College News & Analysis

College Football Week 12: Top 25 Rankings

Starkville, Mississippi, USA;Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) reacts after a touchdown against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second quarter at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia remains at the top: The Bulldogs clinched the SEC East this past weekend and look like the clear-cut best team in the country.

Ohio State and Michigan are right behind: The Buckeyes and Wolverines rank second and third, respectively, setting up an all-time showdown in a couple of weeks.

USC still controls its own destiny: The Trojans may rank eighth, but their upcoming stretch will prove if they deserve to make the College Football Playoff.

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We’ve made it to the penultimate week of the college football regular season, and there are still nine teams with a realistic path to the College Football Playoff.

Before Week 12 commences, here is how I currently view the top 25 teams in the country. Please note this ranking is not the same as PFF’s power rankings.

1. Georgia Bulldogs (Record: 10-0, CFP Ranking: 1st)

Week 12 Matchup: at Kentucky Wildcats

Georgia once again flexed its muscles as the best team in college football with a 45-19 win on the road over Mississippi State. With the victory, the Bulldogs clinched the SEC East for the second straight season and will face sixth-ranked LSU in the SEC championship game.

The last time a team won two straight national championships was Alabama 11 years ago. Right now, Georgia has a 47% chance to accomplish that, according to PFF’s power rankings. The next-closest school is Ohio State at 26%. 

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (Record: 10-0, CFP Ranking: 2nd)

Week 12 Matchup: at Maryland Terrapins

Speaking of the Buckeyes, they remained perfect with a 56-14 win over Indiana this past weekend. 

Ohio State is one of the most well-rounded teams in college football. The Buckeyes are the only team in the country to rank in the top five in offensive grade, defensive grade, EPA per play and EPA per play allowed.

Ohio State is Elite Everywhere
Unit Grade (FBS Rank) EPA/Play (FBS Rank)
Offense 94.4 (2nd) 0.250 (3rd)
Defense 94.4 (T-3rd) -0.291 (2nd)

Both of those units will need to show up in a couple of weeks against No. 3 Michigan in what should be the biggest game of the year.

3. Michigan Wolverines (Record: 10-0, CFP Ranking: 3rd)

Week 12 Matchup: vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

Michigan continued to roll through its competition with a 34-3 win over Nebraska in Week 11.

Like Ohio State, the Wolverines are very well-rounded. Their defense’s 94.7 grade is tied for first in the country. On offense, Michigan is led by Blake Corum, who’s looking to become the first running back to take home the Heisman since Alabama’s Derrick Henry in 2015. Corum’s 95.5 grade is the highest among all players in college football, and he’s been the most valuable non-quarterback, according to PFF’s wins above average metric.

4. TCU Horned Frogs (Record: 10-0, CFP Ranking: 4th)

Week 12 Matchup: at Baylor Bears

The clock still hasn’t struck midnight on college football’s Cinderella story this season, and at this point, it might never.

Despite being seven-point underdogs to No. 18 Texas, TCU pulled out a gutsy 17-10 victory on the road to improve to 10-0. This wasn’t the first time that the Horned Frogs were doubted. They weren’t even one of the 47 teams to receive a vote in the preseason AP poll. Now, TCU is a few wins away from competing for its first national championship since 1938. 

5. Tennessee Volunteers (Record: 9-1, CFP Ranking: 5th)

Week 12 Matchup: at South Carolina Gamecocks

While the Volunteers won’t play in the SEC championship game, they still have a good chance at making the College Football Playoff. Right now, Tennessee has a 24% chance to make the final four, according to PFF’s power rankings.

For that to happen, the Vols will likely need Georgia to win the SEC while either TCU or USC loses a game. It also wouldn’t hurt if the Ohio StateMichigan game isn’t close. If that happens, Tennessee could move to as high as No. 3 in the final ranking.

6. LSU Tigers (Record: 8-2, CFP Ranking: 6th)

Week 12 Matchup: vs. UAB Blazers

The team that will play top-ranked Georgia in the SEC championship game is LSU, who clinched the SEC West this past weekend with a 13-10 win over Arkansas and some help from Alabama.

The Tigers have a very interesting case to make the playoff if they win out. On the one hand, they have two losses. A two-loss team has never been invited in the playoff’s eight-year history. On the other hand, an SEC champion with wins over Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss would be hard to exclude. Of note, the SEC winner has never been left out of the College Football Playoff. 

7. Alabama Crimson Tide (Record: 8-2, CFP Ranking: 8th)

Week 12 Matchup: vs. Austin Peay Governors

Alabama is the first team in this ranking that doesn’t have a path to the College Football Playoff, since the Crimson Tide have two losses and won’t play in the SEC championship game.

However, this is still one of the best teams in college football. Alabama ranks fourth in PFF’s power rankings, and its two losses came on the road to No. 5 Tennessee and No. 6 LSU by a combined four points. This will be only the second time in the playoff’s nine-year run that the Crimson Tide won’t be included.

8. USC Trojans (Record: 9-1, CFP Ranking: 7th)

Week 12 Matchup: at No. 16 UCLA Bruins

The only reason USC is this low despite just one loss is the fact that they've played the 84th-hardest schedule in the country so far, according to PFF’s power rankings.

However, the Trojans still likely control their own destiny because of how hard this upcoming stretch is. USC faces No. 16 UCLA and No. 18 Notre Dame over the final two weeks of the regular season. If the Trojans make it out unscathed, they’ll likely face either No. 10 Utah or No. 12 Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. If USC wins out, it’d be hard to leave them out of the playoff.

9. Clemson Tigers (Record: 9-1, CFP Ranking: 9th)

Week 12 Matchup: vs. Miami (FL) Hurricanes

A one-loss ACC champion, whether that be Clemson or North Carolina, will likely need a lot of help to make the playoff.

If Tennessee, LSU and USC all win out, they’d likely all get in over a one-loss ACC champion. The loser of the Ohio StateMichigan game would probably get in over either Clemson/North Carolina, as well. TCU is a lock to make the playoff if it finishes the season undefeated. 

For Clemson to get back to the playoff, it would need absolute chaos over the next few weeks.

10. Penn State Nittany Lions (Record: 8-2, CFP Ranking: 11th)

Week 12 Matchup: at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Like Alabama, Penn State isn't in the running to make the final four. However, that shouldn’t take away from what’s been an excellent season for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State’s only two losses this year came to No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan, who could very easily be two of the four teams in the College Football Playoff. If the Nittany Lions take care of business against Rutgers and Michigan State, they would secure their first 10-win season since 2019.

11. Oregon Ducks (Record: 8-2, CFP Ranking: 12th)

12. North Carolina Tar Heels (Record: 9-1, CFP Ranking: 13th)

13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Record: 7-3, CFP Ranking: 18th)

14. Utah Utes (Record: 8-2, CFP Ranking: 10th)

15. Kansas State Wildcats (Record: 7-3, CFP Ranking: 15th)

16. Ole Miss Rebels (Record: 8-2, CFP Ranking: 16th)

17. UCLA Bruins (Record: 8-2, CFP Ranking: 12th)

18. Florida State Seminoles (Record: 7-3, CFP Ranking: 18th)

19. Washington Huskies (Record: 8-2, CFP Ranking: 17th)

20. UCF Knights (Record: 8-2, CFP Ranking: 20th)

21. Cincinnati Bearcats (Record: 8-2, CFP Ranking: 25th)

22. Oklahoma State Cowboys (Record: 7-3, CFP Ranking: 22nd)

23. Texas Longhorns (Record: 6-4, CFP Ranking: NR)

24. Iowa Hawkeyes (Record: 6-4, CFP Ranking: NR)

25. Mississippi State Bulldogs (Record: 6-4, CFP Ranking: NR)

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