MORE: Playoff picture: Four in, three to watchAs for Sporting News’ rankings, Alabama, Minnesota and Michigan all fell after their respective losses — the latter two in particular after blowout losses to Big Ten rivals. The Crimson Tide, while still ranked in the top 10, have been completely eliminated from Playoff contention and will have to settle for a New Year’s Day 6 bowl. Only one thing separates us from the final pairings of the 2019 College Football Playoff: conference championship weekend.The final Playoff-contending teams were whittled down yet again on Saturday, with fifth-ranked Alabama and eighth-ranked Minnesota losing to Auburn and Wisconsin, respectively, in Rivalry Week. That sets up a mad dash among Georgia, Utah, Oklahoma and Baylor for the fourth and final Playoff spot, assuming Ohio State and Clemson win this week. Of course, the winners of those respective games all saw big jumps, including the Buckeyes, which leaped LSU for the top spot in SN’s latest rankings. Other movers include Cincinnati, which lost a hard-fought American Athletic Conference matchup with Memphis on Friday, and Virginia, which ended a 15-year losing streak to Virginia Tech to break into the top 25.With that, SN’s full top 25 college football rankings ahead of the Week 15 slate of games:Sporting News Week 15 college football rankingsRankTeamChange1Ohio State (12-0)+12LSU (12-0)-13Clemson (12-0)—4Georgia (11-1)—5Utah (11-1)+16Oklahoma (11-1)+17Baylor (11-1)+28Alabama (10-2)-39Wisconsin (10-2)+810Auburn (9-3)+811Oregon (10-2)—12Penn State (10-2)—13Notre Dame (10-2)—14Florida (10-2)—15Memphis (11-1)—16Boise State (11-1)—17Michigan (9-3)-718Minnesota (10-2)-1019Navy (9-2)+120Iowa (9-3)+121App State (11-1)+122Cincinnati (10-2)-323SMU (10-2)+124Louisiana (10-2)-125Virginia (9-3)NRMoved in: VirginiaDropped out: Virginia Tech
Magnus Carlsen seems to sense the growing power of 16-year-old chess phenom Alireza Firouzja and the long-term threat Firouzja poses to his chess supremacy.Their rivalry has exploded lately: No. 1 Carlsen narrowly edged Firouzja in a controversial World Blitz 2019 matchup in which his rival accused him of cheating; Firzouzja returned the favor earlier this month at the Banter Blitz Cup before Carlsen beat him again at the Magnus Carlsen Invitational on Monday. Carlsen’s reaction to this week’s victory over No. 21 Firouzja — who still remains a step behind the world’s best overall — provided a look into the intensity of a one-on-one battle that could define chess in the coming years.”Truth be told, I wanted to crush him today,” Carlsen said in a postmatch interview. “A narrow win wouldn’t make up for the fact that I actually lost to the guy. … The fact that (I didn’t sweep him) pissed me off.”MORE: How chess has carved a place in pandemic timesThe World Blitz 2019 finish established a level of animosity between Carlsen and Firouzja. After Carlsen won via time, Firouzja accused him of speaking under his breath as a means of distraction. Firouzja appealed the decision and video captured him enraged at his appeal being denied.”He was talking,” Firouzja insisted to a judge. “He’s talking during the game. He’s saying something in Norwegian, I don’t know what he’s saying.”Carlsen fell to Firouzja in the Banter Blitz Cup last week — a competition he was considered a heavy favorite to win. The final game of the match is being widely considered an instant classic. Carlsen’s 2.5-1.5 match win against Firouzja on Monday in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, meanwhile, restored his supremacy over Firouzja — for now. It’s an advantage he clearly cares about beyond a one-off round robin tournament triumph.Carlsen is nowhere near ready to cede control of his perch atop the chess world, but Firouzja is on a mission to chase him down.