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Even without Big 12 title game, Oklahoma safe in CFB Playoff
0:56 | College Football
Even without Big 12 title game, Oklahoma safe in CFB Playoff
Tuesday December 1st, 2015

The 2015 regular season is in the books, so let’s take a quick look back before championship Saturday settles the College Football Playoff picture.

Only four teams held the No. 1 spot this season. Ohio State started with it before Michigan State took over. Utah claimed the top ranking after Week 4, but the Utes’ Week 8 loss to USC allowed Clemson to move up. The Tigers have held it ever since.

Among teams in the current top four, Iowa began the season unranked and didn’t enter the top 25 until after Week 5. Oklahoma dropped to No. 20 after its loss to Texas before climbing back into the playoff field. When Alabama fell to Ole Miss and followed that up with a shaky offensive performance against Louisiana-Monroe, the Crimson Tide sunk to No. 14. And Clemson bottomed at No. 13 before its victory over Notre Dame shot it back up.

A lot changes over the course of 13 weeks, as the path of each of the top four teams illustrates. That’s what makes this fun.

College Football Power Rankings
  • 1
    1Clemson Tigers
     
    last week: 1
    record: 12–0
    This was the first time since the Tigers took over the top spot that I’ve considered moving them down. Two shaky performances in the past three weeks haven’t exactly been inspiring. But after a closer look, Clemson’s two marquee wins over Notre Dame and Florida State and the absence of a loss keep it at No. 1.
     
    Last week: Beat South Carolina 37-32
    Next week: Saturday vs. North Carolina

  • 2
    2Alabama Crimson Tide
     
    last week: 2
    record: 11–1
    Since losing to Ole Miss in Week 3, Alabama has needed to stay perfect to stay in the playoff hunt. This may not be the deepest SEC, but what the Crimson Tide have done over the past nine games with a target on their backs and no margin for error is pretty impressive. Seven of those nine wins have come over teams that are now bowl-eligible.
     
    Last week: Beat Auburn 29-13
    Next week: Saturday vs. Florida

  • 3
    3Oklahoma Sooners
     
    last week: 6
    record: 11–1
    I’ve been a bit slower with my movement of Oklahoma than the playoff rankings have, but the Sooners’ demolition of Oklahoma State convinced me. No team is playing better right now, and wins over Baylor, TCU and the Cowboys in the last three weeks—two of which came on the road—are enough to offset the loss to Texas.
     
    Last week: Beat Oklahoma State 58-23
    Next week: No game

  • 4
    4Iowa Hawkeyes
     
    last week: 3
    record: 12–0
    Iowa’s schedule was better than it got credit for midway through the season. At that point the Hawkeyes had road wins over ranked Wisconsin and Northwestern teams and Pittsburgh was still in the hunt in the ACC Coastal. By season’s end, that schedule’s not looking so great, even though the Badgers and Wildcats have hung around in the rankings. Still, going 12–0 is tough to do.
     
    Last week: Beat Nebraska 28-20
    Next week: Saturday vs. Michigan State

  • 5
    5Michigan State Spartans
     
    last week: 4
    record: 11–1
    Ohio State fans wanted so badly for Michigan State to slip up against Penn State, an upset that would have sent the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title game. The Spartans didn’t even bother toying with the Nittany Lions, jumping out to a 20–3 lead by late in the second quarter en route to a 55–16 demolition.
     
    Last week: Beat Penn State 55-16
    Next week: Saturday vs. Iowa

  • 6
    6Ohio State Buckeyes
     
    last week: 9
    record: 11–1
    Finally! It took 12 games before the Buckeyes played like the loaded defended champs we expected would steamroll their way to a 12–0 record and a return to the playoff. The team that played Saturday in the Big House deserves to make the final field of four; it’s too bad some other team showed up for the first 11 games.
     
    Last week: Beat Michigan 42-13
    Next week: No game

  • 7
    7Stanford Cardinal
     
    last week: 13
    record: 10–2
    Good teams can beat you in a variety of ways. So even when Christian McCaffrey was held to 3.5 yards per carry and the Cardinal’s defense was gashed for 299 yards on the ground, Stanford found just enough to beat Notre Dame from quarterback Kevin Hogan and a clutch kick from Conrad Ukropina.
     
    Last week: Beat Notre Dame 38-36
    Next week: Saturday vs. USC

  • 8
    8Notre Dame Fighting Irish
     
    last week: 5
    record: 10–2
    Did any team play closer to expectations this season than Notre Dame? The Fighting Irish won all their games except for their two toughest matchups, at Clemson and Stanford. A 10–2 record with those two losses sounds about exactly like what could have been predicted of the Irish before the season. I guess you could say they are who we thought they were.
     
    Last week: Lost to Stanford 38-36
    Next week: No game

  • 9
    9TCU Horned Frogs
     
    last week: 16
    record: 10–2
    To settle what order to rank TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State, I decided to borrow from the Big 12’s own tiebreaker procedure with some slight modifications. All three lost twice and beat all the same conference teams below them (for the purposes of this exercise I’m assuming Baylor beats Texas on Saturday). Big 12 rules dictate we then turn to point differential on games amongst the teams. I tossed their scores against Oklahoma into this since that only seemed fair to factor how they did against the one team better than all three. That eliminates Oklahoma State, leaving only TCU and Baylor. Since the Horned Frogs beat the Bears, they get the better ranking.
     
    Last week: Beat Baylor 28-21 in 2OT
    Next week: No game

  • 10
    10Baylor Bears
     
    last week: 7
    record: 10–2
    See TCU’s ranking for why the Bears are behind the Horned Frogs. The weather gods played a cruel trick on college football fans, making us wait a year as anticipation built for Baylor-TCU only for rain to fall in such epic proportions in Fort Worth that Maryland-Rutgers produced more than three times the number of points in regulation as the Bears and Horned Frogs.
     
    Last week: Lost to TCU 28-21 in 2OT
    Next week: Saturday vs. Texas
     

  • 11
    11North Carolina Tar Heels
     
    last week: 12
    record: 11–1
    North Carolina is the most difficult team to rank because despite a full season of games, we still don’t really know if the Tar Heels are good or not. Eleven wins seem impressive, but none of them has come against a ranked team. The loss to South Carolina seems a red flag, but it happened nearly three months ago. Could North Carolina give Clemson a serious challenge? Possibly. Could the Tar Heels be in way over their heads? Possibly.
     
    Last week: Beat North Carolina State 45-34
    Next week: Saturday vs. Clemson

  • 12
    12Oklahoma State Cowboys
     
    last week: 8
    record: 10–2
    The last of the Big 12’s unbeatens finishes at the back of the pack of the conference’s contenders. The Cowboys gave up 648 rushing yards in the past two games alone. That’s more than Alabama has given up in its last seven games.
     
    Last week: Lost to Oklahoma 58-23
    Next week: No game

  • 13
    13Northwestern Wildcats
     
    last week: 14
    record: 10–2
    After Illinois beat Northwestern last year to deny the Wildcats bowl eligibility, it must have felt pretty good for Pat Fitzgerald’s squad to return the favor. What probably felt even better? The program’s second 10-win regular season since 1903.
     
    Last week: Beat Illinois 24-14
    Next week: No game

  • 14
    14Florida State Seminoles
     
    last week: 17
    record: 10–2
    That the Seminoles can win 10 games and beat their in-state rival in a rebuilding year shows the height of the program under Jimbo Fisher. But the real MVP of the week is Jimmy Sexton, who presumably pounced on the LSU-Les Miles debacle to earn a few extra bucks for Fisher.
     
    Last week: Beat Florida 27-2
    Next week: No game

  • 15
    15Florida Gators
     
    last week: 10
    record: 10–2
    It’s possible for an offense to finish with negative yards, but can it finish with negative points? I think we’ll find out when the Gators face Alabama’s front seven.
     
    Last week: Lost to Florida State 27-2
    Next week: Saturday vs. Alabama
     

  • 16
    16Ole Miss Rebels
     
    last week: 19
    record: 9–3
    If not for Arkansas’s crazy fourth-and-25 conversion in overtime against Ole Miss, the Rebels would be headed to Atlanta on Saturday for the SEC title game. Just imagine what the playoff picture would look like in that case.
     
    Last week: Beat Mississippi State 38-27
    Next week: No game

  • 17
    17Oregon Ducks
     
    last week: 18
    record: 9–3
    The Ducks’ Civil War win showcased everything we know about them. The offense, when Vernon Adams Jr. has been healthy, is just as lethal as ever, racking up 7.6 yards per play on Oregon State. The defense is capable of making any lead an adventure, turning Oregon’s 31–7 halftime edge into a 38–35 shootout by early in the fourth quarter.
     
    Last week: Beat Oregon State 52-42
    Next week: No game

  • 18
    18Houston Cougars
     
    last week: 21
    record: 11–1
    If the Cougars beat Navy on Saturday and Tom Herman really means it that he’s staying, what a finish to the year it’ll be for Houston.
     
    Last week: Beat Navy 52-31
    Next week: Saturday vs. Temple

  • 19
    19Michigan Wolverines
     
    last week: 11
    record: 9–3
    The Wolverines didn’t exactly stick the landing on their 2015 season, but overall the almost-year-long period from Jim Harbaugh’s hiring on Dec. 29 to now has been an unequivocal success. There will be plenty of Meyer-Harbaugh matchups to make up for this first one.
     
    Last week: Lost to Ohio State 42-13
    Next week: No game

  • 20
    20Temple Owls
     
    last week: 22
    record: 10–2
    Other than a 1934 Sugar Bowl berth when Pop Warner coached the Owls, the best bowl Temple has been to is the 2009 EagleBank Bowl, where it played a 6–6 UCLA squad. Now the Owls are a win away from a New Year’s Six bowl.
     
    Last week: Beat UConn 27-3
    Next week: Saturday at Houston
     

  • 21
    21Navy Midshipmen
     
    last week: 15
    record: 9–2
    You probably already saw them, but Navy’s helmets for the Army game are worth a second look:
     

     
    Last week: Lost to Houston 52-31
    Next week: No game

  • 22
    22LSU Tigers
     
    last week: 23
    record: 8–3
    So Les Miles won the showdown with the powerbrokers at LSU, and the Tigers ended their nosedive with a victory over Texas A&M. Overall November was not a kind month to the Bayou Bengals, but at least it ended on a positive note.
     
    Last week: Beat Texas A&M 19-7
    Next week: No game

  • 23
    23Utah Utes
     
    last week: NR
    record: 9–3
    The Pac-12 South entered the season looking like a five-way race. The Utes didn’t win the division, but they’re the only team from the South in my top 25 at year’s end and dodged the disappointment that plagued Arizona and Arizona State.
     
    Last week: Beat Colorado 20-14
    Next week: No game

  • 24
    24Wisconsin Badgers
     
    last week: NR
    record: 9–3
    I can’t say I feel good about ranking Wisconsin. The Badgers played three tough teams all season and lost to all of them. Still, they took care of business in the nine games they should have won and their defeats came to teams ranked Nos. 2, 4 and 13, so that has to count for something.
     
    Last week: Beat Minnesota 31-21
    Next week: No game

  • 25
    25Memphis Tigers
     
    last week: NR
    record: 9–3
    Justin Fuente did an incredible job building a downtrodden Memphis program into an American Athletic Conference contender. Now can the Tigers sustain it with someone else calling the shots?
     
    Last week: Beat SMU 63-0
    Next week: No game

Dropped out: Toledo, Washington State, UCLA
Next five: USC, Georgia, Toledo, Western Kentucky, UCLA

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