UK & Ireland Top 25 College Football Rankings: Week 12
By Simon Carroll
If the AP and the College Football Playoff committee can’t get it right, then perhaps we can!
Week 12 is usually a mundane affair, with most powerhouse programs scheduling something of a cupcake contest ahead of the drama that rivalry brings seven days later. Nevertheless, there was enough key wins – and losses – to help the panel bring some organisation to the chaos that is College Football. Without further ado, let’s see where things stand!
Welcome to the rankings NC State! Dave Doeren’s program have quietly rose to prominence in 2023, with just losses to Notre Dame, Louisville and Duke on their resume. The defeats are actually more impressive than the wins if truth be told, with the Wolfpack not beating any ranked opponent. Still, they’re a tough out in the ACC – and it’s an early sign of how the panel views three-loss power 5 teams.
Which brings me to both Oklahoma State and Kansas State, two Big 12 schools that earned good wins in Week 12. The Wildcats, despite losing to the Cowboys, are above OSU, and that recognises their three defeats to all ranked opponents by a combined 14 points. The Pokes are lucky to be included – for every impressive win, they’ve had an embarrassing loss. Somehow, they remain relevant in conference play.
Over to the Group of Five where the real excitement can be found. JMU endured their first loss of the year in overtime to App State – we’ll blame that on College Game Day coming to town. The Dukes are rightly still ranked, and I had them even higher after a historic season in Harrisonburg. As for Toledo, they’d give any school a game – and it’s only the disrespect of the MAC that keeps them this low in the Top 25.
I feel like I’m extra harsh on LSU for wasting an incredible roster. A team with all that talent, and a legitimate Heisman candidate in Jayden Daniels, has three losses. That being said, it’s to three ranked teams, and they’ve pretty much blown everyone else out of the water. It’s a similar tale for Notre Dame as well as Oregon State, who have been incredible but lost close ones to strong teams in the Pac-12. Conference realignment has these three programs looking at very different futures, but for now they all fall into the ‘best of the rest’ category.
Arizona, however, feel like a team on the rise. Three defeats – all by one score, and two after overtime, looks really good when you throw in wins over Washington State, Oregon State, UCLA and Utah – who were all ranked at the time. The Wildcats can still make it to the Pac-12 championship game with a win over ASU and an Oregon loss to Oregon State. Jedd Fisch should be in consideration for Coach of the Year.
Iowa. Wow. What is there to say about the Hawkeyes, who are averaging 18 points a game but still give their outgoing OC Brian Ferentz a Gatorade shower. They are in the Big 12 Championship Game regardless what happens against Nebraska on Friday. With double digit wins very likely, they have to be ranked. College Football is mad.
This group falls into two categories; the two-loss big boys who aren’t quite good enough to get over the hump, and the small school programs who are turning heads and would fancy their chances against anybody in these rankings.
Wins over Rutgers, BYU and ULM are welcome, but expected for the trio of Penn State, Oklahoma and Ole Miss. These teams will lament early season slip-ups or an inability to break the glass ceiling in their conferences – namely the likes of Alabama & Georgia and Michigan & Ohio State. At least the Sooners have the Big 12 still to play for – the other two schools will be hoping for strong wins to end a good but not great campaign, and secure a decent bowl game as just reward.
Tulane are the poster child for every Group of Five team in College Football. The job Willie Fritz has done down in New Orleans is nothing short of remarkable – and with the playoffs expanding to 12 teams, the Green Wave are in great shape to grow and compete as a football program. Liberty might be slightly further behind the curve on that front, but Jamey Chadwell can lay claim to being only one of six head coaches in the FBS without a loss on their record this season. If they beat UTEP this weekend, that will reduce AT LEAST to one of five. People worried how the Flames would cope with the loss of Hugh Freeze. They seem to be just fine.
Without doubt, Missouri are the cream of the two-loss teams, and deserve to be in this top ten category ahead of the others. Another big moment this weekend, this time with a game-winning drive against Florida, means the Tigers are a victory over Arkansas away from 10 wins. An incredible feat from Eli Drinkwitz, who entered 2023 on the hotseat. I would be shocked if Mizzou don’t get a New Year’s Six bowl game considering the prestige of the SEC.
Louisville overcame a tricky game in Miami, as did Texas – who managed to defeat Iowa State in Ames for the first time in five visits. Both programs had scores wiped off the board that might have been costly on another day, but they march on and both have championship games to look forward to. The Longhorns are hoping for some slip-ups above them to give the playoff committee a headache – less likely for the Cardinals, but considering the injury to FSU’s Jordan Travis an ACC title is now very much a possibility.
Alabama prepared for the Iron Bowl with a tune up against Chattanooga, and Oregon breezed past a disappointing Arizona State – but both of these schools have already padded their resumes with quality wins. The goal for these two is simple – win out, and they can force their way into the postseason dance.
I’m sick of arguing about the semantics amongst this top five, so I’m not going to. It’s as simple as this; one of these teams at least will have a loss by next week, which makes putting them into an order much easier. Until then, Georgia are top Dawgs until someone proves otherwise, and Washington’s list of wins now eclipses anyone else’s. The other three can sit in any order you’re comfortable with until they slip up – and that is a very real prospect for at least two of them.
What I will say is this – I’ve heard word that the (other) playoff committee might consider Jordan Travis’ season ending injury when adjudicating where to put Florida State in the pecking order – the rationale being that a team with a backup QB would get blown out against another playoff team, thus diminishing the spectacle of the postseason tournament. That argument, if I may be so bold, is utter b*llsh*t. The ‘Noles are undefeated and have been in the top five all year. How they might fare in the future is irrelevant – they have EARNED the right to be in the playoffs (barring any slip-ups). Choose this as the basis for leaving FSU out, and you deem the regular season inconsequential. Take a leaf out of the UK & Ireland panel’s book, and do the right thing.
Anyway. Rivalry week next week, which will inevitably lead to us tearing up these rankings once again. I can’t wait!
The UK & Ireland College Football Top 25 Rankings after week 12 are in!— Owain Jones (@Owain_Jones_) November 21, 2023
🔹@LibertyFlames move up
🔹@GreenWaveFB continues to rise
🔹@PackFootball ranked for the first time this season!
Individual player awards in thread⬇️#CollegeFootball #Top25 #CFBPlayoff #NCAA #NCAAF #CFB pic.twitter.com/yQpub8G8Ru
Players Of The Week
Offense: Bo Nix, QB, Oregon
Defense: Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson
PREVIOUSLY THE FOUNDER OF NFL DRAFT UK, SIMON HAS BEEN COVERING COLLEGE FOOTBALL AND THE NFL DRAFT SINCE 2009. BASED IN MANCHESTER, SIMON IS ALSO CO-CREATOR & WEEKLY GUEST OF THE COLLAPSING POCKET PODCAST.