Breaking down the ballots for the AP Top 25 and wrapping up college football’s eighth weekend.
Good luck, selection committee.
The first season of the College Football Playoff is a little more than halfway in the books and there are just four unbeaten teams left in FBS. Two play each other (No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 3 Mississippi). One is No. 2 Florida State, which has spent a good chunk of this season dancing around trap doors. The other is No. 23 Marshall, which plays one of the weakest schedules in the country and realistically has little chance of being part of the football final four.
And for those who think Marshall’s chances are much closer to none than slim, let’s just say it’s best to never say never.
There are also 17 one-loss teams, from No. 4 Alabama to unranked Minnesota and Duke that have every right to dream big.
“I hadn’t gone there,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said with a little bit of a laugh on Sunday.
“I do know where we are right now it gives us an opportunity to continue to play very meaningful games.”
If the Blue Devils (or Gophers) were to run the table, why wouldn’t they have a case to play for the national championship? The selection committee’s first top 25 comes out Oct. 28, and this race promises to take plenty of twists and turns before the field is set on Dec. 7.
For now the Southeastern Conference is dominating the top of The Associated Press college football poll. The SEC on Sunday became the first conference to hold four of the top five spots in the rankings — all from the western division.
“Glad we’re not playing the Mississippis this year, though I don’t know who you want to play over on the western side,” said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, whose team was thumped on opening night by A&M.
Top-ranked Mississippi State held its spot in an off week. Ole Miss did the same after a convincing 34-3 victory against Tennessee.
Alabama jumped three spots to No. 4 after throttling Texas A&M 59-0.
No. 5 Auburn took advantage of Baylor being upset by West Virginia and Notre Dame’s loss at Florida State, to inch up a spot during an off week.
The Egg Bowl between Mississippi State and Ole Miss and the Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama, both played the Saturday after Thanksgiving, will help settle some things in the SEC West. Also, Auburn still has to visit Ole Miss and Mississippi State goes to Alabama. Or those four teams can take turns beating each other and create a logjam of one-loss teams.
As for Florida State, the lone crasher of the SEC’s top-five party, the Seminoles showed again Saturday night that resiliency breeds good fortune. Behind a brilliant second half by Jameis Winston, and with the help of a late offensive pass interference penalty against Notre Dame, Florida State escaped again.
“If you got the champ, you can’t win by split-decision. You got to knock him out,” Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said.
The Seminoles have a hard chin, but problems still exist.
Notre Dame ran the ball better on FSU than it had for much of the season. The Seminoles own running game can’t seem to get going rolling behind an offensive line that has underachieved.
But they have Winston, the headline-making Heisman Trophy winner who reminded everyone again that behind all the noise he is maybe the most gifted passer in college football.
Kansas State’s 31-30 upset against Oklahoma, the Wildcats second straight victorious visit to Norman, pushed coach Bill Snyder’s team up three spots in the rankings to No. 11.
K-State still has much of the meat of its Big 12 schedule ahead with road games at No. 10 TCU, No. 22 West Virginia and No. 12 Baylor.
The Wildcats are the only team in the conference without a league loss.
Here’s where the Big 12 is: Oklahoma beat West Virginia, TCU beat Oklahoma, Baylor beat TCU, and West Virginia beat Baylor.
IN AND OUT
West Virginia is ranked for the first time since Oct. 2012. If you recall that season, the Mountaineers with Geno Smith and Tavon Austin reached the top-five, before unraveling and finishing 7-6.
Last year, the Mountaineers plummeted to 4-8 and coach Dana Holgorsen came into 2014 with shaky long-term status.
Holgorsen has rediscovered the offense that made him such a hot commodity, and he has unearthed a monster in receiver Kevin White. If there is talk of Alabama receiver Amari Cooper being a Heisman contender than White should get some hype, too.
The 6-foot-3, 208-pound senior has 69 catches for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns. Cooper has 62 catches, 908 yards and seven touchdowns.
Also moving back into the rankings this week after victories were UCLA and LSU.
Falling out after losses were Oklahoma State, Stanford and Texas A&M.
FROM THE ARCHIVE
Since 2001, there have been 30 occasions where three of the top five teams in the AP poll were from the same conference. The previous 16 instances, the conference has been the SEC.
AP Sports Writer Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoAP
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