College football rankings: Projecting Playoff teams, top 25 ahead of championship week

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Will this be the greatest conference championship weekend in the College Football Playoff era? 

The four-team CFP might just go out like that. Four unbeaten Power 5 teams remain. Seven of those teams playing in the conference championship games have legitimate playoff hopes, with one-loss Ohio State once again on the outside looking in. 

What do we have in store next weekend? 

Pac-12: The Washington-Oregon rematch will decide the last Pac-12 title, and it could decide the Heisman Trophy with the quarterback duel between Bo Nix and Michael Penix.

Big 12: Is Texas back? Like, for real this time? A victory against Oklahoma State would give the Longhorns a Big 12 championship on the way out the door to the SEC.

SEC: The championship between Georgia and Alabama could just as easily double as a CFP championship game – which it has twice in the four-team era.

ACC: Florida State – even without quarterback Jordan Travis – can clinch a perfect season. It’s safe to say the other seven teams still in the hunt are rooting for Louisville to pull an upset in prime time. 

Big Ten: Jim Harbaugh returns to Michigan just in time for one last slugfest against Iowa in a rematch of the 2021 Big Ten championship game. Michigan (10.3 ppg.) and Iowa (12.6 ppg.) have elite defenses, too. 

Pac-12 Washington vs. Oregon 8 p.m. (Friday)
Big 12 Texas vs. Oklahoma 12 p.m.
SEC Georgia vs. Alabama 4 p.m.
ACC Louisville vs. Florida State 8 p.m.
Big Ten Michigan vs. Iowa 8 p.m.

Here is a full look at the Sporting News top 25 rankings – and how the second set of College Football Playoff rankings – might look this week. 

 Top four CFP teams 

1. Georgia (12-0, 8-0 SEC)

The Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech 31-23 in a game that wasn’t pretty and perhaps as a look-ahead game to the Crimson Tide. Kendall Milton (18-156, 2 TDs) was the difference-maker, and quarterback Carson Beck was steady (13 of 20, 175 yards, TD, INT). The Bulldogs had two turnovers and the Yellow Jackets played tough. Still, Kirby Smart has Georgia in position to win the SEC championship for the second straight year, and the drive for a three-peat is intact. 

2. Michigan (12-0, 9-0) Big Ten)

The Wolverines made it three in a row against rival Ohio State in a 30-24 victory that clinched another appearance in the Big Ten championship game. Sherrone Moore picked up a third straight win in place of Jim Harbaugh, who returned for the Big Ten championship game. J.J. McCarthy (16 of 20, 148 yards, TD) and Blake Corum (22-88, 2 TDs) continue to shine. Iowa poses yet another defensive challenge. Would the Wolverines still be in the CFP if they lose? It’s an interesting question. 

BENDER: Michigan's 2023 story is far from finished

3. Washington (12-0, 9-0 Pac-12) 

The Huskies escaped the Apple Cup with the help of a 23-yard run by Rome Odunze on a fourth-and-1 reverse that set up the game-winning field goal. Penix Jr. (18 of 33, 204 yards, 2 TDs, INT) had modest numbers, but none of that matters if Washington knocks off Oregon on Friday night in the rematch from their 36-33 regular-season shootout. Is that the best game of the week? We will say yes. 

MORE: Washington kicker gets scholarship after winning boot

4. Florida State (12-0, 8-0 ACC)

The Seminoles answered the Travis question – at least for another week – in a 24-15 victory against Florida. Trey Benson (19-95, 3 TDs) was the focal point of the offense, and Florida State pulled away with 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Tate Rodemaker did enough (12 of 25, 134 yards), but Florida State would be almost impossible to turn away with a perfect record if they beat Louisville in the ACC championship game. 

First two out of CFP 

Bo Nix
(Getty Images)

5. Oregon (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) 

The Ducks routed Oregon State 31-7 in a revenge game, and that clinched a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and a rematch with Washington. Nix (33 of 40, 367 yards, 2 TDs) has a 80.4% completion percentage with 15 TDs and one interception since that loss. The Ducks should be favored, which would put second-year Dan Lanning in the playoff if they can correct that mistake.

6. Texas (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) 

The Longhorns left no room for drama in a 57-7 blowout against Texas Tech in the Big 12 regular-season finale. Quinn Ewers (17 of 26, 196 yards, TD, INT) was efficient, and Texas rushed for 302 yards on 7.0 yards per carry. The Longhorns have a chance to win a walk-off conference championship before heading to the SEC – the school’s first since 2009. Texas still needs help, however, to get in the CFP.

MORE: Arch Manning makes his Texas debut 

CFP rankings: Rest of top 10 

7. Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) 

The Buckeyes might not fall this far after the loss to the Wolverines, and it is reasonable to keep them ahead of the Longhorns. Still, they are the only team in the top eight not playing in a conference championship game. Last year, Ohio State was able to back-door into the CFP. That likely will not happen this time. The victories against Notre Dame and Penn State were nice, but ultimately another loss to Michigan – which dropped Ryan Day to 1-3 against the Wolverines – will be the difference. 

MORE: Ryan Day's reality - beating Michigan is all that matters

8. Alabama (11-1, 8-0 SEC) 

Second-and-26, meet fourth-and-31. Jalen Milroe etched his name into Iron Bowl lore with an improbable conversion for a TD pass to Isaiah Bond for a 27-24 escape at Auburn. The Crimson Tide trailed for most of the second half, but Milroe (16 of 24, 259 yards, 2 TDs) added 107 rushing yards. He had 200-plus passing yards and 100-plus rushing yards against LSU and Auburn in his last four games, and that will be an interesting challenge for Georgia in the SEC championship game. Will Nick Saban play his way into the playoff again?

MORE: Milroe's heroics save Alabama from upset

9. Missouri (10-2, 6-2 SEC) 

Missouri will be the highest ranked two-loss team ahead of Ole Miss and Penn State, and that should be good enough to push the Tigers into a New Year’s Day Six Bowl as the third SEC team. Missouri hammered Arkansas 48-14, and Cody Schrader (27-217, TD) averaged 168.2 yards per game in the Tigers’ last five games. Eli Drinkwitz had a break-through season.

10. Penn State (10-2, 7-2) 

Ole Miss or Oklahoma could go here, but we’ll stick with the Nittany Lions after a 42-0 shutout against Michigan State that should land James Franklin in the New Year’s Day Six. Penn State had tough losses to Ohio State and Michigan, and that remains the bar the program must clear in 2024. Drew Allar (17 of 26, 292 yards, 2 TD) will continue to improve with that backfield of Kaytron Allen (15-137) and Nick Singleton (18-118, TD). 

CFP rankings: 11-25 

11. Ole Miss (10-2, 6-2 SEC) 

12. Oklahoma (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) 

13. LSU (9-3, 6-2, SEC) 

14. Louisville (10-2, 7-1 ACC) 

15. Notre Dame (9-3, Independent) 

16. Iowa (10-2, 7-2, Big Ten) 

17. Arizona (9-3, 7-2, Pac-12) 

18. Tulane (11-1, 8-0 AAC) 

19. Oklahoma State (9-3, 7-2 Big 12) 

20. Liberty (12-0, 8-0 Conference USA) 

21. NC State (9-3, 6-2 ACC) 

22. SMU (10-2, 8-0 AAC) 

23. Toledo (11-1, 8-0 MAC) 

24. Oregon State (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) 

25. Tennessee (8-4, 4-4 SEC) 

How the Top 25 Fared

A look at how our Top 25 fared in Week 13: 

1 Georgia 12-0 Beat Georgia Tech 31-23
2 Michigan 12-0 Beat Ohio State 30-24
3 Florida State 12-0 Beat Florida 24-15
4 Washington 12-0 Beat Washington State 24-21
5 Oregon 11-1 Beat Oregon State 31-7
6 Texas 11-1 Beat Texas Tech 57-7
7 Ohio State 11-1 Lost to Michigan 30-24
8 Alabama 11-1 Beat Auburn 27-24
9 Missouri 10-2 Beat Arkansas 48-14
10 Ole Miss 10-2 Beat Mississippi State 17-7
11 Penn State 10-2 Beat Michigan State 42-0
12 Oklahoma 10-2 Beat TCU 69-45
13 LSU 9-3 Beat Texas A&M 42-30
14 Louisville 10-2 Lost to Kentucky 38-31
15 Notre Dame 9-3 Beat Stanford 56-23
16 Iowa 10-2 Beat Nebraska 13-10
17 Arizona 9-3 Beat Arizona State 59-23
18 Tulane 11-1 Beat UTSA 29-16
19 Oklahoma State 9-3 Beat BYU 40-34
20 Liberty 12-0 Beat UTEP 42-28
21 NC State 8-3 Beat North Carolina 39-20
22 SMU 10-2 Beat Navy 59-14
23 Toledo 11-1 Beat Central Michigan 32-17
24 Oregon State 8-4 Lost to Oregon 31-7
25 Tennessee 8-4 Beat Vanderbilt 48-24
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Bill Bender is a national college football writer for The Sporting News.