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College Football Playoff rankings: LSU holds off USC for No. 5 spot

LSU defensive end Ali Gaye (11) celebrated a sack against UAB with teammate Greg Brooks Jr. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
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After a nerve-racking weekend of games, the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings hung on to their respective placements when the latest list was revealed Tuesday evening. The most notable move was made by LSU (9-2), which not only jumped up to fifth from sixth in the wake of a lopsided loss by former No. 5 Tennessee, but managed to hold off Southern California (10-1) in the process.

There had been some thought that USC, which rallied past then-No. 16 UCLA on Saturday while LSU crushed UAB at home, might be given the crucial fifth spot, but the 13-member CFP selection committee opted to keep the Trojans one spot behind the Tigers.

LSU ranks higher than USC in strength of schedule and strength of record, but the Trojans have just one loss to the Tigers’ two, plus arguably a more glamorous profile and the opportunity for the committee to feature a team from the Pac-12. The Tigers will have a chance to make an even stronger case for inclusion in the four-team playoff when they take on No. 1 Georgia next month in the SEC championship game, assuming they first handle Texas A&M this week. LSU was placed behind USC in the first batch of CFP rankings but was then moved ahead of the Trojans after a win earlier this month against Alabama.

Staying put in the rankings just behind Georgia were No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 TCU.

The stage had almost been set for complete upheaval at the top, but the Buckeyes held off Maryland while the Wolverines and Horned Frogs needed field goals in the closing seconds to get past Illinois and Baylor, respectively. Georgia had a somewhat easier time, but even the Bulldogs were forced to break a bit of a sweat in a 16-6 win at Kentucky.

With former No. 5 Tennessee having been soundly beaten Saturday by host South Carolina — losing star quarterback Hendon Hooker to a season-ending knee injury along the way — the window was open for another team to move to the doorstep of the playoff. The Volunteers tumbled to No. 10.

CFP selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan said Tuesday on ESPN that LSU’s wins over Alabama and Mississippi “carried the day more so than [USC’s] wins over UCLA and Oregon State.” He added that some members of the committee wanted to see “more” from USC’s defense, which allowed 45 points to the Bruins, now ranked 18th.

Returning to the top 10 at No. 9 was Oregon, which rebounded from a close loss to Washington by notching a 20-17 win over another Pac-12 rival, Utah. In turn, the Utes, who were ranked 10th last week, fell to 14th.

Here is the complete top 25:

1. Georgia (11-0)

2. Ohio State (11-0)

3. Michigan (11-0)

4. TCU (11-0)

5. LSU (9-2)

6. USC (10-1)

7. Alabama (9-2)

8. Clemson (10-1)

9. Oregon (9-2)

10. Tennessee (9-2)

11. Penn State (9-2)

12. Kansas State (8-3)

13. Washington (9-2)

14. Utah (8-3)

15. Notre Dame (8-3)

16. Florida State (8-3)

17. North Carolina (9-2)

18. UCLA (8-3)

19. Tulane (9-2)

20. Mississippi (8-3)

21. Oregon State (8-3)

22. Central Florida (8-3)

23. Texas (7-4)

24. Cincinnati (9-2)

25. Louisville (7-4)

Tulane plays Cincinnati this week with not only a berth in the American Athletic Conference championship game at stake, but also a compelling case for grabbing the spot in the prestigious New Year’s Six slate of bowl games granted to the most highly-ranked Group of Five team. Central Florida is still in the picture, though.

Texas and Louisville moved up into the rankings this week. Dropping out of the top 25 were Oklahoma State (7-4) and North Carolina State (7-4).