PULLMAN – Washington State rose in the College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday, but was leapfrogged by a Pac-12 rival. The Cougars rose to No. 23 from No. 25 in last week’s initial rankings, but previously unranked USC debuted at No. 20.
No. 23 must be an appropriate spot for the Cougars, however, since that is their position in the Associated Press and Coaches polls as well. WSU (7-2, 6-0 Pac-12) pasted Arizona 69-7 last week, while USC (6-3, 5-2) beat Oregon 45-20.
Overall, it was a good day for the Pac-12 schools. Washington is ranked No. 4 after winning at California by a score of 66-27. The Huskies were ranked No. 5 last week but benefit from No. 4 Texas A&M’s loss too Mississippi State. There was some thought that Ohio State might assume the No. 4 position this week after demolishing Nebraska 62-3, but the Buckeyes are sitting at No. 5.
Curiously, Texas A&M only dropped to No. 8 after its loss, the Aggies’ second loss this season. LSU, on the other hand, dropped all the way from No. 13 to No. 24 after losing a close game against No. 1 Alabama.
The four highest-ranked teams at the end of the year will play in the College Football Playoff for a shot at the national championship. If UW keeps winning, it should be in no danger of losing its spot.
According to the selection committee’s protocol, the committee is instructed to “place an emphasis on winning conference championships, strength of schedule and head-to-head competition when comparing teams of similar records and pedigree.”
The Pac-12 championship game is going to feature a decently ranked team from the South Division as well. The Washington state schools are the only ones left with a chance at representing the North Division.
There they will either face the 20th-ranked Trojans, No. 12 Colorado or No. 15 Utah. The Cougars play the Buffaloes in two weeks, regardless. So either way, the Washington state schools will have plenty of games against respected opponents on their resumes.
The rankings matter beyond playoff implications. If a Pac-12 team is selected for the playoffs, the Rose Bowl does not have to extend an invitation to the loser of the Pac-12 championship game. Instead, it can offer the spot to the Pac-12’s highest-ranked team.
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