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College Football

Oregon rises to No. 1, Texas A&M rockets up latest Power Rankings

Some of you have been yelling at me for three years about truth in advertising. Today, I'm going to make you happy.

A few readers over the years have blasted me because the top of this column says "Power Rankings," but the rankings contained within do not fit that description. By definition, Power Rankings reward the teams that are playing the best RIGHT NOW. But because I'm an Associated Press voter, my bosses thought it best that I replicate my poll ballot here. The AP Poll is not a Power Ranking. It is a ranking of the best teams based on résumé with a prediction of future success mixed in for good measure.

Today, this will look more like a true Power Ranking in the top 10. That was the only way I could figure out how to rank the teams at the top of the SEC. They've all beaten up on one another. Florida beat Texas A&M, LSU and South Carolina but lost to Georgia. South Carolina pounded Georgia but lost to LSU and Florida. LSU beat Texas A&M and South Carolina but lost to Florida and Alabama. Alabama beat LSU but lost to Texas A&M.

So, I ranked the team playing the best RIGHT NOW higher than the others, even though that team was beaten by two teams ranked below it. So congratulations, Texas A&M. You're No. 4.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1 <a href=Oregon Ducks" title="Oregon Ducks">
Last week: 2
The Ducks were banged up and struggling Saturday at Cal -- and they still won by 42. Sure, Cal isn't very good, but even great teams dealing with some of Oregon's injury issues would have been thrilled to escape with a one-touchdown win. The Ducks have a gear that other teams in the nation don't. When they decide to put the game away, it stays put away. But Oregon also has the toughest home stretch of any of the three remaining eligible unbeatens, and it's no stretch to think the Ducks' injuries might catch up to them against Stanford, Oregon State or the Pac-12 South champ (UCLA or USC). Safety Avery Patterson (knee) is out for the rest of the season. Tailback Kenjon Barner appeared to injure his right hand against Cal and appeared to favor it the rest of the game. Defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi didn't play against Cal, and Adam Jude of The Oregonian reported that Keliikipi was spotted Monday on crutches with a cast on one leg. Meanwhile, defensive linemen Dion Jordan (shoulder), Isaac Remington (ankle) and Ricky Heimuli (knee) sat out against Cal.

Last game: Beat Cal, 59-17
Next game: Saturday vs. Stanford
 
2<a href=Kansas St. Wildcats" title="Kansas St. Wildcats">
Last week: 3
Kansas State Wildcats (10-0)
Like the Ducks, the Wildcats are remarkable in their consistency. They don't have the offensive explosiveness of Oregon, but they have a good offense led by an excellent quarterback (Collin Klein) who makes great decisions. Kansas State also has a defense that sucks the life out of opponents. Linebacker Arthur Brown doesn't get the publicity Manti Te'o does, but Brown leads his defense just as well as Te'o leads Notre Dame's. The Wildcats' defense will get tested by Baylor and quarterback Nick Florence this week, but Baylor's defense is so bad that Klein and company will have a field day.

Last game: Beat TCU, 23-10
Next game: Saturday at Baylor
 
3Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last week: 4
The Fighting Irish simply don't win pretty. We need to accept that about them. They remind me a bit of the 2006 Florida team, which scraped through a lot of games because of a lights-out defense and didn't find its offensive stroke until the BCS title game. Here's the problem with that: As long as there are two other undefeated teams that clobber their opponents, voters will prefer the other two. When there are only two unbeatens, every win is just a win. When there are more than two, style points come into play. Notre Dame isn't stylish, but it is reliable. Given the checkered history of undefeated teams in November, reliable may get the job done come Dec. 2.

Last game: Beat Boston College, 21-6
Next game: Saturday vs. Wake Forest
 
4Texas A&M Aggies
Last week: 13
Yes, Texas A&M lost to two teams that I've ranked below it (LSU and Florida). But the Aggies also just went into Bryant-Denny Stadium and beat Alabama. Ranking the top SEC teams is difficult. Every game counts, but it seems some teams have taken steps forward while others have taken steps back. The Aggies are playing like the best team in the league right now. Meanwhile, quarterback Johnny Manziel seems to have secured at least an invitation to New York. It will be up to Heisman voters to decide if they want to do something stupid like hold the fact that he is a redshirt freshman against him. For any of those voters considering doing that, consider this: Manziel has been at Texas A&M as long as Tim Tebow -- then a true sophomore -- had been at Florida when he won the Heisman. This week, the Aggies truly embrace their SEC membership by playing an FCS team in November. S-E-C! S-E-C!

Last game: Beat Alabama, 29-24
Next game: Saturday vs. Sam Houston State
 
5Alabama Crimson Tide
Last week: 1
Judging by the BCS standings, the winner of the SEC championship is the next team in line for a title game berth if two of the unbeatens falter along the way. So the Crimson Tide still have plenty to play for. They can't control whether Oregon, Kansas State or Notre Dame loses, but they can control whether the loss to Texas A&M sends them into the jar. Neither Western Carolina (S-E-C!) nor Auburn can hang with Alabama, but Georgia definitely can. If the Crimson Tide don't move on from the loss to Texas A&M, they'll get beat by the Bulldogs -- and that could cost them a shot at the national title.

Last game: Lost to Texas A&M, 29-24
Next game: Saturday vs. Western Carolina
 
6LSU Tigers
Last week: 5
The Tigers shouldn't allow themselves to slack off these next two games, either. Beating Ole Miss and Arkansas would allow them to end the season on a positive note -- which could be attractive to a BCS bowl looking for an at-large team. At the rate it's going, Florida will be an underdog at Florida State. Clemson certainly looks good enough to beat South Carolina. Meanwhile, the team that loses the SEC title game will have a fanbase full of sad people who just spent a ton of money on tickets in Atlanta. So guess who looks best to bowl officials who want happy fans with money to spend?

Last game: Beat Mississippi State, 37-17
Next game: Saturday vs. Ole Miss
 
7Georgia Bulldogs
Last week: 7
The day after Georgia lost at South Carolina, Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray woke to find that his house had been egged. Now, Georgia is a loss by two of the undefeated teams and a win against Alabama away from playing for the national title. The ingrates who vandalized Murray's house don't deserve that pleasure, but the Bulldogs deserve a shot at it for not letting a setback send them into the tank. This team did some soul-searching after that South Carolina loss and the following week's struggles at Kentucky. Safety Shawn Williams called out his fellow defenders, and they responded. Now, the Bulldogs are sitting pretty with an FCS opponent (S-E-C!) coming to Sanford Stadium before a little Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.

Last game: Beat Auburn, 38-0
Next game: Saturday vs. Georgia Southern
 
8<a href=Oklahoma Sooners" title="Oklahoma Sooners">
Last week: 6
Remember in September when we thought the Week 12 Oklahoma-West Virginia game might be the de facto Big 12 title game? Whoops. The only question at this point is which Oklahoma player will be named the next Big 12 offensive player of the week. After each of West Virginia's past four games, a member of the opposing offense has claimed that honor. So who will it be? Landry Jones? Kenny Stills? Damien Williams? How about tailback Brennan Clay, who only has 398 rushing yards but who averages 6.5 yards per carry?

Last game: Beat Baylor, 42-34
Next game: Saturday at West Virginia
 
9<a href=Ohio St. Buckeyes" title="Ohio St. Buckeyes">
Last Week: 10
Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0)
Against a team that gains 57 percent of its yards on the ground, the Buckeyes will spend most of Saturday in their base defense. But to do that, they'll need linebackers, so it's fortunate that Etienne Sabino will return after missing four games with a fractured bone in his leg. Converted fullback Zach Boren will remain at linebacker, and Boren, Sabino and Ryan Shazier will be responsible for making most of the tackles against Monteé Ball and James White, who have each rushed for more than 100 yards in three of the Badgers' last four games.

Last game: Beat Illinois, 52-22
Next game: Saturday at Wisconsin
 
10Florida Gators
Last week: 8
The Gators looked awful Saturday. There's no other way to say it. They almost became the victim of one of the most embarrassing upsets in college football history. I dropped them on my ballot because they aren't playing like a team that deserves a shot at the national title. That said, they are 9-1 with wins against Texas A&M, LSU and South Carolina. That's a very strong résumé. Those conflicting facts make Florida very difficult to rank. At any rate, Gators coach Will Muschamp doesn't care. "When you look at our record, schedule, and what we have accomplished this year, we have had a hell of a year," Muschamp said Monday. "I don't really worry about it. You control the things you can control. That is one thing I learned last year. Some things you can't control." He's correct, of course. Florida was 6-6 in the regular season last year, and anyone would have considered 10 wins this year an acceptable improvement. But the Gators can still do more. Perception may dent their chance at a national title, but winning out should put them in a BCS bowl. That said, they'll have to be much, much better than they've been in recent weeks to hope to beat Florida State in Tallahassee. Quarterback Jeff Driskel (ankle) probably will sit out against Jacksonville State (S-E-C!), and it remains unclear whether he'll be healthy for the Seminoles.

Last game: Beat Louisiana-Lafayette, 27-20
Next game: Saturday vs. Jacksonville State
 
11South Carolina Gamecocks
Last week: 9
The Gamecocks have to be wondering how this happened. They pounded Georgia, yet the Bulldogs sit within striking distance of a national title shot should two of the current unbeatens lose. The Gamecocks shouldn't worry about that, though. They should concern themselves with beating Wofford (S-E-C!) and then beating Clemson. Like LSU, a 10-2 South Carolina would be an extremely attractive candidate for a BCS bowl looking for an at-large team. Unfortunately for one of those schools, the current structure only allows for one at-large team from each league.

Last game: Beat Arkansas, 38-20
Next game: Saturday vs. Wofford
 
12Florida State Seminoles
Last week: 11
Jimbo Fisher made a verbal slip Monday when he called the BCS "retarded." Fisher has since apologized for his choice of words. He probably wishes he hadn't used that word, because the discussion surrounding that overshadowed the points he made about the system. "What does a computer put in? It's too much about who you play and not about how you play. Teams are, you're subject to your conferences. And what are you going to do? We go play Florida and schedule another big game out of that ... And I'm not saying that just for us, I'm saying that for everybody else, too. The human element. If we can't do it as humans and we've got to let a computer tell us who's the best team, we've got an issue. We've got a major problem, and it's got to be fixed." Spoken like a man whose program is locked into a disrespected conference by a $50 million buyout. The good news for Fisher? Humans will determine who plays in the upcoming playoff. To read the bulk of Fisher's 10-minute-plus rant, check out Orlando Sentinel beat writer Coley Harvey's blog.

Last game: Beat Virginia Tech, 28-22
Next game: Saturday at Maryland
 
13Stanford Cardinal
Last week: 15
Go back and look at that long list of injuries in the Oregon section. Now consider the fact that the switch to Kevin Hogan at quarterback gives the Cardinal a more dangerous offense. That offense will have to help Stanford's defense, which has proven in recent years that it isn't fast enough to keep up with Oregon's offense. The Cardinal need Hogan and Stepfan Taylor to help them hog the ball, and a front seven that leads the nation in sacks needs to force Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to make mistakes.

Last game: Beat Oregon State, 27-23
Next game: Saturday at Oregon
 
14Clemson Tigers
Last week: 12
Barring a miracle upset of Florida State by Maryland, the Tigers aren't getting back in the ACC title race. Still, they should not lack for motivation this week. NC State crushed Clemson by 20 points last season. It was the first of three lopsided losses in four games that marred the end of the Tigers' ACC title season. As for LSU and South Carolina, every game remains important for Clemson as it seeks a BCS at-large slot.

Last game: Beat Maryland, 45-10
Next game: Saturday vs. NC State
 
15Oregon State Beavers
Last week: 14
After losing to Stanford, the Beavers have to become huge Cardinal fans this week. A Stanford win at Oregon would give Oregon State a chance to force a three-way tie atop the Pac-12 North by winning the Civil War. But that scenario only works if the Beavers beat Cal. At this point, Oregon State coach Mike Riley isn't saying who will start at quarterback. Cody Vaz won the job over Sean Mannion, but Vaz left the Stanford game with an injured ankle. Vaz didn't practice Monday, and Riley said he wouldn't name a starter until later in the week.

Last game: Lost to Stanford, 27-23
Next game: Saturday vs. Cal
 
16Texas Longhorns
Last week: 19
Where in the heck was this team when a bunch of dudes in Texas uniforms embarrassed themselves against Oklahoma in Dallas Oct. 13? This can't be the same group of people, can it? The defense can tackle. The offense can make explosive plays. The Longhorns look like the team everyone thought they could be before the season began. If this improvement keeps up, the final two weeks of the season could be quite interesting for Texas. The Longhorns will face TCU on Thanksgiving. (They're probably lucky this year that they didn't want to continue the Texas A&M series after the Aggies bolted to the SEC.) After that, Texas could be Team Chaos on Championship Saturday. These athletes -- finally playing near their potential -- against Kansas State in Manhattan could have the entire nation glued to the television.

Last game: Beat Iowa State, 35-7
Next game: Nov. 22 vs. TCU
 
17UCLA Bruins
Last week: 17
The biggest challenge for Bruins coach Jim Mora this week is convincing his players that this is just another game. If UCLA prepares for USC the way it has prepared for opponents all season, the Bruins stand a good chance of beating the Trojans and clinching the Pac-12 South title. If they go in thinking this is the biggest game of the year -- which it is -- they might tighten up. If UCLA doesn't win another game this season, Mora's first year will still be a success. But if the Bruins can beat the Trojans for the first time since 2006 and win a division title without the aid of an NCAA postseason ban against USC, it would be even sweeter in Westwood.

Last game: Beat Washington State, 44-36
Next game: Saturday vs. USC
 
18<a href=Louisiana Tech Bulldogs" title="Louisiana Tech Bulldogs">
Last week: 23
The Bulldogs are still clinging to the slim hope of a BCS at-large berth, but they'll have to help themselves and then get some help from across the country. The first order of business is beating Utah State, which is 8-2 overall and 4-0 in the WAC. The second is hoping other teams lose so they move up in the BCS rankings. To get an at-large berth, Louisiana Tech needs to finish No. 16 or higher in the BCS standings and must be ranked ahead of the champion of a BCS automatic qualifying conference. The Bulldogs are currently ranked No. 20 in the BCS standings. Standing between them and No. 16 are Oregon State (16), UCLA (17), USC (18) and Louisville (19). Either USC or UCLA is guaranteed to lose Saturday, and both face tough games after Thanksgiving. Oregon State still must play Oregon, and Louisville still must play Rutgers. As for the other prong, if Louisiana Tech reaches No. 16, the Bulldogs probably will need Wisconsin to lose to Ohio State Saturday and then win the Big Ten title.

Last game: Beat Texas State, 62-55
Next game: Saturday vs. Utah State
 
19<a href=Nebraska Cornhuskers" title="Nebraska Cornhuskers">
Last week: 18
After yet another comeback from a double-digit deficit, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini broke out the jokes Saturday. "I'm going to call the Big Ten and spot 'em 14 points, and we're good to go," Pelini cracked after the Penn State win. The Cornhuskers didn't beat Penn State without controversy, but they remained in position to win the Legends Division. As long as Michigan keeps winning, Nebraska has to keep winning. Fortunately for Nebraska, Michigan's remaining schedule includes Ohio State. The Huskers' remaining slate includes Minnesota and Iowa.

Last game: Beat Penn State, 32-23
Next game: Saturday vs. Minnesota
 
20USC Trojans
Last week: 21
If Lane Kiffin hadn't pulled any silly shenanigans like the secret jersey switch the week of the Colorado game, this week's matchup wouldn't seem so critical. But if UCLA beats USC, the Bruins will be positioned quite well for the future. USC, meanwhile, would be a Pac-12 South also-ran with a coach who can't get out of his own way. USC is a premium job, and if Kiffin is going to create issues and lose, then USC athletic director Pat Haden will find no shortage of interested coaches who won't create problems outside the win-loss column.

Last game: Beat Arizona State, 38-17
Next game: Saturday at UCLA
 
21<a href=Texas Tech Red Raiders" title="Texas Tech Red Raiders">
Last week: 20
The Big 12 is looking into Tommy Tuberville's sideline behavior during the win against Kansas, and with good reason. Tuberville yanked the headset off graduate assistant Kevin Oliver's head after a 12 men on the field penalty, and Tuberville's excuse that he was trying to remove Oliver from the field rang hollow. Tuberville regrets the incident, and he should. In today's YouTube age, a clip like that can permanently damage a coach's reputation. Of equal concern should be the fact that the Red Raiders almost lost at home to Kansas. If they play that poorly in Stillwater this week, they'll get rolled.

Last game: Beat Kansas, 41-34 (2OT)
Next game: Saturday at Oklahoma State
 
22Oklahoma State Cowboys
Last Week: NR
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy isn't tipping his hand at which of the Cowboys' three quarterbacks might start Saturday against Texas Tech. Clint Chelf was excellent in his first career start against West Virginia, completing 22-of-31 passes for 292 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Wes Lunt (knee) and J.W. Walsh (knee) should be healthy enough to practice this week, meaning Gundy will not only have to choose who must start but also how to split first-team reps. "It's not an easy task for us," Gundy told reporters Monday. "But I'd rather be in this situation than looking for a guy to go out there and make a play."

Last game: Beat West Virginia, 55-34
Next game: Saturday vs. Texas Tech
 
23Michigan Wolverines
Last week: 25
Michigan's Rose Bowl hopes remain alive thanks to the supreme concentration of receiver Roy Roundtree, whose tip to himself late in the fourth quarter against Northwestern set up a game-tying field goal that forced overtime. Roundtree received the honor of wearing Desmond Howard's No. 21, but he hasn't put up Howard numbers. What Roundtree has done is provide steady leadership and a trusted target for quarterback Devin Gardner, who has started the past two games in place of Denard Robinson (elbow). Saturday will be Senior Day for Robinson, but his participation may be limited to pregame festivities. Monday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke would only say that Robinson is "day-to-day."

Last game: Beat Northwestern, 38-31 (OT)
Next game: Saturday vs. Iowa
 
24 Northwestern Wildcats
Last week: NR
The Wildcats had their hearts broken at Michigan. Northwestern, which lost by one to Nebraska earlier this season, missed out on the Legends Division title by a whisker, but they can still finish strong and claim a quality bowl trip. Expect Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald to get just as excited down the stretch as he did Saturday following a personal foul penalty on Michigan's Brennen Beyer that gave Northwestern an extra 15 yards. "Sometimes I turn into a knucklehead, but at least I know who I am, and I'm cool with it," Fitzgerald told reporters Monday. "I'm all right with it. That's the way I'm going to coach our guys. That's what they expect from me. I think they'd be ticked off at me if I didn't coach them that way."

Last game: Lost to Michigan, 38-31 (OT)
Next game: Saturday at Michigan State
 
25<a href=Northern Illinois Huskies" title="Northern Illinois Huskies">
Last week: NR
You want MACtion? Of course you do. You'll get a double dose Wednesday. Ohio faces Ball State at 8 p.m. ET, but the real show comes at 9 p.m., when Toledo visits the Huskies in DeKalb. Since each team faces a MAC doormat next week, it's a safe bet that the winner of Wednesday's matchup will win the MAC West division. So enjoy the chance to watch Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, who is putting up Johnny Football/Optimus Klein numbers. Through 10 games, Lynch has accounted for 35 touchdowns (19 passing, 16 rushing).

Last game: Beat UMass, 63-0
Next game: Wednesday vs. Toledo

Next five: Wisconsin, Kent State, Rutgers, Louisville, TCU

Andy Staples' Power Rankings also serve as his ballot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

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