After a week full of shifting and chaos, week 12 of the season presented more stability – although per usual several teams saw movement in the rankings. One of those exceptions was Colorado, who continues to ride a hot streak with seven of eight match victories.
Beyond the Buffaloes, plenty of the poll stayed the same or saw slight bumps. That was apparent at the top with nine of last week’s top 10 sticking in that classification with a few teams switching spots. We start at the top where the top five is the same as Penn State continues to occupy number one.
1. PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS
- 23-1 (13-1, Big Ten)
- Last Week: #1; Def. at #10 Michigan State (3-1), vs. Rutgers (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at Iowa, vs. Maryland
- Penn State continues to roll even as they had a top-ten road showdown for the week. Now with six matches remaining in the regular season, Penn State begins a stretch of four in a row against unranked opponents. They should coast there before their big regular season finales at Wisconsin and Minnesota.
2. STANFORD CARDINAL
- 21-2 (14-0, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #2; Def. (RV) Oregon State (3-0), #15 Oregon (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at #9 Washington, at Washington State
- Two sweeps occurred for Stanford over tough competition, as they continue to roll through the Pac-12. Following this week, Stanford has three straight at home (although all should be against ranked opponents). That means if they can get out of the Pacific Northwest unbeaten they should have a solid chance at finishing 20-0 in Pac-12 play.
3. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS
- 23-2 (12-2, Big Ten)
- Last Week: #3; Def. Maryland (3-0), Ohio State (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at (RV) Purdue, at Indiana
- The Golden Gophers have now won 11 straight matches including their last 10 sets of play – including all six this past week. It’s pivotal for them to keep winning so they stay right on the heels of Penn State and Nebraska, especially since Minnesota faces the Nittany Lions in the regular season finale.
4. FLORIDA GATORS
- 20-1 (12-1, SEC)
- Last Week: #4; Def. at #6 Kentucky (3-0), at Tennessee (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: vs. Arkansas, vs. Missouri
- The Gators got a huge jolt to start the week as they got revenge on Kentucky by sweeping the Wildcats in Lexington. Beyond avenging their only loss, it puts them into a tie in the loss column atop the SEC standings as they fight for the conference crown. With that in the books, they added another sweep by downing Tennessee on the road.
5. TEXAS LONGHORNS
- 19-2 (11-0, Big 12)
- Last Week: #5; Def. at Kansas State (3-2), vs. Texas Tech (3-1)
- Upcoming Week: vs. TCU, at #20 Iowa State
- Texas had to overcome a 2-0 set deficit to start the week at Kansas State, but got the all important win before heading home and downing Texas Tech. They remain unbeaten in Big 12 play as two of their three conference losses dating back to 2015 are represented in this match with TCU (a loss in 2015) and Iowa State (a loss in Ames last year) on the docket.
6. NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS
- 20-4 (13-1, Big Ten)
- Last Week: #7; Def. (RV) Purdue (3-1), Indiana (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: vs. Maryland, vs. Rutgers
- Nebraska emerged victorious through a tight match with Purdue before sweeping Indiana as they stay locked in at the top with Penn State (although they own the tiebreaker). They’ve been so strong in conference play with a healthier version of themselves that the NCAA Tournament committee ranked them #2 in the country. For us, they move up from 7 to 6.
7. KENTUCKY WILDCATS
- 20-3 (11-1, SEC)
- Last Week: #6; Lost vs. #4 Florida (0-3); Def. South Carolina (3-1)
- Upcoming Week: at Alabama, at Auburn
- The Wildcats were unable to earn the season sweep of Florida as the Gators swept Kentucky in Lexington. It was followed by a victory over South Carolina though as they will look to win out from here to at worst get a split for the SEC title.
8. BYU COUGARS
- 23-2 (12-1, WCC)
- Last Week: #9; Def. Pacific (3-0), Saint Mary’s (3-1)
- Upcoming Week: at Gonzaga, at Portland
- The Cougars are in a tight race with San Diego for the West Coast Conference crown and need every win they can get, which they did this week with victories over Pacific and Saint Mary’s. Two road tests in the northwest occur as BYU’s RPI puts them on the first/second round hosting bubble, meaning they will need to win out.
9. WASHINGTON HUSKIES
- 19-6 (9-5, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #8; Lost at #22 Colorado (0-3); Def. at #16 Utah (3-1)
- Upcoming Week: vs. #2 Stanford, vs. California
- Washington was the big mover in last week’s poll up to number eight, but they suffer a bit of a setback in Colorado. However, the Buffaloes are red hot right now and it came in Boulder – that combined with a win (and revenge) on Utah on the road and the Huskies only drop one spot in the latest rankings.
10. KANSAS JAYHAWKS
- 20-4 (9-2, Big 12)
- Last Week: #11; Def. at TCU (3-1)
- Upcoming Week: vs. Kansas State, vs. #18 Baylor
- In a one-match week, Kansas downed TCU on the road to bounce back from the previous week’s loss to Iowa State in Ames. They’re two back of Texas and stuck in a tight race for second – although with Baylor’s win last week over Iowa State, it looks to be down to the Jayhawks and Bears. Being so, the two sides meet this week in Lawrence as Kansas looks to repeat their sweep performance from the go-around in Waco.
11. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
- 17-6 (10-4, Big Ten)
- Last Week: #10; Lost vs. #1 Penn State (1-3); Def. at Northwestern (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: vs. (RV) Illinois, vs. Northwestern
- It was the second straight week that Michigan State lost at home to one of the top Big Ten teams but bounced back for wins over unranked opponents. All four of their Big Ten losses now have come to Nebraska and Penn State, as they look to stay unbeaten vs. everyone else this week starting with a tough Illinois bunch.
12. USC TROJANS
- 18-7 (10-4, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #13; Def. Arizona State (3-1), Arizona (3-2)
- Upcoming Week: vs. #16 Utah, vs. #17 Colorado
- USC had the two bottom teams in the Pac-12 for the week and took care of business with Arizona State in four sets before squeaking by Arizona in five. For whatever reason, the Wildcats have been a bad matchup for the Trojans this season, but they did come out with the almighty victory. Things get tougher this week with Utah and Colorado in town as they look to stay on top of the second-place race.
13. CREIGHTON BLUEJAYS
- 20-5 (13-1, Big East)
- Last Week: #14; Def. (RV) Marquette (3-0), DePaul (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at Xavier, at Butler
- The BlueJays avenged their lone conference loss as they swept Marquette at home to take a two-plus match stranglehold on the rest of the conference. That was confirmed with a sweep of DePaul, as a pair of road matches occur this week – notably one of the other top Big East teams in Butler.
14. WISCONSIN BADGERS
- 16-7 (7-7, Big Ten)
- Last Week: #12; Lost vs. Ohio State (2-3); Def. Maryland (3-1)
- Upcoming Week: at Indiana, at (RV) Purdue
- The Badgers missed an opportunity to gain some Big Ten traction with a home loss to Ohio State. That said, they still downed Maryland and the loss came in five sets after Wisconsin outscored Ohio State 50-30 in the first two sets. Their RPI is still solid though, so they are in a good spot to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
15. OREGON DUCKS
- 15-7 (8-6, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #15; Def. at California (3-0); Lost at #2 Stanford (0-3)
- Upcoming Week: at Arizona State, at Arizona
- Oregon took care of business with California to start the week, but ran into a buzz-saw with Stanford after that. Still, their overall resume is strong and with losses around them they stick in the same spot they were last week at 15.
16. UTAH UTES
- 18-7 (9-5, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #16; Def. Washington State (3-0); Lost vs. #8 Washington (1-3)
- Upcoming Week: at #12 USC, at #22 UCLA
- The Utes have won just one of their last five matches. This week things looked better with a sweep of a bubble team in Washington State and even a bit in a home loss to #8 Washington as every set came down to the wire. It won’t be easy to turn things around this week in Los Angeles, but they’ll need to make a stand soon as they try to host the first two NCAA Tournament rounds.
17. COLORADO BUFFALOES
- 19-6 (9-5, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #22; Def. #8 Washington (3-0), Washington State (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at #22 UCLA, at #12 USC
- Colorado has been one of the hottest teams in the country let alone the Pac-12 as they have won four straight and seven of eight. Three of those have come against ranked opponents, including a sweep this week of Washington. They continue to rise up the rankings and have a big opportunity to soar even further with the Los Angeles schools on the road this week.
18. BAYLOR BEARS
- 20-5 (10-2, Big 12)
- Last Week: #18; Def. TCU (3-0), #19 Iowa State (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at #10 Kansas
- Baylor seems to be a good matchup for Iowa State as they swept the ranked Cyclones both times this season. Now you can make it 12 consecutive set victories for Baylor dating back to a three-set loss to Kansas. And speaking of the Jayhawks, that’s who Baylor has this week in Lawrence as the winner garners an edge in the race for a top two spot in the Big 12.
19. SAN DIEGO TOREROS
- 19-4 (12-1, WCC)
- Last Week: #17; Def. Saint Mary’s (3-0), Pacific (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at Portland, at Gonzaga
- The Toreros continue rolling in the West Coast Conference as they stay tied atop the league table with BYU. They do drop two spots with Colorado and Baylor jolting ahead, but if they keep winning they will have a chance at hosting the first/second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in December.
20. IOWA STATE CYCLONES
- 17-5 (7-4, Big 12)
- Last Week: #19; Def. North Dakota (3-0); Lost at #18 Baylor (0-3)
- Upcoming Week: at West Virginia, vs. #5 Texas
- Iowa State couldn’t win a set from Baylor for the second straight time as they are on the outside looking into the top three in the conference. Still, they have a shot at hosting in the first two NCAA Tournament rounds if they can finish strong as a home meeting with Texas this weekend could go a long way to that discussion.
21. CAL POLY MUSTANGS
- 22-2 (12-0, Big West)
- Last Week: #20; Def. UC Santa Barbara (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: vs. UC Davis, vs. UC Irvine
- Just four matches remain in the regular season for Cal Poly, and they continue to inch closer to an unbeaten conference mark. In fact, their only two losses on the year came on the road to Washington and Oregon. Another hurdle with UC Irvine lies ahead this week, although it comes at home for the Mustangs.
22. UCLA BRUINS
- 15-8 (8-6, Pac-12)
- Last Week: #21; Def. Arizona (3-1), Arizona State (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: vs. #17 Colorado, vs. #16 Utah
- UCLA had an unbeaten week after losing four of six as they downed the two bottom-dwelling teams in the Pac-12. They do drop a spot with Colorado’s explosion up the rankings, but now UCLA will have a chance to crawl back up the rankings with two top 20 opponents this week.
23. COLORADO STATE RAMS
- 24-2 (14-0, MWC)
- Last Week: #23; Def. Utah State (3-0), Boise State (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at Nevada, at San Jose State
- The Rams keep rolling in Mountain West Conference play as they have won all 14 matches and 12 consecutive sets. A road meeting with San Jose State might be their toughest remaining hurdle to finishing conference play unbeaten as they try to reach the 30-win plateau this season.
24. WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS
- 22-3 (14-0, AAC)
- Last Week: #24; Def. Connecticut (3-0), Temple (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at East Carolina, at Cincinnati
- Wichita State kept up the theme of controlling AAC play with a pair of sweeps to give them 11 straight set victories. Six matches remain from an unbeaten AAC regular season as a pair of road tests loom this week against lesser competition.
25. NORTHERN IOWA PANTHERS
- 23-6 (12-2, MVC)
- Last Week: #25; Def. Evansville (3-0), Indiana State (3-0)
- Upcoming Week: at (RV) Missouri State, at Southern Illinois
- Since being upset by Illinois State, Northern Iowa has won nine straight sets of play. They will look for that to continue as we approach the Missouri Valley conference tournament and have one final stand in order on the road against Missouri State. It’s a big one too as the Bears downed the Panthers in Cedar Falls earlier this year, so they get a chance for revenge and another marquee victory.
On the Cusp/’Receiving Votes’:
Western Kentucky (27-2)
Missouri State (22-5)
Oregon State (17-9)
NC State (17-8)
Others who Dropped Out:
Note: * signifies dropped out (previous ranking)