Breaking down The Associated Press college football poll after Week 9 of the regular season.
MAKING A STATEMENT
The line has been drawn.
On one side, the top four teams in the nation: Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State. On the other, everybody else.
Baylor is the lone team still toeing that line.
The Bears moved up to No. 5 in The Associated Press college football poll Sunday, their best ranking in 60 years. Baylor fit nicely with the first group Saturday as the top teams romped.
No. 1 Alabama received 55 first-place votes after beating Tennessee 45-10. No. 2 Oregon got three first-place votes following a 42-14 victory over UCLA. No. 3 Florida State pounded North Carolina State 49-17 and drew two first-place votes from the media panel. No. 4 Ohio State handed Penn State its worst loss in more than a century, 63-14.
Nitpick with the order if you'd like, and there's no guarantee that any of those teams will get through their schedules unbeaten, but right now it's hard to argue that isn't the top four. That's the way they lined up in the BCS standings this week, too.
Unless you're Baylor.
Baylor beat Kansas 59-14, which actually lowered the Bears' national-best scoring average to 63.9. The only time the Bears have been better ranked in the AP poll came in November 1953 when they were third. Baylor lost three of its final four games that season and finished unranked.
The Bears (7-0) are hoping to avoid a similar finish to this season against a back-loaded schedule. More than halfway through, Baylor has played only one FBS team with a winning record - Buffalo (6-2).
The Sagarin ratings have Baylor's schedule strength at 96th in Division I. For comparison's sake, Alabama's is 41st, Oregon's is 54th, Florida State's is 68th and Ohio State's is 69th.
In their favor, the Bears have also played only one game that has been competitive in the second half - a 35-25 victory at Kansas State.
''We're playing really, really good defense, we've got guys that are very explosive offensively and we have a great offensive line. We're a tough football team,'' coach Art Briles said after the Kansas game.
Finally, we'll find out how tough on Nov. 7, when Baylor hosts a Thursday night showdown against No. 13 Oklahoma.
After that comes No. 15 Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, at No. 18 Oklahoma State, at TCU and finally return home for the finale against Texas on Dec. 7.
Soon enough, we'll know what side of that line Baylor falls.
No team lost more this weekend than Missouri. Dropping five spots to No. 10 in the AP Top 25 was the least of the Tigers' problems.
Briefly recounting Missouri's downfall. The Tigers led 17-0 at home in the fourth quarter against South Carolina on Saturday night. A win would have all but sealed an SEC East title for Missouri.
Instead South Carolina won 27-24, after the Tigers let the Gamecocks score a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 15 in the first OT and Missouri's Andrew Baggett missed a potential tying 24-yard field goal in the second OT.
That left Missouri (7-1, 3-1) a game ahead South Carolina (6-2, 4-2) in the standings, but with a trickier schedule.
Missouri's journalism school has produced some of the top sports writers in the country, so when the Tigers have an epic collapse, the heartbreak is well chronicled. This one could lead to a pretty interesting book down the road, especially if the Tigers don't get to Atlanta.
Michigan State (7-1) moved into the rankings for the first time this season at No. 24, a week ahead of the Spartans' big game against No. 23 Michigan.
Arizona State (5-2), which has been in and out of the rankings, also is back in at No. 25.
The Sun Devils and Spartans have something else in common. They both lost close games to Notre Dame (6-2) earlier this season, a fact that did not slip by many Fighting Irish fans. Their team was first among others receiving votes, finishing a point behind Arizona State.
According to the voters, Notre Dame and Arizona State are even. On the field, they were close but the Irish did win. Notre Dame fans seem to have a legit gripe.
Eight ranked teams have an open date this week, including Alabama, Oregon, Baylor, No. 6 Stanford, No. 11 LSU and Oklahoma.
That sets the stage for a huge following week. Along with Oklahoma-Baylor on Thursday, Nov. 7, Oregon is at Stanford. LSU visits Alabama on Saturday, Nov. 9.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Alabama has had the longest stay at the top of the rankings for a preseason No. 1 (nine weeks with 10 assured because of next week's open date) since Ohio State went the entire regular season top-ranked in 2006.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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