The penultimate edition of thewere released on Tuesday, and the intrigue heading into conference championship weekend has been cranked up in a big way as multiple teams are in contention to occupy the final spot in the four-team field.
Georgia held tight at the No. 1 spot, Michigan jumped to No. 2 after topping Ohio State last weekend and TCU chimed in at No. 3 after finishing the regular season 12-0. One-loss USC slid into the No. 4 spot, but the Trojans are in a perilous position knowing they can’t slip up in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Should USC fall to No. 11 Utah, it’ll get jumped by either the fifth-ranked Buckeyes or No. 6 Alabama.
The chatter will be heated between now and Selection Sunday.
Let’s take a look at who’s overrated and underrated in the penultimate edition of the rankings.
Why on Earth is Tennessee ranked below No. 6 Alabama? Because it has an ugly loss to No. 19 South Carolina? That looks way better now than it did two weeks ago when the world thought that South Carolina was a middling SEC East team with no upside. Conversely, Alabama’s loss to No. 14 LSU — a team Tennessee throttled in Baton Rouge — looks worse after the Tigers lost to Texas A&M last weekend.
Oh, and there’s that pesky little head-to-head matchup on Oct. 15 when the Volunteers topped the Crimson Tide 52-49. That should matter, but apparently it doesn’t. Why? Is it because star Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker tore his ACL against South Carolina and Joe Milton is now at the helm? That is considered by the committee, but it isn’t nearly enough to convince me.
Tennessee has a signature win over Alabama and a road win over LSU. What is Alabama’s signature win? A Week 2 win at No. 20 Texas? A late-October home win over No. 24 Mississippi State? Tennessee is being unjustly punished because it isn’t a traditional power. It proved it deserves to be in line for a CFP spot if chaos ensues and, at the very least, earn the SEC’s Sugar Bowl spot if it’s left out.
Overrated: No. 14 LSU
LSU analysis is baked into the analysis of Tennessee and Alabama above, but it really shouldn’t be that big of a talking point. There is no way that the Tigers should be ranked No. 14 after that debacle in College Station, Texas, last weekend. They got smoked 38-23 by an Aggies team that hadn’t scored more than 31 points against any opponent this year, was decimated by injuries and hadn’t appeared to be motivated down the stretch during their 6-game losing streak. If Texas A&M can torch LSU’s defense, what would No. 15 Oregon State, No. 16 Oregon or No. 17 UCLA do? It would get very, very ugly.
A nine-win regular season in coach Brian Kelly’s first year is a tremendous accomplishment, and something that very few people outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, saw coming. But it struggled against Arkansas and then lost to Texas A&M when the target on its back grew. That has to matter.
It seems like there’s a knee-jerk reaction to assume that all Pac-12 teams are overrated and don’t deserve national recognition, and Washington’s ranking at No. 12 proves it. The Huskies have the nation’s top passer in Michael Penix Jr., a top-10 receiver in Rome Odunze, a top-five scoring offense (40.8 points per game) and the Pac-12’s second-best defense in terms of yards per play (5.52).
The loss to No. 17 UCLA is understandable, but the loss the following week to Arizona State is what’s holding them back. But Utah — which is one spot ahead of Washington — has three losses, one of which was to a Florida team that went 6-6. Kansas State has three pretty solid losses (No. 18 Tulane, No. 3 TCU and No. 20 Texas), but they are still three losses. An argument could even be made that Washington’s resume with wins over No. 15 Oregon State and No. 16 Oregon are more impressive than Clemson’s signature win over No. 13 Florida State.
Washington deserves to be in the top 10.