CORVALLIS, OREGON - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. #9 of the Washington Huskies passes the ball against the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium on November 18, 2023 in Corvallis, Oregon.
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College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Winners and Losers Ahead Of Week 13

With just one week to go before the end of the regular season, every shift in the College Football Playoff rankings is a huge one.

We're only a week and a half away from the committee's final decision, and while there are still some huge games left, it's becoming clearer what each contender needs to do to secure a spot. The controversy is already starting to brew, so let's talk about the impact of this week's rankings, which could spell trouble for the ACC.


NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - SEPTEMBER 09: Kai Horton #12 of the Tulane Green Wave throws the ball against the Mississippi Rebels during a game at Yulman Stadium on September 09, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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4. Washington

You knew it was coming- after being one of the few teams in the history of these rankings to stay undefeated through 10-plus weeks and not crack the top four, the Huskies are finally in- for now. They picked up an excellent road win over a very tough Oregon State team, in which they were actually odds-on underdogs at most sportsbooks, but of course a major factor was the altered perception of previously-fourth-ranked Florida State in the wake of a catastrophic injury to quarterback Jordan Travis.

The Huskies might not be in the top four for the right reasons- I certainly don't think so, which we'll discuss more in a later section of this piece- but they are a deserving team nonetheless, and should have been here weeks ago. There was never really much of a doubt that this was the case, but their path is extremely clear; win the next two games and earn a spot in the semifinal, lose a game and miss out. The one difference is that now, they're likely to be the No. 3 seed rather than the No. 4, which could be a huge deal in terms of a semifinal matchup.

23. Tulane

After a relatively apathetic win over FAU, the Green Wave kept moving on up, even if by just a spot. They were jumped by top-25 newcomers NC State, but due to a few teams falling out of the rankings altogether, the result was still a net positive for the Green Wave.

Most importantly, they stayed ahead of Liberty, who made their top-25 season debut. This is a tremendous distinction, as the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion earns an automatic bid to a New Year's Six bowl. Tulane earned that trip last year and took full advantage as they beat USC, and they will surely be relieved to see that the committee still sees them as having an edge over Liberty, despite the fact that the Flames are undefeated while the Green Wave did not. The margin is thin, so Tulane will have to keep impressing, but they clearly control their own destiny.

25. Liberty

Yes, Liberty is a winner too- things are looking good for Tulane, but they're still better for Liberty than they were a week ago. It might not seem like a huge deal, but before Liberty hopped into this week's rankings, we had no clue how closely the committee viewed them to Tulane. There's no "receiving votes" section, so with Tulane at 24, Liberty could have been just two spots lower by the committee's estimation, in the theoretical No. 26 spot, or 10 spots lower. Now, we know the truth to be closer to the latter, as the Flames are two spots below the Green Wave this week.

This is a major victory for the Flames, as it shows that they have a real opportunity to be the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion and earn that New Year's Six bid, potentially a tremendous accomplishment for a program that gained FBS status in just 2018. Next year, this could be an even bigger deal, if a rule is established for an automatic bid for a Group of Five team in the first round of the expanded 12-team playoff, so pay close attention to how the committee weighs the accomplishments of a potentially 13-0 Liberty against those of Tulane, who will finish 12-1 at best.


TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Jordan Travis #13 of the Florida State Seminoles is carted off the field after an ankle jury during the game against the North Alabama Lions on Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 18, 2023 in Tallahassee, Florida. The 4th ranked Seminoles defeated the Lions 58 to 13.

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5. Florida State

Listen, I've been clamoring for weeks for Florida State to drop out of the top four- but not like this. There's no reason to suddenly realize that the Seminoles are worse than Washington, other than the season-ending injury to quarterback Jordan Travis. You could argue that it was because the Huskies picked up a better win on the road against Oregon State, but their prior win over Oregon was already far better than anything the Seminoles have mustered so far, and it hadn't yet mattered to the committee.

Teams should be judged on what they've done, not what's expected of them- would the NFL kick a team out of the playoffs because they were running a backup quarterback? Absolutely not, because standings are based on concrete results- not what 13 people believe might happen next.

We've seen backup quarterbacks achieve at the highest level in college football. In the inaugural playoff, an Ohio State team on its third string quarterback- a team with a prior regular season loss, to boot- not only made a semifinal, but won the whole thing. If Florida State drops either of the next two games, they should miss- something I believed even with Travis fully healthy- but if they win out, leaving them outside of the top four would be the committee's worst blunder yet.

10. Louisville

Louisville unfortunately finds itself in this section for the second straight week, once again through no fault of its own. The Cardinals are still ranked below two-loss Missouri, even after a nice win in Miami, but even more important is the Florida State situation. The committee has clearly shown us that they think less of the Seminoles without Jordan Travis. That's an enormous issue for the Cardinals, who lack a signature win.

The ACC Championship against FSU could have been just that, but now it's hard to imagine that the committee would value that potential win enough to place the Cardinals in the playoff field, unless a fair amount of chaos ensues. It's still possible, and you could argue that the easier path to 12-1 is a net positive for Louisville, but the best teams always want to beat the best at their best, and Louisville has been robbed of that opportunity by Travis's poor fortune.

17. Iowa

After showing up in the winners section last week, the script has flipped for Iowa. The Hawkeyes picked up another win in a gritty defensive clash, as they tend to do, but they still moved down a spot. With a 9-2 record, they now sit behind three teams with three losses.

The movement might not seem major, but it's a real indictment on the committee's perception of the team. In a year that could be full of chaos, Iowa will want to have at least some sort of a chance to make a semifinal if they knock off Michigan or Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, or make a New Year's Six bowl if they lose competitively, but it's not looking like either of those outcomes are on the table.

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