By Ralph D. Russo
The Associated Press
NORMAN — Even better than the Bear.
Alabama is No. 1 in the AP poll for the eighth straight week, the longest run atop the rankings in the history of the storied program.
The Tide has twice previously been No. 1 for seven consecutive weeks — in 1979 when Bear Bryant coached ‘Bama to his last national title and in 1980 when the Tide finished sixth.
Nick Saban’s Tide is working on trying to win its third national title in the last four seasons.
Alabama’s latest No. 1 ranking came with just the slightest smudge. The Tide received 59 of 60 first-place votes after being a unanimous top pick for the last three weeks.
Oregon is No. 2 for the fifth consecutive week, though the gap between the Ducks and No. 3 Florida narrowed after the Gators beat South Carolina 44-11 on Saturday.
Florida was so good it persuaded one voter to give the Gators a first-place vote. And why not?
To this point, Florida has played a tougher schedule than both the Tide and Ducks, and dominating a good South Carolina team — albeit without producing much offense — was enough for Doug Lesmerises of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland to make the switch.
“That gave the Gators three wins over very good opponents, while Alabama still has that opening win over Michigan and then blowouts of lesser teams,” he wrote in a blog post.
Alabama is about to enter the difficult part of its schedule. The Tide is home against unbeaten and No. 13 Mississippi State on Saturday. The next week is the latest installment of Alabama’s Game of the Century series with LSU. After that, No. 22 Texas A&M comes to Tuscaloosa.
South Carolina was the only team ranked in the top 16 last week to lose Saturday, so the top half of the latest poll only had minor adjustments.
Kansas State stayed at No. 4 after beating West Virginia 55-14. Notre Dame is No. 5 after a 17-14 victory against BYU and LSU remained sixth with a 24-19 victory at Texas A&M.
South Carolina dropped from ninth to No. 17.
Seems like a long time ago that Oklahoma lost at home to Kansas State and tumbled out of the top 10.
The Sooners have been making steady progress since, working back to No. 8 this week after pounding Kansas 52-7. Oklahoma has outscored its last three opponents 156-48. While Texas Tech, Texas and the Jayhawks are not exactly murderers’ row, the Sooners have restored order in Norman and gotten themselves back to the fringe of the national title picture.
From No. 5 to No. 25 in two weeks.
Quarterback Geno Smith and the Mountaineers were fifth in the Top 25 after winning at Texas, then fell flat 49-14 against Texas Tech and slipped to No. 17.
A second straight lopsided loss — this time to Kansas State — dropped the Mountaineers (5-2) another eight spots.
Their defense has been a mess, and now the offense can’t keep up.
“I’m not going to sit here and point fingers at anyone else,” Smith said after a deflating night in Morgantown.
After two losses by a combined 76 points — coincidentally the same amount of points they received in the poll — should the Mountaineers be ranked at all? It’s a fair question. Working in their favor is no team in the Top 25 has faced opponents with a better winning percentage than West Virginia’s, who are 33-15 (.686).
Still, Toledo (7-1), which finished first among the others receiving votes with 49 points, has a reasonable gripe.
The Rockets handed Cincinnati its first loss on Saturday at the Glass Bowl in Toledo, and their only loss was in overtime at Arizona.
In and out
Cincinnati was the only team to fall out of rankings this week, a stiff penalty for its first loss.
The Bearcats didn’t get much leeway from voters probably because they had played such a weak schedule. Cincinnati’s one “big” win came against Virginia Tech. The Bearcats rallied with a late touchdown to beat the Hokies 27-24, but Virginia Tech is 4-4 after getting roughed up by Clemson on Saturday.
Cincinnati’s other victories were against Pittsburgh, Miami, Ohio, and two FCS teams.
The Bearcats, though, could be back in the rankings soon. They play at No. 16 Louisville in a Friday night Big East game.
Those road trips to Mid-American Conference opponents have been tricky for the Big East. Earlier this season, South Florida lost at Ball State and Connecticut lost to Western Michigan.
Re-entering the rankings this week is Louisiana Tech. The nation’s highest-scoring team beat Idaho 70-28. The Bulldogs had 839 yards, the most by an FBS team in game this season.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Oregon State moved up one spot to No. 7 and stayed unbeaten with a 21-7 victory over Utah.
The only other time the Beavers and Ducks have both been ranked in the top seven was the final poll of the 2000 season. Oregon State finished fourth and Oregon seventh.
ODDS AND ENDS
No. 9 Ohio State dropped two spots after needing a late rally and overtime to beat Purdue at home. The unbeaten Buckeyes go to Penn State, where the Nittany Lions have won five straight. Neither team is eligible for the postseason. ... Florida plays No. 12 Georgia in their annual rivalry game at Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday with the SEC East on the line. If the Gators win, they clinch the division and a spot in the conference title game. If Georgia wins, it only needs to beat Ole Miss and Auburn to win a second straight East division. ... No. 21 Boise State (Mountain West), No. 23 Ohio (MAC) and Louisiana Tech (Western Athletic Conference) give the conferences without BCS automatic qualifying bids three ranked teams, one less than the ACC and Big Ten combined.
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