Nov 23, 2014 4:26 PM
Assessing threats for contenders in rivalry week
The Associated Press
Breaking down the ballots for the AP Top 25 and wrapping up college football's 13th weekend:
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 first-place 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 four-year 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 (5-6). 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 Pac-12 South if No. 9 UCLA loses to Stanford. Both games start at 3:30 ET, which could provide great drama.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP