Georgia Bulldogs tight end Arthur Lynch flies over top of Georgia Southern Eagles safety Deion Stanley during the first quarter at Sanford Stadium. (Photo: Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE)
For the sixth time since the start of the 1991 season, the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll lost on the same day. In losing, Oregon and Kansas State change not only this week's poll, due to be released midday Sunday, but also how we view the race for the 2012 national championship.
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Notre Dame is your new No. 1, and it's with a bullet. The Fighting Irish are one of two undefeated teams left in the FBS, joined by Ohio State, but the Buckeyes are ineligible for the Coaches Poll due to the postseason ban handed down on the program by the NCAA.
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One thing hasn't changed: There's still a significant argument to be made over which team should be ranked No. 2. Why not Oregon, last week's No. 1? The Ducks lost at home, yes, but to No. 13 Stanford. 10-1 Alabama? 10-1 Georgia, last week's No. 4? Why not No. 2 Kansas State, which suffered its loss on the road, unlike Oregon and Alabama?
With recent history as our guide, it's often the teams that lose last that suffer the stiffest penalty in the polls. That's bad news for teams like Oregon and Kansas State, but perhaps good news for a team like Georgia, which is now more than six weeks removed from its one loss. The No. 4 Bulldogs could move up to No. 2, ahead of Alabama. One can only assume that Kansas State will drop from No. 2 to at least No. 5 after losing by 28 points to Baylor.
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Kansas State's projected fall is just one part of the controversy that should embroil the poll - and, by extension, the BCS - over the last few weeks of the regular season. What's the deciding tiebreaker when there are this many one-loss teams? Is it the "quality" of the one loss?
That sounds great to No. 9 Clemson, whose one loss came to No. 6 Florida State, and to No. 7 Florida, which lost only to Georgia.
While this week's poll will have its detractors, the coming two weeks should remove a few challengers from the championship conversation. Florida plays Florida State on Saturday. Alabama meets Georgia a week later.
Best guess for a new top five
1. Notre Dame
5. Florida State
Five teams moving up in the polls
1. Tulsa (9-2, 7-0). A big win over Conference USA rival UCF might push Tulsa into the back end of this week's poll.
2. Washington (7-4, 5-3). The Huskies could finish third in a very good Pac-12 North Division.
3. UCLA (9-2, 6-2). With USC in their rearview mirror, the Bruins turn their focus to the Rose Bowl.
4. Arkansas State (8-3, 6-1). ASU passed a tough test by beating Troy on the road.
5. Syracuse (6-5, 5-2). The Orange won the road against an SEC foe, which is a rare feat for a team from the Big East.
Five teams falling behind
1. Cincinnati (7-3, 3-2). After loss to Rutgers, Cincinnati has no hope of winning the Big East.
2. Duke (6-5, 3-4). The postseason awaits either way, but Duke has three in a row since clinching bowl eligibility.
3. Tennessee (4-7, 0-7). A 41-18 loss to Vanderbilt will be the end of the road for Derek Dooley with the Volunteers.
4. Brigham Young (6-4, 0-0). The Cougars lose another close one, this time to 9-2 San Jose State.
5. Minnesota (6-5, 2-5). The Gophers went up against a good team, Nebraska, and never stood a chance.