The Top 25 teams in the country following Week 12
Kev Connaghan ranks the nation's best teams following a slight shakeup this past week.
The Top 25 teams in the country following Week 12
With Louisville falling to Houston, the pool of realistic contenders for a playoff spot has shrunk further, and the current top four know that they are in if they win out. Of course, with The Game next week it’s impossible for all four to do so.
Here are the 25 best teams in the country following twelve weeks of play:
Alabama roused themselves from a sluggish start to overcome Chattanooga with a 31-3 victory in Tuscaloosa. Defensive end Jonathan Allen earned the highest grade of the game at 88.2, and led the team with five defensive stops. The Crimson Tide’s defense held the Mocs to just three points and 184 points, which are nice numbers, but this was a low-key day for Alabama. Expect a very different display when Auburn come to town.
- Ohio State
It was hard work, but Ohio State was able to run out a 17-16 win over Michigan State in East Lansing. In poor conditions, the Ohio State passing game was almost non-existent, with QB J.T. Barrett throwing for a grand total of 86 yards and completing just two passes that travelled 10 or more yards downfield. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, their defense allowed the Spartans to complete only one pass beyond 10 yards.
Clemson righted the ship after losing to Pittsburgh last week, storming out to a 28-0 lead over Wake Forest, and seeing it out for a 35-13 victory. Against Pittsburgh, the Tigers could only muster 50 total rushing yards. they rolled for 254 yards in Winston-Salem, with running back Wayne Gallman enjoying his best game of the season. Gallman rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns, earning a team-high 81.8 overall grade, it was only the fourth time this season he has hit the 100-yard mark.
In the absence of starting quarterback Wilton Speight, Michigan appeared to be stuck in the same offensive funk that afflicted them against Iowa, until RB De’Veon Smith turned the game on its head with a brace of touchdowns in the third quarter. Smith earned an 80.4 overall grade for his efforts, and was the Wolverines’ standout player on offense. While the offense struggled, the defense did not — cornerback Jourdan Lewis broke up three of six passes into his coverage and earned a game-high 85.8 overall grade.
Washington returned to winning ways with a 44-18 victory over a poor Arizona State team. The Huskies held the Sun Devils to just 50 rushing yards on 21 carries (without counting yards lost via sacks), and more than doubled Arizona State’s offensive production. One sack and four defensive stops helped free safety Ezekiel Turner to a game-leading 86.6 overall grade. Washington can still force their way into the playoff, but must overcome tougher tests in the next two weeks to do so, and that needs to start with victory in the Apple Cup.
Wisconsin eased to a 49-20 road victory over an outmatched Purdue team. Outside linebacker T.J. Watt had another big day, with one sack, six total pressures and a pick-six all helping him earn an 85.8 overall grade. Fellow outside linebacker Vince Biegel wasn’t far behind, with a sack, four total pressures and an 83.6 grade. The Badgers host Minnesota next week knowing that a win will put them in the Big Ten championship game, and potentially leave them one win away from a playoff berth.
With the fall of Louisville, yet another obstacle was removed from Oklahoma’s path. They also helped their own cause with a comfortable 56-28 win over West Virginia in Morgantown, a game in which they leant heavily on the ground game. RB Samaje Perine led the team with 160 rushing yards and two touchdowns, but fellow back Joe Mixon earned the higher rushing grade (79.7). Mixon averaged 6.1 yards per carry, 4.0 yards after contact and forced seven missed tackles on 24 carries. Next up, Bedlam.
USC moved to 7-0 since the start of October with a 36-14 win over rival UCLA. On form alone the Trojans would have a strong case to be in the top four, but those three defeats in September make that all but impossible, yet they could win the Pac-12. They racked up 282 rushing yards (ignoring yards lost via sacks) against the Bruins, with left guard Damien Mama (85.7 overall) and left tackle Chad Wheeler (82.3) particularly influential.
Louisville’s push for a playoff spot came to an ignominious end with their 36-10 defeat on the road against Houston. The Cougars hassled and harassed Lamar Jackson, limiting, though certainly not removing his impact as a rusher, and pressuring him on 47.5 percent of his dropbacks. All five of the Cardinals starting offensive line finished with overall grades below 50, and it was their inability to keep a clean pocket that made the biggest difference on this game. Without a conference championship to play for, and with a relatively weak overall schedule the Cardinals have no way back.
- Penn State
Penn State enjoyed a comprehensive 39-0 victory over Rutgers, a game in which they held the Scarlet Knights to 87 total yards of offense. A pair of pass breakups helped linebacker Jason Cabinda to a game-high 87.2 overall grade, while defensive end Evan Schwan (80.2 overall) and linebacker Brandon Bell (78.9) also graded well. That the Nittany Lions are still in the playoff reckoning is impressive, after their 2-2 start and a thumping at the Big House; it’s remarkable what a win over Ohio State can do for a season.
A 38-24 victory over Washington State left Colorado just one win away from contesting the Pac-12 championship, that would have seemed unthinkable just three months ago. Quarterback Sefo Liufau threw for 345 yards, and rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns against the Cougars, earning an 84.1 rushing grade. The Pac-12 South is now down to Colorado and USC, but the Trojans hold the head-to-head advantage so the Buffalos must beat Utah.
- Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State put TCU to the sword, winning 31-6 in Fort Worth and setting up a Bedlam clash with the Sooners for all of the Big 12’s marbles. Would a win in Norman be enough to vault the Cowboys into the playoff reckoning? Probably not, the loss to Baylor and the Big 12’s overall level of competition would count against them (though the Central Michigan “loss” should not) but they would at least be close and could benefit from any further upheaval over the next couple of weeks.
Auburn romped to a 55-0 win over Alabama A&M and rather unexpectedly they dominated the line of scrimmage. Six Tigers offensive linemen earned overall grades of 79.9 or higher against the Bulldogs, as did three defensive linemen. They will find the going considerably more challenging in Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl.
- Western Michigan
Western Michigan celebrated the visit of ESPN’s College GameDay with a 38-0 victory over Buffalo in Kalamazoo. QB Zach Terrell threw for 445 yards and four touchdowns, while star receiver Corey Davis had 13 receptions for 173 yards and two touchdowns, and both players figure to be key to the Broncos chances of winning the MAC. Western Michigan close out the regular season with the visit of a 9-2 Toledo team that has a prolific passing attack, the toughest opponent that the MAC has to offer.
- Boise State
Boise State moved to 10-1 with a 42-25 win over UNLV. It was the Jeremy McNichols show, as the Broncos star running back accounted for 228 of the teams 380 yards of offense, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, 4.2 of which came after contact, and forcing seven missed tackles. With Wyoming’s win over San Diego State, Boise State know that a win over Air Force might not be enough to see them to the title game, and that could well count against them in the final rankings.
- Washington State
Washington State finally fell to a conference defeat at the eighth time of asking, with a 38-24 loss on the road against Colorado. While losing is never good, it doesn’t really change anything for the Cougars. Even if they had won out they weren’t making the playoff, so it was all about making the Pac-12 title game, and to do that they need to beat their rival Washington in the Apple Cup, which was going to be the case regardless of this result.
How can a team have impressive wins over two Top 10 teams and yet still linger so far down the rankings? By losing to Navy and SMU as Houston have done, one of those loses would be forgivable, but the two together keep the Cougars from winning the AAC, and potentially out of a top Bowl. The 36-10 win over Louisville was even more startling than their victory over Oklahoma, and featured and outstanding performance from defensive tackle Ed Oliver, prior to his injury. Oliver recorded two sacks, four defensive stops and three batted passes on his way to a 90.4 overall grade.
- Texas A&M
Texas A&M ended their recent slump with a 23-10 victory over UTSA at College Station. While wide receiver Josh Reynolds (83.1 overall) and center Erik McCoy (81.3) enjoyed good games, defensive end Myles Garrett (90.0) was undoubtedly the star. Garrett recorded five sacks and eight total pressures, giving him a 92.4 grade as a pass-rusher.
Florida booked their ticket to the SEC Championship Game with a 16-10 win over LSU in Baton Rouge. Running back Jordan Scarlett rushed for 108 yards on 22 touchdowns, a solid total that is made more impressive by the 11 forced missed tackles it took to get there, 69.4 percent of his yards came after contact. With the East wrapped up, the Gators can turn their attention to the rivalry game against Florida State, having won just one of the last six encounters.
- West Virginia
West Virginia’s bubble burst when they fell to a 56-28 defeat at the hands of the Sooners. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, the injury crisis at running back got worse when Kennedy McKoy got injured on his first carry, but fellow back Justin Crawford rushed for a hugely impressive 331 yards on 24 carries. Crawford forced 11 missed tackles and averaged 8.5 yards after contact, his 91.7 rushing grade was well earned. The Mountaineers still have games against Iowa State and Baylor with which to salvage their season and earn an attractive bowl berth, but the playoff is out of reach.
Has Stanford recovered, or have they simply taken advantage of a weakened Pac-12 to get a few wins? Perhaps it’s a bit of both, but mainly it is the return to fitness (and form) of running back Christian McCaffrey. In their 45-31 victory over Cal, McCaffrey earned an 82.9 overall grade after putting up 317 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, and forced 10 missed tackles in 35 offensive touches.
- Florida State
A 45-14 victory over Syracuse took Florida State to 8-3 for an ultimately disappointing season. The Seminoles defense was dominant against Syracuse, with 9 sacks and 24 total pressures. Corner Tavarus McFadden’s coverage was targeted eight times, he made an interception and allowed just one completion for four yards, helping him to an 83.4 overall grade.
Nebraska eased to a 28-7 victory over Maryland under the direction of backup quarterback Ryker Fyfe, but it was chiefly the performances of WR Jordan Westerkamp (87.3 overall) and RB Terrell Newby (81.7) that made the difference. Westerkamp averaged 3.24 yards per route run when lined up in the slot. The Cornhuskers still have an outside chance of winning the Big Ten West, but they need Wisconsin to lose.
The Jekyll and Hyde nature of this Tennessee team was again on display in their 63-37 win over Missouri. On the plus side, QB Joshua Dobbs had himself a day, passing for 223 yards and three touchdowns, and rushing for 190 yards and two more touchdowns. On the negative side, they conceded 37 points at home to 3-8 Missouri, easily the most points the Tigers have scored against a Power-5 opponent this season.
- South Florida
A 35-27 road win over SMU took South Florida to 9-2 for the season, and keeps them in with a chance of contesting the ACC. As has been the case all season, quarterback Quinton Flowers was the Bulls star, leading the team in rushing as well as passing for three touchdowns. he averaged 14.2 yards per scramble against the Mustangs. Flowers overall grade is now at 87.3 for the season, and 96.8 as a runner (second only to Lamar Jackson among QBs).