'Bama makes case for No. 1 as TCU struggles to win
There will be a new No. 1 when the College Football Playoff rankings come on next week.
It might just be Alabama - and the Crimson Tide's gain might work out just fine for the Southeastern Conference in the long run.
The Crimson Tide (9-1), fifth in the latest top 25 put out by the selection committee, handed Dak Prescott and No 1. Mississippi State their first loss of the season on Saturday and made a case to be called the best team in the country.
''When you beat the No. 1 team in the country, I think that's a significant accomplishment,'' Tide coach Nick Saban said.
Or maybe it will be Oregon (9-1) at No. 1? The Ducks, off this week, were No. 2 last week, moving ahead of undefeated Florida State (10-0). The defending champion Seminoles did what they always do - falling behind big in the first half and rallying to beat Miami 30-26.
Jameis Winston and the Seminoles ran their winning streak to 26 straight games. If teams were ranked on resiliency, Florida State would be No. 1. The Seminoles have trailed at the half five times this season.
But by moving the Ducks past the Seminoles last week the committee showed it was willing to overlook a loss if it felt a team had better victories.
The Crimson Tide's victory combined with a surprisingly close win by No. 4 TCU at Kansas should have Alabama safely in the top four. The Horned Frogs had to rally in the second half to beat the Jayhawks (3-7) 34-30.
The committee says it starts each week with a clean slate. How much it penalizes TCU for a shoddy performance is something to keep a close eye on because it affects several teams.
Big 12 rival Baylor, sitting at seventh with a victory against TCU, could get a boost. The Bears beat Kansas 60-14. They also posted a more impressive victory against Oklahoma than TCU did. Of course, the Bears still have that hollow nonconference schedule.
Ohio State, sitting at eighth, could make a move, too.
Then there's Mississippi State. The Bulldogs will fall, but how far? Mississippi State still has nice victories at LSU and against Auburn. Beating Texas A&M was OK, too. They also have a date with Mississippi left on Thanksgiving weekend.
''Those are two of the best teams in the country out there battling,'' Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said, ''and there's absolutely no doubt about that.''
Few teams would have better big wins than the Bulldogs, but they also have more soft spots in the schedule than most contenders. Mississippi State played none of its four nonconference games against Big Five teams and drew the Southeastern Conference's two worst teams, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, from the East
As for Alabama, an Iron Bowl victory that same Saturday as the Egg Bowl sends the Tide to Atlanta for the SEC championship game on Dec. 6.
Heisman contender Amari Cooper and the Tide are in control of their playoff hopes. Win out, and it's just a matter what seed the Tide gets - which is important.
The top seed gets the ''home-field advantage.'' The semifinals will be held at the Superdome in New Orleans and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The Tide would no doubt like to stay in SEC country instead of making a trek out to the West Coast.
The Pac-12 play-in game is off.
Arizona State, sixth in the playoff rankings coming into this weekend, was upset by Oregon State 35-27 late Saturday night.
The Sun Devils (8-2) were on course to win the Pac-12 South and play Oregon in the conference title game, with the winner virtually guaranteed a spot in the playoff. Now Arizona State is one of four Pac-12 South teams with two losses.
While Oregon is still in line to win its way into the playoff, another loss at any point by the Ducks would put the conference's playoff hopes in a precarious position.
Strange as it seems, Minnesota has become a measuring stick of sorts in the college football playoff race.
Ohio State beat the Gophers 31-24 in the snow at Minneapolis, behind a brilliant performance by quarterback J.T. Barrett, who is playing himself into Heisman Trophy contention.
The Buckeyes mostly controlled the game and outgained the Gophers 489-303, but committed three turnovers and had a pick-6 wiped out by a penalty. Minnesota (7-3) kicked a late field goal to make it a one-score game.
Good win for the Buckeyes, especially coming off that huge victory against Michigan State.
But was it better than TCU's 30-7 victory against the Gophers back in September? That game was in Fort Worth, Texas. The Frogs outgained the Gophers 427-268 and benefited from five Minnesota turnovers.
''I challenge any team in the country that wants to, go ahead and schedule this one in November whatever it is against a very good team,'' Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. ''Have at it.''
More good news for the Buckeyes: That Virginia Tech loss doesn't look quite so lousy anymore. The Hokies upset Duke, which had been ranked 21st by the committee, 17-16 in Durham, North Carolina.
PROJECTED NEXT TOP FOUR
Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Mississippi State.
PROJECTED FINAL TOP FOUR
Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State
AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP