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College football rankings: Ohio State’s loss makes room for USC in top 4

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The Michigan Wolverines walked into Ohio Stadium as underdogs by more than a touchdown. They were mostly without the services of star tailback and Heisman candidate Blake Corum. Their coordinators on both sides of the ball were new this season. And they were facing a Buckeyes team that vowed revenge after losing to the program they call That Team Up North last season.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Wolverines trotted out underclassmen at quarterback and running back, respectively — J.J. McCarthy and Donovan Edwards — against an Ohio State defense that had been retooled with a new scheme and coordinator specifically to win this game.

Despite all of this, the Wolverines still smacked OSU in the mouth, 45-23, for their first win in Columbus since 2000. It was the largest margin of victory in America’s most intense rivalry in games at the Shoe since 1976.

With McCarthy throwing for 263 yards and accounting for four total TDs, and with Edwards rushing for 216 yards and two TDs on 21 carries, Michigan laid claim to the title of the best football program north of the Mason-Dixon line. Now, with a Big Ten title to defend for the second year in a row, the eyes of the South have to wonder if this is going to be the team to beat with conference title games upon us.

On the other side of this rivalry, the Buckeyes’ loss leaves room for a team waiting in the wings.

Does Michigan deserve consideration for No. 1?

RJ Young reacts to the Michigan Wolverines beating the Ohio State Buckeyes in The Game.

1. Georgia (12-0)

Defeated Georgia Tech, 37-14

The Dawgs dispatched the Yellow Jackets with a workmanlike win. Stetson Bennett attempted just 18 passes for 140 yards as the Dawg defense held Tech scoreless in the second and third quarters.

2. Michigan (12-0)

Defeated Ohio State, 45-23

The question for the Wolverines now is whether they can summon this kind of performance in the Big Ten Championship Game and possibly the College Football Playoff — particularly if they match up against Georgia.

3. TCU (12-0)

Defeated Iowa State, 62-14

The Horned Frogs left no doubt about their prowess in the Big 12 with their 48-point win against the Cyclones to finish the regular season undefeated. With a win in the Big 12 title game, they’ll make their first trip to the CFP.

4. USC (11-1)

Defeated Notre Dame, 38-27

Caleb Williams put on a show with four total TDs while dipping, dodging and spinning away from the ND defense — even striking the Heisman pose just before halftime — en route to a dominating win.

Williams set the program record for TDs in a season with 44.

No. 6 USC takes down No. 15 Notre Dame

RJ Young reacts to USC’s win over Notre Dame, and ponders the Heisman case for Trojans QB Caleb Williams.

5. Ohio State (11-1)

Lost to Michigan, 45-23

The book on C.J. Stroud will be marked by two glaring omissions. If he looks to the NFL, he’ll leave as one of the most accomplished players in Ohio State history, but without a win against Michigan or a trip to the Big Ten title game.

6. Tennessee (10-2)

Defeated Vanderbilt, 56-0

Without Heisman contender Hendon Hooker, the Vols offense put up 513 yards of offense as the defense found its form. After giving up 63 to South Carolina last week, they held the Commodores to zero.

7. Alabama (10-2)

Defeated Auburn, 49-27

Bryce Young looked like the reigning Heisman winner, completing 20 of 30 passes for 343 yards with three TDs and an INT in the Tide’s win over their in-state rival.

8. Penn State (10-2)

Defeated Michigan State, 35-16

Quarterback Sean Clifford completed 19 of 24 passes for 202 yards and four TDs to earn the Nittany Lions their 10th win of the season.

9. Kansas State (9-3)

Defeated Kansas, 47-27

With the win, the Wildcats punched their ticket to the Big 12 title game for the first time since in the Chris Klieman era.

Behind quarterback Will Howard and running back Deuce Vaughn, K-State put up 443 offensive yards in the win.

10. Oregon (9-3)

Lost to Oregon State, 38-34

The Ducks gave up 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to the Beavers, squandering an outstanding passing performance from quarterback Bo Nix. The signal-caller finished 27 of 41 for 327 yards with two TDs in the loss.

Oregon State stuns No. 9 Oregon

RJ Young discusses how good the Beavers’ defense looked near the end of their stunning victory over Oregon.

11. Notre Dame (8-4)

Lost to USC, 38-27

The Fighting Irish couldn’t stop Williams or the USC rushing attack. They’ll have to take solace in knowing they beat the ACC champion — whether it’s North Carolina or Clemson.

12. Clemson (10-2)

Lost to South Carolina, 31-30

The Gamecocks fought back from a double-digit deficit at halftime to defeat the Tigers for the South Carolina state title and end Clemson’s 40-game winning streak at Death Valley.

Going into the ACC title game, Clemson’s chances of making the playoff are dashed, with the hope of a New Year’s Six bowl bid still to play for. 

13. Washington (10-2)

Defeated Washington State, 51-33

Michael Penix Jr. torched the Cougars for 485 passing yards and three touchdowns as the Huskies earned their first 10-win season since 2018.

14. Oregon State (9-3)

Defeated Oregon, 38-34

Despite getting just 60 yards from quarterback Ben Gulbranson, who also threw two INTs, the Beavers earned their first win against a top 10-ranked Oregon team in the CFP era.

15. Florida State (9-3)

Defeated Florida, 45-38

Behind the legs of Jordan Travis, the Seminoles knocked off their hated in-state rival to punctuate an outstanding season for Mike Norvell with their first win against the Gators since 2016. Travis completed 13 of 30 passes for 270 yards with a TD.

16. LSU (9-3)

Lost to Texas A&M, 38-23

The term “overrated” was coined for games like this one. After the CFP committee ranked LSU No. 5, the Bayou Bengals responded by losing to an A&M squad that has woefully underachieved.

However, LSU gets a chance to redeem itself in the SEC title against Georgia on Saturday.

LSU, Clemson knocked off

RJ Young reacts to the South Carolina Gamecocks’ upset of Clemson, and Texas A&M’s stunner vs. LSU.

17. UCLA (9-3)

Defeated Cal, 35-28

The Bruins racked up 541 yards of offense, including 352 rushing, to come back from a 21-10 deficit to beat Cal in the Battle of the Bears.

18. Utah (9-3)

Defeated Colorado, 63-21

Quarterback Cam Rising was frighteningly efficient against the league’s worst team, completing 17 of 19 passes for 234 yards with three TDs. Running back Ja’Quinden Jackson added 117 rush yards and three TDs on just 10 carries.

19. South Carolina (8-4)

Defeated Clemson, 31-30

The Gamecocks knocked off another top-10 team in the CFP rankings in consecutive weeks for the first time while ending the Tigers’ 40–game home winning streak in Death Valley.

20. Texas (8-4)

Defeated Baylor, 38-27

The Longhorns finished their season on a high — three wins better than 2021 — and gave themselves an opportunity to get nine wins for the first time since 2018.

21. Purdue (8-4)

Defeated Indiana, 30-16

The Boilermakers took full advantage of Iowa’s loss to Nebraska to punch their ticket to the Big Ten title game for the first time in school history. Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Charlie Jones caught four passes for 143 yards with a TD in the win.

22. North Carolina (9-3)

Lost to NC State, 30-27

Drake Maye and the Tar Heels came up short for the second week in a row against an ACC opponent. They will look to stamp their season with a 10th win against the best program in their league for the last decade in Clemson in the conference title game.

23. Tulane (10-2)

Defeated Cincinnati, 27-24

With the win, the Green Wave earned the right to host the conference title game against the Bearcats next weekend and snapped Cincy’s 32-game winning streak at Nippert Stadium.

24. Mississippi State (8-4)

Defeated Ole Miss, 24-22

The Bulldogs overcame three turnovers, including an interception from quarterback Will Rogers, to earn Leach his first win in the Egg Bowl.

25. Ole Miss (8-4)

Lost to Mississippi State, 24-22

The Rebels were held to just six points in the second half of their loss, the first for Lane Kiffin against Mike Leach in the Egg Bowl.

Read more:

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.


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