Top 25 College Football Power Rankings Week 15: Do USC, TCU Losses Put Ohio State Into CFP?

With losses to two top-four teams in conference championships, the College Football Power Rankings see one final significant move in the top 25 before the CFP.

With just three undefeated college football teams remaining and conference championships on the horizon, the College Football Playoffs have a hotly contested No. 4 spot up for grabs. We explore the options, as well as the three teams that joined the Top 25 of our Week 14 College Football Power Rankings.

Week 15 Top 25 College Football Power Rankings

1. Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia handled business vs. LSU in the SEC Championship, quickly sprinting to a 35-10 halftime lead. The running game was on point. Stetson Bennett got back into rhythm after an end-of-season funk. And the defense was their usual dominant self, despite giving up some big garbage-time passing plays.

2. Michigan Wolverines

Beating Purdue in the Big Ten title match wasn’t a surprise for Michigan. In fact, there isn’t much to take away from the expected victory. However, it was key for the running game to get its bearings without Blake Corum in the backfield, as he underwent season-ending knee surgery.

Losing Corum — a former Heisman favorite — is huge for the Wolverines. But if Donovan Edwards can keep the ball rolling on the ground, Michigan will still be a force in the College Football Playoff.

3. TCU Horned Frogs

TCU has played in classic after classic this season, and that continued in the Big 12 Championship. Max Duggan had a Heisman drive late in the fourth quarter to force overtime against Kansas State, but Sonny Dykes and staff did the unthinkable.

On third and fourth down near the goal line, they tried to run through a brick wall. The result? Zero points and Kansas State getting the ball, needing only a field goal to win. Why would you take the ball out of the hot hand? A hot hand you just witnessed will your team back into the game, I might add.

Nevertheless, it was a tight loss that came down to the wire against a top-10 opponent. And that shouldn’t warrant a drop in the College Football Power Rankings, especially below a team that sat on their couches this weekend.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (Last Week: 5)

With a bit of help from USC’s failed double or nothing ATTEMPT against Utah in the Pac-12 title match, Ohio State sneaks its way back into the CFP field. Ryan Day has some fans calling for his job after the Buckeye’s ugly loss at home in “The Game” vs. Michigan to end the season.

MORE: College Football Playoff Predictions Week 15

He will have the opportunity to quiet the doubters by winning the National Championship, or at the very least, making it past the first round.

5. Alabama Crimson Tide (Last Week: 6)

If the committee really wants to cause controversy, they could put Alabama in the College Football Playoff as the No. 4 seed. Should they? Absolutely not, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibilities.

Nick Saban’s squad has two losses on their résumé, one more than every team currently above them. Making matters worse for their playoff prospects, Georgia manhandled both of said teams, diminishing the Crimson Tide’s overall outlook.

6. USC Trojans (Last Week: 5)

The Pac-12 is going to Pac-12. When Utah first knocked off USC earlier in the season, many viewed it as the death knell for the Trojans’ playoff hopes. But Ohio State’s regular-season finale loss opened a window … only for Utah to play spoiler once again, this time in the conference championship.

Caleb Williams’ health — or lack thereof — played a major role, as he was clearly hobbled with a low leg injury. However, he isn’t the reason the defense conceded 47 points. Regardless, the Pac-12’s CFP drought enters its sixth straight year.

7. Tennessee Volunteers

After surging to the hottest start in the country this season, Tennessee ran into Georgia and was never the same. Losing Hendon Hooker to an ACL tear in the penultimate regular-season game was just salt in the wound.

Still, the Vols should be incredibly proud of what they were able to accomplish this season, and they’ll factor heavily in the 2023 NFL Draft.

8. Utah Utes (Last Week: 13)

Utah finished with a double-digit win season (10-3) for the third time in the last four years. Not only that, but they gave USC their only losses of the season, single-handedly crushing their CFP dreams.

The Utes are now back-to-back Pac-12 champions, and with four appearances in the title match since 2018, the game may as well be sponsored by them.

9. Kansas State Wildcats (Last Week: 16)

Despite a late surge from Max Duggan and Co., Kansas State held on to knock off undefeated TCU in the Big 12 Championship, earning their first title in the last decade. Chris Klieman was brought in to get the Wildcats over the hump. And three years into his tenure, it’s safe to say he’s done just that.

10. Clemson Tigers

In Clemson‘s 39-10 thrashing of North Carolina, one question stands above the rest: Will DJ Uiagalelei be a Tiger next season? Following a tumultuous campaign, Dabo Swinney elected to hand the reigns to freshman Kade Klubnik early in the ACC Championship, and it’s safe to say that was the right decision.

Klubnik has always been the future of Clemson football. But now? He seems to be the present, leaving Uiagalelei on the outside looking in — and a likely transfer portal candidate.

11. Washington Huskies (Last Week: 8)

First-year HC Kalen DeBoer not only led Washington to their first 10+ win season since 2018, but he got the most out of Michael Penix Jr., turning him into a bona fide draft prospect. For the first time in what seems like forever, the Huskies’ offense was actually “fun to watch.”

Although Penix is likely on his way out, the future is bright in the Pacific Northwest, with playmakers Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan rumored to return to school next season.

12. Penn State Nittany Lions (Last Week: 9)

The fact Penn State reached 10-2 with Sean Clifford under center is a testament to the talent they have on both sides of the ball. While that is a shot on Clifford, he’s the program’s leader in career passing touchdowns, so he deserves credit for his overall play.

Now, it’s Drew Allar’s turn at the helm. And with Olu Fashanu returning at left tackle and the RB duo of Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen, Nittany Lions fans should set high expectations for their offense.

13. LSU Tigers (Last Week: 11)

Sure, LSU lost by 20 points, but I’m impressed they were able to hang 30 on Georgia’s vaunted defense — garbage time notwithstanding. Jayden Daniels struggled to move the ball and left the contest with the injury. And once freshman Garrett Nussmeier entered, the Tigers had life.

He pushed the ball downfield and gave his WRs a chance to pick up chunk gains. As much as we poke fun at Brian Kelly’s fake southern accent and offseason shenanigans, there is nothing fake about LSU’s 9-3 record.

14. Oregon Ducks (Last Week: 12)

Will Bo Nix enter the 2023 NFL Draft? That’s the biggest question for the Oregon Ducks following a 9-3 campaign that left much to be desired. Nix turned himself from SEC laughing stock into Pac-12 juggernaut in one season in Eugene, and it may behoove him to return and continue his growth.

MORE: PFN Consensus Big Board

If he does, the Ducks should be seen as favorites in the conference yet again, and Nix’s draft stock could improve even further.

15. Oregon State Beavers (Last Week: 14)

Gary Andersen left Oregon State a mess — a mess Jonathan Smith had to clean up. But all the Beavers have done under Smith is improve, culminating in a 9-3 finish this year with a win over in-state rival Oregon putting the cherry on top.

RB Damian Martinez is a star, and while the secondary may undergo an overhaul next summer, Oregon State should not be underestimated.

16. Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: 15)

Florida State went 9-3, with all three of their losses coming against ranked opponents. Mike Norvell is building a competitive team in Tallahassee, with playmakers all over the roster.

A few will leave this draft cycle, but QB Jordan Travis could return for his swan song season, and if he does, the ACC will be on notice.

17. UCLA Bruins

While it’s hard to be disappointed with their first nine-win outing since 2014, UCLA fans can’t be happy with how the year finished. They can stomach the loss to Oregon on the road, but fumbling the bag against Arizona and cross-town rival USC at home in back-to-back weeks is soul-crushing.

Nonetheless, Chip Kelly has transformed the Bruins into national contenders, and their move to the Big Ten should only exacerbate that notion.

18. Tulane Green Wave

Tulane made its first-ever appearance in the AAC Championship and made the most of it, drumming UCF to the tune of 45-28. The defense has been near the top of nearly every statistical category this year, with LB Dorian Williams leading the charge.

But the offense, with Michael Pratt, Tyjae Spears, Shae Wyatt, and Duece Watts, proved too much for UCF to handle all game. It may have been Tulane’s first time in the title match, but this could be the beginning of something special.

19. UTSA Roadrunners (Last Week: 20)

It feels as if UTSA has been under the national radar all year despite owning an 11-2 record. Well, the C-USA certainly knows who they are, especially North Texas, who was on the receiving end of a 48-27 thrashing in the conference championship.

Frank Harris is sensational. Zakhari Franklin is a tremendous receiver. And the defensive secondary is elite, with CB Corey Mayfield Jr. and S Clifford Chattman making life easier for the rest of the unit.

20. Troy Trojans (Last Week: 21)

Throwing an injured Grayson McCall into the fire against one of the top defenses in the nation was an interesting strategy by Coastal Carolina. And while McCall actually played decently well, considering the situation, it’s no surprise Troy cruised to their first Sun Belt Championship victory in team history.

RB DK Billingsley punched in three scores on just nine carries, while QB Gunnar Watson generated 318 yards and three TDs off 12 completions. It was the perfect note to end on for HC Jon Sumrall’s inaugural season and LB Carlton Martial’s final year with the Trojans.

21. North Carolina Tar Heels (Last Week: 19)

North Carolina didn’t just stumble to end the year — they fell flat on their faces. After torching every defense he faced for most of the year, Drake Maye managed just one TD to four INTs in the final three games of the season — all losses.

But I’m not giving up on him as the potential QB1 in the 2024 NFL Draft class because he’s looked that good this season. And not just in spurts but across several games.

22. South Carolina Gamecocks (Last Week: Unranked)

Ending your season with back-to-back victories over top-10 opponents is one way to ensure your spot in the College Football Power Rankings. It was an up-and-down season for South Carolina, following the same path as their QB (Spencer Rattler).

MORE: PFN Mock Draft Simulator

Upsetting Tennessee and Clemson to close the year is significant for morale and gives further credibility to first-year head coach Shane Beamer.

23. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Last Week: 14)

Expectations were high in South Bend, but maybe they shouldn’t have been for Marcus Freeman and Co. Brian Kelly’s departure was sudden and caused uncertainty in the locker room.

Still, the team banded together under Freeman and rattled off three wins over ranked opponents (No. 16 BYU, No. 16 Syracuse, and No. 4 Clemson). But their 8-4 record was their first under 10 wins since 2016.

24. UCF Knights (Last Week: Unranked)

The last time UCF faced Tulane, they gave the Green Wave a 38-31 home loss. And had John Rhys Plumlee been 100% healthy — which he clearly wasn’t — the result could’ve been the same in the AAC title.

Alas, we don’t live in the world of “what ifs,” and Tulane sent the Knights home with their swords sheathed after a dominant 45-26 win in New Orleans. Gus Malzahn has yet to reach the heights of Josh Heupel and Scott Frost, but his UCF teams are on the precipice of doing just that.

25. Purdue Boilermakers (Last Week: Unranked)

Purdue kept it a game with Michigan for the first half, but it was all downhill from there. The 43-22 loss isn’t exactly inspiring for the Boilermakers, but you can’t punish them for making the Big Ten Championship.

Jeff Brohm has raised Purdue from the ashes of obscurity to the land of perennial contention in the Big Ten.

Teams on the Outside Looking In 

  • Illinois Fighting Illini
  • South Alabama Jaguars
  • James Madison Dukes
  • North Carolina State Wolfpack
  • Texas Longhorns
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