CFP Top 25: No. 7 Stanford vs. No. 20 USC for Pac-12 title

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Stanford has jumped up to No. 7 in the latest College Football Playoff Top 25, inching closer to a potential semifinal spot. Pac-12 South champion USC is back in the rankings at No. 20, while Pac-12 North runner-up Oregon is up to No. 16 and Utah is at No. 24.

If the College Football Playoff semifinals started today, No. 1 Clemson would play No. 4 Iowa, while No. 2 Alabama would meet up with No. 3 Oklahoma. The top-five spots remained the same from last week’s rankings.

Stanford

Conrad Ukropina’s boot lifted Stanford to a thrilling 38-36 win over then-No. 6 Notre Dame and, with some help from Baylor’s double-overtime loss to TCU (thanks, Horned Frogs), helped propel Stanford up two spots to No. 7 in the selection committee’s top 25. Not quite at a win-and-in scenario, Stanford will need some help to get into the Final Four. A win over No. 20 USC will probably at least propel the Cardinal to fifth, as you would figure that Stanford would jump the loser of the Big Ten championship game between No. 4 Iowa and No. 5 Michigan State. There’s also a good chance Stanford would surpass No. 6 Ohio State, having won a conference championship while Ohio State didn’t reach its conference championship game. That means Stanford needs No. 18 Florida to upset No. 2 Alabama in the SEC championship game or maybe No. 10 North Carolina to take down top-ranked Clemson in the ACC title bout. If it comes down to Stanford and North Carolina for that fourth and final spot, there will be an interesting debate. Who should get in – a two-loss Stanford team that played a nine-game conference schedule, beat Notre Dame and played in a tougher conference, or a one-loss North Carolina team that lost to 3-9 South Carolina and beat two FCS teams in its non-conference slate but went undefeated in ACC play and took down the No. 1 team in the nation in its league title game? None of that matters, of course, if Stanford loses to the Trojans.

Oregon

The Ducks had to sweat it out a bit against the Beavers, allowing a 24-point halftime lead dip down to one possession, but pulled it out in the end with a 52-42 triumph to end the regular season on a six-game winning streak. A lot of teams ahead of Oregon lost, but the Ducks were only able to jump up one spot to No. 16. The Ducks don’t get to make another impression on the selection committee, but they might sneak into a New Year’s Six bowl if the right chips fall. The most-likely scenarios appear to be the Alamo Bowl or Holiday Bowl, but the Ducks could get into the Rose Bowl if Stanford makes the College Football Playoff and are the highest-CFP-ranked Pac-12 team (which they’d almost certainly be in this scenario). There is also the possibility of Oregon making the Fiesta Bowl. As Andrew Greif explains in the last link above, a Pac-12 team could be a possibility due to geographic concerns. Find some Stanford gear to rock on Saturday night, Oregon fan.

USC

Newly-minted full-time head coach and all, Pac-12 South champion USC heads into the Santa Clara Showdown as the No. 20 team in the nation following a 40-21 thumping of rival UCLA. The highest-ranked four-loss team in the nation, USC will go to the Rose Bowl with a win over Stanford, a team it lost to in the third week of the regular season. Lose to the Cardinal for a second time this year, and USC could very well play its second consecutive game at Levi’s Stadium in the Foster Farms Bowl. The Holiday Bowl could also come into play for the Trojans.

Utah

The Utes got no love for edging out 4-9 Colorado, dropping one spot to No. 24, but wrapped up their best regular season since joining the Pac-12 at a 9-3 mark and 6-3 record in conference play. Options abound, Utah will need to wait until Sunday to find out where it will play its 13th and final game of the season. Current projections have the Utes playing in the Sun Bowl, Holiday Bowl or Las Vegas Bowl.

Here’s the CFP Top 25 in full:

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Iowa
  5. Michigan State
  6. Ohio State
  7. Stanford
  8. Notre Dame
  9. Florida State
  10. North Carolina
  11. TCU
  12. Baylor
  13. Ole Miss
  14. Northwestern
  15. Michigan
  16. Oregon
  17. Oklahoma State
  18. Florida
  19. Houston
  20. USC
  21. LSU
  22. Temple
  23. Navy
  24. Utah
  25. Tennessee
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