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Monday, December 9, 2013

Final Week of Regular Season: Top 25

Ladies and gentleman, we have arrived.  A long season filled with questions about all the undefeateds, who gets in, who gets left out, and who deserves respect uncharacteristically worked everything out on it's own for us.  More relieving than the fact that we have a relatively clean finish to our season is the fact that we have survived the BCS era.  The last slate of BCS games are out and in the end, for once we got a slate of games with almost no controversy (one small controversy but better than seasons past).

I for one feel this warrants a celebration and I plan on doing just that.  Over the next few weeks, I'll be writing an opinion on the best way to handle a reconfigured bowl system and for all the BCS haters out there, a top ten list of the biggest flops of the BCS systems over the past ten years.

But now, let's get to the last top 25 until we have a national champion crowned.

1. Florida State - A stat flashed briefly on my screen while watching the ACC championship game on Saturday.  I was surprised that the commentators made no mention of it, at all,  the state appeared, left, and the broadcast moved on.  The stat?  The Seminoles kicker, Roberto Aguayo, has outscored Seminole opponents on the season.  Knock the schedule if you want but this is the best team I've seen on a college field since the 2001 Miami Hurricanes.

2. Auburn - No debate from me here on who gets the second spot.  They compiled a great won-loss record against mostly light-weights through the first ten games of the season but successive victories over Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri make it obvious who has earned this spot.

3. Michigan State - Unlike most voters, I take into consideration the fact that the Spartans are conference champions when deciding where to rank them.  I know Alabama is good but Michigan State won their conference, played an extra game, and won the biggest game on their schedule.  Alabama didn't do any of those things, so Sparty gets my vote here.

4. Alabama - If Saban calls a Hail Mary instead of a field goal attempt, we are drooling over the prospect of Alabama-Florida State.  He didn't, we aren't.  Alabama may be the second best team ever to not win their conference (behind Alabama from two years ago).

5. Baylor - Think about this for a second, the last three BIG 12 champions are Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Baylor.  Over those three seasons combined, those schools spent less on their football team than Texas did this year.  Baylor's conference championship caps the best season in school history and maybe the most unlikely BCS AQ conference winner ever.

6. Stanford - Times have really changed when Stanford is disappointed to be playing in the Rose Bowl as a two loss team but I think that's how the Cardinal have to feel.  Stanford played that hardest schedule in the nation this year, beating seven ranked teams and playing ten games against teams going to bowl games.  The fact that both losses came to unranked teams, and one of only three teams on the schedule not going to a bowl, will make for a long offseason.

7. Ohio State - Two years into Urban Meyer's tenure as the Buckeyes head coach and we still have no idea how good they really are.  We know they are better than Wisconsin (beat them in each of his two seasons) but have no idea how good nationally.  The non-conference schedule is a joke and no team they've beaten in the 24 game winning streak has finished higher than 17th in the seasons final rankings.

8. South Carolina - Much like Stanford, the Gamecocks must be wondering how they won ten games, beat two teams headed to BCS bowls, and were the only team to beat Missouri in the regular season, yet they lost to Georgia and Tennessee.

9. Arizona State - One of my least favorite things about the BCS systems is that it penalizes teams for playing an extra game.  ASU has lost three times, yes, but they have played 13 games.  Two of those losses are to Stanford, no one else ranked ahead of them had to play Stanford once.  I refuse to penalize the Sun Devils for playing an extra game and believe they belong in the top ten.

10. Missouri - 11-2 is a really nice record and a miraculous turnaround from last year, however, Missouri beat up on a lot of teams that were in the midst of being destroyed by injuries.  Ranked wins of over Florida, Georgia, and Ole Miss do not look as strong now as they did when they occurred.  Missouri, like Ohio State, will have a lot to prove in it's bowl game.

11. UCF - Probably the hardest team for me to rank because they have that "play to the level of your competition" stink all over them.  The Knights looked tough, gritty, and like a legitimate top ten team in early victories over Louisville and a hard fought loss to South Carolina.  At the end of the day though, they managed to win seven games by seven points or less, making South Florida and Temple look just as tough as Lousiville.  I'll respect the record and be very curious to see how they play the Fiesta Bowl against a Baylor team that could run away from them in a hurry.

12. Oklahoma - After the blowout loss at Baylor, I think the nation wrote off Oklahoma as a contender this year.  They quietly won out from there and capped the season with an upset of the rivals Cowboys in Stillwater.  Both losses were against strong teams and they also compiled wins over Texas Tech and Notre Dame along the way.

13. Oregon - The record and reputation made me instinctively think they should be higher but when you really analyze this team, they played sooooo bad down the stretch that even placing them here seems generous.  The two losses were bowling-shoe-dropped-in-an-outhouse ugly.  The final score in the Stanford game does not do justice to how hopelessly outclassed they were almost the entire game and the blowout loss to Arizona was just embarrassing.  Then they come back and barely survive an Oregon State team that was coming off a 42 point demolishing at the hands of Washington.  The Ducks don't deserve to be in a BCS bowl this year.

14. Clemson - The Tigers also fall into that category of "who knows" with Ohio State and Missouri.  Nice record, they play in an AQ conference, but their best win was against Georgia (seems like I've said that a lot, says a lot about how their season went) and that was on opening night.  Since that night, Clemson was beaten by the only two ranked teams they played, and the loss to FSU was the worst home loss in school history.  The Tigers best win since then is probably Boston College.  The Orange Bowl will be fun to watch and see who wants to lose the game less between them and Ohio State.

15. Oklahoma State - Season ends in disappointing fashion against the Sooners but the thrashing of Baylor at home remains one of the best victories for any team all season.  The Pokes are finally playing well on both sides of the ball as well, watch out for these guys next year.

16. UCLA - The Bruins haven't quite yet learned how to win all the big games but it shows a lot in how far this program has come that they can win all the smaller ones.  UCLA dropped games against Stanford, Oregon, and Arizona State on the year, the best three teams in the conference.  However, they did pick up wins over Washington and Nebraska, as well as all the teams they "should" beat.

17. Wisconsin - The Badgers finished off a season that was better than it had any right to be by winning nine games.  Coming off of a five loss season and losing their head coach, that is a great accomplishment.  The season ending loss to Penn State is bad but the other losses are to Ohio State and a highly controversial loss on the road at Arizona State.  Really, I'd say their record is 9 1/2 - 2 1/2.

18. LSU - The Tigers of 2013 did not look like the ones we are used.  Instead doing enough on offense and pulverizing teams on defense, LSU was inconsistent on both sides of the ball.  The only team to beat Auburn and make Johnny Manziel look like a foolish dancer behind center also dropped games against Ole Miss, Georgia, and then simply gave up at halftime against Alabama.  This team had a lot of turnover from last year and will be back in the top ten next season.

19. Louisville - Just like the UCF team represents the Cardinals only loss, this team spent the second half of the season playing to the level of their competition and the competition was bad.  After losing to the Knights, you could say that they "Oregoned it" and decided that they shouldn't play hard for anything but an unbeaten season, just play hard enough to win.  Bridgewater is a stud and the defense is among the countries best when it wants to be but they just did not play a very complete season.

20. Northern Illinois - I love cheering for the little guys, and I really want to put NIU higher than this, but I just can't.  In the preseason, I thought they had a great chance to go unbeaten this year, after they struggled to pull out early wins against Idaho and Eastern Illinois, I wrote that idea off.  Somehow they almost did it anyways.  Jordan Lynch is a Heisman worthy quarterback and that win over Iowa looked better and better as the season rolled on.  That being said the rest of the schedule aside from Ball State and Bowling Green (who beat them) belong in the bottom thirty of the entire FBS.  Hard to put them any higher despite the record.

21. Duke - The Blue Devils had the greatest season in school history.  After getting crushed by Georgia Tech and then losing a 58-55 shootout to Pitt, it would have been easy to accept this as a season just like last year.  That team beat bad teams and then let good teams score as much as they wanted.  The losing streak ended at two.  From there the Blue Devils would win eight in a row, including upsets of UNC, Virginia Tech, and Miami, before falling to the mighty Seminoles.

22. Fresno State - I have one bias that I will not deny. I hate teams that only play one side of the ball.  Teams that throw like crazy and give up points by the boatload, I hate em (Hint: Texas A&M doesn't make my rankings).  That bias comes into play here.  I could easily put this team up around 18 if I wanted to, but I don't.  Fresno State has allowed 37 or more points 4 times this season, including their one loss where they let a San Jose State that is 47th in the country ins scoring offense hang 62 on them.  David Carr is great, Davante Adams is great, but the defense is just awful.

23. Georgia - You have to wonder how far the Bulldogs could have gone if this team had been healthy at all this season.  The injuries started by halftime in the opening game against Clemson and got worse all through the season, culminating with Aaron Murray's ACL tear after 11 games of carrying the entire team on his back.  The four losses came by a total of 27 points and three were to teams that finished in the top 13.  Also, they did beat LSU and South Carolina along the way.  They faced one of the three toughest schedules in the country and faced it hurt the whole way.

24. USC - Not a bad finish for a team that decided to fire it's coach by halftime of it's fifth game.  The Trojans should be excited about what a deeper roster and a real head coach to start the season could mean for next years team.

25. Bowling Green - The MAC champions finish the season on a five game win streak that included a victory over the previously unbeaten Huskies of NIU.  Of the three losses on the season, two came by a combined 4 points.  It's not an overwhelmingly great season by any means, but it's only the 25th spot.

Also considered: Miami (FL), Ball State, Rice, and Texas

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