College Football Rankings: B/R’s Top 25 After Week 12

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2020

College Football Rankings: B/R’s Top 25 After Week 12

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    On a day when Ohio State survived a top-10 showdown with Indiana to preserve playoff hopes, Cincinnati came back for a tough win against UCF and Kyle Trask became the first SEC quarterback in history to toss 30 scoring passes in the season's first seven games, things remained fairly status quo in college football.

    That just means next week's Thanksgiving spread is going to be bananas.

    The only real hiccup this Saturday was No. 10 Wisconsin losing to 19th-ranked Northwestern in a classic, mistake-ridden Big Ten defensive donnybrook.

    Bedlam was as tame as it's ever been, and Liberty's spectacular season-long run fell short against North Carolina State, while Coastal Carolina's continued. There were plenty of twists and turns, even if Saturday was short on upsets.

    B/R's five-man panel of expertsDavid Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Joel Reuter and Brad Shepard—tried to sort everything out. Each submitted a Top 25 ballot with a first-place vote counting for 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.

    B/R Post-Week 12 Top 25

    1. Alabama (Last week: 1)
    2. Ohio State (2)
    3. Notre Dame (3)
    4. Clemson (4)
    5. Cincinnati (5)
    6. Florida (6)
    7. BYU (7)
    8. Texas A&M (8)
    9. Northwestern (18)
    10. Indiana (9)
    11. Miami (11)
    12. Coastal Carolina (13)
    13. Marshall (14)
    14. Oregon (12)
    15. Oklahoma (20)
    16. Georgia (17)
    17. Iowa State (25)
    18. Wisconsin (10)
    19. USC (19)
    20. Louisiana (22)
    21. Auburn (NR)
    22. Liberty (16)
    23. Tulsa (23)
    24. Texas (24)
    25. Oklahoma State (15)

    Others receiving votes: Colorado

Who's Hot: Boomer Sooner

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    It would have been easy to talk about the Ohio State Buckeyes, which won a top-10 showdown against Indiana, or the Cincinnati Bearcats, who continued to rumble against UCF despite falling down early.

    But neither of those teams really personified "hot" Saturday. 

    That distinction should go to the Oklahoma Sooners, who is a much tougher out than their No. 18 ranking would suggest right now. Following a shaky early season where they dealt with injuries, opt-outs, suspensions and breaking in youngsters, coach Lincoln Riley has Oklahoma looking like Oklahoma again.

    They went out and demoralized rival Oklahoma State in "Bedlam" on Saturday night, torching the No. 14 Cowboys by the final score of 41-13.

    They looked dominant doing it, too.

    This isn't the same team that dropped consecutive games to Kansas State and Iowa State early in the season. Since then, they've rolled off five straight wins, book-ended by nice showings against ranked rivals Texas and Oklahoma State.

    Redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler continued his remarkable development after bursting onto the scene early in the season only to get benched during the two-game debacle. Riley put him back in, and he's been brilliant since then.

    Saturday night marked perhaps his best game as he torched the Big 12's top defense, finishing 17-of-24 for 301 yards and four touchdowns. The winning streak and quality play has coincided directly with the return of running back Rhamondre Stevenson (141 rushing yards), who provides the balance the offense needs.

    Perhaps the biggest revelation, though, and the most important one for the program's future is just how much better defensive coordinator Alex Grinch's unit looks. They were excellent against the Cowboys, shutting down a hobbled Chuba Hubbard, and, really, the entire Cowboys offense.

    Oklahoma State finished with just 246 yards, and a portion of that was in garbage time after the game was well in hand. The Sooners made sure Bedlam turned into Bed Time quickly.

Who's Not: Wisconsin Riding a Sloppy Showing to a Well-Earned Loss

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Wisconsin Badgers enjoyed a blowout victory over Michigan a week ago following a long, COVID-19 related layoff. 

    They had their hangover a week later.

    Coach Paul Chryst's team traveled to Chicago to take on No. 19 Northwestern on Saturday, and the Badgers left their offense back in Camp Randall in a shocking 17-7 loss in a game that shifted power in the Big Ten West.

    There had been no indications redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz and his unit would experience anything like what they did against the Wildcats.

    Part of it was the smothering defensive effort by Northwestern, but there was zero rhythm all day for the 10th-ranked Wisconsin team that didn't look anything like it belonged anywhere near the Top 10. They managed 366 total yards, but every time something got going, a self-inflicted wound ended it.

    The Badgers came into the game with no interceptions all year, but Mertz threw three of them against Northwestern. On top of that, an ugly trend continued for Wisconsin, as it lost two more fumbles to bring its total to five this year.

    Five turnovers was more than enough to keep the momentum in Northwestern's corner, and the undefeated Wildcats took over Indiana's spot as the early-season Big Ten big surprise. The Hoosiers were more than game in their 42-35 loss to Ohio State, but they now have a blemish on their record.

    So does Wisconsin, and an early season that started with so much promise now stares at question marks galore as the offense has to find a way to regain the form that excited Big Ten fans about the conference's prospects to have two College Football Playoff contenders.

    That's out of the question now for the Badgers, who need to get Mertz back on track in a hurry with a game against an improving Minnesota team looming next week.

    Only one of Wisconsin's 17 drives wound up in a score, and only two went for more than 42 yards. Along with the five turnovers, there were four three-and-outs, too. This was bad offensive football all the way around, and now the Badgers are on the outside looking in at the conference championship picture.

Fun Fact: Coastal Carolina's Storybook Run Keeps Putting the Fun in 'Fun Belt'

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    For the past four seasons, the Sun Belt title run has run a direct path through Boone, North Carolina, with the Appalachian State Mountaineers winning every championship.

    That likely won't happen this year, thanks to an unanticipated run by the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers that is one of the most fun, exciting subplots of a wacky 2020 college football season.

    It's fitting this season seems like it's coming directly from a storybook considering the mascot is based off a character from Chaucer's The Nun's Priest's Tale, one of The Canterbury Tales. The chanticleer is a dominating rooster who rules the barnyard.

    This year, the Sun Belt conference is the barnyard.

    Despite a grind-it-out, back-and-forth affair against the Mountaineers at home in Conway, South Carolina, on Saturday, the Chanticleers found a way to win behind redshirt freshman star quarterback Grayson McCall in a 34-23 victory.

    Grayson McCall finished with 200 passing yards, 69 rushing yards and three total touchdowns. D'Jordan Strong sealed the win with a 38-yard pick-six with 1:20 remaining to make it look a little easier than it was. This was easily the biggest win in program history

    As bad as 2020 has been for many folks, it's been Coastal Carolina's year in the sports world.

    Proud graduate Dustin Johnson just won his second major golf championship and his first Masters tournament last weekend. The men's soccer team just won its fourth Sun Belt conference tournament title, and the volleyball team is undefeated before its postseason.

    Don't forget this program has a flair for the dramatic: Its baseball team won the College World Series in 2016, so if by some miracle the Chants get to the College Football Playoff, watch out. At the least, they keep the hopes of a New Year's Six bowl game alive with an exciting win in front of an ESPN audience.

    They also kept the Cinderella Bowl excitement churning as they play the other feel-good story, Liberty, in two weeks, too.

    It's time for the nation to take notice: Coastal Carolina is for real.

What to Watch For: A Thanksgiving Feast That Could Lead to Top-25 Indigestion

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    There are several Sharpie-circled games on the college football schedule each year no matter what the rankings are, and the Iron Bowl showdown between Alabama and Auburn should be one of them.

    You never know what kind of craziness is going to go on in that one, and it will be waged in Tuscaloosa next weekend between the top-ranked Crimson Tide and No. 23 Auburn. On paper, it looks like Alabama has a major advantage, but you never know in this game.

    That's pretty much the flavor of Week 13 in college football. On the surface, there don't appear to be a lot of humongous showdowns, but there are a lot of games that could make contenders sweat.

    The only other ranked matchup will come between No. 17 Iowa State and No. 22 Texas in a game that will have Big 12 ramifications. That's one of those games that could go either way with the Longhorns' explosiveness and the Cyclones' disciplined unit.

    While Notre Dame has shown its veteran leadership all year, the second-ranked Irish have to travel to North Carolina to take on a Tar Heels team that is dangerous offensively, though they've not proven to be able to stop anybody from scoring.

    Then there's the Civil War battled between No. 11 Oregon and Oregon State, dangerous Maryland traveling to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers, Oklahoma taking its explosive offense on the road to Morgantown to take on West Virginia, and Minnesota following its big win over Purdue with a trip to Wisconsin.

    The fifth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies will have to continue their hopes of making it to the playoffs by beating a young LSU team that upended Arkansas to move to 3-3 on Saturday.

    None of those games besides the two ranked showdowns should keep fans up at night throughout the holiday week, but upsets are a part of the game, and there's a lot of potential for them to happen next week.