ESPN 2023 College Football Power Rankings after Week 14


Championship weekend started simply enough, with Washington beating Oregon to stay unbeaten and win the Pac-12 title. The Huskies assured themselves of a spot in the College Football Playoff with Friday night’s win.

Things got a little tricky from there.

Alabama delivered the big blow Saturday, knocking off top-ranked Georgia for the SEC title and muddying the water for the CFP selection committee deciding teams’ fates Sunday.

Texas, which beat Alabama handily in Tuscaloosa early this season, needed a convincing win to keep its slim CFP hopes alive. The Longhorns delivered in a rout of Oklahoma State for the Big 12 title in their last year in the league.

Michigan’s offense struggled against Iowa’s vaunted defense, but the Wolverines slogged their way to a 26-0 win for their third straight Big Ten championship and another trip to the CFP semifinals.

Florida State, down to its third QB this season because of injuries to Jordan Travis and Tate Rodemaker, didn’t exactly win the ACC championship in convincing fashion but remained unbeaten nonetheless.

As the wait begins for the selection committee to determine the playoff, here’s how the conference championship games affected our Power Rankings.


Michigan won its third Big Ten championship in a row in Jim Harbaugh’s return to the sidelines after a three-game suspension. The Wolverines’ offense wasn’t as sharp as it was against Ohio State, putting up a touchdown and a field goal in the first half, and was held to under 100 yards rushing as a team. It was enough to get the job done, though, aided by four James Turner field goals, and propel Michigan into another College Football Playoff berth. The Wolverines’ defense was the star of the game, creating three turnovers through fumbles and limiting Iowa offensively to 155 total yards. It was a game of defense, and Michigan was able to get more done offensively to put Iowa away for the win and the conference championship. — Tom VanHaaren


In the back half of the season, it didn’t always look pretty — or particularly dominant — for the Huskies, but Kalen DeBoer’s team simply just kept winning. An undefeated regular season doesn’t come without its speed bumps, and while many thought having to beat the Ducks a second time after losing to them by three points in the regular season would be too tall a task, the Huskies did it again. After surrendering a 20-3 lead, they battled back and did just enough to edge out the Ducks in dramatic fashion — once again by only three points. Each one of the three games these two teams have played over the past two seasons has been decided by three points, and Washington has won all of them. Saturday night, the Huskies found a way to win their biggest one yet, punching a ticket to the College Football Playoff in DeBoer’s second season. His turnaround of a team that was 4-8 in 2021 has been remarkable, and it’s not over yet. — Paolo Uggetti


The Longhorns made an emphatic statement for a second straight week, beating Oklahoma State 49-21 to claim their first Big 12 championship since 2009 — and their last ever as they head to the SEC. The Longhorns’ 662 total yards set a Big 12 title game record as Quinn Ewers was 35-of-46 for 452 yards, another record for this game, and his four passing touchdowns tied the record. The defense did its part, holding Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon II to 13 carries for 34 yards and allowing 281 total yards. After beating Texas Tech 57-7 last week followed by a dominant performance over OSU, Steve Sarkisian said Texas played its most complete two games of the season in their past two. Now, it just waits to see what the College Football Playoff committee does. — Dave Wilson


Whether or not the Seminoles make the College Football Playoff is irrelevant to the discussion of what this team has already accomplished. With Saturday’s 16-6 win over Louisville in the ACC title game, FSU has gone from an abject disaster when Mike Norvell arrived in 2020 to 13-0 conference champs and a team that has, again and again, overcome adversity to impose its will. On Saturday, that meant letting the defense eat, led by Braden Fiske’s nine tackles, three sacks, 4.5 TFL and two QB hurries. The Noles had nothing from their QB — freshman Brock Glenn, making his first start — but lined up in the wildcat and handed off to Lawrance Toafili and Trey Benson enough to find the end zone twice. If the mark of a great team is finding a way to win, as Norvell insisted after Saturday’s game, then Florida State’s legacy is secure, regardless of what comes next. — David Hale


The ninth SEC championship under Nick Saban was sweet for Alabama after taking down Georgia 27-24 on Saturday, but even sweeter news for the Tide would be making the College Football Playoff. Alabama won the line of scrimmage battle against the Bulldogs and snapped their 29-game winning streak. Quarterback Jalen Milroe continued his sterling play with two touchdown passes and no turnovers. He had several clutch passes and a key 30-yard run in the fourth quarter. Alabama has won 11 straight games since its Week 2 loss to Texas. — Chris Low


After 29 straight wins, one of the longest winning streaks in college football over the past 50 years, Georgia stubbed its foot at the worst possible time. The Bulldogs lost 27-24 to red-hot Alabama on Saturday in the SEC championship game and now find themselves on the outside looking in as far as the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs (12-1) fell behind 10 points in the second half and could never catch back up. Their defense had a hard time keeping Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe in check in the fourth quarter. — Low


The Buckeyes were hoping for chaos during Championship Week, sitting at No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Oregon, the No. 5 team, lost, but Texas beat Oklahoma State and Alabama beat Georgia. Because of those wins, Ohio State likely will be on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture. The team finished the season at 11-1 with the lone loss coming to the Wolverines in the final game of the regular season. — VanHaaren


Friday’s 34-31 loss to Washington was a painful end to the regular season for the Ducks, who arrived in Las Vegas intent on punching their ticket to the College Football Playoff. First, there was the brutal start. Washington was dominant in building a 20-3 second-quarter lead at which point it would have been easy to write off the game before halftime. But thanks to three straight Oregon touchdowns to take the lead, hope was restored … only briefly, before a second helping of disappointment. The Ducks will head to a New Year’s Six bowl with an impressive 11-2 record, but with multiple players expected to enter the NFL draft and transfer portal, it’s unclear what the team will look like in a few weeks. — Kyle Bonagura


They lost at Georgia, they fell to a heroic Jayden Daniels performance against LSU and that was about it. Eliah Drinkwitz’s fourth Tigers team went 10-2, beating Kansas State and Florida via last-second field goals and scoring wins over Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas by an average score of 39-14. They likely await their first trip to a New Year’s Six bowl in a few weeks. The defense was mostly strong down the stretch, but the offense was a standout, averaging more than 34 points per game for the first time since 2018. The Tigers got more than 3,000 passing yards from Brady Cook, nearly 1,500 rushing yards from Cody Schrader and nearly 1,200 receiving yards from Luther Burden III; two of the three are scheduled to return in 2024, too. — Bill Connelly


Only twice in school history has Ole Miss won 10 games in the regular season, both times under Lane Kiffin and both in the past three seasons. The Rebels reached that plateau this year after also winning 10 in 2021. Their only two losses this season were on the road to Alabama and Georgia, a pair of top-10 teams, and Ole Miss ended the regular season with a win on the road over bitter in-state rival Mississippi State. Quarterback Jaxson Dart had a big season with 2,975 passing yards and 375 rushing yards and accounted for 27 touchdowns. — Low


Year 2 of the Brent Venables era marked a big improvement, bouncing back from a 6-7 season last year to go 10-2, losing to Kansas and Iowa State in back-to-back weeks by a total of eight points. An infusion of young talent bodes well for the Sooners, and there’s still hope Dillon Gabriel could return for one final season. But they’ll move forward without offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, recently named the Mississippi State coach and whose offense ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring (43.2 points per game) and No. 6 in passing (321.8 yards per game) and put up three games of more than 65 points, most in the FBS. He’ll be replaced by a pair of former OU players as co-coordinators: Seth Littrell, the former head coach at North Texas, and Joe Jon Finley. — Dave Wilson


While coach James Franklin’s team awaits a possible New Year’s Six bowl berth, there’s a sense of what might have been this fall, and optimism about the future. PSU outscored opponents 419-93 in its 10 wins but once again fell short in its two most important contests (Ohio State and Michigan). The Lions’ defense under coordinator Manny Diaz leads the FBS in yards allowed (223.2 YPG) and will lose several notable players to the NFL, especially up front. The focus going forward is the offense, and Franklin made an excellent coordinator hire Friday in Kansas’ Andy Kotelnicki, whose creative scheme could take quarterback Drew Allar from efficient to exceptional in 2024. Penn State has won its past two New Year’s Six bowls (2019 Cotton, 2023 Rose) since falling to USC in the epic 2017 Rose Bowl. — Adam Rittenberg


A year after winning the SEC West title as a nine-win team before losing to eventual national champion Georgia in Atlanta during Brian Kelly’s first year, quarterback Jayden Daniels did his best to author an encore for LSU (9-3). Daniels (4,946 total yards and 50 total touchdowns) is second in the SEC in rushing (1,134 yards), has nine games with at least three touchdown passes and spearheaded the nation’s leading offense (547.8 YPG and 46.4 PPG). Wide receivers Malik Nabers (SEC-leading 1,546 receiving yards) and Brian Thomas Jr. (SEC-leading 15 touchdown receptions) provide a dynamic supporting cast for the former Arizona State signal-caller. But one reason Daniels may come up short in his bid to follow in Joe Burrow’s 2019 Heisman Trophy footsteps in Baton Rouge is because of a defense that allows 27.8 points a game — 12th in the SEC. Beginning with their Labor Day weekend loss to Florida State, which saw them get torched for 31 second-half points, the Tigers’ defense couldn’t exert itself enough against quality competition in a pair of road losses — surrendering 55 points to Ole Miss on Sept. 30 and then 42 points against Alabama on Nov. 4. — Blake Baumgartner


Without a doubt, the Wildcats were the surprise of the Pac-12 and maybe even the entire country. This is a program that was 1-11 two seasons ago and 5-7 last year. They are also a testament to what a good coach and a good quarterback can do at the right place and the right time. Jedd Fisch has revitalized Arizona through recruiting, but this season he proved he’s also done it through his coaching. After Jayden de Laura was injured four games into the season, Fisch turned to freshman Noah Fifita, who turned out to be a star. Fifita threw for 2,515 and 23 touchdowns this season and led the Wildcats to a 6-2 record as a starter, including six straight wins to finish the season. It was an impressive performance that put Arizona football back in the top 25 and back on the map as they head to the Big 12 next year. — Uggetti


Marcus Freeman’s second Notre Dame team spent most of the season looking like an elite, top-10 level team. The Fighting Irish walloped USC by 28 and made bad teams look like awful teams (average score in five wins against opponents that finished under .500: 48-11). They ranked eighth in scoring defense, too. But in three losses, all to teams currently ranked by the CFP committee, the offense faltered. They scored 14 points against Ohio State, 20 against Louisville and 23 against Clemson. Marcus Freeman has elected to retain offensive coordinator Gerad Parker, but he’ll have to find replacements for both quarterback Sam Hartman, leading wideouts Chris Tyree, Rico Flores Jr. and Tobias Merriweather and, most likely, running back Audric Estime. Expect an active portal window for Freeman and the Irish. — Connelly


Liberty has entered rarified air as a program all season long. After securing a Conference USA title Friday with a 49-35 win against New Mexico State, that continued as the program improved to 13-0 for the first time while churning out a season-high and C-USA title-game-high 712 total yards. Sophomore quarterback Kaidon Salter (484 total yards, three total TDs) created a little history of his own while guiding Jamey Chadwell’s team to its first outright conference crown since 2008 (Big South). According to ESPN’s Stats & Information, Salter (319 passing yards and 165 rushing yards) became the first player in 20 seasons to record at least 300 passing yards while rushing for over 100 yards in a conference title game — spearheading a 393-yard rushing output by the nation’s best running attack. While the Flames had 422 total yards in the second half, they held the Aggies to 264 total yards in the last two quarters, eventually breaking a 35-35 tie with two fourth-quarter scores. — Baumgartner


It’s been a magical season for the Cardinals, but the ending was a nightmare. On the heels of losing to rival Kentucky, Louisville was utterly demolished by a Florida State defense intent on making a statement for the playoff committee strong enough to overcome any skepticism about the Seminoles offense. The result was a debacle for Jack Plummer and the Cards. Plummer was 0-for-12 throwing beyond 10 yards, threw a costly pick in the end zone and averaged just 2.7 yards per pass behind an offensive line that gave up 14 tackles for loss. — Hale


Not even losing their starting quarterback to injury could slow down Rhett Lashlee’s Mustangs. Forced to start backup Kevin Jennings in place of Preston Stone on Saturday afternoon at Tulane, SMU dominated defensively and did enough on offense to score a 26-14 win over the defending champs in the AAC championship. Jennings threw for 203 yards and rushed for 63 more, and it was enough to overcome a pair of first-half interceptions and slowly seize control. Since a frustrating Week 4 loss to TCU, SMU has been the best team in the Group of 5; the Mustangs have won nine straight games by an average score of 44-17, but now they have to wait to see if that hot streak is enough to get them past unbeaten Liberty in the battle for the Group of 5’s New Year’s Six slot. Regardless, their run of incredible play continued without Stone. — Connelly


For the first time since Mike Riley’s second tenure in Corvallis (2003 to 2014), Oregon State has won at least eight games in consecutive seasons. Balance was the name of the game — the Beavers’ offense (426.9 YPG) is fifth in the Pac-12 while sporting the conference’s fourth-best defense (340.3 YPG). Jonathan Smith may be off to Michigan State after guiding his alma mater for the past six years, but the promotion of defensive coordinator Trent Bray to the top job gives the program a chance to sustain momentum. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei (transfer portal) and running back Damien Martinez (arrested on DUI suspicion) won’t play in the Beavers’ bowl game for a unit that scored at least 35 points in six games this season. The defense’s signature moment may have been the dismantling of two-time defending conference champion Utah in September when it allowed just 198 total yards in a 21-7 victory. — Baumgartner


After starting the season 4-3, the outlook appeared bleak for the Wolfpack. But coach Dave Doeren used the open date to reevaluate and find a spark in his team. The Wolfpack closed the season on a five-game winning streak, with big wins over Clemson and rival North Carolina. It is the first time in school history NC State won eight or more games in four straight seasons, and now the Wolfpack are looking to get to 10 wins for the second time ever. There will be questions looming heading into the bowl game. Thirteen players are in the transfer portal, including backup quarterback MJ Morris. In addition, ACC Defensive Player of the Year Payton Wilson must decide whether to play or opt out and start preparing for the NFL draft. — Adelson


The Hawkeyes needed « precision, » coach Kirk Ferentz told ESPN last week, to beat heavily favored Michigan in the Big Ten title game. They received nearly flawless play on defense, holding the Wolverines to 213 yards and 3.3 yards per play, while recording four sacks and four pass breakups. But Iowa’s anemic offense bottomed out on the big stage, failing to generate any points for the second time against a top-tier opponent (Penn State shut out Iowa 31-0 on Sept. 23). The Hawkeyes lost three fumbles and only entered Michigan territory on three drives. Iowa’s normally excellent special teams also endured a key breakdown in the first half, as Semaj Morgan’s 87-yard punt return set up Michigan’s first touchdown. Necessary changes on offense are coming for Iowa in 2024, and the team now awaits what should be a solid bowl berth after falling short of its first Big Ten title since 2004. — Rittenberg


Tulane won 16 of 17 conference games over two seasons, won one AAC title and put itself on the doorstep of another. But the Green Wave were simply second best Saturday against SMU. They gained just 269 yards and went just 2-for-15 on third downs (and 1-for-4 on fourth) against a dynamite Mustang defense, and despite forcing three turnovers, they just couldn’t stay within reach. SMU went on an all-field goals, 12-0 run over the game’s final 21 minutes and won 26-14. And there’s a chance the Wave lose even more than that: Rumors were flying around Saturday that Houston was trying to hire away head coach Willie Fritz. After going 23-4 in 2022-23 (with a bowl game still to come), this could be an offseason of change in New Orleans. — Connelly


There were some who questioned whether the Tigers would make bowl eligibility after starting the season 4-4. But a big win over Notre Dame helped Clemson close the season on a four-game winning streak and reclaim a familiar spot in the top 25. Still, this is a season that opened with ACC championship aspirations and will end without 10 or more wins for the first time since 2010. Coach Dabo Swinney has already started to make changes, announcing offensive line coach Thomas Austin and defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall will no longer be on staff. It will be interesting to see how Clemson uses the portal once it opens Dec. 4. Already, multiple players have announced they will enter the portal, including offensive lineman Mitchell Mayes and receiver Beaux Collins. — Adelson


James Madison had an incredible season with the Dukes’ lone loss coming to Appalachian State in overtime. Quarterback Jordan McCloud threw for 3,400 yards, 32 touchdowns and 9 interceptions while also running for eight scores. The team finished the regular season ranked in the AP poll, but will now have to replace its head coach with Curt Cignetti leaving for the Indiana job. McCloud also entered his name into the transfer portal, so the new staff will likely have to start anew with a different name at the position. — VanHaaren


The Cowboys took an unusual route to the Big 12 championship game, dropping early games against South Alabama and Iowa State before winning seven of their final eight — though that one was a 45-3 loss to UCF — to get here. Texas, however, was a tough matchup for OSU, allowing just 85 rushing yards per game with Ollie Gordon powering the Cowboys’ offense. Gordon, who was averaging 163 yards per game in Big 12 play, finished with just 34 yards on 13 carries. The defense, meanwhile, was overmatched from the start, as Texas QB Quinn Ewers completed his first 12 passes en route to a record-setting performance and Texas racked up 662 yards. Still, OSU made the Big 12 title game for the second time in three years, and the Cowboys turned their season around to get here. In a future without Texas and OU in the Big 12, Mike Gundy has a chance to capitalize on recent success. — Wilson

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