SALT LAKE CITY — As two undefeated teams in the top five of the College Football Playoff rankings lost over the weekend, the immediate response was: how will the selection committee rank a one-loss Utah?
On Tuesday night, the committee responded with an improved ranking for the Utes despite having a bye week. Utah moved up to No. 7, up one spot in the rankings, and an improved position with three favorable games left in the regular season for the preseason Pac-12 favorite.
Utah has a 22% chance to make the playoff, according to FiveThirtyEight, and a 3% chance to win a title. Should the Utes win out, a 31% chance, Utah’s odds move up to 69%, or the fourth-best odds in the country, to claim one of the coveted four playoff spots.
The Utes have no less than an 88% chance of winning each of their remaining three games in the regular season, according to ESPN's Football Power Index, and appear destined for an 11-1 season.
Joining Utah in the rankings for the second consecutive week is Oregon at No. 6, which leads the conference and is the most likely team from the Pac-12 to earn a berth in the playoff. Oregon currently has a 34% chance of making the playoff, according to FiveThirtyEight, and a 71% if the Ducks win out.
In the second week of the rankings of the season, the selection committee named a new No. 1 team in LSU. In a highly-anticipated matchup, then-No. 2 LSU beat then-No. 3 Alabama 46-41 to give the Crimson Tide its first loss of the season.
The Tigers now have four wins over teams that were ranked in the Top 10 when LSU played them.
The committee moved Ohio State to No. 2 after having the Buckeyes as the top team in the country in the first rankings of the season. Behind the Buckeyes are No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Georgia. Alabama and Oregon were slated in the two spots just outside of the top four programs in the rankings at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively.
"Georgia, with wins against both Florida and Notre Dame, put them at No. 4 in the rankings this week," committee chairman and Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens told media during a teleconference Tuesday. "The committee spent a lot of time comparing Georgia and Alabama. In the end, Georgia's two wins over ranked teams made the difference in the No. 4 spot. Alabama clearly is a strong team, but the committee gave the edge to Georgia."
Penn State, which was previously ranked fourth last week, dropped to No. 9 after falling 31-26 to Minnesota. The Golden Gophers, who were previously ranked 17th, jumped up to No. 8 with the win.
The Golden Gophers jumped Utah in both the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll, but was held back in the College Football Playoff rankings because "their schedule was a concern, particularly their nonconference schedule," Mullens said.
"They had only played one team in their league that had a winning record, but the added win against Penn State obviously impressed the committee."
Mullens said he had little insight on the actual discussions about some of the top programs this week simply because he was forced to recuse himself from the discussions because Oregon was involved.
The upcoming weekend has the potential to, again, shake up the college football landscape with four games that feature two ranked opponents. The weekend is highlighted by No. 4 Georgia traveling to No. 12 Auburn in a vital SEC matchup.
Other important games include:
- No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 13 Baylor
- No. 23 Navy at No. 16 Notre Dame
- No. 8 Minnesota at No. 20 Iowa