Colorado rises in Power Rankings after Week 12

We didn’t witness teams Nos. 2–4 all lose again, but don’t let anybody tell you Week 12 wasn’t any fun.

Louisville’s College Football Playoff and ACC hopes were dashed as Houston returned to the spotlight, Ohio State and Michigan were both challenged by fellow Big Ten opponents, Wisconsin’s continued excellence gave the conference three top-five teams in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1960 and six teams from last week’s rankings went down. Three dropped out altogether, allowing the Cougars, Tennessee and Stanford to return.

Here’s where the national pecking order stands entering the final week of the regular season (save for Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, who have the week off before Bedlam on Dec. 3).

• STAPLES: What went wrong for Charlie Strong at Texas

  • 1
    1Alabama Crimson Tide
    last week: 1
    record: 11–0
    It took until Damien Harris’s third-quarter touchdown run for Alabama to really put its game against Chattanooga out of reach, but the Crimson Tide nonetheless gave Nick Saban his 41st win in 46 games played as the No. 1 team in the country, surpassing Ohio State’s Woody Hayes (40–4–1) and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden (40–5). Poor Auburn: a poor showing against an FCS school probably ensures Alabama comes out firing against the Tigers on Saturday.

    Last week: Beat Chattanooga 31–3
    Next week: Saturday vs. Auburn

  • 2
    2Ohio St. Buckeyes
    last week: 2
    record: 10–1
    Playing Michigan State on the road in late November was never going to be easy, even with the Spartans’ struggles this season. Still, Ohio State’s narrow win over the Spartans isn’t exactly the best way to enter The Game vs. Michigan. The Buckeyes’ loss to Penn State complicates the Big Ten championship game picture, so OSU is hoping it can win out and convince the playoff selection committee it deserves a spot.

    Last week: Beat Michigan State 17–16
    Next week: Saturday vs. Michigan

  • 3
    3Clemson Tigers
    last week: 4
    record: 10–1
    Clemson rebounded from its loss to Pitt by cruising past Wake Forest to clinch the ACC Atlantic title. Having a built a dangerous reputation for playing with fire throughout the season, the Tigers will be eyeing up dominant performances vs. South Carolina and in the conference championship game to secure their playoff berth.

    Last week: Beat Wake Forest 35–13
    Next week: Saturday vs. South Carolina

  • 4
    4Michigan Wolverines
    last week: 5
    record: 10–1
    Playing without quarterback Wilton Speight, Michigan rode 158 rushing yards and two touchdowns from De’Veon Smith to shake off snowy conditions and a third-quarter Indiana lead to maintain control of its own destiny. Of course, the Wolverines will need much, much more offense at Ohio State. With Speight’s status unclear, Michigan fans are hoping John O’Korn’s mere 59 passing yards—the fewest in a game for a Michigan quarterback since 2001—were nothing more than a sign of rust.

    Last week: Beat Indiana 20–10
    Next week: Saturday at Ohio State

  • 5
    5Wisconsin Badgers
    last week: 6
    record: 9–2
    Wisconsin started slow at Purdue before putting up 35 second-quarter points to run away from the Boilermakers. The AP rewarded the Badgers with the No. 5 ranking in its latest top 25, marking the first time since 1960 that the Big Ten has three top-five teams. Next up for Wisconsin is the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe against an 8–3 Minnesota team. Should the Badgers win their 13th straight against the Gophers, they would head to the Big Ten championship game with a playoff berth very much in play.

    Last week: Beat Purdue 49–20
    Next week: Saturday vs. Minnesota

  • 6
    6Oklahoma Sooners
    last week: 7
    record: 9–2
    Oklahoma is most likely just outside playoff-contender territory and its defense undeniably still needs work—West Virginia outgained the Sooners 579–485 despite scoring half as many points—but Saturday’s 56–28 win over the Mountaineers made a gigantic statement in addressing who the Big 12’s best team is. Next up (after a week off) is the Bedlam game against Oklahoma State with the conference title up for grabs.

    Last week: Beat West Virginia 56–28
    Next week: Off

  • 7
    7Washington Huskies
    last week: 8
    record: 10–1
    Washington rebounded from its first loss of the season by thumping Arizona State, but its résumé was dinged by losses to Utah and Washington State. Still, the Apple Cup matchup against the Cougars is major, and if the Huskies win, a date in the Pac-12 championship game would loom against Colorado or USC. However, their playoff candidacy could be doomed by their FBS-worst non-conference strength of schedule.

    Last week: Beat Arizona State 44–18
    Next week: Saturday at Washington State

  • 8
    8Penn St. Nittany Lions
    last week: 9
    record: 9–2
    Penn State played Rutgers, which is about all you need to know about the Nittany Lions’ Week 12. Now, they’re hoping to beat Michigan State at home and have Ohio State knock off Michigan to reach the Big Ten championship game.

    Last week: Beat Rutgers 39–0
    Next week: Saturday vs. Michigan State

  • 9
    9Colorado Buffaloes
    last week: 13
    record: 9–2
    An MVP effort by Sefo Liufau—345 passing yards, 144 rushing yards and two touchdowns, plus one overcome hip injury—carried Colorado to a pivotal win over Washington State. Now, the Buffs have the Pac-12 South title in their sights; beat Utah on Saturday, and it’s theirs. At that point, they’d be hoping to face Washington in the conference championship game for one last push at the playoff.

    Last week: Beat Washington State 38–24
    Next week: Saturday vs. Utah

  • 10
    10USC Trojans
    last week: 12
    record: 8–3
    USC extended its winning streak to seven games by defeating UCLA on the road. Ronald Jones II enjoyed another strong rushing effort, going over 100 yards for the third time in four games and adding two touchdowns in the process. The Trojans are now rooting for Utah to beat Colorado to pave the way to the Pac-12 South title.

    Last week: Beat UCLA 34–14
    Next week: Saturday vs. Notre Dame

  • 11
    11Louisville Cardinals
    last week: 3
    record: 9–2
    Louisville’s trip to Houston was widely anticipated dating back to the summer, when much of the college football world thought the Cougars’ playoff hopes could hinge on a victory in the penultimate week of the regular season. Instead, the Cardinals had their playoff hopes on the line. They were subsequently eradicated in Houston’s 36–10 win as the Cougars sacked Lamar Jackson 11 times and, ironically, restored the shine to Tom Herman’s appeal on the coaching market. With their chance at the ACC championship also gone, Saturday’s matchup with Kentucky will largely serve as a chance for Jackson to rebuild his once-massive Heisman Trophy lead.

    Last week: Lost to Houston 36–20
    Next week: Saturday vs. Kentucky

  • 12
    12Oklahoma St. Cowboys
    last week: 14
    record: 9–2
    “We definitely got our bucks kicked. It was embarrassing,” TCU running back Kyle Hicks said after Oklahoma State handed the Horned Frogs their worst home loss since 1997 on Saturday. The Cowboys gained 334 rushing yards in their 31–6 victory, with Justice Hill and Chris Carson nearly splitting 300 of those yards between themselves. Mason Rudolph passed for one touchdown and rushed for two more, and Oklahoma State allowed only a first-quarter touchdown (and blocked the point-after attempt) to TCU before turning on cruise control. Next up is the Bedlam game Dec. 3 against Oklahoma. A win then, and we’ll be playing the “what if” game for Oklahoma State’s playoff chances in the context of that preposterous Sept. 10 Hail Mary loss to Central Michigan.

    Last week: Beat TCU 31–6
    Next week: Off

  • 13
    13Western Michigan Broncos
    last week: 15
    record: 11–0
    It was more of the same for P.J. Fleck’s Broncos on Saturday against Buffalo. With ESPN’s College GameDay in town, Western Michigan outgained Buffalo 626–268 and held the Bulls to a paltry 2–of-12 on third downs. WMU now has two shutouts in one season for the first time since 2000, but interestingly enough hasn’t yet clinched the MAC West. That title will be on the line Friday when 9–2 Toledo comes to Kalamazoo.

    Last week: Beat Buffalo 38–0
    Next week: Friday vs. Toledo

  • 14
    14Auburn Tigers
    last week: 16
    record: 8–3
    Saturday was nothing more than a tune-up for the Iron Bowl for Auburn (and Alabama, for that matter). The Tigers notched their first shutout since 2008 while the offense posted 451 rushing yards with a pair of hundred-yard rushers in Kam Martin and Kerryon Johnson. Senior quarterback Jeremy Johnson got the start with Sean White sidelined by a shoulder injury and was an efficient 14-of-19 for 147 yards and one touchdown, perhaps a meaningful effort if he has to play once more vs. the Crimson Tide.

    Last week: Beat Alabama A&M 55–0
    Next week: Saturday at Alabama

  • 15
    15Florida St. Seminoles
    last week: 18
    record: 8–3
    Dalvin Cook needed only 19 yards to break Florida State’s career rushing record, so naturally he ran for 225—with four touchdowns—as the Seminoles quick work of their trip to Syracuse. Florida State is playing solely for an upper-tier bowl berth at this point, though the ‘Noles will get the opportunity to hand archrival Florida a loss before the Gators face Alabama in the SEC title game.

    Last week: Beat Syracuse 45–14
    Next week: Saturday vs. Florida

  • 16
    16Nebraska Cornhuskers
    last week: 19
    record: 9–2
    Nebraska played without Tommy Armstrong Jr., on senior day but had little trouble dispatching Maryland, who managed only 11 net rushing yards. The Huskers must beat Iowa on Friday and have Wisconsin lose to Minnesota in order to win the Big Ten West, but they nonetheless have the opportunity to secure their first 10-win season since 2012 with a win over the Hawkeyes.

    Last week: Beat Maryland 28–7
    Next week: Friday at Iowa

  • 17
    17Florida Gators
    last week: 20
    record: 8–2
    Florida scuffled with LSU pre-game and took the game rescheduled due to Hurricane Matthew down to the wire, stifling the Tigers at the goal line on the final play to secure the SEC East title. Florida’s top-five defense was once again stellar—and also benefited from LSU’s inability to score from inside the Gators’ 10-yard line on three separate occasions—while the offense largely struggled aside from Austin Appleby’s 98-yard toss-and-run to Tyrie Cleveland. The Gators’ reward? A trip to Florida State before heading to Atlanta to face Alabama.

    Last week: Beat LSU 16–10
    Next week: Saturday at Florida State

  • 18
    18West Virginia Mountaineers
    last week: 11
    record: 8–2
    A miserable first half prevented any chance West Virginia had of defeating Oklahoma in Morgantown, and now the Mountaineers have lost their playoff shot and Big 12 title chance. WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson might’ve said it best after the game: “I don’t know if it was too big of a game and too much hype into it that our guys just … I don’t know.”

    Last week: Lost to Oklahoma 56–28
    Next week: Saturday at Iowa State

  • 19
    19Boise St. Broncos
    last week: 22
    record: 10–1
    Boise State is peaking at the right time, but its loss to Wyoming still stings as the Broncos need help to reach the Mountain West title game vs. San Diego State. A New Year’s Six bowl berth is also less of a possibility after Wyoming beat SDSU, though Boise State has its second 10-win campaign in three seasons under Bryan Harsin to hang its hat on.

    Last week: Beat UNLV 42–25
    Next week: Friday at Air Force

  • 20
    20Houston Cougars
    last week: NR
    record: 9–2
    Welcome back, Houston. The Cougars return to these rankings for the first time since Week 7 after dominating Louisville. Next up is Memphis, though Houston’s American title game hopes were dashed with Navy’s win over East Carolina on Saturday.

    Last week: Beat Louisville 36–10
    Next week: Friday at Memphis

  • 21
    21Utah Utes
    last week: 10
    record: 8–3
    Utah had control of its own destiny but lost it in shocking fashion, falling to 4–7 Oregon in the waning seconds on Saturday. The Utes are now eliminated from Pac-12 South contention, and they must finish the regular season against Colorado in Boulder.

    Last week: Lost to Oregon 30–28
    Next week: Saturday at Colorado

  • 22
    22Texas A&M Aggies
    last week: 25
    record: 8–3
    Texas A&M ended its two-game skid in a necessary-but-unimpressive win over UTSA, and now the Aggies will host LSU on a short turnaround in a Thursday night game.

    Last week: Beat UTSA 23–10
    Next week: Thursday vs. LSU

  • 23
    23Washington St. Cougars
    last week: 21
    record: 8–3
    After its eight-game winning streak was snapped by Colorado, it all comes down to the Apple Cup for Washington State. The Pac-12 North title will be on the line, as will the opportunity for the Cougars to ruin Washington’s playoff hopes.

    Last week: Lost to Colorado 38–24
    Next week: Friday vs. Washington

  • 24
    24Tennessee Volunteers
    last week: NR
    record: 8–3
    Tennessee returns to the rankings for the first time since Week 8 after hanging 63 points on Missouri to mark the first time since 1995 that the Vols have scored at least 40 points in three consecutive games. Joshua Dobbs amassed 413 yards (223 passing, 190 rushing) and scored five total touchdowns in his final game in Knoxville.

    Last week: Beat Missouri 63–37
    Next week: Saturday at Vanderbilt

  • 25
    25Stanford Cardinal
    last week: NR
    record: 8–3
    Stanford is also back in the top 25 for the first time since Week 5 after defeating California for its fourth straight win. Christian McCaffrey broke his own single-game school rushing record with 284 yards, thanks in large part to a 90-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter.

    Last week: Beat Cal 45–31
    Next week: Saturday vs. Rice

Dropped out: LSU, North Carolina, San Diego State
Next five: Navy, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, South Florida, Temple

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