College football power rankings for Week 12

ByMark Schlabach ESPN logo
Sunday, November 17, 2019

Defending national champion Clemson has won 26 games in a row, but the 11 teams the Tigers have topped this season haven't exactly been Murderers' Row. At least Trevor Lawrence & Co. are absolutely destroying their opposition.

Ohio State might be the most complete team in the FBS, but it's hard to gauge exactly how good the Buckeyes are when they're beating up on Maryland and Rutgers.

LSU might have the most impressive body of work to date with victories over Texas, Florida, Auburn and Alabama, but at least two of those triumphs don't look as impressive as they once did. And the Tigers aren't exactly the Steel Curtain on defense after allowing 614 yards of offense in a 58-37 win over Ole Miss on Saturday. It was the fourth time this season the Tigers have yielded 450 yards or more. LSU's offense is as good as anyone's. Its defense? Yeah, not so much.

So who's No. 1 with two weeks to go in the regular season? Here are the ESPN Power Rankings after Week 12.

1. Clemson (11-0)

The defending national champions seem to be hitting their stride with only one game left in the regular season. The Tigers blasted Wake Forest 52-3 at Death Valley for their 26th consecutive victory on Saturday, and they're one win from finishing unbeaten in the regular season for the second year in a row. Clemson has scored at least 45 points in six consecutive games and hasn't allowed an opponent to score more than 14 during that stretch. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Tigers are only the third team during the AP poll era (since 1936) -- 1971 Nebraska and 1944 Army are the others -- to win four straight contests by at least 45 points. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence matched his career high with four touchdown passes and completed 21 of 27 passes for 272 yards. Tailback Travis Etienne ran for 121 yards on 16 carries, and Tee Higginsscored three times on receptions. The Tigers have a bye before closing the regular season against in-state rival South Carolina on the road.

Up next: at South Carolina (Nov. 30, TBD)

2. Ohio State (10-0)

The Buckeyes took care of business in their final warm-up before a challenging two-game stretch to close the regular season, beating Rutgers 56-21 on the road for their 16th consecutive win. Quarterback Justin Fields threw for a career-high 305 yards with four touchdowns on 15-for-19 passing and tailback J.K. Dobbins ran for 89 yards with two scores as Ohio State's offense piled up 594 yards. Dobbins has multiple touchdowns from scrimmage in four straight games, the longest streak by aBuckeyes player since Ezekiel Elliott in 2014. Ohio State hosts Penn State next week before closing the regular season at rival Michigan on Nov. 30.

Up next: vs. Penn State (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)

3. LSU (10-0)

The Tigers' high-flying offense continued to flourish in a 58-37 win at Ole Miss on Saturday night. But how much should we be concerned about LSU's defense? The Tigers allowed 614 yards of offense, including 402 rushing on 44 attempts (9.1 yards per carry). Rebels quarterback John Rhys Plumlee passed for 123 yards and ran 21 times for 212 yards with four scores. Still, the Tigers were too prolific on offense to be in serious trouble, piling up 714 yards, including 489 passing. Heisman Trophy favorite Joe Burrow threw five touchdowns and completed 32 passes. It was his fourth game this season with at least five touchdown passes, which tied Missouri's Drew Lock (2017) for most in SEC history. Ja'Marr Chasecaught eight passes for 227 yards with three scores, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran 23 times for 172 yards with one score. The Tigers remain in control of the SEC West, with home games left against Arkansas and Texas A&M.

Up next: vs. Arkansas (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

4. Oregon (9-1)

As expected, the Ducks didn't receive much of a challenge from Arizona in their 34-6 victory, as they held their opponent to seven or fewer points for the fifth time this season. Quarterback Justin Herbert threw for a season-high 333 yards with four touchdown passes and a pick. With 28 touchdown passes to just three interceptions, Herbert has played himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion and could find himself in New York if he finishes strong, with games against Arizona State and Oregon State remaining. More important, Oregon remains in a good position to reach the playoff.

Up next: at Arizona State (Saturday, TBD)

5. Georgia(9-1)

It wasn't easy, but the Bulldogs clinched their third consecutive SEC East title with a 21-14 decision at Auburn on Saturday. That's the longest streak for SEC East crowns since Florida won five in a row from 1992 to 1996. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 21-0 lead going into the fourth quarter and held on to move to 6-1 in the conference. Georgia closes SEC play at home against Texas A&M next week, then plays at Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale. With UGA's fourth straight win, ESPN's Football Power Index gives it a 42% chance to make the CFP. Quarterback Jake Fromm completed 13 of 28 passes for 110 yards with three scores, and tailback D'Andre Swiftran for 106 yards on 17 carries. The Bulldogs finished with only 251 yards of offense, the lowest total for a team winning against an AP top-15 foeon the road since LSU had 239 yards in a 9-6 victory in overtime at Alabama in 2011.

Up next: vs. Texas A&M (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

6. Alabama (9-1)

The Crimson Tide rolled past Mississippi State 38-7 on the road Saturday but lost star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for the remainder of the season. Tagovailoa, who had surgery on his right ankle about five weeks ago, injured his right hip with about three minutes left in the first half. He suffered a dislocated hip and a posterior wall fracture. Tagovailoa was hurt with the Tide leading 35-7, and coach Nick Saban will undoubtedly be second-guessed for still having his star quarterback in the game. Defensive linemen Raekwon Davis (left leg),DJ Dale(knee) and receiver Henry Ruggs III (undisclosed) also were hurt. Davis was carted to the locker room late in the first half, and he didn't return. Backup quarterback Mac Jones completed 7 of 11 passes for 94 yards in Tagovailoa's absence. The Tide scored only three points after halftime.

Up next: vs. Western Carolina (Saturday, noon ET)

7. Utah (9-1)

The Utes maintained control of the Pac-12 South and moved a step closer to the Pac-12 championship game and a chance at the Rose Bowl (or CFP?) by blasting UCLA 49-3 at home Saturday. Utah's stingy defense limited the Bruins to 269 yards of offense, forced five turnovers and sacked quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson five times. He threw two interceptions and lost a pair of fumbles. UCLA's three points was the fewest it had scored in a game since being shut out by USC on Nov. 26, 2011. Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley threw for a season-high 335 yards with two scores, and tailback Zack Moss ran 17 times for 127 yards with two scores. The Utes have a one-game lead over USC in the Pac-12 South standings, and they'll be heavy favorites in their last two games at Arizona next week and home against Colorado on Nov. 30.

Up next: at Arizona (Saturday, TBD)

8. Oklahoma (9-1)

Oklahoma kept its Big 12 title and CFP hopes alive with a big dose of Sooner Magic in a 34-31 decision at Baylor on Saturday. The Sooners trailed by 25 points in the second quarter and 21 at the half. But OU outscored Baylor 24-0 in the second half and won on Gabe Brkic's 31-yard field goal with 1:45 to play. It was the biggest comeback in school history and marked only the second time in the past 15 years that a team trailing by 25 points to a ranked team on the road came from behind to win (teams were 1-906 in such situations). Oklahoma's quick-strike offense put together touchdown drives of 12, 13 and 13 plays after intermission, consuming more than 16 minutes. OU's 58 offensive plays in the second half were the most by an FBS team this season, according to data from ESPN Stats & Info. Quarterback Jalen Hurts had three turnovers, including a fumble into the Bears' end zone, but he bounced back to complete 30 of 42 passes for 297 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. He also ran 27 times for 114 yards. The Sooners were without star receiver CeeDee Lamb, who didn't play because of an undisclosed "medical issue."

Up next: vs. TCU (Saturday, TBD)

9. Penn State (9-1)

The Nittany Lions bounced back from their first loss of the season by grinding out a 34-27 win over Indiana at home. After the Hoosiers cut Penn State's lead to 27-24 with 10:45 to go, the Nittany Lions put together an 18-play, 75-yard drive that ate 9:01 off the clock. QuarterbackSean Clifford's 1-yard run gave PSU a 10-point lead. Clifford scored three touchdowns, while passing for 179 yards and rushing for 55 more. Journey Brown added 100 rushing yards with one score. Star receiver KJ Hamler left after a kickoff return in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury, but coach James Franklin is hopeful he'll play next week. The Nittany Lions stayed within one game of Ohio State in the Big Ten East standings. They play the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe next week.

Up next: at Ohio State (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)

10. Florida (9-2)

The Gators remained in the mix for a New Year's Six bowl game by knocking off Missouri 23-6 on the road. After struggling on offense in the first half, Florida quarterback Kyle Trask threw two touchdowns in the third quarter to help the Gators pull away. He completed 23 of 35 passes for 282 yards with two touchdowns. He has thrown at least two touchdowns in eight consecutive games, which is the longest streak by a Florida player since Tim Tebow did it in 10 straight contests in 2008. But the story for Florida was its defense, which allowed only 52 rushing yards and had 10 tackles for loss, including five with two sacks by Jonathan Greenard. The Gators get a week off before closing the regular season against rival Florida State at the Swamp on Nov. 30.

Up next: vs. Florida State (Nov. 30, TBD)

11. Baylor (9-1)

The Bears squandered a golden opportunity Saturday, blowing a 25-point lead in their Big 12 showdown against four-time defending league champion Oklahoma at home. The Bears were shut out in the second half and couldn't muster much of anything on offense. With the Sooners dominating time of possession, Baylor had only five possessions in the second half, which resulted in a fumble, three punts and an interception. Quarterback Charlie Brewer had 194 passing yards with two touchdowns and one interception while running 17 times for 65 yards and two scores. The Bears can still reach the Big 12 championship game -- and a potential rematch with the Sooners -- if they take care of business in their final two games against Texas at home and at Kansas.

Up next: vs. Texas (Saturday, TBD)

12. Minnesota (9-1)

The Golden Gophers' dreams of an unbeaten season came to a screeching halt at Iowa with a 23-19 loss, just a week after they stunned Penn State 31-26 for one of the biggest victories in the program's history. Minnesota has dropped nine straight road games against the Hawkeyes and hasn't won at Kinnick Stadium since 1999. The Gophers dug themselves an early hole, falling behind 20-3 with 6:20 left in the second quarter, and they couldn't erase the deficit in the second half. Quarterback Tanner Morgan threw for 368 yards with one touchdown. The Hawkeyes had six sacks, and Morgan was knocked out in the final minute with a possible concussion. The Gophers ran for only 63 yards on 30 carries. Despite the loss, Minnesota is still in the driver's seat in the Big Ten West. It plays at Northwestern next week, followed by a showdown at home against Wisconsin on Nov. 30.

Up next: at Northwestern (Saturday, TBD)

13. Wisconsin (8-2)

The Badgers stayed within striking distance of Minnesota in the Big Ten West by winning 37-21 at Nebraska. It was the Jonathan Taylor show once again, as the star tailback ran 25 times for 204 yards with two touchdowns. It was the third time Taylor rushed for 200 yards or more against the Cornhuskers. He has 11 career games with at least 200 yards, which ties Ron Dayne, Ricky Williams and Marcus Allen for the most in FBS history, according to data from ESPN Stats & Info. With 5,634 career rushing yards, Taylor passed 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker's NCAA record for most rushing yards by a player through his junior season. Walker had 5,596 yards from 1980 to 1982. Taylor still has two regular-season games and at least a bowl game to add to his total.

Up next: vs. Purdue (Saturday, TBD)

14. Michigan (8-2)

The Wolverines' new offense is clicking at just the right time, with the showdown against Ohio State in The Game only two weeks away. Quarterback Shea Patterson threw for a season-high 384 yards with four touchdowns on 24-for-33 passing in a 44-10 rout of Michigan State on Saturday. It was the first time he had at least 300 yards with three touchdowns in a game at Michigan. He had 182 passing yards in the first half, which was the most by a Wolverines player since Chad Henne against the Spartans in 2005. Ronnie Bell caught nine passes for 150 yards. Michigan beat the Spartans for the third time in the past four meetings, after losing seven of the previous eight games.

Up next: at Indiana (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, TBD)

15. Notre Dame (8-2)

The Fighting Irish didn't sell out a home game for the first time since Thanksgiving Day of 1973, and the fans who didn't show up missed one of their most complete performances of the season. Quarterback Ian Book threw for 284 yards with five touchdowns -- four of them to Chase Claypool. It was Book's third game with at least five passing touchdowns this season, which is the most in Notre Dame history; it also ties Brady Quinn for the most in a career by an Irish player. Claypool had seven catches for 177 yards, and his four touchdown receptions tied Maurice Stovall's single-game school record, set against BYU in 2005. The Irish defense forced four fumbles, which were converted into 24 points, and it did an adequate job of stifling Navy's triple-option offense. The Irish have games left against Boston College (home) and Stanford (road), and they might be able to sneak into a New Year's Six bowl with some help.

Up next: vs. Boston College (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

16. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers started slowly at Houston -- they trailed 17-7 at the end of the first quarter -- before erupting for 35 points over the second and third quarters to pull away with a 45-27 victory. Memphis won its fourth straight game and maintained its position for the Group of 5 leagues' automatic invitation to a New Year's Six bowl. Quarterback Brady White threw for 341 yards with five touchdowns and ran for another score. He tossed touchdowns to four different players. TailbackKenneth Gainwellran for 99 yards on 17 carries as the Tigers outgained the Cougars 531-256 in total yards. Memphis went 9-for-13 on third down. The Tigers remained in a tie in the American Athletic Conference West Division with one loss in conference play. The Tigers will play at USF next week, then host Cincinnati in the Nov. 29 regular-season finale.

Up next: at USF (Saturday, TBD)

17. Iowa (7-3)

The Hawkeyes spoiled Minnesota's perfect season with a 23-19 upset of the Golden Gophers at home on Saturday. It was the sixth time since 2008 that the Hawkeyes have knocked off a ranked opponent at Kinnick Stadium in November -- and the third time in four seasons that they've upset a top-10 foe. TheHawkeyes also beat No. 3 Penn State in 2008; No. 15 Michigan in 2011; No. 3 Michigan and No. 16 Nebraska in 2016; and No. 6 Ohio State in 2017. Iowa scored touchdowns on its first three possessions to take a 20-3 lead and held off Minnesota's rally in the second half. Quarterback Nate Stanley threw for 173 yards with two touchdowns, and Tyler Goodson ran for 94 yards with one score. Iowastill can reach 10 victories this season with contests remaining against Illinois at home and Nebraska on the road, followed by a bowl game.

Up next: vs. Illinois (Saturday, noon ET, BTN)

18. Boise State (9-1)

Even with third-string quarterback Jaylon Henderson called in to start his first game for the Broncos because of injuries, New Mexico didn't provide much of a hurdle. The one-sided 42-9 affair was Boise State's third straight win since losing to BYU, and it has started a different quarterback in each one. The Broncos can clinch the Mountain West Conference's Mountain Division with a win at Utah State next week, while a loss could lead to a three-way tie atop the division with the Aggies and Air Force.

Up next: at Utah State (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN)

19. Cincinnati (9-1)

The Bearcats have been guilty of playing down to their competition at times this season, and that was the case in a 20-17 win at USF on Saturday. The Bearcats trailed 10-0 at the half after gaining only 46 yards of offense on 27 plays in the first two quarters. But they rallied to score 20 points after intermission and won on Sam Crosa's 37-yard field goal as time expired for their eighth straight victory. Cincinnati clinched at least a share of the American Athletic's East Division title. With a 6-0 record in conference play, the Bearcats are two games ahead of UCF and Temple in the league standings. Cincinnati overcame an off-night from quarterback Desmond Ridder, who completed nine of 18 passes for 78 yards. The Bearcats were outgained 438-278 in total yards.

Up next: vs. Temple (Saturday, TBD)

20. Auburn (7-3)

For the third time this season, the Tigers came up just short against a top-10 opponent, losing to Georgia 21-14 at home. After falling behind 21-0 late in the third quarter, Auburn scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make things interesting. The Tigers had two chances to tie the score late but failed to convert a pair of fourth-down plays -- at the Georgia 34 and the Auburn 27. Quarterback Bo Nix completed 30 of 50 passes for 245 yards with one touchdown, and Seth Williams caught 13 passes for 121 yards. The Bulldogs have won 12 of the past 15 meetings in the Deep South's oldest rivalry. The Tigers have games left against FCS foe Samford and No. 5 Alabama, and a loss to the Crimson Tide would only increase the scrutiny on Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who might be a top candidate for Arkansas' vacancy.

Up next: vs. Samford (Saturday, noon ET)

21. Oklahoma State (7-3)

The Cowboys have quietly won three games in a row to climb up the Big 12 standings, the latest a 31-13 decision over Kansas. Tailback Chuba Hubbard ran for 122 yards with two touchdowns on 23 carries. It was his seventh game this season with at least 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns, which is the second most in a season in Big 12 history, according to ESPN Stats & Info research. Texas' Ricky Williams had eight such games in 1997. OSU's defense turned in one of its better performances of the season, limiting the Jayhawks to only 290 total yards, including 39 rushing. The Pokes also picked off three passes.

Up next: at West Virginia (Saturday, TBD)

22. Virginia Tech (7-3)

After a 2-2 start, the Hokies continued their resurgence by shutting out Georgia Tech 45-0 on the road Saturday. It was Virginia Tech's fifth victory in its six games since being routed by Duke 45-10 on Sept. 27. The Yellow Jackets were held scoreless for the first time since a 38-0 loss to Florida State on Oct. 18, 1997. Virginia Tech coordinator Bud Foster's unit limited Georgia Tech to eight first downs, 2-for-15 on third down, 134 total yards of offense and 53 rushing yards. Virginia Tech is 5-0 in games started by quarterback Hendon Hooker, who threw for 159 yards with one touchdown and ran for two more scores. With games remaining against Pittsburgh (home) and Virginia (road), the Hokies are very much in the hunt for an ACC Coastal Division title and the league's automatic berth in the Capital One Orange Bowl (provided Clemson makes the CFP).

Up next: vs. Pittsburgh (Saturday, TBD)

23. Appalachian State (9-1)

The Mountaineers trailed Georgia State 21-7 on the road after Chris Bacon intercepted a pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown with 1:38 to play in the first quarter in Atlanta. Then the Mountaineers scored 49 consecutive points to rout the Panthers 56-27. Appalachian State's defense forced seven three-and-outs in that stretch, and one of the other possessions ended in an interception. Quarterback Zac Thomas threw for four touchdowns and ran for another score. Darrynton Evans had 131 rushing yards with one touchdown. The Mountaineers remained one game ahead of Georgia Southern in the Sun Belt East standings. Appalachian State closes the regular season against Texas State at home next week and at Troy on Nov. 29.

Up next: vs. Texas State (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

24. Texas A&M (7-3)

The Aggies ran for 319 yards and stifled South Carolina's offense in a 30-6 win Saturday at Kyle Field, their fourth consecutive victory. Quarterback Kellen Mond threw for 221 yards with one touchdown and ran for another score. Cordarrian Richardson ran for 130 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown, and Isaiah Spiller had 129 yards on 24 attempts. The Aggies couldn't produce much offense in the third quarter before putting up 17 points in the fourth. South Carolina had 260 yards of offense, and the Aggies controlled the ball for more than 41 minutes. They'll have to be as efficient in their final two regular-season games at Georgia and at LSU.

Up next: at Georgia (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

25. San Diego State (8-2)

The Aztecs moved within one victory of clinching a spot in the Mountain West Conference title game by beating defending league champion Fresno State 17-7 on Friday night. The Aztecs limited the Bulldogs to 206 yards of offense -- 70 rushing and 136 passing. Fresno State was only 3-for-12 on third down and turned the ball over three times. San Diego State quarterback Ryan Agnew completed 33 of 47 passes for 323 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He is the first Aztecs player to throw for 300 yards since Quinn Kaehler had 326 against Air Force in 2014. The Aztecs clinched at least a share of the MWC West crown for the fourth time in the conference's two-division format, and they can secure a spot in the league championship game with a win at Hawai'i next week.

Up next: at Hawai'i (Saturday, 11 p.m. ET, TBD)

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