NCAAF 2017-18: Week 12 Rankings

  1. Alabama (10-0): The Crimson Tide just had a good test at Mississippi State and succeeded – with notable injuries. As long as Alabama continues to execute, they are the obvious #1.
  2. Miami (FL) (9-0): 41-8 win against #3 Notre Dame? Yeah, Miami has a heck of a quality win now. The team is playing as impressive as ever and looks like one of the most all-around teams in the nation. As a squad proven against great opposition with an undefeated record, the Canes deserve this top spot. They haven’t really beaten a good team on the road like Alabama has, but they haven’t lost to a team at home like Oklahoma has either.
  3. Oklahoma (9-1): With another great win to put on their resume, the Sooners appear to be the best 1-loss team in the nation. Oklahoma has the best quarterback in the nation, and the team – even the defense – looked unphased. With 3 wins against respectable 2-loss teams – 1 home and 2 away – OU has the best wins in the nation right now.
  4. Clemson (9-1): One of the other most all-around teams besides Miami is their conference foe Clemson. Besides road wins at Virginia Tech and NC State, Clemson also has an important win against Auburn.
  5. Auburn (8-2): Clemson’s win against Auburn is even more significant now after Auburn’s dominating win against #1 Georgia. The Tigers have only lost 2 very close road games to the Tigers – Auburn and LSU – and have walked through the rest of their competition, including Georgia and the other Tigers (Missouri). Auburn has performed impressively while faced with a tough schedule and can become the very first 2-loss team to make the College Football Playoff with a home win against Alabama and another win against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
  6. Wisconsin (10-0): The Badgers have beaten Northwestern and Iowa at home, but that’s their best wins of the season. Beating Michigan at home and Minnesota on the road won’t help the Badgers’ resume out much more, and even their opponent in the Big Ten Championship Game will have at least 2 losses. Wisconsin has one of the best defenses in the nation, but their offense is highly turnover-prone. More importantly, their weak schedule is leaving the Badgers unproven.
  7. Central Florida (9-0): Along with Wisconsin, undefeated UCF moves up since they haven’t lost, whereas Georgia and Notre Dame just got blown out this week. The Knights’ strength-of-schedule is about the same as Wisconsin’s (58th vs 64th in the nation), and they have a ranked win against Memphis, who has only lost to UCF. The higher Wisconsin goes, the higher UCF should go since they are executing just as well without much of an easier road. Central Florida finishes the season with games against the next two best teams in their division, Temple and South Florida, and likely another home game against Memphis in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. It’ll be hard for the Group of Five squad to make their way into the College Football Playoff, but they should definitely be considered if they win out.
  8. Georgia (9-1): The Bulldogs were rolling through their season and have a road win against Notre Dame, but a blowout loss against Auburn sets UGA back. They play against two decent teams to finish out the regular season – Kentucky at home and Georgia Tech on the road – but Georgia will really have the opportunity to prove themselves in the SEC Championship Game, whether it’s a rematch against Auburn or a match against Alabama, who would’ve beaten Auburn on the road. If the Dawgs win out, they would have made up for the Auburn loss and should enter back into the top 4. However, it is something to note that no team who has lost by more than 14 points has made the College Football Playoff.
  9. Notre Dame (8-2): Following the top 8, here is where the playoff run cutoff seems to be. The Fighting Irish probably won’t become the first independent team to make the playoff ever this season, having lost a home game and getting blown out in another loss. Notre Dame has a road win against Michigan State and other quality wins against USC and NC State, all three of which were convincing, but the Irish – even if they win at Stanford – seem to lack a win significant enough to get them into the College Football Playoff with 2 losses.
  10. TCU (8-2): The Horned Frogs have struggled offensively in their losses, but, thankfully for TCU, both of them were on the road against ranked teams – Iowa State and, a really good team, Oklahoma. Also luckily for the Horned Frogs, assuming they win out with Oklahoma, they will rematch the Sooners in the return of the Big 12 Championship Game. A neutral site win for the Frogs for the conference title would outweigh a road loss in conference play, but would that be enough to get 2-loss TCU into the College Football Playoff? Possibly this would be an exception to my top 8 cutoff, but they will need quite some help from the teams ahead of them.
  11. Oklahoma State (8-2): Now, here is where the cutoff certainly is: after the top 10. The Cowboys’ road win at Iowa State adds another quality win to their resume as they also knocked off West Virginia on the road. Unfortunately for the Pokes, Oklahoma State has two home losses to conference leaders Oklahoma and TCU, which will not only keep them out of the College Football Playoff but probably also the Big 12 Championship Game as well.
  12. Ohio State (8-2): The Buckeyes had a huge bounce-back win this week, demolishing Michigan State 48-3 after getting crushed by Iowa 55-24. Due to the killer versus Iowa adding on to their home loss against Oklahoma, Ohio State is out of the playoff race even if they beat struggling Michigan on the road and win the Big Ten Championship Game against unproven Wisconsin.
  13. Penn State (8-2): PSU is sitting with two losses again this year, but, unlike last year, the Nittany Lions are out of playoff discussion. Somehow avoiding a road loss to Iowa on the final play, Penn State’s luck on the road ran out against the two ranked opponents they have faced this season – Ohio State and Michigan State – resulting in grueling nail-bitting blown leads and losses to divisional opponents. If PSU could have at least beaten Ohio State, who they led 28-10 in the 2nd quarter, 35-20 at the end of the 3rd quarter, and 38-27 with less than 5 minutes to go in the game, Penn State would be set to make the Big Ten Championship Game taking on Wisconsin, who they beat in the conference title last year. While that would’ve put them in the playoff race, and though they had a case to make the College Football Playoff with 2 losses last year, the Nittany Lions probably won’t get a chance to win the conference this year.
  14. USC (9-2): The Trojans, however, are already going to the Pacific-12 Championship Game. Upon reflection, however, USC’s 2-loss record and their blowout loss to a team who had a blowout loss themselves isn’t very convincing. More than that, the Trojans’ best win by the end of the regular season will be a home match against Stanford, who they will probably rematch in the Pac-12 Championship. So, there won’t really be anything convincing enough to put USC in the playoff race.
  15. NC State (7-3): Is the Wolfpack really the best 3-loss team in the nation? NC State has looked impressive and conference play, and their only conference loss was to Clemson by a touchdown. Out of the conference, they hung in against Notre Dame on the road and lost their opener to South Carolina in a thriller. North Carolina State is a balanced squad that had a lot of potential to shine if they had not lost their playmaker Nyhiem Hines when the team needed him most: against Notre Dame and Clemson.
  16. Michigan State (7-3): The blowout loss to Ohio State is a stinger that adds on to their blowout loss against Notre Dame. The Spartans also lost to Northwestern, so their wins against Iowa, Michigan, and Northwestern aren’t enough to cancel out their losses, especially given that MSU is most likely out of the Big Ten Conference Championship Game after this week.
  17. Michigan (8-2): Yeah, Michigan hasn’t done much this year, but Harbaugh’s squad only has 2 losses: a home loss to Michigan State and a road one to Penn State. Now that Florida isn’t much of a quality win, Michigan’s resume depends on UofM finding a way to knock off Wisconsin on the road and – finally – beating rival Ohio State. Even then, the Wolverines won’t have enough to make the College Football Playoff since the Wisconsin win would be devalued after the Badgers are exposed, since the Ohio State win would be a home win against a 3-loss team, and since Michigan may not even make the Big Ten Championship Game even by winning out.
  18. Mississippi State (7-3): The Bulldogs had a heck of a fight against Alabama, but their undefeated home record no longer remains after this week. They also don’t have a chance to get another ranked win aside from LSU, who has 3 losses, including one to Troy at home, and Mississippi State got blown out by Georgia and Auburn.
  19. Virginia Tech (7-3): The Hokies have lost to good teams – Clemson, Miami, and Georgia Tech – but their only ranked win was their neutral-site season opener against 3-loss West Virginia. Virginia Tech really needed to win a couple of those games because now VT’s schedule, like Mississippi State’s, doesn’t have any more opportunities left to truly prove themselves.
  20. West Virginia (7-3): The Mountaineers won again and beat Iowa State just last week, but West Virginia has lost to 2 of the top 3 teams in the Big 12 in addition to Virginia Tech, games WVU really could’ve used to make a run.
  21. Arizona (7-3): The Wildcats started off slow without Khalil Tate, but, with him, they have only lost to USC on the road while knocking off several conference opponents, including Washington State by a convincing 21-point margin.
  22. Washington State (9-2): The Cougars have mainly been dependent on winning at home this year, which they have done perfectly so far, such as beating Stanford. Their blowout losses to Arizona and California (37-3!), however, tanked the Cougars and knocked them out of the playoff race even if Wazzu finds a way to win at Washington and against USC on neutral ground to cap off their season.
  23. Stanford (7-3): The Cardinal have only lost road games this year; Stanford lost at USC, Washington State, and San Diego State. With a quality win against Washington and a home match against Notre Dame upcoming, Stanford looks like a solid 3-loss team with even more room to grow should they win out.
  24. Washington (8-2): The Huskies were the Pac-12’s last playoff hope, but, after losing to Arizona State, they have now lost to Stanford. Washington has no quality wins, although that would change if they beat Washington State and USC. Even then, those games are not enough to launch UW back into playoff contention.
  25. Memphis (8-1): Memphis sneaked by UCLA, an average Pac-12 team who teams ahead of them in the rankings beat up, earlier in the season and have also beaten Houston on the road. Even though they have only lost to UCF on the road, their wins aren’t good enough to rank them much higher. New Year’s Six hopes are alive for the Tigers, though. Memphis might rematch UCF in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game, so winning out should get the solid 1-loss squad (who would have made up for their loss) an easy bid to a New Year’s Six bowl.
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