NCAAF Teams
ESPN.com staff 392d

Michigan jumps into top 4 just in time for showdown with Ohio State

College Football, Michigan Wolverines, Ohio State Buckeyes, Alabama Crimson Tide, Louisville Cardinals, Penn State Nittany Lions, Auburn Tigers, Washington Huskies, West Virginia Mountaineers, Clemson Tigers, Texas A&M Aggies, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Wisconsin Badgers, Oklahoma Sooners, Tennessee Volunteers, Utah Utes, North Carolina Tar Heels, Colorado Buffaloes, Virginia Tech Hokies, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Western Michigan Broncos, Florida State Seminoles, Washington State Cougars, USC Trojans, Florida Gators, Boise State Broncos

This season has seen its fair share of exciting games, no doubt, but there might not be one that impacts the final College Football Playoff rankings more than "The Game" between Ohio State and Michigan on Saturday. Both teams sit in the top four of our Power Rankings, and both have playoff-worthy résumés.

Power Rankings voters: Edward Aschoff, Heather Dinich, Brad Edwards, Chris Fallica, Rod Gilmore, Danny Kanell, Chris Low, Ivan Maisel, Ryan McGee, Adam Rittenberg, Mark Schlabach | How they voted

Previous rankings: Week 1 Week 2Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8| Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0)

Trending:

Week 11 ranking: 1
Week 12 result: Defeated Chattanooga 31-3

Somehow, it seems that Alabama's uninspiring performance came at exactly the right time, though coach Nick Saban offered a different analysis of the Crimson Tide's 22nd consecutive victory. The coach was frustrated, and rightfully so, after Alabama trailed 3-0 after one quarter and led just 14-3 at halftime. The Tide, who finished with just 332 yards, now turn their focus to rival Auburn and then an SEC title game rematch with Florida.


2. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 2
Week 12 result: Defeated Michigan State 17-16

Ohio State escaped East Lansing with a win over 3-8 Michigan State, which nearly derailed the Buckeyes' national-title bid for the third time in four seasons. The Buckeyes intercepted a two-point conversion attempt with 4:41 to play before Gareon Conley sealed the win with another pick of Tyler O'Connor in the final two minutes. It's survive-and-advance time. Michigan awaits as Ohio State returns home.


3. Clemson Tigers (10-1)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 4
Week 12 result: Defeated Wake Forest 35-13

Clemson clinched the ACC Atlantic behind Deshaun Watson, who threw for 202 yards and rushed for two touchdowns. Running back Wayne Gallman added 161 yards and two scores. It was a workmanlike performance for the Tigers in rebounding from a loss to Pitt to stay in good shape for the College Football Playoff. South Carolina and the undetermined Coastal champ remain as Clemson's final obstacles.


4. Michigan Wolverines (10-1)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 5
Week 12 result: Defeated Indiana 20-10

Michigan avoided its first home loss to Indiana in 49 years by overcoming a third-quarter deficit behind a career-best 158 rushing yards from De'Veon Smith. A week after their first loss of the year at Iowa, the Wolverines sputtered offensively behind John O'Korn, who was filling in at quarterback for the injured Wilton Speight. Michigan controls its fate in the conference and CFP race as it heads to Ohio State with a shot to win the Big Ten East.


5. Washington Huskies (10-1)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 6
Week 12 result: Defeated Arizona State 44-18

Washington shook off the effects of its loss to USC to roll past the Sun Devils on Senior Day and reach 10 wins for the first time since 2000. Arizona State gained just 84 yards in the first three quarters against the Huskies' stout defense, and quarterback Jake Browning threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns. That sets the stage for a hugely significant Apple Cup on Friday at Washington State, with the winner to play in the Pac-12 title game as champion of the North.


6. Wisconsin Badgers (9-2)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 7
Week 12 result: Defeated Purdue 49-20

This week was business as usual for the Badgers, who started slowly on the road but scored 35 points in the final nine minutes of the first half to squash Purdue. Wisconsin has won five straight games since consecutive October losses to Michigan and Ohio State and needs a home win over Minnesota to clinch the Big Ten West. There are bigger things on the horizon, perhaps, for the Badgers, who hope they can secure a playoff bid if they win the league title.


7. Oklahoma Sooners (9-2)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 9
Week 12  result: Defeated West Virginia 56-28

Depending on your perspective of Oklahoma's win Saturday, it was not as close as the score indicated -- or it was much closer. The Sooners led 28-0 less than five minutes into the second quarter but were outgained and benefited from WVU mistakes that prevented the Mountaineers from cutting the lead considerably before their second-half surge. Regardless, Oklahoma needs to beat Oklahoma State in two weeks to finish a perfect Big 12 season and state its case to the playoff committee.


8. Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 8
Week 12 result: Defeated Rutgers 39-0

Penn State pulled away in the second half, though Rutgers never really stood a chance. The Nittany Lions allowed five first downs and 87 total yards, while Saquon Barkley led a 339-yard rushing effort. Penn State reached nine wins for the first time since 2011. To get to the Big Ten title game -- a difficult to fathom outcome one month ago -- the Nittany Lions need a win this week over Michigan State and an Ohio State victory over Michigan.


9. Colorado Buffaloes (9-2)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 10
Week 12 result: Defeated Washington State 38-24 

Colorado needs a home victory over Utah on Saturday to win the Pac-12 South. In the Buffaloes' win over WSU, Sefo Liufau joined Steven Montez as the only Colorado quarterbacks to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 in a game. Montez did so in September against Oregon. Yes, it has been that kind of season for the Buffaloes, who most recently won nine games in 2002.


10. USC Trojans (8-3)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 12
Week 12 result: Defeated UCLA 36-14

Make it seven wins in a row for USC, matched nationally by only Alabama, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Penn State and Western Michigan. The Trojans again got big games from QB Sam Darnold and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to roll past their slumping rival. Here's another team no one wants to play, perhaps including the Pac-12 North winner. USC faces Notre Dame next week and will win the South if Utah beats Colorado.


11. Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-2)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 14
Week 12 result: Defeated TCU 31-6

Who wants to play Oklahoma State after it turned a 2-2 start into a path to the Big 12 title with one more victory? As fortune dictates, the Cowboys will have a shot to earn that victory against rival Oklahoma on Dec. 3. OSU rushed for 334 yards against TCU as Justice Hill and Chris Carson combined for 300 yards in handing the Horned Frogs their worst home loss since 1997.


12. Louisville Cardinals (9-2)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 3
Week 12 result: Lost to Houston 36-20

Louisville fell flat on Thursday to start its two-week journey outside the ACC. The Cardinals lost everything: their shot at the ACC title (as Clemson beat Wake Forest on Saturday), their shot at the College Football Playoff, obviously, and quarterback Lamar Jackson's bid to run away with the Heisman Trophy. Jackson, who was sacked 11 times by Houston, could use a big finish Saturday against Kentucky to impress the voters.


13. Florida State Seminoles (8-3)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 18
Week 12 result: Defeated Syracuse 45-14 

Since an early blowout loss to Louisville, Florida State has dipped under the national radar. Although it has lost twice since then, check the numbers: FSU fell by just two points to North Carolina and by just three to Clemson. The Seminoles' win Saturday over Syracuse, despite four FSU turnovers, featured 654 yards of offense, including 225 on the ground from Dalvin Cook, who broke Warrick Dunn's career rushing record at FSU.


14. Western Michigan Broncos (11-0)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 15
Week 12 result: Defeated Buffalo 38-0

Only Alabama can equal Western Michigan's 11 victories, but the Broncos haven't won the MAC West. They'll need a victory over Toledo on Friday at home to finish the job, a necessity in their drive to qualify for a New Year's Six bowl game. Western Michigan took care of business against Buffalo with a 626-yard offensive output.


15. Auburn Tigers (8-3)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 20
Week 12 result: Defeated Alabama A&M 55-0

Auburn improved to 22-0 all-time against FCS competition and held an eighth straight opponent without a rushing touchdown in limiting Alabama A&M to 130 yards in this tune-up for the Iron Bowl. The Tigers rushed for 451 yards and accumulated 598 overall in their seventh win in eight games after a 1-2 start.


16. Florida Gators (8-2)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 23
Week 12  result: Defeated LSU 16-10

Talk about a close call. The Gators forged a ferocious goal-line stand in the closing seconds to escape Baton Rouge with a win in a game rescheduled from Week 6 and relocated from Gainesville because of Hurricane Matthew. Florida managed just 270 yards, and quarterback Austin Appleby was inconsistent, but he hit Tyrie Cleveland for a 98-yard, go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Eddy Pineiro nailed all three of his field goal attempts. A visit to Florida State is on Saturday before the SEC title game against No. 1 Alabama.


17. Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-2)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 19
Week 12 result: Defeated Maryland 28-7

Without quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. on Senior Day, Nebraska turned to Ryker Fyfe, a former walk-on who delivered big, with 220 passing yards in his second career start. The Cornhuskers held Maryland to 207 yards, including just 11 on the ground, and Nebraska reached the nine-win plateau for the eighth time in nine seasons. The Huskers visit Iowa on Friday in need of a win and a Wisconsin loss Saturday against Minnesota to win the Big Ten West.


18. West Virginia Mountaineers (8-2)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 11
Week 12 result: Lost to Oklahoma 56-28

That does it for West Virginia's playoff chances and Big 12 title hopes. The Mountaineers managed to lose big while gaining 579 yards. They got 331 rushing yards from Justin Crawford but little consistency elsewhere and could not overcome a slow start. Primarily, West Virginia was doomed by four turnovers, including fumbles inside the Oklahoma 5-yard line by Crawford and quarterback Skyler Howard. Now it's on to Iowa State, which suddenly looks dangerous.


19. Boise State Broncos (10-1)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 22
Week 12 result: Defeated UNLV 42-25

Boise State remains in contention for a New Year's Six bowl, but the window is closing. To play for the Mountain West title, Boise State needs a win at Air Force on Friday and a Wyoming loss at New Mexico. The Cowboys nearly obliged Saturday by sneaking by San Diego State by one point after Boise State ran past UNLV on Friday behind 206 rushing yards and four touchdowns from Jeremy McNichols.


20. Houston Cougars (9-2)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: NR
Week 12 result: Defeated Louisville 36-10

Welcome back to the rankings, Houston, which has been missing since a Week 8 loss to SMU. The Cougars have responded with three straight wins, capped by their resounding upset of Louisville on Thursday, in which they relentlessly hounded Heisman front-runner Lamar Jackson and forced three turnovers. Even so, Navy's win Saturday over East Carolina eliminated Houston in the American West race. Houston finishes with Memphis as all eyes turn to coach Tom Herman and his expected Power 5 suitors.


21. Utah Utes (8-3)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 13
Week 12 result: Lost to Oregon 30-28

Utah lost on Justin Herbert's 17-yard pass to Darren Carrington II with two seconds to play, a huge disappointment. Combined with Colorado's win, the loss eliminated the Utes from Pac-12 title contention. The Ducks went 75 yards on the final drive to finish with 575 against Utah, the most gained this year against the Utes, who close against the Buffs this week.


22. Navy Midshipmen (8-2)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: NR
Week 12 result: Defeated East Carolina 66-31

Navy won the American West, a monumental and unprecedented accomplishment for the Midshipmen, by smothering East Carolina on the Pirates' Senior Day. Navy's triple-option attack produced nine touchdowns and 483 yards on the ground. The work never stops for Navy, though. It visits SMU on Saturday, followed by the Dec. 3 American title game, the Army-Navy game a week later and, of course, bowl season.


23. Washington State Cougars (8-3)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 17
Week 12 result: Lost to Colorado 38-24

Washington State's eight-game win streak came to an end as it struggled defensively against Colorado and allowed 603 yards. Luke Falk threw for 325 yards and three scores, but the Cougars' defense forced just two punts. Still, they remain in control of their Pac-12 destiny, needing a win Friday over Washington to clinch the North.


T-24. Tennessee Volunteers (8-3)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: NR
Week 12 result: Defeated Missouri 63-37

Despite allowing a second straight opponent to top 400 rushing yards, Tennessee won behind the wizardry of Joshua Dobbs in his final home game. He threw for 223 yards and rushed for 190 on 10 carries, accounting for five touchdowns. The Vols, who finish the regular season Saturday at Vanderbilt, can still reach 10 wins for the first time since 2007 -- astonishing after a three-game October skid and endless craziness this fall.


T-24. Stanford Cardinal (8-3)

Trending: 

Week 11 ranking: 25
Week 12 result: Defeated Cal 45-31

Remember Christian McCaffrey? The 2015 Heisman runner-up is healthy again. He rushed for 284 yards and broke his own school record as Stanford went on the road to win the Big Game for the seventh straight season. The Cardinal have won four straight since their midseason struggles and finish the regular season Saturday against Rice with a chance to reach a double-digit win total for the sixth time in seven seasons.


Out of the rankings: LSU, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech

Others receiving votes: Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, LSU, Minnesota, South Florida, Pitt

^ Back to Top ^