NCAA Football

College Football Playoff rankings: LSU, USC move up key spots in new top 25 as Tennessee drops to No. 10

College Football Playoff rankings: LSU, USC move up key spots in new top 25 as Tennessee drops to No. 10

With the top four teams in the College Football Playoff rankings all holding serve after winning last week, the fourth edition of the CFP Top 25, released Tuesday night, was largely uneventful. The defending national champion, Georgia State, held onto the top spot, while Ohio State remains in second place. Michigan and TCU round out the top four, using last Saturday’s field goal to avoid upsets and remain undefeated heading into Rivalry Week.

USC, with its only blemish being a one-point loss to Utah on Oct. 15, picked up its biggest win among CFP contenders with a 48-45 win at UCLA. The Trojans’ climb to No. 6 was helped by a shocking upset of Tennessee, which was routed 63-38 at South Carolina.

Despite ​​the improved ranking, USC still trails No. 5 LSU by two losses. Both teams will be in their respective conference championship games in two weeks, but the Trojans could potentially leapfrog the Tigers in the penultimate rankings next week given the teams’ upcoming opponents. (More details below.)

With the Volunteers now all but eliminated from the playoff picture, they will become just the second No. 1 team in the CFP’s original rankings in a season to fall short of the four-team field (Mississippi State, 2014). Meanwhile, the Tigers still have a chance to become the first two-game losing team in tournament history to clinch a CFP bid.

Back-to-back wins by more than 25 points have breathed new life into one-loss Clemson, though it remains behind a pair of two-loss SEC teams (LSU, Alabama) and one-loss USC. Clemson’s potential strength of schedule took a hit this week, but it still has a path to its seventh CFP appearance in the last eight seasons. If it ultimately takes the field, it will be the lowest-ranked team at this stage.

Let’s take a look at the entire top 25 CFP rankings with additional analysis from cup expert Jerry Palm below.

College Football Playoff Rankings, Nov. 22

  1. Georgia (11-0)
  2. Ohio State (11-0)
  3. Michigan (11-0)
  4. TCU (11-0)
  5. LDU (9-2)
  6. USC (10-1)
  7. Alabama (9-2)
  8. Clemson (10-1)
  9. Oregon (9-2)
  10. Tennessee (9-2)
  11. Pension state (9-2)
  12. Kansas State (8-3)
  13. Washington (9-2)
  14. Utah (8-3)
  15. Mother of God (8-3)
  16. State of Florida (8-3)
  17. North Carolina (9-2)
  18. UCLA (8-3)
  19. Tulane (9-2)
  20. Be Miss (8-3)
  21. State of Oregon (8-3)
  22. UCF (8-3)
  23. Texas (7-4)
  24. Cincinnati (9-2)
  25. Louisville (7-4)

Analysis by Bowling Expert Jerry Palm

One of the reasons USC is behind LSU is because the Trojans got their first win over a ranked team this season by beating the Bruins. This placement could be temporary as long as USC continues to win. In fact, USC will likely leapfrog LSU next week when the Trojans beat No. 15 Notre Dame and the Tigers tame unranked Texas A&M. A quality ranking win could be enough for the CFP selection committee to make the switch. The Trojans also have an easier path to the playoffs since they don’t have to go through the top-ranked Bulldogs.

Clemson is in a bit of a tailspin considering they don’t have a potential big win against No. 17 North Carolina, which suffered its second loss before a scheduled ACC championship game. Clemson needs to overcome South Carolina and UNC to finish 12-1, but it doesn’t seem like that alone will move the needle enough to put the Tigers in the CFP conversation. Clemson especially suffers against USC, both 12-1, as the Trojans beat the Fighting Irish, handing the Tigers their only loss.

This week’s rankings are designed to place four SEC teams in the New Year’s Six. Assuming no top-10 issues between now and Election Sunday, Georgia is in the CFP as the No. 1 seed. LSU or Alabama, whichever is ranked higher, will go to the Sugar Bowl as the SEC representative. The other team will face the ACC champion in the Orange Bowl as the highest-ranked team remaining from the Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame. Finally, Tennessee will earn the final Cotton Bowl berth as the highest-ranked team that has yet to participate in a New Year’s Six game.

Penn State is biding its time, but can’t seem to get past where it is right now due to a lack of quality wins. The Nittany Lions have only two losses, coming to No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan, but their best win of the season is still the Week 1 win at Purdue.

And now we can confirm that, barring No. 22 UCF’s loss at South Florida this week, the AAC champion will represent the Group of Five in the Cotton Bowl.

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