Week 12 College Football Power Rankings: Teams Waiting in Vain for Notre Dame to Lose

Washington State might win its league but be left with a New Year's Six consolation prize, and if Notre Dame keeps winning, the Cougars won't be alone.
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After each of the top 11 teams in the Power Rankings won in Week 11, there were few dramatic adjustments to this week’s top 25. Don’t expect much maneuvering during Tuesday’s College Football Playoff rankings release either, as the top teams didn’t do anything to move the selection committee off the positions it held a week ago. Still, there are three teams outside that inner circle of national title contenders that could ultimately have a big say in the final four and New Year’s Six picture.

All Syracuse has to do is beat Notre Dame on Saturday in the Bronx for utter chaos to ensue. While the Orange won’t be a playoff team, a victory over the Irish could give hope to potential conference champions who need some help down the stretch.

At this point, Oklahoma has no business even being considered. Led by Kyler Murray, the offense is playoff-worthy, but the defense has been an eyesore. A 12–1 Sooners team whose only loss came by three points to Texas at a neutral site would stress out the committee just enough to have the nation talking.

Washington State is the Pac-12’s only hope, but its leaguemates may ultimately keep it from the final four conversation. Other one-loss teams with conference titles will get the nod over a Cougars team that tops a league where every other team has at least three losses.

Now, let’s get to the rankings:

1. Alabama (10–0, 7–0 SEC)

Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat Mississippi State, 24–0
Next week: vs. The Citadel

Alabama is Alabama even if Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t his stellar self. Tagovailoa threw for 165 yards with a touchdown and interception for the Crimson Tide, who have now pitched back-to-back shutouts and have won 10 or more games for the 11th straight season. Josh Jacobs led the rushing attack with 97 yards and two scores, but the defending champs’ defense carried the load this time. Mississippi State had only 44 yards rushing and went 1 for 13 on third down.

2. Clemson (10–0, 7–0 ACC)

Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat Boston College, 27–7
Next week: vs. Duke

Clemson clinched a spot in the ACC title game for the fourth straight year after bottling up Boston College’s banged-up offense. The Eagles had only 113 yards and nine yards rushing and couldn’t do anything with the two turnovers they forced. Trevor Lawrence threw for 295 yards and a touchdown and now has 12 touchdowns and two interceptions in road games this year.

3. Notre Dame (10–0)

Previous ranking: 3
This week: Beat Florida State, 42–13
Next week: vs. Syracuse in New York City

Dexter Williams ran for 202 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first player to run for more than 200 yards on Florida State since 1982. Senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who started the first three games of the season for the Irish, threw three touchdowns and two interceptions in relief of his Week 1 backup Ian Book, who was sidelined with a rib injury.

4. Michigan (9–1, 7–0 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 4
This week: Beat Rutgers, 42–7
Next week: vs. Indiana

At least Rutgers scored during this visit from Michigan. Shea Patterson threw for 260 yards and tied a season-high with three touchdowns while Karan Higdon, who was bottled up for most of the day with 42 yards, had two touchdowns and eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the year, becoming the first Wolverine running back to reach the feat in six seasons.

5. Georgia (9–1, 7–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 5
This week: Beat Auburn, 27–10
Next week: vs. UMass

When Georgia is running the ball like it did against Auburn on Saturday, it doesn’t need to get cute. Add an efficient game from quarterback Jake Fromm, and the Bulldogs are almost unbeatable. D’Andre Swift had 186 yards rushing and Elijah Holyfield added 93 as part of a team total of 303 yards on the ground. Fromm displayed his knack for continuing drives, as Georgia converted eight of 14 third downs.

6. Oklahoma (8–1, 5–1 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 6
This week: Beat Oklahoma State, 48–47
Next week: vs. Kansas

Different week, same story for the Oklahoma defense, which allowed a season-high 640 yards and 39 first downs. But it was the defense that made the Bedlam-saving play, stopping OSU’s potential game-winning two-point try. Quarterback Kyler Murray kept the Sooners’ offense humming with 349 yards and one touchdown through the air, while the ground game continued its assault on opponents, with Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon accounting for the bulk of a 353-yard, five-touchdown day.

7. West Virginia (8–1, 6–1 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 8
This week: Beat TCU, 47–10
Next week: at Oklahoma State

Will Grier continued his stellar play with 343 yards and three touchdowns, as West Virginia streamrolled a struggling TCU team, which has failed to gain 300 yards or more in three of its last four games. The Mountaineers’ backloaded schedule could work out in their favor as they face defensively challenged Oklahoma State and Oklahoma for a spot in the Big 12 title game.

8. Ohio State (9–1, 6–1 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Beat Michigan State, 26–6
Next week: at Maryland

Ohio State is still a work in progress, and no matter how bad it looked at times it was still enough to secure its sixth straight win in East Lansing. The special teams excelled, especially punter Drue Chrisman, who put five straight punts inside the five-yard line in the second half, leading to an intentional safety and a fumble recovery in the end zone that padded the Buckeyes’ lead.

9. UCF (9–0, 6–0 AAC)

Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Navy, 35–24
Next week: vs. Cincinnati

UCF has scored 30 or more points in every game of the nation’s longest winning streak, now at 22. The Knights held off a game Navy squad and will now play for the AAC East Division title next week against Cincinnati. Navy ran for 374 yards but couldn’t stop UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton, who had 200 yards and two touchdowns, or running back Greg McCrae, who added 101 yards and a score on the ground.

10. Washington State (9–1, 6–1 Pac-12)

Previous ranking: 11
This week: Beat Colorado, 31–7
Next week: vs. Arizona

Washington State took advantage of three Colorado turnovers to get one step closer to the Pac-12 title game. The Cougars held the ball for almost 42 minutes, and graduate transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew mostly stuck to the short stuff in throwing for 335 yards on 58 attempts. That lone loss to USC is looking worse and worse.

11. LSU (8–2, 5–2 SEC)

Previous ranking: 11
This week: Beat Arkansas, 24–17
Next week: vs. Rice

While bettors may be upset with the Tigers for not covering their 13-point favorite spread, LSU sure is glad to escape with a victory. Joe Burrow bounced back from a pitiful performance against Alabama to throw for 195 yards and a touchdown as the Tigers kept the The Golden Boot for the third straight year. The Razorbacks lost their ninth straight SEC game and gained a season-low 216 yards.

12. Syracuse (8–2, 5–2 ACC)

Previous ranking: 16
This week: Beat Louisville, 54–23
Next week: vs. Notre Dame in New York City

Moe Neal had 159 yards rushing and Eric Dungey had 191 yards passing and a touchdown as Syracuse broke a four-game losing streak to Louisville. While Louisville starts looking for a replacement for Bobby Petrino, the Orange have set themselves up for a marquee matchup on Saturday that will have playoff implications.

13. Texas (7–3, 5–2 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 17
This week: Beat Texas Tech, 41–34
Next week: vs. Iowa State

It was déjà vu for Texas in Lubbock, but this time it all went right for the Longhorns in the final seconds. Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s 29-yard catch with less than a minute remaining secured the win. Ten years before, it was Michael Crabtree’s catch for Texas that sent the No. 1 Longhorns home a loser and ultimately out of a title picture. Sam Ehlinger threw for 312 yards and four touchdowns to keep Texas’s Big 12 title hopes alive.

14. Penn State (7–3, 4–3 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 18
This week: Beat Wisconsin, 22–10
Next week: at Rutgers

In Penn State’s fourth consecutive win over Wisconsin, Trace McSorley threw for 160 yards and a touchdown to tie the school record for wins by a quarterback and running back Miles Sanders sliced through the Badgers’ defense for 159 yards. The Nittany Lions were helped by an inept Wisconsin offense, which managed just 84 yards outside of the nation’s leading rusher Jonathan Taylor, who ran for 185 yards.

15. Utah (7–3, 5–3 Pac-12)

Previous ranking: 20
This week: Beat Oregon, 32–25
Next week: at Colorado

Playing without quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss, both lost to season-ending injuries, Utah’s fill-ins shined: Jason Shelley had 262 yards passing and two rushing touchdowns, while Armand Shyne’s career-high 174 rushing yards helped the Utes keep a share of the lead in the unpredictable Pac-12 South. Matt Gay kicked a school-record six field goals, and the defense sacked Ducks QB Justin Herbert four times.

16. Florida (7­–3, 5–3 SEC)

Previous ranking: 22
This week: Beat South Carolina, 35–31
Next week: vs. Idaho

Shushing his own critical fans worked wonders for Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks, who led the Gators back from a 17-point deficit and scored the winning touchdown on a fourth-down sneak. Florida ran for a season-high 367 yards, led by Jordan Scarlett’s 159 and Lamical Perine’s 107, and ripped off four runs of 20 yards or more.

17. Washington (7–3, 5–2 Pac-12)

Previous ranking: 19
This week: Bye
Next week: vs. Oregon State

18. Boston College (7–3, 4–2 ACC)

Previous ranking: 12
This week: Lost to Clemson, 27–7
Next week: at Florida State

The Eagles returned to Earth against the ACC’s best team, and a first-half injury to quarterback Anthony Brown doused all hope that Boston College would find the end zone on offense. A banner nine-win season is still in play with a showdown against Syracuse coming in two weeks.

19. Mississippi State (6-4, 2–4 SEC)

Previous ranking: 14
This week: Lost to Alabama, 24–0
Next week: vs. Arkansas

The only four-loss team in the rankings gets to stick around for holding Alabama to a season-low point total. Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat were as good as advertised disrupting Alabama’s offensive rhythm.

20. Iowa State (6–3, 5–2 Big 12)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat Baylor, 28–14
Next week: at Texas

True freshman quarterback Brock Purdy threw for 230 yards, the defense has allowed only five offensive touchdowns in the last four games and the Cyclones have won five straight conference games in a single season for the first time. Now, Iowa State waits for news on running back David Montgomery’s availability for next week’s primetime showdown at Texas after Montgomery was ejected for fighting in the third quarter.

21. Army (8–2)

Previous ranking: 21
This week: Beat Lafayette, 31–13
Next week: vs. Colgate

22. Utah State (9­–1, 6–0 MWC)

Previous ranking: 25
This week: Beat San Jose State, 62–24
Next week: at Colorado State

23. Kentucky (7–3, 5–3 SEC)

Previous ranking: 13
This week: Lost to Tennessee, 24–7
Next week: vs. Middle Tennessee

Kentucky’s offensive problems continue: The Wildcats have failed to score more than 17 points in any of their last five games, and sensational running back Benny Snell Jr. was held under 100 yards for the third straight game, finishing with 81. The offensive line also couldn’t block Vols linebacker Darrell Taylor, who had four sacks and a forced fumble. Kentucky has lost 17 straight games at Neyland Stadium. 

24. Boise State (8–2, 5–1 MWC)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat Fresno State, 24–17
Next week: at New Mexico

Boise State kept its slim New Year’s Six hopes alive by coming back from a two-touchdown deficit in its first home game as an underdog since 2001. Alexander Mattison rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns, and Brett Rypien had 269 yards passing with 30 yards on the ground in key situations. Rypien also set the Mountain West records in career passing yards and completions in the victory. All is not lost for Fresno State, which drops out of the Power Rankings but will clinch a spot in the conference title game with a win over San Diego State this weekend.

25. UAB (9–1, 7–0 C–USA)

Previous ranking: Unranked
This week: Beat Southern Mississippi, 26–23 in OT
Next week: at Texas A&M

By conference: SEC (6), Big 12 (4), Big Ten (3), ACC (3), Pac-12 (3), AAC (1), Independent (2), MWC (2), C-USA (1).

Out: Michigan State, NC State, Fresno State.

Maybe next week: Northwestern, Cincinnati, Buffalo, NC State, Fresno State, Arizona State, Virginia.