Utah’s move to another high mark in the College Football Playoff rankings was somewhat offset by Oregon’s big drop Tuesday.
Just as in this week’s AP Top 25, Utah is up one position to No. 6 and Oregon is No. 14, having dropped eight spots after a 31-28 loss at Arizona State. The effect is a partial devaluation of the teams’ potential meeting in next week’s Pac-12 championship game in Santa Clara, Calif.
Utah (10-1) needs the Ducks (9-2) to be ranked as high as possible, for the sake of building its CFP credentials. There is a theory, for example, that No. 7 Oklahoma would receive a bigger boost by beating No. 9 Baylor in the Big 12 title game. Baylor made a big move from No. 14 this week.
The most significant news Tuesday was Ohio State’s replacing LSU as the No. 1 team. If that ranking holds and Utah makes the playoff at No. 4, the Buckeyes would become the Utes’ opponent in the semifinals.
As for this weekend, other than Utah’s needing to beat Colorado to win the Pac-12 South title, the most meaningful game from a Ute perspective is No. 5 Alabama’s visit to No. 15 Auburn. The Crimson Tide have to show they’re not affected by the loss of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, playing their first FBS opponent with Mac Jones as the quarterback.
“I think the Utes are in a good spot,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said in a Twitter video clip. “There’s a lot on the line, as far as style points for Alabama. They’ve got to not only beat Auburn on the road … but they’ve got to look good doing it, because that’s their only leg to stand on.”
Herbstreit concluded there's a “really, really good chance Utah ends up being that team to get into that fourth and final spot.”
The CBS Sports computer models, however, gives Alabama a 42% chance of making the semifinals to Utah’s 25% chance.
“I’m still looking toward a one-loss Alabama making it ahead of a one-loss Utah or Oklahoma team,” data analyst Stephen Oh said.