As­sess­ing threats for con­tenders in ri­valry week

The Standard Journal - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL -

Break­ing down the bal­lots for the AP Top 25 and wrap­ping up col­lege foot­ball’s 13th week­end:

AS­SESS­ING THREATS

This is the point in the sea­son when things get weird.

Ri­valry week is here, with cham­pi­onship week­end on deck. The AP rank­ings didn’t change Sun­day at the top after a blah Satur­day in col­lege foot­ball. For the first time since late Septem­ber the top four is the same as last week’s: Florida State, Alabama, Ore­gon and Mis­sis­sippi State.

The gap be­tween the Semi­noles and the Crim­son Tide nar­rowed after yet another close call by Florida State, which beat Bos­ton Col­lege 20-17 on a field goal in the wan­ing seconds.

Florida State re­ceived 37 first-place votes and 1,458 points, down six and 18 from last week. Alabama has 21 first­place votes and 1,445 points. No. 3 Ore­gon re­ceived two first-place votes, one more than last week.

Bay­lor passed TCU, mov­ing to No. 5. The Horned Frogs are No. 6 and Ohio State stayed at sev­enth. On to next week. From Thanks­giv­ing night through Satur­day, the po­ten­tial for may­hem and a ma­jor shake-up in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off race ex­ists. Time to as­sess the threat level for the con­tenders from Big Blue to var­i­ous shades of orange and the po­ten­tial for things to go hay­wire.

Florida (6-4) at No. 1 Florida State (11-0)

Threat level: orange.

The Ga­tors have noth­ing to lose. The coach they love has al­ready been fired, but what bet­ter way to send off Will Muschamp than with the big­gest vic­tory of his fouryear ten­ure. Of course, the Semi­noles have live in a con­stant state of high alert th­ese days. Florida State has played five one-score games and five games in which it has trailed at half.

No. 15 Auburn (8-3) at No. 2 Alabama (10-1). Threat level: pur­ple, the color Crim­son Tide fans will turn if their team lets another chance to play for the na­tional cham­pi­onship get away in the Iron Bowl.

The Tigers are trend­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion hav­ing lost three of five real games (Sam­ford not in­cluded), and barely es­cap­ing in the two wins. The Iron Bowl win­ner has played for the na­tional ti­tle each of the last five years. You might re­mem­ber that last year’s Auburn vic­tory had an un­ortho­dox end­ing.

No. 3 Ore­gon (10-1) at Ore­gon State (56)

Threat level: Hal­loween orange, more treats than tricks.

The Ducks have won six straight Civil War games. Four have been lop­sided. Two, in­clud­ing last year’s meet­ing, were close. The Beavers need the win to get bowl el­i­gi­ble, but there are no signs to sug­gest coach Mike Ri­ley’s crew can de­rail Mar­cus Mar­i­ota’s march to the Heis­man Trophy and dash the Ducks’ play­off hopes. Ore­gon is al­ready locked into the Pac-12 ti­tle game.

No. 4 Mis­sis­sippi State (10-1) at No. 18 Mis­sis­sippi (8-3).

Threat level: red (dan­ger) ... or white (all is well).

The Rebels looked done Satur­day, get­ting shut out at Arkansas to end any chance they had to win the SEC West. In­juries have robbed them of key play­ers, most no­tably re­ceiver Laquon Tread­well. “Ev­ery­thing about us will be tested in pre­par­ing for next week’s game,” coach Hugh Freeze said. Does Ole Miss rally and ruin their ri­vals play­off hopes in just the third Egg Bowl with both teams ranked? Or are the Rebels road kill? Seems like it could go ei­ther way.

Texas Tech (4-7) vs. No. 5 Bay­lor (9-1)

at AT&T Sta­dium Ar­ling­ton, Texas. Threat level: sil­ver star.

Texas Tech has the worst de­fense in the Big 12. Un­less the Bears get star-struck play­ing at the home of the Dal­las Cow­boys, they should name their score.

No. 6 TCU (9-1) at Texas (6-5). Threat level: burnt orange, which is as se­ri­ous as Longhorns coach Charlie Strong.

Texas is get­ting bet­ter un­der its first-year coach. The de­fense is the best in the Big 12 and the of­fense has found a smash-mouth iden­tity. The Longhorns didn’t put up much of a fight against Bay­lor and Kansas State, but this has trou­ble writ­ten all over it for the Horned Frogs.

Michi­gan (5-6) at No. 7 Ohio State (10-1). Threat level: Big Blue.

Be­cause this is one of the clas­sic ri­val­ries in col­lege foot­ball we are re­quired to tell you any­thing can hap­pen when th­ese teams get to­gether. “Re­gard­less of records or any­thing, the most mo­ti­vated, most pre­pared team will win this next game. That’s this ri­valry,” Ohio State coach Ur­ban Meyer said. Re­al­ity: The Buck­eyes should beat the Wolver­ines by four touch­downs.

IN AND OUT

No. 22 Min­nesota moved into the rank­ings for the first time since 2008 after win­ning at Ne­braska on Satur­day.

All the com­ings and go­ings were at the bot­tom of the rank­ings this week. No. 23 Clem­son and No. 24 Louisville moved back in to the poll and No. 25 Boise State is ranked for the first time since the 2013 pre­sea­son poll.

Fall­ing out were South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, Utah, Ne­braska and Duke.

FROM THE AR­CHIVES

No. 12 Ari­zona and No. 13 Ari­zona State will play for the Ter­ri­to­rial Cup on Fri­day with both teams ranked for the first time since 1986.

The Wild­cats and Sun Devils also both have a chance to win the Pac12 South if No. 9 UCLA loses to Stan­ford. Both games start at 3:30 ET, which could pro­vide great drama.

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