Predicting the College Football Playoff Rankings for Week 12

    Four top-10 teams beat a ranked opponent in Week 11, while No. 6-ranked, Big 12 co-leader Oklahoma narrowly avoided its second loss of the season to keep

    November 11, 2018

    Four top-10 teams beat a ranked opponent in Week 11, while No. 6-ranked, Big 12 co-leader Oklahoma narrowly avoided its second loss of the season to keep its playoff hopes alive.

    Here’s how we predict the College Football Playoff rankings will look in Week 12.

    1. Alabama (10-0): The Crimson Tide has picked up its two biggest wins of the season — both shutouts — in back-to-back weeks, following up its 29-0 win over LSU with a 24-0 victory against No. 16 Mississippi State. Alabama’s defense was nothing short of dominant, holding the Bulldogs to 1.5 yards per carry and 169 total yards, so even though the Tide’s offense struggled to move the ball like it typically does, Alabama was able to coast to its 10th straight win by at least 20 points.

    The biggest potential road block for the Tide and its national championship hopes is if starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who left the game in the third quarter after taking a hit to his knee, were to have a serious injury.

    Alabama will finish its non-conference schedule with a home game against The Citadel next week, followed by the Iron Bowl in its regular season finale. A clash with Georgia in the SEC Championship awaits on December 1.

    2. Clemson (10-0): Clemson’s trip to Chestnut Hill to play No. 17 Boston College appeared to be the toughest remaining regular season game and while the Tigers only led 13-7 at halftime, the Eagles proved to be no match. Clemson won 27-7 to clinch the ACC Atlantic. The Tigers host Duke and South Carolina in their final two regular season game before playing the winner of the ACC Coastal, which is currently led by Pitt, in the conference championship.

    3. Notre Dame (10-0): Even with starting quarterback Ian Book sidelined due to injury, Notre Dame rolled Florida State 42-13, bringing the Fighting Irish within two games of a perfect regular season. If they can beat Syracuse and USC, they’ll clinch their first playoff appearance.

    4. Michigan (9-1): The Wolverines’ trip to Rutgers in Week 11 wasn’t as lopsided as Michigan’s 78-0 win in Piscataway, New Jersey, in 2016, but they still cruised to a 42-7 victory after the Scarlet Knights tied the game 7-7 in the first quarter. Michigan held Rutgers quarterback Artur Sitkowski to 8-of-19 passing for 40 yards and an interception, while the Wolverines’ signal caller, Shea Patterson, threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns.

    Michigan has looked every part of a team deserving of a top-four ranking but a road trip to Ohio State and potentially a Big Ten Championship matchup against Northwestern stand in the Wolverines’ way of their first playoff appearance.

    5. Georgia (9-1): The Bulldogs beat Auburn for the second meeting in a row — the latest a 27-10 win in Athens over the No. 24-ranked Tigers — since losing at Auburn 40-17 almost a year ago to the day. Running back D’Andre Swift set a new career-high for rushing yards in a game for the second week in a row as he took 17 carries for 186 yards and a touchdown.

    The Bulldogs host UMass and Georgia Tech the next two weeks before playing in the SEC Championship against No. 1 Alabama.

    6. Oklahoma (9-1): The Sooners survived a high-stakes shootout, which seem to take place weekly in the Big 12 this time of year, after breaking up Oklahoma State’s two-point conversion attempt to win 48-47 in Bedlam. It was Oklahoma’s usual suspects who accumulated most of the team’s 702 yards of offense as quarterback Kyler Murray threw for 349 yards (142 to wide receiver Marquise Brown), while running backs Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon ran for 165 yards and 124 yards, respectively.

    After nearly joining Texas and Iowa State as two-loss teams in Big 12 play, Oklahoma was able to keep pace with West Virginia, which beat TCU earlier on Saturday, atop the conference standings. They’ll square off in Morgantown in the final week of the regular season.

    7. LSU (8-2): The Tigers held off a struggling Arkansas team for a 24-17 win in their first game since dropping from the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings. LSU’s defense was dominant against the run and while its offense had its own struggles running the ball, quarterback Joe Burrow was an efficient 15-of-21 for 195 yards and one touchdown.

    8. Washington State (9-1): The Cougars got off to a slow start at Colorado, where the Buffaloes led 7-0 after the first quarter, but Washington State scored the next 31 points. Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew II threw the ball 58 times for 335 yards and two touchdowns while also running for a touchdown, keeping the Cougars in the playoff conversation.

    The Cougars don’t have to go on the road for the rest of the season as they host Arizona and Washington in the next two weeks, when they’ll have the chance to clinch the Pac-12 North at home.

    9. West Virginia (8-1): There was no post-Texas letdown for West Virginia, which rolled TCU 47-10 — after being held scoreless in the first first quarter — behind quarterback Will Grier’s 343-yard, three-touchdown day. The Mountaineers finish the regular season against the Oklahoma schools, traveling to Oklahoma State in Week 12 before hosting Oklahoma.

    Texas’ trip to Stillwater knocked the Longhorns out of the CFP conversation and the loser of Oklahoma-West Virginia could get shut out of the Big 12 Championship. The Mountaineers have proven they’re a Big 12 contender. We’ll find out in the next two weeks if they’re a playoff contender.

    10. Ohio State (9-1): The Buckeyes’ 26-6 win over No. 18 Michigan State wasn’t always pretty — actually, was it ever? — as the two schools combined for 17 punts, four turnovers and 2.7 yards per carry. But a win is a win and it keeps Ohio State in contention for the Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff.

    Assuming the Buckeyes take care of business at Maryland, they’ll host Michigan in a Week 13 game that could propel the winner to the College Football Playoff and leave the losing team with an offseason full of questions about what could have been.

    11. UCF (9-0): After taking a 21-0 lead early against Navy, UCF let the Midshipmen have a glimmer of hope as they cut the Knights’ lead to 11 points three times in the second half of UCF’s 35-24 win. UCF ran the ball almost as well as the run-heavy Midshipmen on a per-carry basis — 5.7 yards per carry and three touchdowns compared to Navy’s 5.9 yards per carry and three scores — while quarterback McKenzie Milton was an efficient 17-of-21 for 200 yards and two touchdowns.

    UCF finishes AAC regular-season play against Cincinnati and South Florida, which are two of the better teams in the conference.

    12. Syracuse (8-2): A week after Clemson ran up the score on Louisville, 77-16, Syracuse put up another big number on the Cardinals, winning 54-23. The Orange had success on the ground, led by running back Moe Neal’s eight carries for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

    Syracuse’s only losses this season have come against the division leaders in the ACC, Clemson and Pitt. While the Orange are out of the conference championship hunt, they have the chance to pick up one of the biggest wins of the entire college football season next week at Notre Dame.

    13. Florida (7-3): The Gators fell behind 14-0 and 31-14 against South Carolina but they rallied each time to win 35-31 on quarterback Feleipe Franks’ touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. Florida will finish the season against Idaho and Florida State so if it can win out, then win its bowl game, the Gators could match their combined win total from the last two seasons.

    14. Kentucky (7-3): In the span of two weeks, Kentucky went from sharing the SEC East lead to riding a two-game losing streak after a pair of 17-point losses. It’s one thing to lose to Georgia, which made the national championship game last season, but losing to a Tennessee team that entered Week 11 with a 1-4 record in conference play has to sting.

    The Wildcats’ offense remains an issue as they’ve failed to score more than 17 points in any of their last five games.

    15. Texas (7-3): Texas was on the right side of a final-minute score in Week 11 after losing to West Virginia in heartbreaking fashion in Week 10. The Longhorns beat Texas Tech 41-34 to stay tied with Iowa State, one game behind Oklahoma and West Virginia in the Big 12 standings. They’ll play the Cyclones in Week 12 before finishing the year against Kansas.

    16. Penn State (7-3): The Nittany Lions haven’t fared well against the Big Ten’s top teams this season, at least those that reside in their division, but a 22-10 win over Wisconsin gives Penn State the chance to end the year on a positive note. Penn State finishes the regular season against Rutgers and Maryland, giving the Nittany Lions a good chance to carry a three-game winning streak and 9-3 record into the bowl season.

    17. Iowa State (6-3): The Cyclones beat Baylor 28-14 to stay one game behind Big 12 leaders Oklahoma and West Virginia and they’re by no means out of the conference championship race. Iowa State will finish conference play against Texas and Kansas State so if it wins both games and Oklahoma beats West Virginia in Week 13, Iowa State would qualify for the Big 12 Championship thanks to its win over West Virginia in October.

    18. NC State (6-3): The Wolfpack were the first ranked team to fall in Week 11 as they lost to Wake Forest 27-23 on Thursday after taking a 10-point lead on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Demon Deacons won on Jack Freudenthal’s 32-yard touchdown reception with 37 seconds left.

    NC State’s three remaining games are against Louisville, North Carolina and East Carolina.

    19. Boston College (7-3): As crazy as it sounds, Boston College was fairly competitive in the first half of its 27-7 loss against No. 2 Clemson despite losing starting quarterback Anthony Brown in the first quarter and not scoring a single point on offense the entire game. The Eagles won the turnover battle 2-0 and held the Tigers to 4.3 yards per carry (a week after they averaged 13.3 per attempt), but Boston College’s offense only accumulated 120 total yards itself.

    The Eagles close the season with games against Florida State and Syracuse.

    20. Cincinnati (9-1): The Bearcats beat South Florida 35-23 behind four touchdowns from running back Michael Warren II, setting up a huge Week 12 game at UCF. If Cincinnati wins, which is certainly a tall task given UCF’s winning streak, there could potentially be a three-way tie atop the AAC East standings with those two schools and Temple.

    21. Washington (7-3): The Huskies were off in Week 11 and given that eight teams ranked between No. 10 and No. 25 lost over the weekend, there’s no reason for Washington to get bumped out of the rankings. In fact, we expect the Huskies to move up slightly. Washington will host Oregon State in Week 12 before it travels to Washington State for a Friday night game in Pullman that could decide which school in the state wins the Pac-12 North and plays for the conference championship.

    22. Utah (7-3): The Utes remain the Pac-12 South frontrunners after beating Oregon 32-25 on Saturday with wins over Arizona and USC in their back pocket for tie-breaking purposes. Utah finishes the regular season with games against Colorado and BYU.

    23. Utah State (9-1): Utah State won its ninth straight game since losing 38-31 at Michigan State in Week 1. The Aggies’ latest win was a 62-24 victory over San Jose State, in which they set a school record with 804 yards of offense. Quarterback Jordan Love was 32-of-42 for 491 yards and five touchdowns while running back Darwin Thompson carried the ball 15 times for 140 yards and a touchdown.

    Utah State, which is currently in first of the Mountain West’s Mountain division, finishes the season with a pair of road trips to Colorado State and Boise State.

    24. Boise State (8-2): The Broncos beat No. 23 Fresno State 24-17 on Friday after scoring 17 unanswered points in the second half. Boise State has now won five games in a row and will effectively take Fresno State’s spot in the rankings.

    25. Northwestern (6-4): The Wildcats clinched the Big Ten West with a 14-10 win in Iowa City over the Hawkeyes. Despite its winless non-conference record, Northwestern owns wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa. Two of its four losses were in competitive games against playoff contenders Michigan and Notre Dame.

    This might be a flawed Northwestern team with an unusual resume, but the Wildcats are going to play for a conference title. It’s reasonable to believe Northwestern is one of the 25 best teams in the country.

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