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Week 9 winners and losers: Predicting the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season

The first College Football Playoff rankings are just days away.

We'll get our first glimpse of the committee's thinking on Tuesday when it releases its top 25 for the first time. And we're fascinated to see how the committee ranks the top teams. There are six undefeated teams through the first nine weeks of the season while one-loss teams like Alabama, Oregon and USC also have viable paths to the playoff if they win out.

Here's our best guess at what the top 10 will look like in Tuesday's rankings.

10. UCLA

  • Record: 7-1

  • Best win: 42-32 vs. Utah

The Bruins are the choice for the final spot in the top 10 after a blowout win over Stanford while Oklahoma State, Penn State and Wake Forest all lost on Saturday. The Bruins were blown out at Oregon a week ago but also beat Washington at home. An undefeated finish would put the Bruins in the Pac-12 title game and keep them in the playoff mix. If UCLA isn't at No. 10, then it's likely going to be Ole Miss. The Rebels moved to 8-1 with a win over Texas A&M on Saturday night.

9. USC

  • Record: 7-1

  • Best win: 30-14 vs. Washington State

The Trojans don’t have a signature win yet and really only have one opportunity remaining the rest of the season in their rivalry game vs. UCLA on Nov. 19. If USC runs the table and gets to the Pac-12 title game against an 11-1 Oregon, a win over the Ducks would likely be enough to put the Trojans in the playoff mix given their explosive offense.

8. Oregon

  • Record: 7-1

  • Best win: 45-30 vs. UCLA

The Ducks easily beat Cal on Saturday and should be the top Pac-12 team in the College Football Playoff rankings. Oregon is an interesting litmus test for the committee. After getting demolished by Georgia in Week 1, Oregon has looked like a top-10 team and Bo Nix has looked like a Heisman contender. He had six TDs vs. the Bears. How much will that Georgia game be held against the Ducks? Oregon would be 8-0 if it scheduled a middling Group of Five team instead.

7. Alabama

  • Record: 7-1

  • Best win: 49-26 vs. Arkansas

We think Alabama will be the top one-loss team in the rankings because that loss came on the road to Tennessee. Yeah, there have been a couple of close calls for the Tide this year in the form of anxious wins over Texas and Texas A&M, but there aren’t any teams from Texas remaining on Alabama’s schedule. With a potential SEC title game looming, Alabama will definitely be in the playoff if it goes 12-1 and wins the SEC title again.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) throws the ball during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) throws the ball during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

6. TCU

  • Record: 8-0

  • Best win: 38-28 vs. Kansas State

TCU effectively has a two-game lead over everyone else in the Big 12 standings after a win over West Virginia on Saturday. TCU has wins over four teams that were ranked at the time, though those teams’ QBs either played injured or left the game due to injury in all four of them. That shouldn’t discount what TCU has done too much, however. The Frogs’ offense may only rank behind Tennessee’s in terms of explosiveness and the defense continues to get enough stops.

5. Michigan

  • Record: 8-0

  • Best win: 41-17 vs. Penn State

The Wolverines could easily be in the top four on Tuesday but we’re thinking a non-conference schedule of Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn will have the Wolverines at No. 5 at the moment. The running game is still very powerful and the defense has allowed more than 17 points just once this season. The Wolverines should be big favorites in every game before a trip to Ohio State to end the regular season. That game will very likely decide who wins the Big Ten East and could also be for a playoff spot again.

4. Clemson

  • Record: 8-0

  • Best win: 30-20 vs. NC State

The Tigers have three wins over opponents who were ranked at the time and that should give them the edge over Michigan. Clemson’s rebound back to playoff contender is because of QB D.J. Uiagalelei’s improvement, though he was replaced late in the Tigers’ 27-21 win over Syracuse by freshman Cade Klubnik. Coach Dabo Swinney says the job is still Uiagalelei’s and the Tigers head to Notre Dame in Week 10 — the place where Uiagalelei burst onto the scene in 2020 when Clemson beat the Irish.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney smiles as he hi fives wide receiver Drew Swinney (81) and wide receiver Clay Swinney (88) before an NCAA college football game against Syracuse on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney smiles before an NCAA college football game against Syracuse on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

3. Georgia

  • Record: 8-0

  • Best win: 49-3 vs. Oregon

We wouldn’t be surprised to see Georgia anywhere in the top three but we’re putting the Bulldogs at No. 3 because Oregon is the only team that was ranked at the time it played Georgia. The second-best team that Georgia has played so far is South Carolina, a team that lost to Missouri on Saturday. But while Georgia may be at No. 3 to open the rankings, the Bulldogs could be as high as No. 1 with a win over Tennessee in Week 10 and still have Kentucky and a potential SEC title game on the schedule.

2. Ohio State

  • Record: 8-0

  • Best win: 44-31 vs. Penn State

The Buckeyes haven’t won a game by fewer than 11 points so far this season after beating Penn State by 13 thanks to DE J.T. Tuimaloau’s monster performance. That win over Penn State was the closest Big Ten game of the season so far for Ohio State after it had won its previous four conference games by at least 29 points. With games against Northwestern, Indiana and Maryland on the schedule in the next three weeks, all signs point to the Buckeyes being 11-0 when Michigan comes to town.

1. Tennessee

  • Record: 8-0

  • Best win: 52-49 vs. Alabama

Yep, we think there’s a good chance the Vols will open at No. 1 in the CFP rankings. In addition to that thrilling win over Alabama, Tennessee also has easy wins over two other ranked opponents in LSU and Kentucky. The win over the Wildcats on Saturday night showed Tennessee was not looking ahead to next week’s potential epic at Georgia. That game will be for the SEC East title and a possible playoff spot and can also solidify Tennessee’s return to the top of the SEC.

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) rolls out to pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) rolls out to pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Here are Week 9's winners and losers.

WINNERS

Ohio State DL JT Tuimoloau: Tuimoloau was the best player on the field in Ohio State’s come-from-behind victory over Penn State. Tuimoloau, a sophomore edge rusher, was responsible for all four of Penn State’s turnovers. In the first quarter, he tipped a pass into his teammate’s arms for an interception and then had an interception of his own while dropping into coverage. In the fourth quarter, he stripped the ball from PSU QB Sean Clifford and recovered the fumble himself. And then to put a bow on an incredible performance, he added a pick-six. In all, Tuimoloau had six tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Pretty good day.

TCU: TCU is still undefeated. On the road in a noon start vs. West Virginia, the Horned Frogs fell behind 14-7 early but managed to take a 28-21 lead into halftime. From there, West Virginia kept hanging around. TCU’s lead was 28-24 entering the fourth and then 34-31 with 4:12 to play, but the Horned Frogs were able to add a late touchdown (that was very meaningful to some) and improve to 8-0 with a 41-31 victory. There have been several potential letdown spots for TCU during this incredible run, but Sonny Dykes’ team keeps winning games and finds itself in the driver’s seat in the Big 12.

Kansas State: Behind TCU in the standings were Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Both entered Saturday with just one conference loss and it came at the hands of TCU for both teams. That made Saturday’s showdown between the Cowboys and Wildcats very important in the race to the Big 12 title game. And it was Kansas State that turned in an absolutely dominant effort, winning 48-0 in Manhattan. Will Howard, starting in place of Adrian Martinez, had an excellent outing. He threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns while Deuce Vaughn rushed for 158 yards and a score in the win. On top of that, K-State limited Oklahoma State’s offense to just 217 yards.

Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas State running back Deuce Vaughn celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Illinois: Illinois just keeps on winning. The Fighting Illini improved to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in Big Ten play with a 26-9 road win over Nebraska on Saturday. Illinois actually fell behind 9-6 in the second quarter but rallied to win comfortably on the road in Lincoln. Chase Brown had another big day, finishing with 149 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. Tommy DeVito was extremely efficient through the air, completing 20 of his 22 throws for 179 yards and two scores. The defense, meanwhile, limited Nebraska to just 29 yards in the second half while forcing four turnovers.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels scored 28 straight points to turn a 24-14 deficit into a 42-21 win over Pitt on Saturday night. UNC QB Drake Maye continued to show why he is the best QB in the ACC by going 34-of-44 for 388 yards and five touchdowns as the Tar Heels moved to 7-1. Antoine Green and Josh Downs each caught two TDs as three of the four TDs in a 12-minute second-half span were Maye TD passes. UNC is 4-0 in ACC play and has at least a three-game lead over everyone else in the division thanks to wins over Duke and Miami. A spot in the ACC title game is just a couple weeks away from being clinched.

UCF: Following an ugly loss to East Carolina last week, UCF rebounded with a big win over Cincinnati on Saturday. Cincinnati entered the game on a 19-game winning streak vs. AAC competition, but the Knights were able to come away with a 25-21 home win. UCF trailed 13-12 deep into the fourth quarter, but the teams traded three touchdowns in the final 4:36 of play. UCF went up 18-13 and then Cincy responded to go ahead 21-18 with 3:04 to play. From there, backup QB Mikey Keene (in for the injured John Rhys Plumlee) led the Knights down the field for the game-winning score with 48 seconds to play. The AAC race is very crowded with Tulane undefeated and UCF, Cincinnati and Houston all with 3-1 records in conference play.

Utah QB Bryson Barnes: Utah QB Cam Rising was a surprise scratch on Thursday night with the Utes in Pullman to face Washington State. It was determined in pregame warmups that Rising couldn’t play, leaving sophomore walk-on Bryson Barnes to play quarterback for the Utes in an important Pac-12 road game. And he delivered when his name was called. Barnes threw for 175 yards and a touchdown while adding 51 rushing yards in a 21-17 win. With the win, Utah improved to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in Pac-12 play. The defending Pac-12 champions are very much in the mix to get back to the conference title game.

Utah quarterback Bryson Barnes (16) carries the ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game \W|, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
Utah quarterback Bryson Barnes (16) carries the ball during the first half of an NCAA college football game \W|, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Florida International: FIU went a combined 1-16 in 2020 and 2021 and had a contentious parting of ways with Butch Davis. In Year 1 under Mike MacIntyre, things have changed in a big way. FIU improved to 4-4 with a 42-34 double-overtime home win over Louisiana Tech on Friday night. This is a team that lost by a combined margin of 114-12 to Texas State and Western Kentucky earlier this season and also has a 33-12 loss to UConn. But FIU has now won back-to-back games and needs to go 2-2 over its final four games to get to a bowl.

North Texas: North Texas picked up a big win in the Conference USA race on Saturday. UNT trounced Western Kentucky 40-13 on the road to improve to 4-1 in conference play. The Mean Green were a 10-point underdog but were able to turn a close game into a blowout by outsourcing the Hilltoppers 20-0 in the fourth quarter. UNT is behind only UTSA in the C-USA standings and has FIU, UAB and Rice remaining on its schedule. The Mean Green have a great chance to get to the C-USA title game.

Charlotte: Last weekend, Charlotte fired Will Healy after a 34-15 loss to FIU that dropped the 49ers to 1-7 on the year. This week, the 49ers responded with a blowout 56-23 road win over Rice. Rice entered the game with a 4-3 record and bowl hopes, but Charlotte came out and played inspired football for interim head coach Pete Rossomando. The 49ers had 514 yards of offense in the win.

LOSERS

Wake Forest: No. 10 Wake Forest had an absolute meltdown in the second half vs. Louisville. The Demon Deacons came out of halftime with a 14-13 lead and then proceeded to commit six turnovers in the third quarter alone. That included two pick-sixes thrown by Sam Hartman. By the time the third quarter ended, Louisville had a 48-14 lead. In all, Wake Forest would turn the ball over eight times in the second half in an embarrassing 48-21 loss.

Syracuse: After a 6-0 start and a top-15 ranking, Syracuse has now lost back-to-back games. The Orange blew a lead in a tough loss at Clemson last week. This week, the Orange got overpowered in a 41-24 home loss to Notre Dame. The Irish couldn’t throw the ball much, so they decided to run the ball 56 times. It worked. Notre Dame put up 246 rushing yards while limiting Syracuse to just 61 rushing yards. Notre Dame also had a pick-six and blocked a punt, leading directly to 14 points. Syracuse has already outplayed preseason expectations by being bowl eligible, but there’s potential for a major collapse in the weeks to come.

South Carolina: After cracking the Top 25 for the first time since 2018, South Carolina promptly lost, 23-10, at home to Missouri. The Gamecocks posted wins over Kentucky and Texas A&M in their previous two games, but UK was without Will Levis and A&M gifted them an early lead with a slew of first-quarter mistakes. Missouri, other than missing a chip-shot field goal, didn’t make those mistakes. The Mizzou defense limited South Carolina’s offense to just 203 yards as Spencer Rattler struggled once again. Three of the Gamecocks’ last four games are on the road, but they need just one win to get to a bowl. With Florida, Tennessee and Clemson remaining, they would be wise to take care of that next week at Vanderbilt.

South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer raises his hands after a missed pass interference call during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Missouri, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)
South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer raises his hands after a missed pass interference call during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Missouri, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)

Auburn: It feels like only a matter of time before Bryan Harsin is shown the door at Auburn. The Tigers dropped to 3-5 with a 41-27 home loss to Arkansas on Saturday. The Razorbacks put up 520 yards, including 286 on the ground, in the win. Auburn has now lost five of six after starting the year 3-1. With games against Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Alabama remaining on the schedule, a bowl game feels far-fetched. And with a new athletic director hire reportedly being finalized, will a coaching change come soon?

Boston College: Speaking of embarrassing losses, Boston College lost to UConn for the first time ever on Saturday. The schools had faced off 14 times dating back to 1908 and Boston College held a 12-0-2 edge in the series — until this time. UConn won 13-3, forcing five BC turnovers in the process. BC also had an early turnover downs that led to a UConn field goal. For the Huskies, it marked the program’s first win over a Power Five program since 2016. For BC, it marked a terrible loss in an extremely disappointing season for Jeff Hafley. BC is now 2-6 on the year.

Iowa State: Iowa State remained winless in Big 12 play with a 27-13 loss to Oklahoma at home. The Cyclones were coming off a bye yet could not find a way to generate anything on the ground against a porous Oklahoma defense. ISU rushed for just 66 yards on 27 carries, forcing Hunter Dekkers to go to the air often. Dekkers finished with 308 passing yards, but did so on 57 attempts with three interceptions. Dekkers was picked off twice in the fourth quarter when ISU was trailing just 20-13. The Cyclones are now 3-5 overall with an 0-5 record in conference play.

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell watches from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Ames, Iowa. Oklahoma won 27-13. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell watches from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Ames, Iowa. Oklahoma won 27-13. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Northwestern: Is it time to start asking questions about Pat Fitzgerald? Northwestern just keeps losing games and were somehow able to make the Iowa offense look competent on Saturday. The Wildcats lost 33-13 to the Hawkeyes in Iowa City, allowing the nation’s worst offense to put up nearly 400 yards in the process. At the same time, the Northwestern offense finished with only 177 yards. Over the past two seasons, the Wildcats have a combined 4-16 record with a 2-12 mark in Big Ten play. They also went 3-9 (1-8 Big Ten) in 2019.

Virginia: The Cavaliers lost, 14-12, to Miami in quadruple overtime. You may be wondering how the game got to multiple overtimes and ended with that score. We’re here to help. After a 3-3 first half, the game was tied at 6-6 in regulation. The teams traded field goals in each of the first two overtime periods and then failed to convert their 2-point tries in the third overtime. Virginia’s fourth OT pass fell incomplete on its attempt while Miami QB Jake Garcia scored the game winner for the Hurricanes. The loss drops the Cavaliers to 3-5 and 1-4 in the ACC in coach Tony Elliott’s first season and was also something that hadn’t happened in over 40 years.

BYU: BYU is one of the most disappointing teams in the country. After a 4-1 start, the Cougars have dropped four straight games following Friday night’s home loss to East Carolina. Friday night’s loss came on the heels of a 41-14 road blowout at Liberty. The Cougars are decimated by injuries and in the midst of a brutal stretch of schedule. And it won’t let up with a trip to Boise State coming next weekend. At 4-5, BYU needs to go 2-1 down the stretch to be bowl eligible. Utah Tech and a trip to Stanford are also on the schedule.