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Week 12 Power Rankings: Auburn Isn't Playing Like a Two-Loss Team

After No. 1 Georgia went down in flames, no one wants to play Auburn right now. Here's where the nation's best teams stand with three weekends left.

It’s getting increasingly likely that one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff field will finish with two losses for the first time in the format’s history, and the strongest candidate to make that history is the one that just dominated the No. 1 team in the nation.

Fresh off a 40–17 win over Georgia, Auburn in the best position to crash the playoffs based on who the Tigers have beaten (their blowout win over Mississippi State is looking better with time) and who they still have to play. Just imagine where they would be if they hadn’t spoiled a 20–0 lead over LSU, or if they had found a way to contain Clemson’s loaded defensive line in a September non-conference test.

If the Tigers beat Alabama on Nov. 25 and beat Georgia again in the SEC Championship, they’d have the country’s most impressive set of wins in the last month of the season. Make no mistake about it; this is a complete team, equipped with a quarterback who can stretch the field, a running back capable of 30-plus carries and an opportunistic defense capable of shutting down any SEC offense.

Now on to this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Alabama (10–0, 7–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat Mississippi State, 31–24
Next week: vs. Mercer

Alabama was finally challenged this season, but it remains to be seen how this performance will look in two weeks when the SEC West crown will be decided against Auburn. In beating Mississippi State for the 10th straight time, the Crimson Tide should vault to No. 1 when the College Football Playoff rankings come out this week.

2. Oklahoma (9–1, 6–1 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat TCU, 38–20
Next week: at Kansas

TCU was supposed to be the one Big 12 team that played defense, but it was not equal to the task of slowing the nation’s best offense. Baker Mayfield threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns, cementing his Heisman frontrunner status as Oklahoma gained 533 yards to take sole possession of first place in the conference. The Sooners’ rushing attack was led by Rodney Anderson’s 151 yards and two touchdowns.

3. Clemson (9–1, 7–1 ACC)

Previous ranking: 4
This week: Beat Florida State, 31–14
Next week: vs. The Citadel

The ACC title game is set, and Clemson will take on Miami with a playoff spot likely on the line. Kelly Bryant completed 20 of his 30 passes, but those completions went for only 151 yards against a talented Seminoles defense. The Tigers get a chance to tune up their offense next week against an FCS opponent.

4. Miami (9–0, 6–0 ACC)

Previous ranking: 6
This week: Beat Notre Dame, 41–8
Next week: vs. Virginia

The turnover chain seemed to get more screen time than ever on Saturday night thanks to an onslaught of miscues by Notre Dame that led directly to 24 Miami points. The Hurricanes secured their place in the ACC title game, but they still have trap games against a decent Virginia squad and a late-November road trip to Pittsburgh before they see Clemson in Charlotte.

5. Wisconsin (10–0, 7–0 Big 10)

Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Iowa, 38-14
Next week: vs. Michigan

Wisconsin moved to 10–0, wrapped up the unspectacular Big Ten West and continued to get little national respect. The Badgers’ defense has beat up on its divisional competition all season, with Iowa the latest victim. The Hawkeyes had only four first downs and 66 yards of offense. Running back Jonathan Taylor has all but claimed Freshman of the Year honors, rumbling for another 157 yards on 29 carries.

6. Auburn (8–2, 6­–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 11
This week: Beat Georgia, 40–17
Next week: vs. Louisiana–Monroe

The Tigers took apart a Georgia defense that was among the best in the country and did so with relative ease. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham had three touchdown passes, and Kerryon Johnson had 167 yards rushing and a touchdown on a 55-yard fourth-quarter screen pass that sealed the statement win.

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7. Georgia (9–1, 6–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 2
This week: Lost to Auburn, 40–17
Next week: vs. Kentucky

The narrative of Georgia as a one-dimensional team on offense came to fruition as freshman quarterback Jake Fromm was unable to compensate when Auburn’s front seven shut down the running game. Georgia ends the season with Kentucky and Georgia Tech before the SEC title game.

8. Notre Dame (8–2)

Previous ranking: 5
This week: Lost to Miami, 41–8
Next game: vs. Navy

The question the Irish needed to be answered before Saturday's game was whether they could do enough with Brandon Wimbush in the passing game to balance the running attack. The answer turned out to be an emphatic no, as the Hurricanes harrassed Wimbush all night to end any playoff hopes in South Bend. Turning the ball over four times didn’t help either.

9. Ohio State (8­-2, 6–1 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 12
This week: Beat Michigan State, 48–3
Next week: vs. Illinois

It’s baffling how Ohio State can look like the biggest fraud in college football one week and one of the nation’s best teams the next. In a rout of Michigan State, the Buckeyes set the stage to win their division if they can take their next two games. Ohio State’s defense showed up in a big way, holding Michigan State to 195 yards of offense, racking up six sacks and forcing three turnovers.

10. UCF (9–0, 6–0 AAC)

Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat UConn, 49–24
Next week: at Temple

The Knights don’t have many flaws, but the ones they do have don’t bode well for when the schedule gets touger in the final weeks. Quarterback McKenzie Milton continued his steady play with 311 yards passing, but the defense did let UConn have success on the ground. UCF is also one of the most penalized teams in the nation and added 10 more to its count on Saturday.

11. USC (9–2, 7–1 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 13
This week: Beat Colorado, 38–24
Next week: vs. UCLA

Sam Darnold threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns as USC jumped out to a 27–0 lead in Boulder en route to clinching the Pac–12 South title. While the victory wasn’t anything special, the Trojans have now won three in a row since a blowout loss to Notre Dame and are trending in the right direction, even though a playoff berth seems like a long shot at this point.

12. Penn State (8–2, 5–2 Big 10)

Previous ranking: 14
Last week: Beat Rutgers, 35­–6
Next week: vs. Nebraska

In the last three weeks, Penn State went from being ranked No. 2 in two polls and having the player many saw as the Heisman Trophy frontrunner to 8–2 and on the outside looking in on the major bowls. Saquon Barkley had 35 yards on the ground against Rutgers, his third straight game with less than 100 yards rushing.


13. TCU (8–2, 5-2 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Lost to Oklahoma, 38–20
Next game: at Texas Tech

All is not lost for the Horned Frogs, who still go to the Big 12 title game if they win out. Their vaunted defense simply could not slow Oklahoma down in the first half, and by the time they did, the game was completely out of reach. TCU gave up 13 plays of 10 or more yards in the first half alone.

14. Washington (8–2, 5–2 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 8
This week: Lost to Stanford, 30–22
Next week: vs. Utah

Washington shouldn't have to worry about the East Coast viewership of its late-night games anymore now that the playoff is out of the question. Jake Browning threw for 190 yards and Myles Gaskin ran for 120 yards and three touchdowns, but the Huskies’ inability to sustain drives did them in.

15. Oklahoma State (8–2, 5–2 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 15
Last week: Beat Iowa State, 49–42
Next week: vs. Kansas State

Oklahoma State rallied twice–once early and once late–to keep its conference title game hopes alive, beating Iowa State for the sixth year in a row. Mason Rudolph had 376 yards passing and three touchdowns, including two in the final six minutes, as the Cowboys used a last–minute interception to thwart the upset attempt. The Cowboys’ defense looked like it still hadn’t recovered from Bedlam, giving up 30 first downs and 491 yards to Iowa State.

16. Memphis (8–1, 5–1 AAC)

Previous ranking: 17
This week: Off
Next week: vs. SMU

Memphis will wrap up the AAC West and a spot in the conference title game with a victory over SMU, which has lost three straight to the Tigers. While their offense is explosive, their lack of discipline could hold them back: The Tigers are averaging more than eight penalties per game.

17. Virginia Tech (7–3, 3–3 ACC)

Previous ranking: 11
This week: Lost to Georgia Tech, 28–22
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh

Georgia Tech completed two passes the entire game against Virginia Tech, but those two completions went 60 and 80 yards for touchdowns, the last providing the game-winning score. The Hokies had trouble moving the ball for the second consecutive week, averaging a miserable 2.9 yards per carry.

18. Washington State (9–2, 6–2 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 20
Last week: Beat Utah, 33–25
Next week: Off; next game Nov. 25 vs. Washington

Washington State quarterback Luke Falk threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns, breaking the Pac-12 record for career touchdown passes. Utah did all it could to help out the Cougars by turning the ball over seven times, and coordinator Alex Grinch’s much-improved defense also had seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Washington State is just one victory from playing in the Pac-12 title game, but Washington has won four straight Apple Cups.

19. Michigan (8–2, 5–2 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 21
This week: Beat Maryland, 35–10
Next week: at Wisconsin

Michigan has not been in the national conversation for a while, but that all could change in Week 12 when the Wolverines try to beat Wisconsin and officially cast the Big Ten to the fringe of the playoff picture. Sophomore quarterback Brandon Peters has performed admirably since taking over as starter, with two touchdown passes against Maryland.

20. Stanford (7–3, 6–2 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 22
This week: Beat Washington, 30–22
Next week: vs. California

Stanford got right back in the Pac-12 North race thanks to Bryce Love, who ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns. Love also got some help from quarterback K.J. Costello’s 211 passing yards, with key completions that helped control the clock and keep Washington’s offense off the field. The Cardinal will represent the Pac-12 North in the conference title game if Washington State loses to Washington.

21. West Virginia (7–3, 5–2 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 23
Last week: Beat Kansas State, 28–23
Next week: vs. Texas

The combination of Will Grier and David Sills V worked once again as the duo combined for two scores in West Virginia’s victory over Kansas State. Grier finished with 372 yards and four touchdowns and now is second in the NCAA with 34 touchdown passes, 17 of which have gone to Sills. Kansas State has four losses this season by a touchdown or less and is in jeopardy of missing the postseason for the first time in eight years.

22. South Florida (8–1, 5–1 AAC)

Previous ranking: 24
Last week: Off
Next week: vs. Tulsa

South Florida will need to win out to have a chance of securing the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bid, starting with a tune-up opportunity against Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane are absolutely terrible on defense, ranking in the bottom third of the NCAA in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and passing efficiency defense. You get the point.

23. Michigan State (7–3, 5–2 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 16
Last week: Lost to Ohio State, 48–3
Next week: vs. Maryland

Michigan State learned the hard way of expecting Ohio State to turn in two sloppy performances in a row. This time, it was the Spartans who looked like they did not come to play by allowing big gains in the running game and doing nothing on offense. A week after shredding Penn State for 400 yards in the air, Sparty managed 131 yards while throwing two interceptions.

24. Mississippi State (7–3, 3–3 SEC)

Previous ranking: 19
This week: Lost to Alabama, 31–24
Next week: at Arkansas

Nick Fitzgerald threw for 158 yards and ran for 66 yards and a touchdown, leading the Bulldogs to the brink of an upset. But the defense could not hold Alabama in the final stretches, allowing the Crimson Tide to march 68 yards in just 44 seconds for the winning score. The Bulldogs had the football the majority of the night, and were efficient on third down but could not capitalize and turn opportunities into points when it was most needed.

25. Boise State (8–2, 6–0 MWC)

Previous ranking: 25
This week: Beat Colorado State, 59-52 (OT)
Next week: vs. Air Force

Is Boise State a legitimate Top 25 team? Depends on whom you ask and what day you ask, but for now the Broncos continue to hover at the bottom of these rankings because they keep on winning. In a game they had no business taking, the Broncos came back from a 25-point first-half deficit and a 16-point hole with three minutes left to come within one game of clinching a division title.

Out: None. Maybe next week: Army, NC State, Florida Atlantic. By conference: Big Ten (5), Big 12 (4), SEC (4), Pac-12 (4), ACC (3), AAC (3), MWC (1), Independent (1).