College Football Playoff top 25: Oregon stays at No. 2, UCLA up to No. 9
Oregon remains at No. 2 in the latest College Football Playoff top 25 released Tuesday afternoon. If the playoff began today, Oregon would play No. 3 Florida State, while top-ranked Alabama would get a rematch with No. 4 Mississippi State. Other Pac-12 teams receiving recognition from the selection committee are UCLA (No. 9), Arizona State (No. 13), Arizona (No. 15), Utah (No. 17) and USC (No. 19).
The No. 1 team in last week’s rankings lost, but an idle Oregon held true at No. 2 with Alabama claiming the top spot after knocking off previously-top-ranked Mississippi State. The story remains the same for Oregon – win out, and the Ducks are in the College Football Playoff. Colorado is the next obstacle on Oregon’s path.
The Bruins were left for dead in October, but boy, oh boy how quickly the landscape changes in college football. On a bye week, the Bruins got some serious help from Oregon State and now control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South as a result of the Beavers’ upset of Arizona State. It’s looking more and more probable that a two-loss Bruins team can make the final four. The one-spot jump up to No. 9 means five teams in front of it has to lose. One of those teams, Oregon, will be taken care of if UCLA can get to the Pac-12 Football Championship Game and win it. There are plenty of potential pitfalls for the teams ahead of UCLA, too – No. 4 Mississippi State and No. 8 Ole Miss play, and assuming Alabama remains at one loss (therefore making the Crimson Tide the SEC West champs), it’d be tough to make a case for the loser of that game to be ranked higher than a two-loss Pac-12 champion. Also, No. 5 TCU has to play on the road against a Texas team that is starting to gel at the right time, No. 7 Baylor has to play No. 12 Kansas State and No. 3 Florida State and No. 6 Ohio State still have to play ACC and Big Ten title games, respectively. Of course, UCLA still has to deal with a tough schedule of its own, starting with rival USC Saturday night.
One week after being on top of the college football world, Arizona State fell short in Corvallis and gave up control of the Pac-12 South. Also hurting the Sun Devils’ resume was Notre Dame’s unexpected setback against six-loss Northwestern. Put those two things together, and you have a precipitous seven-spot drop to No. 13. Now the Sun Devils’ Pac-12 title hopes rest in UCLA losing one of its last two games to USC or Stanford to get back on the fringe of the playoff chase, not to mention ASU having to do its own heavy lifting at Arizona (and beating a rejuvenated Wazzu team in Tempe).
The Wildcats just keep finding ways to win, this time getting a last-second field goal from Casey Skowron to beat Washington 27-26 in a game in which they were outgained by more than 125 yards. As such, the 'Cats have eight regular-season wins for the first time in the RichRod era and have a chance to do some more damage despite falling one spot to No. 15. Arizona’s final two regular-season games are against top-25 teams in Utah and Arizona State, and wins against both of those teams would give the Wildats three wins against the CFP top 25 with a chance for a fourth in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game (provided USC loses to UCLA and UCLA loses to Stanford, so that’s not a done deal). So you’re telling me there’s a chance…
Three losses are either one or two too many for a top-4 spot, but another gritty performance from the Utes in a 20-17 double-overtime win at Stanford has Whittingham’s boys up a good six slots slots to No. 17. The win ensured Utah a winning season for the first time since 2011 and tied a school record with its fourth Pac-12 victory in a season. The Utes can finish with a winning Pac-12 record for the first time if they can split against Arizona and Colorado. Win both, and a 9-3 Utah team with wins over UCLA, USC and Arizona would almost certainly be in the top 15 and maybe sniff the top 10. Nobody is more battle-tested in conference than the Utes: Six of their seven conference games have been decided by six points or fewer, three have gone to overtime and the one game that wasn’t a one-score contest – at Oregon – had plenty of intriguing moments.
Well if it wasn’t for a Jael Mary and a touchdown conceded in the final 10 seconds in Salt Lake City, the Trojans would be 9-1 and well in the hunt for a berth in the College Football Playoff. Those things did happen, however, and USC is barely on the periphery as a result. That said, the Trojans have racked up a couple of nice wins in a row, the latest one being a 38-30 triumph over a much-improved Cal team, and a bunch of losses in front of them allowed the Trojans to comfortably hop in the CFP top 25 for the first time at No. 19. Better yet, Sark and Friends have a chance to spoil UCLA’s shot for a spot in the top 4 and Pac-12 Football Championship Game. Not only that, but a win on Saturday in the Rose Bowl would have everybody else in the Pac-12 South chasing the Trojans as USC would finish at 7-2 in conference with a dub over the Bruins. USC would still need some help to get to Santa Clara, but that’s certainly not a bad start to the Steve Sarkisian era.