Tuesday December 1st, 2009

When teams lose, it's fairly easy to move them around the rankings. The losses provide tangible evidence that one team is better than another, justifying my decisions. In the case of the six remaining undefeated teams, I don't have that luxury. So I have to extrapolate.

Texas, last week's No. 1, and Alabama, last week's No. 2, each suffered a scare from a bitter in-state rival. Florida, last week's No. 3, also played a bitter in-state rival, but the Gators rolled past Florida State. I still have nagging questions about Florida's offense, but after this past weekend, they don't nag me as much as the questions the Texas A&M game raised about the Texas defense.

But that's the problem with extrapolating -- you've got to decide which variables to include, and which to leave out. In this case, I considered that the previously impenetrable Longhorns gave up 39 points and 532 yards to a 6-5 team. I assigned less weight to the fact that Texas was playing a rival with just four days between games, even though the argument could be made that such a scenario invites an anomalous result.

That's why I'm glad Florida and Alabama will play one another on Saturday. I don't know which team is better. Last week I thought it was Alabama. This week I think it's Florida. By Thursday, I'll probably change my mind again. Fortunately, they'll face off on the field and provide a definitive answer.

Maybe we should do that with all the undefeated teams, and maybe even one or two of the two-loss teams. Just match up the best teams at the end of the year and let them play each other until only one is left standing. Wow. It's genius. I can't believe no one's thought of that before.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1Florida Gators
Last Week: 3
In a rivalry weekend highlighted by near-upsets at the top, the Gators were the only one of the big three to put the hammer down. That doesn't necessarily mean they'll beat Alabama on Saturday, but it does mean they're focused. At least I thought so until I wrote this story.
Last game: Beat Florida State, 37-10
Next game: Saturday vs. Alabama in Atlanta
2Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: 2
Alabama's scare against Auburn may have been the best thing for the Crimson Tide. Like Auburn's, Florida's offense uses a fair share of trickery. Alabama's defense should be ready this time.
Last game: Beat Auburn, 26-21
Next game: Saturday vs. Florida in Atlanta
3Texas Longhorns
Last Week: 1
The Longhorns fell from the top only because their defense -- the most underappreciated dominant unit in the country -- didn't look so dominant last Thursday against Texas A&M. It's tough to judge based on a rivalry game on four days rest, but the Aggies' offensive success raised a few questions.
Last game: Beat Texas A&M, 49-39
Next game: Saturday vs. Nebraska in Arlington, Texas
4TCU Horned Frogs
Last Week: 4
The Horned Frogs will just have to sit back and hope for a miracle. They need Cincinnati to lose in the afternoon and Texas to lose at night to have any shot at making the BCS title game.
Last game: Beat New Mexico, 51-10
Next game: Regular season complete
5Cincinnati Bearcats
Last Week: 5
Quarterback Tony Pike looked as if he hadn't missed a day as the Bearcats took apart Illinois last Friday. Pittsburgh, coming off a bitter loss in the Backyard Brawl, will provide a far stiffer challenge. If Cincy wins, all eyes will turn to the Big 12 title game, where a Texas loss could put the Bearcats in the BCS title game.
Last game: Beat Illinois, 49-36
Next game: Saturday at Pittsburgh
6Boise St. Broncos
Last Week: 6
The Broncos are playing a 13th game because the NCAA allows any team that had to travel to Hawaii to play an extra home game to offset the cost. Boise State doesn't have a shot at the BCS title game, but the Broncos know they can't slip. If they win, they'll likely earn an at-large berth into a BCS bowl.
Last game: Beat Nevada, 44-33
Next game: Saturday vs. New Mexico State
7Ohio St. Buckeyes
Last Week: 9
The Buckeyes can sit back, relax and watch the Civil War on Thursday to scout their Rose Bowl opponent.
Last game: Beat Michigan, 21-10
Next game: Jan. 1 vs. Oregon or Oregon State in the Rose Bowl
8Oregon Ducks
Last Week: 10
Oregon and Oregon State have played the Civil War 112 times. On Thursday, No. 113, will be the first in which the winner is guaranteed a trip to the Rose Bowl. This is the biggest football game in the state's history.
Last game: Beat Arizona, 44-41 (2 OT)
Next game: Thursday vs. Oregon State
9Iowa Hawkeyes
Last Week: 11
Do the right thing, BCS bowl officials. If you choose an at-large team from the Big Ten, it should be the Hawkeyes.
Last game: Beat Minnesota, 12-0
Next game: Regular season complete
10Penn St. Nittany Lions
Last Week: 12
If you read what I wrote about Iowa, you know I don't think the Nittany Lions deserve an at-large bid. If it makes Penn State feel any better, I'm not sure the ACC champ deserves an automatic bid, either.
Last game: Beat Michigan State, 42-14
Next game: Regular season complete
1 - 10 11 - 20 21 - 25

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.