The Journal Gazette
 
 
Monday, December 02, 2019 10:50 pm

Sinn's AP Poll: Week 14

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The final week of the college football regular season provided a good measure of clarity as to the teams that will be playing for a national championship in late December and January. The seismic shift in the rankings, of course, was Auburn's 48-45 upset victory over Alabama, which knocked the Crimson Tide out of College Football Playoff contention. For the first time since the inaugural CFP was held in 2014, Alabama will not be one of the participants. I was pretty down on Auburn, who won the Iron Bowl with a redshirt freshman quarterback despite holding the ball for less than 25 minutes and getting outgained 515-354. I still think Alabama is a very good group, but this Tide defense has been decimated and it isn't an elite team this season.

The other game that helped sort out the CFP picture was Wisconsin's resounding win over Minnesota in the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe. The Badgers won 38-17 and clinched a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State while also dealing the Golden Gophers a second loss and officially eliminating the Boat Rowers from CFP contention. That means that it's Buckeyes or Bust for the Big Ten in the CFP picture. 

As it stands heading into Championship Week, the top four teams are all in control: Clemson, LSU, Ohio State and Georgia all almost certainly clinch berths if they win. The top three (especially LSU and OSU) seem close to locks even if they lose their conference title games in a respectable manner. Utah, Baylor and Oklahoma can also still play their way in, although it will take some games breaking right in front of them for those three to earn spots. The real question will come if chalk holds this weekend and the fourth spot comes down to 12-1 Utah and 12-1 Oklahoma. I would probably go with the Utes (if you haven't watched them this season, you should, they're not little old Utah trying to crash the BCS party anymore), but it will be one of the first times the CFP Committee will face a real dilemma between one-loss Power Five champions and it'll be interesting to see what the Committee values.

Here are my full rankings following the regular season (minus the Army-Navy game):

1. Clemson (12-0)

2. LSU (12-0)

3. Ohio State (12-0)

4. Georgia (11-1)

5. Utah (11-1)

6. Oklahoma (11-1)

7. Baylor (11-1)

8. Florida (10-2)

9. Wisconsin (10-2) 

10. Auburn (9-3)

11. Alabama (10-2)

12. Minnesota (10-2)

13. Penn State (10-2)

14. Notre Dame (10-2)

15. Oregon (10-2)

16. Memphis (11-1)

17. Michigan (9-3)

18. Iowa (9-3)

19. Virginia (9-3)

20. Cincinnati (10-2)

21. Boise State (11-1)

22. Appalachian State (11-1)

23. Navy (9-2)

24. Air Force (10-2)

25. Southern Methodist (10-2)

To see the official AP Poll, go to https://www.collegefootball.ap.org/poll.

One of the biggest takeaways from the final weekend of the season is that Notre Dame's flickering hopes of getting a New Year's Six Bowl are all but dead. The Irish have two paths to a NY6 Bowl: either get in the top 11 of the final CFP rankings and earn an automatic bid OR get selected by the Orange Bowl committee through a complicated process that can be found here (https://t.co/3e7XR60bg0?amp=1). The top 11 seems like an extreme longshot at this point, as the Irish will likely have to jump teams such as Oregon, Minnesota, Penn State and Florida, none of whom play this week. Meanwhile, the Orange Bowl opportunity goes away immediately if Virginia beats Clemson in the ACC Championship Game (unlikely, I know). Even if Virginia loses and falls out of the poll, the Irish would still have to be ranked higher than the third-best team in the Big Ten and the SEC (likely Penn State and Alabama/Florida, respectively), all of whom are consistently ahead of the Irish and don't play this week.

That leaves the Irish more than likely in the Camping World Bowl (previously the Champs Sports Bowl and the Tangerine Bowl) on Dec. 28 in Orlando, Florida. Notre Dame would take on a representative from the Big 12, probably either Oklahoma State or Texas. That means the Irish would be a significant favorite in their bowl game, although many Notre Dame fans would probably relish an opportunity to avenge the "Texas is back, folks!" loss in 2016.

In other in-state football news, Indiana beat Purdue 44-41 in double overtime in one of the best Old Oaken Bucket games in recent memory. With the victory (which the Hoosiers tried to give away with missed field goals and silly penalties), Indiana has won eight games for just the eighth time in program history and the first time since 1993. I didn't rank Indiana this week (a win over an extremely banged-up Purdue team wasn't enough to make them the only four-loss team in my poll), but I think the Hoosiers are probably among the top 30-35 teams in the country and compared to where the program has been in recent years, that is an incredible accomplishment. A word of caution: Indiana won several close games this season (victories over Maryland, Nebraska and this one against the Boilers come to mind). Those could all easily have been losses and then we'd be sitting here wondering whether Tom Allen is on the hot seat after missing a bowl game for a third straight year. Sometimes the line between success and failure in college football (any major sport, really) is razor thin. This year, more often than not (excruciating losses to Michigan State and Penn State mean the 8-4 mark isn't a total fluke), the Hoosiers have found themselves on the right side of the line. 

dsinn@jg.net


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