Alabama and Clemson are back on top of the College Football Playoff rankings, the ninth time over the last three seasons that the Crimson Tide and Tigers have held the first two spots in some order.
Alabama was the selection committee’s new No. 1 on Tuesday night, with Clemson up two spots to No. 2. Miami and Oklahoma followed, joining the top four for the first time this season. Wisconsin was fifth and Auburn was up to sixth.
But who is in control of their own destiny as the season heads toward a thrilling finish.
There were complaints from Miami and Oklahoma fans about being stuck behind Clemson. Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt, the athletic director at Texas Tech, said Clemson’s six victories against teams with winning records gave the Tigers the nod.
He added the impact of Clemson’s loss to Syracuse (4-6) has been mitigated by injuries hampering Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant in that game. Bryant came into the game with a sore ankle that hobbled him and missed the second half with a concussion.
“That continues to be a factor in our discussions of Clemson,” Hocutt said.
He also pointed at that Miami not having a road win against a winning team worked against the Hurricanes and that Oklahoma’s loss to Iowa State (6-4) at home was weighing down the Sooners a bit.
Argue about the order all you like but here’s the bottom line: Clemson and Miami will play in the ACC title game on Dec. 2, and barring a big upset or two before they get there, it’s a playoff play-in game.
Oklahoma can rest easy, too. The Sooners should be fine if they win out and are Big 12 champions.
And now Wisconsin has to be feeling better, too. If the ACC teams take care of each other, that should clear up a spot for the Badgers if they can keep winning.
Auburn gets a crack at Alabama and, if it wins the Iron Bowl, another game against Georgia for the SEC title. So the Tigers don’t have to worry anybody but themselves.
Georgia can still win the SEC by either paying back Auburn or beating Alabama. The Bulldogs’ path is clear.
After that it gets complicated.
Notre Dame can finish 10-2 and add victories against Navy and Stanford to a resume that is already solid with wins over USC, Michigan State and North Carolina State. But the Irish are going to need some upsets — maybe more than some — to jump back into the top four.
Then there is Ohio State. The Buckeyes can still win the Big Ten, and knocking off Wisconsin in the title game definitely gives Ohio State hope. But with two losses, including a lopsided one at Iowa, the Buckeyes could find themselves being compared to the losers of the SEC or ACC title game.
Still, considering how bad that debacle in Iowa City was two weeks ago, the Buckeyes have to like their situation.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU