College football’s razor-thin margin of error showed up in week 12 scores and results. It’s been a week that has seen some upsets for the top 25 teams on the scoreboard, but we were also just a few taps away from total chaos on the college football ladder.
Georgia, No. 1, was pushed back into the red zone by Kentucky and held a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter with 5 minutes left before forcing a missed field goal and turnover on downs to remain undefeated. Ohio State No. 2, also en route against an unranked opponent, led a battle with Maryland by just three points. Meanwhile, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 TCU both won thanks to last-second field goals. If a few games (or even just a few kicks) had different outcomes, the AP Top 25 voters would face a difficult challenge sorting the carnage in their updated ballots.
That’s not to say voters’ job will be easy after Saturday’s results.
Debates over working against the recent results will come into their own with Tennessee slotted after a stunning 63-38 loss in South Carolina. The Volunteers are now 9-2, winning against both Alabama and LSU, but losing Saturday night as a 22-point favorite could see Tennessee fall behind either or both of those SEC opponents. A similar preservation will be seen further down the rankings after Ole Miss lost for the second straight week, this time at unranked Arkansas. The Rebels are 8-3 and just a point short of falling last week. If voters are looking for quality wins, they need to determine how valuable narrow wins over Kentucky and at Texas A&M are compared to other teams with three losses.
By the end of the night, five teams from the top 16 of the AP Top 25 will have lost, giving other teams plenty of opportunity to move up. Those who benefited most from the limited chaos were USC and Clemson, each tackling business (in very different ways) to remain at the forefront of their respective conferences into Week 13. If both can win, the College Football Playoff selection committee could have some extremely difficult times making decisions on selection Sunday.
Here’s what we think Sunday’s new AP Top 25 looks like:
1. Georgia (Last week – 1): The lack of an obvious first-place challenger maintains the status quo as the Bulldogs remain No. 1 after a 16-6 win in Kentucky.
2. State of Ohio (2): The Buckeyes could still pick up a few first-place votes after picking up points late in a 43-30 win in Maryland, but voters who follow the results throughout the day will find that a three- Points game deep into the fourth quarter. Freshman running back Dallan Hayden had a breakthrough rush for 146 yards and three touchdowns, all after halftime as Ohio State overcame an early deficit and took control of the game in the third quarter.
3.Michigan (3): There’s a lot to worry about for Michigan after Saturday’s win over Illinois – from Blake Corum’s health to how often scoring chances seem to end in field goal attempts – but holding on to just one win is enough to stay in the top five the ranking list.
4. TCU (4): The dream season continues for TCU thanks to quarterback Max Duggan, who scored some hits in the fourth quarter and opened the door to a potential jump into the top 3 in the rankings. Our prediction is that AP voters will keep last week’s order, but the playoff committee has fewer voters and therefore may be more volatile. TCU could finish 4th on Sunday but 3rd on Tuesday night thanks to the game-winning field goal at Baylor.
5.USC (7): The Trojans bounced back from a 14-0 deficit after the first quarter and beat the Bruins by 17 points in the last 45 minutes for a 48-45 win to remain the only team with a loss in the Pac-12. With Tennessee falling and USC impressing down the line as they secured a berth in the Pac-12 championship game, the Trojans should take LSU to fifth place with two losses.
6. LSU (6): The Tigers enjoyed the Seniors’ Day celebrations with a 41-10 demolition of UAB. Next up is a trip to College Station to play Texas A&M and then the SEC championship game against Georgia.
7. Clement (9): The Tigers have now won 40 straight home games with a 40-10 win over Miami. Thanks to some other results from Saturday, things are looking good for Clemson’s CFP chances. This is only the ninth 40-home game winning streak in FBS history, the first since Nebraska won 47 straight home games from 1991-1998.
8. Tennessee (5): Star QB Hendon Hooker’s injury added disappointment to a program that dashed its playoff hopes with a lopsided loss to a division opponent.
9. Alabama (8): No major adjustments for a 34-0 win over FCS Austin Peay.
10. Oregon (12): If they defeat Utah, the Ducks look certain to move into the top 10, but what’s the cap? Watch out for Oregon coming in at No. 8, but our official prediction is that Dan Lanning’s crew will take the Utes’ spot at No. 10.
11.Pennsylvania (11): While chaos reigns around Penn State’s position in the poll, the Nittany Lions were one of the few ranked teams to absolutely live up to dominance expectations with a 55-10 win at Rutgers.
12. Washington (15): The Huskies will rise thanks to turmoil in the top 16 and a dominant 54-7 win over Colorado.
13. Notre Dame (18): Since joining a game slate in 2014, Notre Dame is now 40-7 in regular season games against the ACC after a 44-0 win over Boston College. The Fighting Irish, who are now 8-3 this year, closed their home table with their 28th straight win of the regular season against an ACC opponent. They meet USC in the regular season finals next week on the road.
14. State of Kansas (19): The Wildcats, who have won three of their last four, are closing in on a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game after putting 41 points on the board in the first half and an early lead en route to a 17-point win in West defended Virginia. A win over rival Kansas next week secures Kansas State a shot at a rematch with TCU in Dallas for the conference title.
15. UCLA (16): The Bruins gave up a 14-point lead in the first quarter and a four-point lead in the third when they fell to the Trojans at a key point. With back-to-back losses and now three in the last five weeks, the goodwill UCLA received early in the season can now be overlooked given the tough closing stages.
16. Utah (10): The bill has fallen due from a ranking perspective for Utah, a team with three losses this year but a win over the Pac-12’s only one loss team. The win over USC has led to some strength in the rankings that has overridden losses to Florida and UCLA, but now that Utah enters the three-loss teams debate after losing to Oregon, the head could be up -The Bruins’ head-to-head advantage determines how those teams stack up in the rankings.
17. State of Florida (20): The Seminoles scored touchdowns on five of six first-half possessions and never allowed a visit from Louisiana to become competitive, driving to a 49-17 win.
18. Tulane (21): An AAC showdown Thursday night with SMU was supposed to be a tough test for the Green Wave after last week’s narrow loss to UCF, but the Mustangs turned the ball over five times and Tulane seized the chance in the spotlight with a 59-24 -Victory that should impress voters.
19. Cincinnati (22): Now 9-2 after a 20-point win at Temple, Cincinnati can earn a fourth straight AAC title game if it beats Tulane on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
20. Coastal Carolina (23): Saturday’s game against Virginia was canceled as the school and community used Saturday to honor the three UVA players who were killed in last weekend’s tragic campus shooting.
21. North Carolina (13): The best North Carolina has to offer in terms of rankings is just two losses after losing 21-17 at home to Georgia Tech. Dropping entirely from the rankings from 13th is too drastic an adjustment for this point in the season, but the drop will be dramatic given both the disappointing result (loss as a 21-point favourite) and lack of profile High end wins.
22. Ole Fraulein (14): The last four results for Ole Miss give little indication of where the Rebels are stacking up against the best teams in the country. There are three losses — 25 to LSU, 6 to Alabama, and 15 to Arkansas unranked — and a single win of three at Texas A&M. Ole Miss is a few plays down from 9-2 with a top 10 win, but also a few plays down from 7-4 and out of the top 25. It looks like we have Lane Kiffin’s team just in the standings after Saturday night’s loss in Fayetteville.
23. Oregon State (25): The Beavers have now won eight games for the first time since 2012 after winning a convincing 31-7 away win over Arizona State. They will have a chance to solidify their chances of completing the season against Oregon next week.
24. Texas (NR): We expect the Longhorns to rejoin the ranks. Not only was Texas one of the top vote winners outside of the top 25 in last week’s poll, but there will be “sticker shock” for voters who expected Saturday’s game in Kansas to be a potential upset , and instead saw a dominance 55-14 Longhorns win.
25.UCF (17): After losing 17-14 at home to Navy, UCF will see a drop on each ballot, but the Knights will likely get enough votes to stay in the top 25. UCF now has 8-3 wins over Tulane and Cincinnati but losses to Louisville, ECU and Navy. The Midshipmen went into the game 3-7, giving the Knights their worst loss of the season. Still, UCF is a team with only three losses and two wins against other teams in the top 25.
Expected exit: Oklahoma State (24)