It's time for a new installment of Deadspin's college football rankings. As always, the teams are ranked according to the logic and values of college football, no matter how bizarre or contradictory they may be.
1. LSU (12-0) Last week: 1
The Tigers' Thanksgiving Friday victory over Arkansas was included in last week's rankings.
2. Houston (12-0) Last week: 2
The Cougars' Thanksgiving Friday victory over Tulsa was included in last week's rankings, too. And was apparently otherwise ignored, not only by the BCS—which has all but locked in an LSU-Alabama title game—but by critics of the BCS, who have decided to keep whining about Boise State, even though Boise State is a loser. Michael Weinreb devoted a whole column at Grantland to arguing that Boise State (record: 10-1) deserves to play LSU more than Alabama (record: 11-1) does:
Boise State lost a football game, you will say, which may hold a great deal more weight if every other college football team, save LSU and Houston, had not lost a game as well.
For some reason—"the weight of [Boise State's] own recent history"...."because I want to believe in something this bowl season"—Weinreb kept typing after that. Weight of recent history? That's a fancy way of saying it's more important or impressive that Boise State went undefeated as a no-tradition school from a nowheresville conference five years ago than that Houston can do the same thing this year. In 2016, presumably, Weinreb will be rooting for the Cougars.
But the most absurd case is (surprise!) Rick Reilly, who devoted a whole column to trolling Alabama fans about how the Crimson Tide doesn't deserve a rematch with LSU—without even mentioning Houston. Seriously. Click through, ctrl-F, type the name of this year's undefeated outsider. 0 of 0.
Reilly actually finds the kernel of a valid argument. He writes, of the Alabama-LSU matchup:
There shouldn't be one because it makes the BCS honchos liars. This is their Twitter handle: @EveryGameCounts. But how can every game count if it doesn't matter who won the first one?
This is correct. (Repeat: Rick Reilly is correct!) The premise of the whole college-football-champion-selection process is that every single game is not just meaningful but dispositive. The better team wins. The lesser team loses. The notion that each team's record might be the result of a profoundly non-representative sample of highly chance-dependent events is Copernicus-grade heresy.
Even the people who claim to reject the BCS and the polls, calling for a real playoff system, are still subscribing to the faith that game results are infallible. They just think the infallibility works at the cutoff between 10-2 and 9-3, rather than between 12-0 and 11-1.
The real victory for reason won't come till the NCAA finishes collapsing and the four surviving superconferences abandon the BCS. This would lead to a three-stage test: divisional play to qualify for the conference championship game, the conference championship games to qualify for a four-team national playoff, and then the playoff itself.
Under the far more rigorous and sensible logic of this system, by the way, Alabama still wouldn't deserve to play LSU for the national title.
But God forbid Rick Reilly think it through that far. Instead, he taunts the Alabama fans:
Whom would I rather see? Any team that hasn't already blown its chance.
And then he lists four alternative teams—Oklahoma State, Stanford, Virginia Tech, and Boise State—that have all already lost games themselves. Boise State failed to win its own conference. Stanford failed to win its own division. On second thought, Houston is probably better off without Reilly's support.
3. Alabama (11-1) Last week: 7
Whatever their qualifications for the championship game, the Crimson Tide can congratulate themselves on throwing the last shovelful of dirt on the grave of Auburn's era of good feelings, beating their arch-rivals 42-14.
Meanwhile, Rick Reilly also argued that missing the SEC championship game was an advantage for Alabama:
[I]magine how idiotic this system is through LSU's binoculars. While the Bayou Bengals are beating their brains out against Georgia in the conference title game this Saturday at the Georgia Dome — aka, the crime scene — Alabama will be enjoying chicken wings and "Tosh.0" reruns and resting up.
"I won't lie to you," Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower told The Associated Press. "It's going to be good to get a week off. A lot of guys are banged up."
A week off? The national championship game will be played Jan. 9, 2012. Alabama will have 44 days off; LSU will have to settle for a mere 37.
4. USC (10-2) Last week: 5
The outlaw Trojans ended their season in a blaze of glory, humiliating UCLA, 50-0. Because USC was a very bad program and allowed professional-caliber football play to be materially rewarded, it is not allowed to play in the Pac-12 championship game, let alone in one of the academically and ethically rarefied bowl games. So the official leader of the South Division is ... UCLA. Congratulations, Bruins! Good luck against Oregon.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley threw for 423 yards and six touchdowns against UCLA. He finishes the year with 3,528 yards, 39 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions. The Trojans had the 15th-best passing offense in the country, by yardage, and only the 56th-best rushing game.
Stanford's Andrew Luck, the presumed Heisman favorite, has 3,170 yards, 35 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. The Cardinal had the 26th-best passing offense in the country and the 22nd-best rushing offense.
5. [Vacant] Last week: 4
Here begin the disappointments. Let's work fast; Rick Reilly has already given them too much credit.
6. Virginia Tech (11-1) Last week: 6
Beat Virginia, 38-0, to secure intrastate bragging rights and a spot in the ACC title game. Being the best college football team in Virginia is like being the best college basketball team in New Jersey. Or the best college football team in New Jersey, really.
7. South Carolina (10-2) Last week: 9
Melvin Ingram had two sacks as the Gamecocks beat Clemson, 34-13, to secure intrastate bragging rights.
8. Arkansas (10-2) Last week: 8
The Razorbacks' loss to LSU was included in last week's rankings.
9. Georgia (10-2) Last week: 10
Beat Georgia Tech, 31-17, to secure intrastate bragging rights.
10. (tie) Michigan (10-2) Last week: 19
10. (tie) Michigan State (10-2) Last week: 17
Michigan made its season by beating its most important foe, Ohio State, 40-34. Michigan State beat Northwestern, 31-17, to secure a spot in the Big Ten title game, but the Spartans had long since made their season by beating their most important foe, Michigan.
12. Stanford (11-1) Last week: 13
The Cardinal beat some third-rate Midwestern program, 28-14.
13. Oklahoma State (10-1) Last week: 11
The Cowboys had the week off.
14. Kansas State (9-2) Last week: 12
The Wildcats had the week off.
15. Oklahoma (9-2) Last week: 14
The Sooners beat Iowa State, 26-6.
16. Oregon (10-2) Last week: 16
The Ducks beat Oregon State, 49-21, to secure intrastate bragging rights and a spot in the Pac-12 title game.
17. Wisconsin (9-2) Last week: 17
The Badgers beat Penn State, 45-7, to secure a spot in the Big Ten title game.
18. TCU (9-2) Last week: 20
The Horned Frogs had the week off.
19. Boise State (10-1) Last week: 21
The Broncos, the sentimental contrarian favorite to play in the national title game, beat Wyoming, 36-14, to secure second place in the Mountain West Conference.
20. Arkansas State (9-2) Last week: 22
The Red Wolves had the week off.
21. Baylor (8-3) Last week: 23
The Bears beat Texas Tech, 66-42.
22. Southern Miss (10-2) Last week: 24
The Golden Eagles beat Memphis, 44-7, to secure a spot in the Conference USA title game against undefeated Houston.
23. Clemson (9-3) Last week: 14
The suddenly moribund Tigers cling to a spot in the rankings on the strength of their early-season success.
119. Maryland (2-10) Last week: unranked
Randy Edsall's Terrapins led North Carolina State 41-14 in the third quarter—and then finished their hard-charging, no-nonsense coach's first season by giving up 42 unanswered points in the final 21 minutes and losing 56-41. It was Maryland's eighth consecutive loss, and the seventh consecutive loss by double digits. Redshirt sophomore running back D.J. Adams was given three carries against the Wolfpack, and gained 41 yards. This week, he asked to be released from his scholarship, sacrificing one of his two remaining years of eligibility to get away from Edsall and Maryland. Adams' father told the Baltimore Sun that his son, who had scored 11 touchdowns for coach Ralph Friedgen the year before, had apparently offended Edsall by showing up for training camp with his hair dyed blond and by wearing an earring.
120. Penn State (9-3) Last week: 120