NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Predicting the AP Top 25 After Week 12

Justin Ferguson@@JFergusonBRCFB National AnalystNovember 22, 2015

Michigan State K Michael Geiger
Michigan State K Michael GeigerJamie Sabau/Getty Images

A college football November to remember continued in grand fashion this weekend, with plenty of chaos and close calls for those teams inside the coveted Top 25.

Three undefeated teams went down Saturday, including the defending national champion, and several other Top-10 programs came close to losses that would have definitely knocked them out of the playoff picture. 

Others reinserted their names into the race and will be set for big moves up the polls. They resurrected their championship dreams and proved that you can't count out anyone with just one loss.

As the dust settles from another weekend of mayhem, it's time to sort out the fallout and predict the next Associated Press Top 25 poll, which comes out Sunday afternoon.

Here is this week's projection, along with some spotlighted risers and fallers.

Predicted Week 13 Associated Press Poll
TeamPreviouslyRecordWeek 12 Result
1. Clemson111-0Won 33-13 vs. Wake Forest
2. Alabama310-1Won 56-6 vs. Charleston Southern
3. Notre Dame510-1Won 19-16 vs. Boston College
4. Iowa611-0Won 40-20 vs. Purdue
5. Oklahoma710-1Won 30-29 vs. No. 11 TCU
6. Michigan State910-1Won 17-14 at No. 3 Ohio State
7. Baylor109-1Won 45-35 at No. 4 Oklahoma State
8. Ohio State210-1Lost 17-14 vs. No. 9 Michigan State
9. Oklahoma State410-1Lost 45-35 vs. No. 10 Baylor
10. North Carolina1210-1Won 30-27 at Virginia Tech (OT)
11. Florida810-1Won 20-14 vs. Florida Atlantic (OT)
12. Michigan149-2Won 28-16 at Penn State
13. Stanford159-2Won 35-22 vs. California
14. Florida State169-2Won 52-13 vs. Chattanooga
15. Navy199-1Won 44-21 at Tulsa
16. TCU119-2Lost 30-29 at No. 7 Oklahoma
17. Northwestern209-2Won 13-7 at No. 21 Wisconsin
18. Oregon238-3Won 48-28 vs. No. 22 USC
19. Houston1310-1Lost 20-17 at UConn
20. Washington State248-3Won 27-3 vs. Colorado
21. Ole Miss258-3Won 38-17 vs. No. 17 LSU
22. ToledoNR9-1Won 44-28 at Bowling Green
23. UCLANR8-3Won 17-9 at No. 18 Utah
24. Mississippi StateNR8-3Won 51-50 at Arkansas
25. PittsburghNR8-3Won 45-34 vs. Louisville
Justin Ferguson

Moving up

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Michigan State

Sparty is back on track for a shot at the College Football Playoff after Saturday's walk-off upset of previously undefeated Ohio State. As ESPN's Brett McMurphy noted, Michigan State once again knocked off a main Big Ten rival with its first lead of the game coming with no time on the clock:

Brett McMurphy @Brett_McMurphy

Amazingly Michigan State led both Michigan & Ohio State for zero seconds on the clock but won both games

The Spartans overcame the absence of quarterback Connor Cook and made the plays it needed to down the stretch, snapping the Buckeyes' 23-game winning streak. Ohio State's high-powered offense put up only 132 yards on 45 plays in what was an unreal effort from the Michigan State defense.

"Ohio State's two scoring drives went 38 yards combined," Bleacher Report's Brian Leigh noted. "Star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who entered the game a Heisman candidate, ran 12 times for 33 yards. Star quarterback J.T. Barrett, who shredded the Spartans in East Lansing last season, created nothing through the air."

Michigan State is in prime position to leapfrog Florida and emerge as one of the top one-loss teams in college football. The Spartans' complete resume probably doesn't have enough for them to jump Oklahoma, which narrowly avoided a loss to TCU, but they'll still be in prime position. Not bad at all for a team that lost to a struggling Nebraska program a few weeks ago.


These Bears aren't dead just yet. Through another injury to a starting quarterback, Baylor still put up 700 yards of offense in a huge win at previously undefeated Oklahoma State. 

Baylor DT Andrew Billings (right)
Baylor DT Andrew Billings (right)Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press/Associated Press

Excellent defense, too, played a major role in the program's first win in Stillwater since 1939.

"The Bears running game was dominant and their defense was solid—even stellar at times—in the double-digit win," Brandon Chatmon of ESPN.com wrote. "Baylor, the Big 12’s leading rushing offense, got back on track with 73 carries for 304 yards and three touchdowns... The Bears defense did its part, forcing five first-half three-and-outs from Oklahoma State’s offense."

While Baylor still needs to take care of business against banged-up TCU and struggling Texas before worrying about the playoff, it should hitch a ride with Michigan State up three spots in this week's AP poll. Both teams battled through adversity and tough road environments to regain their momentum on the national stage.

The returners

In addition to Ohio State's, Oklahoma State's and TCU's losses, five other teams in the Top 25 lost in Week 12. Houston should hang around—more on the Coogs later—but the others will open the door for some returning faces in the Top 25.

Toledo RB Kareem Hunt
Toledo RB Kareem HuntAndrew Weber/Getty Images

Toledo dropped a tough one to Northern Illinois a couple of weeks ago, but the Rockets have gotten right back on track with back-to-back wins away from home in Tuesday night #MACtion. Toledo was already the leading vote-getter in last week's poll, and a double-digit win at high-powered Bowling Green should be more than enough to get the one-loss Rockets back into the poll.

There should be another parade of three-loss teams, and the victorious ones this weekend appear to be Mississippi State, UCLA and Pittsburgh. Mississippi State bounced back from its big loss to Alabama with an unreal shootout win over Arkansas, and the Bulldogs are next in line in the "receiving votes" category after Memphis took its third straight loss Saturday.

Right behind Dan Mullen's team are UCLA and Pittsburgh. The Bruins got a low-scoring road win over Utah, and they might have enough to slide just ahead of the Bulldogs this week. Pittsburgh lit up the scoreboard early against Louisville, which came into the game on a four-game winning streak. The Panthers might have the best losses of this trio, so any order of these teams wouldn't be surprising at all.

Moving down

Ohio State and Oklahoma State

Saturday wasn't a good day to be a fan of an OSU. Two previously undefeated teams—Ohio State and Oklahoma State—are set to tumble down the polls after losing at home in big conference games.

Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Ohio State RB Ezekiel ElliottGeoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For Ohio State, Michigan State was the first ranked opponent the Buckeyes had played all season. They couldn't get much going against the Spartans defense, and the bizarre decision to limit a clearly frustrated Ezekiel Elliott to just a dozen carries will loom large in the coming weeks. 

Oklahoma State, on the other hand, had no answer for most of the night against Baylor's offense, and it scored only once off the Bears' three turnovers. Offensively, Oklahoma State only totaled eight yards on the ground and went 5-of-15 on third downs.

As for poll placement, Ohio State had a good-sized lead on Oklahoma State heading into this weekend—two whole spots—and its closer margin of defeat should put the Buckeyes ahead of the Cowboys in this week's rankings. 


Jim McElwain's Gators get the unfortunate distinction of dropping down in this projection despite actually winning Saturday. The problem is that Florida had to go to overtime to knock off two-win Florida Atlantic at home.

Florida HC Jim McElwain
Florida HC Jim McElwainJohn Raoux/Associated Press

"They took it to us," McElwain told the SEC Network after the game, per Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated. "They probably deserved to win... We still have 10 wins, don’t we?"

Yes, Coach Mac, but those wins don't change the fact that Florida has looked underwhelming in the last three weeks. The Gators have beaten Vanderbilt, South Carolina and now FAU—all teams with losing records—by a combined 18 points. Their lone loss of the season, a close decision at LSU, is looking worse by the week as the Bayou Bengals continue to slide.

Look, Florida is still headed to the SEC Championship Game way ahead of schedule under McElwain and has a chance to impress against Florida State. But results like the one the Gators had against FAU on Saturday won't win them any more friends in these polls.


The two OSUs weren't the only unbeaten teams to taste defeat for the first time this season on Saturday. Houston went up to UConn and got caught in the prototypical trap game, losing by three to the Huskies.

Houston QB Greg Ward Jr.
Houston QB Greg Ward Jr.Stew Milne/Associated Press

Houston had a chance to either tie the game or take a late lead, but quarterback Greg Ward Jr. threw an interception with 55 seconds left to seal the deal. The Cougars had a season-low 318 yards of offense and turned the ball over a total of four times.

"They played great defense and ran the ball really well," Houston coach Tom Herman said, per Desmond Conner of the Hartford Courant. "We didn't make enough plays. They are really stout up front. If you can't run the ball against them, it's going to be a long night."

Houston's strength of schedule kept it outside the Top 10 through its first 10 wins of the season, and it'll cause the Cougars to take a big hit in the poll this weekend. Look out for red-hot and three-loss Oregon, which beat a ranked USC team by 20 this weekend, to potentially stay ahead of one-loss Houston in the Top 25.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.


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