SALT LAKE CITY — In the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings of the season, Utah moved up while Utah State dropped when the latest numbers were released Tuesday.
Utah stayed put at No. 17 after a comeback victory over in-state rival BYU Saturday. Utah faced a 20-0 deficit at halftime before scoring 28-unanswered points in the fourth quarter to claim a 35-27 victory over the Cougars.
The Utes remain one of three teams from the Pac-12 ranked in the Top 25; however, there was a bit of a shakeup after Washington defeated Washington State in the annual Apple Cup Friday. As a result, Washington moved up to No. 11 in the CFB rankings, up five spots from its previous spot at No. 16. The Cougars dropped to No. 13, down five spots from its previous spot at No. 8.
With the Cougars at No. 13, it’s unlikely they’ll qualify for the Fiesta Bowl, a second New Year’s Six bowl for the conference, when the final rankings are released Sunday.
“Obviously they lost to a Washington team, which allowed Washington to jump ahead of them,” Rob Mullens, committee chairman told media Tuesday. “Then you start comparing them to some of the other teams around them. Penn State, two of their three losses are to CFP Top-10 ranked teams in Ohio State and Michigan.
“Strength of schedule is one piece of it. That certainly is a part of it, but it's more than that.”
Utah State, which made the CFB rankings for the first time in school history a few weeks ago, dropped out of the rankings after narrowly losing on the road to Boise State on Saturday. The Aggies finished the season with a 10-2 record and missed out on a Mountain West Conference championship game.
Boise State leads the Mountain West at No. 22, with Fresno State just behind at No. 25. The two will play in their conference championship game Saturday at 5:45 p.m. in Boise, Idaho. The winner of the championship game could be playing for a New Year’s Six bowl if UCF loses in its championship game.
Alabama remains the No. 1 team in the rankings, despite the selection committee discussing the value of switching the Crimson Tide with Clemson. Mullens told media last week that the committee has weighed the value of switching the two programs in the rankings since the first rankings were released this year.
The remaining five teams atop the rankings, though, moved a bit after Ohio State dominated then-No. 4 Michigan Saturday. Behind the Crimson Tide in the rankings is No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 Ohio State. As it stands, two teams from the SEC and an independent team would be included in the playoffs, leaving out the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 out of a playoff spot.
With the conference championship games being played this week, though, it’s likely the top of the rankings will change and the Big 12 or Big Ten will likely steal one of the spots from the SEC. No. 8 UCF, which is the highest-ranked Group of Five team, risks the possibility of a New Year’s Six Bowl or dropping significantly to a different bowl depending on its results Saturday in the AAC championship game.
The CFB rankings selection committee will release its final Top 25 of the season, including the four playoff teams and eight other teams slated to a New Year’s Six bowl game, Sunday at 10 a.m. on ESPN.