USC and UCLA will settle the debate on the field Nov. 19 in the Rose Bowl, but until that fateful Saturday in Pasadena, the weekly College Football Playoff rankings’ unveiling will have to suffice fanning the flames between the crosstown rivals.
And Tuesday’s second release of the CFP top 25 provided some pretty good fodder.
UCLA, despite winning by two touchdowns on the road at Arizona State without star running back Zach Charbonnet to improve to 8-1, stayed put at No. 12.
USC, despite giving up five touchdowns to a tepid California offense during a 41-35 win at the Coliseum, moved up one spot to No. 8, taking advantage of losses by Alabama and Clemson, which dropped to No. 9 and No. 10, respectively.
Last week, CFP selection committee chair Boo Corrigan said the group used its “football judgment” in placing the Bruins behind the Trojans. Corrigan, the athletic director at N.C. State, indicated that UCLA’s margin of defeat in its 45-30 loss at Oregon hurt the Bruins compared to the Trojans, who lost by just one point at Utah.
The committee is supposed to start from scratch each week. UCLA was more impressive in victory than USC, but it should be noted the Trojans were without star wide receivers Jordan Addison and Mario Williams and key linebacker Eric Gentry on Saturday against Cal.
Still, with Washington’s entry into the rankings at No. 25, the Bruins now have two top-25 wins compared to none for the Trojans.
Of course, if UCLA beats USC, it is likely to vault right into that top eight and position itself for playoff semifinal contention with a win in the Pac-12 championship game.
All this will do is fuel the fire of quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the coming days.
For USC, the path remains clear. The Trojans need to win out in the regular season, which would now include a win over No. 20 Notre Dame. They also need Oregon to beat Utah Nov. 19 to eliminate the chance the Trojans lose a tiebreaker to the Utes in making the Pac-12 title game.
It’s now up to the Pac-12’s top four, led by No. 6 Oregon, to not slip up against the teams below them in the standings. The Ducks do not have an easy road with Washington, Utah and Oregon State.
The CFP’s top seven: No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Texas Christian, No. 5 Tennessee, No. 6 Oregon and No. 7 Louisiana State.
Ohio State hosts Michigan in “The Game” Nov. 26, and the loser will have a tough time making an argument they have the quality wins to sneak into the field. The Buckeyes or Wolverines would certainly need some help with one loss. LSU, with two losses, will have an uphill climb and would have to knock off defending national champion Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
There should be two spots, with TCU, Tennessee and a theoretical one-loss Pac-12 champion vying for them. It could all fall apart for TCU as soon as Saturday when they play at No. 18 Texas.
With four weeks left, the Pac-12 should feel good about its positioning — and that includes UCLA, even considering Tuesday’s snub.