And so it begins.
The USA Today coaches’ poll was released early Sunday afternoon and, as expected, there was important movement at the top of the rankings. The kind of movement that will, once again, make Ohio State sweat.
The Buckeyes, thanks to top-ranked Alabama’s first loss of the season, did the expected and moved into the No. 2 hole behind new No. 1 Florida State. That object in the mirror, however, is much closer than they would like for it to appear.
Auburn, which stunned the Tide with no time left Saturday night, is now at No. 3, just 25 points behind the Buckeyes. Last week, the Tigers had been No. 5 and 160 points behind the Buckeyes. The initial closeness in the immediate aftermath of the Tide’s loss seemingly sets up a scenario in which Ohio State, if it struggles in a close win in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State, could possibly be leapfrogged by Auburn if the Tigers bounce Missouri in impressive and blowout fashion in the SEC championship game.
The Buckeyes did claim four first-place votes this week. The Seminoles were given the other 58.
Mizzou moved up one No. 5 in the coaches’ Top 25, 147 points behind OSU and 122 behind AU. That appears to be too much ground for the Tigers to make up in the chase for a spot in the BCS title game, even with a drubbing of the West Tigers next weekend in Atlanta.
The Tide, which could still be in the BCS title game mix if both FSU and OSU lose next Saturday, slipped three spots to No. 4. The rest of the Top Ten is rounded out by No. 6 Oklahoma State (No. 7 last week), T-No. 7 Baylor (No. 8), T-No. 7 South Carolina (No. 9), No. 9 Michigan State (No. 11) and No. 10 Stanford (No. 10).
Duke made one the biggest moves up in the poll, climbing from No. 24 to No. 20. It’s the Blue Devils’ best-ever standing in the coaches’ poll. That jump was trumped by only Arizona State, which moved from No. 18 to No. 13.
Fresno State dropped nine spots (to No. 22) after its first loss of the season, while Clemson (No. 11) and Wisconsin (No. 21) tumbled seven each positions each.
Undefeated Northern Illinois, which has its sights set on busting the BCS, is at No. 18, up from No. 20 a week ago. If the Huskies can finish in the top-16 in the final BCS rankings — they were No. 14 last Sunday — and ahead of No. 17 UCF (if they win the AAC), NIU will make it back-to-back BCS bowl appearances.
Texas at No. 24 is the only new addition to Week 14′s Top 25, while USC dropped out after entering the weekend No. 23.