost 23-10), and no matter how much everyone tries to convince themselves otherwise, Collin Klein isn’t a legitimate Heisman candidate (145 yards and a pick through the air; 50 yards and two touchdowns on the ground). He might still win the award, obviously, but it will be moreso because of how bad the field is this year than because he truly deserves it. Oklahoma beat Baylor 32-24, much to the relief of all the teams propping up their bowl game résumés with their victories over the Sooners. Texas Tech squeaked one out over Kansas after two overtimes, 41-34. Texas beat Iowa State 33-7, too. The Longhorns have now won four straight since that embarrassing midseason run, in case anyone cares.

In the Pac-12, USC tried its very best to choke away a game versus Arizona State on Saturday, but ultimately Lane Kiffin proved that he wasn’t even competent enough to pull that feat off. The Trojans prevailed 38-17, thanks to 24 second half points. The only takeaways anyone should have from this outing: Marqise Lee is the best wide receiver in college football and should be in the Heisman discussion (161 yards, 1 touchdown); Matt Barkley is not worth a top 20 pick in this year’s draft (222 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions); Kiffin is terrible. On the non-USC front, Oregon beat Cal 59-17 and Stanford beat Oregon State 27-23. UCLA beat Washington State 44-36, too, making the Bruins’ already interesting showdown next week versus USC all the more intriguing.

On the Notre Dame front: they won. Beating a terrible Boston College in pretty convincing fashion 21-6 is great, but it won’t change anyone’s mind about this squad being behind Oregon and Kansas State. The Fighting Irish don’t really control their destiny right now. In order to compete for a National Title, they need one of the two teams above them to stumble – plain and simple.

Finally, let’s conclude this week with two examples of how coaches should not conduct themselves. The first comes courtesy of Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville, and the second comes courtesy of Washington State coach Mike Leach. In the case of the latter, specifically, it could come out that he is being wrongfully accused. But the reason the accusations have any merit is because it’s not the first time we’re hearing them. When you get accused of similar stuff twice – that’s a problem.

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

AP

1. Oregon

2. Kansas State

3. Notre Dame

4. Alabama

5. Georgia

6. Ohio State

7. Florida

8. LSU

9. Texas A&M

10. Florida State

11. Clemson

12. South Carolina

13. Oklahoma

14. Stanford

15. Oregon State

16. Nebraska

17. UCLA

18. Texas

19. Louisiana Tech

20. Louisville

21. USC

22. Rutgers

23. Michigan

24. Texas Tech

25. Kent State

USA Today                                                                                 

1. Oregon

2. Kansas State

3. Notre Dame

4. Georgia

5. Alabama

6. Florida State

7. Florida

8. LSU

9. Clemson

10. Texas A&M

11. South Carolina

12. Oklahoma

13. Stanford

14. Nebraska

15. Texas

16. UCLA

17. Oregon State

18. Louisville

19. Louisiana Tech

20. Rutgers

21. USC

22. Boise State

23. Michigan

24. Oklahoma State

25. Texas Tech

BCS

1. Kansas State

2. Oregon

3. Notre Dame

4. Alabama

5. Georgia

6. Florida

7. LSU

8. Texas A&M

9. South Carolina

10. Florida State

11. Clemson

12. Oklahoma

13. Stanford

14. Nebraska

15. Texas

16. Oregon State

17. UCLA

18. USC

19. Louisville

20. Louisiana Tech

21. Michigan

22. Rutgers

23. Texas Tech

24. Oklahoma State

25. Washington

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