College Football Top 25 - End of Regular Season Edition
For those out there who were hoping for chaos and anarchy to reign supreme over Championship weekend in college football, and cause a huge stir in the college football playoff, it was a lackluster weekend. Favorites Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Clemson, and UCF all won, meaning there would be no chaotic situation for the committee to have to deal with. What it did cause however was a bit of a different conundrum for the Committee. Georgia was impressive in the SEC title game against Alabama, and had the Tide by 14 points early in the second half, but couldn't put them away. None-the-less the 7 point loss, was the best loss of any for anyone in the entire country this season (if there can be such a thing as a good loss). It caused a great debate between Oklahoma, Georgia, Ohio State, and UCF. More on this later, but first ahead to this week's top 25, the end of the regular season edition. Conference titles have been won and the bowl matchups are set - so let's get to it, here we go, starting right at the top with the Crimson Tide -
#1 Alabama trailed #4 Georgia for the majority of the first half, and found themselves down 14 early in the third quarter. Heisman contender QB Tua Tagovailoa was in the midst of his worst game of the season (10/25 164 yards 1TD, 2INT passing) when he went out with an ankle injury late in the third quarter. Jalen Hurts came in and saved the Tide by scoring two fourth quarter TDs - one through the air and one on the ground to lead Bama to the come-from-behind victory. Hurts finished 7/9 for 82 yards passing, and rushed for 28 yards on 5 carries. The victory cemented Alabama into the top spot, and made them the clear and easy choice for #1 in the CFP.
The #2 Clemson Tigers left no doubt in the ACC title game, routing Pittsburgh 42-10 to finish a perfect 13-0. The Panthers dropped to just 7-6 on the season, as the outcome really wasn't much of a surprise. Clemson was the easy choice to remain at 2 heading into the playoff. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish compete as an independent and therefore were idle and remained at 3 after finishing off an unbeaten season last week with their win over USC. The Georgia Bulldogs fell to Alabama in the aforementioned SEC title game, 35-28 and finish up the regular season 11-2. Many felt that victories over Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Auburn, and Georgia Tech was enough to warrant the Bulldogs getting in as the fourth team. I completely understand the reasoning, and I'll be honest, I think Georgia is one of the four best teams in the country, but the wins count and so do the losses. I don't knock them at all for their loss to Bama, but they had their opportunity to punch their ticket and couldn't close it out. In the end, they drop two spots to 6, but I believe the Bulldogs are the perfect example for a playoff expansion. Ultimately conference titles do matter - if Georgia and Alabama were already both going to get in then there was no need to even play the game right? And the losses do too - their other loss @ LSU is not a bad loss by any means, but it wasn't by a FG or touchdown, it was by 20 - 36-16.
UCF moved up one spot from last week and into the #4 spot. The Knights looked atrocious on defense early in the game, and had their young Freshman replacement QB give it away a few times early, leading to 10 additional points for the Tigers as they build a 38-21 halftime lead. Central Florida came out strong to start the second half however, and completely dominated Memphis in the second half, outscoring them 35-3 behind 4 rushing touchdowns from FR QB Darriel Mack Jr. Mack put up a ridiculous overall statline - throwing for 348 yards and a pair of scores, while rushing for 59 yards and the four scores. The impressive 56-41 comeback victory showed a lot of heart and grit. In the end, several teams could make a claim to be in the playoff, and they all have legitimate arguments - and knocks against them. The Knights finished the season with six victories over teams with winning records - four of which came against teams with a final record of 8-5 or better. They've won 25 straight games and finished up their second consecutive season as unbeaten American Athletic champs. They move up a spot to 4.
The Oklahoma Sooners also made a move following their 39-27 victory over Texas in the Big XII title game. OU was able to avenge their only loss of the season (45-48) to the Longhorns earlier this season, and by doing so defeated every team on their schedule. The knock on the Sooners had been their defense - or lack thereof. They came in having surrendered a hideous 47.2 points per game over their last four to teams with a combined record of just 22-25. But it was actually their defense that was to thank for the victory in this one - the Sooners outscored Texas 12-0 in the fourth quarter and got a safety with about 8:30 to go in the game that pushed OU's lead to 5, and gave them the football as well. The ensuing touchdown drive wrapped things up and put the game away. Oklahoma finished as a conference champion and were able to avenge their only loss of the season - giving them the slightest of nods ahead of Georgia and Ohio State. They are up two spots to 5 this week.
Checking in behind Georgia at 6, are the Ohio State Buckeyes, who took care of Northwestern, 45-24 in the Big TEN title game. While OSU owns by far the worst loss of any playoff contender (49-20 @ 5-7 Purdue! Yuck!), it also owns the most impressive victory by rankings standards. Their 62-39 spanking of rival Michigan, who was #4 at the time was the most impressive win of any of the contenders this season - Georgia (#9 Florida), Oklahoma (#13 West Virginia), and UCF (#19 Cincinnati). They also joined Alabama and Georgia as the only teams to have five victories over teams ranked in the top 25. However, two of those wins were early in the season over a ranked TCU team that finished just 5-7 and then to a Michigan State team that ultimately finished just 7-5. In the end, even though the Buckeyes won the Big TEN, the ugly, ugly loss to Purdue is tough to get past, combined with terrible performances against Nebraska and Maryland have Ohio State at 7, as they drop a spot and are passed by the Sooners.
The Washington Huskies moved up two spots to 8 in the final poll of the regular season following their 10-3 defensive slugfest victory over Utah in the Pac 12 title game. The Huskies' resume is just as impressive, if not more so than Michigan's and includes a conference title, and a victory over a top-10 ranked team in Washington State. It is more then enough to move UW up two spots and into the #8 spot. The Wolverines, meanwhile, were off and slid down one spot to #9. They are the second-best two-loss team behind Georgia in the country hands-down.
The Florida Gators slid up a spot to 10, rounding out the top 10 this week. Behind the Gators, 9-3 LSU also moved up a spot to 11, and were followed by Washington State up to 12, Penn State up a spot to 13, and West Virginia also up a spot to 14. The Texas Longhorns land at #15 in the final regular reason rankings, down six spots after their 12-point loss to Oklahoma in the Big XII title game.
Kentucky remained at 16, and are followed by Mississippi State, who gets the slight nod over Texas A&M based off their head-to-head win at 17, and then the Aggies at 18, Fresno State back into the rankings - the only new-comer this week, checking in at 19, following their 19-16 victory over Boise State in the Mountain West Title game. Syracuse was idle and moved back one spot to 20 to make room for Fresno St. Rounding out the top 25, are Army remaining at 21, Utah State up three spots to 22, Utah down 5 spots after their loss to Washington in the Pac-12 title game, at 23, followed by Iowa State, who remained at 24 following a lackluster 27-24 victory over FCS opponent Drake at-home. Boise State rounds out the the final top 25 of the regular season - down eight spots following their 3 point loss to Fresno State in the Mountain West title game.
1 ALABAMA (13-0) # ✩
2 CLEMSON (13-0) # ✩
3 NOTRE DAME (12-0) ✩
4 UCF (12-0) #
5 OKLAHOMA (12-1) # ✩
6 GEORGIA (11-2)
7 OHIO ST. (12-1) #
8 WASHINGTON (10-3) #
9 MICHIGAN (10-2)
10 FLORIDA (9-3)
11 LSU (9-3)
12 WASHINGTON ST. (10-2)
13 PENN ST. (9-3)
14 WEST VIRGINIA (8-3)
15 TEXAS (9-4)
16 KENTUCKY (9-3)
17 MISSISSIPPI ST. (8-4)
18 TEXAS A&M (8-4)
19 FRESNO ST. (11-2) # *
20 SYRACUSE (9-3)
21 ARMY (9-2)
22 UTAH ST. (10-2)
23 UTAH (9-4)
24 IOWA ST. (8-4)
25 BOISE ST. (10-3)
Dropped Out: 22 Northwestern
✩ - college football playoff participant
# - denotes conference champion
* - new to the rankings this week
N.C. State (9-3), Missouri (8-4), Iowa (8-4), Northwestern (8-5), and Cincinnati (10-2) are the next group of teams just outside of the top 25. All will have opportunities during bowl season to get one more W and jump back into the final top 25 of the season.
Looking ahead to bowl season, we have to start with the two semifinals of course. No matter what you think of the Sooners getting in as the #4 team, the QB matchup between who are expected to be the top two vote getters for the Heisman trophy in Oklahoma's Kyler Murray and Alabama's Tua Tagolaivoa in the Orange Bowl should be a lot of fun. The problem is the Sooners' sieve of a defense - and that might be mild way of putting it. OU better hope that the version that showed up against Texas is once against present against the Tide or Bama should roll right over the Sooners and into the title game once again. While Notre Dame has looked really good at times this season, they've looked rather pedestrian as well for a team that has managed to complete a 12-0 season. They will battle Clemson in the Cotton Bowl in the other semifinal. Look for the Tigers to handle the Fighting Irish and move on to the title game.
In other high-profile bowl matchups - 6 Georgia will battle 15 Texas in the Sugar Bowl. 8 Washington and 7 Ohio State will square off in the Rose Bowl, and 11 LSU and 4 UCF will meet in the Fiesta Bowl, as the Knights attempt to make it two New Year's Six Bowl game victories in a row over SEC west teams. 16 Kentucky and 13 Penn State should be a great game, led by a pair of great defenses in the Citrus Bowl. 17 Mississippi State and Iowa will do battle in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day as well. The Gator Bowl will pit N.C. State and 18 Texas A&M, the Holiday Bowl features a great matchup between the runners-up in both the Pac 12 and Big TEN in 23 Utah and Northwestern. A couple of former Big XII teams will meet in the Liberty Bowl in Missouri and Oklahoma State, and what looks to be a terrific matchup in the Peach Bowl between #9 Michigan and #10 Florida.
Enjoy all of the bowl action and the Army-Navy showdown this coming weekend and be sure to check back at the conclusion of all the bowl festivities for the final rankings of the 2018 college football season. Thanks for reading as always, and enjoy all of the great bowl games we have in store!