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December 7, 2019
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College football power rankings for Week 12

College football power rankings for Week 12
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Defending national champion Clemson has won 26 games in a row, but the 11 teams the Tigers have topped this season haven’t exactly been murderer’s row. At least Trevor Lawrence & Co. are absolutely destroying their opposition.

Ohio State might be the most complete team in the FBS, but it’s hard to gauge exactly how good the Buckeyes are when they’re beating up on Maryland and Rutgers.

LSU might have the most impressive body of work to date with victories over Texas, Florida, Auburn and Alabama, but at least two of those triumphs don’t look as impressive as they once did. And the Tigers aren’t exactly the Steel Curtain on defense after allowing 614 yards of offense in a 58-37 win over Ole Miss on Saturday. It was the fourth time this season that the Tigers have yielded 450 yards or more. LSU’s offense is as good as anyone’s. Its defense? Yeah, not so much.

So who’s No. 1 with two weeks to go in the regular season? Here are the ESPN Power Rankings after Week 12.

The defending national champions seem to be hitting their stride with only one game left in the regular season. The Tigers blasted Wake Forest 52-3 at Death Valley for their 26th consecutive victory on Saturday, and they’re one win away from finishing unbeaten in the regular season for the second year in a row. Clemson has scored at least 45 points in six consecutive games and hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 14 during that stretch. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Tigers are only the third team during the AP poll era (since 1936) — 1971 Nebraska and 1944 Army are the others — to win four straight contests by at least 45 points. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence matched his career high with four touchdown passes; he completed 21 of 27 passes for 272 yards. Tailback Travis Etienne ran for 121 yards on 16 carries, and Tee Higgins scored three times on receptions. The Tigers have a bye before closing the regular season against rival South Carolina on the road.

Up next: at South Carolina (Nov. 30, TBD)


The Buckeyes took care of business in their final warm-up before a challenging two-game stretch to close the regular season, beating Rutgers 56-21 on the road for their 16th consecutive win. Quarterback Justin Fields threw for a career-high 305 yards with four touchdowns on 15-for-19 passing, while tailback J.K. Dobbins ran for 89 yards with two scores, as Ohio State’s offense piled up 594 yards. Dobbins has multiple touchdowns from scrimmage in four straight games, the longest streak by a Buckeyes player since Ezekiel Elliott in 2014. Ohio State hosts Penn State next week, before closing the regular season at rival Michigan on Nov. 30.

Up next: vs. Penn State (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)


3. LSU (10-0)

The Tigers’ high-flying offense continued to flourish in a 58-37 win at Ole Miss on Saturday night. But how much should we be concerned about LSU’s defense? The Tigers allowed 614 yards of offense, including 402 rushing on 44 attempts (9.1 yards per carry). Rebels quarterback John Rhys Plumlee passed for 123 yards and ran 21 times for 212 yards with four scores. Still, the Tigers were too prolific on offense to be in serious trouble, piling up 714 yards, including 489 passing. Heisman Trophy favorite Joe Burrow threw five touchdowns and completed 32 passes. It was his fourth game this season with at least five touchdown passes, which tied Missouri’s Drew Lock (2017) for most in SEC history. Ja’Marr Chase caught eight passes for 227 yards with three scores, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran 23 times for 172 yards with one score. The Tigers remain in control of the SEC West, with home games left against Arkansas and Texas A&M.

Up next: vs. Arkansas (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)


As expected, the Ducks didn’t receive much of a challenge from Arizona in their 34-6 victory, as they held their fifth opponent of the season to seven points or less. Quarterback Justin Herbert threw for a season-high 333 yards with four touchdown passes and a pick. With 28 touchdown passes to just three interceptions, Herbert has played himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion and could find himself in New York if he finishes strong, with games against Arizona State and Oregon State remaining. More important, Oregon remains in a good position to reach the playoff.

Up next: at Arizona State (Saturday, TBD)


It wasn’t easy, but the Bulldogs clinched their third consecutive SEC East title with a 21-14 decision at Auburn on Saturday. That’s the longest streak for SEC East crowns since Florida won five in a row from 1992 to 1996. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 21-0 lead going into the fourth quarter and held on to move to 6-1 in the conference. Georgia closes SEC play at home against Texas A&M next week and then plays at Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale. With their fourth straight win, ESPN’s Football Power Index gives UGA a 42% chance to make the CFP. Quarterback Jake Fromm completed 13 of 28 passes for 110 yards with three scores, and tailback D’Andre Swift ran for 106 yards on 17 carries. The Bulldogs finished with only 251 yards of offense, the lowest total for a team winning against an AP top-15 foe since LSU had 239 yards in a 9-6 victory in overtime at Alabama in 2011.

Up next: vs. Texas A&M (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)


The Crimson Tide rolled past Mississippi State 38-7 on the road on Saturday but lost star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for the remainder of the season. Tagovailoa, who had surgery on his right ankle about five weeks ago, injured his right hip with about three minutes left in the first half. He suffered a dislocated hip and a posterior wall fracture. Tagovailoa was hurt with the Tide leading 35-7, and coach Nick Saban will undoubtedly be second-guessed for still having his star quarterback in the game. Defensive linemen Raekwon Davis (left leg), DJ Dale (knee) and receiver Henry Ruggs III (undisclosed) also were hurt. Davis was carted to the locker room late in the first half, and he didn’t return. Backup quarterback Mac Jones completed 7 of 11 passes for 94 yards in Tagovailoa’s absence. The Tide scored only three points after halftime.

Up next: vs. Western Carolina (Saturday, noon ET)


7. Utah (9-1)

The Utes maintained control of the Pac-12 South and moved a step closer to the Pac-12 championship game and a chance at the Rose Bowl (or CFP?) by blasting UCLA 49-3 at home on Saturday. Utah’s stingy defense limited the Bruins to 269 yards of offense, forced five turnovers and sacked quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson five times. He threw two interceptions and lost a pair of fumbles. UCLA’s three points were the fewest it scored in a game since being shut out by USC on Nov. 26, 2011. Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley threw for a season-high 335 yards with two scores, and tailback Zack Moss ran 17 times for 127 yards with two scores. The Utes have a one-game lead over USC in the Pac-12 South standings, and they’ll be heavy favorites in their last two games at Arizona next week and home against Colorado on Nov. 30.

Up next: at Arizona (Saturday, TBD)


Oklahoma kept its Big 12 title and CFP hopes alive with a big dose of Sooner Magic in a 34-31 decision at Baylor on Saturday. The Sooners trailed by 25 points in the second quarter and 21 at the half. But OU outscored Baylor 24-0 in the second half and won on Gabe Brkic‘s 31-yard field goal with 1:45 to play. It was the biggest comeback in school history and marked only the second time in the past 15 years that a team trailing by 25 points to a ranked team on the road came from behind to win (teams were 1-906 in such situations). Oklahoma’s quick-strike offense put together touchdown drives of 12, 13 and 13 plays after intermission, consuming more than 16 minutes. OU’s 58 offensive plays in the second half were the most by an FBS team this season, according to data from ESPN Stats & Information. Quarterback Jalen Hurts had three turnovers, including a fumble into the Bears’ end zone, but he bounced back to complete 30 of 42 passes for 297 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. He also ran 27 times for 114 yards. The Sooners were without star receiver CeeDee Lamb, who didn’t play because of an undisclosed “medical issue.”

Up next: vs. TCU (Saturday, TBD)


The Nittany Lions bounced back from their first loss of the season by grinding out a 34-27 win over Indiana at home. After the Hoosiers cut Penn State’s lead to 27-24 with 10:45 to go, the Nittany Lions put together an 18-play, 75-yard drive that ate up 9:01 off the clock. Quarterback Sean Clifford‘s 1-yard run gave PSU a 10-point lead. Clifford scored three touchdowns, while passing for 179 yards and rushing for 55 more. Journey Brown added 100 rushing yards with one score. Star receiver KJ Hamler left after a kickoff return in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury, but coach James Franklin is hopeful he’ll play next week. The Nittany Lions stayed within one game of Ohio State in the Big Ten East standings. They play the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe next week.

Up next: at Ohio State (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)


The Gators remained in the mix for a New Year’s Six bowl game after knocking off Missouri 23-6 on the road. After struggling on offense in the first half, Florida quarterback Kyle Trask threw two touchdowns in the third quarter to help the Gators pull away. He completed 23 of 35 passes for 282 yards with two touchdowns. He has thrown at least two touchdowns in eight consecutive games, which is the longest streak by a Florida player since Tim Tebow did it in 10 straight contests in 2008. But the story for Florida was its defense, which allowed only 52 rushing yards and had 10 tackles for loss, including five with two sacks by Jonathan Greenard. The Gators get a week off before closing the regular season against rival Florida State at the Swamp on Nov. 30.

Up next: vs. Florida State (Nov. 30, TBD)


The Bears squandered a golden opportunity on Saturday, blowing a 25-point lead in their Big 12 showdown against four-time defending league champion Oklahoma at home. The Bears were shut out in the second half and couldn’t muster much of anything on offense. With the Sooners dominating time of possession, Baylor had only five possessions in the second half, which resulted in a fumble, three punts and an interception. Quarterback Charlie Brewer had 194 passing yards with two touchdowns and one interception while running 17 times for 65 yards and two scores. The Bears can still reach the Big 12 championship game — and a potential rematch with the Sooners — if they take care of business in their final two games against Texas at home and at Kansas.

Up next: vs. Texas (Saturday, TBD)


The Golden Gophers’ dreams of an unbeaten season came to a screeching halt at Iowa with a 23-19 loss, just a week after they stunned Penn State 31-26 for one of the biggest victories in the program’s history. Minnesota has dropped nine straight road games against the Hawkeyes and hasn’t won at Kinnick Stadium since 1999. The Gophers dug themselves an early hole, falling behind 20-3 with 6:20 left in the second quarter, and they couldn’t erase the deficit in the second half. Quarterback Tanner Morgan threw for 368 yards with one touchdown. The Hawkeyes had six sacks, and Morgan was knocked out in the final minute with a possible concussion. The Gophers ran for only 63 yards on 30 carries. Despite the loss, Minnesota is still in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten West. It plays at Northwestern next week, followed by a showdown at home against Wisconsin on Nov. 30.

Up next: at Northwestern (Saturday, TBD)


The Badgers stayed within striking distance of Minnesota in the Big Ten West by winning 37-21 at Nebraska. It was the Jonathan Taylor show once again, as the star tailback ran 25 times for 204 yards with two touchdowns. It was the third time Taylor rushed for 200 yards or more against the Cornhuskers. He has 11 career games with at least 200 yards, which ties Ron Dayne, Ricky Williams and Marcus Allen for the most in FBS history, according to data from ESPN Stats & Information. With 5,634 career rushing yards, Taylor passed 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker’s NCAA record for most rushing yards by a player through his junior season. Walker had 5,596 yards from 1980 to 1982. Taylor still has two regular-season games and at least a bowl game to add to his total.

Up next: vs. Purdue (Saturday, TBD)


The Wolverines’ new offense is clicking at just the right time, with the showdown against Ohio State in The Game only two weeks away. Quarterback Shea Patterson threw for a season-high 384 yards with four touchdowns on 24-for-33 passing in a 44-10 rout of Michigan State on Saturday. It was the first time he had at least 300 yards with three touchdowns in a game at Michigan. He had 182 passing yards in the first half, which was the most by a Wolverines player since Chad Henne against the Spartans in 2005. Ronnie Bell caught nine passes for 150 yards. Michigan beat the Spartans for the third time in the past four meetings, after losing seven of the previous eight games.

Up next: at Indiana (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, TBD)


The Fighting Irish didn’t sell out a home game for the first time since Thanksgiving Day of 1973, and the fans who didn’t show up missed one of their most complete performances of the season. Quarterback Ian Book threw for 284 yards with five touchdowns — four of them to Chase Claypool. It was Book’s third game with at least five passing touchdowns this season, which is the most in Notre Dame history; it also ties Brady Quinn for the most in a career by an Irish player. Claypool had seven catches for 177 yards, and his four touchdown receptions tied Maurice Stovall’s single-game school record, set against BYU in 2005. The Irish defense forced four fumbles, which were converted into 24 points, and it did an adequate job of stifling Navy’s triple-option offense. The Irish have games left against Boston College (home) and Stanford (road), and they might be able to sneak into a New Year’s Six bowl with some help.

Up next: vs. Boston College (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC)


The Tigers started slowly at Houston — they trailed 17-7 at the end of the first quarter — before erupting for 35 points over the second and third quarters to pull away with a 45-27 victory. Memphis won its fourth straight game and maintained its position for the Group of 5 leagues’ automatic invitation to a New Year’s Six bowl. Quarterback Brady White threw for 341 yards with five touchdowns and ran for another score. He tossed touchdowns to four different players. Tailback Kenneth Gainwell ran for 99 yards on 17 carries, as the Tigers outgained the Cougars 531-256 in total yards. Memphis went 9-for-13 on third down. The Tigers remained in a tie in the AAC West Division with one loss in conference play. The Tigers will play at USF next week and host Cincinnati in the Nov. 29 regular-season finale.

Up next: at USF (Saturday, TBD)


17. Iowa (7-3)

The Hawkeyes spoiled Minnesota’s perfect season with a 23-19 upset of the Golden Gophers at home on Saturday. It was the sixth time since 2008 that the Hawkeyes have knocked off a ranked opponent at Kinnick Stadium in November — and the third time in four seasons that they’ve upset a top-10 foe. The Hawkeyes also beat No. 3 Penn State in 2008; No. 15 Michigan in 2011; No. 3 Michigan and No. 16 Nebraska in 2016; and No. 6 Ohio State in 2017. Iowa scored touchdowns on its first three possessions to take a 20-3 lead and held off Minnesota’s rally in the second half. Quarterback Nate Stanley threw for 173 yards with two touchdowns, and Tyler Goodson ran for 94 yards with one score. Iowa still can reach 10 victories this season with contests remaining against Illinois at home and Nebraska on the road, followed by a bowl game.

Up next: vs. Illinois (Saturday, noon ET, BTN)


Even with third-string quarterback Jaylon Henderson called in to start his first game for the Broncos due to injuries, New Mexico didn’t provide much of a hurdle. The one-sided 42-9 affair was Boise State’s third straight win since losing to BYU, and it has started a different quarterback in each one. The Broncos can clinch the Mountain West Conference’s Mountain division with a win at Utah State next week, while a loss could lead to a three-way tie atop the division with the Aggies and Air Force.

Up next: at Utah State (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN)


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