My AP Ballot: Shaken, not stirred as SEC and Pac-12 rise to top

by | College Football Insider

HOUSTON -- To quote Mike McQueary, my Associated Press ballot this week has been shaken like a snow globe.

Up is down, down is up. Upsets were the norm this past weekend when three of the nation's top five teams lost -- two on last-minute missed field goals that could have won the game or forced overtime.

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In all, seven ranked teams lost, including four of last week’s top seven ranked teams.

My AP ballot this week is dominated -- at the top at least -- by the SEC and Pac-12. I ranked the SEC's LSU, Alabama and Arkansas 1-2-3, while I have the Pac-12's Oregon, Stanford and USC all in my Top 10.

Only two teams that I ranked last week dropped off my ballot: Nebraska and Southern Miss. Replacing them are Virginia and Rutgers.

Here is my AP ballot for this week. Last week's ranking is in parenthesis.

1. LSU (1): How dominant were the Tigers (11-0) in their 52-3 seal-clubbing of Ole Miss? LSU started taking a knee with five minutes left in the game instead of adding on another touchdown. Next: vs. Arkansas, Friday.

2. Alabama (3): The Crimson Tide (10-1) lead the NCAA in the five major defensive categories: total defense (195.9 yards allowed per game), rush defense (74.6 yards), pass defense (121.2 yards), pass efficiency (84.7 rating) and scoring defense (8.36 points). Next: at Auburn, Saturday.

3. Arkansas (5): To win the SEC West and advance to the SEC title game, the Razorbacks (10-1) must defeat LSU and then Arkansas and LSU must be ranked ahead of Alabama. That's because in a three-way tie, the lowest-ranked team is eliminated and the winner of the head-to-head meeting advances to the SEC title game. Next: at LSU, Friday.

4. Oklahoma State (2): Despite Oklahoma State's upset loss at Iowa State, the Cowboys (10-1) can still reach the first BCS bowl in program history if Oklahoma loses to Iowa State on Saturday or if OSU beats OU in two weeks. Next: vs. Oklahoma, Dec. 3.

5. Oregon (4): Oregon’s 19-game Pac-12 winning streak was halted with a 38-35 loss to USC. The Ducks (9-2) had won their 19 consecutive league games by an average of 20.6 points. Oregon has to beat Oregon State on Saturday to advance to the inaugural Pac-12 title game. Next: vs. Oregon State, Saturday.

6. Stanford (7): The Cardinal (10-1) have scored at least 30 points in every game this year and 23 of their past 24 games dating to last season. Next: vs. Notre Dame, Saturday.

7. Boise State (8): The Broncos (9-1) rebounded nicely from only their third loss in the past four years with a convincing victory against San Diego State. Boise State is one win shy from its sixth consecutive 10-win season and ninth in 10 years. Next: vs. Wyoming, Saturday.

8. Houston (10): Quarterback Case Keenum continues to rewrite the NCAA record book for the Cougars (11-0). He now has broken five NCAA career passing records and shares two more. Next: at Tulsa, Friday.

9. Michigan State (11): The Spartans (9-2) have won 20 games in the past two seasons, the most in consecutive years in school history. Michigan State also is 20-4 in its past 24. Next: at Northwestern, Saturday.

10. Southern California (18): By upsetting Oregon, USC (9-2) can reach 10 victories for the first time since 2008, which ended a seven-year run of double-digit wins for the Trojans. Much-maligned Lane Kiffin is now 17-7 in two seasons at USC. Next: vs. UCLA, Saturday.

11. Wisconsin (12): Mr. November? Wisconsin RB Montee Ball is averaging 204.3 yards in his past three games. Last season in four November games, Ball averaged 161.3 yards. If Wisconsin defeats Penn State, the Badgers (9-2) advance to the inaugural Big Ten title game against Michigan State. Next: vs. Penn State, Saturday.

12. South Carolina (13): It wasn't pretty against The Citadel, but the Gamecocks (9-2) won to close within one victory from only their second 10-win season in more than 100 years of football. Next: vs. Clemson, Saturday.

13. Oklahoma (6): Oklahoma's national title hopes are shot, but the Sooners (8-2) still can win a share of the Big 12 title and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl by winning out against Iowa State and Oklahoma State. Next: vs. Iowa State, Saturday.

14. Kansas State (14): Kansas State did it again: the Wildcats (9-2) were outgained, but still won. This time at Texas. The Wildcats have been outgained in eight games this season, but are 6-2 in those contests. Next: vs. Iowa State, Dec. 3.

15. Georgia (15): The Bulldogs (9-2) edged Kentucky for the SEC East title. It was Georgia's ninth consecutive victory, the Bulldogs' longest winning streak in a season since 1982. That year the Bulldogs, coached by Vince Dooley, went 11-0 during the regular season before losing to Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. Next: at Georgia Tech, Saturday.

16. Michigan (20): Has there been a more valuable hire this season than Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison? The Wolverines (9-2) have limited seven teams to 17 or fewer points. Next: vs. Ohio State, Saturday.

17. Virginia Tech (17): Virginia Tech (10-1) held off North Carolina last Thursday to extend its streak of seasons with at least 10 victories to eight straight, tops in the nation. Next: at Virginia, Saturday.

18. Clemson (9): Luckily for the Tigers (9-2) they clinched the ACC's Atlantic Division title before Saturday's lopsided loss at N.C. State. Clemson's opponent in the ACC title game will be Virginia Tech or Virginia. Next: at South Carolina, Saturday.

19. TCU (19): The Horned Frogs (9-2) won their 23rd consecutive Mountain West Conference game. TCU's senior class also has won a program-record 45 games the past four seasons. Next: vs. UNLV, Dec. 3.

20. Notre Dame (21): The Fighting Irish (8-3) could make a run at an at-large BCS bowl berth with a win at Stanford on Saturday. Notre Dame hasn't won at Stanford since 2007. Next: at Stanford, Saturday.

21. Penn State (22): The Nittany Lions (9-2) have limited eight opponents to 18 or fewer points. A Penn State win at Wisconsin on Saturday would give the Nittany Lions the Big Ten’s Leaders Division title and a berth in the inaugural Big Ten championship game. Next: at Wisconsin, Saturday.

22. Baylor (24): Don't count quarterback Robert Griffin III (33 passing TDs, five interceptions) out of the Heisman race just yet. He's back in it after his 479-yard, four TD night in the Bears' first-ever win against Oklahoma. Baylor (7-3) has matched last year's win total with games remaining with Texas Tech and Texas. Next: vs. Texas Tech, Saturday.

23. Tulsa (23): Since starting 1-3, the Golden Hurricane (8-3) have reeled off seven consecutive victories -- all but one by at least 17 points. If Tulsa can beat Houston on Friday, the Golden Hurricane will win C-USA's West Division and host the conference title game Dec. 3. Next: vs. Houston, Friday.

24. Virginia (NR): The Cavaliers (8-3) can win the ACC's Coastal Division and earn a berth in the ACC title game by defeating rival Virginia Tech. Virginia has defeated the Hokies only once in the past 12 years. Next: vs. Virginia Tech, Saturday.

25. Rutgers (NR): The Scarlet Knights (8-3) were picked to finish last in the Big East. Instead, Rutgers can clinch a share of the Big East title by winning at UConn on Saturday. To earn the Big East's automatic BCS berth, Rutgers cannot finish tied with West Virginia, which also has two league losses, or in a two-way tie with Louisville, also with two league losses. Rutgers needs a three-way tie without West Virginia. Next: at UConn, Saturday.


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