For the first time in the history of the College Football Playoff rankings, the top 10 teams remained the same. Week 11 was chalk, for the most part. But there are a few interesting teams to highlight beyond the top 10.
UCF rose one spot to No. 11 thanks to Kentucky’s loss to Tennessee, and the Knights became the highest-ranked Group of 5 team ever in the process. It’s still unlikely UCF reaches the College Football Playoff, but a major bowl game is in sight. Quarterback McKenzie Milton continues to dominate; he has 21 touchdown passes to five interceptions on the year. It’s safe to say UCF hasn’t slipped one bit under new head coach Josh Heupel.
There were a few other high risers in this week’s poll. Penn State rose six spots to No. 14 after ousting Wisconsin with ease. The Nittany Lions have already lost to Ohio State and Michigan, so it won’t affect the Big Ten’s chances much, but it’s nice for them nonetheless. Iowa State, a few spots behind them at No. 16, also rose six spots. Matt Campbell has quietly assembled a formidable program in Ames. A big game against No. 15 Texas lies ahead on Saturday.
Washington rose seven spots to No. 18, and that’s mostly relevant for Washington State’s Playoff hopes. The Cougars are ranked eighth, and the Apple Cup is still on the schedule. Wazzu is a longshot and will need a bunch of help, but it’s playing like a CFP team. How fun would it be to see Mike Leach coaching one of the final four teams?
Five new schools jumped into the rankings this week, and a few of them are particularly noteworthy: Utah is ranked 19th. It’s impressive to go from unranked to No. 19 in the span of a week, but the Utes deserve it after beating Oregon. Northwestern, which clinched the Big Ten West after a win over Iowa, checks in at No. 22. The Wildcats have turned their season around in spectacular fashion after an ugly September. We’ll see if they can play spoiler in the conference championship game.
Since the top of this week’s rankings didn’t see much change, let’s quickly mention some of Week 12’s most important matchups.
No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 Syracuse
Syracuse is good, and while the game is in South Bend, the Orange are absolutely capable of pulling off the upset. Syracuse almost beat Clemson earlier this year, and while Ian Book plans to start, he’s coming off of an injury. An Orange win would shake up the playoff picture.
Indiana at No. 4 Michigan
Indiana’s record is unimpressive, but the Hoosiers tend to play teams tough. They only lost to Penn State by five a few weeks ago. Michigan is rolling, and could move up to No. 3 if things break right. But keep an eye on this one.
Duke at No. 2 Clemson
It’s highly unlikely Clemson loses this game based on how it’s playing, but Duke is 7-3 and has won two straight. David Cutcliffe is one of the most creative offensive minds in the sport. The Blue Devils have impressive wins over Northwestern, Baylor and Miami this year.