AP Top 25 rankings: Wisconsin plummets following loss to Northwestern

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November 25th, 2020

It was a busy week in college football despite quite a number of games being cancelled. Two Top 10 teams fell down the rankings, while an unlikely program is making some noise as we close in on the end of the season. We also saw our first College Football Playoff rankings, which makes things even more interesting.

Let’s take a look at the biggest risers and fallers in this week’s AP Top 25 rankings.

Falling: Wisconsin

Week 12 rankings: 10
Week 13 ranking: 18

We start with the Badgers, who suffered their first defeat of the season after scoring just seven points against Northwestern. Graham Mertz came back down to Earth, as he turned the ball over four times against the Wildcats. Wisconsin outgained Northwestern by more than 100 yards and held them to just two third-down conversions, but those turnovers ended any chances of winning.

Wisconsin’s hopes of making the College Football Playoff are all but dead. With just two games remaining, both against ranked teams, they need to win out and see Northwestern fall twice in order to make the Big Ten title game.

Rising: Northwestern

Week 12 ranking: 19
Week 13 ranking: 11

Speaking of Northwestern, what a run it’s been for the Wildcats. Their first win of the season over a ranked team pushes them to 5-0 on the season, and with three unranked foes left they are set up for a potential unbeaten, eight-win regular season. The Wildcats won despite rushing for just 24 yards on 23 attempts, but forcing five turnovers in the game allowed them to limit Wisconsin to seven points.

Michigan State looms next, and they're a team that has scored just seven total points in their last two games after losing 24-0 to Indiana two weeks ago. Northwestern’s final three opponents are a combined 5-9 on the season, but it will be important they don’t look ahead and fall short of their goal.

Falling: Oklahoma State

Week 12 ranking: 14
Week 13 ranking: 21

The Cowboys suffered a loss they simply could not afford, getting blown out 41-13 by rivals Oklahoma on Saturday. The Sooners jumped out to a 21-point lead just nine minutes into the game and never looked back, as Oklahoma State fell to 4-2 in conference play and now sits fourth in the standings. While they would hold a head-to-head tiebreak over league leader Iowa State, the other two teams ahead of them have handed them defeats.

It was a revolving door of bad quarterbacks for the Cowboys, as Spencer Sanders was benched for Shane Illingworth, and then later was put back in after the latter completed just 5-of-21 pass attempts. Sanders completed 10-of-19 passes, but gained only 97 yards and threw an interception. The Cowboys’ final three games are all against teams in the bottom half of the standings, but it may not matter for them at this point.

Rising: Oklahoma

Week 12 ranking: 18
Week 13 ranking: 14 

As for the Sooners, they have put themselves in the driver’s seat to make the conference title game after their win over OSU. They got terrific quarterback play in the win, with Spencer Rattler throwing for 301 yards and four touchdowns on just 17 completions.

The Sooners are averaging 50 points per game over their last four contests, while allowing a total of just 64 points. The improvement of their defense has paid big dividends, as they have won each of their last four games by at least 19 points. While it is unlikely they can sneak back into the College Football Playoff, winning out (including a win in the Big 12 Championship) would put them at 9-2 on the season and give them a fighting chance.

Falling: Liberty

Week 12 ranking: 21
Week 13 ranking: Unranked

The dream is over for the Flames. After moving up to 21st in the rankings, people began to wonder if they could work their way up to a New Year’s Six bowl game. Instead, they burned out on the road against NC State, blowing a 14-9 lead entering the fourth quarter and losing by one point after their game-winning field goal attempt was blocked with just over a minute remaining.

The Flames managed less than three yards per carry on 38 attempts, and QB Malik Willis completed just 13-of-32 attempts with three interceptions. The defeat means at best they can finish 10-1 on the season, and while 10 wins is likely going to be among the most in the nation, it won’t be enough to vault them back up. A weak strength of scheduled will be their undoing, just as their poor offensive showing was on Saturday.

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