College Football Rankings: B/R’s Top 25 After Week 13
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When Thursday delivered one of the wildest Egg Bowls of all time, we should’ve known that Week 13 would feature wall-to-wall chaos.
On the final Saturday of the regular season, four of the Top Nine teams in the College Football Playoff rankings suffered a loss:
- No. 2 Ohio State got drilled at home by No. 3 Michigan
- No. 5 LSU lost at 4-7 Texas A&M
- No. 8 Clemson lost to South Carolina for the first time since 2013
- No. 9 Oregon somehow blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead in the blink of an eye in a loss at No. 21 Oregon State
After all of that carnage, though, the CFP picture is almost set in stone heading into Championship Week. It’s just about a foregone conclusion that it will be Georgia, Michigan, TCU and USC, in that order, atop the list when the new CFP rankings come out on Tuesday.
And while that order may change as a result of next weekend’s championship games, the Bulldogs, Wolverines and Horned Frogs finished their 12-0 regular seasons and should be locked in, even if they were to suffer a loss.
If USC loses in the Pac-12 championship, maybe it will be replaced by 11-1 Ohio State. But after the way the Buckeyes defense got smacked around by Michigan, maybe not.
Outside the CFP picture, No. 15 Notre Dame, No. 17 North Carolina, No. 20 Ole Miss, No. 24 Cincinnati and No. 25 Louisville all went down this week, shaking up the rankings from top to bottom.
Bleacher Report’s college football experts—David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard—each submitted a Top 25 ballot.
This is the consensus.
Bleacher Report’s Post-Week 13 Top 25:
1. Georgia (Previous Week: 1)
2. Michigan (3)
3. TCU (4)
4. USC (5)
5. Ohio State (2)
6. Alabama (7)
7. Tennessee (10)
8. Penn State (11)
9. Clemson (9)
10. Washington (12)
11. Utah (13)
12. Kansas State (15)
13. Florida State (16)
14. LSU (6)
15. UCLA (14)
16. Oregon State (22)
17. Tulane (21)
18. Oregon (8)
19. Notre Dame (17)
20. South Carolina (NR)
21. Texas (NR)
22. UCF (NR)
23. Boise State (25)
24. UTSA (24)
25. Purdue (NR)
Others Receiving Votes: Troy, Cincinnati, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi State
Who’s Hot: JJ McCarthy and the Playoff-Bound Michigan Wolverines
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Over his last seven games, Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy had completed just one pass that went for more than 35 yards. Even that lone chunk play wasn’t from a deep ball, as Blake Corum took a screen pass and turned it into a 41-yard scamper.
As such, it wasn’t surprising that Ohio State’s defensive approach to The Game was selling out to stop an excellent rushing attack and trusting the secondary to hold its own in single coverage down the field.
Basically, the Buckeyes dared McCarthy to beat them deep.
Which he did.
On Michigan’s opening drive, McCarthy rolled to his left and found Ronnie Bell deep for a 33-yard gain on 3rd-and-8, putting the Wolverines in field-goal range.
After a couple of three-and-outs, McCarthy connected with Cornelius Johnson with pressure in his face for what looked like an eight-yard gain…until the receiver spun away from an arm tackle and hit the afterburners for a 69-yard score.
For all of two minutes, it was Michigan’s longest play of the entire season. But on the Wolverines’ next offensive snap, McCarthy launched one a good 50 yards down the middle of the field to a wide-open Johnson for a 75-yard touchdown.
On Michigan’s first drive of the third quarter, McCarthy again aired one out, this time down the right sideline for 45 yards to Colston Loveland for the first touchdown of the tight end’s career.
And after that, things finally opened up for the rushing attack.
Michigan had 11 carries for 20 yards at halftime but averaged slightly better than 10 yards per carry in the second half after Donovan Edwards ran in long touchdowns from 75 and 85 yards out. McCarthy also ran one in for a score early in the fourth quarter.
Michigan’s longest gain (and score) of the entire season through the first 11 games was 67 yards, but the Wolverines had four touchdowns of at least 69 yards in this 45-23 statement road victory.
It’s not that surprising that they won, but it is stunning how they won, especially with star running back Blake Corum limited by injury to just two early touches.
At this point, Michigan should be in the College Football Playoff no matter what happens in the Big Ten championship. Had Clemson and/or LSU taken care of business on Saturday, maybe there would still be a scenario in which a loss to Purdue knocks the Wolverines out of the Top Four.
The only way Michigan could drop out is if it loses to Purdue, if TCU and USC win their championships and if the selection committee somehow decides that Ohio State should move back ahead of the Wolverines. And if that happens after the performance we just witnessed in Columbus, we riot.
Who’s Not: Yet Another CFP Hopeful Against South Carolina
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One week removed from pummeling then-CFP No. 5 Tennessee into oblivion, it looked like South Carolina was headed for a proverbial hangover game against No. 8 Clemson.
Spencer Rattler threw a pick-six early in the first quarter, and the Tigers made it 14-0 a few minutes later with a 90-yard touchdown drive. The “Will Clemson beat their in-state rivals by enough of a blowout to impress the CFP selection committee?” watch appeared to be on.
From that point forward, though, the Tigers couldn’t seem to do anything right.
While Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei had a horrendous afternoon through the air (8-of-29 for 99 yards), Rattler bounced back from that rough start to finish with 360 passing yards and three total touchdowns.
Clemson ran the ball almost at will, averaging 6.4 per carry. However, the Tigers refused to capitalize on that advantage, gradually letting the Gamecocks claw back for a 31-30 victory.
Clemson led 23-14 at halftime, which has been an insurmountable margin for opposing teams for the vast majority of Dabo Swinney’s tenure. The Tigers had won 68 consecutive games when leading at halftime, dating back to the November 2016 collapse against Pittsburgh.
But even in that game, they were only up by one point at the intermission. The last time Clemson blew a multiple-possession halftime lead was all the way back in September 2010, when they blew a 17-3 edge over Cam Newton and eventual national champion Auburn.
With the improbable loss, Clemson officially dropped out of the CFP conversation. No matter what happens in the ACC championship against North Carolina, that won’t change.
Fun Fact: TCU Finishes Off Improbable Undefeated Season
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Did you know, Part I: It wasn’t until the post-Week 4 AP poll that TCU received its first Top 25 vote. The Action Network’s Brett McMurphy was the first to throw the Horned Frogs a bone, giving them a 25th-place ranking in the September 25th poll.
And now they sit at 12-0, all but certain to be the unanimous No. 3 teams in the nation after finally winning a game in convincing fashion.
They had eked out seven consecutive wins by 10 points or fewer, including last week’s dramatic victory on a last-second field against Baylor. But they quickly opened up a 24-0 lead in the first quarter against Iowa State and never looked back en route to a 62-14 shellacking of the Cyclones.
It was TCU’s first win by a margin of at least 48 points since a 55-7 victory over Southern to open the 2018 campaign and its first win by at least 48 points against an FBS opponent since a 55-3 victory over Iowa State to end the 2014 regular season.
Did you know, Part II: In the current quarter century of college football’s BCS/CFP era, TCU becomes just the second team to reach a mark of 12-0 after posting a losing record during the previous regular season. The other was Houston, who went 5-7 in 2010 before going undefeated through 12 games in 2011.
For TCU’s sake, here’s hoping for a different conference championship outcome, as that Cougars team got drilled 49-28 by Southern Mississippi in its 13th game.
But regardless of how this story ends, what an unbelievable turn-around it has been in Sonny Dykes’ first season at the helm. This team was an absolute disaster on defense one year ago, allowing 491.3 total yards per contest in its 11 games against FBS competition.
This year, they slashed that by nearly 100 yards per game down to a much more respectable 391.5, and they just kept finding ways to win as a result.
Looking Ahead: Championship Weekend Will Provide Final Few Pieces of CFP Puzzle
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There will be 11 games over championship weekend. Here’s what’s at stake in each one.
Akron at Buffalo: 5-6 Buffalo is seeking bowl eligibility in a make-up of a Week 12 game that got snowed out.
North Texas at UTSA: The Roadrunners are vying for a second consecutive C-USA title against a North Texas team that ended their quest for perfection last November.
Utah vs. USC (in Las Vegas): In what might be the only game with in/out CFP implications, USC should head to the playoff with a win. With a loss, perhaps the Trojans get replaced in the Top Four by Ohio State. And if they do lose, it would instead be Utah in the Rose Bowl as the Pac-12 champion, with USC slipping into the “wild-card spot” in the Cotton Bowl against the AAC champion.
Coastal Carolina at Troy: After three consecutive losing seasons, Troy has won nine straight games to earn a spot in its first Sun Belt championship game. The Trojans will face Coastal Carolina, who just got destroyed 47-7 by James Madison.
Toledo vs. Ohio (in Detroit): Ohio is 0-4 all-time in the MAC championship game and is seeking its first conference championship since 1968.
Fresno State at Boise State: The winner goes to the LA Bowl. Boise State won the regular-season meeting 40-20, but Fresno State did not have QB Jake Haener at the time.
UCF at Tulane: In all likelihood, the winner will play in the Cotton Bowl. UCF won at Tulane on Nov. 12 behind a huge day from QB John Rhys Plumlee. Can the former Ole Miss QB/WR do it again with a New Year’s Six bowl hanging in the balance?
Clemson vs. North Carolina (in Charlotte): For the second consecutive year, the ACC championship is completely irrelevant to the College Football Playoff conversation. The winner goes to the Orange Bowl, while the loser likely settles for a spot in the Gator Bowl. Clemson has won seven of the last 11 ACC title games, while North Carolina is seeking its first.
Kansas State vs. TCU (in Arlington): With a win, TCU would finish no worse than No. 3 in the CFP rankings, likely setting up a showdown with Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl. But even with a loss, the Horned Frogs should get into the playoffs. So, win or lose, Kansas State probably represents the Big 12 in the Sugar Bowl.
Michigan vs. Purdue (in Indianapolis): The Big Ten East Division champ has won the conference title game every season since splitting the conference into two geographic divisions eight years ago, and undefeated Michigan will be a colossal favorite to extend that streak to a ninth consecutive season. Got to think the Wolverines would still finish in the Top Four, even if they were to suffer an unlikely loss.
LSU vs. Georgia (Atlanta): What once looked like the biggest domino in a potentially chaotic playoff conversation is now a pretty meaningless game. After losing to Texas A&M, there’s no way a three-loss LSU would get into the playoff with a win. And there’s no way Georgia would drop out if it loses. But, hey, it should be a fun game, and it would be a colossal game (as would the ACC championship) if we had that expanded 12-team playoff now.