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Utes move up to No. 11 in College Football Playoff rankings; Trojans at No. 4


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SALT LAKE CITY β€” Utah linebacker Karene Reid woke up in a panic early Sunday morning.

The sophomore from American Fork had fallen asleep before the Apple Cup game went final β€” a pivotal game that was part of a four-game series that determined Utah's fate for the Pac-12 championship game β€” and he didn't know what happened.

"Oh, man, to be completely honest, I fell asleep," he said. "But I woke up at 3 a.m., like, in a panic, sweating, like, who won? who won? So I was relieved, man. I couldn't believe it."

Earlier in the day, Utah rolled to a 63-21 victory on the road against Colorado, while Oregon State simultaneously erased a 21-point lead by Oregon to secure a win in the rivalry series. All that was left was a Washington victory over Washington State and the Utes were back in Las Vegas.

After a thrilling back-and-forth night, Washington delivered.

The chaos in the Pac-12 shifted the powers in the conference in the final weekend of the regular season and the bowl opportunities available for each team were altered. And on Tuesday night, the selection committee of the College Football Playoff rankings set its preferred order in the penultimate rankings of the season.

Ahead of a Friday night rematch against USC, Utah moved up to No. 11 in the CFP rankings, while the Trojans inched up to one of four coveted playoff spots at No. 4. With a win on Friday, USC appears to be a lock for a playoff spot, while Utah looks to disrupt their hopes.

Behind Utah in the rankings is No. 12 Washington, who positioned itself to be a worthy recipient of a potential Rose Bowl bid should the Trojans beat Utah and secure a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Rose Bowl said it will "traditionally select the next-highest CFP-ranked team from that conference," though there's no guarantee.

Still, that puts the Huskies in a prime spot to be a willing backup to the Trojans for the Rose Bowl.

Selection committee chair Boo Corrigan, though, told media after the rankings were released that Utah moved above Washington in the rankings based on the total body of work for both schools, and Washington's loss to Arizona State was a big factor in the Huskies being ranked lower.

"When you're looking at the entire body of work, you've got to take everything into account," Corrigan said. "As we talked about it and talked over those Pac-12 teams in that area, it was a topic of conversation, and that Arizona State loss really stood out.

"Again, from a Washington standpoint, they've got a win over Oregon and a win over Oregon State. But when you take in the full body of work as we were looking at it, two really good teams, both of whom had really good wins, and you're looking for a differentiator as we go through this, and as we did, that Arizona State game really stood out as kind of one that didn't measure up, if you will, to the other games."

Whether that means Utah will stay above Washington should they lose in the Pac-12 championship game remains up for debate, but Corrigan said that, in general, the "championship game will be part of their body of work. That will be part of the determination as we go through this whole process."

Oregon, which had its Pac-12 championship hopes dashed, fell to No. 16 on Tuesday, just one spot below rival No. 15 Oregon State. The two teams finished the season with a 9-3 record but different feelings about their finish. UCLA, which beat California in the final week of the season and was the first step to send Utah to the title game, moved up to No. 17.

The top four teams in the playoff rankings were shaken up after Michigan beat Ohio State and Texas A&M came back from the dead to upset LSU on Saturday. At the top remains Georgia at No. 1, followed by No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 TCU and No. 4 USC. The two teams on the outside looking in and ready to jump should any team fall is No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Alabama.

The final College Football Playoff rankings of the season will be released on Sunday at 10 a.m. MST on ESPN, with the New Year's Six games being released later in the day as part of Selection Sunday.

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Josh is the Sports Director for KSL.com and beat writer of University of Utah athletics β€” primarily football, men’s basketball and gymnastics. He is also an Associated Press Top 25 voter for college football.

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