Survival was the theme Saturday for the top teams across college football.
TCU and Michigan needed last-second field goals to come out with wins in Week 12. Ohio State got all it could handle from Maryland, and a 43-30 final score doesn't do justice to how close the Buckeyes were to suffering their first defeat. A Korey Foreman interception preserved a 48-45 win for USC over UCLA, keeping the Trojans in the hunt for the College Football Playoff.
Tennessee was the exception. Spencer Rattler threw for 438 yards and six touchdowns as South Carolina dropped 63 points on the Volunteers.
The Associated Press Top 25 poll voters reacted accordingly.
Week 13 Associated Press Top 25 Poll
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Notre Dame
- Kansas State
- Florida State
- North Carolina
- Ole Miss
- Oregon State
- Coastal Carolina
With Week 12 in the books, the stakes couldn't be much higher for the next installment in Michigan and Ohio State's legendary rivalry.
It's reminiscent of 2006, when the Buckeyes and Wolverines were both sitting at 11-0 heading into their season finale. OSU prevailed 42-39 in the "Game of the Century" and moved on to the BCS National Championship Game.
Whoever wins Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, will have one foot in the playoff and might have a semifinal berth sewn up regardless of what happens in the Big Ten title game.
Since the advent of the College Football Playoff, filling out the four-team field has been pretty straightforward in some seasons. Even if the status quo is maintained in Week 13, the CFP selection committee will have to make at least one difficult decision this year.
Georgia, TCU and one of Ohio State or Michigan will comprise the top three if they all stay unbeaten. The battle for No. 4 became more complicated with Tennessee's loss to South Carolina.
Two-loss LSU was ahead of 9-1 USC in the last playoff ranking. No team with two defeats has qualified for the CFP yet, and making the Tigers the first would likely be an unpopular call.
Granted, USC could potentially catapult LSU in the next committee ranking on the heels of a win over their crosstown rivals, who were ranked 16th.
The Trojans play No. 18 Notre Dame next and then have the Pac-12 title game. If they're sitting at 12-1, then their playoff résumé would be too good to overlook.
For the committee, USC winning the Pac-12 and LSU going on to claim the SEC crown might be the doomsday scenario. Could you leave out a conference champion that has an 11-2 record and victories over Ole Miss, Alabama and Georgia?
Michigan vs. Ohio State is the headliner in Week 13. Notre Dame vs. USC should be fun with the Fighting Irish looking totally different following a 3-3 start. Texas A&M and Iowa State could be banana skins for LSU and TCU, respectively, since they have nothing else to play for other than being a spoiler.