Welcome to Rivalry Week.
The matchup between Ohio State and Michigan will get the most attention given both teams are 10-1 and trying to win the Big Ten East. The Buckeyes grabbed the College Football Playoff committee’s attention after a 56-7 blowout against Michigan State on Saturday.
That wasn’t the most-impactful result from Week 12. Utah beat Oregon 38-7, which will lead to a major shift in the top four in the fourth set of rankings Tuesday. The door for Cincinnati is open, and Alabama might have some cushion even if the Crimson Tide loses to Georgia in the SEC championship game.
Of course, the Iron Bowl comes first. Bedlam also features two top-10 teams in our rankings with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Ohio State-Michigan, however, is a de facto play-in game of sorts. Rivalry Week should be fun.
Sporting News continues to sort those teams out based on how the contenders should be ranked.
BENDER: Two-man race for the Heisman, plus more Week 12 takeaways
Each week, we will break down the playoff picture based on how we think the CFP committee should rank the top-10 teams. Future results are not projected:
Four in the College Football Playoff
1. Georgia (11-0)
Next week: at Georgia Tech
Garris Schwarting returned a fumbled Georgia interception 65 yards for a touchdown. That was Charleston Southern’s only score in a 56-7 blowout loss. Georgia quarterbacks Stetson Bennett, JT Daniels and Carson Beck all three had TD passes. A total of 11 Georgia players had a rushing attempt, including defensive tackle Jordan Davis on a 1-yard TD. A dozen Bulldogs caught a pass. The Bulldogs can be the only Power 5 school to finish unbeaten in the regular season with a victory against Georgia Tech. Georgia’s defense has allowed 7.5 points per game. There remains no doubt at No. 1.
2. Ohio State (10-1)
Next week: at Michigan
Who says no? The Buckeyes could be ranked ahead of the Crimson Tide in the next set of rankings, and we won’t be surprised if it happens. Oregon’s second loss also is great news in Columbus. Ohio State hammered Michigan State 56-7 in a top-10 showdown that might prompt the committee to bump the Buckeyes up. Ohio State has piled up three victories against ranked opponents at home, and C.J. Stroud has emerged as the Heisman Trophy favorite the last two weeks around an offense that averages 47.2 points per game. The Game at Michigan is next. Ohio State has won the last eight meetings.
BENDER: Ohio State leaves no doubt in MSU rout
3. Alabama (10-1)
Next week: at Auburn
Arkansas challenged Alabama in a shootout at Bryant-Denny Stadium, and the Crimson Tide won 42-35. It’s nit-picking, but Alabama’s last two SEC West wins were one-score games, and it’s a challenge playing at Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Bryce Young (31 of 40, 559 yards, 5 TDs) continues to be brilliant, and Jameson Williams (8 catches, 190 yards, 3 TDs) is an interesting late-ballot Heisman contender. If you want to put the Crimson Tide ahead of the Buckeyes, then that’s fine, too. They can settle it on the field in a potential 2-3 matchup if it comes to that.
4. Cincinnati (11-0)
Next week: at East Carolina
Style points, huh? The Bearcats beat SMU 48-14, and that score was at 41-0 after three quarters. Desmond Ridder passed for 274 yards, rushed for 46 yards and totaled four TDs. Jerome Ford returned at running back, and the defense limited the Mustangs to 199 total yards. Oregon’s loss opened the door, and the Bearcats still have the head-to-head victory against one-loss Notre Dame. This is a great example of Bearcats coach Luke Fickell getting his team to control what they can control. That led to another berth in the American Athletic Conference championship game where they will face Houston. Cincinnati should take the final spot for now.
5. Michigan (10-1)
Remaining schedule: at Ohio State
Would the committee dare bump the Wolverines up one spot to create a top-five showdown with the Buckeyes? That would be for theatricial purposes. Michigan can settle it on the field. The Wolverines hammered Maryland 59-18 in the final tuneup before The Game. Cade McNamara (21 of 28, 259 yards, 2 TDs) continued to play well, and Michigan should get running back Blake Corum back for the Buckeyes. This is Jim Harbaugh’s third team that takes a 10-1 record into the Ohio State game, and this one is at the Big House. Win, and the Wolverines make their first Big Ten championship game.
6. Notre Dame (10-1)
Remaining schedule: at Stanford
The Irish routed Georgia Tech 55-0 in an impressive blowout, but the path to the playoff remains complicated without the benefit of a conference championship game. Notre Dame does look impressive with five straight double-digit victories. Jack Coan passed for 285 yards and two TDs, and the running game racked up 212 yards on 6.4 yards per carry. That loss to Cincinnati remains an issue, and get ready for a potential debate involving two-loss Alabama and one-loss Notre Dame. That could be coming soon.
Four to watch
7. Oklahoma State (10-1)
Remaining schedule: vs. Oklahoma
Bring on Bedlam. The Cowboys won their fourth straight game since the loss at Iowa State with another impressive showing at Texas Tech. Oklahoma State won 23-0, and the defense continued an impressive stretch. The Red Raiders were limited to 25 rushing yards. Quarterback Spencer Sanders continues to lead the offense, and now the chance to break the six-game losing streak the Sooners is here. Can a one-loss Big 12 champion still sneak in the playoff? Oklahoma State has a reasonable shot knowing it beat Baylor and Oklahoma did not.
8. Oklahoma (10-1)
Remaining schedule: at Oklahoma State
The CFP committee might not see it the same way, but Oklahoma has a better path than any two-loss team. The Sooners bounced back from the Baylor loss with a 28-21 victory against Iowa State; another one-score win that required a last-minute defensive stand. It is Oklahoma’s sixth one-score win this season. That said, Oklahoma has just one loss and a path to winning the Big 12 championship with a victory at Oklahoma State on Saturday. ACC front-runner Wake Forest lost, too. Caleb Williams (8 of 18, 87 yards, TD, INT) struggled against the Cyclones and has not played well in three of his last four games, so there is a lot to prove.
9. Oregon (9-2)
Next week: vs. Oregon State
Sometimes Vegas just knows. Utah’s Britain Corvey returned a punt 78 yards on the final play of the first half, which capped a first-half disaster in a 38-7 loss on the road. Utah led 28-0 at half. The Ducks couldn’t get off the field on third down; allowing 11 of 14 conversions. The Utes’ defense limited Oregon to 63 rushing yards. These teams could meet in a rematch of the Pac-12 championship game, but that second loss likely knocked Ducks from in the top four to out of the CFP. The Pac-12 has not had a team in the playoff since 2016.
10. Baylor (9-2)
Remaining schedule: vs. Texas Tech
Baylor grinded out a 20-10 victory on the road at Kansas State with the help of a tough defense that allowed just 263 yards. The Bears can close out a 10-win regular season under second-year coach Dave Aranda with a home victory against the Red Raiders. Baylor will reach the Big 12 title game with a win next week and an OU loss. A two-loss Big 12 team isn’t get into the College Football Playoff, but Baylor still can win the Big 12 title game for the first time and snag a New Year’s Day Six berth.
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