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SALT LAKE CITY — As the college football season enters its final week of the regular season, the College Football Playoff rankings are starting to take shape.
The top four teams in the country are becoming more clear and there's less teams in contention for a coveted playoff spot. But being included as part of the Top 25 teams in the country remains a badge of honor, of sorts.
Utah's offense was "out of sync," according to head coach Kyle Whittingham, on Saturday, and the team lost to Oregon at home in a close battle between two of the top four teams in the Pac-12. The Utes had several chances to get a win that night, but the offense couldn't do what it has done for much of the season: score points.
Quarterback Cam Rising owned his performance on a night when he threw three interceptions and kept Utah out of the end zone for much of the night. The junior quarterback, whose intentions are to leave the program after this season, said the team has to move on and not look backward.
"Sometimes it's just not your night and you've just got to live to fight another day, and that's just a fact of the matter there," Rising said.
Oddly enough, Utah remains in the hunt for a Pac-12 championship appearance but needs some help from the teams around it — Oregon State needs to beat Oregon, Washington needs to beat Washington State, and UCLA needs to beat California — to get to its fourth title game in five seasons.
While that remains an unknown and the team won't know its fate until Saturday night, Utah dropped to No. 14 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings that were released Tuesday evening on ESPN. The Utes remain one of six teams from the conference ranked in the Top 25 this week.
USC, which overcame a 14-0 deficit to crosstown rival UCLA to beat the Bruins on Saturday and earn a ticket to the Pac-12 title game, leads the conference in the rankings and has an outside shot to break the Pac-12 playoff drought. The Trojans came in at No. 6 this week, with a meeting against No. 15 Notre Dame up next on the schedule.
Behind the Trojans in the rankings is No. 9 Oregon, No. 13 Washington, No. 18 UCLA and No. 21 Oregon State. If Oregon can claim a victory on the road against in-state rival Oregon State, the Ducks will meet the Trojans in the Pac-12 championship game.
The top of the College Football Playoff rankings remain unchanged, with Georgia topping the chart at No. 1 and the favorite to win its second-straight national championship. Behind the Bulldogs remains No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 TCU. The two teams with an outside shot, according to the selection committee, include No. 5 LSU and No. 6 USC.
LSU remains above a one-loss USC team, according to selection committee chair Boo Corrigan, because the committee "saw the wins over Alabama and Mississippi as stronger than the wins over UCLA and Oregon State." He added that one of the biggest questions about USC is "the strength of the defense."
In particular, Corrigan said USC has been in closer games against tougher teams — such as UCLA and Utah — and the committee wants to see a "stronger showing by the defense." He added that "a more dominant win" in what the committee is looking for as the team moves forward.
Corrigan said there's also been discussion each week about the makeup of the top four teams, in particular the potential of TCU moving up in the rankings.
"We look at their ability to come back in games where to a large degree Ohio State and Michigan have not," Corrigan said, "and as I said last week, that win over Notre Dame by Ohio State is an impressive second win on top of the Penn State win."