CFP top 4 unchanged: Georgia, Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State

Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports
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Georgia, Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State held their places in the College Football Playoff ranking Tuesday, with Cincinnati still sitting at fifth.

There was no movement in the selection committee’s top seven after all those teams won last week. Michigan was still No. 6 and Michigan State seventh, heading into the Spartans’ big game Saturday at Ohio State.

Notre Dame moved up a spot to eighth. Oklahoma State (9-1) is now the highest-ranked Big 12 team at ninth after Oklahoma was handed its first loss last week.

Wake Forest (9-1) is No. 10, the highest-ranked team from the Atlantic Coast Conference with three rankings left until selection Sunday.

In the seven-year history of the College Football Playoff, no team has come from farther back than ninth to reach the final four with two rankings remaining before selection Sunday. Michigan State did that in 2015, propelled by a victory at Ohio State.

Oklahoma was the one top-10 team to lose this past weekend and the Sooners fell to 13th.

Notable for Cincinnati, which is trying to become the first team from outside the Power Five conferences to make the playoff, was Houston moving into the rankings at 24th.

The Cougars have already clinched a spot in the American Athletic Conference championship game, where the Bearcats could be an opponent if they keep winning.

“When I talk about how firm (Cincinnati’s) position is, this week it’s rock-solid at No. 5,” selection committee chairman and Iowa athletic director Gary Barta.

The Bearcats’ only victory against a team ranked in the selection committee’s top 25 is Notre Dame (9-1). They host SMU (8-2) on Saturday and then go to East Carolina (6-4) on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

WHAT’S OBVIOUS

– Barring a historic upset in one of its next two games, Georgia is going to enter the Southeastern Conference championship game — most likely against Alabama — playing for seeding.

– If Alabama wins out, including an SEC championship victory against Georgia, it’s in.

– Ohio State and Oregon simply need to win out to get in. The Buckeyes have potentially the most difficult closing stretch in the country with Michigan State, Michigan and a Big Ten title game most likely against No. 15 Wisconsin or No. 17 Iowa.

Not only would three straight wins make the Buckeyes a lock, but it would also make Oregon almost impossible to overlook at 12-1 with a victory in Columbus against the Buckeyes. No matter how sketchy the Pac-12 competition has been.

Utah at No. 23 is the only other ranked Pac-12 team. The Utes host the Ducks on Saturday and those teams are positioned to meet again in the Pac-12 title game.

– If either Michigan or Michigan State wins out, beating the Buckeyes and taking a Big Ten title along the way, it’s in.

WHAT’S UNCLEAR

– Can Alabama become the first team to reach the playoff with two losses?

There are two scenarios here: Alabama (9-1) loses a competitive game to Georgia in the SEC championship game. Or Alabama loses one of its two remaining regular-season games and beats Georgia in the SEC title game. Hard to imagine the Tide not getting in under the latter scenario. The former? Less likely, but never doubt the power Alabama has to sway the committee.

– Can Cincinnati be caught from behind even if it wins out?

The biggest threat to the Bearcats appears to be Oklahoma State (9-1), which could get to 12-1 with with a Big 12 championship and three victories against Oklahoma and Baylor.

There is also a scenario in which both Michigan and Michigan State win out, giving the Spartans a Big Ten title and easy entry to the playoff and leaving Michigan at 11-1, challenging the Bearcats.

Wake Forest winning the ACC at 12-1 would have a resume similar to unbeaten Cincinnati, but no one victory as impressive as a road win over Notre Dame.

Least likely to chase down an unbeaten Bearcats team is the Fighting Irish, who have gone on a nice run since losing to Cincinnati by 11 at home but with no really notable victories.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.