CFP: Washington cracks the top 4; USC joins the party

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Washington has cracked the top four of the College Football Playoff Top 25, coming in at No. 4 in this week’s rankings. The Dawgs are one of five Pac-12 teams ranked in the CFP Top 25, alongside Colorado (No. 12), Utah (No. 15), USC (No. 20) and Washington State (No. 23). If the national semifinals were to start today, Washington would play top-ranked Alabama in one playoff game, while No. 2 Clemson would match wits with No. 3 Michigan in the other.

Washington

The Dawgs got some great news before they even hit the field Saturday night in Berkeley, as then-No. 4 Texas A&M had an unforgivable-by-CFP-standards loss to sub-.500 Mississippi State, paving the way for the Dawgs to inch up from No. 5 into the No. 4 spot. Of course, the Fighting Petersens had to take care of business against Cal, which they did in impressive fashion by pulling away from the Golden Bears for a 66-27 final count. After beating a middling team on the road, the Huskies now get a chance to boost their resume a bit with No. 25 USC coming to Montlake in front of the College GameDay audience. Ideally, Washington would probably like to move up to No. 2 or No. 3 (No. 1 wouldn’t be bad, either) to avoid a potential matchup with seemingly-unbeatable Alabama, but hey, no reason to get too picky right now.

Colorado

The last couple of wins haven’t been pretty for the Buffs, but they’ll take the W’s and run. Coming off a shortened bye week after beating Stanford in a 10-5 barnburner, the Buffs pulled away late from UCLA thanks to an Isaiah Oliver 68-yard punt return for a touchdown to win 20-10 against the Josh Rosen-less Bruins. As a result, the Buffs moved up three spots in the latest CFP poll to No. 12. With its first winning season since 2005 secured, the Buffs have a ton more to play for, as they are in the driver’s seat by a half-game over USC to be the South’s representative in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game. Up next is Arizona on the road, which should get Colorado to 8-2. If the Buffs win out, they could very well be in the top 10 heading into the conference championship game.

Utah

Bye week for the Utes, but they did move up one spot to No. 15. Kyle Whittingham’s bunch gets to work Thursday night for a date with Arizona State on the Sun Devils’ Senior Night. Keep on winning, and the Utes will have a chance to wrestle the South away from the Buffs in the 2016 regular season finale.

USC

Well looky here, guess who has fought its way on into the CFP rankings. Left for dead at 1-3 (it was an extremely tough schedule and the Trojans nearly beat Utah on the road, but everyone thought the sky was falling), USC has won five straight to secure bowl eligibility and jump to No. 20 after trouncing Oregon 45-20 behind Ronald Jones II’s four rushing touchdowns. Still in the hunt for a second-straight journey to Santa Clara, the Trojans have another tough game on the horizon at No. 4 Washington. Three losses are probably two too many to make a playoff push, but if the Trojans win out, don’t be surprised to find them inside the top 15 heading into a potential Pac-12 Football Championship Game (they still need some other stuff outside of their control for that to happen though).

Washington State

Washington State did what really good teams are supposed to do on Saturday night, and that’s destroy inferior competition. The Cougs showed no mercy for Arizona in a 69-7 trouncing of the Wildcats, paving the way for Luke Falk and Co. to move up two spots to No. 23 in the latest CFP rankings (it’s tempting to think about what the Cougars’ CFP ranking would be if they only beat Eastern Washington…). A basketball game will likely break out on the Palouse with Cal coming to town Saturday night, and if the Cougs can get past the Golden Bears, they will head into the most daunting part of their schedule at 8-2 and potentially a top-20 ranking with Colorado on the road and Washington at home to finish up the regular season. As long as the Cougs beat Cal, it will head into the Apple Cup with a chance to win the Pac-12 North, regardless of how the Colorado game plays out.

Here's the CFP Top 25 in full:

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Michigan
  4. Washington
  5. Ohio State
  6. Louisville
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Texas A&M
  9. Auburn
  10. Penn State
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Colorado
  13. Oklahoma State
  14. Virginia Tech
  15. Utah
  16. West Virginia
  17. North Carolina
  18. Florida State
  19. Nebraska
  20. USC
  21. Western Michigan
  22. Boise State
  23. Washington State
  24. LSU
  25. Arkansas
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