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Week 13 college football rankings: Michigan drops after scare, Washington and Alabama climb after Week 12

Week 12 of the 2023 college football season is in the books and we’re headed towards the finish line with an exhilarating fight to the finish. Who are the best teams in college football? Saturday’s action provided more clarity, now it’s time for our Week 13 college football rankings.

Saturday’s slate provided a scare for plenty of top-25 teams, including the Michigan Wolverines, Louisville Cardinals and Oklahoma Sooners. However, many of the best college football teams came through when it counted and are maintaining their place in the hierarchy coming before Thanksgiving.

Related: NFL power rankings

Dropped from Rankings: James Madison Dukes (13), Kansas Jayhawks (23), Oklahoma State Cowboys (24), North Carolina Tar Heels (25)

Let’s review our Week 13 college football rankings, evaluating the best teams in college football after Week 12.

Week 13 college football rankings: Evaluating top 25 after Saturday

25. SMU Mustangs

  • Previously: Unranked
  • Next Opponent: Navy vs SMU

Things looked a bit bleak for the SMU Mustangs after an ugly 34-17 loss to TCU on Sep. 23. Credit to second-year head coach Rhett Lashlee, who helped this Mustangs’ locker room respond to the adversity and rip off seven consecutive wins. SMU will close out its regular season next Saturday against Navy and a Mustangs’ victory would mean double-digit wins for only the second time since 1984.

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24. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

  • Previously: Unranked
  • Next Opponent: Notre Dame vs Stanford

Sam Hartman turned back the clock in Week 12, playing like the quarterback from the first half of the season. It’s incredible what happens when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have an offense that can execute at this level because it makes them one of the most well-rounded teams in the nation when it happens. Unfortunately for the Fighting Irish, it’s just been a rare instance since October and that’s why Notre Dame has three losses.

23. Toledo Rockets

  • Previously: Unranked
  • Next Opponent: Toledo vs Central Michigan

Yes, the Toledo Rockets benefit from facing one of the weakest schedules in college football. However, this program still has one of the longest winning streaks in the nation with 11 consecutive victories. Toledo cut things close in Week 12 against Bowling Green, but good teams step up in critical situations and the Rockets did that on Tuesday.

22. Tennessee Volunteers

  • Previously: 18th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Vanderbilt vs Tennessee

Quarterbacks make a difference. Once more, the Tennessee Volunteers were reminded that Joe Milton III isn’t good enough for this team to beat quality programs. Jaylen Wright made a splash play, but Georgia decimated the Volunteers the rest of the way. While Tennessee can still finish out the year with nine wins, its future hinges on Nico Iamaleava.

Related: College Football News, Rumors

21. Liberty Flames

  • Previously: 22nd in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: UTEP vs Liberty

It seems apparent that the Liberty Flames won’t make it into the AP top 25 college football rankings, despite having one of the best records in college football. While it’s true that Liberty doesn’t have a single victory over a marquee opponent this season, head coach Jamey Chadwell’s program is 11-0 heading into Thanksgiving and it has beaten its last four opponents by 91 total points. Closing out the regular season against UTEP and New Mexico State, Liberty seems destined for an undefeated year.

Related: NCAA found evidence that forced Michigan to back off lawsuit

20. Oklahoma State Cowboys

  • Previously: 24th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: BYU vs Oklahoma State

It’s still apparent the Oklahoma State Cowboys put everything they had into the Bedlam finale. Fortunately for Mike Gundy, the Cowboys were able to rally back in Week 12. Ollie Gordon played the hero again, helping Oklahoma State climb back from a 23-9 deficit to take out Houston on the road.

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19. Kansas State Wildcats

  • Previously: 20th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Kansas State vs Iowa State

It was another fight to the finish in a classic rivalry, but the Kansas State Wildcats came out on top despite losing the time of possession battle. Credit to the Wildcats’ defense, which snagged three takeaways and stopped the Jayhawks on an important fourth-down conversion. With one last victory over another rival, Kansas State will have secured itself a very nice bowl trip in December.

Related: CFB standings

18. Tulane Green Wave

  • Previously: 19th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: UTSA vs Tulane

That’s a bit more like it for the Tulane Green Wave. Michael Pratt eclipsed 250 passing yards for only the second time since Oct. 14 and it allowed Green Wave to have a receiver eclipse the 100-yard mark for the first time since they faced Memphis. Tulane is still buried behind the likes of Troy, Syracuse and Rutgers in FPI and strength of schedule, but a 10-1 record with the only blemish coming against Ole Miss (with Pratt out) warrants a top-20 spot for Tulane.

17. Oregon State Beavers

  • Previously: No. 11 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Oregon State vs Oregon

The Oregon State Beavers have been a very good team this season, but there are just a few things that prevented them from getting over the final hurdle. D.J. Uiagalelei either threw an interception or finished with a sub-50 percent completion rate in all three losses this season. When you don’t have an elite defense, those little mistakes from a quarterback prove fatal. Headed into the Civil War in Week 13, our expectations aren’t particularly high for the Beavers.

Related: NFL defense rankings

16. Oklahoma Sooners

  • Previously: No. 17 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: TCU vs Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Sooners have simply been a worse football team in the second half of the season. In Week 12, Oklahoma needed a second-half rally just to beat a previously .500 BYU team. This looked like the same caliber of team that struggled against UCF and was clearly outmatched by Kansas and Oklahoma State. With all that said, a 9-2 record and a win over Texas at least keeps the Sooners in the top 20.

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15. Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Previously: 21st in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Iowa vs Nebraska

Kirk Ferentz can thank the Iowa Hawkeyes defense and running back Kaleb Johnson for saving the day in Week 12. Things looked bleak for Iowa late, with Illinois (5-6) leading 13-9 with 7 minutes left in the game. Fortunately, a second-half defensive clinic and Johnson’s 30-yard touchdown run send the Hawkeyes soaring up the college football rankings.

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14. LSU Tigers

  • Previously: 15th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Texas A&M vs LSU

Jayden Daniels and the LSU Tigers’ offense deserved a spot in the College Football Playoff and they likely would’ve earned a place if the 12-team format was adopted a year earlier. Instead, Tigers’ fans will remember this as the year when they witnessed one of the greatest single-season performances by a quarterback in NCAA history, yet it wasn’t enough because of a defense that couldn’t get one crucial stop against Ole Miss.

Related: Texas A&M coaching candidates

13. Arizona Wildcats

  • Previously: 16th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Arizona vs Arizona State

The Arizona Wildcats have just been a different football team since late September. They took the Washington Huskies down to the wire, went into double overtime on the road against USC then ripped off four consecutive victories, including over Oregon State and UCLA. Fittingly, the Wildcats topped off this remarkable stretch by outright dominating the Utes in Week 12. Arizona should be heavily favored next Saturday against Arizona State and it could be on the verge of its first season with double-digit wins since 2014.

12. Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Previously: 14th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Penn State vs Michigan State

It was another ugly Saturday for the Penn State Nittany Lions offense, but they came out of halftime with 17 unanswered points to bury Rutgers. We know James Franklin’s teams have no trouble putting down lesser opponents, so Michigan State will pose no threat in Week 13. However, the 2023 season for Penn State will be remembered as another year when the Nittany Lions couldn’t win on the biggest stage.

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11. Ole Miss Rebels

  • Previously: 12th in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Ole Miss vs Mississippi State

The Ole Miss Rebels have only won 10 games in the regular season twice since 2004. With a victory in the Egg Bowl, Mississippi would’ve already done that twice under Lane Kiffin. It seems like a foregone conclusion that the Rebels would cruise to a victory on Thursday against Mississippi State, but chaos happens at Davis Wade Stadium, especially when the Bulldogs know they can ruin a historically-great season for their rival.

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Top 25 college football rankings: Best teams in college football

10. Louisville Cardinals

NCAA Football: Louisville at Miami
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 9 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Kentucky vs Louisville

The Louisville Cardinals survived a scare on Saturday, with Jack Plummer (308 yards, 3 TDs) doing just enough to escape a trip to Miami with a victory. Truth is, a hard-fought battle like that on the road might’ve been just what Louisville needed before it closes out the regular season at home against Kentucky. If a few things go right in Week 13, the Cardinals might be able to sneak up to No. 7 next Saturday night.

Related: Week 13 college football schedule

9. Missouri Tigers

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Missouri
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 10 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Missouri vs Arkansas

Harrison Mevis should run for Governor of Missouri. On Senior Night, the Missouri Tigers came through in the clutch again with a game-winning field goal. Of course, that opportunity doesn’t happen without some pinpoint downfield strikes from quarterback Brady Cook, who struggled until that final drive. All of this, fittingly, doesn’t happen without Cody Schrader and Luther Burden III combined for 300 scrimmage yards. Hats off to Missouri, a deep team that has proven it’s one of the 10 best college football teams in 2023.

Related: Top 10 college football quarterbacks

8. Florida State Seminoles

NCAA Football: Florida State at Pittsburgh
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 5 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Florida State vs Florida

Devastating. That’s the only way to describe the Jordan Travis injury for the Florida State Seminoles. The senior quarterback worked his tail off for years to become a leader of this team and a fan favorite, culminating in him being on the doorstep of taking the Seminoles to the College Football Playoff. Now, with Travis done for the year, the Seminoles are be in for a free fall.

7. Texas Longhorns

Syndication: Austin American-Statesman
Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: No. 8 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Texas Tech vs Texas

There weren’t a ton of style points racked up by the Teas Longhorns on Saturday night, but they battled on the road to take out an Iowa State Cyclones team that has always given them problems. Quinn Ewers has started looking more comfortable in his second game back and CJ Baxter stepped up, too. However, the Longhorns’ performances over the last month don’t warrant a higher ranking from our perspective.

Related: Texas Football schedule

6. Oregon Ducks

Syndication: The Register Guard
Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: No. 7 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Oregon State vs Oregon

The Oregon Ducks still find themselves needing a few dominoes to fall their way to earn a spot in the CFP Semifinal. However, the Ducks can likely push for a top-five spot next weekend with a victory in the Civil War over Oregon State and the loser of Michigan vs Ohio State dropping in the college football rankings. Oregon might not necessarily have the best resume of the top teams, but an 11-1 record with a Heisman Trophy finalist should at least get them in the debate for a top-four spot.

Related: College Football Defense rankings

5. Alabama Crimson Tide

NCAA Football: Chattanooga at Alabama
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 6 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Alabama vs Auburn

The Alabama Crimson Tide have just been a different football team since coming out of the locker room at halftime against Tennessee. In the last 14 quarters, the Crimson Tide have outscored opponents by a +125 point margin, demonstrating they are one of the best teams in college football. With the way Jalen Milroe is playing right now, a team that struggled to beat South Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas might have a shot to knock out Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. This is easily one of Nick Saban’s most impressive turnarounds at Alabama.

Related: Heisman Watch

4. Michigan Wolverines

NCAA Football: Michigan at Maryland
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 2 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Ohio State vs Michigan

A week ago, the Michigan Wolverines looked like a motivated team that was determined to taste revenge and prove it was the best team in college football. In Week 12, the Wolverines played a lot more like a program led by an inexperienced coach with a locker room that was looking ahead to Ohio State. It nearly cost Michigan its entire season. The bigger concern coming out of Saturday, though, was quarterback J.J. McCarthy struggling for the second consecutive week. The Wolverines’ panic meter is high right now.

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3. Washington Huskies

NCAA Football: Washington at Oregon State
Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports
  • Previously: No. 4 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Washington State vs Washington

It wasn’t pretty, especially for the defense and the second-half offense, but the Washington Huskies kept their undefeated season intact on Saturday night. Michael Penix Jr. wasn’t quite as accurate as fans are used to seeing, but he made big plays with Rome Odunze stepping up with another phenomenal showing. More importantly, Washington secured its fourth win over a ranked opponent this year. The Huskies have a playoff resume and with two more wins, they’ll be the No. 3 seed in the CFP Semifinal.

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2. Ohio State Buckeyes

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Brooke LaValley/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: No. 3 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Ohio State vs Michigan

The stage is now set for the best college football game this season. Ohio State might come into this one even more confident after seeing how McCarthy and the Wolverines’ offense has fared in the last two weeks. It’s obvious what’s at stake in Week 13, a spot in the College Football Playoff. Michigan will likely be favored, but Marvin Harrison Jr. and the Buckeyes’ defensive provide Ohio State with a path to victory in Ann Arbor. One thing that seems evident, the 2023 Ohio State vs Michigan game likely won’t be nearly as high-scoring as previous matchups.

Related: College football offense rankings

1. Georgia Bulldogs

Syndication: Online Athens
Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Previously: No. 1 in college football rankings
  • Next Opponent: Georgia vs Georgia Tech

The Georgia Bulldogs are the best team in college football. Week 12 served as another reason why, with the Bulldogs taking things to another level as the season unfolds. Georgia has now demolished three top-20 ranked teams in a row, including two-score victories over top-10 teams. Carson Beck has elevated his game, Brock Bowers is back and this Bulldogs’ defense is rounding into form. Georgia should be favored to three-peat now.

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