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Rankings through games of 2013-09-15
New entries: Arizona St., USC, UCLA.
Dropped out: Nebraska, Washington, Oregon St..
In last week's top 25 we looked at some of the candidates to catch up with Alabama. A&M had their shot, and hung 42 points on Alabama over 167 plays; that's better than the 29 points in 166 plays the Aggies got in Tuscaloosa last year. Yet it wasn't their offense that let them down; it was their defense. Over a 24 minute stretch spanning the first quarter to the third quarter, Alabama put up 35 unanswered points. Once the score hit 35-14, the in-game odds had Alabama as a 93% lock to win the game. Even after A&M pulled to within a touchdown with eight minutes left in the game, A&M's odds didn't bump above 14%; Alabama was too good, had already scored too many points, and there wasn't enough time left.
Even though the Aggies lost, they still accomplished two things: they proved that they had the best offense in FBS -- currently weighing in at a stunning 33.0 PPH -- and they put enough of a dent in Alabama's defensive rating that the Crimson Tide actually look vulnerable to Oregon.
Oregon had played two middle-of-the-road FBS teams so far, and gone 59-points-versus-two-scores on both of them. Last week we said they needed to get their defensive rating down to 8.4 PPH in order to pull even with Alabama; thanks to Alabama's difficulties with A&M, that target has been adjusted to 9.3 PPH (another -1.0 PPH). If they can continue their good defensive showing against another middle-of-the-road team (#63 California) they have a realistic shot to pull even with Alabama. Unlike previous years, it doesn't look like Stanford or USC will be a serious threat to Oregon, but the Ducks have gotten tripped up before.
Next up is Florida State. The Seminoles easily defeated Nevada, and realistically won't get challenged again until October 19th when they have to visit #13 Clemson. After that they have a visit from a rejuvenated #10 Miami-Florida, and a trip to #7 Florida in what could end up being an interesting twist in the national title race.
Further down the top 25, we have what could be one of the most bipolar teams in FBS right now: Michigan State. The Spartans have a truly elite defense -- effectively tied with Alabama for the second-best in FBS -- but an offense that's one spot below Troy (Troy?!) in the rankings. If Michigan State could improve their offense to just a shade above average, they could be a top-10 team.
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