With five days remaining until Selection Sunday, the Washington Huskies appear to be in ideal position to make their first College Football Playoff appearance.
After defeating Washington State 45-17 in the Apple Cup to clinch the Pac-12 North title, Washington (11-1) moved up one spot to No. 4 in the most recent CFP rankings released Tuesday evening. And with an upcoming matchup against No. 8 Colorado (10-2) in Friday’s Pac-12 championship game, the Huskies should be able to clinch a playoff spot with a victory.
Alabama (12-0), the lone unbeaten, power-conference team, remained at No. 1. Ohio State, which finished the regular season 11-1 but did not win its division, remains No. 2. Clemson (11-1), which faces No. 23 Virginia Tech this weekend in the ACC championship game, moved up one spot to
No. 3. Michigan’s double-overtime loss to Ohio State last week bumped the Wolverines down two spots to No. 5, while Wisconsin and Penn State remained at No. 6 and No. 7, respectively.
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Five Pac-12 teams occupy the latest rankings, including two teams the Huskies have defeated. Despite losing to Colorado last week, Utah (8-4) moved up two spots to No. 20. Stanford (9-3), which ranked No. 24 last week, is now No. 18, and USC (9-3) moved up one spot to No. 11. Washington State (8-4), ranked 23rd last week, dropped out of the rankings after losing to UW.
Wisconsin (10-2) and Penn State (10-2) play each other in this weekend’s Big Ten championship game, but it seems unlikely that either would jump Washington in the event of a Huskies victory over Colorado.
The margin between UW and No. 5 Michigan (10-2), CFP committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said, is “very, very small,” though Michigan is done playing and Washington could seemingly widen that gap with a victory over the nation’s No. 8 team. Still, Hocutt emphasized that UW’s relatively weak strength of schedule “continues to be a concern for us.”
Also of interest: might a victory over Colorado vault the Huskies past Ohio State or Clemson in the final rankings? Avoiding the No. 4 seed — and thus a semifinal matchup against Alabama — is more important this year than usual. Plus, the No. 3 seed would get to play in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, rather than the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, which would obviously be preferable for UW and its fans.
Friday’s Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, is scheduled for a 6 p.m. kickoff and will air on FOX.