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College Football Playoff Rankings: LSU, USC inch up to key spots in new top 25 as Tennessee falls to No. 10

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With the top four teams in the college football playoff rankings last week all holding the pitch after last week’s win, the fourth edition of the CFP top 25, released Tuesday night, went largely uneventful. Defending national champion Georgia held on to first place, while Ohio State remained in second. Michigan and TCU rounded out the top four with field goals last Saturday to stave off setbacks and remain undefeated ahead of Rival Week.

USC, with its only downside being a one-point loss in Utah on October 15, had the biggest victory among CFP contenders, 48-45 at UCLA. The Trojans’ rise to 6th was helped by a shocking loss to the Tennessee team, who lost 63–38 in South Carolina.

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Despite the improvement in rankings, USC is still trailing No. 5 LSU with two losses. Both teams will compete in their respective conference championship games in two weeks, but the Trojans could potentially top the Tigers in the penultimate rankings next week, given the teams’ upcoming rivals. (More below.)

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Now with the Volunteers nearly eliminated from the playoffs, they will become only the second top-ranked team in the season’s opening CFP to fail to reach a four-team field (2014 Mississippi). Meanwhile, the Tigers still have a shot at becoming the first team to suffer two losses and earn a CFP bid in tournament history.

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Consecutive 25+ point wins have given new life to one-loss Clemson, though he hangs behind a pair of two-loss SEC teams (LSU, Alabama) and one-loss USC. Clemson’s potential chart strength has waned this week, but he’s still on track for his seventh CFP appearance in the past eight seasons. If she ends up on the field, it will be the lowest ranked team at this stage.

Let’s take a look at all of the top 25 in the CFP rankings with additional analysis from bowl expert Jerry Palm below.

College Football Playoff Ranking November 22

  1. Georgia (11-0)
  2. Ohio State (11-0)
  3. Michigan (11-0)
  4. TKU (11-0)
  5. LSU (9-2)
  6. USC (10-1)
  7. Alabama (9-2)
  8. Clemson (10-1)
  9. Oregon (9-2)
  10. Tennessee (9-2)
  11. Penn State (9-2)
  12. Kansas State (8-3)
  13. Washington (9-2)
  14. Utah (8-3)
  15. Our Lady (8-3)
  16. Florida State (8-3)
  17. North Carolina (9-2)
  18. UCLA (8-3)
  19. Tulane (9-2)
  20. Ole Miss (8-3)
  21. Oregon State (8-3)
  22. UKF (8-3)
  23. Texas (7-4)
  24. Cincinnati (9-2)
  25. Louisville (7-4)

Analysis by bowl expert Jerry Palm

Part of the reason USC remains behind LSU is because the Trojans got their first win against a ranked team this season when they beat the Bruins. This positioning may be temporary as long as USC continues to win. In fact, USC is likely to pass LSU next week if the Trojans beat No. 15 Notre Dame and the Tigers tame unranked Texas A&M. A win in the Quality Ranking may be enough for the CFP Selection Panel to make the transition. The Trojans also have an easier path to the playoffs given they don’t have to go through the Bulldogs’ lead.

Clemson feels stuck with no potential big win left on their schedule and North Carolina’s No. 17 suffers a second loss ahead of their scheduled ACC Championship game. Clemson should pass South Carolina and UNC to finish 12-1, but that alone doesn’t look like it will move the needle enough to include the Tigers in the CFP conversation. Clemson suffers especially compared to USC if both are 12-1 as the Trojans will defeat the Fighting Irish, who inflicted their only defeat on the Tigers.

This week’s rankings are designed to place four SEC teams in the New Year’s Six. Assuming no top 10 losses from now until Sunday, Georgia is in the CFP as the #1 seed. LSU or Alabama, whichever is higher, will go to the Sugar Bowl as an SEC representative. The other team will face the ACC champion in the Orange Bowl as the highest ranked team left over from the Big Ten, SEC, or Notre Dame. Finally, Tennessee will earn last place in the Cotton Bowl as the highest-ranked team not yet in the New Year’s Six game.

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

And now we can confirm, with the exception of the No. 22 UCF loss in South Florida this week, the AAC champion will represent the Group of Five in the Cotton Bowl.


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