College Football Rankings' Next 5: Big Ten And ACC Come Calling

RALEIGH NC - OCTOBER 28: Christian Ponder #7 of the Florida State Seminoles celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the North Carolina State Wolfpack during their game at Carter-Finley Stadium on October 28 2010 in Raleigh North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Assessing the pitfalls and fortunes of the top five teams in the "also receiving votes" category that serves as college football's casting couch. This week: It's that magical second-chance time of year again, where three-loss teams are acceptable ballot inclusions.

Five teams in the "Also Receiving Votes" category of the AP and Coaches' Polls have better-than-even chances of cracking (or, in some cases, rejoining) the ranks of the 2010 BCS Standings. Included in the waiting room are four three-loss teams from major conferences, and one plucky MAC outfit looking for attention.

• Northwestern

Where They're At: 7-3, fresh off an upset of No. 13 Iowa, but trailing the now-No. 20 Hawkeyes and three other ranked teams in the Big Ten Standings. First team in the AP Poll's ARV section; ranked 25th in the Coaches' Poll.
What Went Wrong: Three conference losses in five weeks did the Wildcats' rankings hopes in. Michigan State was an acceptable stumble; Penn State and Purdue less so.
What's Next: A should-be gimme game against Illinois will provide a presumed conference win as well as much-needed time to adjust to life without QB Dan Persa, who was lost for the year Saturday with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

• Florida State

Where They're At: 7-3, with a tenuous lead over Maryland and NC State for the lead in the ACC's Atlantic Division. Second team receiving votes in the AP Poll and first in the Coaches'.
What Went Wrong: An early shellacking by Oklahoma and back-to-back ACC losses against NC State and UNC dinged the 'Noles' luster.
What's Next: A primetime Week 12 showdown with a sneakily competent Maryland team, then things get real: FSU gets a vastly depleted Florida team at home this year for their annual rivalry game.

• North Carolina State

Where They're At: 7-3 (naturally), tied with Maryland for second place in the ACC Atlantic. Third team in the AP and Coaches' Poll waiting rooms.
What Went Wrong: An overtime loss to a mid-major team, even one as generally adept as East Carolina, isn't acceptable to pollsters for a Big Six team. (Oh, and that horrible outing against Clemson didn't help.)
What's Next: The 'Pack has followed a steady win-loss pattern since Week 4, with a decisive victory over Georgia Tech followed by a loss to Virginia Tech, a win over Boston College, a loss to East Carolina, a win over Florida State, a loss to Clemson and a win over Wake Forest, so tread lightly when betting on them to get past the Tar Heels next Saturday.

• Northern Illinois

Where They're At: 8-2, the only remaining MAC team with no conference losses, with a comfy lead over the West division. Fourth team receiving also-ran votes in both major polls.
What Went Wrong: They're a MAC team, and they're toting two losses. Both stumbles came early and against AQ teams, however (Iowa State and Illinois), and the Huskies are currently riding a seven-game win streak.
What's Next: As surefire a pair of wins as you'll find in 2010, with back-to-back division road trips to Ball State and Eastern Michigan to close out the season.

• Michigan

Where They're At: 7-3, with just four votes in the AP Poll but 72 from voting coaches, proving for the umpteenth consecutive year that no coaches actually watch the games they're voting on.
What Went Wrong: Three straight Big Ten losses in the past month spell trouble, especially in a year where three of those conference foes are only carrying one loss into Week 12. Not much room for error when Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State are this good.
What's Next: Nothing good. No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 9 Ohio State await in Weeks 12 and 13, and unless Denard Robinson sprouts adamantium skin or the Wolverines sprout a defense between now and Saturday, this won't be pretty.

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