Michigan State climbs into top four in CFB Power Rankings after Week 12

1:15 | College Football
Michigan State's win over Ohio State makes up for loss to Nebraska
Tuesday November 24th, 2015

And then there were two. Two weeks left (or just one for Notre Dame and most of the Big 12) for teams to make their final auditions for the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Ohio State was already out of my top four, but their defeat still created a shakeup in my playoff picks. With two of my top four currently in line to play on Championship Saturday, there’s bound to be some more changes, too. Playoff berths are within reach, so the stakes are only getting higher.

College Football Power Rankings
  • 1
    1Clemson Tigers
    last week: 1
    record: 11–0
    When playing a team like Wake Forest, no news is good news, which is exactly what the Tigers provided, easily blowing past the Demon Deacons 33–13. That’s the way it should be for Clemson until Championship Saturday. Its earlier big wins and undefeated record continue to speak for themselves.
    Last week: Beat Wake Forest 33-13
    Next week: Saturday at South Carolina

  • 2
    2Alabama Crimson Tide
    last week: 2
    record: 10–1
    Nick Saban did his best to pretend that Charleston Southern was actually a tough opponent (and the SEC Network did, too). But the Crimson Tide ran through the Buccaneers like you-know-what through a tin horn. Even with LSU’s collapse, Alabama still has quality wins at Texas A&M and Mississippi State, and Ole Miss’s relevancy keeps the Tide’s loss from becoming too damaging.
    Last week: Beat Charleston Southern 56-6
    Next week: Saturday at Auburn

  • 3
    3Iowa Hawkeyes
    last week: 4
    record: 11–0
    The Hawkeyes are one of the last two undefeated teams in the country, just as everyone expected before the season. While the college football world waits for them to finally slip up, they just keep winning. Iowa hasn’t played the most grueling schedule, but its 40–10 road win over Northwestern is one of the most dominant performances against a ranked team this season.
    Last week: Beat Purdue 40-20
    Next week: Friday at Nebraska

  • 4
    4Michigan State Spartans
    last week: 9
    record: 10–1
    The Spartans’ win over Ohio State wasn’t the prettiest, but with their talented quarterback out, they found a new way to win by simply overpowering the Buckeyes on the line. Given the number of NFL draft prospects on Ohio State’s offensive and defensive lines, that’s no small feat. Oregon’s continuing second-half surge adds another boost to Michigan State’s résumé. Unlike Notre Dame or Oklahoma, the Spartans have three wins over ranked opponents (Ohio State, Michigan and Oregon).
    Last week: Beat Ohio State 17-14
    Next week: Saturday vs. Penn State

  • 5
    5Notre Dame Fighting Irish
    last week: 3
    record: 10–1
    Temple’s win over Memphis and USC’s loss to Oregon keep Notre Dame’s number of wins over ranked opponents at two (Navy and the Owls). However, the bigger concern this week is the Irish’s own result, an uninspiring 19–16 victory over Boston College in which Notre Dame turned the ball over five times. Without a conference championship to play for, the Irish have to excel at the eye test to make the playoff. They need a convincing win over Stanford on Saturday.
    Last week: Beat Boston College 19-16
    Next week: Saturday at Stanford

  • 6
    6Oklahoma Sooners
    last week: 8
    record: 10–1
    The Sooners nearly gave away the game and their season late in the second half vs. TCU, but Baker Mayfield’s absence provides some critical context to that. Oklahoma is now clearly the best team in the Big 12, but it’ll take a win at Oklahoma State on Saturday to solidify that. The Sooners also need to go for style points to help overcome their loss to Texas and leapfrog Notre Dame.
    Last week: Beat TCU 30-29
    Next week: Saturday at Oklahoma State

  • 7
    7Baylor Bears
    last week: 10
    record: 9–1
    With no wins over ranked opponents entering Week 12 and a loss in its only test of the season, it was reasonable to wonder if Baylor was actually a playoff contender or simply a good-but-not-great Big 12 team relying on its track record from prior seasons. Saturday’s victory at Oklahoma State offered a pretty decisive verdict.
    Last week: Beat Oklahoma State 45-35
    Next week: Saturday at TCU

  • 8
    8Oklahoma State Cowboys
    last week: 5
    record: 10–1
    The Cowboys made their living this season on coming back in the second half, erasing four halftime deficits to pull out wins this year. The formula relied on the offense to keep scoring and the defense to contribute just enough stops. That doesn’t work against a Baylor team that never stops scoring, even with its third-string quarterback in.
    Last week: Lost to Baylor 45-35
    Next week: Saturday vs. Oklahoma

  • 9
    9Ohio State Buckeyes
    last week: 6
    record: 10–1
    Allow me a brief moment to bask in a team's defeat. This is why it was wrong to rank Ohio State in the top four on the assumption it would beat ranked teams once it played them. Because as Saturday’s loss to Michigan State showed, the Buckeyes might not win. The close result illustrates Urban Meyer’s squad is still a top-tier team, but it can no longer rest on the laurels of last year.
    Last week: Lost to Michigan State 17-14
    Next week: Saturday at Michigan

  • 10
    10Florida Gators
    last week: 7
    record: 10–1
    For the second straight week, the Gators were lucky to avoid a horrible loss, relying on their defense to produce stop after stop while the offense continually stalled. The momentum of Florida’s hot start looks completely gone, and the offense has crumpled without Will Grier. The Gators gained 3.6 yards per play against Florida Atlantic a week after gaining 5.3 vs. South Carolina. Without a rapid return to form, Florida could easily lose its next two against Florida State and, likely, Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Still, if the Gators miraculously turn things around and wins those two, no one will remember close calls against Vanderbilt and Florida Atlantic.
    Last week: Beat Florida Atlantic 20-14 in OT
    Next week: Saturday vs. Florida State

  • 11
    11Michigan Wolverines
    last week: 12
    record: 9–2
    Jim Harbaugh’s return to college football was bound to produce some entertaining outbursts. He delivered Saturday at Penn State:

    Last week: Beat Penn State 28-16
    Next week: Saturday vs. Ohio State

  • 12
    12North Carolina Tar Heels
    last week: 13
    record: 10–1
    North Carolina needs to fight the perception that its string of victories is a product of the quality of its opponents rather than its own skill. A close call against Virginia Tech—the Tar Heels needed overtime to put away the Hokies—doesn’t help, nor does South Carolina’s loss to the Citadel.
    Last week: Beat Virginia Tech 30-27 in OT
    Next week: Saturday at NC State

  • 13
    13Stanford Cardinal
    last week: 15
    record: 9–2
    The Cardinal rebounded from last week’s setback against Oregon with a dominant performance against Cal. Christian McCaffrey continued to make his case for the Heisman with 389 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns vs. the Bears. With its only losses coming to ranked opponents and the potential to tack on two more wins over ranked foes, Stanford could build the strongest résumé of any two-loss team by the end of the season.
    Last week: Beat Cal 35-22
    Next week: Saturday vs. Notre Dame

  • 14
    14Northwestern Wildcats
    last week: 18
    record: 9–2
    Advanced statistics show Northwestern is a much worse team than its record—it ranks 38th in the FEI ratings and 48th in S&P+ ratings—but the Wildcats continue to find ways to pull out wins. Saturday’s victory over Wisconsin required two overturned game-winning Badgers touchdowns, but a stout defense that held Wisconsin to minus-26 yards rushing was pretty critical, too.
    Last week: Beat Wisconsin 13-7
    Next week: Saturday vs. Illinois

  • 15
    15Navy Midshipmen
    last week: 19
    record: 9–1
    Quarterback Keenan Reynolds had an off day for the Midshipmen—he only rushed for one touchdown and threw for another as Navy rolled past Tulsa 44–21.
    Last week: Beat Tulsa 44-21
    Next week: Friday at Houston

  • 16
    16TCU Horned Frogs
    last week: 11
    record: 9–2
    The injuries that have plagued TCU all season but which it somehow managed to overcome for the first nine weeks have finally caught up to Gary Patterson’s team. The loss of an elite quarterback (Trevone Boykin), wide receiver (Josh Doctson), three-year starting center (Joey Hunt) and several defensive playmakers would be more than almost any team could bear.
    Last week: Lost to Oklahoma 30-29
    Next week: Friday vs. Baylor

  • 17
    17Florida State Seminoles
    last week: 21
    record: 9–2
    Florida State gets its second crack at a ranked opponent this season when it travels to Gainesville on Saturday. A win would serve as a solid reminder of who is the top team in the state, even in a year when the Seminoles won’t compete for a conference title.
    Last week: Beat Chattanooga 52-13
    Next week: Saturday at Florida

  • 18
    18Oregon Ducks
    last week: 23
    record: 8–3
    The tragedy of what the Ducks’ season could have been if not for Vernon Adams Jr.’s finger injury continues to grow. Could Oregon have won the Pac-12? Could it have made the playoff? The Ducks’ defense is a major liability—it ranks 84th in the country in yards allowed per play—but the offense looks as good as it has ever been.
    Last week: Beat USC 48-28
    Next week: Friday vs. Oregon State

  • 19
    19Ole Miss Rebels
    last week: NR
    record: 8–3
    An up-and-down year in Oxford is back on an upward trajectory after the Rebels’ win over LSU. Despite Ole Miss’s three losses, all it would take is an Egg Bowl victory and an Iron Bowl upset to send Hugh Freeze’s team to the SEC title game.
    Last week: Beat LSU 38-17
    Next week: Saturday at Mississippi State

  • 20
    20Toledo Rockets
    last week: 22
    record: 9–1
    It’s been a full week since the Rockets last played, easily beating a quality Bowling Green squad on the road. The problem for Toledo is that even with only one loss, it won’t make the MAC title game unless Northern Illinois loses to Ohio on Tuesday. If the Rockets don’t get a chance to even play for their conference title, they can’t earn the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bowl berth no matter what happens in the American Athletic Conference.
    Last week: Beat Bowling Green 44-28
    Next week: Friday vs. Western Michigan

  • 21
    21Houston Cougars
    last week: 14
    record: 10–1
    There’s no doubt the Cougars’ loss to UConn, their first defeat of the season, stings. But it doesn’t really change much for Tom Herman’s team. Houston was almost surely not going to make the playoff even if it went undefeated, and the Cougars are still in position to make the American Athletic Conference title game. If they win that, they’ll still make a New Year’s Six bowl, same as before their loss.
    Last week: Lost to UConn 20-17
    Next week: Friday vs. Navy

  • 22
    22Temple Owls
    last week: NR
    record: 9–2
    The Owls quickly turned an impressive victory over Memphis into a rout with 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Containing Paxton Lynch to 156 yards passing and zero touchdowns is no easy feat. It’s just the latest demonstration of why Temple is ranked 16th in defensive S&P+ ratings.
    Last week: Beat Memphis 31-12
    Next week: Saturday vs. UConn

  • 23
    23LSU Tigers
    last week: 16
    record: 7–3
    As bad as things have gotten in Baton Rouge—and they’ve gotten really bad—LSU still deserves a spot in the top 25 for now. The Tigers have a strong win over Florida and a decent win at Mississippi State. Even though they’ve lost three straight, two have been on the road to ranked opponents.
    Last week: Lost to Ole Miss 38-17
    Next week: Saturday vs. Texas A&M

  • 24
    24Washington State Cougars
    last week: NR
    record: 8–3
    Among three-loss teams, Washington State has one of the best sets of wins, including victories over Oregon and UCLA on the road. It takes a lot to get a team that lost to an FCS opponent into the top 25.
    Last week: Beat Colorado 27-3
    Next week: Friday at Washington

  • 25
    25UCLA Bruins
    last week: NR
    record: 8–3
    The Bruins’ win over Utah on Saturday sets up a showdown with crosstown rival USC that will determine the Pac-12 South champion. It’s always fun to raise the stakes for a rivalry game.
    Last week: Beat Utah 17-9
    Next week: Saturday at USC

Next five: Utah, Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Memphis, Pittsburgh
Dropped out: Utah, Wisconsin, USC, Memphis

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