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SQ College Football Top-25 Power Rankings: Bowl Season

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It’s bowl season! Which teams cracked our top-10 before the madness starts? Find out here.

After a thrilling roller coaster of a season, we’ve finally reached the best part of the year: bowl season. It’s the time of year when all bets are off and some of the most exciting matchups come to fruition. The College Football Playoff is set as Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Alabama has filled out the top-4. But just because that was who the committee selected doesn’t mean that’s who we thought should be in the top-4. Find out who we thought deserved to be in the final four below and let us know in the comments if we got it right.

25. Boise State 

Previous Rank: Unranked

“Boise State hasn’t finished the season ranked in the top-25 since 2014. After upsetting Fresno State in the Mountain West title game, the Broncos found themselves ranked 25th in the latest College Football Playoff poll. However, they’re facing a tough Oregon team that could throw a wrench in that plan. On top of that, top rusher Alex Mattison is questionable coming into the game. Quarterback Brett Rypien is good enough to lead the offense down the field, but not having that solid rushing option could make this team a little too one dimensional.” - Sean Berger

24. NC State 

Previous Rank: 25

N.C. State is a fine team with some clear flaws. Outside of future first-round-pick Bradley Chubb, the defense lacks a significant amount of talent. Offensively, quarterback Ryan Finley gets the job done, but isn’t anything special, and the same goes for running back Nyheim Hines. However, together, the pieces work together well enough to produce wins. The Wolfpack receive a favorable bowl matchup against a weak Arizona State team that ranks 79th in overall S&P+. We’ll see if this N.C. State unit can pull out one more win this season.” - Ryan Neu

23. Mississippi State 

Previous Rank: 23

“As Mississippi State prepares for their bowl game matchup against Louisville, they’ll take the field on December 30th looking a little different from when the season began. First, quarterback Nick Fitzgerald won’t be suiting up due to a foot injury in the Ole Miss game. Also, head coach Dan Mullen left town to take the Florida gig. To make matters even worse, he’s also taking defensive coordinator Todd Grantham with him. After Mullen announced he was leaving, Mississippi State signed Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead to take Mullen’s spot, which appears to be a solid move.” - Colton Spaur

22. Virginia Tech 

Previous Rank: 22

“After looking like one of the better offensive teams in the country when the season started, Virginia Tech’s production has slowed down considerably. Although the Hokies won their final two games of the season, they only managed to score a total of 30 points. That’s not going to get the job done when they take on a high-powered Oklahoma State offense in the Camping World Bowl. This offense better shape up quick or it’s going to be embarrassed in the final game of the season.” - Sean Berger

21. Northwestern 

Previous Rank: 21

“The Wildcats closed the season with seven consecutive wins, and will head into the Music City Bowl against Kentucky with the momentum edge. Northwestern is at their best when quarterback Clayton Thorson is taking care of the football. In their three losses, Thorson has thrown six picks. In their wins, however, Thorson is averaging less than a pick per game. If he can continue to avoid giveaways like he has during the win streak, Northwestern will have a good shot at finishing the year with ten wins.” - Colton Spaur 

20. Memphis 

Previous Rank: 16

“Memphis is going to torch Iowa State. The Cyclones impressed at parts this season, and certainly exceeded expectations for a team that was a combined 11-37 during the past four seasons, but Memphis’s offense is firing on all cylinders, and Iowa State does not have the capacity to slow it down. Quarterback Riley Ferguson and wide receiver Anthony Miller are one of the most lethal combinations in the country and running backs Darrell Henderson and Patrick Taylor Jr. have combined for almost 2,000 rushing yards and more than 20 rushing touchdowns on the season. Memphis’s weakness is its defense, but if it can force a couple turnovers, the offense should be able to help the Tigers cruise to a victory.” - Ryan Neu

19. LSU

Previous Rank: 18

“Finishing the regular season at 9-3 should be looked at as a success for Coach O’s first full campaign in Baton Rouge. After losing to Troy, it seemed like this LSU team was doomed and the administration had made a mistake in hiring the new head coach. But after reeling off six wins in seven games to end the season, the Tigers look like a completely different team. Looking ahead to the Citrus Bowl against Notre Dame, it’s imperative for LSU to keep Josh Adams and Brandon Wimbush in check on the ground. Defending the run has at times hurt LSU, having given up 607 rushing yards in its three losses, but they’ve turned things around at the end of the season. In the final two games, the Tigers gave up just 93 yards on 61 carries.” - Sean Berger

18. Oklahoma State 

Previous Rank: 17

“Oklahoma State is basically Oklahoma but in Stillwater. The Cowboys have an elite quarterback, a high-octane offense, and a well-below-average defense. The one key difference between the two programs, is Oklahoma State’s lack of an “it” factor. Perhaps it’s little brother syndrome, perhaps Baker Mayfield’s swagger propels Oklahoma higher, but for some reason, Oklahoma State lacked the ability to come up with the big wins.The Cowboys are still a strong team, though, and are the favorites in the Camping World Bowl against Virginia Tech.” - Ryan Neu 

17. Washington State 

Previous Rank: 19

“Luke Falk’s finale at Washington State will come in the Holiday Bowl against Michigan State. Falk and head coach Mike Leach have resurrected a beleaguered Cougars program, and Falk will certainly look to end his collegiate career with a victory. The offense hasn’t been entirely up to standards this season (57th in offense S&P+ and t-41st in scoring offense), but Washington State is liable to pop off 30-plus points at a moment’s notice. Sparty is a bit overrated, and has an anemic offense (23.1 points per game, 106th nationally). Look for Wazzu to finish the season strong and send Falk off with a fond farewell.” - Ryan Neu 

16. Michigan State 

Previous Rank: 20

“Mark Dantonio and the Spartans rebounded from a dismal 3-9 season a year ago, going 9-3 and earning a bid to the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl. The Spartans had impressive wins against both Michigan and Penn State, while their three losses came against teams that are all currently ranked. Michigan State will play Washington State in the bowl game, who lost three of their last six after starting the year 6-0.” - Colton Spaur 

15. Notre Dame 

Previous Rank: 15

“When the month of November started Notre Dame looked like a potential playoff team with its only loss being to a stout Georgia team. Fast forward to the end of the season, and the Fighting Irish are just hoping to end the season on a positive note. Notre Dame lost two of its final three games to Miami and Stanford, and neither game was close. Before facing those two teams, Notre Dame averaged over 300 rushing yards per game. In those two losses, the Fighting Irish combined for just 263 yards on the ground. When the run game isn’t working, it’s hard for this offense to be successful. Playing against LSU should offer an interesting challenge in the Citrus Bowl. Both teams love to run the ball, so whoever wins the ground game will emerge victorious.” - Sean Berger

14. TCU

Previous Rank: 10

“In a rematch from mid-November, Oklahoma once again topped TCU, this time for the Big-12 Championship. The Horned Frogs couldn’t stop Heisman winner Baker Mayfield, as he threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns to lead to Sooners into the College Football Playoff. The Horned Frogs earned a bid to the Valero Alamo Bowl against Stanford, where they’ll be tasked with slowing down star running back Bryce Love. Love finished second in the Heisman voting and has rushed for over 100 yards in 11 of his 12 games this year. It’ll be a tough task to say the least for this TCU defense.” - Colton Spaur 

13. Stanford 

Previous Rank: 14

“After falling to USC 31-28 in the Pac-12 Championship game, Stanford is headed to the Valero Alamo Bowl where they’ll take on 15th ranked TCU.  The matchup to watch in this game will be Bryce Love against TCU’s stout run defense. Love has been arguably the best running back in the nation, as he’s rushed for over 100 yards in 11 of Stanford’s 12 games. On the other side, TCU has the fourth-best run defense in the nation, giving up just 2.91 yards per carry. Keep your eyes on this battle, as it’s one of the most intriguing matchups of this bowl season.” - Colton Spaur 

12. Washington 

Previous Rank: 13

“After losing to Stanford and missing out on a chance to play for the PAC-12 title, Washington finished the season off strong with wins over Utah and Washington State. The Huskies combined to score 74 points in their final two games of the regular season and now look to take that production into the Fiesta Bowl with a matchup against Penn State. Look for quarterback Jake Browning to take advantage of a pass defense that has given up over 300 yards in three of its last five games. Browning lit up Utah for 354 yards, so he’s capable of producing big time plays with his arm.” - Sean Berger

11. Miami 

Previous Rank: 7

“Despite the loss to Pitt in the regular season finale, Miami still had the opportunity to make the playoff by knocking off top-ranked Clemson and claiming the ACC crown. Clemson had other ideas, as they thumped Miami 38-3 to claim their third consecutive conference title. Quarterback Malik Rosier continued to ride the struggle bus as he completed less than 50% of his passes for the second consecutive week and also turned the ball over twice. Despite not reaching the playoff, Miami’s football program took a major step forward this year. They made their first ever ACC Championship game appearance and reached ten wins for the first time since 2003. Miami will face Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium, where the Hurricanes are 7-0 and have defeated two ranked opponents in primetime this season.” - Colton Spaur 

10. Penn State 

Previous Rank: 9

“Four points. Four points were the difference between the Nittany Lions’ Fiesta Bowl consolation prize and a potential Playoff berth. In back-to-back weeks, Penn State fell to Ohio State by one point on a final-minute touchdown, then lost to Michigan State by three on a last-second field goal. Since, Penn State has quietly dropped 52.3 points per game and allowed only 17.7 points per game. Now Saquon Barkley and company will take on a Washington team that is facing a similar disappointment about falling short of the Playoff. So long as it keeps playing the way it has the past month, Penn State should come away with a victory.” - Ryan Neu 

9. UCF

Previous Rank: 12

UCF’s offense is incredible; however, it hasn’t exactly been tested by the country’s best defenses this year. The only Power Five team the Knights faced this year was a bad Maryland team, and now they get to test their mettle against Auburn. The Tigers allow 17.3 points per game, which is 32.1 points fewer than UCF averages per game offensively. It will be interesting to see if the Knights can still put up big numbers against an elite defense, but either way, something’s got to give in the Peach Bowl.” - Ryan Neu 

8. USC

Previous Rank: 11

“Sam Darnold has arguably one of his best performances of the year, throwing for 325 yards and two touchdowns to help the Trojans claim their first conference crown since 2008. Not only was the passing game clicking, but the running game was also effective against Stanford. Running back Ronald Jones II reached the 100-yard mark for the ninth time this season, rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns on the night. USC’s balanced attack and third down success (6 for 13) led the Trojans to an offensive outburst of 501 yards and 31 points. The win bumped USC up to eighth in the College Football Rankings, earning a bid to the Cotton Bowl against Big Ten champions Ohio State. If it weren’t for the Rose Bowl being a CFP game, then this matchup would be taking place in Pasadena and would essentially be a home game for the Trojans. However, they’ll now have to travel to Texas due to the College Football Playoff.” - Colton Spaur 

7. Wisconsin 

Previous Rank: 3

“Wisconsin finally had their chance to prove themselves. The Badgers were tasked with their first top-10 opponent of the season, and the game was on a neutral field. All the Badgers had to do was win and they’d be locked into the College Football Playoff as the only unbeaten Power Five team in the country. However, Wisconsin’s plans were derailed by J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes, as they held on for a 27-21 win in what was one of the most exciting conference championship games. Ohio State did a great job of taking away freshman phenom Jonathan Taylor, as he was held to a season-low 41 yards, averaging just 2.7 yards per carry. This forced quarterback Alex Hornibrook into a bigger role in the offense, which the Badgers aren’t accustomed to. Hornibrook threw a season-high 40 passes, completing just 47.5% of them. The bigger issue was Hornibrook’s two interceptions, as turnovers have been an issue for him throughout the season. The loss leaves the Badgers out of the College Football Playoff, as they’ll have to settle with a bid to the Orange Bowl as a consolation prize.” - Colton Spaur 

6. Auburn 

Previous Rank: 4

“It’s unfortunate that Auburn slipped up against LSU midseason. Personally, I think Auburn is a better football team than Alabama. If Auburn’s only two losses on the year were to Clemson and Georgia, there’s a legitimate chance the Tigers would have gotten the fourth seed instead of Alabama. Sadly, with three losses, there was no way Auburn could hope to earn a Playoff berth. Instead we get to see Auburn’s vaunted defense in an intriguing Peach Bowl matchup against UCF’s prolific offense. I suppose that will have to serve as a sufficient alternative for the Tigers.” - Ryan Neu 

5. Ohio State 

Previous Rank: 8

“Ohio State fans feel a little jaded after being snubbed for a berth in the College Football Playoff. However, it was the right decision. Had the Buckeyes not given up 55 points to Iowa, they might be getting ready for the Sugar Bowl right now as opposed to the Cotton Bowl against USC. However, that’s still a game of great interest with two top offenses facing off against each other. USC will be keying in on freshman phenom J.K. Dobbins, so quarterback J.T. Barrett will need to exploit a pass defense that has given up just under 1,000 passing yards over the last three games.” - Sean Berger  

4. Alabama 

Previous Rank: 5

“Meanwhile, Alabama fans are champing at the bit to get their hands on Clemson in a rematch of the last two national championships. Alabama snuck their way into the Playoff, but with a reputation like theirs, it’s hard to hold them out when you know you’re going to get a solid performance from Nick Saban and co. Without Deshaun Watson it’ll be interesting to see if Clemson’s offense will have the same impact against this stout defense. Clemson’s defense is going to show up, but if it’s offense doesn’t the Tide could have their way with the Tigers.” - Sean Berger

3. Georgia 

Previous Rank: 6

“The Bulldogs avenged their only loss of the season by beating Auburn, 28-7, in the SEC title game and earning a spot in this year’s Playoff. Georgia is one of the most balanced teams in the country, with a top-10 defense and top-20 offense by S&P+. True freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has emerged as one of the better quarterbacks in the nation and the two-headed monster of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb makes the Bulldogs’ backfield incredibly formidable. Don’t sleep on UGA in the Playoff this year.” - Ryan Neu 

2. Clemson

Previous Rank: 2

“Clemson mutilated Miami in the ACC championship to clinch its third straight conference title and third consecutive trip to the Playoff. The defending national champions boast one of, if not the strongest defense in the country. They also have an offense that has found itself throughout the year. Clemson’s offense is not as fierce as it was last season with Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, and Wayne Gallman, but quarterback Kelly Bryant has shown himself a capable passer and a dangerous runner, and skill players Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow, Ray-Ray McCloud, and Travis Etienne are all extremely talented. Clemson could certainly repeat as national champions, the first team to do so since Alabama in 2011-12.” - Ryan Neu 

1. Oklahoma 

Previous Rank: 1

“If Oklahoma is going to win the College Football Playoff, it is going to do so entirely on the back of Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. The Sooners defense is bad (95th in defense S&P+, 52nd in scoring defense, and 57th in total defense). Occasionally it plays well enough to hold opponents to a reasonable amount of points, but Oklahoma cannot count on that. What it must count on is Mayfield continuing to dominate opposing defenses. Mayfield is somehow completing 71.0 percent of his passes for 11.8 yards per attempt–an astounding combination of efficiency and explosiveness.He’ll have his biggest test when he faces Roquan Smith and the Georgia defense in the semifinal. I think he is up to the task.” - Ryan Neu

Edited by Robert Hess.

Which of these schools is the only to have made it to the College Football Playoff every year since its inception in 2014?
Created 12/15/17
  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Ohio State

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