College Football Playoff rankings: Nos. 16-20
20. NC State Wolfpack (9-3, +2): The Wolfpack just earned their fifth consecutive win, stomping rival UNC 39-20. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong made the most of senior night, posting 314 passing yards and three touchdowns. Freshman wideout Kevin Concepcion was elite both in the backfield and up on the line, pulling in seven catches for 131 yards and two scores and another 55 yards rushing. NC State’s losses were costly this season, all coming at the hands of either currently ranked or ranked at game time. NC State awaits a bowl bid, expecting a very high position.
19. Tennessee Volunteers (8-4, +2): The Volunteers bounced back after a rough span of games with a convincing 48-24 rout of rival Vanderbilt. Joe Milton III was lights out, throwing four touchdowns on 383 yards and earning another two scores on the ground in only three quarters. Ramel Keyton caught only four passes but put up 122 receiving yards and two scores. Sophomore wideout Squirrel White pulled in 10 receptions for 110 yards and senior tight end battery Jacob Warren and McCallan Castles reeled in a touchdown each on 82 and 47 yards, respectively. Tennessee awaits a bowl bid after finishing 4-4 in conference play and third in the SEC East.
18. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-3, NC): Senior quarterback Sam Hartman ends his sixth and final collegiate season with a road blowout 56-23 over Stanford. Hartman put up an efficient 140 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception on only 8-of-14 passing. However, the spotlight was not on the veteran; all eyes were on junior running back Audric Estime who posted an incredible 238 rushing yards and four touchdowns. After surrendering 13 points and 165 yards in the first quarter, the Irish defense locked in and only allowed 182 yards and 10 points for the rest of the game. Notre Dame’s convoluted and stubborn relationship with the ACC is no more apparent than their bowl bid situation — the Irish await to see what ACC spot they are allocated.
17. Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-3, +3): In a game that looked over at halftime, Oklahoma State outscored BYU 34-10 in the second half of regulation and two overtime periods to win 40-34 and clinch a spot in the Big 12 title game against Texas. Sophomore running back Ollie Gordon II was unstoppable, putting up five — yes, five — touchdowns after halftime and 166 yards in total. Alan Bowman could not find the endzone despite throwing for 321 yards and two interceptions. In a season filled with impressive wins, like beating No. 9 Oklahoma in what would become a pivotal head-to-head decider, has been held back by gut-punch losses, like a 33-7 blowout at home against South Alabama or a 45-3 thrashing by UCF. The Cowboys try to play spoiler in Texas’ final Big 12 game on Saturday.
16. Iowa Hawkeyes (10-2, +1): Another barely-good-enough performance from Iowa in their 13-10 win at Nebraska to win a fourth straight game and reach double-digit wins on the season. The Hawkeyes’ only losses this season came from a 31-0 thrashing in Happy Valley and a highly controversial punt return touchdown taken off the board with under two minutes to play against Minnesota. Quarterback Deacon Hill only threw for 94 yards with an interception on a dismal 11-for-28 completions. Hill scored the team’s only touchdown on the ground. Junior running back Leshon Williams ran for 111 yards, he was responsible for 43 percent of Iowa’s yards. Iowa faces undefeated Michigan in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday.