2008 NCAA College Football Top 25: Top 25 After Week #12
I have a new rule: No ACC team gets ranked in the top 20 until we have decided who is playing in the ACC Title Game. After being sure that Florida State and North Carolina were the class of the conference, both went out and lost, leaving Maryland and Miami the leaders for the ACC Title Game. However, the way that this season is going, both will lose this week and then we’ll have 6-8 teams with 3 conference losses and tiebreakers galore to sort out.
Drama continued in the Pac Ten and Big Ten this weekend as well. Oregon State continues to be a thorn in USC’s side as the Beavers are now only two wins away from winning the conference title and a trip to the Rose Bowl after defeating Cal this weekend. Despite USC’s top ten ranking and 9-1 record, the Trojans could find themselves on the outside looking in at the Rose Bowl for the first time in seven years, though an 11-1 USC team is all but assured of a BCS bid somewhere. Meanwhile, the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl berth will be decided this weekend, as top fifteen foes Michigan State and Penn State meet in Happy Valley. A Penn State victory over the Spartans will give the Nittany Lions a trip to Pasadena. However, should the Spartans pull off the upset, Ohio State would only need to knock off 3-8 archrival Michigan for their first Rose Bowl berth in a decade.
In other leagues that are a little bit easier to figure out, Missouri clinched the Big XII North Title with a 52-20 win at Iowa State. This was expected and the Tigers will now await the winner of the ever tumultuous Big XII South. Similarly, the SEC is already set, with Florida and Alabama continuing to take care of business leading up to their matchup in Atlanta for the conference title. Finally, the Big East could be clinched this upcoming weekend, as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh clash. A Bearcat win would almost certainly mean a conference title with only Syracuse remaining while a Pitt win could mean that the Big East race will become as confusing as the ACC race. Another interesting factoid about this past weekend was that no team in my top 12 lost, the first time that has happened since the third week of the season.
Without further ado, here are my rankings going into a very exciting weekend which will probably decide a couple of conference races…
THE NATIONAL TITLE SHORT LIST
#1) Texas Tech Red Raiders (10-0, #1 Last Week)
Texas Tech had the week off before their massive showdown against Oklahoma. For the Red Raiders, it wouldn’t be too presumptuous to say that if they win this game, odds are that they’ll be playing for the National Title. If their defense plays like it has the past three weeks, the Red Raiders have a very good chance of beating the Sooners, who will be favored at home. The big question for Mike Leach’s bunch is whether they can protect Graham Harrell long enough to give him time to throw against Oklahoma’s strong defensive front.
Week 13: Saturday, 8:00 PM EST at #5 Oklahoma
#2) Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0, #2)
Alabama fought off the demons of the last two years and planted Mississippi State 32-7. Now that is done with, the Crimson Tide gets a week off before trying to win their first Iron Bowl in 6 years. In a rivalry that heated, don’t you think that Alabama fans are just itching to beat the Tigers? In a year where Nick Saban has used past failures as motivation perfectly, he’ll have plenty of video to cue up to get his players focused.
Week 13: Off Week (Versus Auburn Week 14)
IN THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION
#3) Florida Gators (9-1, #3)
Florida is just killing teams. It sound redundant at this point but Florida absolutely embarrassed South Carolina 56-6. Granted, this game was the answer to the age old question of “What happens when a team that can’t stop tripping over its own feet runs into the hottest team in America?” but Florida still was very impressive. Simply put, Florida is #3 right now because of their loss to Ole Miss but I would have to favor them heavily over Alabama in the SEC Title Game if both win out to get there.
Week 13: Saturday, 1:30 PM EST versus The Citadel
#4) Texas Longhorns (10-1, #4)
Texas continued their strong play this weekend, traveling to Kansas and beating the Jayhawks 35-7. Texas has the misfortune of meeting the Jayhawks so late in the season after Big XII South rivals Texas Tech and Oklahoma claimed wins earlier this season over the Jayhawks while they were ranked. It must be said that Texas’ feat of shutting down that explosive Jayhawk offense makes this the most impressive victory of the three. Texas has to root like heck for the Sooners this weekend if they want to have a shot at winning the Big XII or the National Title.
Week 13: Saturday, Off Week (Versus Texas A&M Week 14)
#5) Oklahoma Sooners (9-1, #5)
Oklahoma’s season is going to be defined by this weekend’s game against Texas Tech. If the Sooners win and then knock of rival Oklahoma State in the Bedlam game a week later, the Sooners have a very strong case to win the Big XII South. In a three way tie, the Big XII South has the BCS Standings as the tiebreaker and the Sooners probably have the most impressive resume. If you’re an Oklahoma fan, you need to also root heavily for Cincinnati this weekend; If the Bearcats, who the Sooners beat in September, win the Big East it will only help Oklahoma’s cause in the polls.
Week 13: Saturday, 8:00 PM EST versus #1 Texas Tech
#6) Penn State Nittany Lions (10-1, #6)
Penn State took a half to wake up against Indiana after their National Title dream ended, but when they woke up they turned on the jets to the tune of 24-0 in the second half en route to a 34-7 pasting of the Hoosiers. Penn State is now one game away from their first Rose Bowl since 1994. However, standing in their way is a very tough Michigan State team with Big Ten Title hopes of their own. The Battle for the Land Grant Trophy should be a great game.
Week 13: Saturday, 3:40 PM EST versus #12 Michigan State
#7) Southern California Trojans (9-1, #7)
Southern Cal had a fight on their hands this weekend at Stanford. The Cardinal came out and smacked USC in the mouth and the game was tied at 17 at halftime. In fact, USC was dominated in almost every facet of the game in the first half, save special teams which led directly to 10 of USC’s first half points. USC turned it on in the fourth quarter, scoring three times to win 45-23 and now has to root for Oregon State to lose if they want to retain their Rose Bowl hopes. You can bet that USC’s players will be watching Saturday’s OSU-Arizona game VERY closely.
Week 13: Off Week (Versus Notre Dame Week 14)
OUTSIDE THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION BUT DANGEROUS
#8) Ohio State Buckeyes (9-2, #8)
Ohio State avenged their only regular season loss last season by going into Champaign and dealing Illinois’ bowl hopes a crippling blow. Ohio State dominated on the ground and didn’t allow Illinois to score in the second half until there was less than a minute remaining en route to a 30-20 victory. Ohio State ran all over Illinois and now Ohio State can concentrate on the least interesting Michigan game in decades. Despite their archrival’s 3-8 record, you can be absolutely assured that Ohio State’s senior class, who has never lost to the Wolverines, will be completely focused on bagging the Buckeyes’ 5 th consecutive win over their hated rivals. Michigan fans want to talk about the 1969 Michigan team which knocked off an undefeated Ohio State team in Bo Schembechler’s first season but this weekend’s outcome is much more likely to turn out like the 1968 game in which Ohio State won 50-14. Rich Rodriguez, after all, is no Bo Schembechler and Jim Tressel shouldn’t hesitate to run the score up if he gets the chance.
Week 13: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST versus Michigan
#9) Utah Utes (11-0, #9)
Utah didn’t seem to be looking ahead one of the biggest games in their school’s history as they went to San Diego and blew out SDSU 63-14. Finally, after a season of discussion, the Holy War is here. If the Utes win at home and break a two year losing skid, Utah is a lock to be the guaranteed non- BCS conference team in the BCS this season, with the Fiesta Bowl as a likely destination. The original BCS busters look to be the first non- BCS team to go to two BCS bowls and will have to contain BYU’s explosive offensive attack to do so. Expect a great football game between the hated rivals.
Week 13: Saturday, 6:00 PM EST versus #25 BYU
#10) Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-2, #10)
Oklahoma State was a little underwhelming in victory as they traveled to Colorado and defeated the Buffaloes 30-17. However, it was a solid rebound by the Cowboys coming off of a very disappointing showing in Lubbock last week. Oklahoma State now has the luxury of a week off before playing the Bedlam Game while Oklahoma has to play a huge game against Texas Tech. The Cowboys will definitely have the advantage of healing up injuries and resting before facing their most hated rival.
Week 13: Off Week (Versus #5 Oklahoma Week 14)
#11) Missouri Tigers (9-2, #11)
Missouri clinched their second consecutive Big XII North Title as they blew out Iowa State 52-20. Missouri could be the proverbial fly in the BCS ointment as they are being considered by most pundits to be a pushover for whoever wins the Big XII South. That is a major mistake, however, as the Tigers can score with anyone and will be a very worthy adversary for the Big XII South champion. The Tigers will have the week off to rest up for the Border War with Kansas.
Week 13: Off Week (Versus Kansas Week 14)
#12) Michigan State Spartans (9-2, #12)
Michigan State enjoyed their time off this weekend before one of the biggest games in recent Spartan history. A win over Penn State would be the first win over a top 10 team in years and would give the Spartans their first share of the Big Ten title since 1990. Expect Michigan State to try and control the football with a heavy run-based attack featuring Javon Ringer and try to play keep away from the potent PSU offense.
Week 13: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at #6 Penn State
#13) Georgia Bulldogs (9-2, #15)
Georgia fought off an upset for the second consecutive week on the road and defeated a feisty Auburn team 17-13. This is two consecutive weeks that Georgia let an inferior opponent hang around before squeaking out a victory. However, nine wins is still nine wins and Georgia has played one of the nation’s most difficult schedules. The Bulldogs should enjoy the week off because their rivalry game against Georgia Tech in two weeks will be their most dangerous in years against the resurgent Yellow Jackets.
Week 13: Off Week (Versus Georgia Tech Week 14)
#14) Oregon State Beavers (7-3, #20)
Oregon State won again to move their magic number to two. The Beavers haven’t been a Rose Bowl since the sixties and they used a combination of solid defense and the Rodgers brothers to move to 6-1 in Pac Ten play. The Beavers will have two tough tests remaining against high-flying offensive teams in Arizona and Oregon. I’m not sure that the Beavs win out, but they’re definitely proving to be one of the country’s better teams.
Week 13: Saturday, 7:00 PM EST at Arizona
NON-BCS TEAMS THAT COULD PLAY IN A BCS BOWL
#15) Ball State Cardinals (10-0, #17)
Ball State moves into the home stretch of the season and just has to get past the MAC West’s top two challengers to move on to the MAC Title Game. However, both Central and Western Michigan have 8 wins and are very good teams. If Ball State makes it through both, they’ll be a very deserving MAC champion.
Week 13: Wednesday, 7:00 PM EST at Central Michigan
#16) Texas Christian Horned Frogs (9-2, #16)
TCU had the week off and remains static in my rankings. The Horned Frogs have an opportunity to win ten games this week when a good Air Force team comes to Fort Worth to close the season out. If TCU wins, they could find themselves in a pretty good bowl game.
Week 13: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Air Force
#17) Boise State Broncos (10-0, #18)
Boise State romped in-state rival Idaho by a 45-10 margin and now has two relatively difficult hurdles remaining in the way of an unbeaten season. First up is a road trip to 6-4 Nevada, probably their most difficult remaining game. If the Broncos go unbeaten but don’t make a BCS bowl, they could find their bowl tie-ins altered by the WAC to get them into a more prestigious game.
Week 13: Saturday, 4:05 PM EST at Nevada
FLAWED BUT TALENTED: TOP TEAMS BEWARE!
#18) Pittsburgh Panthers (7-2, #21)
Pittsburgh has a tough closing stretch in the Big East race, starting off with an elimination game this Saturday night at Cincinnati. If the Panthers lose, the Bearcats all but clinch the Big East with only a game remaining. However, if Pitt wins, they then have to win the Backyard Brawl against archrival West Virginia to clinch a share of the conference title. That all comes, of course, before they have to travel to play UConn, who could have their own share of the Big East crown on the line. Let’s make things simple: Pitt needs to win out to clinch the Big East’s bid to a BCS bowl.
Week 13:Saturday 7:00 PM EST at #19 Cincinnati
#19) Cincinnati Bearcats (7-2, Not Ranked)
Cincinnati plays the biggest game in school history this Saturday night. A win over the visiting (and ranked) Pitt Panthers gives the Bearcats a 5-1 conference record with lightweight Syracuse remaining, essentially clinching an Orange Bowl berth as Big East champions. Cincinnati will have a tough matchup against the Panthers as the Bearcat defense’s strength is in the secondary and Pitt likes to run the football. Furthermore, Cincinnati will have the entire Oklahoma fan base rooting for them as Oklahoma’s strength of schedule would receive a huge boost by beating the Big East champions. Formerly small time Cincinnati sure has vaulted themselves into national prominence this year.
Week 13:Saturday, 7:00 PM EST versus #18 Pittsburgh
#20) Louisiana State Tigers (7-3, #19)
LSU is lucky to be ranked right now. LSU beat the Troy Trojans 40-31 this past Saturday, but had to rally back from a 31-3 deficit in the second half AT HOME to win the game. Like usual, quarterback Jarrett Lee threw a few interceptions, one of which was his seventh interception returned for a touchdown this season. LSU is really held back by their quarterback play this year and if they get to ten wins this season, I will be surprised. However, their near miss against Troy should be an indictment of the team’s preparation leading into the game and it has made more than a few people wonder exactly how good this Tiger team really is.
Week 13: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Ole Miss
#21) Northwestern Wildcats (8-3, NR)
Northwestern defeated Michigan at the Big House by a 21-14 margin in snowy conditions to move their record to 8-3, the polar opposite of Michigan’s historically bad 3-8 mark. The Wildcats continued their very solid play on the defensive side of the football and shut down the hungry Wolverines on senior day. The Wildcats can make a ten win season a possibility this weekend if they can eliminate rival Illinois from bowl contention. In a year where a lot of the ‘academic’ schools were given a lot of hype in September, the Wildcats have turned out to be the only one with teeth and are a very good team.
Week 13: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Illinois
#22) Maryland Terrapins (6-4, NR)
Maryland won 15-14 over North Carolina amidst the backdrop of a tornado warning in College Park. I might never have seen a game played in rainier conditions than the Terrapins’ win over the Tar Heels. Right now, Maryland is on track to play in the ACC Title Game, but we all know how often that can change and their current status as the conference’s highest ranked group could be very temporary.
Week 13: Saturday, 7:45 PM EST versus Florida State
#23) Iowa Hawkeyes (7-4, #22)
Iowa managed to hold off Purdue on senior day and I had to re-evaluate their standing a little bit. In the end, I decided that I had reacted a little bit too strong after their upset of Penn State a week ago but was generally correct in my assessment that Iowa was indeed a top 25 team, thus moving them back two places. However, running back Shon Greene can almost assure himself of a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist if he rushes for over 100 yards for the 12 th time this weekend at rival Minnesota, a week after he racked up over 200 yards in a win. Greene now has nearly 1,600 yards rushing and 15 TDs on the season. Iowa could find themselves sitting at 8-4 going into their bowl game and will be a dangerous opponent for anybody with their strong running game and stout defense.
Week 13: Saturday, 7:00 PM EST at Minnesota
#24) Oregon Ducks (8-3, #25)
Oregon won a massive shootout with the Arizona Wildcats by the preposterous score of 55-45. While the Ducks are continuing their quiet run at ten wins, people should start noticing how strong their offensive attack is. Oregon has scored under thirty points only twice all season. Now, their defense certainly has a lot to work on but Oregon is a worthy addition at the bottom of my top 25.
Week 13: Off Week (At #14 Oregon State Week 14)
#25) Brigham Young Cougars (10-1, NR)
Brigham Young re-enters my rankings this week just in time for the Holy War game with archrival Utah, who they currently hold a two game winning streak over. BYU also could win a share of the Mountain West title with a win. The biggest game for both schools will be even bigger than usual this season with Utah’s possible BCS bid on the line. If BYU can continue to improve on defense a week after defeating a good Air Force team 38-24, then they have a chance to upset the Utes.
Week 13: Saturday, 6:00 PM EST at #9 Utah
As has been the case all season, the Big XII continues to be the top conference in my rankings, featuring 5 teams ranked in the top eleven. The Big Ten moves to number two this week with five teams, including two top ten teams. The SEC continues to be strong with two top ten teams and four teams overall. The Mountain West and Pac Ten both have three teams this week and each also features one top ten team. The Big East also had a bit of a resurgence as Cincinnati’s entrance into my top 25 moved the league’s tally up to two teams. The ACC, MAC and WAC round out the rankings with one team apiece. It is worth noting, however, that the ACC has a whopping six teams in my next ten listing.
By Matt Baxendell
Matt Baxendell is collegesports-fans.com’s newest staff writer. If you’d like to join his college football therapy group, email him at matt.baxendell @ gmail.com with all your questions, comments, and anything else you would like to share. Also be sure to check out Matt's 2008 conference previews here at CollegeSports-fans.com!
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