Power Ranking the Best One-Loss National Championship Contenders
The 2012-13 college football season has been one of unpredictability. From the rise of Kansas State and Notre Dame to the fall of West Virginia and USC, we've seen the unexpected come to fruition since day one.
As of November 10, we've learned that the controversy will not cease until the final day of the season.
In arguably the most shocking upset of the season, freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel led the Texas A&M Aggies to a 29-24 victory over the then No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide. The loss came in Tuscaloosa and has completely altered the shape of the BCS title picture.
Contrary to popular belief, the one thing the loss hasn't done is make the Crimson Tide the only one-loss team to remain in contention
As this list will show you, there are quite a few with a legitimate argument. Should the likes of Oregon, Notre Dame or Kansas State remain undefeated, the following teams will emerge as the potential one-loss replacements in the BCS Championship Game.
So who is in contention? Which teams are legitimate? Most importantly, how should they be ranked in the BCS championship picture?
You're about to find out.
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7. Louisville Cardinals
BCS Ranking: No. 19
W-L Record: 9-1, 4-1 Big East
Most Recent Game: Lost 45-26 at Syracuse Orange
Loss: 45-26 at Syracuse Orange on November 10
Teddy Bridgewater is one of the most dynamic players in the nation, combining elite pocket-passer skills with well above-average scrambling ability. Charlie Strong, meanwhile, is the type of head coach who is likely to be hired by a team in one of the power conferences once the 2012-13 season concludes.
Unfortunately, that combination just isn't enough to make the Louisville Cardinals legitimate BCS championship contenders.
After starting the season 9-0 and beginning to crawl up the BCS Rankings, the Cardinals ran into a red-hot Ryan Nassib and the Syracuse Orange on Senior Day. Despite being the better team, Louisville fell victim to the ever-important factors of momentum and passion.
In turn, they ended up on the wrong end of a 45-26 blowout.
As a Big East school, Strong and company will likely be an afterthought in the BCS Championship Game selection process. They are worthy of mention here, however, as Bridgewater has put together one of the best individual seasons in the nation.
With too little in place to complement their quarterback, Louisville drops.
6. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
BCS Ranking: No. 22
W-L Record: 9-1, 4-1 Big East
Most Recent Game: Won 28-7 at Army Black Knights
Loss: 35-23 at Kent State on October 27
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are one of the most interesting cases in the nation. Despite dropping a 35-23 heartbreaker at the hands of the Kent State Golden Flashes, the New Jersey football squad is capable of playing with the best of the best.
First-year head coach Kyle Flood can be thanked for that.
Rutgers has playmakers on offense in Jawan Jamison, Brandon Coleman and Tim Wright. They are lethal in open space and have combined for 17 total touchdowns.
The true strength of this team, however, is their bullying and preventative defense that has allowed just 13.4 points per game, a number that ranks them fifth in the nation.
While most defenses will specialize in one area of the game, the Scarlet Knights have found great balance. They're allowing a mere 199.4 passing yards per game, as well as 110.0 on the ground.
Although their run defense has been weak against Kent State and Army in recent weeks, their opportunistic defensive backs have cured a majority of their defensive woes.
Rutgers has tallied 13 interceptions, recovered three fumbles and scored two defensive touchdowns. They've also deflected 44 passes, which offers insight into the swarming mentality of Coach Flood's D.
The fact that Jamison has run for 954 yards and four touchdowns with an additional 25 receptions for 308 yards and two scores certainly doesn't hurt either.
What does hurt is that they play in the Big East.
5. Clemson Tigers
BCS Ranking: No. 11
W-L Record: 9-1, 6-1 ACC
Most Recent Game: Won 45-10 vs. Maryland Terrapins
Loss: 49-37 vs. Florida State Seminoles on September 22
If you want to see the most exciting game of the season, start petitioning for the Clemson Tigers to play the No. 2 Oregon Ducks in the BCS Championship. If you're looking for any form of defense, however, said game isn't for you.
Even if Clemson and Oregon's respective defenses are relatively underrated.
Clemson presently ranks sixth in the nation with an average of 42.9 points per game. They're led by quarterback Tajh Boyd, who has guided the team to an average of 322.1 passing yards per contest.
As for how Boyd is able to work his magic, the elite wide receiver combination of DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins have proven to be unstoppable. Despite Watkins having missed three games, the duo has combined for 108 receptions, 1657 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The question is, can Andre Ellington rediscover his All-American form?
After rushing for 693 yards and seven touchdowns through the first seven games, Ellington has put up just 142 yards and one score over the past three outings. Should he return to the explosive running style that has made Clemson so difficult to stop, however, Clemson deserves recognition.
Especially when their defense is allowing just 22.4 points per game.
Their looming November 24 showdown with SEC foe No. 9 South Carolina will determine their legitimacy.
4. Florida State Seminoles
BCS Ranking: No. 10
W-L Record: 9-1, 6-1 ACC
Most Recent Game: Won 28-22 at Virginia Tech Hokies
Loss: 17-16 at North Carolina State Wolfpack on October 6
The Florida State Seminoles rank fourth in the nation in scoring, averaging 43.1 points per game. They also rank third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average of just 13.0 points per contest in an offense-heavy conference.
Thus far this season, they also have just two games decided by single digits, a 28-22 victory at Virginia Tech and their lone loss, a 17-16 defeat at North Carolina State.
So who wants to debate that they're the best team in the ACC?
When faced with the No. 11 Clemson Tigers, FSU walked away victorious by a score of 49-37. Since then, they're winning by an average margin of 23.4 points and have taken down Coastal Division leaders Miami (FL) and Duke by a combined score of 81-27.
Should they secure a victory at Maryland on November 17, they'll have clinched an appearance in the ACC Championship Game.
The truth of the matter is, there is very little respect being sent in Florida State's direction. Despite ranking sixth in the USA Today Poll and third in the ESPNU Fan Poll, the computers have dragged the 'Noles down to 11th in the BCS (via ESPN).
Fortunately for 'Nole Nation, FSU will have a chance to make their case when they play the No. 6 Florida Gators on November 24. Should they win against their in-state rivals, FSU will inevitably emerge as a potential one-loss contender.
The question is, could taking down an SEC elite be enough to push them over the other SEC teams?
3. Georgia Bulldogs
BCS Ranking: No. 5
W-L Record: 9-1, 7-1 SEC
Most Recent Game: Won 38-0 at Auburn Tigers
Loss: 35-7 at South Carolina Gamecocks on October 6
This one might be controversial, but let's place our biases aside.
The Georgia Bulldogs have played just three teams with winning records. Those teams include the No. 6 Florida Gators, the No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks and the 6-4 Vanderbilt Commodores.
Although they've managed to defeat the Gators and Commodores, Georgia fell to South Carolina. And when I say fell, I mean they took a deep and unforgivable nose dive.
Going on the road with a five-game winning streak, Georgia dropped a devastating 35-7 blowout to Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks. This image should last in the minds of analysts everywhere, as it was their most significant test of the year.
Even a 17-9 victory over Florida can't change that.
Other victories for the Bulldogs include a 51-44 defeat of the Tennessee Volunteers and a 29-24 win over Kentucky. Forgive me for my skepticism, but how exactly can we defend a BCS Championship Game member who has barely defeated the average and been blown out by their top competition?
As they close out their season, the Bulldogs have few opponents that would impress the masses. Their remaining opponents are FCS school Georgia Southern and the 5-5 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Although in-state rivals, neither should give Georgia too much trouble. If they do, then we may need to reconsider Georgia's rank on this list entirely.
As for those who believe the Bulldogs should be ahead of Florida by virtue of their defeating the Gators, tough luck. Florida's victories over No. 7 LSU and No. 9 South Carolina earn them a controversial advantage.
Even if the Bulldogs have proven to be occasionally brilliant.
2. Florida Gators
BCS Ranking: No. 6
W-L Record: 9-1, 7-1 SEC
Most Recent Game: Won 27-20 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
Loss: 17-9 vs. Georgia Bulldogs on October 27
The Florida Gators have been arguably the most consistent team in college football. They defeated the No. 7 LSU Tigers 14-6, the No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks 44-11 and lost their only game of the season to the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs by a score of 17-9.
Even if they were close to horrendous against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns, we simply cannot discount the consistent beauty of Will Muschamp's crew.
What's going against the Gators is that Georgia has won the SEC East. Unless they fall to Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, the likelihood that they leapfrog the Bulldogs is rather thin.
With that being said, they deserve to.
Florida may have the most inconsistent pass game in the nation, but they're running the football with efficiency. Mike Gillislee is third in the SEC with 842 rush yards, tacking on an additional seven touchdowns.
Although he's disappeared over the past five weeks, the upside for a breakout performance when it matters most is there.
The true strength of this Florida team is their defense.
The Gators rank third in the nation by allowing a mere 12.9 points per game. They're also letting up just 284.9 yards per game of total offense, which displays the balanced attack this defense puts forth.
They've forced 23 turnovers, swarm to the ball carrier and will be in any game until the fourth quarter. In terms of playing style, consider them to be this year's version of the 2011-12 LSU.
Unfortunately, Florida has a loss. LSU did not.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
BCS Ranking: No. 4
W-L Record: 9-1, 6-1 SEC
Most Recent Game: Lost 29-24 vs. Texas A&M Aggies
Loss: 29-24 vs. Texas A&M Aggies on November 10
The Alabama Crimson Tide were shaken up at the hands of the No. 7 LSU Tigers and stunned at home against the No. 8 Texas A&M Aggies. As a result, their past two performances have many doubting Alabama's legitimacy as the best in the SEC.
The only legitimate question, however, is how bad do you feel for Western Carolina?
Now, I'll be the first to tell you that the Crimson Tide are not the best team in the nation. A.J. McCarron is one of the game's elite pocket passers, but Alabama's receiving corps is underdeveloped, their running game turnover-prone and defense significantly weaker than a year ago.
Their defensive backfield has yet to recover from the departures of Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron, while their pass rush has proven to be rather pedestrian. Such was on display against both Texas A&M and LSU.
That, however, does not make them any different from the other 119 teams in the FBS. The Crimson Tide, much like everyone else, have flaws that hurt their cause.
With that being said, such does not hurt their status as one of the elite teams in college football. Which is exactly why they're the leading one-loss contender to make the National Championship Game.
They remain first in the nation by allowing 11.1 points per game. They're also led by a quarterback that plays mistake-free football, a two-headed run game and a playmaker in Amari Cooper that now has 608 yards and six touchdowns on 38 receptions.
Alabama could bang with the best of them. A loss, however, will derail any team.