These rankings reflect the opinion of the Boise Sports Examiner and are not a representation of the Associated Press poll or the polls that make up the BCS rankings. Click the links for teams 11-20 and 21-25.
1. LSU 13-0
Previous Rank: 1; Last Game: W 42-10 Georgia; Next Game: vs Alabama (BCS Title Game) January 9th
The Honey Badger sparked the sleep-walking Tigers and they ultimately rolled up 42 unanswered points on Georgia to win the SEC and advance to the title game. Trailing 10-0 in the 2nd quarter, Tyrann Mathieu returned a punt 62 yards to put LSU on the board. The offense was lifeless in the 1st half, held without a 1st down. Yet Georgia kept them in the game with mistakes of their own. They dropped two potential touchdown passes or the game could have been much further out of reach for LSU. Instead of a 21-0 lead, the Bulldogs led 10-7 at the half. Mathieu recovered an Aaron Murray fumble on Georgia’s first possession and later had a dazzling punt return that set up another score. Kenny Hilliard had three touchdown runs in the decisive 3rd quarter, Alfred Blue added another in the 4th quarter and Morris Claiborne closed the game with an interception return for a touchdown. LSU was held to 237 yards and just 1-9 3rd down attempts but as they have all season, the defense and special teams picked up the offense. Next up is the much awaited rematch with Alabama, this time in the BCS championship game.
2. Alabama 11-1
Previous Rank: 2; Last Game: W 42-14 Auburn; Next Game: vs LSU (BCS Title Game) January 9th
The Crimson Tide had to sweat out the final BCS vote and they just barely hung on to 2nd place, assuring them another shot at LSU. Alabama should have, by all accounts, beaten the Tigers the first time around. They ultimately lost 9-6 but missed a total of four field goals, including three in regulation. The defenses certainly won the day in the first matchup but Alabama may have the edge when they meet again because of the presence of Trent Richardson. The Heisman finalist will undoubtedly be the best offensive player on the field and if he can make a difference with any big plays, it might be enough to “upset” LSU. Alabama’s defense has already stuffed the Tigers once and it would not be surprising to see them do it again.
3. Oklahoma State 11-1
Previous Rank: 3; Last Game: W 44-10 Oklahoma; Next Game: vs Stanford (Fiesta Bowl) January 2nd
The Cowboys were impressive once again as they took rival Oklahoma out behind the woodshed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for some voters and Alabama got the BCS title spot that many feel Oklahoma State deserves. If not for an overtime stumble against Iowa State, the Cowboys would be bringing their video game offense to New Orleans to face LSU’s stingy defense. Instead, they will settle for an interesting matchup with Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. Joseph Randle led the attack for the Cowboys with 151 rushing yards and two touchdowns while Jeremy Smith added 119 yards and a pair of scores. Brandon Weeden had a relatively quiet day, throwing for 217 yards and no touchdowns but he hit 67% of his passes in an efficient performance. The defense forced five Oklahoma turnovers and Richetti Jones returned one of the forced fumbles for a 3rd quarter touchdown. The Sooners managed only a 48-yard field goal as the 1st half expired and a late, meaningless 28-yard touchdown run by Blake Bell. If the Cowboy defense plays like that against Stanford, they will certainly have a case to be named co-national champions, should Alabama knock off LSU.
4. Boise State 11-1
Previous Rank: 4; Last Game: W 45-0 New Mexico; Next Game: vs Arizona State (Las Vegas Bowl) December 22nd
Kellen Moore added to the Boise State record books in his final game at Bronco Stadium but the Broncos could not win over the computers and failed to advance to the BCS once again. Moore finished 28-33 for 313 yards and three touchdowns with only one of his incompletions failing to hit the hands of his receivers. He broke his own school record for touchdown passes in a season and also added the season-record for completions with an eye-popping 300. Doug Martin had another strong game with 110 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns. The Bronco defense was stubborn once again, allowing only 197 yards and eight 1st downs. Boise State now settles for a struggling Arizona State team that has lost four consecutive games and fired head coach Dennis Erickson. That is not the matchup they were hoping for when the bowl bids were announced. Instead, the Sugar Bowl chose Michigan and Virginia Tech as at-large selections despite a pair of losses from each team and neither of them being ranked in the top 10.
5. Oregon 11-2
Previous Rank: 6; Last Game: W 49-31 UCLA; Next Game: vs Wisconsin (Rose Bowl) January 2nd
LaMichael James ran for 219 yards and three touchdowns and Darron Thomas matched him with 219 yards and three scores through the air as the Ducks easily handled the Bruins to advance to the Rose Bowl. It will be the 3rd consecutive BCS appearance for Oregon and they hope to break through on the big stage after dropping each of the last two. Oregon’s offense did whatever they wanted to UCLA, piling up 571 yards including 352 on the ground. Thomas and Kenjon Barner combined for another 139 yards to complement James. The defense gave up some yards to the Bruins but also harassed Kevin Prince all night, hitting him relentlessly on virtually every drop back. Prince did manage to connect twice with Nelson Rosario on touchdown passes, the first on a blown coverage and the second on a gorgeous one-handed grab in the final two minutes. Oregon now faces Wisconsin for the first time since the teams split a home and home series in 2000 and 2001.
6. Stanford 11-1
Previous Rank: 7; Last Game: W 28-14 Notre Dame; Next Game: vs Oklahoma State (Fiesta Bowl) January 2nd
The Cardinal ended their season with the win over Notre Dame last week so they were able to sit back and watch the proceedings with virtually nothing at stake. They faced long odds to get into the title game and were basically assured an at-large spot. Some had projected that they would end up in the Sugar Bowl but they will instead face off against the explosive Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Fiesta Bowl. Andrew Luck is a finalist for several awards including the Heisman Trophy, to be presented next week. It is unclear whether the Fiesta Bowl will be his last game but he is certain to be the #1 pick in the NFL draft should he declare. The Cardinal defense has been inconsistent and they are not a great matchup for the speed of Oklahoma State but their grind-it-out offense led by Luck could keep the high-scoring Cowboys off the field. It should be one of the more entertaining games of the bowl season.
7. Wisconsin 11-2
Previous Rank: 16; Last Game: W 42-39 Michigan State; Next Game: vs Oregon (Rose Bowl) January 2nd
Montee Ball scored four touchdowns and the Badgers hung on to beat Michigan State to secure a 2nd consecutive Rose Bowl bid. Avenging their upset from earlier this season, when the Spartans connected on a Hail Mary for the win, this time the Badgers were the recipients of good fortune as their final drive was extended by a running into the punter penalty. They were able to run out the clock with the Spartans out of timeouts. Ball cemented his spot in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation as he ran for 137 yards and three scores and added a five-yard touchdown reception as well. The Spartans fell behind 21-7 in the 1st quarter but reeled off 22 consecutive points in the 2nd quarter to take the halftime lead. After the teams traded touchdowns in the 3rd quarter, Michigan State took a five-point lead on Dan Conroy’s 25-yard field goal. Ball responded with his final touchdown and the Badgers converted a 2-point conversion for the final margin. Now the defense gets a much stiffer test as they face the lightning-quick Oregon attack. They hope to use the same formula as Ohio State did two years ago in slowing down the Ducks with their size and strength.
8. Arkansas 10-2
Previous Rank: 10; Last Game: L 41-17 LSU; Next Game: vs Kansas State (Cotton Bowl) January 6th
The Razorbacks are the victims of being the highest-ranked BCS team without an invitation due to the SEC pitting LSU and Alabama in the title game. That means Arkansas will settle for participating in the best matchup of the non-BCS bowls when they face off with Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl. Tyler Wilson leads the Razorbacks offense with his stable of talented receivers in tow but the real question in this game is how Arkansas’ defense will handle Collin Klein, Kansas State’s unorthodox quarterback. Jarius Wright leads the Razorbacks with 1,029 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns but they need more help from their running game, which is ranked only 82nd in the nation, to keep the Wildcats offense off the field.
9. Kansas State 10-2
Previous Rank: 13; Last Game: W 30-23 Iowa State; Next Game: vs Arkansas (Cotton Bowl) January 6th
Collin Klein threw for a touchdown and ran for another as Kansas State briefly kept alive hopes of winning a share of the Big 12 title. Those hopes were dashed hours later when Oklahoma State pounded Oklahoma but the Wildcats still managed a surprising 10-win season for the first time since 2003. Klein was held to 86 yards rushing on 26 attempts but John Hubert picked up the slack on the ground with 120 yards and a score. Most of Klein’s damage through the air was done on a 68-yard 1st quarter touchdown pass to Tramaine Thompson which tied the game at 7-7. Klein’s touchdown run and a pair of Anthony Cantele field goals gave the Wildcats a 20-13 lead but Jeff Woody answered with his 2nd touchdown run for Iowa State to tie the game. Cantele added a 3rd field goal that was matched by the Cyclones’ Zach Guyer before Hubert scored the go-ahead touchdown with 3:29 remaining. The Wildcats played a clean game with only two penalties and no turnovers and will need a similar performance to get by Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.
10. Baylor 9-3
Previous Rank: 19; Last Game: W 42-24 Texas; Next Game: vs Washington (Alamo Bowl) December 29th
Baylor won its ninth game of the season for the first time since 1986 as Robert Griffin III moved into Heisman front-runner status with four total touchdowns in the Bears’ 42-24 win over Texas. Griffin connected with Kendall Wright for 59 yards on the second play of the game and closed the scoring midway through the 4th quarter with a 39-yard strike to Terrance Williams. In between, he rushed for a pair of touchdowns. Terrance Ganaway added two rushing touchdowns to go with 152 yards on the ground. The defense forced six Texas turnovers and won going away despite giving up 557 yards. Case McCoy threw for a career-high 356 yards to go with three 1st half touchdowns. An 80-yard pass from McCoy to Marquise Goodwin gave the Longhorns a 21-14 lead but McCoy ended up throwing four interceptions including a pair that set the Bears up on a short field for easy touchdowns. Baylor moved all the way up to #12 in the final BCS standings but is saddled with a relatively unattractive bowl matchup against Washington.
BSE 2011 Preseason Poll
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