College Football Rankings 2018: Bleacher Report's Week 12 Top 25

Ian Wharton@NFLFilmStudyFeatured Columnist IVNovember 11, 2018

College Football Rankings 2018: Bleacher Report's Week 12 Top 25

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    Week 11 of college football began early, with MACtion kicking off on Tuesday night when Kent State visited Buffalo. By Thursday, we already had a Top 15 upset, with No. 14 NC State falling to unranked Wake Forest. But as Friday and Saturday rolled around, most of the schedule went chalk.

    There were a handful of close calls that came down to the final seconds, though. The Big 12 had a thrilling back-and-forth between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State that was decided by a gutsy failed two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter.

    Florida and South Carolina shockingly combined to score 66 points in an exciting early game. The Gators avoided dropping a second consecutive conference battle thanks to an unexpectedly stellar performance from running back Jordan Scarlett.

    Texas wide receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey recreated Michael Crabtree's iconic 2008 touchdown reception, scoring a game-winning touchdown with less than a minute to play against Texas Tech in Lubbock. The Longhorns snuck by the wily Red Raiders to stay in the Top 25.

    Most of the Top 25 took care of business, though, with Kentucky and Iowa the only other notable ranked losses on Saturday.

    It's time to look toward Week 12 after we recap a busy week of games.

    Bleacher Report's panel of experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—voted on the action. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third and so on.

    Here is our Week 12 poll:

    1. Alabama (last week: 1)
    2. Clemson (2)
    3. Michigan (4)
    4. Notre Dame (3)
    5. Georgia (5)
    6. Oklahoma (6)
    7. West Virginia (7)
    8. UCF (9)
    9. Ohio State (8)
    10. Washington State (11)
    11. LSU (10)
    12. Syracuse (13)
    13. Utah State (16)
    14. Iowa State (18)
    15. Texas (T-20)
    16. Penn State (24)
    17. Cincinnati (19)
    18. Buffalo (23)
    19. UAB (25)
    20. Boston College (14)
    21. Boise State (NR)
    22. Army (NR)
    23. Florida (NR)
    24. Kentucky (12)
    25. Washington (NR)

    Others receiving votes: Fresno State, Houston, Utah, North Texas, Pittsburgh, Northwestern

Who's Hot: Second-Tier Playoff Contenders

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    With only two Top 20 upsets this week, we have to focus on the second-tier College Football Playoff contenders as those who held up their end of the bargain this week. Teams just on the outside of the Top Four were able to hold their own despite several close calls. No. 11 Kentucky faltered again, though, dropping a 24-7 game on the road in Tennessee, and No. 14 NC State lost on Thursday night, 27-23, to Wake Forest. 

    Oklahoma barely skated by Mike Gundy's Oklahoma State Cowboys, marking the second week in a row where a spread offense pushed the Sooners to the brink of a loss. But they survived and figure to maintain their position as a looming playoff threat. But it's hard to fully trust they'll win out despite their incredible offensive talent due to their uneven defense.

    Washington State laid the smackdown in its conference matchup against the Colorado Buffaloes. The Cougars continue to be a well-rounded, capable team, handing Colorado their fifth straight loss. This may be Mike Leach's best team ever considering the athleticism on both sides of the ball.

    Both West Virginia and Ohio State continue on as offensive-first teams with suspect defenses. But neither Will Grier nor Dwayne Haskins had to do anything special on Saturday, as their opponents fell flat on their faces. The Mountaineers and Buckeyes are looming, waiting for a few mistakes ahead of them in the chase.

    The other team worth mentioning is UCF after the Golden Knights took care of business against Navy this week. Skeptics will cite their schedule as an argument against their playoff worthiness, but they've done as much as they can to this point. This should be a Top 10 team with the ability to finish even higher should they win out.

Who's Not: ACC Bottom-Feeders

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    As a whole, the ACC has been a competitive bunch of teams every week. There's no legitimate threat to Clemson, but there's a deep group of two- and three-loss teams that have earned respect on their own. What's surprising is which programs have found themselves the cellar-dwellers of the conference.

    The 4-6 Florida State Seminoles were pulverized by Notre Dame, marking yet another game where they were completely outclassed. Thus far, only one of their losses has come in a one-score game, and typically middle-of-the-road conference mates Syracuse, Virginia Tech, and NC State have clearly surpassed them in talent, and even coaching, at this point.

    Taking an even more drastic dip from where it has been recently is Louisville. Now at 2-8, the Cardinals are in a turbulent state just two years after producing a Heisman Trophy winner. They suffered a 54-23 beatdown at the hands of Syracuse this week. It's now clear how much quarterback Lamar Jackson was carrying this team, and head coach Bobby Petrino can't effectively recruit at this point in his career. They should shoulder the financial burden owed to Petrino and move on.

    Another recently extended coach who needs to be ousted for the sake of the program's health is North Carolina's Larry Fedora. The Tar Heels were competitive against a quality Duke team, but a 1-8 record is just not acceptable. Their defense is abhorrent, allowing under 31 points to opponents in just two games all season.

    All of these programs have been substantially underperforming compared to their histories, costing themselves relevance, exposure and money.

Fun Fact: Utah State Has an Elite Offense

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    Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

    Sitting at 9-1 and in first place in the Mountain West Conference, the Utah State Aggies deserve recognition and a Top 25 ranking. After dropping a close loss at Michigan State to open the year, the Aggies have enjoyed nine straight wins, only one of which was a one-score game. They've been dominant pretty much all season.

    Led by a balanced offense that ranks second in points per game and No. 32 in both rushing and passing yards per game, the Aggies are one of the most exciting watches every week. Quarterback Jordan Love continued his dominance this week with a career-high 491 passing yards and five touchdowns through the air against San Jose State. He also added a rushing score.

    Star running back Darwin Thompson caught two of those touchdown passes and tallied 140 yards and another score on the ground.

    With Colorado State and Boise State remaining on their regular-season schedule, the path is there for the Aggies to potentially finish 11-1. Current ESPN projections have them potentially pitted against either Army or USC. Both are quality foes, but it would be more interesting to see the Aggies face a Top 15 team considering the way they've handled their opposition thus far.

    Like UCF and Buffalo, the Aggies are being overlooked due to conference limitations. While three-loss Power Five teams hang around the Top 25, underdog teams should be given more credit and opportunity to fight for relevance on the national stage. Otherwise, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy and never-ending loop.

What to Watch For: Playoff Push

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Saturday, TBD)

    What's better than a Big 12 shootout? Expect a lot of points as Mike Gundy and his protege Dana Holgorsen pull out all of the stops when they face off next Saturday. The Mountaineers will have to play their best to win in a loud road environment. You won't want to miss the dominant wide receiver play in this one.


    Cincinnati at UCF (Saturday, TBD)

    Is this when UCF finally loses? It's likely their biggest test yet, as Cincinnati has a strong group of talent on both sides of the ball. Bearcats coach Luke Fickell's defense is going to do everything it can to force UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton to hit tight passing windows and to limit his playmaking on the ground. But it's easier said than done, and the Golden Knights are catching the Bearcats coming off a hard-fought win over USF.


    Syracuse at Notre Dame (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET)

    The marquee matchup of the day is a surprising one, but both Syracuse and Notre Dame have drastically outperformed expectations to this point. It's a matchup worthy of College GameDay, as the Fighting Irish have the chance to reach 10-0 and get closer to clinching a playoff berth. Watch for Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey to be a key difference-maker. Dungey's ability to create chunk plays on the ground makes him a unique threat in Dino Babers' spread offense.


    Iowa State at Texas (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET)

    Few may have expected this to be a worthwhile showdown at the beginning of the year, but it's the lone ranked vs. ranked late game next week. Both head coaches have done well for themselves this year, with the Cyclones' Matt Campbell earning NFL buzz and the Longhorns' Tom Herman recovering from last season's tough start to legitimize the program. Winning this game in a defensive struggle will set the tone for 2019, as both are clearly in the second tier of the conference this year.


    San Diego State at Fresno State (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET)

    A matchup between two quality defensive teams that lack explosive offenses and a late kickoff may not appeal to many, but football diehards should be interested in seeing the 8-2 Fresno State Bulldogs and 7-2 San Diego State Aztecs square off. They're very different on offense despite sharing limited effectiveness, with the Bulldogs running an efficient passing attack and the Aztecs boasting a strong run game. The two teams will fight for first place in the MWC West Division.