Breaking down the ballots for the AP Top 25 and wrapping up college football’s 10th weekend.
This will not be a Saturday for getting ahead on Christmas shopping or raking leaves in the yard.
In the AP Top 25 released Sunday, teams four through 10 have games against another ranked team next weekend. Six games to shake up the playoff race and either provide clarity or cause confusion. Probably a little of both.
Mississippi State and Florida State still hold the top two spots in the AP rankings after both needed second-half comebacks to remain unbeaten. The top-ranked Bulldogs received 45 first-place votes from the media panel, and Florida State has 15.
Auburn moved up a spot to No. 3 after its 35-31 victory at Mississippi. The Rebels dropped to No. 12 after their second straight heartbreaking loss.
Then the teams preparing for games with huge playoff implications:
–No. 4 Alabama is at No. 14 LSU as the SEC West rivals play yet another huge game.
–No. 5 Oregon and Heisman Trophy front-runner Marcus Mariota go to No. 20 Utah, trying to keep their roll going in the Pac-12.
“They’re playing lights out, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” Helfrich said Sunday about the Utes.
–No. 6 TCU and its Heisman contender, quarterback Trevone Boykin, host No. 9 Kansas State with first in the Big 12 on the line.
–No. 7 Michigan State hosts No. 13 Ohio State in the Big Ten game of the year.
–No. 8 Notre Dame goes to No. 11 Arizona State, looking for a resume-boosting victory.
–No. 10 Baylor is at No. 16 Oklahoma, with a chance for the Bears to reassert themselves in the Big 12.
That’s a lot of stuff for the selection committee to digest. Its next rankings come out this Tuesday.
The Ducks have a chance to move into the top four with Ole Miss losing, not that Helfrich will be paying closer attention this week than he did last.
“The exact same amount — which is also the amount of hair I’m going to gain,” said Helfrich, who doesn’t have much separating his baseball cap from his scalp.
So who is facing elimination on Showdown Saturday?
Don’t assume two losses means elimination. For some teams, yes, but plenty still could be in play with a second loss. Especially those SEC West teams and whichever team wins the Pac-12. The best conferences provide enough spots for standout victories to overcome an extra loss, depending how things break around the country.
Already out: Oklahoma (6-2) and LSU (7-2). The problem for the Sooners and Tigers is their previous losses will make it nearly impossible to win their conferences, even if they run the table. It would take some stunning upsets to get them back into contention.
Barely still in: Utah (6-2). If the Utes could somehow win the Pac-12, beating Oregon twice along the way, they have a shot.
Out with a loss: Notre Dame (7-1), Ohio State (7-1), Michigan State (7-1), Baylor (7-1), TCU (7-1).
Hanging on with a loss: Alabama (7-1), Oregon (8-1), Arizona State (7-1) and Kansas State (7-1) all could win their conferences.
Looking at the playoff race another way, which teams control their futures?
–Mississippi State and Alabama. Win out, win the SEC, playoff lock. The Bulldogs and Tide play Nov. 15.
–Oregon and Arizona State. Same as above for Pac-12 teams on path to play each other in the conference title game.
–Florida State. Just win, Seminoles.
You could make a good case for Auburn, too. Even if that loss to Mississippi State keeps the Tigers out of the SEC championship game, a resume with road wins at Kansas State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama would be hard to deny. The only question would be if the committee would give a conference champion from the Big 12 (TCU by also beating K-State?) or Big Ten an edge over the Tigers.
Georgia’s surprising 38-20 loss to Florida cost the Bulldogs eight spots in the rankings, falling to No. 17.
Arizona also took its second loss, 17-7 at UCLA, which dropped the Wildcats seven spots to No. 21.
A good argument can be made that Georgia should have fallen further and Arizona should be ahead of the Bulldogs. Georgia’s other loss is against a South Carolina team that has one of the worst defenses in the country. The Bulldogs do have a good home win against Clemson.
Arizona’s other loss was a close one against Southern California and it won at Oregon.
IN AND OUT
East Carolina’s loss to Temple dropped the Pirates from the rankings, leaving unbeaten Marshall of Conference USA as the only team from outside the Big Five conferences in the Top 25.
Wisconsin moved back into the rankings at No. 25.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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