New top four emerges in JV's Week 12 Top 25 NCAAF rankings
With Oklahoma falling to Baylor on Saturday, just three unbeaten teams remain in FBS football, and we have yet another top four team falling in my weekly rankings. You can check out last week's rankings here.
Last week I had the Oklahoma Sooners as my #3 team in my top 25 resume rankings. As I've explained in previous weeks, my rankings are resume and merit-based, not hypothetical-based. The question of "What are the best four teams?" is extremely subjective. I like to look at the evidence in front of me, and put in the four teams with the strongest resume. Though I had Oklahoma sitting at #3 as one of the sport's last four unbeaten teams, I wasn't expecting the Sooners to finish undefeated or make the playoff. My rankings are not a projection of where teams will finish, but rather a reflection of where they stand right now.
With Oklahoma losing to a Baylor team that lost to TCU (4-6) a week ago, it is going to be difficult for a Big 12 team to crack the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma State has the strongest resume of the three ranked Big 12 teams and the Cowboys will play the Sooners in the final week of the regular season. Had the Sooners been carrying a perfect 11-0 record and Oklahoma State were to a win, then beat either Oklahoma or Baylor in the Big 12 championship the following week, the Cowboys would have a solid case for the Playoff. Oklahoma State could still put together a strong case, and if there's chaos at the top, it could still sneak its way into the playoff. A win vs. an undefeated Oklahoma team would carry more weight than a win over an Oklahoma team that lost to Baylor, who lost to TCU, though.
It should be pretty clear what the two best conferences in college football are this year. The SEC and the Big Ten are the cream of the crop. The Big 12 is a distant third, followed by some iteration of the Pac-12, ACC, American and Mountain West. One could even argue that there's a greater gap between Big Ten/SEC and ACC/Pac-12 than there is between ACC/Pac-12 and American/Mountain West. I certainly believe that is the case.
If the SEC and Big Ten are the definitive, two-best conferences in the sport, then the Big Ten and SEC champions should be locks for the Playoff. They probably will be. In theory, a Big Ten or SEC championship should punch a one-way ticket to the College Football Playoff. If we're going to a have a four-team playoff, we need to value conference season games and outcomes. The SEC and Big Ten championship games should be treated as playoff games. If you win your conference, you're in. If you don't, thanks for playing - you had your chance.
Let's prioritize the Big Ten and SEC champions when determining a Playoff field. After that, if Cincinnati remains unbeaten with a road victory over a top 10 team (Notre Dame), the Bearcats should be in. Hypothetically, they would have won their conference championship, beaten a top 10 team on the road, and gone undefeated. They should get to keep playing until losing. Their season should end on the field, not in the court of public opinion.
After that, we can have a conversation about the fourth team. Oregon might have to beat Utah two of the final three weeks of the season, a challenging task. If Oregon wins out with a Pac-12 championship and a road victory over Ohio State (especially if Ohio State wins the Big Ten), the Ducks should be in. This gets a little dicey if Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC Championship. It will be difficult for the committee to keep Georgia out after being the country's best team for 12-14 weeks of the season. It would partially depend on how Oregon finishes. If Oregon struggles and Georgia loses by 3, I might lean Georgia. If Alabama is the clear, better team in the SEC title game, Georgia had its shot, I might lean Oregon. If Oklahoma State wins out, the Cowboys will be in the mix too. If Alabama loses a second game, and these other teams don't, the Crimson Tide should be out. I have Michigan and Michigan State at no. 7 and no. 8, respectively, right now. Again, these aren't projections. Michigan State plays Ohio State this Saturday. If the Spartans win, they'll move up. Michigan plays Ohio State the following weekend. The rankings for Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan aren't important at this time. Each team controls its own fate, and whichever team takes care of business will be in the College Football Playoff. It's that simple.
Despite the first half scare vs. Southern Mississippi, UTSA survived and is 10-0, one of three unbeatens left (Cincinnati and Georgia). I have the Roadrunners moving up to no. 11. In other news, Oklahoma dropped from no. 3 to no. 13 this week. They're now in the company of other one-loss teams with similar resumes (San Diego State, Wake Forest, Houston).
Texas A&M dropped to 19 after its loss to Ole Miss, and Utah State and Pittsburgh moved into the top 25, as Nevada and Coastal Carolina dropped out, following their losses.
The teams I had the toughest time omitting from this week's rankings were SMU (8-2), Fresno State (7-3), Arizona State (7-3), Kentucky (8-2) and Northern Illinois (7-3). If you're looking for some solid mid-week entertainment, turn in to some MACtion from the Mid-American Conference. Former Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi is on the cusp of leading NIU to its first MAC title since 2018.
Before getting to Jack's Top 25 Rankings for week 12, here's a look at how the Associated Press and the Coaches voted this week, courtesy of ESPN:
Jack's Top 25 Rankings for Week 12
#1 Georgia (10-0) — Week 11: W, 41-17 @ Tennessee (5-5). Week 12: vs. Charleston Southern (4-5)
#2 Cincinnati (10-0) — Week 11: W, 45-28 @ South Florida (2-8). Week 12: vs. SMU (8-2)
#3 Alabama (9-1) — Week 11: W, 59-3 vs. New Mexico State (1-9). Week 12: vs. Arkansas (7-3)
#4 Oregon (9-1) — Week 11: W, 38-24 vs. Washington State (5-5). Week 12: @ #23 Utah (7-3)
#5 Ohio State (9-1) — Week 11: W, 59-31 vs. Purdue (6-4). Week 12: vs. #7 Michigan State (9-1)
#6 Notre Dame (9-1) — Week 11: W, 28-3 @ Virginia (6-4). Week 12: vs. Georgia Tech (3-7)
#7 Michigan State (9-1) — Week 11: W, 40-21 vs. Maryland (5-5). Week 12: @ Ohio State (9-1)
#8 Michigan (9-1) — Week 11: W, 21-17 @ Penn State (6-4). Week 12: @ Maryland (5-5)
#9 Oklahoma State (9-1) — Week 11: W, 63-17 vs. TCU (4-6). Week 12: @ Texas Tech (6-4)
#10 Ole Miss (8-2) — Week 11: W, 29-19 vs. Texas A&M (7-3). Week 12: vs. Vanderbilt (2-8)
#11 UTSA (10-0) — Week 11: W, 27-17 vs. Southern Mississippi (1-9). Week 12: vs. UAB (7-3)
#12 Baylor (8-2) — Week 11: W, 27-14 @ Oklahoma (9-1). Week 12: @ Kansas State (7-3)
#13 Oklahoma (9-1) — Week 11: L, 27-14 vs. Baylor (8-2). Week 12: vs. Iowa State (6-4)
#14 San Diego State (9-1) — Week 11: W, 23-21 vs. Nevada (7-3). Week 12: @ UNLV (2-8)
#15 Wake Forest (9-1) — Week 11: W, 45-42 vs. North Carolina State (42). Week 12: @ Clemson (7-3)
#16 BYU (8-2) — Week 11: Bye. Week 12: @ Georgia Southern (3-7)
#17 Houston (9-1) — Week 11: W, 37-8 @ Temple (3-7). Week 12: vs. Memphis (5-5)
#18 Louisiana (9-1) — Week 11: W, 35-21 @ Troy (5-5). Week 12: @ Liberty (7-3)
#19 Texas A&M (7-3) — Week 11: L, 29-19 @ Ole Miss (7-3). Week 12: vs. Prairie View A&M (7-2)
#20 Appalachian State (8-2) — Week 11: W, 31-7 vs. South Alabama (5-5). Week 12: @ Troy (5-5)
#21 Wisconsin (7-3) — Week 11: W, 35-7 vs. Northwestern (3-7). Week 12: vs. Nebraska (3-7)
#22 Iowa (8-2) — Week 11: W, 27-22 vs. Minnesota (6-4). Week 12: vs. Illinois (4-6)
#23 Utah (7-3) — Week 11: W, 38-29 @ Arizona (1-9). Week 12: vs. Oregon (9-1)
#24 Utah State (8-2) — Week 11: W, 48-17 @ San Jose State (5-6). Week 12: vs. Wyoming (5-5)
#25 Pittsburgh (8-2) — Week 11: W, 30-23 vs. North Carolina (5-5). Week 12: vs. Virginia (6-4)
Dropped from last week's rankings: #20 Coastal Carolina, #21 Nevada
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(Image via Associated Press Pictures)