By The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Hit the reset button on the college football season.
There’s a new No. 1 team in Ohio State and uncertainty at the top of the rankings for the first time all season, after Alabama’s 19-game winning streak ended at South Carolina.
The Southeastern Conference, which has won the last four national championships, has some catching up to do in the 2010 title chase. The Buckeyes and No. 2 Oregon have a couple of BCS busters in No. 3 Boise State and No. 4 TCU on their tails. And for the first time in about a decade, Nebraska is a legitimate national championship contender.
The Buckeyes moved up one spot in The Associated Press poll after preseason No. 1 Alabama lost for the first time since the 2009 Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide fell 35-21 on Saturday.
Ohio State received 34 first-place votes and Oregon (15), Boise State (eight), TCU (one) and No. 6 Oklahoma (two) also got first-place votes from the media panel Sunday.
Auburn is the highest ranked SEC team at No. 7. An SEC team, either Florida or Alabama, had held the top spot in the last 29 AP polls, dating to Nov. 2, 2008. The last time the highest ranked SEC team was this far away from No. 1 was Oct. 22, 2006, when Auburn was ranked seventh.
The Crimson Tide slipped to No. 8 — and second in the state — while LSU was No. 9 and South Carolina moved up nine spots to 10th after the program’s first win against a top-ranked team.
The last time Ohio State was No. 1 was the final regular-season poll of 2007.
That season ended with LSU beating the Buckeyes in the BCS championship game to become the first national title winner with two losses. That type of mayhem is a long way away, but the potential for BCS controversy is high, unlike last season, when Florida, Alabama and Texas moved into the top three spots in late September and didn’t budge until the SEC title game.
“You take a look at the top 10 week to week and the precarious nature of any ranking is obvious — just review the change in the makeup of the Top 10 between the beginning of the season until now,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Sunday in a statement.
While Tressel’s rigid remarks scored low for enthusiasm, the insight was on target.
Four teams that started the season ranked in the top 10 have fallen out, including Texas and Virginia Tech, which are gone all together. Florida is down to No. 22 after losing its second straight game. The Gators fell 33-29 to LSU and have their worst showing in the poll since they were unranked to end the 2004 season, Ron Zook’s last as Florida coach.
Seven other teams that started the season ranked are gone from the AP Top 25 this week.
There are eight undefeated teams in the top 10 and five more lurking outside of it, starting with No. 11 Utah. Arkansas is No. 12 with unbeaten Michigan State at No. 13. Stanford and Iowa round out the top 15.
Florida State jumped seven spots to No. 16 with a 45-17 victory at Miami that knocked the Hurricanes out of the rankings. No. 17 Arizona is followed by Wisconsin, then comes three more unbeaten teams: No. 19 Nevada, No. 20 Oklahoma State and No. 21 Missouri.
Florida, No. 23 Air Force, Oregon State and West Virginia complete the Top 25.
The most undefeated teams there could be at the end of this season is seven.
There are four unbeatens in the Big 12, but that will eventually sort itself out and leave no more than one. Oklahoma and Nebraska don’t play in the regular season but could meet in the Big 12 title game.
Boise State and Nevada of the Western Athletic Conference meet Nov. 26 in Reno, Nev. Both will be favored in all their games between now and then. The Broncos aren’t just looking to get into the BCS this season, they’re a legitimate contender to reach the championship game from a non-automatic qualifying conference, and that would be a first.
Same goes for TCU. Maybe even Utah. But not both. The Mountain West Conference rivals play Nov. 6 in Salt Lake City.
Auburn and LSU are the remaining unbeatens in the SEC. The two Tigers play Oct. 23 in Auburn, Ala., and both still have to play Alabama and Arkansas just to get out of the SEC West.
“You would think they would probably lose at least one or more,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday of the West leaders. “You would think, but who knows?”
If Auburn and LSU keep winning, the strength of the SEC could push them past the teams in front of them and into the thick of the national title mix. But it’s just as likely the SEC will not produce an undefeated champion and be shut out of the BCS championship game for the first time since the 2005 season, when Texas and USC played for the title.
Of course, if there are no undefeated teams, you can bet an SEC team will be near the top of the pile of one-loss squads. That’s what defending national champion Alabama is hoping for now.
Oregon is the only unbeaten Pac-10 team but running through that tough league unbeaten will be a serious challenge. The Ducks still have to play Oregon State, Arizona and USC.
From the Big Ten comes this possible wrinkle: Ohio State and Michigan State don’t play each other this season. The Buckeyes play at Wisconsin next week and at Iowa on Nov. 20. Michigan State’s toughest remaining test looks like a game at Iowa on Oct. 30.
The first BCS standing of the season are due out next Sunday. It uses the coaches’ poll, Harris poll and computer rankings to order the teams. The latest coaches’ poll had the same top five as the AP, except Nebraska was No. 4 and TCU was No. 5. The first Harris poll was the same 1-9 as the AP Top 25.
Somehow the second half of the season needs to whittle this race down to two teams. Don’t count on it being a tidy ending.