Utah remained No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings published Tuesday, when the biggest development for the Utes and Oregon was USC's making the list at No. 23.
The rise of the Trojans gives more value to No. 6 Oregon's rout of USC and makes Utah's lone loss (30-23) of the season somewhat more forgivable. The ranking also means that if Oregon and Utah keep winning, the team that wins their anticipated meeting in the Pac-12 championship game would receive a significant boost, potentially into the top four and a semifinal berth in the Playoff.
In a media teleconference Tuesday, CFP committee chair Rob Mullens pointed out that Utah running back Zack Moss missed most of the game at USC, injuring his shoulder early in the second quarter.
The committee kept Alabama at No. 5, following some suggestions that the Crimson Tide may fall after losing quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to a season-ending hip injury. With backup Mac Jones at quarterback, Alabama could enhance its credentials by winning Nov. 30 at Auburn. Even then, the Utah-Oregon winner might get enough of a bump to leapfrog the Tide.
Oregon has clinched the Pac-12 North title; Utah will have to beat both Arizona and Colorado to earn the South crown, assuming USC beats UCLA on Saturday. Of course, any loss for either Oregon or Utah would eliminate that team from CFP consideration. The Ducks and Utes both will be playing in Arizona on Saturday night, with Oregon meeting Arizona State in Tempe.
The Pac-12 schools also face a mild threat from No. 8 Penn State, if the Nittany Lions upset No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday. Otherwise, the Pac-12 champion’s hopes likely will hinge on the Southeastern Conference championship game, Dec. 7. If No. 4 Georgia upsets No. 1 LSU, the SEC likely will have two Playoff berths.
If the Utes lose in the Pac-12 title game, two potential fallback positions in New Year’s Six games would be available to them. If Oregon makes the CFP, Utah would be the Pac-12′s replacement team in the Rose Bowl. If Oregon is in the Rose Bowl, Utah likely would remain the CFP’s highest-ranked team as an at-large selection to the Cotton Bowl. The opponent would be the highest-ranked champion of a Group of Five conference, such as No. 18 Memphis, No. 19 Cincinnati or No. 20 Boise State.