And to stay in this spot, and play for a national title, all the Irish have to do is go to Los Angeles and beat a reeling USC team (reportedly without their starting QB, Matt Barkley). Sounds like the perfect setup, doesn’t it?
2. Alabama Crimson Tide 10-1 +2
You may have wished and hoped that the SEC would not be a factor in the national championship race after Alabama lost to Texas A&M … but you didn’t really believe that, did you?! The Tide must beat Auburn (a near-certainty) this weekend and Georgia in the SEC championship game to earn a chance to defend their title.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes 11-0 +2
All that stands between the Buckeyes and an undefeated season is Michigan. QB Braxton Miller may be a Heisman finalist — and the most improved QB in the nation.
4. Oregon Ducks 10-1 -3
Could never get going against Stanford’s formidable defense, but Ducks were still a couple of makeable field goals away from winning. Can now only hope for a lot of help to move back into the national title conversation.
5. Georgia Bulldogs 10-1 +1
When the Bulldogs visited South Carolina and were wiped out by Steve Spurrier’s crew in October, did you see Georgia still alive in the BCS title game chatter? Me neither.
6. Kansas State Wildcats 10-1 -4
The Wildcats were pressured right from the jump by Baylor, and Bears QB Nick Florence did what RG3 could not just a year ago — beat K-State. Was that head coach Bill Snyder’s best — and last — shot at a national championship?
7. Florida State Seminoles 10-1 —
FSU clinched a berth in the ACC title game with its destruction of Maryland. The Seminoles’ blown-lead loss against an average NC State team will haunt them as they watch two other teams play for it all.
8. Stanford Cardinal 9-2 +5
Yes, the Cardinal have two losses, but the second one will long be disputed by all who saw the last run by Stepfan Taylor at Notre Dame. Don’t know Cardinal defensive coordinator Derek Mason? You should now after watching his defense ground the Ducks.
9. Clemson Tigers 10-1 -1
The Tigers don’t mind shootouts, and QB Tajh Boyd is at his best in a gunslinger-type contest. More than just state title on the line against South Carolina.
10. Florida Gators 10-1 -1
Because of back-to-back unimpressive weeks against teams they should dominate, I wanted to vote the Gators lower. But they have beaten the next three teams behind them in the poll.
11. LSU Tigers 9-2 -1
Head coach Les Miles’ Tigers found a way to survive Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze’s game and valiant team. Better keep an eye on Ole Miss in the near future. Mr. Freeze is for real.
12. South Carolina Gamecocks 9-2 —
Gamecocks really want to beat Clemson and establish themselves as the best program in the state. I look forward to watching that game.
13. Texas A&M Aggies 9-2 -2
Could it be that the Aggies are ranked too low in this poll?! A case could be made, but remember, their losses were to Florida (No. 10), and LSU (No. 11), and both at home.
14. UCLA Bruins 9-2 +2
Congratulations to the Pac-12 South champions. Jim Mora changed a mindset, a culture and an attitude — and in less than one short season. Look out AD Dan Guerrero: Here come the calls wanting your head coach!
15. Oklahoma Sooners 8-2 +1
Escaped Morgantown, W.V., with a one-point win over a team that began the season 5-0 but is now on a five-game skid. The Sooners are now tied atop the Big 12 with one loss, and have Bedlam against Oklahoma State looming at home this week.
16. Oregon State Beavers 8-2 -1
Oregon’s upset loss to Stanford does not take the luster off the Civil War game this Saturday. If the Ducks don’t respond favorably, the Beavers are more than capable of dinging them again.
17. Nebraska Cornhuskers 9-2 —
It’s very simple: Bo Pelini will coach his team to his personality … and right now his team is one win over Iowa from heading to the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin.
18. Texas Longhorns 8-2 —
After being questioned seemingly each week at the beginning of the season, this Longhorns team suddenly has designs on finishing strong.
19. Louisville Cardinals 9-1 +3
I really want to rank the Cardinals higher, but I cannot get the loss at Syracuse out of my head (although to be fair, the ’Cuse has been rolling lately, winning four of five).
20. Michigan Wolverines 8-3 —
Chasing Nebraska for the chance to face Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, but the Wolverines must beat Ohio State, and also need Nebraska to lose against Iowa.
21. Oklahoma State Cowboys 7-3 —
I like how head coach Mike Gundy carries himself and projects that air of professionalism that permeates his squad. Down to their third QB, the Cowboys continue to put up big offensive numbers. Take a bow, QB Clint Chelf.
22. Kent State Golden Flashes 10-1 +1
Head coach Darrell Hazell, and RB/KR Dri Archer lead the charge toward a most special season. Many will check to see if Hazell is ready to listen to other programs that will need a new leader.
23. Rutgers Scarlet Knights 9-1 +1
It’s set up now: Rutgers vs. Louisville for the Big East crown. First-year coach Kyle Flood has a chance to take the Scarlet Knights to their first BCS bowl game.
24. Northern Illinois Huskies 10-1 —
Head coach Dave Doeren has done a marvelous job, and has his team in the MAC title tilt. Another good coach whose phone will ring in the offseason.
25. Utah State Aggies 9-2 —
Speaking of tremendous coaching jobs, how about what Gary Andersen has done in Ogden, Utah? Led by sophomore QB Chuckie Keeton, the Aggies just beat previously ranked, high-flying Louisiana Tech. Welcome to my poll, Utah State — you’ve earned it!