Breaking down The Associated Press college football poll after Week 12 of the regular season.
LONG STAY. LONG WAIT
Alabama’s stay at No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll has reached rare territory as the Crimson Tide head toward an Iron Bowl against No. 6 Auburn that is big enough to fill two weeks of hype — at least in the Deep South.
Alabama remained top-ranked in the Top 25 released Sunday, with 55 first-place votes from the media panel. No. 2 Florida State has five first-place votes.
Oregon was fifth and Auburn was sixth, the Tigers moving up one spot after a miraculous victory kept them in the championship hunt — both Southeastern Conference and national.
Alabama slogged through a 20-7 victory at Mississippi State but paid virtually no price at the polls, the benefits of being two-time defending BCS champs. The Tide is Teflon when it comes to the type of picky criticism that teams such as Ohio State and Baylor get.
Alabama has been No. 1 since the preseason, a total of 13 polls. Only six preseason No. 1 teams have had longer uninterrupted stays in a single season than the Tide, including Southern California (16 polls) in 2004 and Florida State (17 polls) in 1999, the only wire-to-wire champions.
The other four preseason No. 1 teams that have spent longer at No. 1 than Alabama all either lost in a bowl game (Nebraska, 1983; Southern California, 2005; Ohio State 2006) or lost in a conference title game (Oklahoma, 2003). Those four were No. 1 for 15 straight polls.
The Tide faces Chattanooga this week, part of the SEC’s scheduling strategy to work in a late-season breather. Florida State has embraced it as well. The Seminoles play Idaho.
So it’s safe to pencil in the Tide for 14 straight polls at No. 1. To get to 15, will be much tougher.
Auburn’s remarkable turnaround season reached new heights in unfathomable fashion with a 43-38 victory over Georgia. The Tigers (10-1, 6-1), who are off this week, can win the SEC West by beating Alabama and make their way into the national championship discussion by winning the SEC title. This is big stuff.
“There will be no official comment until Monday whether the Finebaum show will run 24/7 continuously until kickoff of the Iron Bowl,” was the tweet from the official account of talk radio show host and the SEC’s resident instigator Paul Finebaum after Auburn’s victory.