AP Top 25 rankings: BYU's bowl dreams take a big hit
As we head into the final week of the regular season, COVID-19 continues to cause postponements and cancellations. With conference championships played next week, this is the final chance for many teams to pick up a big win or hold onto their spot heading into the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at how things played out in Week 14, and see whose fortunes changed the most in the AP Top 25 rankings.
Week 14 ranking: 15
Week 15 ranking: Unranked
The Thundering Herd suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday, likely ending their hopes of sneaking into a New Years’ Six bowl game with a 20-0 defeat to Rice. After scoring a combined 93 points in its previous two games, Marshall was held scoreless at home by a Rice squad that has played just four games this season due to cancellations.
The Owls led 10-0 at the half, and scored another 10 points after the break as they capitalized on five turnovers from Marshall. Neither team gained more than 250 yards of offense, as Marshall QB Grant Wells threw for just 165 yards with no touchdowns and five picks. Wells had thrown a total of four interceptions through his first seven games this season, and was coming off a win in which he threw five touchdowns. This shocking performance came at the worst time for Wells and the program, but they still have a shot at winning the Conference USA title.
Week 14 ranking: 24
Week 15 ranking: 19
The Hawkeyes have nothing to play for but positioning and pride at this point, after Northwestern clinched the division on Saturday. However, they still have a chance to finish 6-2 on the season thanks to a two-touchdown victory over Illinois on Saturday. It was Iowa’s fifth straight win after losing its first two games by a combined five points, and leaves the Hawkeyes wondering "what if" after blowing a 17-0 lead over Northwestern earlier this season.
The Hawkeyes fell behind to Illinois 14-0, but cut the deficit to one before the half. In the second half, they rolled off three straight touchdowns before giving up a final score to Illinois in the final minute.
The 35-straight points was spearheaded by Iowa QB Spencer Petras, who threw three touchdowns on 18-of-28 passing. They will now look to defeat Wisconsin on Saturday to end the season.
Week 14 ranking: 19
Week 15 ranking: 25
Speaking of the Badgers, they barely held onto a ranking this week after falling to the Indiana Hoosiers. Playing in just their fourth game of the season, Wisconsin struggled to get anything going offensively and had to settle for a pair of field goals in the 14-6 defeat. The Badgers outgained Indiana 342 to 217 in total offense, and held the ball for over 10 minutes more than the Hoosiers. They were unable to overcome a pair of turnovers, and eight penalties compared to just one for Indiana.
Wisconsin now sits at 2-2 on the year, due to having a multitude of games cancelled this season. The Badgers can still salvage a winning season with a victory at Iowa, and possibly set themselves up for a bowl game appearance as well.
Rising: Coastal Carolina
Week 14 ranking: 14
Week 15 ranking: 11
No team had a better week than Coastal Carolina. With College Gameday on campus for the first time ever, the Chanticleers won a wild game over BYU thanks to a last-second tackle just short of the end zone. Their 22-17 win came over an opponent who took the game on short order, and saw lots of big plays and a big fight after some cheap shots on BYU QB Zach Wilson.
The Chanticleers trailed by one point at halftime, and again heading into the final quarter after trading field goals with BYU. Coastal Carolina then put together a 13-play, 85-yard drive to take the lead with eleven and a half minutes remaining. BYU got one final chance after forcing a punt with 55 seconds left. They marched down the field, getting sacked on first down but then picking up 90 yards on the next seven plays.
Luckily for Coastal Carolina, the Cougars needed to go 91 yards to win the game. The Chanticleers tackled WR Dax Milne just inches shy of the goal line with no time left on the clock, securing a perfect 10-0 record and putting them on the fringe of the top 10. With two games left on their schedule, including a potential ranked matchup with Louisiana, they are in a great position to grab a spot in a big bowl game.
Week 14 ranking: 8
Week 15 ranking: 14
As for the Cougars, their hopes of snagging a spot in one of those big bowl games—probably the Fiesta Bowl—took a massive hit with the defeat to Coastal Carolina. Their first defeat of the season dropped them to 9-1, and leaves them with only two games against ranked teams this season. Their lone win over a ranked team came against a Boise State squad that was down to its third string quarterback, leaving BYU without a signature victory this season due.
Taking the game against Coastal Carolina was a calculated one, designed to give them the big win they needed. The Cougars have one game left this season, as San Diego State visits town, and as an independent have no conference championship game to help their schedule. Without an unbeaten record or a big win, BYU likely will end up in a much lesser bowl game than expected.