NCF Nation: power rankings 112612

Pac-12 power rankings: Week 14

November, 26, 2012
If you don't like where you are in the power rankings, play better.

And, again, keep in mind the power rankings lean heavily on the week that was, not as much on the totality of the season.

See last week's power rankings here.

1. Stanford: I've started to think Stanford has become one of those "No one in the entire nation is playing better at this point of the season" teams. Certainly no team has better back-to-back wins over the past two weeks.

2. Oregon: The Ducks looked like their old selves against rival Oregon State. Best bet is they are headed to the Fiesta Bowl, where they will almost certainly play a Big 12 team that is ranked higher than the Big Ten's Rose Bowl representative. Maybe even good ole Kansas State.

3. UCLA: Were the Bruins -- consciously or unconsciously -- holding something back against Stanford on Saturday, knowing they'd already secured a berth in the Pac-12 title game? Maybe. We'll see in Friday's rematch.

4. Oregon State: Early in the third quarter, it looked like the Beavers might challenge the Ducks. Then -- poof -- Oregon went all Oregon and it was another blowout. Guessing the Beavers end up in the Holiday Bowl with the Pac-12 title game loser going to the Alamo Bowl.

5. Arizona State: It's official: Year 1 under new coach Todd Graham is an unquestioned success. Going 7-5 is one thing, but 7-5 with win No. 7 coming in Tucson is entirely different.

6. Arizona: While the reverse on the Arizona State verdict isn't true -- it's impossible to say the Wildcats didn't greatly exceed expectations in Rich Rodriguez's first season -- losing state bragging rights is an itch that will demand scratching for an entire year.

7. Utah: The Utes end the season with a close win at Colorado. That's not much -- at all -- but the teams below rate lower based on their recently elevated program misery index.

8. USC: Last year, the Trojans upset Oregon and beat their top rivals, Notre Dame and UCLA. This year, preluded by national championship expectations, they lost to all three. USC went from top-ranked to unranked, from expectations of 12-0 to 7-5. There are no grins inside Heritage Hall. Lane Kiffin will be near the top of every 2013 preseason coaching hot seat list.

9. Washington State: It was an awful season, full of losing and controversy. Ah, but when a Washington fan walks into the local watering hole, he will avert his eyes in shame from the Cougar contingent. When the folks in purple start to talk about all the great things going on at Washington, they will be silenced by a simple: "31-28. Stick it."

10. Washington: That was a dreadful choke in the Apple Cup, Huskies. You rightly should expect much grief from your Coug friends. Of course, you still have a bowl game ahead in which to secure an eighth win, which the Huskies haven't collected since 2001. Do that, and you not only will perk up several spots in the power rankings, you can enter the offseason with a smile.

11. California: Teams that fire their coach tend to tumble in the power rankings. But take heart, Golden Bears fans. See how quickly three of the four Pac-12 teams that hired new coaches a year ago climbed out of the doldrums.

12. Colorado: Worst season in Colorado history? Probably. Now there's just one question, Buffs: What are you going to do about it?
The Ohio State Buckeyes have been atop the Big Ten power rankings most of the season. They'll stay there for a very long time.

Ohio State's win against Michigan secured a 12-0 season, just the sixth undefeated, untied campaign in team history. While the Buckeyes won't be in Indianapolis this week for the league championship game, they have proved to be the class of the conference after beating every top team in the league except Northwestern.

Nebraska retains the No. 2 spot, and most of the rankings remain the same after Week 13. Our toughest decision came at No. 3, between Michigan and Penn State. If only the teams had played each other this season.

To the rundown ...

1. Ohio State (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten, last week: 1): Sure, the Big Ten is down and Ohio State has its flaws, but any team that runs the table in any season deserves a ton of credit. Urban Meyer took a seven-loss team with significant depth issues and ran the table in his first year. Braxton Miller and the offense carried the Buckeyes early this season, but the defense stepped in the second half of Big Ten play. Ryan Shazier, Johnathan Hankins and others blanked Michigan in the second half to win The Game and ensure perfection.

2. Nebraska (10-2, 7-1, last week: 2): Most of us thought Bo Pelini was crazy when he talked about winning out moments after his team had been beaten 63-38 at Ohio State. Bo might have thought so, too. But his players believed and found a way to claim the Legends Division title and a spot in Indianapolis. Nebraska needed its defense in a big way at Iowa and received huge performances from defensive end Eric Martin and others. And with Rex Burkhead back in the fold at running back, the Huskers will be even better the rest of the way.

3. Michigan (8-4, 6-2, last week: 3): We gave Michigan a slight edge against Penn State because the Wolverines had no bad losses and gave Ohio State a tougher test. The Wolverines' defense did a nice job keeping Ohio State out of the end zone Saturday, but the offense disappeared in the second half, recording just 60 total yards and four first downs. Offensive coordinator Al Borges got predictable and must iron out the game plan before a tough bowl matchup against an SEC opponent.

4. Penn State (8-4, 6-2, last week: 4): Bill O'Brien described his team as resilient all season, and Penn State once again showed why in Saturday's overtime win against Wisconsin. Playing without star linebacker Michael Mauti, the Lions' defense shut down Wisconsin for most of the game, receiving a huge performance from defensive tackle Jordan Hill. Zach Zwinak stepped up at running back and kicker Sam Ficken, who took so much abuse earlier in the season, went 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and hit the game winner in overtime. What a satisfying way to end the season for O'Brien and his crew.

5. Northwestern (9-3, 5-3, last week: 5): If you're searching for good stories amid the Big Ten morass this season, look no further than Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats. A young team exceeded all expectations during the regular season and was a play or two away from going to the Big Ten title game. Northwestern steamrolled Illinois with its dynamic rushing attack led by quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark. Fitzgerald tied Lynn Waldorf for the school's all-time coaching wins list with his 49th. An opportunistic defense stepped up, too, as Northwestern secured a spot in a Florida bowl (most likely Outback).

6. Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4, last week: 6): Another close loss for the Badgers, who had an offensive spark early and late but disappeared in between. Wisconsin's defense has made strides during the Big Ten season, but the offense simply lacks consistency, especially up front. It has proved costly in three overtime defeats this year. The Badgers are the third-best team in the Leaders Division but will go to the Big Ten title game, where they'll try to finish a bit better against Nebraska. Quarterback Curt Phillips has shown poise late in games.

7. Michigan State (6-6, 3-5, last week: 7): The Spartans went to their bread and butter -- defense and Le'Veon Bell -- to get past Minnesota and reach the six-win plateau. Michigan State's defense was simply dominant at TCF Bank Stadium, holding the Gophers to four net rush yards and three points on offense. Bell racked up a career-high 266 rush yards and a touchdown, his third 200-yard effort of the season. Michigan State didn't have the season it envisioned, but at least it has a chance to get better during bowl practices before a potential springboard for 2013.

8. Purdue (6-6, 3-5, last week: 9): Like Michigan State, Purdue underachieved this season but found a way to squeak into a bowl game. Credit quarterback Robert Marve, running back Akeem Shavers and the rest of Purdue's seniors for refusing to let the season go down the drain after an 0-5 start to Big Ten play. Shavers and Marve were brilliant against Indiana, and Frankie Williams and the Purdue secondary stepped up as well. It wasn't enough to save coach Danny Hope, but Purdue can win its second straight bowl and end a turbulent season on a good note.

9. Minnesota (6-6, 2-6, last week: 8): Big Ten play was no picnic for the Gophers, who endured numerous injuries, quarterback changes, the A.J. Barker turmoil this week and back-to-back losses to finish the regular season. Minnesota should get healthier before its bowl game, but it has a long way to go on the offensive side after rushing for four net yards Saturday against Michigan State. The next few weeks are big for freshman quarterback Philip Nelson, who struggled in his last two games.

10. Indiana (4-8, 2-6, last week: 10): The past three weeks showed that Indiana still has a long way to go to legitimize itself in the Big Ten. A defense that has struggled for more than a decade surrendered 163 points in losses to Wisconsin, Penn State and Purdue. After taking great care of the ball, quarterback Cameron Coffman had seven interceptions in his final three contests. Indiana made progress in Kevin Wilson's second season, and a big opportunity awaits in 2013 with eight home games. But there's a lot of work ahead in the offseason.

11. Iowa (4-8, 2-6, last week: 11): The defense came to play on Black Friday, but an offense that had sputtered all season went out with a whimper. Iowa failed to convert two more turnovers into points, and coordinator Greg Davis once again left Hawkeye fans pulling out their hair with his perplexing play calls. What looked like an eight- or nine-win season in September turned into a complete mess for Kirk Ferentz's crew. The Legends Division will be loaded again in 2013, so Iowa faces a critical offseason.

12. Illinois (2-10, 0-8, last week: 12): There are really bad teams, and then there's Illinois. Tim Beckman's first season mercifully ended Saturday, but not before another embarrassing road loss, this time at the hands of a rival. The Illini's offense actually showed up early, but eight first-half penalties, four turnovers and a defensive front seven that had no answer for Northwestern's run game ensured the Orange and Blue would end the Big Ten season winless for the fourth time since 1997. Beckman, who earned a penalty by accidentally contacting an official during a Northwestern interception, has a lot to fix.

SEC power rankings: Week 14

November, 26, 2012
The SEC flexed its muscles again, and as we head into the SEC championship game, we release the final regular-season power rankings for the league:

1. Alabama (11-1; last week: 1): Since losing at home to Texas A&M, Alabama has done exactly what it has needed to do against inferior opponents by defeating Western Carolina and Auburn by a combined score of 98-0. For a team that could have pouted about its loss, Alabama has come out very, very strong in the past two weeks. This week, the Tide take on a Georgia team that is also playing its best ball of the season in the SEC championship game. A win, and Alabama will be headed to its third national championship game in four years.

2. Georgia (11-1; LW: 2): Like Alabama, the Bulldogs haven't really been challenged of late. Against overmatched opponents in the past four weeks, the Bulldogs have averaged 470 yards and haven't scored fewer than 37 points in an outing. The offense is back to its explosive ways, and the defense looks elite again. This team is equipped with the talent to win the SEC, but does it have the right mindset? We'll find out very soon.

3. Florida (11-1; LW: 3): Someone please figure out this team! For weeks, the Gators floundered with the ball in their hands, but when they took on the nation's No. 1 statistical defense (Florida State) on the road, they turned back into that hard-nosed running team. The Seminoles were giving up 2.3 yards per carry, but Florida averaged 5.2 yards per carry and registered 244 rushing yards. The defense is elite, and regardless of what the offense looks like, the Gators have the SEC's best résumé with four wins over top-10 BCS opponents.

4. Texas A&M (10-2; LW: 4): The Aggies walked all over a bad Missouri team Saturday. Johnny Manziel injured his knee in the first quarter and was still able to accumulate 439 yards of offense and five touchdowns. The defense gave up 22 points in the second half, but the game was well in hand by halftime. No one knows how this team won 10 games in its first year in the SEC without a bye week, but A&M was a pleasant surprise for the conference. These aren't the Big 12's Aggies, and they're headed to a January bowl.

5. LSU (10-2; LW: 5): The Tigers had a tough game in Fayetteville against a struggling Arkansas team, but LSU grabbed its third straight 10-win season. The offense has exploded since the Alabama game, and the defense is still one of the best around. It took Zach Mettenberger most of the 2012 season, but he's finally looking like the top-notch quarterback many expected him to be from the start. Imagine if this LSU team had been here all season.

6. South Carolina (10-2; LW: 6): Clemson's Death Valley wasn't very intimidating for the Gamecocks. Even without starting quarterback Connor Shaw, the Gamecocks carved up the Tigers for 444 yards of offense. Backup Dylan Thompson more than did his part with 310 passing yards and three touchdowns. Oh, and Jadeveon Clowney ruined Clemson's night with 4.5 sacks. The Gamecocks have been overlooked a little since losing to Florida, but this team is really clicking in all phases of the game.

7. Vanderbilt (8-4; LW: 7): What a year for James Franklin and his crew. For the first time since 1982, the Commodores have eight wins, and they closed the season riding a six-game winning streak. The defense has been solid all season, but the offense really turned things on during this winning streak. In the past six games, the Commodores scored 40 or more points and eclipsed 400 yards of total offense four times. The Commodores are in line for a high-profile bowl game.

8. Ole Miss (6-6; LW: 9): Mississippi State might have two more wins, but the Rebels crushed the Bulldogs at home to jump in the rankings. After a back-and-forth start, Ole Miss outscored the Bulldogs 24-7 in the second half. In the three games prior, the Rebels were obliterated in the second half. Hugh Freeze has really turned things around in Oxford and is up for coach of the year in the SEC. The Rebels are going bowling for the first time in three years and registered three SEC wins after entering the season on a 14-game losing streak in conference play.

9. Mississippi State (8-4; LW: 8): After starting the season an impressive 7-0, the Bulldogs finished 1-4. Mississippi State was outscored by a combined 93 points in those losses. What might have been the most shocking part of the Bulldogs' fall was that the defense was the main offender. The Bulldogs allowed an average of 327 yards through the first seven games but conceded 477 per game in the last five weeks. The weaker first-half opponents clearly masked the glaring issues this defense had.

10. Missouri (5-7; LW: 10): A long, rough first season in the SEC ended with a 30-point blowout loss to fellow newcomer Texas A&M. Injuries ravaged this team all year, and the Tigers head into the offseason very disappointed with how the 2012 season went. The offense lost its explosion early in the season and could just never help the defense out as the year went on. Coach Gary Pinkel said last week that there won't be staff changes, but if some sort of change doesn't happen, the Tigers won't get any better.

11. Tennessee (5-7; LW: 12): Like the Tigers, a very long and disappointing season is over with in Knoxville. Derek Dooley is gone, and it's time for this program to start over and search for a new coach to lead the Vols. The first order of business for the new coach will be recruiting juniors Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson and then fixing the major issues on defense. A huge reason for Tennessee's disastrous 2012 season was that the defense allowed 471 yards and nearly 36 points per game. Both were highs (or lows) in the SEC.

12. Arkansas (4-8; LW: 11): The Razorbacks fought hard in their final game of the season but came up just short against LSU. It was a year of major lows for Arkansas' program, but it has finally ended. Now, the Razorbacks turn their attention to finding a new head coach. Defense becomes a priority for the Hogs' next coach, as Arkansas allowed 30-plus points in seven of its eight losses this year.

13. Auburn (3-9; LW: 13): Another SEC team that is looking for a new head coach. After a dreadful season on the Plains, Gene Chizik was fired Sunday just two years removed from a national championship. An 0-8 record in the SEC, hardly any signs of improvement throughout the year and being blown out 150-21 in your last three SEC games will send you packing. There's plenty of talent at Auburn, but development issues kept this team near the bottom of the SEC in most offensive and defensive categories. That right there goes back to coaching.

14. Kentucky (2-10; LW: 14): The Wildcats officially said goodbye to coach Joker Phillips after their 37-17 loss to Tennessee on Saturday. It seemed like no team in the SEC dealt with the number of injuries Kentucky did this year. This team was required to play a handful of youngsters, but there weren't signs of improvement in Lexington as the season went on with the defense and offense hovering around the bottom of the SEC all season. The good news is that those youngsters got a lot of valuable game experience.

Big East power rankings

November, 26, 2012
Nothing about the Big East screamed "power" in Week 13. So keep that in mind as you read these rankings.

1. Rutgers (9-2, 5-1). The Scarlet Knights have won at least a share of their first Big East title. The onus is on them to win the league championship outright and a spot in the BCS. But with the way they played at Pitt last week, and the history of blowing opportunities in the past, who knows what will happen.

2. Louisville (9-2, 4-2). The Cardinals have now lost two straight and the problems that were masked en route to their 9-0 start have been exposed. If Louisville cannot protect Teddy Bridgewater better or establish the run on Thursday, it will be nearly impossible to win on the road.

3. Cincinnati (8-3, 4-2). The Bearcats beat USF as expected and have a chance to win at least a share of another Big East title with a win over UConn. Another 10-win season could be in the cards if they can beat the Huskies and win their bowl game.

4. Syracuse (7-5, 5-2). The Orange are actually the hottest team in the league, having won five of six to close out the season. Only one of those wins was against a team with a winning record (Louisville). They get major credit for that, but it's hard to put them any higher given losses to Rutgers and Cincinnati.

5. UConn (5-6, 2-4). Had to start parsing wins between Pitt and UConn. I ranked the Huskies higher because I thought it was a bigger upset for them to go on the road and beat Louisville. And they have the head-to-head win against the Panthers.

6. Pitt (5-6, 2-4). Wouldn't you know it, the Panthers come back from their dismal loss to UConn and completely manhandle Rutgers. If only they hadn't blown that game to the Huskies, they would be bowl eligible and ranked higher.

7. Temple (4-7, 2-5). The Owls close their first season in the Big East knowing they aren't the worst team in the league.

8. USF (3-8, 1-5). The Bulls have lost eight of their past nine, and have become offensively challenged with B.J. Daniels, Lindsey Lamar and several other starters on the sideline. This is by far the worst season in school history.

ACC power rankings: Week 14

November, 26, 2012
What. A. Bust. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing season for the ACC, as the league went 0-4 against its SEC rivals in the final week of the regular season. Is anyone in the ACC any good? Sure, just not good enough to matter in the BCS standings. Not much has changed in the lineup since last week. Here’s how they stack up against each other heading into the "postseason."

1. Florida State (10-2, 7-1 ACC; LW: No. 1) – Five turnovers and an inability to stop the run doomed the Seminoles in a home loss to their in-state rival, Florida. Quarterback EJ Manuel threw three interceptions, lost a fumble that led to a touchdown, and was left disoriented after a helmet-to-helmet hit that wasn’t called. The Noles have to find a way to put this one behind them and move on to the ACC championship game.

2. Clemson (10-2, 7-1; LW: No. 2) – Same story, different season. For the fourth straight year, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney lost to in-state rival Steve Spurrier, who became the winningest coach in South Carolina history Saturday. The loss more than likely ended any hopes of having two BCS bowl teams for the second straight year.

3. Miami (7-5, 5-3; LW: No. 3) – The Hurricanes made it clear they didn’t quit despite their self-imposed bowl ban and finished on a positive note with a 52-45 win at Duke. The best team in the Coastal Division is ineligible, and it’s not North Carolina.

4. Georgia Tech (6-6, 5-3; LW: No. 4) – The Yellow Jackets were steamrolled by rival Georgia in a 42-10 loss and will now play Florida State on Saturday for the ACC championship. Paul Johnson knows his defense will have to play its best game of the season in order to pull the upset.

5. North Carolina (8-4, 5-3; LW: No. 5) – The Tar Heels got a scare from Maryland in their regular-season finale, but quarterback Bryn Renner threw a school-record five touchdown passes in a 45-38 come-from-behind win. Overall, it was a successful year in the win column in Larry Fedora’s first season.

6. NC State (7-5, 4-4; LW: No. 7) – The Wolfpack beat Boston College 27-10, but it wasn’t enough for coach Tom O’Brien to keep his job. O’Brien was fired Sunday and will not coach in the bowl game. Offensive coordinator Dana Bible was named interim head coach.

7. Virginia Tech (6-6, 4-4; LW: No. 8) – The Hokies barely slipped by rival Virginia to become bowl eligible for the 20th straight season, winning 17-14 on a field goal with 4 seconds remaining. It was the ninth straight season Virginia Tech beat UVa.

8. Duke (6-6, 3-5; LW: No. 6) – The Blue Devils finished the season with four straight losses, which is why they dropped two spots and they’re ranked behind the Tar Heels despite the head-to-head win. Still, the program is going bowling for the first time since 1994, which still makes it a successful season.

9. Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5; LW: No. 10) – There wasn’t even the faintest hint of an upset here, as the Deacs’ struggles continued in a 55-21 loss to Vanderbilt. The loss meant that Wake Forest failed to become bowl eligible by reaching the six-win mark this year.

10. Virginia (4-8, 2-6; LW: No. 9) – The Cavaliers gave a good effort in Blacksburg, but couldn’t play the role of spoiler against their rivals and left many wondering about Mike London’s use of the clock at the end of the game. It was a long fall from last year’s coach of the year performance.

11. Maryland (4-8, 2-6; LW: No. 11) – If there were an award for relentlessness, Maryland would win it this year. There was no quit in these Terps all year, but a 24-point third quarter was the difference for the Tar Heels. The good news? Maryland finally has time to heal.

12. Boston College (2-10, 1-7; LW: No. 12) – The program hit rock bottom this weekend, as coach Frank Spaziani was fired Sunday after a miserable 2-10 finish that included only one win against an FBS team -- Maryland. Head-to-head results are a bit deceiving here, as even though Maryland lost to the Eagles, they were overall the better team this year -- even with a fifth-string quarterback.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 14

November, 26, 2012
Here's how I slot the Big 12 heading into the final weekend of the season:

1. Kansas State (10-1, 7-1, last week: 1) The Wildcats were idle, but there was nothing that could happen on Saturday to knock the Wildcats off their comfy perch atop this ranking. A loss next week to Texas might, though, as long as the Sooners beat TCU to win the Big 12 outright.

2. Oklahoma (9-2, 6-1, last week: 2) Oklahoma got the job done and defended its home field against an unbelievably resilient Oklahoma State team. The Sooners stayed alive in the Big 12 title race in the process, but that's a Bedlam that won't soon be forgotten by the Sooner faithful, even if it's also a sign of possibly scary things to come.

3. Oklahoma State (7-4, 5-3, last week: 3) Excuse me for refusing to move Oklahoma State down a spot after losing to Oklahoma in overtime in Norman. If there's such a thing as a good loss, that was it. The Cowboys impressed me and held their own in a crazy environment at Owen Field.

4. TCU (7-4, 3-4, last week: 6) TCU's record, like Oklahoma State's, isn't as good as Texas', but you can't discount what happened on Thursday night. The Frogs looked like the better team and their quickly maturing defense has now perplexed Kansas State and Texas in successive games.

5. Texas (8-3, 5-3, last week: 4) One loss may sting for a long while for the Longhorns, and don't be surprised if that same loss pays off for the Frogs down the line on the recruiting trail. David Ash was benched for a second time this season after a strong start, and the Longhorns were eliminated from the Big 12 title race before traveling to Manhattan this week.

6. Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5, last week: 5) Texas Tech gave everything it had on Saturday, but Baylor was just an inch better this time. The Bears validated last week's Kansas State upset and Texas Tech lost four of its last five games to close the regular season. Two of the losses were by at least 31 points, albeit to ranked teams. The one win? In overtime at home against Kansas. Uh, not good, Red Raiders.

7. Baylor (6-5, 3-5, last week: 8) The Bears didn't convince me they should slide ahead of the Red Raiders, but wow, what a rescue of a season for the Bears. I probably would have given them a 10 percent chance of reaching a bowl last Friday. Sure enough, they knock off the No. 1 team in the country and back it up with a gutsy win over Texas Tech, their second consecutive win in the rivalry after being shut out by the Red Raiders since the beginning of the Big 12.

8. West Virginia (6-5, 3-5, last week: 9) West Virginia won a game, but that's about it. Beating Iowa State in Ames isn't easy, but it also won't impress many folks. Tavon Austin is ridiculous, there's no denying that. There's also no denying that West Virginia's been ousted by only Arkansas as the most disappointing team in the country this season.

9. Iowa State (6-6, 3-6, last week: 7) The Cyclones may have discovered a real hope for the future in Sam Richardson, who didn't get the win but played well enough to keep his job heading into the bowl game if you ask me. Paul Rhoads is in his third bowl game in four years, but winning that bowl game offers a lot of validation entering the offseason that losing, like ISU did last year against Rutgers, does not.

10. Kansas (1-10, 0-8, last week: 10) This brutal season meets its merciful end next week in Morgantown. An upset is definitely possible, but the Jayhawks were blasted the last time out by an average Iowa State team. Charlie Weis laid some building blocks for the future, but that Big 12 losing streak will hang over the offseason if the Jayhawks can't swing the shocker.