College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 14

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2019

College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 14

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Rivalry week gave us a round of explosive games, including an epic Iron Bowl we won't soon forget, a rugged Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State, a fun AAC tilt between Cincinnati and Memphis that we'll get to see a rematch of next week, and a Commonwealth Cup that saw Virginia end a 15-year streak against Virginia Tech.

    Oh, and Bedlam was fun for a while, too, before the Sooners ran away with it.

    Other than that, though, there were plenty of clunkers.

    None of the Top Four teams had issues putting away their opponents. Wisconsin trounced Minnesota to win Paul Bunyan's Axe again and the opportunity to face Ohio State in next week's Big Ten Championship Game.

    There was a lot to sort out in college football's final regular-season week of 2019. That's why we're here.

    B/R experts Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller and Brad Shepard have the same top four as everybody else in the nation this week. Each panel member submitted a ballot, with a first-place vote being worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.

                  

    B/R Week 14 Top 25

    1. LSU (Last Week: 1)
    2. Ohio State (2)
    3. Clemson (3)
    4. Georgia (4)
    5. Utah (6)
    6. Oklahoma (7)
    7. Baylor (10)
    8. Florida (9)
    9. Alabama (5)
    10. Wisconsin (12)
    11. Auburn (16)
    12. Minnesota (8)
    13. Penn State (11)
    14. Notre Dame (15)
    15. Oregon (13)
    16. Memphis (17)
    17. Boise State (18)
    18. Michigan (14)
    19. Iowa (19)
    20. Appalachian State (21)
    21. Navy (25)
    22. USC (24)
    23. Virginia (NR)
    T-24. Air Force (NR)
    T-24. Cincinnati (20)
    T-24. SMU (NR)

    Others Receiving Votes: UCF, Indiana.

Who's Hot: The Top Four

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The "Big Game" was a laugher for the second year in a row, and Ohio State's 56-27 annihilation of Michigan in the early-Saturday games set the tone for the College Football Playoff's Top Four.

    As the season winds down, it looks like the committee got it right.

    All three of the Top Four teams that played in the early window pummeled their opponents, as Clemson handled South Carolina 38-3, and Georgia beat Georgia Tech 52-7. 

    The Bulldogs and the Buckeyes both held their breath with injury worries, but it appears both teams dodged bullets. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields went down with an apparent knee injury but came out of the medical tent and almost immediately threw a scoring pass, showing no ill effects.

    In the UGA game, running back D'Andre Swift suffered a shoulder injury, but coach Kirby Smart told 247Sports' Jake Rowe his star back was "going to be fine" and is not expected to miss time. Georgia will face LSU in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta next week.

    Speaking of the Bayou Bengals, they were expected to face a test against Texas A&M on Saturday night, but quarterback Joe Burrow torched the Aggies early in an easy win. The Tigers were ahead 31-0 at halftime and look primed to face the Bulldogs.

    If LSU beats Georgia, it likely will knock the Bulldogs out of the playoff, but that will be a fun clash of styles between UGA's defense and LSU's high-flying attack. Clemson, LSU and Ohio State all could lose their conference title games and still make the CFP.

    But if Saturday was any indication, those three teams don't like like they're in danger of losing.

Who's Not: Alabama, Thanks to Defense and the Tide's Age-Old Kicking Issues

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Why can't Nick Saban—arguably the greatest recruiter in college football history—sign a quality kicker?

    That issue haunted the Alabama Crimson Tide yet again when Joseph Bulovas clanked a would-be game-tying 30-yard field goal off the right upright to hand Auburn a 48-45 Iron Bowl win in an instant classic.

    According to ESPN Stats & Info, "Since Nick Saban's first season at Alabama in 2007, Alabama kickers have now missed 101 field goals, the most by any FBS team in that span. That's eight more than any other team. Joseph Bulovas is the only SEC kicker to miss multiple field goals from 30 yards or closer this season."

    As much as everybody will blame Bulovas (and he deserves plenty of it), Alabama did a lot in other areas to lose the game. The Crimson Tide were uncharacteristically undisciplined, getting penalized 13 times for 96 yards.

    Also, the maligned defense that has been decimated by injuries allowed 354 yards. Even though backup quarterback Mac Jones had some excellent moments in relief of the injured Tua Tagovailoa (hip), he tossed two pick-sixes. One was a 29-yard return by Smoke Monday to give Auburn a 17-10 first-half advantage. The other was more brutal.

    With Alabama up 31-30 and sitting 1st-and-goal, Zakoby McClain grabbed a Jones pass and stampeded 100 yards for a shocking, momentum-swinging score.

    So, the Tide will be lambasted for their kicking woes, but they made enough mistakes all over the field for the entire team to wish it had a do-over. Auburn won another Iron Bowl that will play on your televisions for years and knocked the Tide from the playoff picture.

Fun Fact: Virginia's Win over Virginia Tech Ended 15 Years of Misery

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    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    There were 15-year-old Virginia fans who celebrated a Commonwealth Cup win over the hated Virginia Tech Hokies for the first time Friday afternoon.

    Thanks to Bryce Perkins (475 total yards, three TDs)—a quarterback most teams didn't recruit at the position and who took a long, winding road to being a Virginia hero—the Hoos snapped that streak with a 39-30 victory that caused fans in Charlottesville to storm the field.

    It was long overdue.

    Virginia Tech hadn't lost a game with Hendon Hooker as its starting quarterback, but Perkins and Co. had an answer for every haymaker the Hokies threw. The win flipped the script on a series that saw Tech win the last 15 years by an average score of 29-12.

    That streak included the final 12 years of legendary coach Frank Beamer's career and the first three of Justin Fuente's tenure. Even though the Hokies had dominated opponents defensively for the last half of the season, defensive coordinator Bud Foster's final regular-season game didn't go as planned.

    Just how long has it been since Virginia beat Virginia Tech? "Baby Boy" by Beyonce was the No. 1 song on the charts.

    The stars of that 2003 game for the Cavaliers were quarterback Matt Schaub and tight end Health Miller, who both went on to have long NFL careers. Running back Wali Lundy also scored twice for Virginia in a convincing 35-21 win over the No. 21 Hokies and star running back Kevin Jones.

    If those names are blasts from the past, they should be. That was a long time ago. But UVA got the job done for arguably coach Bronco Mendenhall's biggest win with the Hoos, and they are getting a shot at Clemson in the ACC Championship Game because of it.

What to Watch For: Championship Overload!

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    Ray Carlin/Associated Press

    With the rivalry games in the bank, everything is set up for conference championship week, and the College Football Playoff subplots abound.

    Wisconsin took care of Minnesota to secure Paul Bunyan's Axe and win the right to take on Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes disposed of Michigan in "The Game," and while they'll be a heavy favorite in the title tilt, don't ink them into the playoffs.

    If Ohio State loses a close game, has it still done enough to impress the committee and stay in the Top Four? Probably so.

    That's going to be the same question to watch for if defensive-minded Georgia can slow Joe Burrow and LSU enough to pull the upset in the SEC Championship Game. If the Bulldogs win, of course they're in. But will the Bayou Bengals stay in as well?

    Clemson's roughshod run through the ACC will conclude with a championship-game tilt against Virginia, and the Tigers shouldn't have any trouble. If they lose, their strength of schedule could push them out of the playoff picture.

    Nobody in the Pac-12 or Big 12 controls their destiny, but Utah, Oklahoma and Baylor all still have hopes. For the Bears, it's a revenge scenario after the Sooners stormed back from 25 points down to derail their undefeated season. For OU, it's the opportunity to prove its defense is championship-worthy.

    And while the Utes took care of business against Colorado on Saturday, they took a big blow when Arizona State ended Oregon's playoff chances last week, since a Pac-12 title will mean less.

    There are too many scenarios! All we can do is watch and see how the teams fall.

            

    Friday

    Pac-12: 8 p.m. ET, Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California; Oregon vs. Utah

                   

    Saturday

    Big 12: Noon, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas; Baylor vs. Oklahoma

    MAC: Noon, Ford Field, Detroit; Miami (Ohio) vs. Central Michigan

    Sun Belt: Noon, Boone, North Carolina; Appalachian State vs. Louisiana

    Conference USA: 1:30 p.m., Boca Raton, Florida; Florida Atlantic vs. UAB

    American Athletic Conference: 3:30 p.m., Memphis, Tennessee; Cincinnati vs. Memphis

    Mountain West: 4 p.m. ET, Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho; Hawaii vs. Boise State

    SEC: 4 p.m. ET, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta; Georgia vs. LSU

    ACC: 7:30 p.m. ET, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina; Clemson vs. Virginia

    Big Ten: 8 p.m. ET, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis; Ohio State vs. Wisconsin