By Andy Staples
November 29, 2011


LSU and Alabama are probably going to play for the national title. If I just ruined your weekly football viewing with that revelation, don't blame me. Blame the BCS.

This is the last edition of the Power Rankings for the 2011 season, so we've been thinking a lot about finales here at Power Rankings headquarters. In fact, we've been thinking about them so much that we built this week's rankings around some of the all-time great -- and all-time terrible -- television series finales. So if you don't want to know what happened at the end of St. Elsewhere, you might want to click elsewhere.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1 LSU Tigers
Last Week: 1
LSU Tigers (12-0)
Newhart: The season's perfect team gets TV's perfect finale. Newhart's ending wasn't the best because the Daryls -- of "This is my brother Daryl, and this is my other brother Daryl" fame -- finally spoke. It was the best because Vermont innkeeper Bob woke up as psychologist Bob in bed on the set of The Bob Newhart Show next to Suzanne Pleshette. LSU is so good this season that it seems remotely possible Les Miles will go to bed the night before the BCS title game and wake in his old bed in Stillwater, wondering about that fabulous dream and that lingering aftertaste of etouffee.
Last game: Beat Arkansas, 41-17
Next game: Saturday vs. Georgia in SEC Championship in Atlanta

2 Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: 2
Friends: Even though Ross and Rachel took that break, everything turned out peachy-keen and swell in the series finale. Ross and Rachel got back together. Chandler and Monica had twins, Joey wound up with a duck and everyone had one last cup of coffee at the Central Perk. Unless human voters do something screwy Sunday morning, Alabama's season will wrap up nice and tidy despite a loss to LSU at home and despite the fact that the loss kept the Crimson Tide from playing for the SEC title. Barring a shocker, Alabama will play LSU for the BCS title. Is that fair? Not really. But you already knew the BCS was a stupid way to crown the national champion. The fact remains that the BCS exists to match the best team against the second-best team, and Alabama was the second-best team this season.
Last game: Beat Auburn, 42-14
Next game: Season complete

3 Oklahoma St. Cowboys
Last Week: 4
The Sopranos: The Sopranos finale certainly got everyone talking. So will the Cowboys' regular-season finale at Bedlam. ESPN probably should have Don't Stop Believin' ready to roll at the end of the game, because no matter what happens Saturday, the screen will fade to black, and everyone in Stillwater will shake their heads and wonder what the hell just happened. Either Oklahoma will win and rip out Oklahoma State's heart again, or Oklahoma State will win and still get denied a chance to play for the national title. (The following scenario is about the only one that can send the Cowboys to New Orleans: Georgia crushes LSU, leading voters to believe LSU wasn't really that good and Alabama was even worse by comparison, and Oklahoma State lays an epic beating on the Sooners. Odds of that happening: Slim.)
Last game: Lost to Iowa State, 37-31 (2OT)
Next game: Saturday vs. Oklahoma

4 Oregon Ducks
Last Week: 5
Oregon Ducks (10-2)
The Larry Sanders Show: In the finale of this HBO sendup of the evening talk show genre, Garry Shandling's Larry Sanders learns he is about to be replaced by John Stewart, so he pulls out all the stops for a blockbuster show in a final, in-vain attempt to salvage his job. Guests included David Duchovny and Jim Carrey. The result? A disaster. Larry's most memorable line: "I hope we beat Leno." Ducks, you're Leno this week. UCLA is Larry Sanders. Rick Neuheisel can't get his job back, but he can pull out every trick in the book to strum his way into the sunset as the first Pac-12 champion coach. So don't be surprised if he uses 12 men on every play just to see if the officials are counting.
Last game: Beat Oregon State, 49-21
Next game: Friday vs. UCLA in Pac-12 Championship Game

5 Stanford Cardinal
Last Week: 6
24: Former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh once joked about recruiting Jack Bauer to play for the Cardinal, but it's first-year Stanford coach David Shaw who has gone vigilante the way Bauer did as the series came to a close. The system is not kind to schools such as Stanford, which don't bring huge contingents of fans to bowl games. Last week, with the Cardinal sitting at No. 6 in the BCS standings, Shaw ripped the BCS as "flawed," pointing out that computers obviously considered the ACC superior to the Pac-12 if one-loss Virginia Tech ranked above one-loss Stanford. At that spot, Stanford likely would have been passed over for an at-large bid. Now that the Cardinal have moved up to No. 4, Shaw can save his stump speeches for the moment. Teams in the top four of the BCS standings must receive at-large bids. So as long as Virginia Tech doesn't leapfrog Stanford after the ACC title game, Stanford is assured a spot.
Last game: Beat Notre Dame, 28-14
Next game: Season complete

6 Arkansas Razorbacks
Last Week: 3
M*A*S*H: What was the word B.J. Hunnicutt spelled out for Hawkeye in rocks near the helipad? Goodbye. The Razorbacks said goodbye to their dreams of elite status by getting crushed in Baton Rouge on Friday. To make matters worse, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino got snippy with LSU coach Les Miles after Miles continued to throw with a huge lead. Guess what? If you're the No. 3 team in the country, you don't complain about any play the other team runs. You simply stop that play. The Razorbacks had an excellent team this year, but it wasn't quite good enough to stay in the thin air occupied by SEC West rivals LSU and Alabama. Arkansas may reach that level someday, but this was a tough year to be in the SEC West and be merely great.
Last game: Lost to LSU, 41-17
Next game: Season complete

7 Virginia Tech Hokies
Last Week: 7
Seinfeld: The show about nothing trotted out a cavalcade of guest stars as the gang went on trial for violating the Good Samaritan law in the state of Massachusetts. Though the cameos were funny, the ending failed to satisfy. Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer should have ended up back at Jerry's apartment prattling on about nothing in particular. Virginia Tech's season also seems unsatisfying. The Hokies played an atrocious nonconference schedule, which is why the other one-loss teams -- and even two-loss Oregon -- have gotten more chatter as potential alternatives to Alabama in the BCS title game. Still, the Hokies have a chance to avenge their only loss and resume their stranglehold on the ACC. If tailback David Wilson and quarterback Logan Thomas put on another show on Saturday and lead the Hokies to victory, I'll resume calling it the Virginia Tech Conference.
Last game: Beat Virginia, 38-0
Next game: Saturday vs. Clemson in ACC Championship in Charlotte, N.C.

8 USC Trojans
Last Week: 9
USC Trojans (10-2)
Beverly Hills, 90210: If you happen to run across the final episode of 90210, note the chemistry between David and Valerie. It makes sense, considering Brian Austin Green dated Tiffani-Amber Theissen offscreen for a while. Yes, the guy who played wannabe rapper David Silver went steady with Kelly Freaking Kapowski. Later, he would marry Megan Fox. What does this prove? It proves life isn't fair, kids. That's something USC players have had to learn this season. These players, who were in middle and high school when wannabe agents were paying Reggie Bush, deserve so much more. Unfortunately, their season ended in the Coliseum on Saturday.
Last game: Beat UCLA, 50-0
Next game: Season complete

9 Boise St. Broncos
Last Week: 8
Quantum Leap: Talk about a bait-and-switch. NBC promoted the finale as "The Leap you've been waiting for for years." Then, at the end of the episode, not only does Sam Beckett not leap home, a plain text card -- with Beckett's name misspelled, no less -- explains to viewers that Scott Bakula's character never made it home. This was about as satisfying as it will be to watch Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore finish his fantastic career in some lower tier bowl. But since it's unlikely a BCS bowl will select Boise State as an at-large team, that's how Moore's career will end.
Last game: Beat Wyoming, 36-14
Next game: Saturday vs. New Mexico

10 Oklahoma Sooners
Last Week: 10
ALF: The creators of ALF were some dark-hearted demons. Just as Gordon is about to reunite with fellow survivors of Melmac, he gets captured by some sinister government entity. That's right, kids. ALF gets dissected. The Sooners can be equally dark-hearted Saturday. They began the season with national title dreams, but injuries and an inexplicable loss to Texas Tech dashed those hopes. So the only thing Oklahoma can do now is crush the dreams of its hated in-state rival and win yet another Big 12 title. As consolation prizes go, it could be worse.
Last game: Beat Iowa State, 26-6
Next game: Saturday at Oklahoma State

Alf - Finale by _Mycroft_
11 Michigan St. Spartans
Last Week: 11
Friday Night Lights: The last game action we see in this classic show is -- what else? -- a Hail Mary. We don't see how the play ends, but we know from the banner on the East Dillon scoreboard and the ring on Vince's finger that someone caught the ball. Hmmm. A Hail Mary that connected? Where have we seen that before? Given all that has happened in college football, Oct. 22 seems like a long time ago. But Keith Nichol's catch to beat Wisconsin reminded us that we watch for the magic moments. Here's hoping the first Big Ten title game is just as exciting as the first meeting between the Spartans and Badgers.
Last game: Beat Northwestern, 31-17
Next game: Saturday vs. Wisconsin in Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis

12 Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 12
Arrested Development: The tale of the Bluth family was appreciated by critics, but it wasn't appreciated by viewers in its time. With the stair car and the banana stand streaming on Netflix, maybe a new audience will discover a show that ended with the hint that we'll someday get an Arrested Development movie. Speaking of those underappreciated in their time, Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball has scored 34 touchdowns (29 rushing, five receiving) this season. Could a few more against Michigan State earn Ball a trip to New York next week? We'll see. (Watch the entire finale here.)
Last game: Beat Penn State, 45-7
Next game: Saturday vs. Michigan State in Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis
13 Houston Cougars
Last Week: 13
The Fugitive: After four years on the run, Dr. Richard Kimble finally tracked down the one-armed man. After what seems like 40 years in college, Case Keenum finally has his chance to lead his team to a BCS bowl. If the Cougars beat Southern Miss on Saturday, they will earn a bid to a big-money game.
Last game: Beat Tulsa, 48-16
Next game: Saturday vs. Southern Miss in Conference USA Championship

14 South Carolina Gamecocks
Last Week: 15
Cheers: For a show that tailed off a bit late in its run, Cheers came through with a fantastic finale. Diane returns, and Sam decides to join her in California. But their plane has mechanical problems and returns to the gate. Seeing it as a sign, Sam returns to his real true love, Cheers. (And Norm, Cliff and Carla.) The Gamecocks appeared to be slipping as well, but their resounding win against Clemson ended a somewhat disappointing season on a cheerful note. South Carolina should have won the SEC East, and a flat day against Auburn cost the Gamecocks the title. But the development of quarterback Connor Shaw should provide some serious optimism for the future. If South Carolina can win its first bowl game since 2006, the Gamecocks should feel as good about 2012 as Cliff Claven felt about his chances on Jeopardy.
Last game: Beat Clemson, 34-13
Next game: Season complete

15 Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: 16
Little House on the Prairie: This may seem an odd choice, considering the show spent years teaching the Ingalls family valuable, wholesome lessons. But in the final episode, the townspeople BLOW UP WALNUT GROVE. Kaboom. No more town. The denizens of Walnut Grove dynamite the place to keep a shady robber baron from buying up the town. According to a 1984 New York Times story, star/director Michael Landon wrote the scene into the script because NBC had leased the land for the Little House set from Getty Oil, and the set would have to be destroyed to comply with the contract. Landon figured he could use the inevitable destruction of the set for dramatic effect. Georgia, meanwhile, could have an extremely dramatic effect on the future of the BCS by beating LSU in the SEC title game. If that happens, it's quite likely the SEC would get three teams into BCS bowls using the only loophole that would allow three teams from the same conference to earn BCS berths. The leaders of the other conferences would not consider such a development good for college football. Who knows? Maybe they might attempt to concoct a better way to determine the national champion. For those who root for such things, Georgia is Team Chaos.
Last game: Beat Georgia Tech, 31-17
Next game: Saturday vs. LSU in SEC Championship in Atlanta

16 TCU Horned Frogs
Last Week: 17
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: In the series finale, Uncle Phil sells the family mansion to ... George and Weezy Jefferson. The Jeffersons, who left All in the Family long before the series ended and who never got a proper series finale of their own, finally moved all the way up. So too will TCU, once it takes care of the business of going undefeated in the Mountain West in its final year in the conference. The Horned Frogs have bounced from league to league since the Southwest Conference folded. For them, the Mountain West was a deluxe apartment in the sky. The Big 12 is a mansion in Bel-Air. (Can't embed the Jeffersons' clip. Here's a compilation of The Carlton.)
Last game: Beat Colorado State, 34-10
Next game: Saturday vs. UNLV

17 Michigan Wolverines
Last Week: 18
Smallville: Fans of Smallville waited through the better part of 10 seasons for Clark Kent to put on the freaking suit. The S shield finally made an appearance in the closing seconds of the finale, resulting in fanboy (and fangirl) jubilation. Michigan fans waited eight years between wins against Ohio State. Sure, the Buckeyes may have stolen the Wolverines' thunder by leaking the Urban Meyer news last week, but for the first time in a long time, Michigan fans can simply say "scoreboard" and walk away.
Last game: Beat Ohio State, 40-34
Next game: Season complete

Smallville Finale Ending by tallandlanky
18 Kansas St. Wildcats
Last Week: 19
The Golden Girls: Bill Snyder doesn't understand why those whippersnappers in Miami decided to break up the band, but he's too busy celebrating the fact that he outlasted another Kansas coach to worry too much about it. If the Wildcats win Farmageddon this week and Oklahoma wins Bedlam, the Big 12 will recognize Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State as conference tri-champions. The Wildcats -- who got whacked by Oklahoma and edged by Oklahoma State -- won't really be the champs, though. The real champ is the one who gets the BCS automatic bid, and that would be Oklahoma in that scenario. Kansas State might still wind up in a BCS bowl, though. Stanford and Houston likely will qualify automatically, and that would leave two spots up for grabs. Michigan, which every bowl covets, has yet to move into the top 14. Meanwhile, a bowl might be more likely to select Kansas State than the loser of Bedlam.
Last game: Beat Texas, 17-13
Next game: Saturday vs. Iowa State

19 Clemson Tigers
Last Week: 14
Entourage: Clemson and Entourage took a similar path. They started out as must-see TV and then completely fell off the table. But maybe Clemson can do what Entourage did and put together one implausible episode in which everything works out. Since starting 8-0, the Tigers have lost three of four. But they can salve every wound with a second win against Virginia Tech. The Tigers already beat the Hokies by 20 in Blacksburg, but their meeting in Charlotte comes with an ACC title and an Orange Bowl berth on the line. By the end of Entourage, only Ari stays true to his character. Maybe Sammy Watkins will do the same Saturday.
Last game: Lost to South Carolina, 34-13
Next game: Saturday vs. Virginia Tech in ACC Championship

20 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Last Week: 22
The Mary Tyler Moore Show: With WJM-TV under new ownership, no one's job is safe. The new bosses, hoping to boost the sagging ratings for the 6 p.m. newscast, fire everyone except Ted Baxter, the blowhard responsible for the sagging ratings. Nebraska chose to leave the Big 12 last year rather than the other way around, but the Cornhuskers' message was clear: The league is all yours, Ted -- I mean, Texas. Nebraska struck out for the Big Ten, and while the Huskers' first season in the league didn't produce a division title, they fared well considering they endured several crushing injuries -- to defensive tackle Jared Crick, for example -- and had to face all of the Big Ten's heavyweights in a schedule that can only be described as hazing the new guys. The Huskers are likely bound for a Florida bowl. The Outback seems like a logical destination. South Carolina seems like a logical opponent. Enjoy the Cuban sandwiches, Huskers. You've earned them.
Last game: Beat Iowa, 20-7
Next game: Season complete

21 Baylor Bears
Last Week: 23
The Cosby Show: A classy show ended with class. Cliff Huxtable begins to dance with wife Clair, and he dances her right into a curtain call for the cast. Speaking of dancing, it's entirely possible Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III might dance away with the Heisman Trophy on Saturday. Griffin, who took a shot to the head last week against Texas Tech, has been cleared to play against Texas. His last-gasp touchdown pass against Oklahoma is his Heisman moment, but one more big game against a name-brand opponent might cause more voters to consider Griffin's eye-popping numbers. Griffin has thrown for 3,768 yards with 34 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 72.6 percent of his passes. That's good for a 191.1 quarterback rating.
Last game: Beat Texas Tech, 66-42
Next game: Saturday vs. Texas

22 West Virginia Mountaineers
Last Week: --
Lost: So the castaways really were on the island, and it was a real place and not heaven or hell. But all the flash-sideways stories in the final season led them to a church that is basically heaven's waiting room. And Hurley and Ben got to run the island for a while? Don't worry. It didn't make a ton of sense to those of us who watched every episode. West Virginia's season has been equally perplexing. The Mountaineers are clearly the most talented team in the Big East, but they still need help if they want to earn the league's automatic BCS bid one more time before shuffling off to the Big 12 -- assuming they can find a way around the Big East's exit requirements. Basically, West Virginia needs to beat USF on Thursday and needs Cincinnati to beat Connecticut on Saturday. That would force a three-way tie between West Virginia, Cincinnati and Louisville. West Virginia would get the bid because it has the highest BCS rank. If Cincinnati loses to UConn, Louisville would get the bid by virtue of its head-to-head win against West Virginia.
Last game: Beat Pittsburgh, 21-20
Next game: Thursday at USF

23 Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Last Week: --
I Love Lucy: The day after Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz smooched while filming the final episode of their iconic show, Ball filed for divorce. So scenes from "Lucy Meets The Mustache" were bittersweet even when they aired. Even if -- or perhaps especially if -- Larry Fedora leads the Golden Eagles to an upset of Houston and a Conference USA title, the win would be bittersweet. Fedora's name keeps popping up in job searches, and jobs keep coming open. Eventually, someone is going to snap him up.
Last game: Beat Memphis, 44-7
Next game: Saturday at Houston in Conference USA Championship

24 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last Week: 21
Father Dowling Mysteries: If you were approximately 1,000 years old and you thumbed through your TV Guide the week of Jan. 24, 1991, you found the following description of the last episodic adventure for the crime-solving Chicago priest: "The murder of a drug-addicted jazz musician leads to an investigation of an assassination plot against a political candidate." Father Dowling, still despondent over Notre Dame's narrow loss to Colorado in the Orange Bowl, hung it up after that. How do I know Father Dowling was a Notre Dame fan? Ralph McInerney, the author who created the character, was a longtime professor of philosophy and medieval studies at Notre Dame. As for the current Fighting Irish squad, it's no mystery what happened this season. Stanford and USC were simply better, but Notre Dame should have been 10-2. Brian Kelly's next goal will be ensuring the Irish win all the games they should win, which isn't nearly as easy as it sounds.
Last game: Lost to Stanford, 28-14
Next game: Season complete

25 Virginia Cavaliers
Last Week: 24
St. Elsewhere: The Cavaliers probably wish Saturday's blowout loss to Virginia Tech had all been the product of a boy's imagination as he looked at a snow globe. That was the explanation provided at the end of the '80s medical drama's run. Unfortunately, there is no desperate plot twist to explain how, with a Coastal Division title on the line, the Cavaliers got trounced. Still, Virginia made huge strides in Mike London's second season. Now, the Cavaliers can use the extra practices available to bowl eligible teams to get their younger players ready for next season.
Last game: Lost to Virginia Tech, 38-0
Next game: Season complete

Next five: Penn State, Texas, Florida State, Tulsa, BYU

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

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