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College Football Playoff Rankings, Week 12 - UCLA on the Verge of a Major Bowl

UCLA Football makes a big jump to #11 in the College Football Playoff poll and sits in position for a New Year's Day bowl game. Mississippi State, Oregon, Florida State, and TCU are the top 4 teams this week.

Which 4 teams are lined up for the trophy this week?
Which 4 teams are lined up for the trophy this week?
Kevin C. Cox

The College Football Playoff Committee released their third set of rankings this afternoon. Here we go:

Rank Team Last week Week 11 result Toughest opponent left (per F/+) If the season ended today ...
1 Mississippi State (9-0) 1 Won 45-16 vs. Tennessee-Martin Alabama Sugar Bowl vs. TCU
2 Oregon (9-1) 4 Won 51-27 at No. 17 Utah Oregon State Rose Bowl vs. Florida State
3 Florida State (9-0) 2 Won 34-20 vs. Virginia Miami Rose Bowl vs. Oregon
4 TCU (8-1) 6 Won 41-20 vs. No. 7 Kansas State Texas Sugar Bowl vs. Mississippi State
5 Alabama (8-1) 5 Won 20-13 (OT) at No. 16 LSU Auburn Orange Bowl
6 Arizona State (8-1) 14 Won 55-31 vs. No. 10 Notre Dame Arizona New Year's bowl
7 Baylor (8-1) 13 Won 48-14 at No. 15 Oklahoma Kansas State New Year's bowl
8 Ohio State (8-1) 14 Won 49-37 at No. 8 Michigan State Minnesota New Year's bowl
9 Auburn (7-2) 3 Lost 41-38 vs. Texas A&M Alabama New Year's bowl
10 Ole Miss (8-2) 12 Won 48-0 vs. Presbyterian Mississippi State New Year's bowl
11 UCLA (8-2) 18 Won 44-30 at Washington USC New Year's bowl
12 Michigan State (7-2) 8 Lost 49-37 vs. No. 14 Ohio State Maryland
13 Kansas State (7-2) 7 Lost 41-20 at No. 6 TCU Baylor
14 Arizona (7-2) 19 Won 38-20 vs. Colorado Arizona State
15 Georgia (7-2) 20 Won 63-31 at Kentucky Auburn
16 Nebraska (8-1) 13 Idle Wisconsin
17 LSU (7-3) 16 Lost 20-13 (OT) vs. No. 5 Alabama Arkansas
18 Notre Dame (7-2) 10 Lost 55-31 at No. 9 Arizona State Louisville
19 Clemson (7-2) 21 Won 34-20 at Wake Forest Georgia Tech Orange Bowl
20 Wisconsin (7-2) 25 Won 34-16 at Purdue Nebraska
21 Duke (8-1) 22 Won 27-10 at Syracuse Virginia Tech
22 Georgia Tech (8-2) 24 Won 56-23 at NC State Georgia
23 Utah (6-3) 17 Lost 51-27 vs. No. 4 Oregon Arizona
24 Texas A&M (7-2) NR Won 41-38 at No. 3 Auburn LSU
25 Minnesota (7-2) NR Won 51-14 vs. Iowa Ohio State

U.C.L.A. made a huge move from #18 up to #11 and sit in position for one of the 6 major bowls. But the Bruins have a chance to move up even further.

Oregon leaped past Florida State to the #2 spot and TCU slid into the final spot in the top 4. Arizona State moved up to #6.

Why does U.C.L.A. at number 11 mean so much?

As a refresher, the top four teams as ranked by the committee will meet in the national semifinals (this year at the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl). The Committee also places the teams in the next highest prestige bowl games - Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, Peach. So that is 12 slots to be filled. U.C.L.A. at #11 gets one of those spots.

But there are a couple of monkey wrenches in filling the 12 slots. At least one each of the 12 slots has to go to a team from the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC. And at least one of the 12 slots has to go the highest ranked team from outside these five conferences. Finally, this year, if an ACC team is in the top four (meaning Florida State), then another ACC team gets a slot in the Orange Bowl.

With these rules in mind, islandbruin2 shared some wise and prescient thoughts with me earlier today:

Although it is not explicit, I would imagine one of the goals of the Playoff Committee is to spread the wealth among the five conferences. With 12 slots in the money bowls, and 1 reserved for the best conference champ from the weak sisters, that means 11 slots for the 5 conferences plus Notre Dame.

Notre Dame is definitely out now post-Tempe. So 11 slots for the 5 conferences. That means 3 slots for 1 conference, and 2 slots for the other 4. For UCLA to pick up a slot as a 3rd Pac-12 team, the committee would need to only give 2 to the SEC or squeeze out the Big 10 (only take the champion) or the Big 12 (only take the champion). Any of those paths seem really unlikely.

I hadn't really considered the dynamic that a room full of representatives from the 5 major conferences would - unofficially, of course - work together to make sure everyone in the room was taken care of, but it does make perfect brutal ugly sense. Collusion among the powerful for big money? Yes, I can picture such a thing. You can easily imagine the unspoken agreements and silent nods and handshakes going on behind closed doors to make sure everyone gets as large a piece of the pie as possible, even if it excludes a deserving third team from one conference and includes an undeserving second team from another conference. So it will be interesting not just to follow the top 4, but also to look at the distribution of the conferences across the 11 spots as we move forward.

I think islandbruin2's vision that the SEC will get 3 teams in the top 11 is most likely. Regardless whether it is deserved, that's just the way college football works these days. Florida State should win out and stay in the top 4, ensuring a second ACC team gets the Orange Bowl. That leaves the Big 10, the Big 12, and the Pac 12 to share the six remaining spots.

Winning out aside, the real issue for UCLA is what happens to ASU. Now, if Sparky would just be a good sport and drop a game, we'd really appreciate it. That would be our opportunity to win the Pac-12 South and solidify its spot as one of the two Pac-12 team in the top 11.  But the Sun Devils road looks pretty smooth, while our Utah loss remains a gigantic speed bump that stands top spoil our season. Even if we win out, getting 3 Pac-12 teams into the top 11 spots in the final poll seems to be a long shot, especially for a committee which can't seem to avoid the pervasive SEC love.

islandbruin2 capped his thoughts with this:

UCLA would probably wind up in Alamo (against failed K-State) or Holiday (full circle back to Mora year 1). That assumes no more stumbles rest of the way for Bruins.

Damn you, Utah.

U.C.L.A. still needs to win its last two games over Southern Cal and Stanford for this to matter, but the Bruins have the team to do just that.

Then, if and when that happens, then yes.

Damn you, Utah.

Damn us, U.C.L.A.

But, first things first.  BEAT $c!!!!