Analyzing the AP Top 25 Poll Ahead of the Week 13 College Football Playoff Rankings

The latest AP Top 25 Poll was released on Sunday ahead of a huge Week 13 in the college football season. We analyzed the AP poll to see what we can learn before the next College Football Playoff rankings are announced Tuesday.

Here are the biggest takeaways.

Washington State leaps LSU, climbs to No. 7

If Washington State continues to win, it’s only a matter of time until the Cougars pass LSU in the College Football Playoff rankings. It might even happen this week.

The Washington State-LSU dynamic is an interesting one because Wazzu is still alive in the playoff chase as a one-loss team that could win a Power Five conference championship and LSU is a two-loss team that won’t play for a conference title but it still has a strong resume. The lack of Pac-12 teams in the CFP rankings is what has kept Washington State below LSU after the Tigers suffered their second loss.

UCF is tied for the second-biggest riser of the week

Northwestern had the biggest jump of any team this week, climbing four spots to No. 20, and UCF was one of four teams that improved by three spots. The Knights are now ranked No. 8 in the AP Top 25, tied with LSU in votes, as they jumped Ohio State and West Virginia.

If UCF is ranked in a similar position in the CFP rankings, it’ll actually have an outside shot of being in the playoff conversation. That’s still unlikely but if UCF is ranked No. 8 heading into Week 13 and there’s some combination of Northwestern winning the Big Ten Championship, Alabama winning the SEC Championship, three-loss Texas winning the Big 12 Championship and Washington State losing at least one more game, maybe the Knights could finish in the top six, which would still be a step forward for a Group of Five team.

No changes in the top six

The top of the AP Top 25 Poll is still No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 Oklahoma. After two relatively quiet weeks atop the College Football Playoff rankings, Week 13 will deliver some major matchups with monumental conference championship and playoff implications.

We’re talking about Michigan-Ohio State, Oklahoma-West Virginia and Washington State-Washington as two top-six teams will go on the road this week and have to win in order to clinch a spot in their respective conference championship games.

Maybe Michigan and Oklahoma win on the road, keeping their one-loss records intact, and go into their respective conference title games with their playoff hopes still alive. Or maybe fellow top-15 teams Ohio State and West Virginia will both win at home and totally shake up the top of the CFP rankings.

What the AP Top 25 Poll voters (and potentially the playoff selection committee) are saying is that until the playoff contenders play each other, they’re not going to change the order of the country’s top teams.

Profiles of conference championship games rise

After beating Wake Forest and clinching the ACC Coastal, Pitt cracked the AP Top 25 at No. 24. The Panthers are nowhere near the College Football Playoff conversation but at least Clemson will play a ranked opponent in the ACC Championship.

As previously mentioned, Northwestern moved up to No. 20, providing a respectable opponent for Michigan or Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship.

Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia are ranked No. 6, No. 11 and No. 12, respectively, so the Big 12 Championship should feature a pair of top-15 teams regardless of the outcome of the Sooners-Mountaineers game in Morgantown, West Virginia, in Week 13.

Washington State and Washington climbed one spot each, while Utah rose three spots, so the Pac-12 Championship could also be between a pair of top-15 teams.

The SEC Championship between No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Georgia will have the highest profile of any conference championship game but the other power conference championship games should still feature two ranked teams, even if both teams aren’t playoff contenders.