College Football Polls 2013: Analyzing Week 13 AP and Coaches Polls
Week 12 didn't give us the upset-filled craziness that we've come to expect from November Saturdays, but if you watched football all day long, you had to be satisfied at the bevy of memorable games.
There was the thriller at Auburn, the return of a dormant USC program and, finally, another big win for a Duke program that has been the doorstep of the ACC for so many years.
Elite teams that emerged back in October have, for the most part, played their roles to perfection. But little by little, college football has chipped away at what we think we know, and with several weeks remaining, assuming anything is the worst thing you can do.
All stats via ESPN
The AP voters don't seem to agree with the coaches when it comes to the Nos. 25-21 grouping, which explains why USC and Duke are the only two teams in that slot in both polls.
But before we get to the differences, let's consider how amazing it is that the Trojans and Blue Devils are ranked.
USC is no stranger to the rankings, and perhaps it feels weird not seeing 'ol Troy slotted up near the Top 10, a place it has called home for so many years. But the Trojans lost to Washington State back in September by a score of 10-7. The Cougars' only touchdown came on a pick-six by quarterback Cody Kessler. On Saturday, Kessler led his squad to a victory over the Stanford Cardinal. The turnaround is nothing short of remarkable.
And yet, it pales in comparison to what Duke has accomplished recently, and the Blue Devils' 48-30 victory over Miami, coupled with Georgia Tech's loss to Clemson, means that David Cutcliffe's team controls its own destiny to the ACC Championship Game. For a program with such a bleak recent history, being ranked has to put the players on top of the world today.
As for the differences between the two polls, the Coaches has Minnesota, Arizona State and Northern Illinois, while the AP voters selected Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Louisville.
Both Ole Miss and Minnesota are more than deserving, so seeing each team left off one of the polls is odd, but it's also difficult to make a case for their inclusion over the other teams listed.
The only real drama in this group might be who has the best chance to rise into the Top 15 before the end of the season, and Arizona State, with just one loss in conference play and a path to the Pac-12 title game, seems like the clear answer. Don't be surprised, however, if Duke continues to climb in the polls until it reaches the conference championship game.
Things start to look similar as we climb up into the Nos. 20-16 portion of the rankings, as three teams fall into this category in both the AP and Coaches Polls.
The Coaches has UCF at No. 20, followed by LSU at No. 19 and Wisconsin at No. 17. The AP sees the three teams a little differently, with the Tigers at No. 18, followed by the Knights at No. 17 and the Badgers at No. 16.
We've been harping on the Coaches Poll for a while now for having the Knights ranked below the Cardinals, but there were some holes exposed in that theory after UCF escaped Temple with a 39-36 win. However, because Louisville only beat Houston by seven points, we're inclined to stick with the thought that should two teams have one loss each, with one owning a head-to-head victory, that team should be ranked higher.
But before we get lost in that debate, let's take a look at LSU and Wisconsin, two talented teams whose low rankings might be a product of their respective schedules. For the Tigers, life in the SEC has been difficult, with defeats at Georgia and Alabama, and Les Miles has a three-loss team that could surely hang with anybody.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, fell in controversial fashion at Arizona State before narrowly dropping a game at Ohio State. Because the Big Ten Conference doesn't boast quality depth, the Badgers have been unable to climb very high in the rankings despite a string of impressive wins.
Looking at the differences between the polls, the Coaches Poll includes Oklahoma and Fresno State in this grouping, while the AP decided upon Arizona State and Northern Illinois.
The most interesting aspect of this final tidbit is that the Coaches Poll has Fresno State behind Northern Illinois, and the team ranked higher between the two could be going to a BCS bowl.
Once again, the Nos. 15-11 grouping has three of the same teams in each poll.
The order is the same in both the AP and Coaches Poll, which is UCLA, followed by Michigan State and South Carolina.
The Bruins boast perhaps the strongest resume of all the two-loss teams, at least in terms of quality defeats. Jim Mora's team lost at Stanford and Oregon but has otherwise looked impressive. And with the recent revelation of putting linebacker Myles Jack at running back, which has resulted in five touchdowns in two games for the freshman, the Bruins look like a scary team.
Michigan State went to Nebraska on Saturday and flew home with a 41-28 victory and a clear path to the conference title game in tow. What was strange was how the game played out, as the Spartans are used to playing good defense and keeping the score relatively low. But if the offense continues to churn out above-average performances, Mark Dantonio's squad will have a real shot against Ohio State.
South Carolina is the team that you can't quite figure out, as one week you'll see the Gamecocks winning at Missouri, and the next week they're struggling against an awful Florida team. Steve Spurrier and Co. are deserving of their ranking, but they appear to be the weak link of the group based on too much inconsistency.
The Coaches Poll has Louisville up at No. 15 with Stanford at No. 12, while the AP went Fresno State and Oklahoma State.
It's not that Louisville doesn't deserve to be in the Top 15 with just one loss, but when you watch the Cardinals play, do they really look capable of beating these other teams right now?
While a spot in this grouping typically signifies a solid season, Stanford cannot be happy, as the Cardinal went from conference leader and one-loss title-game front-runner to the forgotten team that may get left out of the BCS altogether.
The Coaches Poll has Oklahoma State at No. 9, while the AP Poll puts Stanford at No. 10, but after that, the two sets of rankings are in agreement.
The other four teams you'll see here are Texas A&M, Missouri, Clemson and Auburn.
It has to be pointed out that three of these four teams reside in the SEC, and Missouri will actually host Texas A&M on Nov. 30, which will determine if the Tigers go to the SEC Championship Game. Gary Pinkel's team must get past Ole Miss first, however, and that's certainly no easy task (just ask LSU).
Quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies are always a hot topic of discussion, but there isn't much to discuss after the team's bye week. Up next is a trip to LSU, and the world will eagerly await the return of Manziel to a national stage.
Clemson is in a position similar to Wisconsin, as the Tigers are talented, but because of the loss to Florida State, they won't be playing in the conference title game. Still, Dabo Swinney's team plays South Carolina at the end of the season and a victory over a highly-ranked rival will probably earn it a BCS bid.
As for Auburn, well, you can't take anything off the table after its miraculous win over Georgia on Saturday. The Tigers will host Alabama on Nov. 30 for what will surely be one of the more anticipated Iron Bowls in the history of the rivalry.
If quarterback Nick Marshall and Co. can pull of the upset, they'll likely jump to the front of the one-loss contenders for a spot in the title game, though actually getting to Pasadena will still require a few upsets.
Following Stanford's 20-17 loss to USC, the Oregon Ducks have jumped back into the Top Five of both polls, while everyone else moved up a spot.
Alabama and Florida State remained Nos. 1 and 2, although the Coaches Poll still has Ohio State at No. 3 and Baylor at No. 4, while the AP flip-flops the two.
Regardless, we're still on track for a title game between the Crimson Tide and the Seminoles. With games against Idaho and Florida remaining on the schedule, Jimbo Fisher's team is practically a lock to finish out the regular season 12-0. In the ACC title game, it's looking more and more like it'll face Duke, and despite how much fun it's been to watch the Blue Devils get better every week, you're not going to convince anyone that they have a chance of stopping quarterback Jameis Winston.
The road for Alabama is slightly tougher, as the Crimson Tide will hope for a smooth performance against Chattanooga before an Iron Bowl showdown with Auburn. Should the Tide roll there, they'll face either Missouri or South Carolina in the conference championship game.
The debate between Ohio State and Baylor is interesting, and you could make a case for either team being No. 3. On one hand, the Buckeyes have more talent and are probably capable of playing a more complete game than Baylor. Then again, the Bears have only been in a tight ballgame on one occasion, while the Buckeyes seem to underperform every other week.
At the end of the day, fair or not, it's about looking good and notching impressive wins. If the Bears win at Oklahoma State next Saturday, they could jump the Buckeyes for good.
Finally, we have the Oregon Ducks sitting at No. 5. Quarterback Marcus Mariota had another excellent game in a 44-21 win over Utah, but Mark Helfrich's team could get passed by Auburn if the Tigers upset Alabama in two weeks.