What will the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings hold in the Top 25 after Michigan blowing out Ohio State, LSU and Clemson losing, and more?
It’s almost clichéd to say that Rivalry Week is built for chaos, but we saw every bit of that throughout the weekend around Thanksgiving as the College Football Playoff rankings were put in an absolute blender. We should’ve known craziness was coming after the wild Egg Bowl ending with Ole Miss taking another loss.
That, however, was just the beginning. By the end of Saturday, four of the teams ranked inside of the Top 10 — Ohio State, LSU, Clemson and Oregon — had all gone down to lower-ranked or unranked teams. And a couple of those games weren’t even all that close. But with that, the College Football Playoff picture is now taking a much clearer shape.
Now, only conference championship games remain to determine the four teams that will compete for a national championship. But where do the College Football Playoff rankings stand after the final week of the regular season? Here’s what our projections have for the Top 25.
Projected College Football Playoff rankings after Week 13: No. 25-21
25. North Carolina Tar Heels
You could honestly make the case that back-to-back losses against Georgia Tech and short-handed NC State should take the Tar Heels out of the Top 25. This team fell apart down the stretch, even star freshman quarterback Drake Maye. But really, they barely hang on at 9-3 thanks to the fact that there aren’t many other deserving candidates to take this spot. Talk about backhanded compliments.
24. Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois had an outside shot to make it into the Big Ten Championship Game out of the West division if Purdue lost to Indiana and the Illini took down Northwestern. While the Boilermakers didn’t cooperate, Bret Bielema’s team did its job with a 41-3 win and to finish with an admirable 8-4 record. It wasn’t a signature win, but it’s enough to push them back into the rankings.
23. Troy Trojans
Through three quarters, it looked like Troy was about to squander its chance at a 10-win season by losing to a three-win Arkansas State team as they trailed 19-14 entering the final frame. Then the Trojans turned up the heat with a monster fourth quarter as they scored five touchdowns – three by Kimani Vidal – to run away to the 48-19 victory and into the Sun Belt Championship Game.
22. South Carolina Gamecocks
Even after the way that Spencer Rattler and South Carolina dominated Tennessee a week ago, I was wholly hesitant to give them a nod in the CFP rankings, as was the selection committee. But with the Gamecocks now notching a win over Clemson and finishing the year at 8-4, they have more than earned their place inside the Top 25.
21. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Anyone giving Notre Dame a chance to possibly end the dream for USC clearly hadn’t been paying attention. The Fighting Irish defense wasn’t ready for what Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley brought to the table while the offense simply has never had the firepower to keep up with an offense of that caliber. It was a nice rebound for Marcus Freeman this season, but this is a sour note to end the year on.