A crazy college football season now heads into bowl season and the College Football Playoff.
1. Georgia Bulldogs (13-0) | Last week: 1
Georgia was on a mission to win the SEC championship after losing to Alabama last season, and they did it emphatically by putting up 50 points on LSU. Quarterback Stetson Bennett is a Heisman finalist, leading an underrated Bulldogs offense that complements the aggressive defense. The defending champions are the clear favorites to win a second straight national title.
2. Michigan Wolverines (13-0) | Last week: 2
However, Michigan followed up last year’s campaign with an even stronger regular season, destroying the rival Buckeyes in Columbus and winning a second consecutive Big Ten title. Most years, they would be the top seed heading into the College Football Playoff. Unfortunately, the Wolverines will be without running back Blake Corum (knee), but Donovan Edwards is showing that he’s more than capable of being the lead back for Michigan.
3. TCU Horned Frogs (12-1) | Last week: 3
A Big 12 championship and undefeated season heading into the CFP would have been nice, but TCU was rightfully rewarded with a playoff appearance after going 12-0 and losing in overtime to Kansas State in the conference title game. Max Duggan and the Horned Frogs have been battle-tested all year, and the Fiesta Bowl seems to be a game for upsets over the years.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1) | Last week: 6 (+2)
We believe the CFP committee did a poor job in selecting the fourth playoff team, which became a debate after USC lost to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship. They seemingly stuck to their original bias in ranking Ohio State No. 1 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings (something that arguably did not make sense) and then consistently keeping them at No. 2. That said, the Buckeyes boast a talented team with an experienced defense, and they can take an underdog mindset into Atlanta on New Year’s Eve.
5. Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2) | Last week: 5
Nick Saban made the rounds on Saturday night making a case for his team to be included in the College Football Playoff. We agree that Alabama should have made it after USC was knocked out. Their two losses were a combined four points on the road in the SEC (at Tennessee and at LSU), and the loss to the Vols included a very questionable pass interference call that arguably cost them a win—which the committee seemingly didn’t take into account while at the same time claiming that Ohio State was “in the game” with Michigan into the fourth quarter. The Tide will settle for facing Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl while looking to cap a solid (by their standards) double-digit win season.
6. Clemson Tigers (11-2) | Last week: 9 (+3)
Just before kickoff on Saturday night, Dabo Swinney said that the ACC Championship Game was the difference between a good season and a great season. His team came through with an emphatic 39-10 victory versus North Carolina to claim the conference title and improve to 11-2 with an Orange Bowl appearance against Tennessee. The Tigers would probably be in the CFP if not for the tough loss to South Carolina, but the Tigers have won their conference in seven of the past eight years. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has entered the transfer portal after a rocky stretch for parts of this season, and it’s now Cade Klubnik’s show for Clemson.
7. Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2) | Last week: 7
2022 was a strong bounce back year for James Franklin and Penn State, as—thanks in part to two other Big Ten teams making the CFP—a Rose Bowl appearance is about as good as it gets. The Nittany Lions lost an instant classic to USC in “The Granddaddy of Them All” after the 2016 season, so maybe there’s some extra motivation here for the program.
8. Tennessee Volunteers (10-2) | Last week: 8
The season-ending knee injury to Hendon Hooker, the potential Heisman Trophy winner (now not even a finalist unfortunately) is really a shame for Hooker himself and Tennessee. Quarterback Joe Milton has a big opportunity playing in a New Year’s Six bowl game in taking on Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
9. Utah Utes (9-3) | Last week: NR
Utah basically bullied USC in both matchups this season, and it helped the Utes play spoiler—and more importantly win a conference championship for the second straight year. Kyle Whittingham has done a great job with Utah, and they have a prime opportunity for a signature Rose Bowl win after—like Penn State several years ago—losing a heartbreaking shootout last season to Ohio State.
10. USC Trojans (11-2) | Last week: 4 (-6)
Caleb Williams getting banged up played a factor, but Utah just wasn’t a good matchup for USC this year. The Trojans still made a New Year’s Six bowl—they’ll take on Tulane in the Cotton Bowl—but it was a disappointing result while on the cusp of the CFP.