Analyzing the Week 12 AP Poll Ahead of the Next College Football Playoff Rankings

    The latest AP Top 25 poll was released Sunday afternoon and while there weren't any major changes at the top of the rankings, there are several

    November 11, 2018

    The latest AP Top 25 poll was released Sunday afternoon and while there weren’t any major changes at the top of the rankings, there are several big-picture takeaways we can make ahead of the release of the Week 12 College Football Playoff rankings.

    Here’s what we learned from the latest AP poll.

    There are nine College Football Playoff contenders

    There was no change among the top seven teams – Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Michgian, Georgia, Oklahoma and West Virginia – in the AP Top 25 poll in Week 12. Washington State rose two spots to No. 8, leapfrogging Ohio State and LSU, with the Buckeyes checking in at No. 9.

    These are the only remaining undefeated and one-loss teams from a power conference and realistically, they’re the only ones that still have a chance of making the playoff.

    The four playoff teams will come from this group of nine teams.

    LSU drops to No. 10

    The Tigers are ranked behind Washington State and Ohio State in the latest AP poll, while they were ahead of both schools, plus West Virginia, in last week’s College Football Playoff rankings. Even with two losses, including a blowout defeat at the hands of No. 1 Alabama, the playoff selection committee still clearly values LSU’s wins.

    After LSU’s unconvincing 24-17 win over 2-8 Arkansas, will the committee drop the Tigers behind any more or all of the one-loss teams? It’s not a question of if LSU can still make the playoff but rather a litmus test for how much the Cougars, Mountaineers and Buckeyes must improve their resumes to approach the top four.

    Potential wins over top-25 opponents available in Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 Championship games

    The SEC Championship will be the biggest conference championship game this season between currently undefeated No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Georgia, given that it’s a rematch of last year’s national championship game and will feature a pair of top-five teams. But there is the potential for other playoff contenders to pick up a top-25 win in their respective conference championship games, even in a year in which the Big Ten West and Pac-12 South aren’t particularly strong.

    Northwestern is the only Big Ten West team ranked in the latest AP poll at No. 24, while No. 21 Utah is the only Pac-12 South team ranked this week. The Wildcats clinched their spot in the Big Ten Championship with a win over Iowa in Week 11 and the Utes lead the Pac-12 South.

    Even in the Big 12, where co-leaders Oklahoma and West Virginia are ranked No. 6 and No. 7 in the AP poll, respectively, No. 13 Texas and No. 18 Iowa State are still in the Big 12 Championship race and represent a potential top-20 win if the Sooners or Mountaineers win the conference.

    In case you needed a reminder of how good the SEC West is…

    Mississippi State is in fifth place in the division but the Bulldogs are ranked No. 25 in the country in the latest AP poll. Much like the Big Ten East, where Penn State is tied for third with Michigan State (but listed fourth in the standings since it lost to the Spartans) and ranked No. 16 in the AP poll, the SEC West can produce eight- or nine-win teams that are among the best 25 teams in the country but aren’t even serious contenders for their conference championship.

    Disparity in perception of Utah State

    Utah State is the highest-ranked team from outside the Power 5 besides No. 11 UCF. The Aggies are ranked No. 14, just like they were last week. Meanwhile, they weren’t ranked in the Week 11 College Football Playoff rankings.

    That’s a significant difference in how the playoff selection committee perceives Utah State (9-1) compared to the media and proves just how difficult it is for a team to make, let alone climb, the rankings if it doesn’t play in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC or Pac-12, and hasn’t beaten at least one Power 5 team.

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