College Football Playoff Rankings: Top five hold, LSU and USC inch up, Washington makes huge jump in top 25


With the top five teams in last week’s College Football Playoff Rankings all holding serve after emerging victorious last week, the third edition of the CFP top 25 released Tuesday night was largely uneventful. Reigning national champion Georgia held onto the No. 1 spot with fellow undefeateds Ohio State, Michigan and TCU rounding out what would be the four-team field should the playoff be decided today.

Tennessee, with its lone blemish coming to Georgia two weeks ago, remains the first team out at No. 5. The Volunteers will have a chance to make the playoff given the strength of their victories to this point along with having the best loss in the country. Reminder: All but one team ranked No. 1 in a season’s initial CFP Rankings ultimately reached the playoff (Mississippi State, 2014).

A debut in the CFP for the Vols is hardly a sure thing, however, as they will not have an opportunity to earn extra credit in the eyes of the CFP Selection Committee by winning a conference championship game. That possibility still exists for No. 6 LSU, which is seeking to become the first two-loss team to earn a CFP bid in the event’s history. No. 7 USC aims to become the first Pac-12 team to make the playoff since 2016-17, while No. 9 Clemson looks to get through the rest of the season unscathed; that will require it getting by fellow one-loss ACC brethren No. 13 North Carolina, which itself has a puncher’s chance at making the CFP.

Perhaps most notable was a change in ranking order for the top Group of Five programs aiming for a New Year’s Six berth. With a 38-31 head-to-head road victory over the weekend, UCF (now No. 20) jumped Tulane (now No. 21) to take pole position for that opportunity.

The biggest riser in the rankings was Washington, which jumped eight spots to No. 17 after taking down Oregon, which fell six spots down to No. 12. 

Let’s take a look at the entire CFP Rankings top 25. Analysis by bowls expert Jerry Palm below.

College Football Playoff Rankings, Nov. 15

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

Analysis by bowls expert Jerry Palm

The only change in the top 10 this week was former Oregon dropping out, allowing LSU, USC, Alabama and Clemson to move up a spot. Utah also moves up to the top 10 ahead of a showdown with the Ducks for a leg up in the Pac-12 Championship Game race.

Only five teams remain that control their own fate in the chase for a spot in the four-team field, but they are not the top five teams in the rankings. The top four all control their own fate, but Tennessee does not. That is because if LSU beats Georgia, the Tigers would move into the top four and the Vols would be out of luck.

It is also possible that Tennessee could be passed by a 12-1 champion from another conference, most likely USC if the Trojans can pull that off. Their remaining schedule would include three ranked teams: at UCLA, vs. Notre Dame and the Pac-12 title game. The Clemson-North Carolina winner in the ACC would be in play as well, but it’s less likely to get to the top four.

Cincinnati makes its first appearance of the season in the rankings, checking in at No. 25. The Bearcats are the third AAC team in the rankings. It is extremely likely at this point that the Group of Five representative in the Cotton Bowl will come from among Cincy, UCF and Tulane. The Bearcats host the Green Wave to end the regular season with the winner likely traveling to Orlando to face the Knights for the AAC championship.





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