College Football Power Rankings: Auburn suddenly emerges as the best team in Alabama
Alabama, Michigan and Minnesota all took deserved tumbles in the penultimate Power Rankings
Good for Gus Malzahn. The man has survived turmoil, trustees and the Tide to get to this point. To call him a survivor is an understatement, especially after Saturday night. In beating Alabama on Saturday, Malzahn became one of only two active coaches currently walking the earth who has beaten Nick Saban three times. (The other is Les Miles.)
What a turnaround. The man literally went into the Alabama game with talk of his job being in danger. Now, with the resulting extension that is likely to come, he could probably buy the city of Auburn, Alabama.
We bring this to your attention leading into this last regular-season edition of Power Rankings because Auburn is deservedly the bigger riser -- from No. 19 to No. 9. The Tigers aren't in the College Football Playoff. They aren't a factor in the SEC race. But someone or another at Auburn needs to commemorate this season. TPing trees isn't enough.
In a year when he started a freshman quarterback (Bo Nix) and saw his leading rusher (Boobie Whitlow) injured, Malzahn somehow carved out nine wins. That while facing one of the nation's toughest schedules.
In the same season that he straight outcoached Saban, there were published reports that an Auburn trustee was trying to lure Bob Stoops. Going into Saturday, there were rumblings Malzahn was again Arkansas' top choice. They won't be able to get him now.
I've said this for years: It might just be that Gus Malzahn is the best fit for Auburn -- ever. I'm sure the criticism bothers him, but he always seems to answer. This time, it was with a win for the ages, exactly six years to the day of the Kick Six. Once again, a missed field goal by Alabama helped decide it.
Wrap your mind around this: At this moment, Auburn is the best team in the state of Alabama. Mic drop?
|1||Ohio State||For the Buckeyes, the Michigan game has become a national holiday along the lines of Christmas and Fourth of July. Merriment, lots of drinking, celebration. After another destruction of the Wolverines, the OSU jumps into the top spot. Quick tip: Ohio State is a power running offense under Ryan Day. Ask J.K. Dobbins, who has carried it 67 times the last two weeks.||1||12-0|
|2||LSU||This is what seven-overtime revenge looks like: 529 yards, three more passing touchdowns for Joe Burrow, a 50-7 slamming of Texas A&M. Given Georgia's situation, an SEC title looks more than likely this week.||1||12-0|
|3||Clemson||Trevor Lawrence is the quarterback no one is talking about (22 touchdowns in the last seven games). Clemson is the team no one is talking about. (No one has been within 31 points of the Tigers since late September.) What seems like a walk over against Virginia in the ACC Championship Game looms. "We lose [to South Carolina], and they're ready to kick us out [of the playoff]," said Dabo Swinney. Yeah, maybe, given your schedule, Dabo. The Tigers rolled, though, 38-3.||--||12-0|
|4||Georgia||About that Georgia situation -- Kirby Smart's best receiver Lawrence Cager is injured. His next-best receiver George Pickens went and got himself suspended for the first half of the SEC Championship Game after throwing a punch. That was after Smart had suspended him for the first half of Georgia Tech. If it's possible, a 52-7 win over Tech looked ... clunky.||--||11-1|
|5||Oklahoma||With Alabama's loss, a playoff door opened for the Sooners. They declared themselves worthy with a solid 34-16 win over Oklahoma State. Who would have thought these words would be possible at the beginning of the season regarding any playoff scenario: All it takes is a sweep of Baylor.||1||11-1|
|6||Utah||The best team in the West is rolling like Clemson, defending like Ohio State and hidden from plain sight. The Utes need a publicist. Their competition, if they beat Oregon this week in the Pac-12 Championship Game, could be brand-name Oklahoma. They're just as good, maybe better.||2||11-1|
|7||Florida||What a finish for the Gators, 40-17 over Florida State. Dan Mullen became the third Florida coach to win 10 games in back-to-back seasons. The others are named Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. Definite progress made this season with a win over Auburn and a second-place finish in the SEC East.||3||10-2|
|8||Baylor||You want new blood in the playoff? You want a team to get behind Saturday? The Bears won their 11th game for only the third time since the school was founded in 1899. All it takes is a bit of revenge against Oklahoma this week. It can happen. Baylor had OU down by 25 at halftime in the first meeting. Remember?||1||11-1|
|9||Auburn||On the sixth anniversary of the Kick Six, there was that -- what? -- Kick Miss? Jordan-Hare Stadium rocked when Joseph Bulovas bounced a 30-yard field goal attempt off the left upright. That wasn't the biggest thrill. They shredded the hedges when Bama was caught with too many men on the field to assure the game-clinching first down. This decade, the Iron Bowl has been the best rivalry in the country. Behold, the best three-loss team in the nation!||10||9-3|
|10||Wisconsin||Just add snow, and the setting was perfect for Wisconsin to be Wisconsin. The Badgers pounded Minnesota, 38-17, to clinch another Big Ten Championship Game berth. Paul Chryst went contrarian. Jack Coan threw for a career-high 280 yards. Jonathan Taylor ran for only 76 yards. It isn't a Big Ten title game without the Badgers. They've played in six of the nine ever played. It would seem the Badgers have all but clinched a Rose Bowl berth, win or lose.||1||10-2|
|11||Minnesota||Wisconsin reasserted itself after the Gophers broke a 14-game losing streak last year to the Badgers. Minnesota seemed on its heels all day. The second 10-win season since 1904 will be well remembered.||6||10-2|
|12||Penn State||Now the real competition begins. After the Nittany Lions wrapped up a 10-win season, the wait began to see if USC keeps Clay Helton and, if not, whether the Trojans come after James Franklin.||--||10-2|
|13||Alabama||A reckoning is coming. The Crimson Tide definitely took a step back this season. It started with the Dylan Moses injury, collapsed with Tua Tagovailoa's injury and ended in heartbreak with a doinked field goal on The Plains. Since Saban's first season in 2007, no FBS team has missed more field goals (101).||6||10-2|
|14||Oregon||The Civil War was decently civil with Oregon cruising to a 24-10 win over in-state rival Oregon State. Not so much a rebound game for Justin Herbert (18 of 30, 174 yards, TD), but the Ducks got the job done as they look to spoil Utah's playoff bid in the Pac-12 Championship Game.||1||10-2|
|15||Memphis||A convincing win over Cincinnati assures the Tigers of hosting the AAC Championship Game in a rematch against ... Cincinnati. A win all but clinches a Cotton Bowl berth. A Memphis loss is Mike Aresco's worst nightmare. The AAC commish has been lobbying for a two-loss team from his conference to finish ahead of any other Group of Five champion. This was Memphis' first 11-win season.||1||11-1|
|16||Notre Dame||Brian Kelly is on a roll. Admit it. He followed a playoff season with a 10-win season. The Fighting Irish clinched it with a 45-24 win over Stanford. Ian Book threw 16 touchdowns in the last four games, 33 for the season.||1||10-2|
|17||Boise State||All those great Broncos teams, all those BCS busters, all those trick plays. Boise State had never finished unbeaten in the Mountain West until Saturday (8-0). A 31-24 win sets up a dramatic conference championship game against Hawaii. A Cotton Bowl berth is at stake. Watch coach Bryan Harsin, who may be a candidate at Missouri.||1||11-1|
|18||Appalachian State||There are nine one-loss or better teams in the country. App. State is one of them. After beating Troy, the Mountaineers are assured of hosting Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt Championship Game.||2||11-1|
|19||Iowa||The Hawkeyes pulled Nebraska's beating heart out of its chest and showed it down the Cornhuskers' throats. That's another way of saying Keith Duncan kicked the game-winning field Friday with one second left to beat Nebraska, 27-24. Duncan, the walk-on, was awarded a scholarship after the game. The loss kept Nebraska from a bowl in Scott Frost's second season.||2||9-3|
|20||Cincinnati||The Bearcats had a nine-game winning streak snapped against Memphis. They will play the Tigers for the second consecutive week for the AAC title. A Cotton Bowl bid might be too much to ask for the two-loss Bearcats. Also, Luke Fickell's name continues to come up for several jobs.||5||10-2|
|21||Michigan||Here's all you need to know about Michigan: Saturday marked the first time the Wolverines had thrown for 300+ yards in three consecutive games. That and Jim Harbaugh has given up more points in the last two seasons to Ohio State (118) than Bo Schembechler did in the entire Ten Year War (105). Something has to change because Michigan is light years behind Ohio State.||7||9-3|
|22||Indiana||Tom Allen for president of Bloomington! The Indiana coach led the Hoosiers to their first eight-win season and first winning season in the Big Ten since 1993. Indiana grabbed the Old Oaken Bucket after surviving Purdue in two overtimes.||NR||8-4|
|23||Navy||Very quietly, the Midshipmen pulled off one of the biggest turnarounds in the country going from 3-10 to 9-2. Jamale Carothers rushed for five touchdowns in a shootout win over Houston. Army still to go on Dec. 14.||1||9-2|
|24||Virginia||Somebody had to play Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. The Cavaliers are the "lucky" "winners." Give coach Bronco Mendenhall credit after clinching the ACC Coastal against Virginia Tech. Virginia had lost the last 15 in the series. The Cavaliers complete the circle of life in the Coastal, becoming the seventh different team in the last seven years to win the league title.||NR||9-3|
|25||SMU||The Mustangs completed their most successful season (10-2) in 35 years. After a convincing win over Tulane, look for athletic director Rick Hart continue to have a tough time keeping coach Sonny Dykes.||--||10-2|
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