Tomorrow’s Top 25 Today: USC, Clemson playoff profiles improve amid jump in college football rankings

Tomorrow’s Top 25 Today: USC, Clemson playoff profiles improve amid jump in college football rankings

The razor-thin margin for error in college football was on display throughout the 12 weeks of scores and results. It was a week where the scoreboard showed a few upsets for the top 25 teams, but we were a few bounces away from total chaos. College Football Rankings.

No. 1 Kentucky backed up Georgia in the red zone, held a 10-point lead with 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and missed a field goal and forced a turnover on downs to stay undefeated. No. 2 Ohio State leads Maryland by just three points late in the battle on the road against an unranked opponent. Meanwhile, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 TCU both won on last-second field goals. If a few plays (or even just a few kicks) have different results, the AP Top 25 voters will have a tough challenge picking the carnage on their updated ballot.

It goes without saying that voters will have an easy job given Saturday’s results.

Controversy about the piece of work will be on full display against recent results, including Tennessee’s slotting after a stunning 63-38 loss at South Carolina. The Volunteers are now 9-2 and have wins over both Alabama and LSU, yet Saturday night’s loss as a 22-point favorite could send Tennessee falling behind one or both of those SEC foes. A similar reservation would drop further down the rankings after Ole Miss lost for the second week in a row, this time to unranked Arkansas. The Rebels are 8-3 and fell just one score short of Toppling last week, while voters looking for quality wins must determine how valuable close wins are compared to other teams with three losses to Kentucky and Texas A&M.

By the end of the night, five teams from the top 16 of the AP Top 25 would have suffered losses, giving other teams plenty of opportunities to advance. Benefiting the most from the limited chaos were USC and Clemson, who each took care of business (in different fashions) to remain atop their respective conferences entering Week 13. If both can win, College football The playoff selection committee may have some very difficult decisions to make on Sunday’s picks.

Here’s what we think the new AP Top 25 will look like on Sunday:

1. Georgia (Last Week — 1): The absence of an obvious challenger for the No. 1 spot maintains the status quo as the Bulldogs remain No. 1 after a 16-6 win at Kentucky.

2. Ohio State (2): The Buckeyes may have gotten a few more first-place votes after pouring in points late in a 43-30 win at Maryland, but voters tracking scores throughout the day will note that it was a three-point game deep in the fourth quarter. Freshman running back Dallan Hayden had a breakout performance with 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 coming off Saturday’s win over Illinois — from Blake Corum’s health to how many field goal attempts it might miss — but just holding on to a top-five ranking would be enough to win.

4. TCU (4): TCU’s dream season continues as quarterback Max Duggan leads a fourth-quarter scoring drive, opening the door for a potential jump into the top three in the rankings. Our guess is that AP voters will maintain last week’s order, but the playoff committee has fewer voters thus could be more volatile. TCU may finish No. 4 on Sunday but is No. 3 thanks to Tuesday night’s game-winning field goal at Baylor.

5. USC (7): The Trojans fell behind 14-0 after the first quarter, outscored the Bruins by 17 in the final 45 minutes to win 48-45 to remain the Pac-12’s only losing team. With Tennessee falling in the PAC-12 championship game and USC dominating the stretch, the Trojans should leapfrog two-loss LSU into fifth place.

6. LSU (6): The Tigers enjoyed the Senior Day festivities with a 41-10 demolition of UAB. Next up is a trip to College Station to face Texas A&M, then the SEC Championship Game against Georgia.

7. Clemson (9): The Tigers have now won 40 consecutive home games with a 40-10 win over Miami. Thanks to some of Saturday’s results elsewhere, things are looking up for Clemson’s CFP chances. It marks just the ninth 40-game home winning streak in FBS history, the first since Nebraska won 47 straight home games from 1991-98.

8. Tennessee (5): An injury to star QB Hendon Hooker added a layer of frustration for a program that saw its playoff hopes dashed with a lopsided loss to a division foe.

9. Alabama (8): No major adjustments for a 34-0 win over FCS Austin Peay.

10. Oregon (12): By beating Utah, the Ducks seem likely to jump into the top 10, but what’s the ceiling? Look for Oregon as high as No. 8, but our official projection is that Dan Lanning’s crew will move the Utes up to No. 10.

11. Penn State (11): While there was confusion surrounding Penn State’s position in the polls, the Nittany Lions were one of the few ranked teams to fully deliver on expectations of dominance with a 55-10 win at Rutgers.

12. Washington (15): The Huskies would go on to sweep the top 16 and roll to a dominant 54-7 win over Colorado.

13. Notre Dame (18): Since joining a schedule agreement in 2014, Notre Dame is now 40-7 in regular season games against the ACC following a 44-0 win over Boston College. The Fighting Irish, now 8-3 on the year, closed out their home slate with their 28th regular-season win over an ACC opponent. They will face USC on the road in next week’s regular-season finale.

14. Kansas State (19): Winners of three of their last four, the Wildcats are closing in on a Big 12 Championship Game spot after putting 41 points on the board in the first half and protecting an early lead en route to a 17-point win at West Virginia. A win against rival Kansas next week secures Kansas State’s shot at a conference title matchup with TCU in Dallas.

15. UCLA (16): The Bruins gave up a 14-point lead in the first quarter and a four-point advantage in the third as they fell to the Trojans at a crucial point. With back-to-back losses and now three in the last five weeks, the goodwill UCLA received at the start of the season can now be overlooked in its rough finishing stretch.

16. Utah (10): The bill comes from a ranking standpoint for Utah, a team with three losses on the year but one win over the Pac-12’s only losing team. Beating USC provided some ranking strength that overrode losses to Florida and UCLA, but now that Utah has entered the contention of three-loss teams after a loss to Oregon, the head-to-head edge for the Bruins could determine how those teams stack up in the rankings.

17. Florida State (20): The Seminoles scored five of six first-half touchdowns and never let visiting Louisiana get competitive, en route to a 49-17 victory.

18. Tulane (21): Thursday night’s AAC showdown with SMU was expected to be a tough test for the Green Wave in the wake of last week’s close loss to UCF, but the Mustangs turned the ball over five times and Tulane seized the spotlight opportunity with a 59-24 win. That should influence voters.

19. Cincinnati (22): Now 9-2 after a 20-point win at Temple, Cincinnati can advance to a fourth straight AAC title game if it beats Tulane the Friday after Thanksgiving.

20. Coastal Carolina (23): Saturday’s game against Virginia was canceled as the school and community took Saturday to honor the three UVA players killed in the tragic campus shooting last weekend.

21. North Carolina (13): The best North Carolina has in terms of rankings is just two losses after falling 21-17 at home to Georgia Tech. Falling from No. 13 in the rankings is too harsh an adjustment for this point this season, but a high-end win would be dramatic considering both the disappointing result (losing as a 21-point favorite) and the lack of profile.

22. Ole Miss (14): Ole Miss’ last four results offer little insight into where the Rebels stand against the nation’s best teams. There are three losses — to LSU by 25, Alabama by six and Arkansas by 15 — and the lone win by three at Texas A&M. Ole Miss is a few games away from being 9-2 with top-10 wins but also 7-4 and a few games away from being outside the top-25. As it stands, we have Lane Kiffin’s team hanging right in the rankings after Saturday night’s loss in Fayetteville.

23. Oregon State (25): The Beavers have now won eight games for the first time since 2012 following a 31-7 road win over Arizona State. They’ll have a chance to solidify the top spot next week against Oregon.

24. Texas (NR): We project the Longhorns to climb back up the rankings. Not only was Texas one of the top pollsters outside the top 25 in last week’s balloting, but there will be some “sticker shock” for voters who expected Saturday’s game at Kansas to be a potential upset and instead saw a dominant 55-14 Longhorn victory.

25. UCF (17): UCF is going to be a drop on every ballot after a 17-14 home loss to Navy, but the Knights will likely get enough votes to finish in the top 25. Now 8-3, UCF has wins against Tulane and Cincinnati. But losses to Louisville, ECU and Navy. The Midshipmen went 3-7 heading into the game, handing the Knights their worst loss of the season. Still, UCF is a team with just three losses and two wins against other teams ranked in the top 25.

Projected to drop out: Oklahoma State (24)

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