Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — The story of the weekend was the Pac-12 finding a way to mess up a good thing.
Oregon and UCLA entered the weekend in a four-team race for the Pac-12 championship game, with the Ducks even controlling an outside shot of a College Football Playoff bid. More importantly, it was an opportunity for the four teams to go into next week's games in an almost semifinal setting for the conference title game.
But chaos ruled the day and both Oregon and UCLA dropped a game on a week when eight teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll lost — but none more impactful than the Ducks and Bruins. All hope is not lost in the Pac-12, but ahead of next week's showdown, the look of the conference got a little more crazy.
Here's the ballot I submitted to the Associated Press that will be counted toward the official consensus poll released later today.
Georgia allowed Mississippi State to hang around for a bit before the Bulldogs pulled away in the second half. There's no doubting at this point that Georgia remains one of the best programs in the country — even if they sometimes don't always get up for every opponent. In the end, though, a 45-19 win is convincing enough, and enough to maintain the No. 1 spot in my ballot.
2. Ohio State
After a difficult game in the elements last week, Ohio State wasted no time against Indiana. The Hoosiers scored a touchdown in the first quarter, but it was nothing to match a clearly better Ohio State team setting its sights on a playoff bid. C.J. Stroud threw for five touchdowns and remains a dominant playmaker for the Buckeyes as one of the best teams in the country.
Michigan continues to win and they're doing it almost under the radar. It's difficult to get worked up about a 31-point win over Nebraska, so I won't. The Wolverines remain on a crash course with Ohio State — with the winner almost certainly guaranteed a playoff spot, while the loser still has an outside shot. Let's keep it moving ...
Anyone doubting the Horned Frogs still? Each week it seems like someone is making an excuse to discount TCU and its top spot in college football. Are they a perfect team? No, but they continue to win — and in different ways. TCU was a 7-point underdog to Texas despite having an undefeated record. Doubt the hypnotoad at your peril.
For a moment, Missouri looked like a team that could give Tennessee trouble — like it did against Georgia earlier in the season. And then Tennessee stopped the madness and reeled off points quicker than a college football commercial break. The Vols remain one of the best teams in the country, especially with Hendon Hooker under center.
In some ways, it felt like an old SEC game where the game ended 9-6 and the defense ruled the day. Points came at a premium for both teams in an unusually cold game in Fayetteville, Arkansas. But LSU clinched a spot in the SEC title game with a 13-10 win over Arkansas. Brian Kelly continues to show he can coach, but is LSU on shaky ground? I believe they're a good team and deserving of a high ranking — I have them jumping USC — but I'm still a little skeptical.
There's no doubting the high-powered offense of the Trojans. Caleb Williams remains one of the top quarterbacks in the country and will take USC as far as he can. But the team's defense continues to be a massive question. Also, the Trojans lose dynamic running back Travis Dye to an unfortunate season-ending injury. At this point, USC is the Pac-12's final hope for a playoff bid, but I'm not buying.
Once again, Alabama was one play away from losing another game. It's the third time this season the Crimson Tide have come away with a win in a one-possession game. Bryce Young remains a Heisman-caliber quarterback this season, but Alabama isn't quite there as one of the upper-echelon teams this season. They clearly have the talent to compete with anyone, but other teams are better and catching up.
Clemson got back to its winning ways with a modest 31-16 win over Louisville on Saturday. The Tigers have clinched a spot in the ACC championship game, but the offense continues to struggle to hold onto the ball — the Tigers had three fumbles. The defense has been where Clemson could turn to, but at times they gave up big plays. Clemson is a good team this year, but not quite great.
Utah has put up 42 points or more in five of its last six games, and the only one the team didn't do that was when starting quarterback Cam Rising didn't play due to injury. The offense can score — even when it starts slow at times — and the defense has improved each week of the season. Over the last few weeks, Utah has been one of the more well-balanced teams in the Pac-12. But will it remain?
Checking in: Washington, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Boise State
Dropping out: Liberty, Illinois, Kentucky, Texas
In consideration: Cincinnati, Illinois, Coastal Carolina, UTSA, Oregon State
If you can't see my full ballot below, click here.
Want to create your own Top 25 ballot, go create one with the KSL.com College Football Top 25 Fan Poll.