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The REAL Top 25 - Week 14

Another week down, and this one was full of drama and surprises. Hopefully you were able to catch the ending of the Alabama-Auburn game - just absolutely shocking stuff. But the top teams all managed to find a way to hang on and still keep hope for the playoffs (with the exception of Louisville and of course we knew one of Ohio/Michigan was going to lose).

There are 12 New Years Six bowl slots, including the 4 playoff spots. One slot is reserved for the "Group of Five" and Louisville will likely get an automatic berth as the ACC rep in the Orange Bowl even if they fall out of the top 12 - which seems likely if they lose to Florida State in the ACC championship. So there will be a lot of interest in which teams make the top ten of the CFP rankings. As of last week, Missouri was #9, Louisville #10, and Penn State #11 - so with Louisville's loss to Kentucky, Penn State is primed to claim that last NY6 slot.

As an aside, I'm curious - how do people rank or even begin to compare the "Group of Five" alongside teams from the Power Five? You can tell the pollsters kind of give up once they get past the three-loss teams and they just start throwing in whatever one and two loss Group of Five teams they can find. For example, Toledo is 11-1 in the MAC and ranked #23 in the AP poll - but their one loss is to Illinois. SMU has two losses and is ranked #25. One loss is against Oklahoma (no shame there) but the other is to 5-7 TCU. James Madison lost to another Sun Belt team team, but seems to be sticking around the rankings (#24) by virtue of their win over 3-9 Virginia. Liberty is undefeated and deserves recognition, but they literally have the easiest schedule in all of FBS (ranked 133 out of 133). At some point, it will probably make sense to just make the current divide official and have the Group of Five teams compete in their own separate division for their own championship. Anyway, enough ranting. On to the rankings!

1) Georgia (12-0) Along with several other top teams, Georgia nearly got caught looking ahead to their conference championship game and taken out by a scrappy rival. Georgia has a couple of good wins over Missouri and Ole Miss, but it's not quite the big-name resume we usually see from an SEC champ. Of course, that will change if they beat Alabama this week. (Last week: 1)

2) Michigan (12-0) It wasn't always pretty, but Michigan grinded out a win over arch-rival Ohio State. Assuming they can get by Iowa in the Big Ten Championship, Michigan is a lock for the playoff. (Last week: 4)

3) Washington (12-0) I watched the last minute of their Washington State game, and I was shocked at how loose they were with the ball as they drove for the winning score. Washington only needed a field goal, but they nearly threw two picks and also took a sack. In terms of their resume, some of their earlier "big" wins have lost a little luster - such as USC, Utah, and Oregon State. (Last week: 3)

4) Florida State (12-0) The Seminoles should be very thankful that they scheduled LSU this year. Without that win, I don't know if their undefeated ACC resume would hold up against potential one-loss Power 5 champs. (Last week: 5)

5) Texas (11-1) This is the spot to be in if one of the top four teams slips. But as I've mentioned before, the pollsters love Oregon - so if the Ducks beat Washington, then Texas may also need one of the other three top teams to lose as well. (Last week: 6)

6) Alabama (11-1) Could the SEC get shut out of the playoff? It's a very real possibility. If Alabama knocks off Georgia, it's hard to imagine Alabama leap-frogging an undefeated Power 5 champ or even Texas (who beat Alabama earlier this year). (Last week: 7)

7) Ohio State (11-1) It feels a little harsh to drop the Buckeyes five spots for a close loss on the road to an undefeated rival. But with so many teams with one loss (or better) at the top, there isn't much separation between them. (Last week: 2)

8) Oregon (11-1) The Ducks only have one ranked win and it isn't a particularly impressive one (Oregon State), although they did run up a good margin. The models and pollsters all love Oregon, so it sure seems like they could be close to a lock for the playoff if they beat Washington. (Last week: 8)

9) Ole Miss (10-2) As mentioned at the start, there will be a lot of interest in who is ranked in the top ten. I'm surprised that Missouri continues to be ranked ahead of Ole Miss. The Rebels beat LSU (and Tulane for what that's worth) while Missouri no longer has a ranked win. Missouri was more competitive against Georgia, but that's about all I can come up with. (Last week: 10)

10) LSU (9-3) I suppose the CFP wouldn't want to have four teams from one conference in the NY6 bowls (especially one with three losses) but - repeating myself from prior weeks - LSU's only three losses are to teams above them and they also have a win over Missouri. (Last week: 11)

11) Oklahoma (10-2) Their losses aren't terrible: Oklahoma State is ranked while Kansas is on the fringe of the rankings - and both losses were by one score and on the road. And Oklahoma does hold a win over Texas. (Last week: 13)

12) Missouri (10-2) Missouri has "better" losses than Oklahoma, but their wins have lost some luster. Kansas State isn't ranked anymore while Tennessee is on the fringes depending on the poll. (Last week: 12)

13) Penn State (10-2) The Big Ten is a house of cards built on Iowa. Of the 14 teams in the conference, only four had more than 7 wins or were better than 5-4 in conference. Iowa somehow went 10-2 while avoiding two of the three best teams in the conference. So how much credit does Penn State really deserve for demolishing Iowa? On the other hand, their West Virginia win is looking better now that the Mountaineers have finished 8-4. (Last week: 15)

14) Louisville (10-2) They had some decent wins (Notre Dame, NC State) but were undone by a couple of unranked losses - including the regular season finale against Kentucky (Last week: 9)

15) Arizona (9-3) The Pac-12 seems to have a habit of having its best teams play each other at the end of the season, which allows them to beat up on the weaker teams early on and move up the rankings. As a result, good mid-season wins don't look quite as good by the end of the season - but they've already gotten that rankings boost. In Arizona's case, the UCLA and Utah wins aren't quite as impressive as they were a few weeks ago. (Last week: 14)

16) Notre Dame (9-3) The Irish faded from the spotlight over the last month as they had three relatively easy matchups and a loss to Clemson, while the rest of the country was involved in meaningful conference games. (Last week: 17)

17) NC State (9-3) Their triumph over North Carolina makes it five wins a row after starting off 4-3. If it wasn't for a close 13-10 loss to Louisville, it would be NC State (instead of the Cardinals) facing Florida State in the ACC championship. (Last week: 20)

18) Oklahoma State (9-3) The "bad" Cowboys (the same team that lost to South Alabama and UCF) nearly stole the show as they barely hung on in overtime against BYU. We'll see if the "good" Cowboys (who beat Kansas St, Kansas, and Oklahoma) show up against Texas in the Big 12 championship. (Last week: 18)

19) Clemson (8-4) They got better as the season progressed and won their last four - including Notre Dame and North Carolina. And aside from their week one disaster against Duke, their other three losses were only by one score. (Last week: 21)

20) Iowa (10-2) I really thought Nebraska would get them, but as usual they pulled out a gritty, low-scoring win. Of course, they didn't get a ranked win this season or even beat a team with more than seven wins - so I can't rank them too highly. (Last week: 23)

21) Oregon State (8-4) The last scheduled Civil War didn't go the Beavers' way. Like Arizona above, their top wins (Utah, UCLA) are a bit less impressive now, but they managed to avoid bad losses other than an early-season three point road loss to Washington State - who at least was ranked at the time before falling apart. (Last week: 16)

22) Kansas State (8-4) Disappointing end to the regular season by losing to Iowa State, but at least they beat Kansas the week before. (Last week: 19)

23) Kansas (8-4) Don't forget - these guys managed to beat Oklahoma earlier this season. This is their best season in over 15 years - nice to see a good turnaround from this historical cellar-dweller. (Last week: 22)

24) Utah (8-4) There are a few teams with arguments for this last spot (Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa State, etc) but I'm going with Utah by virtue of no unranked losses and decent wins over Florida, USC, and UCLA. (Last week: unranked)

25) Liberty (12-0) I guess? I suppose you could argue for James Madison or Tulane, but going undefeated should be worth something. (Last week: 25)

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