Beavers, Gators, Gamecocks on rise
Signature victories, statement games, surprisingly easy wins and one stunning upset.
Nine ranked teams lost Saturday and the Top 25 underwent an extreme makeover Sunday, with South Carolina, Florida and West Virginia moving into the top five.
No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon held their spots at the top of the rankings. Alabama is a unanimous No. 1 again.
No. 3 South Carolina, off a 35-7 victory against Georgia, moved up three spots. No. 4 Florida jumped six spots after beating LSU 14-6. No. 5 West Virginia moved up three with a 48-45 victory at Texas.
No. 6 Kansas State, No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 8 Ohio State also moved up. LSU dropped five to No. 9 and unbeaten Oregon State is No. 10.
Florida State fell from No. 3 to No. 12 after losing 17-16 on a last-minute touchdown at North Carolina State.
The last time nine ranked teams lost in one week was Oct. 18, 2008.
No team was more impressive than South Carolina.
Coach Steve Spurrier has the Gamecocks ranked higher than they have been in 28 years.
"Have we ever been that high before? How about '84?" Spurrier asked during his conference call with reporters Sunday. South Carolina reached No. 2 late in the 1984 season.
"Well, we've still got a ways to go," he added.
The ball coach loves to talk about doing things they've never done before at South Carolina. It's what led him to take over a program with no Southeastern Conference championships after overgrown expectations at Florida drew him to the NFL.
Behind pass-rushing terror Jadeveon Clowney and hard-running Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks have emerged as the leading contender in the SEC to knock off Alabama — if South Carolina can get a crack at the Tide.
They don't play in the regular season, but could meet in the SEC championship game.
But that's a long way away — especially with South Carolina heading to LSU next Saturday and Florida the week after. The Gamecocks finish, as usual, with No. 16 Clemson.
"I would say we probably have the toughest schedule of those other teams," Spurrier said of the national title contenders.
The Gators haven't been in the top five during the regular season since 2009. That was the end of the Tim Tebow era. Year 2 under Will Muschamp is starting to feel a bit like Urban Meyer's second season at Florida. Those Gators won the national title.
As for West Virginia, this just about sums it up: In the last two weeks, the Mountaineers have allowed 108 points and won both games.
Next up for the Geno Smith and the Mountaineers is another trip back to Texas, this time Lubbock to face Texas Tech (4-1).
MOVING UP: Speaking of Meyer, Ohio State moved up four spots to No. 8 in the rankings after a 63-38 victory against Nebraska in Columbus, Ohio.
Everybody knows by now the Buckeyes are playing only for pride because of an NCAA postseason ban, one they probably could have avoided if Ohio State officials had self-imposed it last year and not waited for the NCAA to weigh in on the tattoo scandal.
No doubt every Buckeye is now regretting that decision.
In a year when the Big Ten looks down, Ohio State seems capable of going undefeated. No. 25 Michigan is the only other Big Ten team ranked this week.
The Big Ten has said it will present Ohio State — or Penn State, for that matter — with a Leaders Division trophy if it wins the division.
There's one more trophy available for Ohio State, though it's a long shot.
The AP has been crowning a national champion since 1936, and the Buckeyes could conceivably finish No. 1 in the media poll, though it would likely take just about every other team losing at least once.
The last sanction-strapped team to make a similar push was Auburn in 1993, which went 11-0 under Terry Bowden and finished No. 4.
MOVING DOWN: Florida State, No. 9 LSU and No. 15 Georgia all took tumbles in the rankings after spending the whole season ranked in the top seven.
The Seminoles' loss was the most stunning and most damaging. But maybe we should have seen it coming. Since 2007, Florida State has lost six road games to unranked teams when it was ranked.
The latest was probably the most disappointing because the Seminoles seemed primed to make a run at playing in the BCS championship game. The ACC is without another dominant team. Clemson is the only other ranked squad from the conference, and Florida State already beat the Tigers.
The Wolfpack hadn't shown much against their best opponents, especially defensively. But they shut out EJ Manuel and Florida State in the second half.
"They fought for the inches and made the inches and we didn't," coach Jimbo Fisher lamented.
IN AND OUT: No. 21 Cincinnati (4-0) and No. 22 Texas A&M are ranked for the first time this season, and No. 24 Boise State and No. 25 Michigan are back after falling out earlier.
In between is No. 23 Louisiana Tech, which hasn't been ranked in the Top 25 since 1999.
"It shows we have some credibility in our program," La. Tech coach Sonny Dykes said Sunday.
The Bulldogs (5-0) are third in the nation in scoring at 53 points per game and are a serious threat to bust into the BCS from the Western Athletic Conference a la Boise State. The Bulldogs have won three road games, including games at Virginia and Illinois for which they were paid $1.6 million dollars to visits.
The biggest hurdle comes Saturday against Texas A&M in Shreveport, La. The game was originally scheduled the opening week of the season, but it was postponed because of severe weather.
"We'll find out where we are as a program," Dykes said. "We'll find out how we handle the spotlight."
Falling out of the rankings after losing were TCU, Nebraska, Northwestern, UCLA and Washington.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: No. 10 Oregon State is in the top 10 for the first time since 2001, when it was No. 10 after the first week and ended the season unranked.
The last time the Beavers were ranked in the top 10 later in the season was 2000, when they finished No. 4 in the country and beat Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl.
ODDS AND ENDS: The Big East has three ranked teams (Cincinnati, Rutgers and Louisville), and the best news for the rebuilding league is they are all schools that are staying put next season, when Boise State also joins. ... Louisiana Tech is headed to Conference USA next season. The league tweeted out: "Congrats to our future C-USA member!" ... Unbeaten Ohio University from the Mid-American Conference just missed being ranked, 79 points to 82 for Michigan.