(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
An unexpected swap has the Arizona State Sun Devils as the higher-ranked team for Saturday’s matchup against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, as the College Football Playoff committee slid ASU up five spots to No. 9 after a 19-16 overtime victory over Utah.
The Sun Devils entered last week at No. 14, but moved ahead of Georgia, Ole Miss and Arizona after each team lost, in addition to passing Baylor and Notre Dame, who both won on Saturday.
Georgia lost a shocker to Florida, Ole Miss was narrowly edged by Auburn and Arizona was downed by UCLA. However, Baylor had no problem dominating Kansas, 60-14, but only moved from No. 13 to No. 12. Notre Dame struggled with Navy before finally pulling away with a 49-39 victory, and that kept the team at No. 10 for another week.
Instead it was ASU that was the primary beneficiary of losses in the top 10 and found its way into the top 10 themselves.
CFB Playoff committee chair Jeff Long explained after the release of the ratings that the strength of ASU’s victory over Stanford was one of the primary reasons the Sun Devils edged Notre Dame for the No. 9 spot in the rankings.
Both teams defeated Stanford, but ASU’s 26-10 victory over the Cardinal was a smooth domination in every facet while Notre Dame required a game-winning touchdown pass with 61 seconds remaining to pull out a come-from-behind victory.
ASU is one of two Pac-12 teams in the top 10 of the updated rankings, as the Oregon Ducks moved up one spot into the No. 4 slot in the CFB Playoff. The top four teams advance to the CFB Playoff semifinals games on New Year’s Day, so Oregon is currently slated to go with Mississippi State, Florida State and Auburn as the four teams would split the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.
No. 17 Utah, No. 18 UCLA and No. 19 Arizona round out the Pac-12’s representation in the rankings.
The goal for ASU doesn’t change much due to the rankings: The Sun Devils are undoubtedly in the CFB Playoff if the team wins its remaining games and almost certainly out of it if the team loses any of the remaining games on the schedule.
Next up for the Sun Devils is a home game against the visiting Fighting Irish, who will have more than enough motivation to work with, as ASU is one of the only remaining tough teams on Notre Dame’s schedule. The only shot for the Irish to snag one of the coveted playoff spots would be a convincing victory over ASU coupled with chaos in the final weeks, which college football is always prone to produce.
ASU has plenty of reason to be motivated too.
“This kind of game this late in the year presents a great opportunity for us,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said. “This is arguably the best football team we have played all year long. We have to balance the fact that it does hurt you if you aren’t successful in those game. I don’t have to worry about giving our kids a big motivational speech, they are going to be fired up and ready to play.”