Big Ten tightens its top-10 grip in AP Poll following Week 13

The Big 10 has four top-10 teams in the AP Top 25 poll following Week 13, while USC could get a trip to the Rose Bowl after a bad start looked like a lost season.
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There was moderate movement in this week’s AP Poll, and it might offer some idea of how the upcoming College Football Playoff rankings may shake out. Or it might not!

Here’s a few thoughts on the Week 14 AP poll.

1. The Big Ten stakes its claim as the nation’s best conference

One of the most challenging questions the College Football Playoff committee will face is where to rank Ohio State, which finished the regular season 11–1 with its only loss to potential Big Ten champion Penn State. After the Buckeyes’ thrilling double-overtime win over Michigan on Saturday, there is little doubt that Urban Meyer’s squad looks like one of the four best teams in the nation. The problem is whether the committee decides to reward a team that didn’t win its conference with one of the four coveted spots.

If the AP poll is any indication, Ohio State should feel secure. The Buckeyes maintained their No. 2 ranking after the thrilling win over the Wolverines—though they did not steal any first-place votes from Alabama—while the lone team that beat them (Penn State) didn’t budge from No. 8. The Big Ten now boasts four teams in the national top 10, with Michigan dropping from No. 3 to No. 5 following the loss and Wisconsin sitting at No. 6 after its win over Minnesota. Iowa arrived in the poll at No. 22 after it’s shellacking of No. 23 Nebraska on Friday to further bolster the league’s credibility.

After a rocky few seasons that involved expansion, two silly divisional names and major coaching overhaul, the conference looks like its in great shape for the next few years (excluding Rutgers, of course).

Sizing up the College Football Playoff picture after Week 13

2. USC climbs all the way back

After USC dropped to 1–3 in a Friday night loss to Utah back in September, it was difficult to envision the Trojans returning to the top-25, much less the top-10. After dismantling Notre Dame on Saturday for their eighth straight win, Clay Helton has taken himself from the hot seat to a potential down-ballot Coach of the Year. Adoree’ Jackson scored by way of punt return, kick return and receiving touchdown to make his last-ditch effort to enter the Heisman Trophy conversation while Sam Darnold has established himself as the best freshman quarterback in the nation and a future Heisman contender. USC won’t be playing in the Pac-12 title game because of Colorado’s standout season, but what looked like a lost season ended with a top-10 ranking and a possible trip to the Rose Bowl (depending on the result of Colorado-Washington and whether the Trojans finish ahead of the Buffs).

PointAfter | Graphiq

3. Fear the triple option

A few notes from Navy’s last month of the season. The Midshipmen scored 75 points to beat SMU yesterday a week after scoring 66 to beat East Carolina. They racked up 496 yards rushing and did so at a clip of 10.3 yard per carry. They punted twice … in the month of November. The AP rewarded Ken Niumatalolo’s team with the No. 16 ranking in this week’s poll after its second consecutive stupendous performance on offense. The coaching carousel has already started churning with Tom Herman heading to Texas and Ed Orgeron getting the interim tag removed at LSU, but one wonders if a mid-tier power conference team should make an offer to Niumatalolo to try and take a different path toward competing against the traditional conference powerhouses.