CFP Top 25: USC stays put at 11, Stanford back in rankings

John McGillen

USC stayed put at No. 11 while Washington dropped out of the top 10 in the latest College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings released Tuesday. USC is up to No. 11 and Washington is down to No. 18, while Washington State jumped up to No. 14 and Stanford got back in the rankings at No. 22.

There is a new No. 1 in the rankings, with Alabama claiming the top spot following Georgia’s loss to Auburn. No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Miami (FL) and No. 4 Oklahoma round out the top four.

USC

The Trojans took care of business Saturday afternoon in Boulder, soundly beating Colorado 38-24 (the lead was a lot larger than that for most of the game) to clinch a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

With two weeks left in the regular season and conference championship week remaining, a lot still needs to happen for the Trojans to hop past seven contenders to get into the semifinals. We’ll start with the SEC – USC would probably best be served by Alabama winning out, handing Auburn a third loss and Georgia a second en route to the SEC title and No. 1 ranking for the College Football Playoff. That would get the Trojans to No. 9. As far as the ACC goes, Clemson does have to play at 7-3 South Carolina before the ACC championship game against Miami (FL), so the Trojans would probably want Clemson to lose to the Gamecocks and have Hurricanes defeat the Tigers in the ACC title game. Moving on, USC could use a Stanford win over Notre Dame.

So, if all the above breaks right, that gets USC to No. 7 (assuming the Trojans beat UCLA and whoever in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game, of course), and then they’d need to jump past either the Big 12 or Big Ten conference champion in the final rankings. Losses are still potentially on the board for Ohio State (at Michigan) and Wisconsin (vs. Michigan, at a Minnesota team that might need the game to get bowl eligible). In the Big 12, the best bet is for someone to beat Oklahoma in the conference championship game, meaning there would be a two-loss Big 12 champ. But none of that guarantees that USC would get to No. 4. It comes down to who the committee would respect more – a two-loss Pac-12 champion, a two-loss Big Ten champ, or a two-loss Big 12 champion.

As far as stuff closer to home is concerned, USC would probably be best served by Washington State defeating Washington in the Apple Cup to set up a rematch in the Pac-12 Football Championship. That would give USC the opportunity to defeat a team it lost to earlier in the season and give the Trojans the bargaining chip that there is only one team on their schedule that they didn’t beat, which may be enough to push it past another potential two-loss conference champion.

Washington

Washington’s 30-22 loss to Stanford almost certainly knocked the Huskies out of the College Football Playoff, dropping them nine spots to No. 18, but the Huskies are still alive for a New Year’s Six bowl. Even if Stanford defeats Cal to clinch the North and keep Washington from repeating, a win over Utah and a triumph in the Apple Cup over a ranked Washington State squad would get the Huskies to 10-2 with no chance for another loss heading into the last week. As teams lose conference championship games (coupled with the aforementioned wins over Utah and Wazzu), the Huskies could move up into a more favorable spot.

However, the Dawgs still have a path to the Pac-12 Football Championship Game, and that’s probably what they are more concerned with. Assuming the Huskies win against Utah and Washington State (not the smallest assumptions to make), Washington also needs Cal to beat Stanford in Big Game on Saturday night, and that’s asking a lot of a Cal team that hasn’t defeated the Cardinal since 2009, and really hasn’t come all that close in their seven consecutive losses.

Washington State

Nice win for the Cougs at Utah on Saturday, one that not only gets Wazzu to 9-2 and up five spots in the rankings to No. 14, but also has them in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 North. It’s this simple – beat Washington, and the Cougs are going to Santa Clara for a little Dec. 1 fun. The College Football Playoff is out of the question for the Cougs – a 34-point loss at Cal and 21-point loss at Arizona will do that to ya – but a New Year’s Six bowl is still very much within reach for Mike Leach and friends. Needless to say, winning the Pac-12, which would include a second win over USC this year, would be a mighty big deal.

Stanford

No three-loss team is going to make the College Football Playoff, but Stanford earned its place back in the rankings at No. 22 thanks to upsetting then-No. 9 Washington on Friday night. Bryce Love made another Heisman statement by rushing for 166 yards and three touchdowns against a tough defense in front of a national audience, but more importantly, Stanford is in pretty good shape on the conference front. While the Cardinal doesn’t have control of its own destiny, Stanford can appear in its fourth conference championship game in six years if it beats Cal and Washington beats Washington State. Considering that Stanford has won seven straight against the Golden Bears and Washington has won four straight and seven out of the last eight against the Cougars, a Stanford-USC battle on Dec. 1 is a very distinct possibility.

Here’s the CFP Top 25 in full:

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