Washington and Oregon held their ground in the second College Football Playoff rankings as five Pac-12 teams made the cut — none of them from Los Angeles.
The Huskies were No. 5 for the second consecutive week, followed immediately by the Ducks in the No. 6 spot. Oregon State moved up four positions to No. 12, and Utah held steady at No. 18.
Meanwhile, Arizona made its first appearance in the CFP rankings since 2017, landing in the No. 21 spot after beating UCLA for its third consecutive win.
“The three straight wins, two of their losses coming in overtime, a seven-point loss to Washington and the job that Coach (Jedd) Fisch has done out there is really something,” selection committee chair Boo Corrigan, the N.C. State athletic director, said on a media teleconference.
USC and UCLA dropped out of the rankings following losses to Washington and Arizona, respectively.
Washington was the lowest-ranked of the five undefeated teams in the major conferences, behind Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan and Florida State, while Oregon was the highest-ranked of the one-loss teams.
Asked why the Ducks were above Texas and Alabama, Corrigan avoided specifics.
“It’s not one single metric, but we spent a lot of time on it, and we want to make sure we get it right,” he said. “It’s not (like) we do it one time and then move on. We’ll do it one time and then come back to it again and come back to it again and make sure that everyone is comfortable with where we are.”
The status quo at the top underscored a growing reality for the Pac-12’s top-10 teams: The bitter rivals are also best friends. Each team needs the other to keep winning.
With threats circling, the conference needs the best possible matchup in its championship game in order to position the winner for a berth in the playoff.
That matchup would be 12-0 Washington against 11-1 Oregon, a pairing that only becomes reality if both teams win their three remaining regular-season games.
The Huskies play Utah, Oregon State and Washington State.
The Ducks play USC, Arizona State and Oregon State.
If both teams sweep their stretch runs, the championship game winner’s resume would be playoff-worthy: Washington as an undefeated Power Five champ, Oregon as a one-loss Power Five winner.
But if either team loses prior to the title matchup, the odds of the Pac-12 winner qualifying for the CFP would drop precipitously. Why? Because the lineup of potential threats is growing.
Unless the Huskies finish with a perfect 13-0 record — in which case they would be a lock for the playoff — the Pac-12 winner must worry about:
— Texas as a one-loss Big 12 champion.
— Alabama as a one-loss SEC champion.
— Florida State as a one-loss ACC champ.
— And perhaps even the one-loss loser of the Michigan-Ohio State game.
There’s an added layer to consider for the Huskies and Ducks: They also need the top-tier teams within the conference to keep winning so the Pac-12 is well represented in the committee’s all-important final rankings.
That could be problematic, because No. 12 Oregon State plays both Washington and Oregon while No. 18 Utah visits Washington. The likelihood of an eat-your-own conclusion to the season might devalue the resume of the Pac-12 champion.
One final point: The Ducks need Texas Tech to finish with a flourish.
Oregon won the Week 2 duel in Lubbock, but the result doesn’t pack much punch because the Red Raiders have a 4-5 record and no quality wins.
But late-season victories over Kansas or Texas would boost their resume and, in turn, improve Oregon’s profile.
With so many moving parts and possible scenarios, every data point counts.
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