The AP Top 25 rankings for Week 15 were released Sunday afternoon. Here are some takeaways and diagnosis about the movement in the newest edition of the poll.
Outside of the Army-Navy game, the 2016 regular season is in the books. The weekend’s championship games provided a mixed bag in terms of competition, starting slowly and finishing with some dramatics.
Out west, the Pac-12 title game was thrilling for 30 minutes before being blown wide open by Washington. Florida scored first in the SEC Championship Game, and then watched as Alabama’s juggernaut defense (which allowed zero total rushing yards) powered the Tide toward another College Football Playoff.
Thankfully for viewers, the ACC and Big Ten title games provided much better competition. Virginia Tech refused to roll over against Clemson, digging in for all 60 minutes and just falling short. And then there was the B1G game in Indy. Wisconsin won the first half; Penn State won the second half and ultimately the game. For a second consecutive year, the game came down to a dramatic 4th-and-1, with the Nittany Lions stoning Corey Clement to take the championship.
Here are some other instant takeaways from the AP Top 25 rankings.
It Just Means … Meh
Wasn’t the SEC supposed to be the big boy on the block? Right now, it’s looking like the schoolyard bully in A Christmas Story that gets its teeth pounded in by Ralphie.
Alabama stayed atop the pack at No. 1 after completely dismantling the Florida Gators in the SEC title game, and the Crimson Tide absolutely deserved to stay where it was. But if you scroll down the top 25, you won’t find another SEC program until you see Auburn at No. 17.
There are only two other SEC programs in the top 25 after Gus Malzahn’s Tigers, and that’s LSU at No. 19 and Jim McElwain’s gators at No. 20.
Meanwhile, the Big Ten has four teams in the top 10. The ACC has two teams in the top 10. The Pac-12 has three programs in the top 15.
This is not the SEC’s world anymore, ladies and gentlemen. There’s a new world order.
Not All Losses Are Created Equal
How you lose is just as important as how you win.
Florida was throttled on Saturday, and as a result dropped from No. 15 to No. 20. The Gators are immediately below the LSU Tigers, whom they defeated head-to-head.
Colorado was whooped up on in the second half against Washington and dropped only from No. 9 to No. 11, below USC whom they beat out for the division. Wisconsin also only fell two spots, despite playing a tight contest.
Elsewhere, Virginia Tech fought toughly and actually climbed one spot, to No. 18, despite losing to Clemson.
Where’s The Love?
For all the talk of non-conference scheduling and whether Washington should make the CFP and how Michigan and Penn State played tougher schedules … where’s the love for Oklahoma? The Sooners lost two early games to two very good teams (one of whom, Ohio State is actually in the CFP). They regrouped, ran the table in the Big 12, and yet are only ranked at No. 7.
Two non-conference winners (Michigan and Ohio State) are ranked ahead of the Sooners. Penn State has an equal amount of losses and more conference defeats than Oklahoma, yet is higher. And every team, save Alabama, has more conference losses than the Sooners.
Ultimately, early losses, a weaker-than-usual Big 12 and lackluster defense cost the Sooners.
Here’s The Group Of Five
Don’t look now, but the Power Five has some company. Granted, it’s not as if Group of Five schools had never made their way into the AP Top 25 rankings before, but it’s interesting to see how well they’re competing right now.
P.J. Fleck has taken Western Michigan to an undefeated season, the No. 12 spot in the AP rankings, and a whole new level.
Plus, Temple went from being unranked to sitting at No. 23, and USF rounds out the poll at No. 25.
Now, Fleck may not be coaching the Broncos for much longer, but that’s another conversation to be had at another time.
By the time this season is completely wrapped up, Western Michigan could finish in the top 10. That would make it back-to-back seasons with a Group of Five team having accomplished the feat. Houston finished No. 8 under Tom Herman last year. In 2013, UCF ended the season at No. 10.
The little guys are fighting back.