Breaking down the ballots for the AP Top 25 and wrapping up college football’s 11th weekend.
WHICH BIG IS BEST?
Big 12 vs. Big Ten.
The race for the first College Football Playoff could be headed toward the selection committee choosing between a Big 12 team and Big Ten team for the final spot in the final four, two conferences that go about determining their champions in very different ways.
Baylor of the Big 12 and Ohio State of the Big Ten took big steps forward in The Associated Press Top 25 on Sunday after winning crucial road games.
Baylor climbed four places to No. 6 after routing Oklahoma, 48-14, and Ohio State moved up five spots to No. 8 after beating Michigan State 49-37 on Saturday night.
The Bears slipped in right behind Big 12 rival and fifth-ranked TCU. Ohio State is now best positioned to represent the Big Ten in the playoff, though No. 11 Nebraska (8-1) can’t be discounted.
For the fifth straight week, the top teams in the media poll are Mississippi State (9-0) and Florida State (9-0). The No. 1 Bulldogs received 49 first-place votes. The second-ranked Seminoles have 12.
Oregon jumped to No. 3 past Alabama, which remained No. 4.
Mississippi State is at Alabama on Saturday. If either team wins out, you can safely slot them into the playoff.
Oregon and No. 7 Arizona State are on a similar path. The Ducks and Sun Devils could meet in the Pac-12 title game. If either wins the rest of its games, a playoff spot should await.
Same goes for Florida State of the Atlantic Coast Conference if it can stay unbeaten. The Seminoles play at Miami on Saturday.
That scenario would leave the Big 12 and Big Ten vying for a spot and the selection committee weighing the merits of how conferences determine a champion, and how much the randomness of in-league scheduling should be held against a team.
The 10-team Big 12 doesn’t play a conference title game, but is the only Big Five league with a full round-robin schedule. One true champion is the Big 12’s slogan.
“You don’t have to guess how teams would play against each other,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Sunday. “In other conferences, maybe you have missed the top teams in the other division. This year, the SEC West is carving each other up, but we go through that every year.”
Ohio State’s problem is, in part, a bad draw.
The Buckeyes played Illinois from the Big Ten West, missing Nebraska and No. 22 Wisconsin. Ohio State does play at Minnesota (7-2) from the West on Saturday. Conference schedules are made a few years in advance and the Big Ten is going to nine league games like the Big 12 and Pac-12 in 2016. The 2017 schedule is already set.
There is no way to make short-term adjustments — maybe a season in advance instead of three or four — that could lead to more cross-divisional games between conference contenders.
With Penn State mediocre and Michigan about the same in the Big Ten East, the conference is not doing the Buckeyes any favors this year. They’ll need that Big Ten title game on Dec. 6 in Indianapolis to boost their resume. On that same day, TCU will host Iowa State and Baylor faces No. 13 Kansas State in Waco, Texas.
Of course that extra game can also be a stumbling block.
“The right team doesn’t always win and they could end up being viewed as damaged goods,” Bowlsby said.
The Big 12 and ACC have asked the NCAA to waive its rules regarding playing a conference title game. Currently, conferences must have at least 12 teams, broken into two divisions.
Bowlsby said the request was made not so the Big 12 can bring back its championship game, but as part of a general movement toward deregulation.
For now, the Big 12 is happy with its structure.
“Time will tell what will be the right way to get a team into the playoff,” Bowlsby said.
UP AND DOWN
Auburn dropped six spots to No. 9 after being upset at home by Texas A&M, another hit to the SEC’s chances of getting two playoff teams.
The other losers of Saturday’s big showdown games all took similar tumbles:
— Michigan State fell from No. 7 to No. 12.
— Kansas State dropped from No. 9 to No. 13 after losing 41-20 to TCU.
— Notre Dame fell from No. 8 to No. 15 after losing 55-31 to Arizona State.
— LSU fell from No. 14 to No. 20 after losing 20-13 in overtime to Alabama.
— Utah dropped from No. 20 to No. 25 after losing 51-27 to Oregon.
OUT AND IN
Oklahoma is out of the rankings this week for the first time since the final poll of the 2009 season, snapping a streak of 76 poll appearances. Another Big 12 team, West Virginia, dropped out.
No. 24 Georgia Tech is back in the rankings and No. 23 Colorado State (9-1) is ranked for the first time since in 11 years, dating back the preseason poll in 2003.
Alabama (110) and Oregon (89) have the longest current streaks of consecutive poll appearances.
Oklahoma became the fourth teams this season to have a streak of at least 69 weeks stopped.
LSU’s streak ended at 87 before the Tigers moved back into the rankings. Stanford’s was snapped at 72 and South Carolina’s ended at 69.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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