The BCS Has One Last Screwjob Left In It: 125 FBS Teams, Ranked

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Each week during college football season we put the conventional polls to shame by ranking every FBS team from 1-125, by whatever standard we see fit. As always, last week's rankings were not consulted.


1. ALABAMA (10-0). The final score against Mississippi State, 20-7, made it Bama's narrowest victory over an unranked opponent since 2009, which is not to suggest it was close. There was a moment when it looked like it might be, briefly, when the Bulldogs scored to pull within three points early in the third quarter, infusing 35,000 cowbells with the familiar, giddy energy of an upset in progress. That moment when it dawns on the crowd, "Holy smokes, this might actually happen." Five minutes later, Alabama was in the opposite end zone to push the lead back to double digits, and MSU didn't make another dent. Ten games in, the Crimson Tide still have not trailed beyond the 12:00 mark of the second quarter, and only one opposing offense (LSU's) has touched the ball after halftime within one score.

2. FLORIDA STATE (10-0). Jameis Winston's murky legal status is the biggest story in college football this year, with ramifications far beyond said status, and the most impossible to write about. What is there to say? From the outside, nothing has emerged that allows us to gauge the severity or validity of the accusations against him. Speculation on either grounds would be irresponsible and unfair: Winston has not been charged, and entitled to a presumption of innocence. Yet there is also the feeling, due to the dismal track record of sexual assault cases against high-profile individuals and institutions in this country–and against college football players, in particular–that carrying on as usual is a potentially greater breach of responsibility toward the accuser. What is justice? For whom? If silence is untenable, when does speculation cross the line in the opposite direction? Attempting to answer these questions without a full, first-hand grasp of the facts is pulling the pin on a hand grenade.


In the context of an ongoing criminal investigation, awards and All-America teams are exceedingly trivial concerns. But here we are: Winston will almost certainly be in Manhattan in a few weeks for the annual Heisman hoopla, and barring formal charges between now and then he has a very good chance of winning. This is not like Cam Newton claiming the trophy a few years back on the heels of a scandal that was only scandalous in the narrow context of arcane NCAA rules. What does that spectacle look like when the charge is sexual assault? The nature of the Heisman–the buttoned-down setting, the reverent portraits, the rhetoric about entering an exclusive fraternity–dictates that the event honors the individual even more so than the athlete. Inevitably, Winston's coach, Jimbo Fisher, will look into the camera and praise his quarterback's integrity, leadership and work ethic, and may see fit to rebuke suggestions to the contrary. At no point will Chris Fowler interrupt the proceedings to remind the audience that this is about football, and pretty much only football, and the candidates should not necessarily be regarded as role models. Oh, that would be in terrible taste, of course, and the ceremony is nothing if not a pageant of good (if awkward) manners. In this case, though, the price of propriety is the sinking feeling underneath that it may turn out to be the greater shame.

3. BAYLOR (9-0). Baylor dropped 675 yards and 63 points on Texas Tech, which is frightening enough under any circumstances, but especially when the Bears are playing without their leading receiver and top two tailbacks due to injuries. (The third and fourth-stringers in the backfield, Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin, went over 100 yards apiece against the Raiders on a combined 7.2 yards per carry.) That's the fifth time this season the Bears have racked up 300 yards rushing and passing in the same game, leaving them just a whisker off the pace to become the first offense ever to average 300/300 over an entire season: With four games to go (including a bowl), the ground game is at 299.44.

4. OHIO STATE (10-0). Maybe it's too early, maybe it's because the playoff system on deck for 2014 has rendered the old BCS complaints irrelevant. But one aspect that seems to be missing from this year's denouement is outrage. Make no mistake: If Ohio State closes out another undefeated season, extends its winning streak to 25 games and still doesn't get to play for a national championship, it will rank right alongside the debacles of 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2008 in the BCS Hall of Fame of Failure. (You can add 2000, 2007 and 2011 to that list if you're so inclined.) Not that the Buckeyes are more deserving than Alabama or Florida State (or Baylor) for one of the two golden tickets to the nominal championship game. But the Series' fatal flaw, right from the beginning, has always been limiting access to just two teams in defiance of a richer, more competitive reality. Does pending reform give it clemency for one last screwjob to remember it by? The Buckeyes (and Bears) have earned better.


5. OREGON (9-1). Yes, Marcus Mariota was forcibly ejected from the VIP area of the Heisman club by Stanford. His efficiency is still a marvel. Saturday, Mariota had three touchdown passes without an interception in the Ducks' win over Utah, extending his interception-free streak to 356 passes and counting dating back to last November, which puts him in rare company: The only FBS quarterback to finish a full season without an interception in at least 150 attempts is Virginia's Matt Blundin, in 1991. In the last decade, the only QB to get through an entire season with that many passes and fewer than two interceptions is N.C. State's Russell Wilson, who was picked off just once in 2008. At his current pace, Mariota is on track to finish with more touchdowns than Blundin and Wilson combined.

6. AUBURN (10-1). If you watched Auburn's fourth-and-forever Hail Mary to beat Georgia as it happened, you'll never forget it, or your reaction when you realized Ricardo Louis was actually going to make the catch.* There is really no rational way to process those few seconds. One method is instinctive, indiscriminate shouting; personally, I yelled "OH NO!" Auburn partisans in person and watching on TV went collectively apeshit in a moment of pure communal bliss. Several members of Georgia's coaching staff died in unison.


The only person expected to give something resembling a coherent summary was the guy who threw it, Nick Marshall, who was asked immediately afterward to explain his thought process on the play, and dutifully attempted to do so as if he had the slightest control over the result. "I delivered the throw and he made an awesome catch." Thus unfolded the play of the year.

(* You will forget Ricardo Louis, unless you're an Auburn fan, in which case you'll be hanging a painting of him next to your child's crib.)


7. MISSOURI (9-1). Mizzou didn't play Saturday, but had enough invested in a Georgia win to share in the suffering. Although the Tigers still control their own destiny in the SEC East, UGA's official elimination from the race leaves them with no margin for error over the next two weeks against Ole Miss and Texas A&M–a Missouri loss in either game will deliver the division title to South Carolina. Between Auburn's Hail Mary and their own demoralizing, deflection-inflicted defeat at the hands of the Gamecocks, Mizzou fans have every reason to brace for an emotional fire drill.


8. CLEMSON (9-1). The closer we get to the end, the more Florida State's start-to-finish annihilation of Clemson looks like the single best performance of the season, which is meant as a compliment to the Tigers: In the subsequent month, they've gone right back to blowing the doors off the rest of the ACC, most recently in a 55-31 rout over Georgia Tech, and generally looking like the high-flying contenders everyone thought they were over the first eight weeks. Still, unless they snap a four-game losing to South Carolina on Nov. 30, it's right back to the "Clemsoning" Rorschach test.

9. STANFORD (8-2). All four of the Cardinal's post-Andrew Luck losses have come as a result of inconsistency at quarterback and their inability to challenge defenses downfield. Saturday, Kevin Hogan turned in the worst game of his career at USC, serving up a pair of costly interceptions in the fourth quarter– the first cost Stanford points in the red zone, the second led directly to the Trojans' game-winning field goal– and finishing with his lowest efficiency rating (82.7) in 16 games as a starter. (An unwieldy, windmill throwing motion didn't do him any favors.) It was the first time in that span he's accounted for more turnovers than touchdowns.


10. ARIZONA STATE (8-2). Advanced stats and computer polls are bullish on the Pac-12, in general, but especially on Arizona State, which comes in at No. 6 this week in Football Outsiders' F/+ rankings and No. 11 according to a consensus of the BCS computers. On the other hand, the Sun Devils don't show up in the Harris and Coaches' polls until No. 22, the biggest disparity between man and machine in the top 25.

11. UCLA (8-2). Coaches continued to insist this week that their two-way freshman übermensch, Myles Jack, is a linebacker by trade, and not about to take on an increased role on offense, even when it's obvious to everyone now that the Bruins' second-leading tackler is also their most gifted tailback. It's not only about the workload: With barely more than a week of practice at his second position, Jack is still too raw to be effective as a receiver or (more importantly) in pass protection, which can also affect his production as a runner if his presence in the backfield is a dead giveaway to the defense that he's going to get the ball. But that hasn't happened yet, and he's certainly earned his touches until it does.


12. OKLAHOMA STATE (9-1). How the hell did this team lose to West Virginia? Saturday's 38-13 win at Texas was the best Oklahoma State has looked this season, the culmination of six weeks of steady improvement since a Sept. 28 flop in Morgantown. (Nowhere has that been more true than at quarterback, where Clint Chelf has emphatically reclaimed the job he lost earlier in the season to J.W. Walsh.) If not for that lapse, the Cowboys would be in the thick of the national championship scene, and this weekend's visit from Baylor would be one of the most hyped, consequential dates of the year. As it stands, they can still play spoiler to the Bears, but their own ceiling is fixed at the Big 12 title.

13. WISCONSIN (8-2).


15. SOUTH CAROLINA (8-2). I don't know what set this kid off, exactly, but his combination of exasperated rage and resignation is the most pure distillation I've ever seen of the soul of the American sports fan.


That moment when it dawns on him what he's in for over the rest of his life, and that it's already too late to do anything about it.


16. TEXAS A&M (8-2). This weekend's trip to Baton Rouge is a rematch with the only opponent that has kind of stopped Jonathan Football, although the current LSU defense is a far cry from the one that hounded Manziel into three interceptions last October in a 24-19 win for the Tigers. The offenses in that game combined for 43 points; between Manziel, Zach Mettenberger, and three of the four most productive receivers in the SEC, this one ought to exceed that by halftime, easy. (That prediction holds even if Manziel exceeds three interceptions, which at his current rate he just might.)

17. OLE MISS (7-3). The Rebels set a school record for total offense Saturday with 751 yards against Troy (382 rushing, 369 passing), somehow hitting that number without a single player coming close to 100 yards as a rusher or receiver. Nothing else to add, that's just fucking teamwork.


18. LSU (7-3).

19. CENTRAL FLORIDA (8-1). Pretty as it was, even J.J. Worton's sprawling, one-handed catch in the final two minutes wasn't enough lipstick to obscure a giant herpes sore of a performance against Temple. Prior to Saturday, the Owls were 1-8 with losses to Fordham and Idaho and lopsided defeats at the hands of the only ranked teams they had faced, Notre Dame and Louisville. Against UCF, they exceeded their season average for total offense by 140 yards and took the Knights to the final gun. Still, as far as the BCS is concerned, style points make no difference: With wins on the books over Louisville and Houston, Central Florida has such a cushion in the BIG AMERICA standings that it would have to lose two of its last three against Rutgers, South Florida, and SMU to piss away a big-money bid, and can still conceivably slip through the cracks even with that.


20. USC (8-3). Is it possible to take Ed Orgeron seriously as a long-term replacement for Lane Kiffin? Initially, the answer was an emphatic no: Before he was promoted on an interim basis in September, Orgeron was a central figure in the discredited Kiffin regime, having personally led the recruitment of most of the players on the most underachieving roster in the nation. There was also the matter of Coach O's dismal record as a head coach at Ole Miss, where he won three SEC games in three years from 2005-07. Obviously, this is not the guy you consider for a record-breaking salary. Just as obviously, though, USC is a better team on Orgeron's watch than it was two months ago, going 5-1 in that span despite a wave of injuries on both sides of the ball. Saturday's win over Stanford was the first time in two years the Trojans have glimpsed their potential against a quality opponent, after which Orgeron played the conquering hero with sword-wielding aplomb. You can't consider paying a man with that much baggage $6 million based on six games. If USC goes on to win the Pac-12 South–still very much in play with UCLA on deck–he can't be dismissed out of hand, either, and not only because he's an excitable Cajun with access to a sword.


21. OKLAHOMA (8-2).


23. FRESNO STATE (9-0).

24. LOUISVILLE (9-1).

25. DUKE (8-2). Duke–which, remember, is Duke–beat Miami Saturday, 48-30, for its sixth consecutive win, leaving the Blue Devils in sole possession of first place in the ACC's Coastal division with two games to play and head-to-head tiebreakers over both Miami and Virginia Tech. Take a few minutes if necessary to let that sink in. At 8-2, Duke is ranked in the AP poll this week for the first time since 1994, which is also the last time it won eight games in a season or finished with a winning record, period. Back when he voted in the Coaches' poll, Steve Spurrier used to include the Devils at the bottom of his ballot simply as a nod to the school that gave him his first head coaching gig. But under no circumstances did I ever think I'd live to see them occupy that position for real.


26. GEORGIA (6-4). The dumbest reaction to a successful Hail Mary is always talking heads who chide the victimized defensive backs for failing to knock the ball down, as if this foolproof insight is easily executed on the fly and not subject to the random fuckery that is the very premise of a Hail Mary. (At one point, ESPN's Jesse Palmer came right out on Sunday night and called Georgia's safeties "selfish" for attempting an interception on the decisive play against Auburn instead of simply swatting it harmlessly away. That's the word he used, "selfish.") Why is randomness such a verboten concept? In Georgia's case, the safeties did exactly what they were supposed to do by interfering with the intended trajectory of the ball, which as far as they're concerned should always guarantee an incompletion; beyond that, an unlucky bounce is an occupational hazard. In fact, the only certain way to prevent a soul-crushing ricochet is to catch the ball, which is what Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons both attempted. And why not? Catch the ball, control the ball. But implying design or agency to a desultory fluke is beyond tedious.

27. NOTRE DAME (7-3). The Irish aren't going to a BCS game for Christmas, but they will be getting the next best thing: Quarterback Everett Golson is reportedly on track to return to the team in time to participate in bowl practices (although not the game itself) after sitting out the entire season due to "poor academic judgment." You'll recall that Golson started all but one game in 2012, proving himself eminently capable of not fucking things up for a great defense en route to the BCS title game. (The current defense is not so great, allowing at least 28 points in all three losses and a couple of the wins. Although seven interceptions from Tommy Rees in those games has not helped.) If all goes according to plan, he'll line up next September as Notre Dame's sixth new starting quarterback in as many years.


28. BYU (7-3).

29. TEXAS (7-3).

30. MINNESOTA (8-2).

31. WASHINGTON (6-4).

32. ARIZONA (6-4).

33. OREGON STATE (6-4).

34. VANDERBILT (6-4).

35. VIRGINIA TECH (7-4). Duke is in the inside lane to play Florida State in the championship showdown of the ACC's dreams, but don't start engraving the Devils' headstone just yet. The Coastal division is on the cusp of utter chaos: If a) North Carolina beats Duke; and b) Miami wins its last two against Virginia and Pittsburgh; and c) Virginia Tech beats Virginia; then d) The Blue Devils, Tar Heels, Hurricanes and Hokies will join Georgia Tech in an unwieldy, five-way tie for the division crown. Honestly I don't see any way this can not happen.


36. MIAMI (7-3).

37. GEORGIA TECH (6-4).

38. KANSAS STATE (6-4).

39. NEBRASKA (7-3). The Cornhuskers committed five turnovers Saturday against Michigan State while forcing none in a 41-28 loss, the fifth consecutive game they've finished in the red in overall turnover margin. (Surprise: They rank dead last in the Big Ten in giveaways for the second year in a row.) In 23 losses under Bo Pelini, Nebraska has turned in a negative margin in 21 of them, for a cumulative margin in those games of -48.


40. MICHIGAN (7-3). On Oct. 19, the Wolverines set a school record for total offense with 751 yards in a wild, 63-47 win over Indiana. In three subsequent games, they've gained a grand total of 708 yards with a single touchdown in regulation. With Ohio State looming in two weeks, the only reliable positive on offense is the presence of a freshman tight end named Jake Butt. The rest is just butt.


42. UTAH (4-6).

43. BOISE STATE (7-3).

44. HOUSTON (7-3).

45. IOWA (6-4).

46. TEXAS TECH (7-4).

47. EAST CAROLINA (8-2).

48. FLORIDA (4-6). Will Muschamp injured himself punching a chalkboard in the Gators' loss to South Carolina, their fifth in a row, which frankly is the only logical response to being forced to start Skyler Mornhinweg at quarterback opposite Jadeveon Clowney. Somehow, Florida took its first two possessions against Carolina for touchdowns, and failed to score again.


49. BALL STATE (9-2).

50. BOWLING GREEN (7-3).

51. TOLEDO (7-4).

52. CINCINNATI (8-2).

53. PENN STATE (6-4).

54. UTAH STATE (6-4).


56. BOSTON COLLEGE (6-4). Saturday was a banner day for over-the-top rushing numbers from coast to coast: Six FBS offenses ran for at least 400 yards as a team, and six different backs racked up at least 200 on the ground as individuals. At the top of every list, though, there's BC's Andre Williams, who set a school record with 339 yards on 8.1 per carry against N.C. State, the best single-game total by any FBS back this season. With that, Williams extended his national lead for yards and carries per game, putting him on pace for the third-best rushing season in I-A/FBS history behind only Barry Sanders (2,628 yards in 1988) and Kevin Smith (2,567 in 2007). …Oh, and with its sixth win, Boston College is bowl-eligible under first-year coach Steve Addazio, just one year removed from a rock-bottom, 2-10 debacle.


57. MARYLAND (6-4).

58. TENNESSEE (4-6).


60. NORTH TEXAS (7-3).

61. MARSHALL (7-3).

62. RICE (7-3).

63. LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE (9-2). The Ragin' Cajuns are this week's occupants of the CRATER OF MEDIOCRITY, the depressing hole at the dead center of the rankings, although mediocrity is in the eye of the beholder: After an 0-2 start, Lafayette has taken nine games in a row and only needs one win in its last two to claim its first Sun Belt championship. So maybe the crater is less depressing than usual. But I'm the beholder in this space, and given losses to Arkansas and Kansas State, the mediocrity stands.


64. NORTHWESTERN (4-6). Does god hate Northwestern? No team, not even Georgia, has endured a run of Old-Testament trials quite like the one in progress here. Since a 4-0 start in September, the Wildcats have dropped six in a row in increasingly devastating fashion, blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Ohio State, losing to Iowa in overtime, and watching Nebraska come down with a desperate, Hail Mary heave as time expired. Saturday, they crossed into the realm of the absurd against Michigan, losing in triple overtime after watching the Wolverines execute the most frenzied field goal attempt on record in the final seconds of regulation. At that rate, this weekend's visit from Michigan State is going to turn into an episode of the X-Files.


65. NAVY (6-4).

66. PITTSBURGH (6-4). Tom Savage was dropped seven times Saturday in a 34-27 loss to North Carolina, leaving him as the most-sacked quarterback in the FBS this season. And while the record books are too spotty on this subject to speak with absolute authority, given the relentless beating Savage took as Rutgers's starter in 2009-10, he probably deserves to go down among the most sackable quarterbacks in history.


67. SYRACUSE (5-5).

68. BUFFALO (8-3).

69. INDIANA (4-6).

70. RUTGERS (5-4).

71. WEST VIRGINIA (4-7). In Dana Holgorsen's first 18 games as head coach, West Virginia was 15-3 with a conference championship, a blowout win in the Orange Bowl and, as of last October, a top-five ranking in the major polls. In his last 18 games, the Mountaineers are 6-12 with seven losses to unranked teams, bottoming out Saturday in a 31-19 flop against the resident Big 12 doormat, Kansas, that clinched a losing season and wasn't nearly as close as the score. At the postgame handshake, Charlie Weis could be heard whispering, "Welcome to my life."


72. TCU (4-7).

73. COLORADO (4-6).

74. SAN DIEGO STATE (6-4). On paper, SDSU has come a long way since September, taking six of its last seven on the heels of an 0-3 start. But the recovery has come by the skin of the Aztecs' teeth: Saturday's come-from-behind, overtime win at Hawaii was their fifth by a touchdown or less, and the fourth in a game they trailed in the fourth quarter.


75. SAN JOSE STATE (5-5).



78. TULANE (6-4).



81. OHIO (6-4).

82. ARKANSAS (3-7).

83. ILLINOIS (3-7). Illinois had many, many problems against Ohio State, but the offense wasn't one: Despite the haplessness of the defense, the Illini managed to generate 420 yards and 35 points, as many as they've scored at any point in their ongoing, 20-game Big Ten losing streak. As usual, though, when things went wrong they went really wrong. In the third quarter, with the score still conceivably within reach at 35-21, starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase left the game for one snap after his helmet came off during a play; in went backup Reilly O'Toole, who was immediately sacked, fumbling the ball into the end zone for a Buckeye safety. It was at this point that head coach Tim Beckman had to be forcibly restrained from assaulting his offensive coordinator. No shoving, no punches thrown, and after the game everyone said the right things about being caught up in the heat of the moment and "competing," etc. Fine. If the losing streak reaches 21 games Saturday against 1-9 Purdue, Beckman won't have to worry about hiring a new play-caller over the winter, because he won't have a job himself.


84. KANSAS (3-7). The Illini's drought in the Big Ten is officially the longest in the nation after Kansas' upset over West Virginia, an ambush that snapped a 27-game skid in Big 12 games spanning three full calendar years. Before Saturday, the Jayhawks' last conference victim was Colorado, which hasn't been in the conference since 2010.

85. WAKE FOREST (4-6).

86. VIRGINIA (2-8).

87. N.C. STATE (3-7).

88. KENTUCKY (2-8).



91. UNLV (5-5).

92. NEVADA (4-7).

93. WYOMING (4-6).

94. SMU (4-5).

95. MEMPHIS (3-6).


97. TEXAS STATE (6-4).

98. TROY (5-6).

99. SOUTH ALABAMA (3-6).

100. SOUTH FLORIDA (2-7).

101. IOWA STATE (1-9).

102. CALIFORNIA (1-10). Everyone knew this was going to be a rebuilding year for Cal, what with the new coach and the untenably green offense, etc., but it was not supposed to devolve into a last-place, double-digit-loss-to-Colorado death spiral. Given the extreme youth, the record is less of a concern than the Baby Bears' lack of progress: After reasonably respectable losses to Northwestern and Ohio State in September, they've been blown out of every conference game save one by at least 17 points. This weekend's finale at Stanford is going to be a lot worse than that.


103. PURDUE (1-9).


105. AKRON (4-7).

106. KENT STATE (4-8). Kent wrapped up its season Tuesday with a blowout win over Ohio, a bizarre high point in a year of persistent lows. Not only did the Golden Flashes fail to capitalize on their 11-win breakthrough in 2012: Depending on how Tulsa finishes, their seven-game slide may go down as the most dramatic regression in the nation. Worse, three of those four wins (over Liberty, Western Michigan, and Miami-Ohio) came at the expense of teams with one victory between them over an FBS opponent. I hope it was fun while it lasted, at least.


107. ARMY (3-7).

108. TULSA (2-8).

109. LOUISIANA TECH (4-6).

110. NEW MEXICO (3-7).

111. AIR FORCE (2-8).

112. HAWAII (0-10).

113. TEMPLE (1-9).

114. CONNECTICUT (0-9). UConn is an 8.5-point underdog at Temple this weekend in a game that promises to plumb even greater depths than Illinois-Purdue in the Big Ten, or about as low as you can go without descending into the ninth circle of MAC hell. After that, the Huskies still have two more games to close the season, but let's face it: For a team that's lost dropped four straight conference games by at least 17 points apiece, under an interim head coach, if it doesn't happen against Temple it's not going to happen.


115. UAB (2-8).

116. UTEP (2-8).

117. IDAHO (1-9).





122. NEW MEXICO STATE (1-9).

123. GEORGIA STATE (0-10).

124. MIAMI, OHIO (0-11). Miami was 0-5 when it decided to send the head coach, Don Treadwell, on a permanent vacation, and the rest of the team may as well have joined him: In six games since, the RedHawks have been outscored 195 to 53, failing to top 17 points in any of them. Going into next week's season finale at Ball State, they rank dead last nationally in total offense, scoring offense, and pass efficiency, a winless finish all but a foregone conclusion.


125. SOUTHERN MISS (0-10). Officially, 20,802 people showed up Saturday for USM's 22nd consecutive loss, a 41-7 flop against Florida Atlantic, in which FAU–not even three weeks removed from losing its head coach to allegations of cocaine use–set school records for rushing yards (333) and margin of victory. Thank god the actual attendance was nowhere near that, because the only thing more depressing than chronicling the bloody corpse of my alma mater being dragged into infamy on a weekly basis is the thought of that many people giving up their Saturday to watch it.


Matt Hinton writes about college football for Football Outsiders and SB Nation's Football Study Hall. Follow on Twitter, @MattRHinton.