Power Rankings: More drama, surprises in Week 13

For the most part, the 2018 college football season has played out as expected.

Alabama and Clemson seem to be on a collision course to play for a national championship again.

For the second straight season, Georgia is standing in the Crimson Tide’s way, this time in next week’s SEC championship game in Atlanta.

But the final full weekend of the regular season finally delivered unexpected results and drama. Ohio State spoiled Michigan’s Big Ten title and College Football Playoff dreams with a rout that neither side will soon forget.

And by the end of Saturday night, LSU and Texas A&M had played seven overtimes before the Aggies limped away with a 74-72 victory, the highest-scoring game in FBS history.

Here are the Power Rankings for Week 13, heading into next week’s conference championship games:

1. Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC)

Defending national champion Alabama’s dominance of its opponents continued with a 52-21 rout of Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Saturday. The Crimson Tide head into next week’s SEC championship game against Georgia having won each of their first 12 games by 20 points or more, a first in the AP poll era, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went a long way toward wrapping up the Heisman Trophy with another record-setting performance against the Tigers. He completed 25 of 32 passes for 324 yards with five touchdown passes and one scoring run. He is the first player in Alabama history to account for six touchdowns in a game. The Tide have scored 50 points or more in eight games this season, which is tied for second most in the AP poll era (the 2008 Oklahoma team had nine such games) and the most in SEC history.

2. Clemson (12-0, 8-0 ACC)

After dismantling rival South Carolina 56-35 on Saturday night in the highest-scoring game in Palmetto Series history, the Tigers are one victory away from reaching the CFP for the fourth season in a row. The Tigers will play Pittsburgh in next week’s ACC championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Gamecocks did expose a potential deficiency heading into the postseason. South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley threw for 510 yards — the second-highest total ever allowed by the Tigers — with five touchdowns. It was the most points they Tigers had surrendered in 28 games since a 42-35 win over Virginia Tech in the 2016 ACC title game.

3. Notre Dame (12-0)

The Fighting Irish all but punched their first CFP ticket with a 24-17 victory at USC on Saturday night. The result was a little closer than expected, and the Irish had to come back from a 10-point deficit in the first half, but they only needed to win. It’s the fourth time in the past 50 years that they’ve finished a regular season unbeaten. The Irish have now done it twice under coach Brian Kelly; they went 12-0 in 2012 before losing to Alabama 42-14 in the BCS National Championship. Kelly is only the fourth coach in Notre Dame history to have multiple unbeaten regular seasons, joining Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian. Quarterback Ian Book threw for a career-high 352 yards against the Trojans, becoming the first Notre Dame player to throw for 300 against USC in the past 20 years.

4. Georgia (11-1, 7-1 SEC)

After dismantling rival Georgia Tech 45-21 on Saturday, the Bulldogs will get another chance at Alabama in next week’s SEC championship game. Georgia is still stinging from last season’s 26-23 overtime loss to the Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff National Championship, in which it squandered a pair of 13-point leads and surrendered Tagovailoa’s 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith — on second-and-26 — on the final play of the game. Georgia seems to be peaking at the right time, winning each of its past five games by 17 points or more. Quarterback Jake Fromm threw four touchdowns against the Yellow Jackets, and the UGA defense surrendered only 128 yards to the No. 1 rushing offense in the FBS.

5. Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten)

Say what you will about Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, but few coaches thrive more when their teams are underdogs. Ohio State improved to 7-0 as an underdog under Meyer with Saturday’s stunning 62-39 rout of Michigan. It won six of those seven games by a touchdown or more. After losing at unranked Purdue by 29 and then struggling to beat Nebraska and Maryland (in overtime!), the Buckeyes are suddenly one victory away from perhaps crashing the CFP again. Ohio State plays Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis next week. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins was sensational against what had been the No. 1 defense in the FBS. He became the first quarterback to throw for five touchdowns against Michigan (which had given up seven touchdown passes the entire season) and broke Big Ten single-season records for most touchdowns and passing yards.

6. Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1 Big 12)

Perhaps it’s the Big 12 Conference that owes Texas linebacker Breckyn Hager an apology. Hager was reprimanded a week ago for saying, among other things, that “OU has no defense.” Well, the Sooners certainly didn’t do anything in Friday night’s 59-56 win at West Virginia to shut him up. OU gave up 33 first downs and 704 yards of offense, including 539 passing, in its wild victory. The Sooners have given up at least 40 points in each of their past four games, yet still won each of them. They’re the only team since the AP poll debuted in 1936 to win four straight games while giving up at least 40 points in each victory. They’ll get a chance to prove Hager wrong when they play the Longhorns in next week’s Big 12 championship game.

7. UCF (11-0, 8-0 American)

The Knights won their 24th consecutive game with a 38-10 victory at USF on Friday, but their latest win was a costly one. Star quarterback McKenzie Milton suffered a “traumatic” injury to his right leg while scrambling in the second quarter. His father told ESPN that he had emergency surgery on Friday to repair his right knee and other internal issues. Milton had thrown for 2,663 yards with 25 touchdowns and run for 307 yards with nine scores in nine starts. The Knights will play Memphis in next week’s American Athletic Conference championship game, with another trip to a New Year’s Six bowl on the line. Freshman Darriel Mack Jr., who has attempted 43 passes this season, figures to be the starter.

8. Michigan (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten)

With everything riding on The Game on Saturday — a trip to the Big Ten championship game, a potential spot in the CFP and a chance to finally beat rival Ohio State — the Wolverines couldn’t have looked any worse. Michigan surrendered 62 points — the most it has ever given up in a non-overtime game dating to 1891 — and 567 yards of offense. Coach Jim Harbaugh fell to 0-4 against the Buckeyes, who have won seven straight games in the series and 14 of the past 15 overall. If Ohio State sneaks into the CFP, the Wolverines might still end up in the Rose Bowl Presented by Northwestern Mutual. If the Buckeyes are left out, Michigan still seems to be a sure bet for a New Year’s Six bowl, possibly the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

9. Texas (9-3, 7-2 Big 12)

The Longhorns might have been caught looking ahead to next week’s Big 12 championship game. They nearly blew a 21-0 lead at Kansas, before holding on for a 24-17 victory Friday. After their third straight win, they’ll get a rematch against Oklahoma at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Longhorns defeated the Sooners 48-45 in Dallas on Oct. 6; they nearly squandered a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter before Cameron Dicker made a 40-yard field goal with nine seconds left. Regular-season winners are 25-15 in conference champion rematches, according to ESPN Stats & Information, including a 5-2 mark last year.

10. Washington (9-3, 7-2 Pac-12)

The Huskies spoiled Washington State’s Pac-12 North title hopes for the third straight season, defeating the Cougars 28-15 in Friday night’s Apple Cup. Though the Huskies fell short of their CFP aspirations, they’ll have a chance to win their second Pac-12 title in three seasons when they play Utah in next week’s Pac-12 championship game in Santa Clara, California. The Huskies defeated the Utes 21-7 in Salt Lake City on Sept. 15; they’re 1-11 against them all time. The Utes’ lone victory was a 34-23 win in Seattle in 2015. The winner will play in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual.

11. Washington State (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12)

The Cougars’ CFP and Pac-12 title hopes came crashing down with a 28-15 loss to rival Washington on Friday night, their sixth straight defeat in the Apple Cup. With the Huskies capturing the Pac-12 North title, Washington State still seems headed to a New Year’s Six bowl, probably the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day. Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew‘s faint Heisman Trophy hopes are probably finished as well. He completed 26 of 35 passes for 152 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss, as coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense struggled in the snow.

12. Florida (9-3, 5-3 SEC)

The Gators put an exclamation point on their bounce-back season under first-year coach Dan Mullen by ending a five-game losing streak to rival Florida State with a 41-14 victory. It was the Gators’ biggest win over the Seminoles since a 37-10 victory in 2009, when Tim Tebow was their quarterback. Under Mullen, the Gators improved from 4-7 in 2017 to 9-3 this season. They assured FSU of having its first losing season since 1976 and kept it out of a bowl game for the first time since 1982. By winning their last three games, the Gators might be headed to a New Year’s Six bowl game.

13. Penn State (9-3, 6-3 Big Ten)

The Nittany Lions sent out quarterback Trace McSorley and the rest of their senior class with a 38-3 rout of Maryland, which should keep them in contention for a spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl. McSorley passed for 230 yards with one touchdown and ran for two more scores to improve to 31-8 as a starter, making him the winningest quarterback in PSU history. The Nittany Lions gave up 10 points or fewer in each of their past three games — against Wisconsin, Rutgers and Maryland. They had 15 tackles for loss against the Terrapins.

14. LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC)

The Tigers won’t forget about their crushing 74-72 loss at Texas A&M in seven overtimes on Saturday night anytime soon. The Tigers doused coach Ed Orgeron with Gatorade after they appeared to intercept Kellen Mond‘s pass with 29 seconds left in regulation. But officials ruled that Mond’s knee was down because of a bad snap before he threw the ball. He converted a fourth-and-18 play and then threw a 19-yard touchdown to Quartney Davis on the final play of regulation — after officials put one second back on the clock — to tie the score at 31. The teams combined for 84 points during the overtimes, before the Aggies finally won on a two-point conversion. The loss cost LSU a 10th victory and might end up knocking the Tigers out of contention for a New Year’s Six bowl game.

15. Kentucky (9-3, 5-3 SEC)

The Wildcats fell just short of winning their first SEC East title, but it was still a heck of a season, culminating with Saturday night’s 56-10 blowout of rival Louisville. It was UK’s second-biggest win in the Governor’s Cup series; it won 73-0 in 1922. The Wildcats won at least nine games in a regular season for only the fourth time in school history and the first since 1977. They won six games against bowl-eligible opponents and finished 5-3 against SEC foes. Given its momentum, Kentucky is possibly headed to the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day, where it will try to earn its first postseason victory since defeating East Carolina 25-19 in the Liberty Bowl after the 2008 season.

16. West Virginia (8-3, 6-3 Big 12)

One of the best teams in West Virginia history will ultimately be remembered for falling just short of beating Oklahoma and reaching the Big 12 championship game for the first time, which is a damn shame, as coach Dana Holgorsen put it. The Mountaineers lost a pair of fumbles that the Sooners scooped up and returned for touchdowns, and also had a couple of scores wiped off the board by questionable penalties. West Virginia’s Will Grier (539 passing yards, four passing touchdowns and zero interceptions) became the third Power 5 quarterback in the past 15 seasons to lose a game with at least 500 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, according to ESPN Stats & Information. West Virginia’s second consecutive loss will more than likely keep it out of a New Year’s Six bowl for the seventh straight season.

17. Utah (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12)

The Utes twice rallied from 20-point deficits on Saturday night to defeat rival BYU 35-27 in a Holy War that won’t soon be forgotten. Utah trailed 27-7 late in the third quarter, but then scored 28 straight points, including quarterback Jason Shelley‘s 33-yard touchdown run with 1:43 left. It was Utah’s eighth consecutive victory over the Cougars and its biggest comeback since rallying from a 27-point deficit in a 29-27 win over New Mexico on Oct. 10, 1990. The Utes have won six of seven games heading into Friday night’s Pac-12 championship game against Washington.

18. Syracuse (9-3, 6-2 ACC)

The Orange rebounded from an ugly loss to Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium last week by winning 42-21 at Boston College. Syracuse won nine games in a season for the first time since 2001 and will play in a bowl game for the first time since 2013. It also finished second in the ACC, behind No. 2 Clemson, after it was picked to finish last in the Atlantic Division in the preseason. Quarterback Eric Dungey, who missed most of last week’s game because of a lower back injury, recovered to pass for 362 yards with three touchdowns and run for three more scores. He became only the third player in school history to account for six touchdowns in a game; Jim Brown (1956) and Zack Mahoney (2016) are the others.

19. Texas A&M (8-4, 5-3 SEC)

The Aggies somehow survived their five-hour, seven-overtime victory against LSU to finish 8-4 under first-year coach Jimbo Fisher. If nothing else, the dramatic victory will change the perception of Fisher’s initial season in College Station. The Aggies won their last three regular-season games and six of their final eight, after fading badly down the stretch in each of the previous three seasons under former coach Kevin Sumlin. Quarterback Kellen Mond threw six touchdowns against LSU, which is the second most by a Texas A&M player. After the memorable victory, the Aggies might be in play for one of three Florida-based bowl games: the Citrus, TaxSlayer Gator or Outback. They haven’t played in a bowl game in the Sunshine State since losing to Tennessee 3-0 in the 1957 Gator Bowl, which was Bear Bryant’s final game as the Aggies’ coach.

20. Northwestern (8-4, 8-1 Big Ten)

The Wildcats jumped on Illinois early and held on for a 24-16 victory. Now, Northwestern can turn its attention to next week’s showdown against Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. Northwestern won its 11th straight game over a Big Ten West foe and won eight conference games for the first time since 1995. The Wildcats will have their hands full against the Buckeyes, who have beaten them six straight times and dominated the series since the late 1960s. In fact, Northwestern’s only win in the series since 1972 was a 33-27 upset of the then-No. 6 Buckeyes in overtime on Nov. 2, 2004, which snapped a 24-game losing streak to OSU. The Buckeyes have won the past six games since.

21. Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4 SEC)

First-year coach Joe Moorhead said he wanted to eventually get the Bulldogs off the Haley’s Comet plan, in which they win a championship once every 76 years. For now, he’ll have to settle for another Egg Bowl victory over rival Ole Miss. A fight and four ejections marred State’s 35-3 win over the Rebels on Thursday night. Moorhead became the first MSU coach to win eight games in his first season since 1939. The Bulldogs seem as if they might be headed to a New Year’s Day bowl, possibly the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida.

22. Boise State (10-2, 7-1 MWC)

The Broncos ended Utah State’s 10-game winning streak with a 33-24 victory on the blue turf at Albertsons Stadium on Saturday night. With the victory, Boise State clinched the MWC Mountain Division title and will host Fresno State in the MWC championship game next week. The Broncos will be trying to win back-to-back MWC titles — they defeated the Bulldogs 17-14 in last season’s title game — and their third in the past five seasons. Junior tailback Alexander Mattison ran for 200 yards with three touchdowns in 37 carries. His 59-yard run in the final two minutes helped the Broncos put the Aggies away for good.

23. Iowa State (7-4, 6-3 Big 12)

The Cyclones scored 21 unanswered points to wipe out a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter of a 42-38 victory over Kansas State on Saturday night. Iowa State matched the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in school history and ended a 10-game losing streak to the Wildcats. The Cyclones finished 6-3 against Big 12 foes, giving them their best finish in conference play. Iowa State plays FCS foe Drake next week, after its Sept. 1 opener against South Dakota State was cancelled because of inclement weather. The Cyclones have won six of their past seven games after starting 1-3.

24. Cincinnati (10-2, 6-2 American)

The Bearcats continued their resurgence under second-year coach Luke Fickell, surpassing their victory total from the past two seasons combined with a 56-6 rout of East Carolina on Friday. After winning only four games in each of the previous two seasons, Cincinnati won 10 games for the first time since 2012 and will play in its first bowl game since 2015. The Bearcats dominated the Pirates, despite not having star tailback Michael Warren II, who was sidelined because of a shoulder injury.

25. Army (9-2)

Army has two weeks off to prepare for its Dec. 8 showdown against Navy at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The Black Knights have won seven straight games since falling 28-21 in overtime at Oklahoma on Sept. 22. They’re assured of a winning record for the third straight season under coach Jeff Monken, after they had only one winning campaign from 1997 to 2015. For the first time since 1945-46, when Heisman Trophy winners Felix “Doc” Blanchard and Glenn Davis were playing at West Point, the Black Knights have won at least nine games in back-to-back seasons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *