College Football Playoff top 25: Oregon jumps into top 4, ASU is No. 9
Oregon crept into the top 4 of the latest College Football Playoff top 25 and would be the No. 4 seed if the national semifinals started today, taking on top-seeded Mississippi State. The 12-person committee has Florida State at No. 2 and Auburn ranked third. Other Pac-12 teams making the top 25 are Arizona State (No. 9), Utah (No. 17), UCLA (No. 18) and Arizona (No. 19).
Oregon exorcised its Stanford demons and then some in a 45-16 beatdown of the two-time defending Pac-12 champions Saturday night in Eugene, all but ensuring the Ducks a spot in Santa Clara. While the Ducks only have to win one more game to play in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game, they’ll have to keep on winning out if they want to stay in the top 4. Things will only get tougher this weekend, as Oregon must travel to Salt Lake City to take on a Utah team coming off a heartbreaking OT loss to Arizona State. Should the Ducks escape Rice-Eccles with a W (far from a sure thing), 11-1 wouldn’t look so far off – the schedule eases up with Colorado and Oregon State before the Dec. 5 championship bout. Nipping at the heels of the Quacks are fifth-ranked Alabama and sixth-ranked TCU. No. 3 Auburn and Alabama still have to play each other, so it's very likely one of those two will finish behind the Ducks should Oregon keep on winning.
It’s looking more and more like a one-loss Pac-12 champion will get a spot in the national semifinals, meaning the ninth-ranked Sun Devils are right in the thick of it. Kicker Zane Gonzalez made sure the Forks remained at one loss with a game-winning field goal to lift ASU past Utah in overtime, thus boosting the Forks up five spots from No. 14. Now it’s time to play an opponent everyone in the Conference of Champions would like to see the Sun Devils beat – No. 10 Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish tried to get out of this game, but now it’s one both teams need to bolster their College Football Playoff resumes. If the Forks take down the Golden Domers in Tempe, they not only almost assure themselves of a top-10 ranking by the selection committee next week but will also raise the conference’s profile in the eyes of the committee, further bolstering the chances of a one-loss Pac-12 team making the final four. Can the Forks bring home another banner victory to the West Coast?
Tough one to swallow Saturday night in Tempe for the 17th-ranked Utes. Although the Utes didn't drop in the College Football Playoff top 25 after a hard-fought defeat at the hands of the Sun Devils, the loss may very well cost them a shot at playing in the final four. The door isn’t completely shut on Kyle Whittingham and Friends, however, because a win against Oregon at home on Saturday night would certainly bring the Utes some national attention and probably a top-15 ranking or close to it next week. There are other good wins to be had on the schedule, too, with a trip to Stanford the week after and Arizona coming to town before the regular season finale against Colorado. Like UCLA, the Utes will need some help to get to the Pac-12 title game (namely, Arizona State losing at least one more time), which is probably the only way they have even a remote shot at making the College Football Playoff.
Remember when it looked like the Bruins’ season was over after back-to-back home losses to Utah and Oregon? Well UCLA has rebounded quite nicely with three straight victories, the last one being a 17-7 triumph over then-No. 12 Arizona that helped the Bruins jump up four spots from No. 22 to No. 18. While Brett Hundley was impressive on the ground and through the air, the Bruins’ defense put forth an even more jaw-dropping performance by holding the Wildcats to just 3.2 yards per play. That rough stretch in early October might be too much for the Bruins to overcome, but if UCLA wins out, there’s a chance it would be able to play in its third Pac-12 Football Championship Game in four years. So in a glass-half-full world for the Bruins, wins over four teams with winning records to wrap up the pre-bowl season (Washington, USC, Stanford and presumably Oregon) would make for a juicy 11-2 application.
The No. 19 Wildcats are still having a very good season and could still find a way to Santa Clara, but losses in two out of their last three games have dropped the Fighting RichRods from No. 10 in the AP poll to very much on the outside looking in for a spot in the final four. The Bruins’ defense forced Anu Solomon into his worst statistical game in a Wildcat uniform, as the quarterback completed just 38 percent of his passes in the 10-point loss to UCLA. After falling seven spots in the College Football Playoff top 25, Arizona will try to get right against Colorado this weekend before games against Washington, Utah and Arizona State round out the slate. Not in control of their own destiny in the conference or around the nation, a lot of dominoes would need to fall for the Wildcats to be a serious player in December.