CFP Top 25: No. 12 Washington leads the way for 5 ranked Pac-12 teams

USA TODAY Sports / John McGillen

There are five Pac-12 teams ranked in the first College Football Playoff Top 25 of 2017, with reigning Pac-12 champion and 2016-17 College Football Playoff participant Washington leading the way at No. 12. USC is the top-ranked Pac-12 South team at No. 17, while Stanford is No. 21, Arizona is No. 22 and Washington State is No. 25. If the national semifinals were to begin today, No. 1 Georgia would face No. 4 Clemson, while No. 2 Alabama would play No. 3 Notre Dame.

The Pac-12 is tied with the SEC for the most teams in the initial CFP rankings.

Washington

No two-loss team has made the College Football Playoff in its first three years of existence, meaning No. 12 Washington is the Pac-12’s best – and perhaps only – hope at sending a team to the national semifinals for the third time in four years. Save for the first half of the season-opener against Rutgers and the loss to Arizona State, the Huskies have looked largely unbeatable en route to a 7-1 record. The problem for the Huskies is their “cupcake” of a schedule that ESPN made light of during the Cal game: Washington has yet to play a ranked team and could theoretically go the whole regular season without doing so (if Stanford loses at Washington State and the Cougars lose at Utah before Apple Cup, that might do the trick). One website has the Huskies at 54th in strength of schedule.

The good news is that the remainder of the 2017 slate is against teams that are .500 or better, and a potential Pac-12 Football Championship Game would almost certainly pit the Huskies against a ranked opponent. Winning out doesn’t guarantee the Dawgs a spot in the Final Four, but it will certainly give them a strong case. The Dawgs will look to get to 8-1 when they take on Oregon Saturday night.

USC

The sky was falling in Troy after a 49-14 blowout loss in South Bend to the on-fire Fighting Irish, but Clay Helton and Co. rebounded superbly with a dominant 48-17 win at Arizona State that got USC to 7-2 and a No. 17 ranking In the initial CFP Top 25. The Trojans’ two losses are to ranked teams and they have also defeated No. 22 Stanford and face a ranked Arizona squad this weekend, so an 11-2 Trojans team would have as strong of a case as any two-loss team in the country if enough craziness happens around the country (USC is 12th in strength of schedule according to the same site that had Washington 54th). But first thing’s first – that Arizona game is going to be one of mammoth proportions, as the winner gets a huge leg up on the Pac-12 South and the loser loses any slight hope of making the College Football Playoff.

Stanford

The Cardinal might be No. 21, but it arguably has the best shot outside of Washington at making the College Football Playoff. That’s because the Cardinal’s schedule is loaded in November – at No. 25 Washington State followed by home games against No. 12 Washington, Cal and No. 3 Notre Dame. Pick up four top-25 wins to get to 11-2, assuming a win over ranked Pac-12 South team in the conference title game, and that resume will look very buff. That said, if Bryce Love can’t go against Washington State, it’s hard to imagine the Cardinal winning in Pullman, let alone ripping off an undefeated November, considering how stagnant the offense looked against 1-7 Oregon State without the Heisman Trophy candidate last Thursday. But the opportunity is certainly there – win out and get some help (a win over Notre Dame would take care of the whole FBS independents problem by giving the Irish a second loss), and the Cardinal could very well be one of the last four teams in the hunt for the national title.

Arizona

Raise your hand if, at the beginning of the season, you thought the Wildcats would be ranked in the initial CFP rankings. Keep your hand raised if you thought the Wildcats would be ranked here following that 30-24 loss to Utah that left the ‘Cats at 2-2. If your hand is raised, you’re either on the Arizona football team, a family member of someone on the team, or Nostradamus reincarnated. One of the biggest surprises in the nation, No. 22 Arizona’s season was wholly revitalized by Khalil Tate taking over the reins as starting quarterback. He has done so well in a just handful of games that people are considering him a Heisman candidate, and the outlook for Rich Rodriguez’s program is much brighter now than it was at the beginning of the month. A trip to the national semis is likely out of the picture, but the ‘Cats can make a huge statement with a win at No. 17 USC Saturday night.

Washington State

The 58-37 loss to Arizona Saturday night probably eliminated the 25th-ranked Cougars from CFP contention, as a non-conference schedule that did not feature a Power 5 team and a 34-point loss to a 4-5 Cal squad will be a lot to overcome if the field gets crowded with two-loss teams. However, Wazzu still controls its own destiny to the Pac-12 Football Championship Game, and a win over No. 21 Stanford Saturday afternoon on the Palouse will move the Cougs closer to the top 20 at the very least.  Then it’s off to Utah and Washington to wrap up the regular season, so if Washington State does get to 10-2 and book a trip to Santa Clara, it will be well-deserved. A loss against the Cardinal likely eliminates the Cougars from conference contention.

Here is the College Football Playoff Top 25 in full:

  1. Georgia
  2. Alabama
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Clemson
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Ohio State
  7. Penn State
  8. TCU
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Miami (FL)
  11. Oklahoma State
  12. Washington
  13. Virginia Tech
  14. Auburn
  15. Iowa State
  16. Mississippi State
  17. USC
  18. UCF
  19. LSU
  20. NC State
  21. Stanford
  22. Arizona
  23. Memphis
  24. Michigan State
  25. Washington State

 

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