College football Power Rankings after conference championship week
11:35 PM ET
It was all supposed to be so easy heading into conference championship week.
USC beats Utah in the Pac-12 title game on Friday to clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff and TCU follows suit on Saturday in the Big 12 championship against Kansas State. Well, not so easy.
Instead, the Trojans lost a second time this season to the Utes, this time to the tune of 47-24, while the Horned Frogs’ latest comeback in a season full of them fell short in overtime against the Wildcats. The pair of losses now throw a once pristine playoff picture into uncertainty as Ohio State and Alabama — both idle on championship weekend — wait in the wings.
Unlike what were supposed to be fellow playoff opponents, Georgia and Michigan both took care of business in varying degrees of fashion. The Bulldogs once again beat up on a ranked SEC opponent (LSU, 50-30) to claim the conference title. The Wolverines took note and put together a solid second half against Purdue to win their second straight Big Ten crown.
Elsewhere, Tulane and UTSA won the AAC and Conference USA titles, respectively, and Clemson returned backed to the ACC mountaintop with yet another conference title under Dabo Swinney.
The action wasn’t quite predictable this weekend and neither are the final set of college football Power Rankings in 2022.
On a chaotic conference championship weekend, Georgia left no doubt about why it’s ranked No. 1. Dominating LSU 50-30 in Atlanta and winning the SEC championship, it felt like a statement game by the Bulldogs heading into the College Football Playoff. The defense smothered Jayden Daniels and Co.; Jalen Carter literally picked Daniels up with one hand; and the Georgia offense, led by Stetson Bennett, was its usual efficient self as Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey each scored touchdowns — Alex Scarborough
Kenny McIntosh scores a TD and Darnell Washington hauls in the two-point conversion for a 50-23 Georgia lead.
The Wolverines were pushed by Purdue but claimed their second consecutive Big Ten championship behind running back Donovan Edwards, quarterback J.J. McCarthy, cornerback Will Johnson and others. Life without star running back Blake Corum has been manageable so far for Michigan, as Edwards won championship game MVP honors after rushing for 185 yards and a touchdown, including a 60-yard dash early in the second half. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and created plays with his feet, while Johnson doubled his season interceptions total with two picks against Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell. Michigan’s defense repeatedly turned Purdue away in the red zone to preserve a lead and a perfect season. — Adam Rittenberg
The Horned Frogs’ comeback mojo ran out an inch short in the Big 12 championship, being stuffed at the goal line on consecutive plays in overtime before Kansas State kicked the game-winning field goal. Max Duggan had 251 pass yards, 110 rush yards and a TD each passing and rushing, becoming the first player with 250 passing and 100 rushing in a conference championship game since Deshaun Watson in 2015. Duggan was crushed after the game, disappointed that he couldn’t bring a conference title to TCU. But the 12-1 Frogs still have a chance to become the second team unranked in the preseason to make the College Football Playoff, behind Michigan last year. — Dave Wilson
The Buckeyes lost to Michigan in the final game of the regular season in a top-5 matchup and now the team waits to see if it can still make it into the playoffs. With chaos that ensued on Friday and Saturday with USC and TCU losing, it gave Ohio State a great shot to move back into the top four despite not playing in the Big Ten championship game. Depending on where the committee puts Ohio State, it could give us an Ohio State-Michigan rematch in the semifinals, giving the Buckeyes a shot at exacting revenge. — Tom VanHaaren
The Vols far exceeded expectations in Year 2 under Josh Heupel and won 10 games in the regular season for the first time since 2003. They’re headed to their first New Year’s Six bowl game. But despite all the firsts, the end of the season was a downer for the Vols. They were embarrassed 63-38 by South Carolina on Nov. 19, a loss that cost them a spot in the College Football Playoff. Even worse, star quarterback Hendon Hooker suffered a season-ending knee injury (ACL tear) in that rout. — Low
The Crimson Tide lost two regular-season games for only the fourth time since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007. Quarterback Bryce Young was sensational all season and played through a shoulder injury. His receiving corps wasn’t dynamic, and Alabama gave up a total of 84 points on defense in its two losses to Tennessee and LSU. It was close to being a special season for the Tide, whose two losses came on the final play of the games, both on the road. But it could have also been a mediocre season. Alabama won two games against Texas and Texas A&M that were decided on the game’s final play. — Chris Low
The Utes ended their season by making the biggest statement possible. Kyle Whittingham’s team beat No. 4 USC and its Heisman candidate Caleb Williams not just twice in the same season, but in dominating fashion that gave the Utes their second straight Pac-12 championship. Nothing this season was easy for the Utes, who dealt with injuries and a tough opening loss to Florida as well as being generally overlooked compared to their fellow Pac-12 teams. But as Cameron Rising put it after the game on Friday night, Utah used all of those factors to its advantage and forged its way back to Pasadena for another Rose Bowl appearance. — Paolo Uggetti
R.J. Hubert picks off Caleb Williams and Ja’Quinden Jackson rushes in for a 53-yard Utah touchdown. (edited)
After DJ Uiagalelei struggled on his first two drives in the ACC Championship Game against North Carolina, coach Dabo Swinney turned to Cade Klubnik for the remainder of the game, leading the Tigers to their seventh ACC title in eight years in a 39-10 victory. The performance must have had some Clemson fans scratching their heads about why Swinney did not make the same decision a week ago, when Uiagalelei struggled in a loss to South Carolina. Though there is not going to be a playoff appearance this year, the Tigers certainly played like a playoff team in the victory. Not only did Klubnik play well, the defense slowed down ACC Player of the Year Drake Maye and the Tar Heels offense, pressuring him into many mistakes, including a 98-yard pick-6 by Nate Wiggins that essentially sealed the win. — Andrea Adelson
It’s impossible to describe Lincoln Riley’s debut season at USC as anything but a success. The Trojans went 11-2 a year after going 4-8 and had a legitimate shot at making the College Football Playoff. Yet the fact that they were a game away from winning the conference and being one of the top-4 teams in the country and couldn’t get past Utah twice this season will undoubtedly leave a bad taste lingering into the offseason. The good news for USC is that the Riley era is just beginning, and more importantly, Caleb Williams will be back next season. — Uggetti
The Nittany Lions ended their regular season on a four-game win streak after beating Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers and Michigan State. The team ended with a 10-2 record after losing to Michigan and Ohio State, but it was a vast improvement on the 7-6 record Penn State had in 2021. Penn State saw some positives for the future as well with freshmen running backs Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen, who were the No. 1 and 2 rushers on the team, combining for 1,771 yards and 19 touchdowns. The offense also has freshman quarterback Drew Allar, who got some experience in mop-up duty throughout the season. While there were two losses, Penn State can take a lot of positives away from this season. — VanHaaren
A dramatic goal-line stand, a steady dose of Deuce Vaughn and a defense that harassed TCU quarterback Max Duggan helped bring K-State its third Big 12 title. The Wildcats clamped down on Duggan on third down, where he went 2 for 10 for 21 yards with an interception and a sack. K-State ran for 205 yards, the second-most of any team against TCU this year, with Vaughn (130 yards) breaking off a 44-yard TD run in the fourth quarter that kept TCU on the ropes. The Wildcats withstood another Horned Frogs rally, seeing their 11-point lead evaporate, but stopped Kendre Miller on third and fourth down from the 1 in overtime before kicking the walk-off field goal to claim the title and a historic season. Chris Klieman became the first coach other than Bill Snyder to win 10 games at K-State since 1910. — Wilson
Kalen DeBoer’s team helped Utah get to the Pac-12 title game with its late-season surge that included wins over Oregon State, Oregon and Washington State. The Huskies then watched Friday night as Utah thumped USC to clinch a Rose Bowl spot that likely would have gone to Washington if the Trojans had won. Still, the Huskies continue to bask in an exceptional first season under DeBoer, who reshaped the offense behind quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and will contend for national coaching honors. Washington likely will fall to the Alamo Bowl, where it will try to win 11 games for the first time since its CFP season of 2016. — Rittenberg
The Seminoles have a chance to win 10 games for the first time since 2016, a remarkable turnaround for a team that won eight combined games over the past two seasons. The Seminoles did it with the best rushing offense in the ACC and the emergence of quarterback Jordan Travis, who earned second-team All-ACC honors after gaining 3,163 yards and scoring 30 touchdowns. Florida State has already begun its bowl practices with some good news — All-ACC players Jared Verse and Jammie Robinson said they planned to play in the bowl game. — Adelson
Tyjae Spears wasn’t going to allow his team to be denied on Saturday as Tulane captured its first conference championship since 1998 (Conference USA) — the last year it won at least 11 games (12-0). Spears, the Green Wave’s junior standout, ran for a season high 199 yards, going over the 120-yard mark for yet another week. Junior QB Michael Pratt accounted for 442 yards (394 passing) and five touchdowns (four passing). Pratt connected with nine different receivers as the offense racked up a season high 648 total yards — a performance that saw two receivers go over the 100-yard mark (Duece Watts, 134 yards, one TD; Shae Wyatt, 110 yards, two TDs). Tulane’s defense, meanwhile, complemented matters by being relentless all day long, piling up six sacks. The Green Wave will likely be headed to the Cotton Bowl as the Group of 5’s representative in the New Year’s Six. — Baumgartner
Oregon State finished the season at 9-3 with losses to USC, Utah and Washington, all leaders of the conference. The team finished the season on a high note, beating in-state rival Oregon 38-34. Quarterback Ben Gulbranson finished with 1,290 pass yards and eight touchdowns with five interceptions in nine games, while Chance Nolan had 939 yards and seven touchdowns with eight interceptions in five games. The defense was led by Omar Speights and Kitan Oladapo, who combined for 152 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks on the season. — VanHaaren
It was a what-if season for the Ducks, who not only had opportunities to play in the Pac-12 title game, but also, at one point, were in line to have a shot at the playoff too. Instead, Dan Lanning’s first season as Oregon head coach ended on a sour note: back-to-back losses to the school’s two main rivals. There’s no real reason for worry in Eugene, but given the talent the Ducks have coming next season and beyond, as well as the fact that USC and UCLA are Big Ten bound in 2024, Lanning is going to be expected to do better than he did in his debut season. — Uggetti
The Tigers went out with a whimper. Brian Kelly did a masterful job in his first season, overhauling a roster that went 6-7 last season, beating Alabama, winning the West and competing for the SEC championship. But a lopsided loss to Georgia, on the heels of a humiliating loss at Texas A&M, stings. And it signals how much further this program has to go under Kelly to truly compete for a spot in the playoff. — Scarborough
If this was the end of an era in Westwood with quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson finally using all of his eligibility, it was an impressive way to go out. DTR had the best season of his college career and UCLA remained undefeated deep into the year. It was finally a season that felt representative of what the Bruins expected when they hired Chip Kelly. Yet, there was still some disappointment given that they could not beat Oregon and rival USC to reach the Pac-12 title game or the Rose Bowl. UCLA now looks toward next year in search of not just a new quarterback but a new era that won’t take as long to pay dividends as the last one. — Uggetti
Talk about saving your best for last. The Gamecocks beat a pair of top-10 teams in the final two weeks of the season — Tennessee and in-state rival Clemson — to put themselves in great shape to play somewhere in Florida in their bowl game. Second-year coach Shane Beamer did a terrific job of getting his team back up after ugly losses to Georgia and Florida. Quarterback Spencer Rattler was at his best in the wins over Tennessee and Clemson. He accounted for nine touchdowns, including eight scoring passes. That’s after throwing just eight touchdowns in the previous 10 games. — Low
At one point or another, Notre Dame was good at everything in Marcus Freeman’s first season in charge. Logan Diggs and Audric Estime rushed for over 1,500 yards, tight end Michael Mayer caught a bunch of passes, the defense stopped the pass more often than not and the special teams unit blocked a bunch of punts. But the arrows only briefly all pointed in the right direction at once. The Irish began the season 3-3 with losses to Marshall (bad) and Stanford (worse), and after a five-game win streak that included a romp over Clemson, they couldn’t throw much of a scare into USC and finished 8-4. Freeman is aggressively attempting to upgrade the roster talent; we’ll see if he can get the Irish back to a top-15 level in 2023. — Connelly
Heather Dinich breaks down what USC’s loss means for College Football Playoff hopefuls, Ohio State and Alabama.
The Longhorns’ brief week as Kansas fans ended in disappointment as Texas needed the Jayhawks to knock off Kansas State to give Texas a spot in the Big 12 championship game. Now, after missing a bowl game last year in Steve Sarkisian’s first season in Austin, the 8-4 Longhorns, in what could be Bijan Robinson’s last game in burnt orange, will look to take advantage of the extra practices with an eye toward making a push in 2023. — Wilson
Maybe it wasn’t exactly the regular season Mike Leach and the Bulldogs were hoping for, but it was solid. Their only losses were to SEC West champ LSU, SEC champ Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky. And they recovered from losing three of four games in the middle of the schedule to close out the regular season with back-to-back wins against East Tennessee State and in-state rival Ole Miss. With a solid defense in place and Will Rogers expected back, the future is bright in Starkville. — Scarborough
Coastal Carolina returned Grayson McCall and head coach Jamey Chadwell. Appalachian State had Chase Brice and a loaded roster. Louisiana still had quite a few big-time athletes from last year’s Sun Belt championship squad. Georgia State was athletic and physical. Newcomer Marshall had big ambitions. The Sun Belt appeared loaded heading into 2022, but who won the conference on Saturday afternoon? None of the teams above. Instead, Troy moved to 11-2 by scoring 31 points in the first 20 minutes against Coastal and cruising to a 45-26 romp in front of a thrilled home crowd of 21,554. Gunnar Watson needed only 12 completions to throw for 318 yards and three scores, and the Trojans earned a ring in Jon Sumrall’s first season in charge. — Connelly
Jeff Traylor has not wasted time. He took over a 4-8 program, improved it to 7-5 in 2020 and has gone 23-4 since. His Roadrunners won their first Conference USA title last fall, then repeated on Friday night with a comfortable 48-27 victory over North Texas in the Alamodome. Down 10-7 in the second quarter, they seized control with a 24-3 run, then pulled away in the fourth quarter with Frank Harris’ third and fourth touchdown passes of the night. Harris went 32 for 37 for 341 yards, Zakhari Franklin had 144 receiving yards and three scores and Kevorian Barnes rushed for 175 yards as well. This program has peaked just in time to head to the AAC next fall. — Connelly
The Wolfpack harbored ACC title hopes coming into this season with junior quarterback Devin Leary returning. But a loss to Clemson and the fact Leary (1,265 passing yards, 11 touchdowns), the conference’s preseason player of the year, was limited to six games because of a torn pectoral doomed those hopes. Sophomore cornerback Aydan White (33 solo tackles, four interceptions) and fifth-year senior kicker Christopher Dunn (24 of 25 FGs; 102 points) earned first-team All-ACC honors. A 30-27 double-overtime victory in Chapel Hill concluded the regular season on a good note as NC State won at least eight games for a third straight season. — Baumgartner