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College Football Rankings Week 12: Washington Huskies soar, playoff race tightens

Matt Johnson
Week 12 college football rankings
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Who is the best team in college football? Week 11 of the 2022 season proved once again that there are distinct tiers separating CFB Playoff contenders from everyone else. It also delivered some movement in the Week 12 college football rankings.

Saturday’s early slate unfolded how everyone expected for the most part. C.J. Stroud and Hendon Hooked put on offensive clinics in blowout victories for the Tennessee Volunteers and Ohio State Buckeyes. However, Jayden Daniels nearly cost the LSU Tigers in a close battle against Arkansas.

College football fans enjoyed a lot more excitement in the second half of Saturday’s action. Alabama vs Ole Miss came down to the final seasons, NC State suffered a wild upset to Boston College and three other programs in the top 25 rankings went down

Related: College Football Playoff Rankings

Finally, it all drew to a close with chaos. The Washington Huskies stunned a national audience, beating the Oregon Ducks in enemy territory. Fans witnessed Drake Maye lead a comeback and the TCU Horned Frogs firmly establish themselves as one of the best college football teams in 2022.

Dropped from Top 25 rankings: Liberty Flames (16), Texas Longhorns (18), NC State Wolfpack (19), Illinois Fighting Illini (23), Baylor Bears (25)

Let’s dive into the Week 12 college football rankings.

25. Oklahoma State Cowboys (Previously: Unranked)

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Oklahoma State
The Oklahoman-USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Oklahoma State Cowboys record: 7-3
  • Next Opponent: @ Oklahoma Sooners

Blowout losses to Kansas State (48-0) and Kansas (37-16) kicked Oklahoma State out of the top 25 rankings coming into the weekend. However, the chaos from Week 11 opens the door for a Cowboys’ team that ranked 20th in ESPN’s Strength of Resume to slide back into the No. 25 spot. Based on the wild fluctuation from Mike Gundy’s team, Oklahoma State may disappear once more after Week 12.

24. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (Previously: Unranked)

NCAA Football: Southern Mississippi at Coastal Carolina
David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports
  • Coastal Carolina Chanticleers record: 9-1
  • Week 12 opponent: @ Virginia Cavaliers

It required a late go-ahead touchdown from Reese White, but Coastal Carolina came out on top once more. The Chanticleers aren’t as good as the 2021 season, losing to Old Dominion (49-21) showed that, but they have taken out everyone else on their schedule. With a stockpile of three- and four-loss teams, a 9-1 Coastal Carolina squad deserves some recognition.

23. Cincinnati Bearcats (Previously: Unranked)

Syndication: The Enquirer
Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Cincinnati Bearcats record: 8-2
  • Next Opponent: @ Temple Owls

Jadon Thomspon ran 100 yards for a touchdown, carrying the Cincinnati Bearcats back into the top 25 rankings in the process. Cincinnati lost the turnover battle and easily fell short in time of possession (37 minutes – 23 minutes), but it showed the fight that you’d expect from a well-coached team. A win over Temple in Week 12 would create a perfect script for a season-ending battle vs Tulane.

22. Oregon State Beavers (Previously: Unranked)

NCAA Football: California at Oregon State
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
  • Oregon State Beavers record: 7-3
  • Week 12 opponent: @ Arizona State Sundevils

Suddenly, losses to Washington, USC and Utah don’t look so bad. The Oregon State Beavers put up a far better fight against the Huskies than rival Oregon ever did. Oregon State is also doing this with a quarterback rotation and it has still already matched its win total from 2021. Heading into Week 12, the only concern is the Beavers overcooking Arizona State before the Civil War.

21. Tulane Green Wave (Previously: 17)

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Tulane
Rebecca Warren-USA TODAY Sports
  • Tulane Green Wave record: 8-2
  • Week 12 opponent: vs SMU Mustangs (Nov. 17)

Michael Pratt and Tyjae Spears did everything possible to keep the Green Wave riding toward double-digit wins. Unfortunately for Tulane, its defense never had an answer against UCF, getting bulldozed to the tune of 336 rushing yards With the Knights controlling the entire game, it’s frankly remarkable that Tulane made it a one-score loss.

20. Florida State Seminoles (Previously: Unranked)

NCAA Football: Florida State at Miami
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
  • Florida State Seminoles record: 7-3
  • Week 12 opponent: vs Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

The Florida State Seminoles finally get their respect in Sportsnaut’s top 25 rankings. Quarterback Jordan Travis did it all on Saturday against Syracuse (6-4), building upon his stretch of excellence. Losses to Clemson (34-28), NC State (19-17) and Wake Forest (31-21) have dinged the Seminoles’ resume, but Saturday’s dominance and the disappearance of multiple top teams opens a spot up.

19. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Navy
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish record: 7-3
  • Week 12 Opponent: vs Boston College Eagles

The quiet calls for Marcus Freeman to be fired have suddenly vanished. Notre Dame always needed a transition year, injuries and some losses on the roster played a huge part in that. It’s all starting to come together now, though, with a four-game win streak including victories over Syracuse and Clemson. Based on how the Fighting Irish’s defense and special teams are playing, an upset over USC on Nov. 26 seems possible.

18. UCF Knights (Previously: 21)

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Tulane
Rebecca Warren-USA TODAY Sports
  • UCF Knights record: 8-2
  • Next opponent: vs Navy Midshipmen

The UCF Knights are back and former Ole Miss freshman sensation John Rhys Plumlee led the way on Saturday. Tulane put up a fight, turning a 31-17 deficit into a 38-31 final, but Gus Malzahn has created another explosive offense and it sends UCF skyrocketing up the top 25 rankings.

17. Kansas State Wildcats (Previously: 20)

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Baylor
Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
  • Kansas State Wildcats record: 9-3
  • Next Opponent: @ West Virginia Mountaineers

The Kansas State Wildcats are one of the most volatile teams in the Week 12 college football rankings. On the positive side, their resume now includes victories over Oklahoma State (48-0), Texas Tech (37-28), Baylor and Oklahoma. However, Kansas State also has losses to Tulane, Texas and TCU. It should tell you everything about where the Wildcats stand compared to the best teams in the Big 12 Conference.

16. Ole Miss Rebels (Previously: 13)

NCAA Football: Alabama at Mississippi
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Ole Miss Rebels record: 8-2
  • Next Opponent: @ Arkansas Razorbacks

Lane Kiffin and the Ole Miss Rebels must accept the obvious. Put Jaxson Dart against lesser competition and he can thrive, especially with the pieces around him in this system. When more of the weight offensively is put on his shoulders, largely against top-25 opponents, he can’t get it done. It’s why Ole Miss lost to Alabama and LSU, robbing them of a shot at a top-10 spot in the college football rankings.

15. UCLA Bruins (Previously: 9)

Syndication: Arizona Republic
Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • UCLA Bruins record: 8-1
  • Week 12 opponent: vs USC Trojans

While the UCLA Bruins’ offense racked up 465 total yards on Saturday, the loss to Arizona has to be viewed as a reflection on Chip Kelly. UCLA only converted 4-of-12 attempts on third down and it seemed completely unprepared defensively for the Wildcats’ offense. Whether it’s a game plan issue or UCLA looking past its opponent, the result is the same and it blows up the building hype around the program before its matchup with USC

14. Penn State Nittany Lions (Previously: 14)

NCAA Football: Penn State at Indiana
Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports
  • Penn State Nittany Lions record: 8-2
  • Next Opponent: @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Penn State Nittany Lions coach James Franklin clearly isn’t giving fans what they want, freshman quarterback Drew Allar as the starter. Fortunately, freshman running back Nicholas Singleton is providing more than enough excitement. The Pennsylvania native is closing in on a 1,000-yard season. Penn State is on track for a 10-2 season, but the anticipation for the Allar-Singleton backfield is what really matters.

13. Utah Utes (Previously: 11)

NCAA Football: Arizona at Utah
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
  • Utah Utes record: 8-2
  • Next Opponent: @ Oregon Ducks

All eyes are on the matchup against the Oregon Ducks, an opportunity for the Utah Utes to crush the playoff hopes of another Pac 12 rival. The problem is, Utah is a very different team on the road than at home this year. We also haven’t seen any signs of the dominant defense from previous years. Facing Bo Nix at Autzen Stadium likely won’t end well for the Utes.

12. Oregon Ducks (Previously: 7)

NCAA Football: Washington at Oregon
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
  • Oregon Ducks record: 8-2
  • Week 12 opponent: vs Utah Utes

Dan Lanning has a lot to answer for because of this loss. Praised for his brilliant defensive mind and coach, Lanning’s group allowed 37 points and 522 total yards to a Washington Huskies offense that couldn’t crack 30 vs California or Oregon State. To make matters worse, Lanning kept Nix on the sideline on the fourth-down attempt from the Ducks’ 34-yard line. All of this is going to be a painful lesson for the first-year head coach to learn from.

11. Clemson Tigers (Previously: 12)

Syndication: The Greenville News
Ken Ruinard / USA Today Network / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Clemson Tigers record:
  • Week 12 opponent: vs Miami Hurricanes

The Clemson Tigers rebounded from the Notre Dame loss, buts its victory over Louisville didn’t leave anyone with the impression that this is one of the best teams in college football. Clemson’s offense is far too inconsistent to be a threat against top-10 teams in the college football rankings. They face a Miami Hurricanes program in Week 12 that looks like a fringe top-100 team.

10. North Carolina Tar Heels (Previously: 15)

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Virginia
Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
  • North Carolina Tar Heels record: 9-1
  • Week 12 opponent: vs Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Drake Maye might be the second-best quarterback in college football next year, if not the best. The freshman dual-threat superstar firmly entrenched himself as a Heisman finalist on Saturday, beating Sam Hartman in a high-scoring affair. North Carolina isn’t anything close to flawless, but it’s resume at this point and the offensive firepower is too much to look past.

9. Washington Huskies (Previously: 24)

NCAA Football: Washington at Oregon
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
  • Washington Huskies record: 8-2
  • Next Opponent: vs Colorado Buffaloes

It’s hard to believe this team lost to Arizona State. The Washington Huskies did what seemed impossible, going into Autzen Stadium as an underdog and winning. Oregon had won 24 consecutive home games, but Michael Penix Jr. put an end to that. We’ve seen enough from the first season of head coach Kalen DeBoer to completely buy into Washington, viewing them as a better team than inconsistent Clemson.

8. Alabama Crimson Tide (Previously: 10)

NCAA Football: Alabama at Mississippi
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Alabama Crimson Tide record: 8-2
  • Next Opponent: vs Austin Peay Governors

It’s not hard to imagine where the Alabama Crimson Tide might be without Bryce Young. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner and the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft carried the Crimson Tide to another victory, just as he did vs Texas A&M and Texas. Alabama’s playoff hopes are still long gone, but fans can at least look forward to an Auburn thrashing in the Iron Bowl.

7. USC Trojans (Previously: 8)

NCAA Football: Colorado at Southern California
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • USC Trojans record: 9-1
  • Week 12 opponent: @ UCLA Bruins

It wasn’t the perfect night for the USC Trojans, made even worse because of the season-ending Travis Dye injury. However, Lincoln Riley’s offense welcomed back Jordan Addison on Friday and that should help make this passing attack more explosive. It sets the stage for a must-see matchup against UCLA, with the No. 6 spot in the top-25 rankings at stake.

6. LSU Tigers (Previously: 5)

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Arkansas
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
  • LSU Tigers record: 8-2
  • Next Opponent: vs UAB Blazers

A true freshman saved Brian Kelly on Saturday. If not for linebacker Harold Perkins, the LSU Tigers lose to unranked Arkansas and plummet down the college football rankings. It’s because of the five-star recruit’s dominance – four sacks – that LSU survived. Assuming Jayden Daniels gets back on track, LSU will easily reach double-digit wins before December.

Related: LSU Tigers schedule

5. TCU Horned Frogs (Previously: 6)

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Texas Christian
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
  • TCU Horned Frogs record:
  • Next Opponent: @ Baylor Bears

The TCU Horned Frogs still have plenty of skeptics, those skeptical this team could compete with the best programs in college football. Saturday showed something. TCU’s defense came through with its best performance of the season, ina. hostile environment against Quinn Ewers and Bijan Robinson. It’s neck-and-neck with Tennesse and that wasn’t even a consideration a week ago.

4. Tennessee Volunteers (Previously: 5)

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Tennessee Volunteers record: 9-1
  • Week 12 opponent: @ South Carolina Gamecocks

The Tennessee Volunteers’ offense is averaging 51.2 PPG in its victories this season. After getting snuffed by Georgia, Josh Heupel and Hendon Hooker responded with the well-rounded attack we’ve come to expect. As long as Tennessee beats South Carolina and Vanderbilt, it has a great shot at the No. 4 seed in the CFB Playoffs.

3. Michigan Wolverines (Previously: 2)

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Michigan Wolverines record: 10-0
  • Next Opponent: vs Illinois Fighting Illini

It’s no surprise that the Michigan Wolverines easily handled their business against Nebraska. Blake Corum put the offense on his shoulders once again, helping Jim Harbaugh’s program cruise in a comfortable fashion. Illinois shouldn’t pose much of a threat in Week 12, setting the stage for undefeated Michigan vs Ohio State to close out November in Week 13.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (Previously: 3)

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Brooke LaValley / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Ohio State Buckeyes record: 10-0
  • Week 12 opponent: @ Maryland Terrapins

The Ohio State Buckeyes offense looked like its usual self on Saturday, delivering 44-plus points for the eighth time this season. Unfortunately, the injuries are also mounting. Already without Jaxon Smith-Njigba and TreVeyon Henderson, Miyan Williams exited with a leg injury. While Ryan Day doesn’t expect Williams’ absence to be ‘long-term‘ what matters is his availability on Nov. 26.

1. Georgia Bulldogs (Previously: 1)

NCAA Football: Georgia at Mississippi State
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
  • Georgia Bulldogs record: 10-0
  • Next Opponent: @ Kentucky Wildcats

Just another day at the office for the No. 1 team in the college football rankings. The Georgia Bulldogs’ defense suffocated Mike Leach’s offense on Saturday night, making it look far too easy. Georgia can casually handle Kentucky and Georgia Tech to close out November, setting up an SEC Championship Game vs LSU.