Just when we thought we were entering a state of inertia with the BCS rankings, USC of all teams has to come and play the spoiler.
The Trojans defeated No. 4 Stanford, 20-17, at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday night, a result that will send chaos, misanthropy and psychosis reverberating across the nation.
Just a week after seemingly being taken out of national championship contention, Oregon now stands as the best-looking one-loss team and has an inside track at the Rose Bowl. The Ducks, despite Marcus Mariota being hobbled by a knee injury, returned to form in their 44-21 victory over Utah.
In fact, it was much of the same for every contender sans Stanford. Only four ranked teams fell in Week 12, and the Cardinal represented the only one that came with even a modicum of surprise. You'll notice that an overwhelming majority of the teams in B/R's Samuel Chi's latest projections haven't moved or are just one or two spots different thanks to the Cardinal's loss:
|Week 13 BCS Rankings Projections|
|4||Ohio State||10-0||Big Ten||3|
|12||Oklahoma State||9-1||Big 12||12|
|16||Michigan State||9-1||Big Ten||16|
|B/R's Samuel Chi|
What will be more interesting than the rankings in this case will be the movement in overall points. Alabama will stick at No. 1 for what I can only estimate is the 74th straight week (NOT an official statistic), but didn't look all that stellar doing so. The Crimson Tide allowed Mississippi State to stick around deep into the third quarter before pulling away a bit late, scoring a sloppy 20-7 victory in which they turned the ball over four times.
That very well could mean more first-place votes for Florida State. Jameis Winston and Co. defeated Syracuse 59-3 on Saturday for their second straight victory of that score. The Heisman favorite again spent his fourth quarter playing as much football as you or me. Both teams in general have done a nice job of taking care of also-rans, but no team all season has come within as many points of Florida State as Mississippi State did of Alabama.
For whatever that's worth.
But the real intrigue comes from looking beyond our two BCS overlords. As you'll notice, we very well may have a new No. 3 team—the one that was perched behind the Cardinal heading into this week.
With its sixth 60-plus-point outburst of the season, Baylor scored its second straight impressive victory with a 63-34 home romp over Texas Tech. The Bears, much maligned during their 7-0 start for having not "played anybody," outscored Oklahoma and Texas Tech by a combined 58 points. Bryce Petty has combined for 10 touchdowns in that timeframe, a period that's allowed him to enter the Heisman conversation.
Ohio State, meanwhile, scored 60 points of its own in a 60-35 win over Illinois but looked far less impressive. The Buckeyes were at one point ahead only 47-35 with just under nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but then two Carlos Hyde 50-plus-yard touchdown runs blew the game into oblivion.
While all that matters to the computers is the final result, the momentum for Baylor and the human voters is gaining. The dissent between Stanford and the Bears no longer exists among voters, and the computers will also give Baylor a bump for, like, playing a team that actually knows what end zone it's moving toward.
Looking even deeper—and this is a fun rabbit hole to fall down—one could argue with a straight face that Baylor could wind up with a comparable schedule to Florida State come season's end. The Seminoles' thumping of Miami looks less impressive by the second—I mean, Duke did it—and the Clemson-Oklahoma State comparisons could be a wash once the final rankings arrive.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Baylor actually has to, you know, win against the Cowboys for that to happen.
Peering deeper into the projections, umm...so much for the "demise" of the SEC, right? The nation's best conference once again, the SEC boasts five of the Top 11 projected teams and seven inside the Top 25. The Pac-12 with five are the only conference that comes even close—and that assumes USC's win over Stanford is good enough to bring the Trojans barreling into the end of the rankings; the 25th spot is always hardest to project.
Elsewhere, Northern Illinois and Fresno State are attempting to chew at one another's leg for the BCS buster spot. Jordan Lynch and Co. played with fire in their defeat of Ball State Wednesday and should creep even closer to their competition. Fresno State was idle this week.
That battle may not capture the nation's attention in the same way the quartet atop the rankings has, but you can bet your bottom dollar the BCS bowl committees are paying attention. One bowl is already going to have to bite the ratings bullet by inviting the American Athletic Conference champion, and should Northern Illinois and Fresno State both go undefeated, ratings Chernobyl could hit the repeat button.
Have you noticed we're getting to the point in the season where this becomes a week-by-week repetition session? The good teams are good. The bad teams are bad. Now all we have to do is sit around and hope for one batty thing to happen each week to drive conversation.
USC did that in Week 12. But, as it's easy to tell, the actual implications here beyond the obvious are minimal.
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