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  • Michigan was one of a few top teams who were exposed in the final weekend of the regular season, but the rest of the top four reminded us how they got into this position.
By Scooby Axson
November 26, 2018

In less than a week, the playoff participants will be selected and the debate about who didn’t earn a spot in the College Football Playoff will be raging. After Friday and Saturday’s action, we know that Notre Dame is in and that Michigan, Washington State and West Virginia most certainly are not.

Now it comes down to Oklahoma, Ohio State and Georgia. If all three teams win their conference title games, then there will be total chaos. Oklahoma needs to avenge its Red River Showdown loss in October, and it would help if the Sooners’ defense kept Texas under 40, something it hasn’t done with any opponent in a month. The Buckeyes certainly have the playoff committee’s attention with their demolition of Michigan—will Northwestern bring out the sloppy play that plagued Ohio State earlier in November?

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A Georgia victory over Alabama creates an interesting scenario, because it may or may not matter what the score is. The Crimson Tide still might sneak in on their overall body of work, even if it doesn’t include a conference title. (Sound familiar?)

Those hypotheticals can be saved for next weekend—for now, we have a regular season to recap. Let’s get to the rankings:

1. Alabama (12–0, 8–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat Auburn, 52–21
Next week: vs. Georgia in SEC championship

Tua Tagovailoa threw for a school-record five touchdowns and became the first player in Alabama history with six total touchdowns in guiding the Crimson Tide to an Iron Bowl victory. The Heisman candidate had 324 yards passing, breaking open a close game with three third-quarter TD strikes. Alabama will go for its sixth SEC title in the last 10 years against Georgia on Saturday.

2. Clemson (12–0, 8–0 ACC)

Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat South Carolina, 56–35
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh in ACC championship

In a game that sometimes resembled a Big 12 clash, Clemson and South Carolina combined for 1,344 yards of offense. Trevor Lawrence had 393 yards passing and the running game produced seven touchdowns and 351 yards for the Tigers, who beat their in-state rival for the fifth straight time. South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley did his best to keep the Gamecocks in it, throwing for 510 yards and five touchdowns.

3. Notre Dame (12–0)

Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat USC, 24–17
Next week: End of regular season, bowl game TBA

The first contenders all but locked into the playoff field were the Fighting Irish, who will be playing for their first national title since 1988. Ian Book outdueled USC freshman JT Daniels, including throwing the clinching 51-yard touchdown pass to Tony Jones late in the fourth quarter that sealed USC’s first losing record since 2000 and fourth losing campaign since 1961.

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4. Georgia (11–1, 7–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 5
This week: Beat Georgia Tech, 45–21
Next week: vs. Alabama in SEC championship

The Bulldogs shut down the nation’s leading ground game, holding the Yellow Jackets to 128 rushing yards, about 225 yards below their season average. Jake Fromm threw for 175 yards and four touchdowns and D’Andre Swift had 105 yards and one touchdown. Georgia now awaits a national championship rematch with Alabama in Atlanta.

5. Oklahoma (11–1, 8–1 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 6
This week: Beat West Virginia, 59–56
Next week: vs. Texas in Big 12 championship

Kyler Murray kept his Heisman campaign chugging along, throwing for 364 yards and three touchdowns and adding 114 yards and a score on the ground. The Sooners again broke the 300-yard rushing barrier, led by Kennedy Brooks’s 182 yards. While the defense had its issues again, giving up 704 total yards, it did contribute to the cause by turning two Will Grier fumbles into touchdowns.

6. Ohio State (11–1, 8–1 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 8
This week: Beat Michigan, 62–39
Next week: vs. Northwestern in Big Ten championship

The Buckeyes are right back in the thick of the playoff race after beating Michigan for the seventh straight time. Dwayne Haskins broke Drew Brees’s Big Ten single-season touchdown record, while throwing for 396 yards and six touchdowns. The CFP committee has a tough decision to make if Ohio State wins the Big Ten because the Buckeyes have showed they are still a force to be dealt with when they are playing inspired football.

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7. UCF (11–0, 8–0 AAC)

Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat South Florida, 38–10
Next week: vs. Memphis in AAC Championship

The Knights’ 24th straight win came at a cost, as quarterback McKenzie Milton suffered a gruesome knee injury. Greg McCrae ran for 181 yards and three touchdowns, part of a team-wide 391 yards rushing. A victory next week against Memphis puts UCF back in a New Year’s Six bowl with a remote shot at playoff consideration.

8. Michigan (10–2, 8–1 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 4
This week: Lost to Ohio State, 62–39
Next week: End of regular season, bowl game TBA

Michigan again was denied a special season by its bitter rival. The defense, which had sparked the team all year, was shredded by the Buckeyes to the tune of 567 yards. The 62 points given up by the Wolverines were the second-most ever allowed in school history. Shea Patterson had three touchdowns before leaving the game with an injury in the fourth quarter.

9. Texas (9–3, 7–2 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 12
This week: Beat Kansas, 24­–17
Next week: vs. Oklahoma in Big 12 Championship

Sam Ehlinger threw for 154 yards and two touchdowns while adding a rushing score as the Longhorns reached the nine-win mark for the first time since 2009. Ehlinger also threw two interceptions, which broke a streak of 308 straight passes without a pick. The Longhorns could only muster 297 yards of offense, a season-low, with 98 of those yards coming on their opening possession of the game, which led to a touchdown.

10. Penn State (9–3, 6–3 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 13
This week: Beat Maryland, 38–3
Next week: End of regular season, bowl TBA

The Penn State defense smothered a Maryland team that put up 51 points last week on the eventual Big Ten East champion Ohio State. The Nittany Lions recorded five sacks and had 15 tackles for loss. Trace McSorley had 230 yards passing and 64 yards rushing in denying Maryland bowl eligibility. Penn State has now won 39 of the 42 meetings between the schools.

11. Florida (9–3, 5–3 SEC)

Previous ranking: 15
This week: Beat Florida State, 41–14
Next week: End of regular season, bowl TBA

Florida State will be sitting at home during bowl season for the first time in 37 years thanks to Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks’s 254 yards and three touchdowns and Lamical Perine’s 74-yard touchdown run that broke the game open. The Gators’ offense is finally humming, having surpassed 500 yards for the third straight game. A New Year’s Six bid is not out of the question for the Gators, especially after Saturday’s other results.

12. LSU (9–3, 5–3 SEC)

Previous ranking: 10
This week: Lost to Texas A&M, 74–72 in 7OT
Next week: End of regular season, bowl TBA

When the Tigers led by seven in the final minutes, no one thought that over an hour later the game would still be going on. At last, Kellen Mond hit Quartney Davis on a 17–yard pass in the 7th overtime and then found Kendrick Rogers for the two-point conversion to end the highest-scoring game in FBS history, one of five ever to reach seven overtimes. A combined 84 points were scored in the extra frame, much to the dismay of the visitors, who felt like they had the game taken away from them by questionable calls four different times.

13. Washington (9–3, 7–2 Pac-12)

Previous ranking: 16
This week: Beat Washington State, 28–15
Next week: vs. Utah in Pac-12 championship

Myles Gaskin ran for 170 yards and three touchdowns, including an 80-yarder in the fourth quarter that sealed the deal as Washington continued their Apple Cup dominance over their in-state rival. Jake Browning threw the ball only 14 times for 207 yards, as the Huskies relied heavily on their ground game in the snowstorm. The Huskies will play for the Pac-12 title for the second time in the last three years.

14. Utah (9–3, 6–3 Pac-12)

Previous ranking: 14
This week: Beat BYU, 35–27
Next week: vs. Washington in Pac-12 Championship

The Utes stormed back from a 20–0 halftime deficit, scoring 28 unanswered points to win their seventh straight Holy War. Armand Shyne powered in from six yards out to give Utah the lead, and Jason Shelley put the game away on a 33-yard run with less than two minutes left. With the division title in hand for the first time in school history, the focus now turns to Washington, who beat Utah 21–7 in its Pac-12 opener back in September.

15. West Virginia (8–3, 6–3 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 11
This week: Lost to Oklahoma, 59–56
Next week: End of regular season, bowl game TBA

Will Grier had a career game, throwing for 539 yards and four touchdowns, but two costly turnovers led directly to 14 Oklahoma points. The Mountaineers haven’t beaten the Sooners since joining the Big 12, losing their seventh straight in the series. Two straight losses to the Oklahoma schools likely will keep West Virginia out of one of the New Year’s Six bowls.

16. Mississippi State (8–4, 4–4 SEC)

Previous ranking: 17
This week: Beat Ole Miss, 35–3
Next week: End of regular season, bowl TBA

While the Egg Bowl didn’t live up to the hype as far as the score was concerned, the intensity was there, as four players were ejected and all members of both teams got unsportsmanlike penalties after a second-half brawl on a play that didn’t even count. Nick Fitzgerald and Kylin Hill both ran for over 100 yards and Mississippi State took advantage of three turnovers to avenge last season’s loss.

17. Washington State (10–2, 7–2 Pac-12)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Lost to Washington, 28–15
Next week: End of regular season, bowl game TBA

The Cougars’ shots at the Pac-12 title and a playoff spot were grounded by a snowstorm as the nation’s leading passer had an off night. Gardner Minshew, who entered the game averaging 393 yards passing a game, threw for only 152 yards and was intercepted twice, as the Huskies deployed zone coverages to avoid big plays. The loss was Washington State’s sixth straight in the Apple Cup and snapped its 13-game home winning streak.

18. Syracuse (9–3, 6–2 ACC)

Previous ranking: 18
This week: Beat Boston College, 42–21
Next week: End of regular season, bowl TBA

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey had six touchdowns (three passing, three rushing) and 362 yards passing in setting the school’s single-season record for most touchdowns responsible for as the Orange finished with their best regular season record since the 2001 season. The defense forced four turnovers and held the ACC’s leading rusher, AJ Dillon, to 56 yards.

19. Army (9–2)

Previous ranking: 19
This week: Bye
Next week: Bye, Next game Dec. 8 vs. Navy

It’ll have been 21 days between the Black Knights’ final home game against Colgate and their annual clash with Navy in Philadelphia on Dec. 8. The long layoff shouldn’t matter because Army’s triple-option attack led by quarterback Kelvin Hopkins and leading rusher Darnell Woolfolk have been torturing opponents all year regardless of venue and layoff. A win against Navy would give Army their first back-to-back 10-win seasons in school history.

20. Northwestern (8–4, 8–1 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 22
This week: Beat Illinois, 24–16
Next week: vs. Ohio State in Big Ten championship

The Wildcats got past their final test before their clash with Ohio State, winning a seventh straight conference game and their 11th straight against West Division opponents. Clayton Thorson had three total touchdowns and freshman Isaiah Browser rushed for 166 yards, his fourth 100-yard effort in the last six games.

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21. Kentucky (9–3, 5–3 SEC)

Previous ranking: 21
This week: Beat Louisville, 56–10
Next week: End of regular season, bowl TBA

The Wildcats have nine wins in the regular season for the first time since 1977. Terry Wilson threw for 261 yards and a season-high three touchdowns, while Benny Snell and Asim Rose both went over 100 yards rushing. Louisville ends its miserable season by losing its last nine games and begins the offseason in search of a new head coach.

22. Texas A&M (8–4, 5–3 SEC)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat LSU 74–72, in 7OT
Next week: End of regular season, bowl TBA

Kellen Mond threw for 287 yards and six touchdowns as the Aggies ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak and broke a seven-game slide against the Tigers in an instant classic. While A&M had its ups and downs this season, it finished second in the SEC West in Jimbo Fisher’s first year at the helm and can build for next year with Mond, who will be a junior, and a 2019 recruiting class that currently ranks among the top five in the country.

23. Boise State (10–2, 7–1 MWC)

Previous ranking: 23
This week: Beat Utah State, 33–24
Next week: vs. Fresno State in Mountain West championship

Utah State’s 10-game winning streak was snapped as Alexander Mattison had his third straight 100-yard rushing game, gaining a season-high 200 yards and three touchdowns. Brett Rypien added 310 yards passing for the Broncos, who will attempt to repeat as conference champions in a 2017 title game rematch with Fresno State.

24. NC State (8­–3, 5–3 ACC)

Previous ranking: 24
This week: Beat North Carolina, 34–28 in OT
Next week: vs. East Carolina

Reggie Gallaspy had 129 yards and tied a school record with five rushing touchdowns, including the one-yard score that won the game and extended NC State’s winning streak over the Tar Heels to three games. Ryan Finley was 16-of-28 for 200 yards for the Wolfpack in his final home game.

25. Fresno State (10­–2, 7–1 MWC)

Previous ranking: 25
This week: Beat San Jose State, 31–13
Next week: vs Boise State in Mountain West Championship

Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion had his second 300-yard passing game of the year and added two touchdowns, and he will need to play one of his best games of the year in Boise if the Bulldogs want to break a five-year conference championship drought next week. The consistency under Jeff Tedford is extremely encouraging so far: Win or lose in the conference title game, Fresno State has its first back-to-back double-digit-win seasons since the late 1980s.

By conference: SEC (7), Big Ten (4), Big 12 (3), ACC (3), Pac-12 (3), AAC (1), Independent (2), MWC (2).

Out: Utah State.

Maybe next week: Cincinnati, Iowa State, Buffalo, Appalachian State.

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