2008 NCAA College Football Top 25: Top 25 After Week #13
The Rankings are beginning to shake out after a week in which the Big Ten, Big East and Mountain West Conferences were decided. First off, we now have two BCS spots locked up and another all but secured after Penn State and Utah won their conference titles and Cincinnati moved to within a win over lowly Syracuse from clinching the Big East.
Another major development this week was the continued fall of last year’s national champions, the LSU Tigers, who followed up their near disaster against Troy by losing 31-13 to Ole Miss. LSU is now unranked and under .500 in SEC play.
Back to teams that are relevant this year in the National Title chase, starting with the Oklahoma Sooners. After their epic beatdown of Texas Tech, I won’t be moving them ahead of Texas…..yet. Simply put, the Longhorns’ record as of today is more impressive than the Sooners but if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State on the road this weekend, Oklahoma’s overall schedule will include two top 20 non-conference opponents in Cincinnati and TCU while Texas can only counter with a home win over Missouri, who Oklahoma didn’t play in the regular season. The fact that Texas beat Oklahoma unfortunately doesn’t play into the argument when the three way tie atop the Big XII South features everyone beating everyone. I will have to do a lot of thinking about my rankings next week if both teams win but this is a situation where someone is going to end up unhappy next Sunday.
Big XII South controversy aside, here are my rankings going into an absolutely huge weekend which will set the conference championship matchups, shake out the top of the rankings and bring us on the verge of bowl season.
THE NATIONAL TITLE SHORT LIST
#1) Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0, #2)
Alabama didn’t play this week but as the only remaining BCS conference team without a loss, they are the clear #1 team. However, their path to playing for the National Title is fraught with complications. This week brings archrival Auburn to town, who the Tide hasn’t defeated in six years! Auburn has played better of late and nearly defeated Georgia two weeks ago, so the Tide will have a battle on their hands and even if they win, well, the #2 team in America is waiting for them. Alabama is going to have to earn their way to the National Title Game.
Week 14: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Auburn
IN THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION
#2) Florida Gators (10-1, #3)
Florida’s biggest obstacle this week wasn’t their opponent on the field (The Citadel, who fell 70-19 at the Swamp) but ignoring the media blitz from a Florida editorial which opined that Head Coach Urban Meyer is Notre Dame-bound in the next few years. While that’s nice, Florida is in the midst of a National Title chase and plays at archrival Florida State this week. I think Urban Meyer has more pressing matters than Notre Dame, don’t you?
Week 14: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at #24 Florida State
#3) Texas Longhorns (10-1, #4)
Texas had to swallow their pride and root for Oklahoma during their off weekend. Unfortunately, Oklahoma won in such impressive fashion that Texas now has to seriously worry about being passed by the Sooners in the BCS Standings. While Texas defeated Oklahoma earlier this year at a neutral site, the three way tie in the Big XII South means that ‘who beat who’ doesn’t matter. Expect a controversy either way but the Longhorns stay ahead of the Sooners this week.
Week 14: Thursday, 8:00 PM EST versus Texas A&M
#4) Oklahoma Sooners (10-1, #5)
Oklahoma blew out Texas Tech by a huge margin on Saturday night, a game which definitely enhances their opportunity to play for the National Title. Oklahoma’s offense is one of the country’s most explosive and a win over Oklahoma State could vault them ahead of Texas in the BCS Standings, giving the Sooners the opportunity to play for the Big XII Title.
Week 14: Saturday, 8:00 PM EST at #10 Oklahoma State
#5) Penn State Nittany Lions (11-1, #6)
Penn State’s Rose Bowl hopes were on the line against a strong ranked opponent last Saturday and the Nittany Lions responded with a resounding 49-18 victory over Michigan State at a joyous Beaver Stadium. Joe Paterno, who was widely expected to be stepping down soon, has now put together four consecutive seasons with 9 or more wins and will be looking to win his fourth consecutive bowl game in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. I don’t think he’s going anywhere anytime soon.
Week 14: Regular Season Completed
#6) Southern California Trojans (9-1, #7)
USC had the week off to prepare for rival Notre Dame. Notre Dame prepared for the game by losing to hapless Syracuse at home. Advantage: USC. The Trojans’ two biggest rivalry games are the next two weeks but Notre Dame is 6-5 and UCLA isn’t going bowling. Another eleven win season seems far more than likely and USC is virtually guaranteed a spot in either the Rose or Fiesta Bowls. However, Pete Carroll’s crew is almost certainly out of the National Title chase.
Week 14: Saturday, 8:00 PM EST versus Notre Dame
#7) Texas Tech Red Raiders (10-1, #1)
Texas Tech’s season came crashing down Saturday night and they’re likely ticketed for the Cotton Bowl after getting trounced by Oklahoma. Their weak non-conference schedule and margin of defeat against the Sooners should eliminate them from contention in the Big XII South if the division ends in a three way tie. However, Texas Tech still has hope: An Oklahoma State victory paired with a season-ending win over Baylor would get the Red Raiders into the Big XII Title game and make things very interesting on the national front.
Week 14: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Baylor
OUTSIDE THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION BUT EXCELLENT
#8) Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2, #8)
Ohio State put the worst beating on archrival Michigan in 40 years as Rich Rodriguez validated everything I wrote about him last week during the Buckeyes’ 42-7 victory. I was at this game and Michigan simply did not match up against the Buckeyes physically or schematically. Furthermore, Michigan’s coaches and players nearly got into a fight in the first quarter on the sidelines! However, Michigan’s issues aside, Ohio State is probably the best two loss team in the country and unless Oregon upsets Oregon State this weekend, they’ll probably get the opportunity to prove it against Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.
Week 14: Regular Season Completed
#9) Utah Utes (12-0, #9)
Utah clinched a berth in a BCS bowl for the second time in school history as the Utes defeated BYU in the Holy War by a surprisingly comfortable 48-24 margin. I have had Utah ranked above the rest of the non-BCS teams for most of the season and I simply think that Utah is by far the best of the bunch. The Utes are a very good team that could probably give most of the top 25 a great game but a word for all of the folks clamoring for Utah to get a National Title shot: Be realistic, Utah wouldn’t have a chance against the top 6 teams and will face a very stiff test in the BCS when they play, in all likelihood, against an SEC or Big XII team.
Week 14: Regular Season Completed
#10) Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-2, #10)
Oklahoma State has the opportunity of a lifetime this weekend. They can ruin archrival Oklahoma’s chances to play for a National Title while winning their tenth game of the season and virtually assuring themselves a Cotton Bowl bid. However, the Cowboys absolutely have to get a running game going or they can expect Oklahoma to run them off the field like Texas Tech did a few weeks ago.
Week 14: Saturday, 8:00 PM EST at #4 Oklahoma
#11) Missouri Tigers (9-2, #11)
Missouri will look to defeat reeling rival Kansas before playing for the conference title in two weeks. Missouri has been the forgotten team this year: After back to back losses to Oklahoma State and Texas at midseason, the Tigers have quietly moved to 9-2 and will have a serious chip on their shoulder in the Big XII Title game after a month of people considering them a pushover. Expect Chase Daniels and company to defeat their bitter rivals leading up to the Big XII Title game.
Week 14: Saturday, 12:30 PM EST versus Kansas (in Kansas City)
#12) Georgia Bulldogs (9-2, #13)
Georgia had the week off and hopefully paid a great deal of attention to the Georgia Tech game and the Yellow Jackets’ excellent rushing attack. Georgia has massively underachieved on defense and the locals are getting restless despite the 9-2 record. While Georgia is already a virtual certainty to play in the Capital One Bowl, a loss to Tech for the first time in 8 years would make 2008 a disappointment to most Georgia fans.
Week 14: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST versus #23 Georgia Tech
#13) Oregon State Beavers (8-3, #14)
Oregon State somehow pulled out another close victory despite losing star freshman tailback Jacquizz Rodgers for most of the second half. The Beavers now sit a single win against archrival Oregon away from their first Rose Bowl in forty years. The Beavers will have to continue to play excellent defense if they want to make it three in a row in the Civil War.
Week 14: Saturday, 7:00 PM EST versus #22 Oregon
#14) Cincinnati Bearcats (9-2, #19)
Cincinnati would have to forget to show up on senior day for the Bearcats to not win the Big East title. After a hard fought 28-21 win over the Pitt Panthers, Cincy is likely headed towards an Orange Bowl berth. Even better for the Bearcats players is that their regular season finale in two weeks is at Hawi’i, so they’ll have the opportunity for two destination games to close the year. Brian Kelly might not stay at Cincinnati after this year (rumors swirl around him and Tennessee) but he’s almost certainly led Cincinnati to their first Big East title.
Week 14: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST versus Syracuse
NON-BCS CONFERENCE POWERS
#15) Ball State Cardinals (11-0, #15)
Ball State knocked off Central Michigan in the cold last week and now sits one game away from a MAC Title Game showdown with Buffalo. While Ball State isn’t going to a BCS game, Nate Davis could lead the Cardinals to their first undefeated season and their firs t MAC title in thirty years.
Week 14: Tuesday, 7:00 PM EST versus Western Michigan
#16) Texas Christian Horned Frogs (10-2, #16)
TCU finished the season with only two losses, one to #4 Oklahoma and the other to #9 Utah. That’s pretty darn good. Their final game was a good win over a better-than-you-think Air Force team and TCU will definitely find themselves playing in a pretty good bowl game this year.
Week 14: Regular Season Completed
#17) Boise State Broncos (11-0, #17)
I picked the Broncos to lose last week at Nevada and was nearly proven right as Boise State held on to pull out a 41-34 win. Look, I’m not arguing that Boise State isn’t a good team but they’re playing in perhaps the weakest D-1A conference and their defense hasn’t really impressed me. I want to see Boise State play a 9 win BCS conference team in a bowl game so that we can have some idea of how good the Broncos really are.
Week 14: Friday, 6:00 PM EST versus Fresno State
FLAWED BUT TALENTED
#18) Michigan State Spartans (9-3, #12)
Michigan State finished the season 6-2 in Big Ten play, good enough for a third place finish. However, their two losses came to the league’s top two teams by a combined 69 points. Ouch. That said, the Spartans are still a very good team that probably will play in the Outback Bowl. If they can finish the year with a bowl victory and ten wins, then 2008 will definitely be considered a major success in East Lansing.
Week 14: Regular Season Complete
#19) Northwestern Wildcats (9-3, #21)
Northwestern played their most complete game of the season and denied rival Illinois a bowl bid with a 27-10 victory. Northwestern has definitely been my surprise team in the Big Ten this year, as I didn’t even think they’d be bowl eligible. That said, the Wildcats play very good defense (they’re very underrated in that regard) and their offense scores enough points to beat most teams that they play. The Wildcats are probably going to play in the Alamo or Champs Sports Bowl and like Michigan State have the chance for a ten win season for the first time since 1995.
Week 14: Regular Season Complete
#20) Pittsburgh Panthers (7-3, #18)
Pittsburgh fell at the hands of Cincinnati and their Big East hopes are now dashed. That said, Pitt still has a great chance to finish the year strong, starting with archrival West Virginia in the annual Backyard Brawl. Pitt’s victory in last year’s game denied West Virginia a chance to play for the National Title and you can bet that West Virginia is still angry. Expect a really good game with a lot of hitting on Friday.
Week 14: Friday, 12:00 PM EST versus West Virginia
#21) Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4, #23)
Iowa blew out Minnesota by a 55-0 score to close the season with wins in five of their last six games. The Hawkeyes go into the winter break as one of the hottest teams in America and Kirk Ferentz is all of a sudden a genius in Iowa City again. Remember, Iowa’s four losses have come by a combined 12 points and three of those teams are currently ranked. Expect the Hawkeyes to bring a crowd of fans with them to their bowl game and carry over the momentum of the last month and a half.
Week 14: Regular Season Complete
#22) Oregon Ducks (8-3, #24)
Oregon has the opportunity of a lifetime this week: A chance to knock off archrival Oregon State and ruin their Pac Ten Title and Rose Bowl hopes. The Civil War has rarely had such implications and will definitely be one of the biggest games of the weekend. Oregon has to slow down the Oregon State rushing attack, even if Jacquizz Rodgers isn’t able to play, if they want to defeat their archrival and avoid a three game losing skid in one of the nation’s more underrated rivalries.
Week 14: Saturday, 7:00 PM EST at #13 Oregon State
#23) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-3, Not Ranked)
Georgia Tech continues the theme of rivalry week when they travel to nemesis Georgia, who they haven’t beaten in their last seven tries. The Yellow Jackets have exceeded a lot of people’s expectations this year and are coming off of an impressive 18 point victory over the Miami Hurricanes. However, top ACC teams this season have really struggled. In fact, ranked ACC teams have lost their last nine games! However, Tech matches up really well with the Bulldogs and their option rushing attack could prove tough to stop for an underachieving Georgia defense.
Week 14: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST at #12 Georgia
#24) Florida State Seminoles (8-3, NR)
Florida State has a very similar situation to Georgia Tech: New ranked ACC team playing against a highly regarded SEC team that has had their number the past few years. However, Florida State might get a little bit of a break this week as Florida will be missing two of their better defensive linemen for their clash in Tallahassee. Furthermore, Florida fans seem to be treating this game as a foregone conclusion, something that they had better hope that their players don’t do. If FSU’s strong defense comes out and attacks the Gators early and makes their offense punt a couple of times then this could be a game that the Seminoles can win.
Week 14: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus #2 Florida
#25) Boston College Eagles (8-3, NR)
Boston College controls their destiny in ACC play and will return to the conference championship game for the second consecutive year with a win against Maryland. The Terrapins are no pushover and any team that has controlled their destiny in the ACC In recent weeks has subsequently lost. Jeff Jagodzinski should have his team motivated and ready to play in a huge game for the Eagles.
Week 14: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Maryland
The Big XII just continues its lengthy stretch atop the rankings, featuring 5 top 25 teams, all of which are in the top 11. The Big Ten also enjoys five top 25 teams, though only two are ranked higher than #18. The SEC took a step back this week, featuring only three teams, though my #1 and #2 teams both hail from the South. The Pac Ten and ACC feature three teams apiece while the Mountain West and Big East each have two. The WAC and MAC round out the rankings with one team each.
By Matt Baxendell
Matt Baxendell is collegesports-fans.com’s top 25 guru. Feel free to tell him how wrong his rankings are by emailing him at matt.baxendell @ gmail.com with all your questions, comments, and anything else you would like to share.
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