By Andy Staples
December 03, 2013
Following Alabama's loss, Kelvin Benjamin (1) and Florida State moved to the top spot in the rankings.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
NCAA Football Power Rankings
1 Florida State Seminoles
Last week: 2
Given the seriousness of the allegation against quarterback Jameis Winston, it's probably best to wait until No. 2 to start the themed frivolity. The Seminoles have looked like the best team in the country for the past month, and Alabama's Iron Bowl loss finally allowed them to ascend to the top spot. If they beat Duke, they'll almost certainly be slotted to play for the national title.

That's all that is certain. The rest depends on state attorney Willie Meggs and his staff, who continue to investigate a rape accusation from December 2012 involving Winston. Meggs has said he isn't sure when he'll decide whether to charge Winston with a crime. Florida State has a rule forbidding players charged with a felony from playing except in extraordinary circumstances. On Monday, assistant state attorney Georgia Cappleman told The Orlando Sentinel that the charging decision could be made late this week or early next. If Meggs makes his decision late this week, the announcement could answer a lot of questions, or raise a lot of others, before the 'Noles play in the ACC title game. If he makes his decision next week, the announcement would likely come after Monday's deadline for Heisman Trophy ballots.

Florida State could beat the Blue Devils on Saturday with or without Winston. Given the Seminoles' talent on both sides of the ball, it's quite possible they could also win the national title without him, if that's the way the case goes. But as I've said these past few weeks, we only know what the various parties' attorneys want us to know. Trying to predict this case without knowing the evidence is a fool's errand.

Last game: Beat Florida, 37-7
Next game: Saturday vs. Duke in ACC championship in Charlotte, N.C.
2 Ohio State Buckeyes
Last week: 3
"Oh, good. For a moment there, I thought we were in trouble." -- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

This line, uttered by Butch before he and Sundance ran outside with guns blazing, works for the Buckeyes in two ways. First, someone probably uttered a similar statement during Ohio State's escape from Ann Arbor last weekend. Michigan had gained 501 combined yards and scored 40 combined points in losses to Michigan State, Nebraska and Iowa. Against the Buckeyes' banged-up defense, the Wolverines gained 603 total yards and scored 41 points. Michigan State's offense will never be confused with Oregon's, but the Spartans will score their share of points in the Big Ten title game if Ohio State doesn't fix some problem areas. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes should not expect to score 42 on Michigan State's defense. They shouldn't expect to score zero, either. Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah had a good day against the Spartans on Nov. 16, and while Abdullah is excellent, he's no Carlos Hyde. Ohio State should be able to move the ball against Michigan State and score enough to win. The Buckeyes just need to avoid turnovers.

The Cassidy quote also describes Ohio State's BCS fortunes. Urban Meyer said players went wild on their buses for about 15 minutes after Auburn beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl. After those 15 minutes, a mild panic -- or maybe just a mild annoyance -- probably set in. Though it certainly isn't fair for the Buckeyes and the Big Ten to be dinged for a game played nearly seven years ago, the perception that was created by Florida's 41-14 annihilation of Ohio State in the BCS title game following the 2006 season, and bolstered by the SEC's national championship dominance the succeeding six seasons, is real. The 2013 Buckeyes were in high school and middle school when that game was played, but the perception is going to be held against them all the same. If Ohio State wins by a close margin on Saturday and either Auburn or Missouri wins big, expect a nail-biter of a Sunday in Columbus. That isn't fair, but if the Buckeyes come out with guns blazing in Indianapolis, they shouldn't have to worry.

Last game: Beat Michigan, 42-41
Next game: Saturday vs. Michigan State in Big Ten championship in Indianapolis
3 Auburn Tigers
Last week: 4
"But on one weekend, as America and the world watched, a group of remarkable young men gave the nation what it needed most -- a chance, for one night, not only to dream, but a chance, once again, to believe." -- Miracle

This voiceover by Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks works a little better for the 1980 U.S. hockey team than it does for the 2013 Tigers. Why? Because Auburn has made people believe in miracles twice in the last three weeks.

The question now is whether the Tigers are a team of destiny or a team due for a bit of bad fortune to balance out all the good.

Last game: Beat Alabama, 34-28
Next game: Saturday vs. Missouri in SEC Championship Game in Atlanta
4 Alabama Crimson Tide
Las week: 1
"It was beauty killed the beast." -- King Kong

It's possible for the Crimson Tide to creep back into the national title picture, but that would probably require an Ohio State loss and -- far more unlikely -- a Florida State loss to Duke in the ACC championship. Alabama's chances at a third consecutive BCS title might have died when that ball settled into the hands of Chris Davis and he looked left and saw a strip of green leading to the end zone.

Last game: Lost to Auburn, 34-28
Next game: Regular season complete
5 Oklahoma State Cowboys
Last week: 5
"I am a star. I'm a star, I'm a star, I'm a star. I am a big, bright, shining star. That's right." -- Boogie Nights

Dirk Diggler's, um, pep talk is dedicated to the Cowboys, who need to go into Bedlam knowing they are better than Oklahoma. They can clinch their second Big 12 title in three years, but to do it, coach Mike Gundy's squad will have to defeat a rival it has beaten only once in the past 10 meetings.

If Oklahoma State plays the way it has for the past month, the Cowboys should beat the Sooners and win the league title. Unfortunately, a mystifying 30-21 loss to West Virginia on Sept. 28 will likely keep Oklahoma State from being considered for the BCS title game. Even if Florida State and Ohio State both lose and open the door for another one-loss team, this week's BCS standings suggest that team would be Alabama.

(We won't embed that clip because, well, you know.)

Last game: Beat Baylor, 49-17
Next game: Saturday vs. Oklahoma
6 Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 7
"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads." -- Back to the Future

Doc Brown used these words to serve up a sequel -- MARTY! THE SPORTS ALMANAC! -- but they could also be used to describe a group of Tigers entering a situation that bears some similarity to the one another Missouri team faced in 2007. That year Mizzou had lost to Oklahoma in the regular season and faced the Sooners again in the Big 12 championship with a shot to go to the BCS title game. Here's where the situations differ. First, this year's SEC championship isn't a revenge game. Missouri and Auburn didn't play during the regular season. Second, this isn't a pure win-and-in scenario. Mizzou entered that '07 game ranked No. 1 in the BCS. This week, the Tigers are No. 5. They must beat Auburn and hope that either Ohio State or Florida State loses. Neither of those games kick off until after the SEC title game's conclusion, so the winner -- be it the Tigers or the Tigers -- will have to sit and sweat.

Last game: Beat Texas A&M, 28-21
Next game: Saturday vs. Auburn in SEC Championship Game in Atlanta
7 South Carolina Gamecocks
Last week: 10
Scoop: "They say they're going to repeal Prohibition. What will you do then?"
Elliott Ness: "I think I'll have a drink." -- The Untouchables

An Original Coors toast to Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, who has now beaten Clemson five times in a row and clinched South Carolina's third consecutive double-digit win season. If that sounds like a disappointment, then you don't know much about the history of Gamecocks football. This is a program that didn't even win a bowl game until the 1993 campaign. (The Carquest Bowl, in case you want to stump your friends.) This kind of sustained success would have seemed impossible only 10 years ago, but Spurrier has South Carolina expecting to win. Once again, his 10-win team couldn't secure the SEC East, but string together enough double-digit victory seasons and a trip to Atlanta will come.

Last game: Beat Clemson, 31-17
Next game: Regular season complete
8 Stanford Cardinal
Last week: 8
Dean Ulich: You're jocks. Go live in the gym.
Everyone else: Nerds! Nerds! Nerds! Nerds! -- Revenge of the Nerds

Since the Cardinal have embraced the Revenge of the Nerds theme all season, we'll give them one here -- even though it's actually Arizona State that will be seeking revenge in Saturday's Pac-12 title game. In the first meeting between the two teams on Sept. 21, Stanford rolled to a 32-point lead before its reserves allowed the Sun Devils to engineer a somewhat respectable final score of 42-28. In that contest, the Cardinal allowed just 50 rushing yards. If they can contain Arizona State on the ground again, they'll earn a repeat trip to the Rose Bowl. But fair warning, the Sun Devils are much better now than they were when they last visited the Farm.

Last game: Beat Notre Dame, 27-20
Next game: Saturday at Arizona State in Pac-12 championship
9 Michigan State Spartans
Last week: 14
"... And here is your receipt." -- The Blues Brothers

Jake and Elwood got a receipt -- from Steven Spielberg, no less -- for paying off the annual taxes on their beloved orphanage. The Spartans, meanwhile, will bring a pile of (house) money to Indianapolis on Saturday.

It's 2,000 miles to Pasadena. They're probably going there win or lose. It's dark ... and they're wearing green and white. Hit it.

Last game: Beat Minnesota, 14-3
Next game: Saturday vs. Ohio State in Big Ten championship in Indianapolis
10 Arizona State Sun Devils
Last week: 9
"There's no place like home." -- The Wizard of Oz

If she played for the Sun Devils, Dorothy would have 10 sets of alternate ruby slippers. But Arizona State shares her sentiment. After waxing Arizona last Saturday, the Sun Devils get to host Stanford in the Pac-12 title game. If Arizona State loads the Cardinal's front seven -- and their 11 million offensive linemen -- full of Chuckbox burgers before the game, Stanford may be too sluggish to compete. This is why home-field advantage matters.

Last game: Beat Arizona, 58-21
Next game: Saturday vs. Stanford in Pac-12 championship
11 Clemson Tigers
Last week: 6
"And another thing: Just wait 'till next year!" -- The Bad News Bears

The final words of Lupus, which follow a far more emphatic rant from Tanner Boyle, are pretty much all the Tigers can repeat at this point. They had three huge games this season: Georgia, Florida State and South Carolina. They won one of them. Now, they'll have to replace senior quarterback Tajh Boyd and (most likely) star receiver Sammy Watkins and top pass rusher Vic Beasley, both juniors.

The good news for Clemson? Because of the Orange Bowl's blood pact with the ACC, it's difficult to imagine that bowl passing on the Tigers should Florida State make the BCS title game. That, after all, would take millions of dollars away from the ACC. Clemson is still very good, and a berth in Miami would give the Tigers a chance to erase the memory of the savage beating they took from West Virginia in the Orange Bowl two years ago.

Last game: Lost to South Carolina, 31-17
Next game: Regular season complete
12 Oregon Ducks
Last week: 12
Oregon Ducks (10-2)
"No prisoners!" -- Animal House

Animal House was filmed in Eugene, so I'm contractually obligated to tie it to the Ducks in any movie-themed rankings. Future Senator John Blutarsky utters the final words of the film, but the line that fits Oregon better is spoken a few moments earlier by a young Kevin Bacon: "Remain calm! All is well! ALL IS WELL! Rema ..." Then he gets trampled by a panicked crowd.

Following a final two weeks in which the Ducks did not look like themselves and blew a chance at the Pac-12 title, there will likely be questions about whether coach Mark Helfrich can sustain the machine Chip Kelly built. Answers to those questions will require far more data points than one season can provide. Oregon's slide may have been a result of quarterback Marcus Mariota's knee injury and a banged-up offensive backfield. Besides, the team still went 10-2. If the Ducks take a real step back next season, then the administration may want to ask some tougher questions. But this may only be a momentary hiccup.

Last game: Beat Oregon State, 36-35
Next game: Regular season complete
13 Baylor Bears
Last week: 13
Baylor Bears (10-1)
We'll pass on the jokes here out of respect for Bears coach Art Briles, whose brother Eddie died last week after he suffered a head injury in a fall at his home. Baylor players dedicated Saturday's tougher-than-it-should-have-been victory to Briles, who was blasted by TCU coach Gary Patterson for the way he handled the targeting ejection of safety Ahmad Dixon.

The Bears haven't looked like their defense-shredding selves for the past two weeks, and that's probably because they've gone up against two quality defenses (both Oklahoma State's and the Horned Frogs'). Will Baylor face another one this week? That depends on whether Briles and his staff take advantage of the obvious fact that Texas is good at stopping some concepts and terrible at stopping the read option. Briles hates to allow quarterback Bryce Petty to get hit, but with a month until the Bears will play in a bowl game, he might want to employ the tactic that BYU, Ole Miss and Oklahoma State used to tie the Longhorns in knots. Baylor will be pumped to send Floyd Casey Stadium out with a win, and shortly after kickoff, the Bears will know if they have extra motivation. Oklahoma faces Oklahoma State at noon ET. Baylor faces Texas at 3:30 p.m. If the Sooners beat the Cowboys, the Bears and the Longhorns will play for the Big 12 title.

Last game: Beat TCU, 41-38
Next game: Saturday vs. Texas
14 UCLA Bruins
Last week: 16
"You met me at a very strange time in my life." -- Fight Club

Like Edward Norton's character in Fight Club, the Bruins have reached a strange time in their football lives. They reasserted their dominance in Los Angeles by beating USC for a second consecutive season, and the Trojans followed that two days later by hiring a coach (Steve Sarkisian) whose team had a worse Pac-12 record than USC did in the year in which it fired its coach. If UCLA can keep its staff together and get quarterback Brett Hundley back for another year, the Bruins might be able to put more distance between themselves and the Trojans. They may also be able to compete for the Pac-12 title. But coach Jim Mora will be a hot name this offseason, and much of UCLA's progress could be undone if he leaves.

Last game: Beat USC, 35-14
Next game: Regular season complete
15 LSU Tigers
Last week: 15
LSU Tigers (9-3)
Bobby Boucher: Nice hit, mama.
Bobby's mama: Thanks, baby. Now you go on and have some fun becoming a man. -- The Waterboy

Boucher, the greatest phenom in the history of Louisiana football, needed a little time to find his groove. So, too, did the young Tigers' defense in 2013. If more LSU defenders from '12 had decided, like the Waterboy, to stay in school, we might be talking about three undefeated teams right now. But it didn't work out that way, and the Tigers will begin preparation for '14 with the next month of bowl practice. If quarterback Zach Mettenberger's left knee injury is as serious as it looked on Friday, freshman Anthony Jennings will get a head start on running the offense.

Last game: Beat Arkansas, 31-27
Next game: Regular season complete
16 Wisconsin Badgers
Last week: 11
Jim: Where you headed, cowboy?
Bart: Nowhere special.
Jim: Nowhere special? I always wanted to go there.
Bart: Come on. -- Blazing Saddles

The Badgers might have been set to head back to the Rose Bowl as a BCS at-large replacement for Ohio State, but their chances blew up with a home loss to an inspired Penn State team that is banned from playing in a bowl by the NCAA. Take it from someone who spent part of his childhood in Orlando: It's no Pasadena.

Last game: Lost to Penn State, 31-24
Next game: Regular season complete
17 UCF Knights
Last week: 18
UCF Knights (10-1)
Mr. Blake. He'll never touch you. -- Necessary Roughness

Since the Knights' quarterback is named Blake (Bortles), this seemed the perfect spot for the greatest promise a center ever made to his signal-caller. In the movie, Manumana ("It means runt of the litter.") promises quarterback Paul Blake that by-God Texas Colts linebacker Flat Top won't tackle him on the fake extra point that leads to the only win of the season for the Texas State Fighting Armadillos. I'd like to think UCF center Joey Grant and Bortles have attempted to reenact this scene at least once in their careers. Hopefully, Grant toned down the viciousness of the block. Knocking off an opponent's facemask and making him bleed from the throat would probably get a player tossed for targeting these days.

The most important game the Knights see this week may be on television. Louisville plays at Cincinnati on Thursday, and if the Cardinals win, UCF would clinch the American Athletic Conference title outright and will head to a BCS bowl thanks to the final vestige of the Big East as a major football conference. Should the Bearcats win, the Knights could still win the league outright and clinch a BCS bowl berth by beating SMU. Should Cincinnati win while UCF loses, the Knights would still likely go to a BCS bowl thanks to a higher ranking than the Bearcats, who lost this seasson to Illinois and South Florida.

Last game: Beat South Florida, 23-20
Next game: Saturday at SMU
18 Louisville Cardinals
Last week: 19
"A man's got to know his limitations." -- Magnum Force

The final words of the second Dirty Harry film go to the Cardinals, who can only play spoiler this week because they fell short against UCF on Oct. 18. This will likely be the final regular-season game for Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and it should be a good one. Cincinnati will be motivated by more than just possessing the Keg of Nails for eternity -- or at least until the next round of realignment -- with the Cardinals moving to the ACC next season. A win on Thursday keeps the Bearcats' slim BCS hopes alive. Louisville's only motivation is pride.

Last game: Beat Memphis, 24-17
Next game: Thursday at Cincinnati
19 Texas Longhorns
Last week: NR
Garrison: "Hi, I'm Bentley Garrison with the network. Me and Mason here thought you were hysterical."
Mason: "Hilarious. You've got great presence, kid."
Garrison: "Have you ever considered hosting your own talk show?"
Brodie: "Yeah." -- Mallrats

OK, I fudged this one a little. The final line is actually angry father Jared Svenning wretching "Him?" after eating a bag of stink-palmed pretzels. But this might be a fairly accurate approximation of the conversation Texas officials may have with coach Mack Brown once this season ends. Hey, the Longhorn Network needs programming, and Brown is fabulous on television.

Here's the catch: What if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State, the Longhorns beat Baylor and Brown wins the Big 12? He has said he doesn't intend to stop coaching, but it's difficult to believe the school's administration would force out the most powerful athletic director in America (DeLoss Dodds) and then attempt to maintain the status quo.

Last game: Beat Texas Tech, 41-16
Next game: Saturday at Baylor
20 Oklahoma Sooners
Last week: 23
"Everything you have seen is an illusion. It's a trick." -- The Illusionist

Whether in turn-of-the-century Vienna or present-day Norman, reality can be elusive. The Sooners won 10 regular-season games last year and have won nine so far this fall. Oklahoma plays in a power conference and is therefore an elite team. Right?

Watching the Sooners, it certainly doesn't feel that way. The past two seasons, there have been times when it felt as if Oklahoma was close to having the bottom fall out. But here's the thing. If the Sooners can beat an Oklahoma State team that -- on the surface -- seems better both offensively and defensively, and secure another 10-win campaign, it may be time to stop the hand-wringing in Norman. Maybe this is the lull before another golden age. And when a team's lulls are 10-win seasons, it's doing pretty well. However, if the Cowboys dominate in Bedlam, then it will be time to ask some more difficult questions about the direction of the Oklahoma program.

Last game: Beat Kansas State, 41-31
Next game: Saturday at Oklahoma State
21 Northern Illinois Huskies
Last week: 21
Warden: This country is safe again, Superman, thanks to you.
Superman: No, sir. Don't thank me, Warden. We're all part of the same team. Good night. -- Superman

Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch probably has a conversation similar to this one after every game. The guy has thrown for 2,457 yards and 22 touchdowns, which is pretty good. He also has rushed for 1,755 yards and 20 scores, which can only be explained by the reaction between Lynch's Kryptonian cells and the turf of a football field.

If Lynch can lead Northern Illinois past Bowling Green, the Huskies will likely bust the BCS for the second consecutive year. They would also have the honor of being the final BCS buster before the system is scrapped.

Last game: Beat Western Michigan, 33-14
Next game: Friday vs. Bowling Green in MAC championship in Detroit
22 Georgia Bulldogs
Last week: NR
"A polar bear fell on me." -- Road House

This line from hapless henchman Tinker is dedicated to the 2013 Bulldogs, who entered the season with national title aspirations and end it with an injury list longer than Tinker's belt. Georgia has quality wins against South Carolina and LSU, and if Josh Harvey-Clemons had just batted down that pass by Auburn's Nick Marshall on Nov. 16, Ohio State fans wouldn't be nearly as nervous right now. It's hard to ding the Dawgs for falling behind early at Georgia Tech while playing their first game in four seasons without quarterback Aaron Murray. They came back and won, and given their current condition, that's about all you can ask. Remember, a certain banged-up SEC East team did lose in embarrassing fashion recently to another state university from Georgia. At least the Bulldogs didn't pack it in like their Cocktail Party rivals to the south.

Last game: Beat Georgia Tech, 41-34 (2OT)
Next game: Regular season complete
23 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last week: NR
"Well, nobody's perfect." -- Some Like It Hot

Osgood's response to Jack Lemmon's big reveal is one of the greatest final lines in movie history, and it also encapsulates the past year for the Fighting Irish. Twelve months ago, they were a perfect 12-0. Then Alabama and Deadspin revealed Notre Dame to be quite imperfect indeed.

Things only got worse after the 2013 spring semester, when quarterback Everett Golson was dismissed for the fall after he was caught cheating on a test. The Irish played one of college football's toughest schedules and acquitted themselves well at times. Their wins over Michigan State and Arizona State look awfully good now. But they also struggled against Navy and lost to Pittsburgh. Even without Golson, this team probably had enough talent to make a BCS bowl, but the breaks beat the boys a little too often.

Last game: Lost to Stanford, 27-20
Next game: Regular season complete
24 Duke Blue Devils
Last week: 25
"They'll see. They'll see and they'll know and they'll say, 'Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly'..." -- Psycho

The Las Vegas bookmakers recalled Norman Bates talking in his mother's voice when they set the line for the ACC championship -- although they stripped the underlying menace and took the words literally. Florida State is favored to beat the Blue Devils by more than four touchdowns. That has to infuriate Duke's players, who have won eight games in a row.

But can coach David Cutcliffe's team do anything about it? The Seminoles might have the best top-to-bottom roster in the country. As long as Florida State keeps to its business, it should be able to render the Blue Devils harmless.

Last game: Beat North Carolina, 27-25
Next game: Saturday vs. Florida State in ACC championship in Charlotte, N.C.
25 Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: NR
"You're still here? It's over! Go home. Go!" -- Ferris Bueller's Day Off

The last words of a saved Ferris are dedicated to Johnny Manziel, the Ferris Bueller of college football. We're at that point in Manziel's career where Cameron has just crashed his father's Ferrari through the garage. For the past two weeks, Manziel didn't play like himself. Maybe he was banged up, but he certainly didn't look like Johnny Football against LSU or Missouri. Maybe with more than a month off before the bowl game, he'll play like the Sausage King of Chicago again.

Last game: Lost to Missouri, 28-21
Next game: Regular season complete

Next five: Iowa, USC, Cincinnati, Fresno State, Miami

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

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