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ALOST’s 2016 College Football Poll (Week 11)

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Cardale Jones and the Buckeyes were outsiders looking in going into the final week of the 2014 season before a 59-0 whitewash of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game earned them a Playoff spot. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Cardale Jones and the Buckeyes were outsiders looking in going into the final week of the 2014 season before a 59-0 whitewash of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game earned them a Playoff spot. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

If you’re an unranked team facing a highly-ranked opponent in the month of November, watch out!!

If you’re a ranked team and you’re facing a Top Five team looking to make an impression in the final few weeks of the season to hopefully be selected to play for the National Championship, duck!!

It’s that time of the year when some of the top teams in the country aren’t looking to just stay undefeated to keep pace with some of the teams above them in conference and national standings. They’re looking to embarrass you. They’re looking to beat you so bad that your great grandparents can feel it.

As The Thing from Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four would utter: “It’s clobberin’ time!”

Sure, there are going to be twists and turns and major upsets between now and the end of the season, and I believe in that even more now since, in my personal opinion, that it would be so anti-college football if the four undefeated teams that occupy the top four spots in the current College Football Playoff (Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Washington) stay that way and make the playoff. But there probably will be just as many games that will decided by the end of the first quarter…only for the same team that’s ahead to get out the steamroller. For some of those teams, they feel like it’s a must.

Take last week for example, where the No. 2 team in the College Football Playoff, Clemson, pounded Syracuse 54-0. The No. 3 team, Michigan, scored 59 in a 56-point victory over Maryland while No. 5 Washington went on Route 66 (66-27) in Strawberry Canyon against California. Not to be outdone, the two teams regarded as the top one-loss teams in the country, Louisville and Ohio State, also wore their stomping boots and used it on their opponents: The Cardinals might have taken it easy on Boston College by beating them 52-7 in Chestnut Hill while the Buckeyes smoked Nebraska 62-3 in Columbus in primetime.

If any team knows about having to turn a football game into one where the scoreboards tilt at the amount of points scored to influence the Committee, it’s Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes. After defeating Michigan in the regular-season finale but losing Heisman candidate J.T. Barrett to injury in the process, Ohio State was faced with the prospect of having to start third-string QB Cardale Jones in its Big Ten Championship Game contest against No. 13 Wisconsin. The Buckeyes were sixth in both the AP and Coaches Polls and fifth in the College Football Playoff Rankings, and many eyes were watching the game in Indianapolis to see if the Buckeyes would a) win, and b) be impressive enough in the win to leapfrog TCU (no pun intended) in the rankings to earn a spot in college football’s Final Four. Baylor, ranked sixth at the time, played – and defeated – No. 9 Kansas State 38-27 in Waco to split the Big 12 Title with the Horned Frogs. How do you top a team’s 11-point victory against another Top 10 team and make a statement?

Ohio State 59, Wisconsin 0. The Buckeyes probably wouldn’t have made the Playoff if it had won by the margin it had by the end of the first quarter (14-0). Once halftime was reached, the Buckeyes probably had done the job (38-0). But they added three more touchdowns to boot in the second half, turning the Badgers into roadkill and vaulting Ohio State past TCU and Baylor and into the No. 4 spot in the final College Football Playoff rankings. Oh, the Buckeyes happened to eventually win the national championship.

Would the Buckeyes have been in the Playoff without such a big victory against Wisconsin? Who knows. Therefore, if you don’t know, just take it out of the committee’s hands – and your opponents’ hands to boot – and blow your competition into smithereens. You’re going to see more of that as the weeks go by. Promise.

Despite this monologue, I’m sure that no one in the group making up the A Lot of Sports Talk College Football Poll panel engages in running up the score. As always, the panel consists of journalists, former college football players and coaches as well as knowledgeable fans who continually have a finger on the pulse of college football. For this week’s poll, our qualified quintet remains the same: Evie Van Pelt (managing editor at The Rebel Walk Magazine), Basil Mitchell (former TCU and Green Bay Packers RB), Sandy Weintraub (super fan, Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards at the University of Oregon), Nick Mancuso (patent attorney who attended USC as an undergrad and Oregon for law school) and, yours truly, Adesina Koiki (Football Writers Association of America member/voter, A Lot Of Sports Talk editor-in-chief).

Here is ALOST‘s 2016 College Football Top 25 for Week 11. (All comments this week made my Adesina O. Koiki unless otherwise noted.)  If you have any comments and/or complaints, write them below on the Facebook window or email us at feedback@alotofsportstalk.com. We’d love to hear from you.

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1.  Alabama (125, five first-place votes)

The march to the inevitable Crimson Tide championship keeps on rolling after the shutout win in Baton Rouge. (Sandy Weintraub)

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2.  Michigan (119)

A trip to Kinnick Stadium normally is a tough assignment for an opposing Big Ten team, but the Wolverines head into Iowa City to take on a Hawkeyes’ team that has lost three straight at home. Michigan should extend that barren run.

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3.  Clemson (114)

Home games at Death Valley have either been complete whitewashes (59-0 vs. SC State, 54-0 vs. Syracuse) or white-knuckle affairs (Troy, Louisville, NC State). Pitt’s strong offense might make Saturday’s affair the latter, but its porous pass defense might also lead to the former happening, too.

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The duo of John Ross (l.) and Dante Pettis has turned into the most lethal receiver combo in D-1, combing for 25 receiving TDs so far. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The duo of John Ross (l.) and Dante Pettis has turned into the most lethal receiver combo in D-1, combining for 25 receiving TDs so far. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

4.  Washington (111)

Yes, the Huskies’ schedule does leave something to be desired, especially compared to the schedules of Ohio State, Louisville, et al. But to see them eviscerate teams week after week has this pollster convinced that they’re one of the top two teams in the country. I know, I’m crazy.

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5.  Louisville (105)

 
I can’t remember a year when the Heisman Trophy has been less discussed, but Lamar Jackson seems to be the runaway favorite. (Sandy)

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6.  Ohio State (101)

A Lot of Sports Talk will be in College Park for the Buckeyes’ contest against Maryland on Saturday. Despite the Terrapins being an improved unit under first-year head coach D.J. Durkin, we’re expecting another blowout by “O-H” as they look to impress the Playoff Committee.

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7.  Wisconsin (95)

 
For the next two weeks, the Badgers’ biggest opponent will be complacency. Sorry, Illinois and Purdue.

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8.  Auburn (88)

Remember when Auburn was 1-2 and Gus Malzahn was on the hot seat? Seems like eons ago now after the Tigers reeled off six straight wins. Getting lucky number seven in Athens won’t be easy, though. Honestly, Auburn was done and dusted in the middle of September. Or so it seemed.

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9.  Oklahoma (84)

In this reporter’s opinion, I still think the Big 12 can still get a seat in the College Football Playoff table, but the team with the only real chance of doing that in the conference, the Sooners, have to sweep their final three games. Good thing for them is that all of those games would be quality wins, starting with Baylor in Norman on Saturday.

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10.  Western Michigan (69)

I’m starting to really worry about the Broncos’ Playoff hopes. They’re 10-0, but only one spot ahead of a one-loss Boise State in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. Though I’m against this normally, it might be time for WMU to really put on the style (a.k.a get out the steamroller) in their final two games of the season, both at home.

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11.  West Virginia (68)

Who would have ever thought that, on a road trip to Austin to play the Longhorns, the Mountaineers’ biggest fear would be to look ahead to the following week? Beating Texas won’t be easy, of course, but WVU knows a huge showdown awaits next week at home against Oklahoma.

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12.  Texas A&M (66)

Though they’re outside of the Top 10 in our poll, the Aggies are still No. 8 in the College Football Playoff poll. Despite that, and despite playing their final three games all at home, they’re going to need a lot of help to climb back into the Top 4 of the CFP Rankings.

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Running back Saquon Barkley has rushed for at least 167 yards in three of his last four games, including two 200-yard performances. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Running back Saquon Barkley has rushed for at least 167 yards in three of his last four games, including two 200-yard performances. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

13.  Penn State (56)

Though not likely, the Nittany Lions still have a chance to win the Big Ten East Division if Michigan were to lose two of its last three games and Penn State sweeps its final three. OK, Penn State has no chance of winning the Big Ten East. Still, a great season so far, especially since head coach James Franklin needed it to allay any fears in terms of his job security.

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14.  North Carolina (55)

Surprisingly enough, North Carolina’s opponent on Thursday, Duke, has yet to win a conference game this season (0-5). Think about that for a second: we’re surprised Duke doesn’t have an ACC win. Five years ago, we would have said, “I’m shocked Duke actually won a football game in a season.” Wouldn’t be surprised if the Heels are taken by surprise in the battle for the Victory Bell.

Editor’s note: That’s exactly what happened! Duke did indeed pull off the upset, 28-27.

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15.  Utah (54*)

The Utes control their own fate in the Pac-12 South, but a tricky road trip to Tempe awaits Thursday night.

Editor’s note: What tricky test? Not only did the Utes win by 23 in the desert, but they recorded 22 tackles for loss in the game, one fewer than the NCAA record. Eleven of those TFLs were sacks.

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16.  Colorado (54)

 
Outside of the people in Seattle, probably the biggest fans of Washington trying to go undefeated in the regular season are in Boulder. If Colorado wins out, they’ll be in the Pac-12 title game, where they might face an undefeated U-Dub team. With quality losses to Michigan and USC, the Playoff isn’t too far out of the question for the Buffs.

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17.  Florida State (39)

How much motivation will the Seminoles have the rest of the way, knowing that losses to both Louisville and Clemson all but eliminated them from the Atlantic Division race in the ACC?

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18.  Virginia Tech (38)

After a close call in Durham last week, the Hokies are just two conference wins away from locking up the ACC Coastal. Sandwiched in between those games (Georgia Tech, Virginia) is a trip to South Bend.

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19.  LSU (37)

Because of the rescheduling of the Florida game due to Hurricane Matthew, the Bayou Bengals will close out the season playing three games in a span of 13 days, starting with the Bronze Boot game in Fayetteville this Saturday.

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20.  Oklahoma State (36)

Don’t forget about the Pokes when it comes to talking about the Big 12 Championship, as winning out would give them the crown. Sadly, you can forget about their chances about the Playoff.

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A win for Mike Leach's Cougars against Cal on Saturday will mark Wazzu's first eight-game winning streak since 1930. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
A win for Mike Leach’s Cougars against Cal on Saturday night will mark Wazzu’s first eight-game winning streak since 1930. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

21.  Washington State (26)

We all know that Washington is one of the two teams still undefeated in conference play in the Pac-12. Did you know the other undefeated team in league play also resides in the Evergreen State? At 6-0 in conference, the Cougars are very much alive in the Rose Bowl chase.

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22.  Boise State (23)

If Boise runs the table, including a road win at Air Force to end the regular season and possibly defeating a one-loss San Diego State team that was once ranked nationally earlier in the season in the Mountain West title game, I’m almost certain the Broncos would leapfrog Western Michigan as the highest-ranked non-Power Five team.

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23.  Nebraska (21)

Tied with both Wisconsin and Minnesota for the Big Ten West lead at 4-2, the Cornhuskers play the Gophers on Saturday knowing that a loss would mean they would have lost to both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Guess that means that it’s a must-win game for the Huskers, huh?

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24.  Florida (14)

Outside of the fact that the Gators will be playing without their starting quarterback (Luke Del Rio), center (Cameron Dillard), two of their regular starting linebackers (Jarrad Davis, Alex Anzalone) and a starting defensive end (CeCe Jefferson), Florida is in fine shape going into its game against South Carolina this weekend.

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25.  USC (11)

After starting the season on the bench, quarterback Sam Darnold has done so well since taking over the starting job in late September that he’s just been named a Davey O’Brien Award semifinalist. Talk about saving a man’s job. (The man I’m referencing is head coach Clay Helton.).

Others receiving votes:
Troy (6 points), Arkansas (5), Baylor (3), Minnesota (1), Wyoming (1)

* – To break ties, we used a three-step criteria; 1) higher number of first-place votes, 2) higher number of ballots (out of six) the teams appeared in, 3) highest single ranking by an individual pollster (e.g. if Team A and Team B are tied cumulatively and appeared in all six polls, but Team A’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 7 and Team B’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 9, Team A wins tiebreaker)

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