Power Poll: With seven unbeaten teams left, it's win-or-go-home time
Forget waiting for 2014. With Florida State's elimination of Miami and No. 2 Oregon facing No. 6 Stanford on Thursday, the 'playoffs' have already started.
The playoff has begun. What, you didn't get the memo?
No need to wait for the official College Football Playoff (copyright pending) in 2014. In the last month of the last year of the BCS, we have it right here in our faces.
We have embarked on win-or-go-home time. There are seven unbeaten teams left with five weeks left in the season. Losses this time of year tend to be devastating -- unless you're Alabama (see below).
The second week of November starts Friday. By that time we will know if Oregon -- still No. 2 in this week's Power Poll -- is still unbeaten after its toughest test of the season Thursday night at No. 6 Stanford.
Same goes for Baylor. The No. 5 Bears host No. 11 Oklahoma in a Thursday game that could remove the Big 12 from the national championship race. Or not, if the Bears begin the heart of their schedule with a win.
It isn't quite another game of the century this time around in Tuscaloosa. Two-time defending champ Alabama hosts No. 13 LSU on Saturday. This time, though, the Tide probably can't "afford" another November loss. The Tigers come into the game twice beaten, not quite the powerhouse it was the previous two seasons.
An Alabama loss most probably would cause the Tide to plummet in the polls with undefeated teams from the Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten still in play.
As good as the Tide have been on their current dynastic run, they have benefitted from some good luck. Then-No. 2 Oklahoma State lost late in the season in 2011, allowing Bama to move into position.
Last year, the Tide were hardly nicked by a home loss to two-touchdown underdog Texas A&M. A week later both Kansas State and Oregon lost.
The "playoffs" roll on throughout this month.
Nov. 13 -- Ball State at Northern Illinois: Huskies' BCS hopes get a big challenge.
Nov. 16 -- Baylor vs. Texas Tech (Arlington, Texas): Told you the Bears' schedule is backloaded. Baylor plays No. 19 Tech in AT&T Stadium. Not quite the showdown it was with Red Raiders losing two in a row.
Oregon's November: Want to know why the Ducks will finish ahead of Florida State if they keep winning? Thursday at Stanford, Nov. 16 vs. Utah, Nov. 23 at Arizona, Nov. 29 vs. Oregon State.
Nov. 30 -- Alabama at Auburn: Among other possibilities, the loser may be picked for a BCS bowl.
Ohio State's predicament: Urban Meyer has to hope both Michigan and Michigan State win out. Buckeyes finish the season Nov. 30 with Michigan, then could play Spartans in Big Tent title game.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (1): Bye. Funny how Nick Saban always gets a week off before the LSU Tigers game. It's happened in four of his six years at Bama.
2. Oregon Ducks (2): Another bye. Everything is on the line when the Ducks travel to Stanford.
3. Florida State Seminoles (3): Famous Jameis has overshadowed the exploits of teammates like Devonta Freeman , who is on track to become Noles' first 1,000-yard rusher since Warrick Dunn in 1996.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes (4): Average winning margin (31.2 points) is more than 54 teams score per game. Impressive until you consider Alabama is averaging 31.5, Florida State 38.0 and Oregon 38.5.
5. Baylor Bears (5): Bye. Floyd Casey going "tarpless" for Oklahoma on Thursday. Wait, that doesn't sound right.
6. Stanford Cardinal (6): Bye. Battle for the Pac-12 North on Thursday vs. Oregon. David Shaw going to the cellar this week to uncork 2012 vintage on how to stop Ducks.
7. Missouri Tigers (8): Tigers have faced four consecutive backup quarterbacks. No need to apologize for 31-3 win over Tennessee. Mizzou still controls its destiny in the SEC East.
8. Clemson Tigers (9): Dabo Swinney calls 59-10 blasting of Virginia best overall performance of the season. No argument here.
9. Auburn Tigers (10): "We don't tell our kids to fake," Gus Malzahn said. If not, Anthony Swain was hit by an invisible meteor from outer space. Spat between Gus and Bret reaches new lows in Auburn's blasting of Arkansas.
10. Oklahoma State Cowboys (12): Mike Gundy is one of the most brilliant minds in college football. He has remade his offense within the season with a bruising running game and the emergence of Clint Chelf . Outgained by 57 yards and 11 first downs, Cowboys bomb Texas Tech.
11. Oklahoma Sooners (13): Bye. Thursday at high-octane Baylor, one of two big-time weeknight games. Oregon at Stanford is the other.
12. Texas A&M Aggies (14): If Jameis Winston is What's Next ... What if Johnny Football wins back-to-back Heismans? Can't dismiss him after he accounted for six touchdowns against Texas-El Paso.
13. LSU Tigers (15): Bye. Up next, game of the ... day Nov. 9 at Alabama. So that means both schools will be well-rested for this prime-time battle.
14. South Carolina Gamecocks (16): Mississippi State's Dak Prescott made some bad, bad decisions but Lorenzo Ward has some bad, bad defenders -- in a Michael Jackson way -- on his side of the ball.
15. Michigan State Spartans (18): Little Brother has won five of six over the team down South. Bo -- it says here -- would be ashamed of Michigan.
16. Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes (7): The look on Duke Johnson 's face said it all as we moved past him into the FSU interview room. The Canes' most inspirational player is reportedly out after breaking his ankle Saturday night.
17. Fresno State Bulldogs (17): Life can't much better in Fresno. Derek Carr threw for 487 yards and set the school's career passing record in win over Nevada. Bulldogs have won eight in a row to start a season for the first time since 1989.
18. North Dakota State (19): Bye week. The Bison will be well-rested for the Harvest Bowl next against Illinois State.
19. Texas Tech Red Raiders (13): Record crowd sees Red Raiders run out of their own building against Oklahoma State. Two-game skid after starting 7-0.
20. Wisconsin Badgers (NR): If you dismiss "loss" at Arizona State, which you should, in a lot of folks' minds the Badgers only real defeat this season was by seven points at Ohio State.
21. UCLA Bruins (20): Bruins overcome boos from home crowd to break two-game Pac-12 losing streak against Colorado.
22. UCF Knights (22): Bye, so the Knights will be fresh for an American Athletic Conference showdown this week against Houston.
23. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (NR): Irish are now clear BCS bowl challengers. Have dealt Michigan State its only loss and beat No. 24 Arizona State (see below). It was a case of survival Saturday against pesky Navy.
24. Arizona State Sun Devils (NR): Sun Devils steal the show as ESPN descends on Pullman, Wash., for the first time in 23 years. Arizona State is now legit Pac-12 championship contender leading the South Division. The 55 points against Washington State on Thursday night were the Sun Devils' most in a conference game since 1996.
25 (tie). Brigham Young Cougars (24): Games against Wisconsin and Notre Dame this month will decide which way season trends.
25 (tie). Northern Illinois Huskies (25): Dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch -- run (119 yards), pass (160), repeat against UMass.
Also receiving love: Nebraska (Was that a Hail Pelini or a Bo Mary to beat Northwestern?), Texas, Louisville, Arizona, Cincinnati, Duke, Minnesota, Houston, East Carolina, North Texas, Ball State, Lousiana-Lafayette.
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