CLEMSON – It was a team dream for Clemson to start the season in the top 10 and finish in the top 10.
The Tigers will need some help to accomplish that goal.
After losing 31-17 Saturday by committing six turnovers at rival South Carolina and losing its fifth straight to the Gamecocks, Clemson tumbled seven spots in Sunday’s Associated Press poll and BCS Standings to No. 13. It was sixth in each ranking going into the week.
The Tigers (10-2) had been one of three teams, along with Alabama and Ohio State, to spend the entire season in the top 10. Their program-record streak of 14 consecutive weeks in the AP top 10 – previously surpassing the school record of 10 weeks – was snapped.
Meanwhile, South Carolina raised two spots to No. 8 in both the AP poll and BCS Standings with the victory. The Gamecocks (10-2) will spend Championship Saturday at home by virtue of No. 5 Missouri’s clinching of the SEC East division, but USC is in a good position to have an outside look at a BCS bowl bid, or perhaps a Cotton Bowl invitation.
The top 13 of both the AP poll and BCS Standings are identical at every spot. Ohio State has a narrow lead over Auburn in the coveted No. 2 spot in the BCS Standings with one week remaining.
Backing up Clemson in the writers’ poll, it’s No. 14 LSU followed by No. 15 Northern Illinois and No. 16 UCF, but in the BCS Standings, it goes No. 14 Northern Illinois, No. 15 LSU and No. 16 UCF. If the Huskies finish higher than the American Athletic Conference champion Knights, NIU gets an automatic BCS bid as a mid-major outranking a major-conference champ.
While there’s a gap between No. 13 Clemson and No. 14 LSU in the AP voting totals, No. 12 Oregon (10-2) has a razor-thin edge of two points (815-813) over the Tigers. All three of those teams are done for the regular season.
On Saturday, No. 7 Stanford hosts No. 12 Arizona State in the Pac-12 championship, while No. 10 Michigan State faces off with No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis and No. 9 Baylor hosts No. 23 Texas. If the Spartans and Bears go down, Clemson would have an opportunity to creep back into the top 10.
After opening the year No. 6, the Gamecocks spent nearly the entire season bouncing between No. 10 and No. 14 in the AP poll since a week two loss at Georgia. This is their highest AP ranking since Sept. 3.
This is also the first time since after week one South Carolina is ranked higher than Clemson; the Tigers’ season-opening win over then-No. 5 Georgia turned the tables for nearly the next three months.
Florida State (12-0) assumed the top spot with Alabama’s wild finish at Auburn, a game Auburn prevailed 34-28 on a last-second missed field goal kick return for a touchdown. The Tigers moved up to No. 3, one spot ahead of their rival Crimson Tide.
No. 1 Florida State plays No. 20 Duke in the ACC Championship in Charlotte, needing a victory to punch its ticket to Pasadena for the BCS national title game. No. 3 Auburn and No. 5 Mizzou throw down in Atlanta, possibly for a chance to meet the Seminoles.
No. 6 Oklahoma State, which hosts No. 18 Oklahoma Saturday, rounds out the top ten.
In the USA Today coaches poll, Clemson also fell seven spots, from No. 4 to No. 11. South Carolina is tied with Baylor for No. 7.