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College Football Rankings Week 13: Tennessee plummets, Notre Dame and USC rise

Matt Johnson
College Football Rankings
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Many expected little movement in the college football rankings for Week 13 heading into Saturday. The best teams in college football faced unranked opponents, chances to head into rivalry week with confidence.

Instead, Week 12 of the college football season provided far more surprises than anyone saw coming. A week before the Michigan vs Ohio State battle, the Wolverines and Buckeyes narrowly survived scares. Georgia escaped Kentucky with a two-point win and TCU needed a last-second kick to take down Baylor.

Other teams weren’t so lucky. The North Carolina Tar Heels experienced a stunning loss to Georgia Tech, Navy took out the UCF Knights and Ole Miss suffered its most embarrassing defeat of the season. Topping it all off, South Carolina devastated Tennessee in emphatic fashion. It’s fair to say there is significant movement in the college football rankings today.

Related: Week 12 college football scores

Dropped from Top 25 rankings: UCF Knights (18), Oklahoma State Cowboys (25)

Let’s dive into the Week 13 college football rankings.

25. Texas Longhorns (Previously: Unranked)

Syndication: Austin American-Statesman
Mikala Compton/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Texas Longhorns record: 7-4
  • Next Opponent: vs Baylor Bears

The Texas Longhorns will look back on their 2022 season with plenty of regrets. The Quinn Ewers injury prevented them from beating Alabama (20-19), while losses to Texas Tech (37-34) and TCU (17-10) came down to turnovers. As the Bijan Robinson era draws to a close, the remaining hope is he finishes with a bang vs Baylor.

24. Troy Trojans (Previously: Unranked)

NCAA Football: Army at Troy
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
  • Troy Trojans record: 9-2

Led by sophomore running back Kimani Vidal (242 yards, 2 TDs), the Troy Trojans might have earned only their second placement in the top 25 rankings in program history. It’s been a phenomenal season under first-year coach Jon Sumrall, with the Trojans enjoying the same level of success they achieved under Neal Brown. Assuming Troy handles its business in Week 13, it will achieve double-digit wins for the first time since Brown left for WVU.

23. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (Previously: 24)

NCAA Football: Southern Mississippi at Coastal Carolina
David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports
  • Coastal Carolina Chanticleers record: 9-1
  • Week 13 opponent: @ James Madison Dukes

Coastal Carolina’s Week 12 matchup was canceled after the tragedy that devastated the Virginia Cavaliers football program. Sportsnaut extends its condolences to the friends and family of Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler. The Chanticleers will conclude their 2022 regular-season schedule against James Madison, a favorable road date that should deliver Coastal Carolina’s third consecutive season with double-digit wins.

22. Ole Miss Rebels (Previously: 16)

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Arkansas
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
  • Ole Miss Rebels record: 8-3
  • Week 13 opponent: vs Mississippi State Bulldogs

Whether Ole Miss became distracted by the Lane Kiffin to Auburn rumors or anticipation for the Egg Bowl, the result is the same. The Rebels suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday, getting marched off the field by Arkansas. Three brutal losses in the last four weeks and Mississippi State has a shot to knock its rival out of the top 25 rankings.

21. Tulane Green Wave (Previously: 21)

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at Tulane
Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports
  • Tulane Green Wave record: 9-2
  • Next Opponent: @ Cincinnati Bearcats

The debate over whether Tulane or Cincinnati should be higher in the college football rankings will be settled in Week 13. For now, the Green Wave are riding high once again after Michael Pratt went wild against SMU. It sets the stage for a fantastic AAC matchup to close out the regular season.

20. Cincinnati Bearcats (Previously: 23)

Syndication: The Enquirer
Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Cincinnati Bearcats record: 9-2
  • Week 13 opponent: vs Tulane Green Wave

Cincinnati isn’t nearly as dominant as the team the college football world adored in 2021, the result of premium talent on both sides of the ball landing in the NFL. However, Luke Fickell proved after the season-opening loss to Arkansas that he can get the most out of whoever is on the roster. Cincinnati and Tulane are both two-loss teams with defeats vs UCF, but home-field advantage and experience might swing this Week 13 contest in the Bearcats’ favor.

19. Oregon State Beavers (Previously: 22)

Syndication: Statesman Journal
BRIAN HAYES / STATESMAN JOURNAL / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Oregon State Beavers record: 8-3
  • Next Opponent: vs Oregon Ducks

Damien Martinez, a three-star recruit just a few months ago, is thriving in his first season. The 6-foot running back tore through Arizona State’s defense, marching closer towards becoming a 1,000-yard back as a true freshman. He carried Oregon State’s offense on Saturday and it’s worth noting the Beavers’ only losses have come vs USC and on the road against Utah and Washington. Playing the Civil War at home, there’s some upset potential vs Oregon.

18. North Carolina Tar Heels (Previously: 10)

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at North Carolina
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
  • North Carolina Tar Heels record: 9-2′
  • Next Opponent: vs NC State Wolfpack

A prime opportunity wasted for Drake Maye and the North Carolina Tar Heels. It certainly didn’t help that Josh Downs dropped a touchdown Saturday night, but North Carolina’s offense never looked right in the second half. After getting bottled up at home vs Georgia Tech, closing out the season vs NC State and Clemson is worrisome for UNC.

17. Florida State Seminoles (Previously: 20)

Syndication: Tallahassee Democrat
Chasity Maynard/Tallahassee Democrat / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Florida State Seminoles record: 8-3
  • Week 13 opponent: vs Florida Gators

On a Saturday when so many teams in the top 25 rankings looked asleep, Florida State appeared ready for Week 13. The Seminoles turned 45 carries into 251 rushing yards and five touchdowns, rolling through the Ragin Cajuns’ defense. Meanwhile, the Florida Gators lost to Vanderbilt and that perfectly captures the state of these two programs as they prepare for the Florida Cup.

16. UCLA Bruins (Previously: 15)

NCAA Football: Southern California at UCLA
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • UCLA Bruins record: 8-3
  • Next Opponent: @ California Golden Bears

Playing through injury, Dorian Thompson-Robinson delivered a performance that deserves love from the fan base. He went toe-to-toe with Caleb Williams, despite USC having the talent advantage, scoring six touchdowns against a hated rival. While the heroic effort fell short, UCLA doesn’t sniff an 8-3 record nor a one-score game vs USC without DTR.

15. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Previously: 19)

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Navy
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish record: 8-3
  • Next Opponent: @ USC Trojans

What a difference a month makes. Back on Oct. 15, Notre Dame lost to unranked Stanford and there were calls for Marcus Freeman to be on the hot seat. Fast forward to Thanksgiving and the Fighting Irish are rolling with a five-game win streak. Beating USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum feels improbable, but Notre Dame’s defense at least creates a chance for a stunner.

14. Kansas State Wildcats (Previously: 17)

NCAA Football: Kansas State at West Virginia
Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
  • Kansas State Wildcats record: 8-3
  • Week 13 opponent: vs Kansas Jayhawks

Without Adrian Martinez again, the Kansas State Wildcats still tore up West Virginia on Saturday night. It’s exactly the caliber of performance the team needed before the battle for the Governor’s Cup. While the Jayhawks have impressed at times this season, there is still a gap between these teams that should result in Kansas State extending its win streak in the rivalry to 14.

13. Utah Utes (Previously: 14)

NCAA Football: Utah at Oregon
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
  • Utah Utes record: 8-3
  • Next Opponent: @ Colorado Buffaloes

Cameron Rising has delivered plenty of memorable performances for the Utah Utes this year and he will go down as one of the best quarterbacks in program history. Unfortunately for Utah, Rising is also a primary reason why they lost on Saturday. The Utes will end things with a win over Colorado in Week 13, but close losses vs Florida, UCLA and Oregon will haunt them.

12. Penn State Nittany Lions (Previously: 14)

NCAA Football: Maryland at Penn State
Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
  • Penn State Nittany Lions record: 8-2
  • Week 13 opponent: vs Michigan State Spartans

Three consecutive blowout wins for the Penn State Nittany Lions. It’s certainly enough to move them into the top 10 of the AP college football rankings, we’re a bit more hesitant. We’ve seen the Nittany Lions against the best teams in college football and they never stacked up.

Related: Highest-paid college football coaches

11. Washington Huskies (Previously: 9)

NCAA Football: Colorado at Washington
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Washington Huskies record: 9-2
  • Next Opponent: @ Washington State Cougars

Kalen DeBoer did it again and this time in his first season. After quickly building Fresno State into a nine-win team, DeBoer landed in Washington. Just a few months into the job and the Huskies have their first shot at a 10-win campaign since Chris Peterson left. With quality wins over Oregon and Oregon State, plus a close loss on the road vs UCLA, Washington’s resume speaks for itself. Let’s start the countdown for the Apple Cup, which could be the apple pie to the Huskies’ year.

10. Tennessee Volunteers (Previously: 4)

NCAA Football: Tennessee at South Carolina
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
  • Tennessee Volunteers record: 9-2
  • Week 13 opponent: @ Vanderbilt Commodores

Anything short of massive changes to the defensive coaching staff would be an organizational failure by the Tennessee Volunteers. Even before Spencer Rattler (99th in QBR entering Saturday) ripped the doors off Tennessee’s defense, the Volunteers had a problem. Tennessee entered 75th in total yards per game allowed (392.7) and 64th in yards per pass attempt allowed (7.1) things will only get worse now.

A historic season and an elite offense ruined by a defense that never figured out the basics of pass coverage all season and that lands on Tim Banks and Willie Martinez. If all of this wasn’t bad enough for Tennessee, Hendon Hooker might have suffered a torn ACL.

9. Alabama Crimson Tide (Previously: 9)

NCAA Football: Austin Peay at Alabama
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
  • Alabama Crimson Tide record: 9-2
  • Next Opponent: vs Auburn Tigers

The stage is now set for the Iron Bowl, but it comes with significantly reduced stakes than previous matchups. Alabama’s playoff hopes are gone, the lone hope is a New Year’s Six bowl game. Fortunately, the history of the Alabama vs Auburn rivalry suggests there should be enough theatrics to make this one entertaining even if the teams aren’t close talent-wise.

8. Oregon Ducks (Previously: 13)

Syndication: The Register Guard
Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Oregon Ducks record: 9-2
  • Week 13 opponent: @ Oregon State Beavers

Bo Nix never looked anything close to 100% on Saturday night, but his connection with Dont’e Thornton was enough for the Oregon Ducks to come out on top in a wild one. The Ducks now look ahead to the classic in-state battle vs Oregon State, a matchup that will have massive implications on the Pac 12.

7. Clemson Tigers (Previously: 11)

NCAA Football: Louisville at Clemson
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
  • Clemson Tigers record: 10-1
  • Next Opponent: vs South Carolina Gamecocks

The Clemson Tigers have responded nicely since the loss to Notre Dame, but there is no way this team belongs to be anywhere near the CFB Playoff discussion. Clemson is a quality college football team in 2022, but it lacks the quarterback and offensive consistency to compete with the best teams in the nation.

6. LSU Tigers (Previously: 6)

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Arkansas
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
  • LSU Tigers record: 9-2
  • Next Opponent: @ Texas A&M Aggies

Week 12 might not have unfolded perfectly for the LSU Tigers – losses by TCU, Michigan or Ohio State would have done that – but Brian Kelly will happily take the result. The Tigers are locked into the top-six of the college football rankings before the SEC title game, assuming they handle business at Kyle Field. Of course, Georgia will be by far their toughest challenge.

5. USC Trojans (Previously: 7)

NCAA Football: Southern California at UCLA
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • USC Trojans record: 10-1
  • Week 13 opponent: vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Everyone expected a boatload of points to be scored when USC and UCLA collided, both programs delivered. Lincoln Riley picked up a signature win, but the important takeaway from Saurday’s victory is that Caleb Williams might be the best quarterback in college football from now until 2024. We expect Notre Dame’s defense to provide a challenge, but a victory would put USC one TCU or Michigan loss away from a playoff spot.

4. Michigan Wolverines (Previously: 3)

NCAA Football: Illinois at Michigan
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
  • Michigan Wolverines record: 11-0
  • Next Opponent: @ Ohio State Buckeyes

The Blake Corum injury nearly wiped out the Michigan Wolverines’ playoff hopes. It seems he avoided a significant knee issue, but his status will be monitored before a Week 13 matchup vs Ohio State. The Wolverines won’t exactly go into the game with a ton of momentum, but their defense and run game at least give Jim Harbaugh a chance.

Related: Week 13 college football schedule

3. TCU Horned Frogs (Previously: 5)

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Baylor
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
  • TCU Horned Frogs record: 11-0
  • Week 13 opponent: vs Iowa State Cyclones

The TCU Horned Frogs survived another Saturday scare with Griffin Keil coming through with the last-second heroics. Baylor is a quality football team, but narrowly defeating Texas and Baylor will raise more doubts about whether or not TCU is one of the best teams in college football. One thing to keep in mind, the Horned Frogs entered Week 12 ranked first in ESPN’s Strength of Resume.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (Previously: 2)

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Ohio State Buckeyes record:
  • Next Opponent: vs Michigan Wolverines

It seems fair to say the Ohio State Buckeyes are just as guilty of looking past their Week 12 opponent as Michigan. A road trip to Maryland nearly ended in a humiliating fashion, with the Terrapins hanging 30 points on Ohio State and having a shot at a game-tying drive. Ultimately, Ohio State came out on top but it will likely face Michigan with a third-string running back lined up with C.J. Stroud.

1. Georgia Bulldogs (Previously: 1)

NCAA Football: Georgia at Mississippi State
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
  • Georgia Bulldogs record: 11-0
  • Week 13 opponent: vs Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The Georgia Bulldogs are No. 1 in the college football rankings and they will maintain that spot heading into the SEC Championship Game. However, Saturday’s narrow victory over Kentucky raised some concerns about the offense. It just puts more pressure on the best defense in college football to deliver in a few weeks vs LSU.

Related: How to Watch Georgia Bulldogs Football Live