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2012 College Football Rankings: Week 14 BCS, AP and USA Today Polls

When Alabama, Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame were all unbeaten a few weeks ago, there is a reason why the Fighting Irish ranked fourth amongst that group. All wins are not created equally. Even though each of the aforementioned squads had remained unbeaten ten weeks into the year, the manner in which they did it mattered. In the current BCS system, style is as important as substance.

Alabama was from the nation’s best conference. Kansas State and Oregon both boasted high octane, attention-grabbing offenses. And Notre Dame…well, it was just Notre Dame. Even now, after everything that has happened, this team is hardly popping off the page. Currently, the Fighting Irish rank 78th in passing yards, 27th in rushing yards, and 76th in points scored. Not exactly amazing totals. So long as there were flashier teams with “better résumés” ahead of them, there was no feasible way for this group to claw their way to the top of the rankings.

But then Alabama fell to Texas A&M. And then Kansas State fell to Baylor. And then Oregon fell to Stanford. Just like that, all of the obstacles that had been in Notre Dame’s way vanished. This wasn’t because the Fighting Irish are a team of destiny or something nonsensical like that. Similarly, it wasn’t because any of those other teams were bad. No, the reason those teams faded is because going unbeaten is hard. That sounds like a simplistic explanation – but it’s just reality. Going undefeated is hard. Winning game after game, at home and on the road, with everyone giving you their best shot, is hard.

Notre Dame managed to do that. This past Saturday, thanks in large part to a goal line stand for the ages, the Fighting Irish beat USC 22-13. It didn’t come as easy as a win against a team without its starting quarterback and with as many deficiencies as Southern Cal has should have come, but in the end all that matters is results.

All Notre Dame needed to do was win.

The Fighting Irish will now play in the BCS National Championship game. The question is: who will their opponent be? Before this weekend began Florida hoped that a victory over Florida State and a USC upset would earn them a title game berth. The Gators did their part (they beat the Seminoles 37-26 in Tallahassee); the Trojans -- once again -- failed. Despite the fact that that Will Muschamp’s group may actually be just as good as Alabama this year, Notre Dame’s foe will ultimately be the winner of next week’s SEC title game. Could Georgia upset the Crimson Tide? Absolutely. Nick Saban’s squad is not infallible. That said, with everything on the line, it’s hard to bet on Mark Richt over Saban.

In other championship game news, Stanford earned its spot in next Friday’s Pac-12 title game with a dominating 35-17 victory over UCLA. Who will the Cardinal play in that outing? UCLA. Despite their loss, the Bruins are the Pac-12 South’s representatives. Unlike with Alabama and Georgia, this game isn’t a toss-up. Much as was the case this weekend, UCLA won’t stop Stanford’s ridiculous running game. The latter squad actually boasts a statistically worse rushing attack for the season than the team they beat this weekend, however, they can stop potent opposing rushing attacks – UCLA cannot. The Bruins were outrushed in each of their losses this year. Barring completely insane performances from Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin -- and maybe not even then -- Stepfan Taylor and Co. had the conference championship in the bag.

Over in the Big Ten, Ohio State beat Michigan 26-21 on Saturday. The undefeated Buckeyes are the rightful Leaders Division champs this year no matter what, but they won’t get a chance to play for the conference title because they are bowl ineligible. Same goes for Penn State, who is ranked second in the Leaders Division. That means Wisconsin, with a 4-4 conference record in the embarrassingly weak Big Ten, will be the squad who takes on Nebraska for the championship. The only reason to watch this game is to see Montee Ball do work. That’s it. No matter who wins on Saturday, everyone knows that the teams who should be competing for the Big Ten title this year won’t be doing so. You can’t crown a legitimate champ if you don’t let the finalists compete.

Finally, as we head into the weekend that will decide which two teams compete for a BCS National Championship , keep this in mind: Ohio State does not belong in the discussion. The Buckeyes don’t deserve a share of the title, no matter what. Not because of some ridiculous ineligibility ruling over tattoos, but because they are not good enough. The Big Ten was terrible this year, and signature wins over Nebraska, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State are not better than what Alabama, Georgia, Florida and maybe even Oregon bring to the table. Ohio State is getting a raw deal because Urban Meyer put on a coaching tutorial this year and deserves a chance to take home the conference title that his team would undoubtedly win – not because the Buckeyes have any claim whatsoever to being the country’s top team.

With that in mind, here is how this week’s rankings look:


1. Notre Dame

2. Alabama

3. Georgia

4. Florida

5. Oregon

6. Kansas State

7. LSU

8. Stanford

9. Texas A&M

10. South Carolina

11. Oklahoma

12. Nebraska

13. Florida State

14. Clemson

15. Oregon State

16. UCLA

17. Kent State

18. Texas

19. Michigan

20. Boise State

21. Northern Illinois

22. Northwestern

23. Oklahoma State

24. Utah State

25. San Jose State


1. Notre Dame

2. Alabama

3. Georgia

4. Ohio State

5. Florida

6. Oregon

7. Kansas State

8. Stanford

9. LSU

10. Texas A&M

11. South Carolina

12. Oklahoma

13. Florida State

14. Nebraska

15. Clemson

16. Oregon State

17. UCLA

18. Kent State

19. North Illinois

20. Utah State

21. Michigan

22. Northwestern

23. Texas

24. Oklahoma State

25. Boise State

USA Today

1. Notre Dame

2. Alabama

3. Georgia

4. Oregon

5. Florida

6. LSU

7. Kansas State

8. Texas A&M

9. Stanford

10. South Carolina

11. Oklahoma

12. Florida State

13. Nebraska

14. Clemson

15. Boise State

16. UCLA

17. Oregon State

18. Northern Illinois

19. Kent State

20. Northwestern

21. Texas

22. Utah State

23. Louisville

24. Michigan

25. Rutgers

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