Week 13: My AP Top 25 ballot

Here's a look at who I ranked and where in my Nov. 20 AP ballot

In four years as an AP football voter, this week was the toughest list to piece together after the top three.

Those first three – easy. Anybody who still wants to argue that the SEC isn't the best conference in the country needs to seek therapy.

But figuring out who to put where after that was tricky.

I didn't drop Oregon very far because I couldn't justify putting the Ducks behind a Stanford team they beat by 23 points. I also factored in a loss to No. 1 and a loss to a talented USC team that was essentially playing its bowl game. It also factored in that the Trojans nearly toppled Stanford as well, and maybe would have had an official made the right call to put a second back on the clock.

Virginia Tech jumped up in my rankings because of what the Hokies have done since the 20-3 egg they laid against Clemson. Is Tech a dominant team? No. But the body of work is impressive, and I think the ACC is a little stronger than it has been in years past and that a lot of folks give the league credit for.

Oklahoma State also didn't tumble a whole heck of a lot because of their body of work and the fact that they nearly pulled one out of the fire – a la LSU in 2007 and Auburn last season.

The rest of the poll was no easier, especially with four very good, but not great and certainly not consistent, Big Ten teams bunched up.

Virginia and Baylor jumped into my rankings this week and have a chance to stick around and climb if the keep beating higher-ranked teams above them.

Nov. 20 AP poll

1. LSU (11-0):
The Tigers obliterated any doubt quickly against Ole Miss and turned in as dominant a performance as they have all season. Every facet clicked and LSU's depth was on full display.

2. Alabama (10-1):
A lot of people might be whispering about the Crimson Tide looking pretty human last week, but it's important to note that Georgia Southern might stack up well against most FBS schools.

Bobby Petrino and the Razorbacks are up to No. 3 and in position to throw another wrench in the BCS.

3. Arkansas (10-1): The Razorbacks seem to be gaining a head of steam down the stretch run, especially on offense, but they're about to get their second severe road test of the season.

4. Virginia Tech (10-1): Quietly the Hokies have hovered around my Top 10 for weeks and now they're poised to jump into national championship contention with the right mix of circumstances.

5. Oklahoma State (10-1): Cowboys endured a tragedy before they took the field and looked like a distracted team in Ames. Curious to see if they bounce back vs. the Sooners.

6. Oregon (9-2): The Ducks' national crown hopes are dashed for good, but it's hard not see them as one of the best teams in the country. Think LSU, circa 2006.

7. Stanford (10-1): Cardinal slogged through a lackluster victory against Cal and will have to up the intensity this week vs. Notre Dame.

8. Boise State (9-1): Broncos have to be physically sick when they think about what might've been had they avoided the loss to TCU.

9. Georgia (9-2): Bulldogs have risen from the ashes all the way to the SEC Championship Game, so really the regular-season finale against Georgia Tech doesn't mean much. Right…

10. USC (9-2): The Trojans wrapped their season up with a very pretty bow by beating Oregon, but it's huge for USC to maintain its hold on the LA market this week when it tangles with UCLA.

Keyshawn Martin and Michigan State have punched a ticket to the Big Ten Championship Game.

11. Michigan State (9-2): The defense-minded Spartans have a spot in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game and could creep up the poll to a Top-10 finish with three more wins.

12. Wisconsin (9-2): The Badgers might be the only team sicker than Boise State about how things have played out. With a couple of stops on last-ditch Hail Mary passes, the Badgers would be nipping at LSU's heels.

13. Oklahoma (8-2): No worries about Big-game Bob Stoops this season. The Sooners are having enough trouble winning the little games.

14. South Carolina (9-2): After Clemson's meltdown last week, the Gamecocks lost the chance to play spoiler, but now they can solidify an invitation to the Cotton Bowl with a win.

15. Houston (11-0): Cougars haven't garnered much respect because they haven't played a tough schedule. They can gain some this week by beating a tough Tulsa team in a battle to decide the Conference USA West Division championship.

16. Michigan (9-2): In a pride-restoring season, the Wolverines delivered their most impressive game to thump Nebraska. Only thing better would to finish the season with a win against the Buckeyes.

17. Penn State (9-2): The Lions have been through the biggest off-field distraction imaginable, but can punch a ticket to the Big Ten Championship Game by winning in Madison this week.

18. TCU (9-2): No hangover for the Horned Frogs, who look like they're headed toward another double-digit victory season as they head into the Big 12.

19. Kansas State (9-2): The Wildcats are back in their comfort zone – finding ways to somehow win close games. If they turn the trick one more time, they could wind up in the Cotton Bowl.

20. Baylor (7-3): The Bears snapped an 0-for-forever losing streak against Oklahoma and quarterback Robert Griffin jumped right into the middle of the Heisman Trophy discussion. Not a bad week.

Perry Jones and Virginia have a shot at earning a spot in the ACC Championship Game

21. Virginia (8-3): If not for the state of North Carolina, the Cavaliers might have been a Top-10 team by now. Toppling rival Virginia Tech would make up some of that disappointment.

22. Georgia Tech (8-3): The Yellow Jackets defense is listing badly down the stretch, which isn't a good sign with Aaron Murray and Isaiah Crowell headed to town.

23. Clemson (9-2): Speaking of struggling defenses … Good thing these Tigers are in the ACC title game and have a chance to erase the bad taste from last week.

24. Tulsa (8-3): The Golden Hurricane has operated under the national radar after September losses to No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 8 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Boise State. Since then, Tulsa is averaging 42 points a game in a seven-game win streak.

25. Nebraska (8-3): When the Huskers are good, they're good. When they're bad –especially against the Big Ten's upper crust.

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