Clemson Takes Over the Top Spot in the Penultimate College Football Playoff Top 25 Rankings

Written By Brett Korpi


After a weekend that saw two of the top four teams lose there was a shake-up on Tuesday when the College Football Playoff selection committee announced their fifth set of rankings before the final rankings are to be released on Sunday, Dec. 3.

No. 1 Clemson (11-1, 7-1 ACC)No. 2 Auburn (10-2, 7-1 SEC)No. 3 Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) and No. 4 Wisconsin (12-0, 8-0 B1G) round out the Top 4 heading into championship weekend.

With the top two teams in last week’s Top 4 losing the Tigers moved up from third for their first No. 1 ranking of the year.  Clemson’s resume has seven wins over Power 5 teams with winning records including a victory over Auburn.

“The committee continues to be impressed with how balanced the Tigers are on both sides of the ball and how that has translated into an impressive season-long body of work.” CFP Selections committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said.

Auburn climbed to the second spot from sixth after beating top-ranked Alabama. It was the Tigers second victory over the CFP No. 1 team in three weeks. With a rematch against Georgia looming in the SEC Championship game, Auburn has a chance to be the first two-loss team to compete in the CFP semifinals.

Oklahoma comes in one spot higher than last week. They have a rematch with TCU in the Big 12 title game and will look to represent the conference in the CFP semifinals after it was shutout last season.

The Badgers make their first appearance as the lone undefeated team in the Power 5 conferences. Wisconsin takes on Ohio State in the B1G Championship and a victory will solidify their position.

Teams with a chance to get into the Top 4 should one or more of those teams falter this week make up the five through eight spots. No. 5 Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC), No. 6 Georgia (11-1, 7-1 SEC)No. 7 Miami (11-1, 7-1 ACC) and No. 8 Ohio State (10-2, 8-1 B1G) all have a conceivable chance to claim a Top 4 bid this weekend.

Alabama is a perennial favorite whose loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl put them outside the committee’s Top 4 for the first time since 2014. The Crimson Tide, who did not make the SEC title game, will have to root for one of the non-SEC schools in the Top 4 to lose and for the committee to view Alabama in a higher regard. The knock on Alabama is their resume. They have only beaten three ranked teams this season and only three Power 5 schools with a winning record. However, the committee has said numerous times that Alabama passes the “eye-test”, something Hocutt reiterated on Tuesday.

“Alabama is a very good football team. That’s obvious by their No. 5 ranking this year, and we’ll continue to evaluate the 12 opportunities that we’ve had to watch them and how they’ve performed each week on the field.”

A victory over Auburn in the SEC title game should put Georgia into the Top 4. Miami on the other hand will have beat Clemson in the ACC Championship and hope that committee doesn’t view Alabama’s “eye-test” to be stronger than beating the No.1 team in the country and a conference championship in a very strong conference. Same goes for Ohio State who despite their resume is at a greater disadvantage suffering losses to Oklahoma and unranked Iowa.

After the top eight teams the likelihood of cracking the Top 4 drops down to a very low chance. No. 9 Penn State (10-2, 7-2 B1G) is not playing in a conference championship and is not able to improve their resume. No. 10 USC (10-2, 8-1 PAC12) and No. 11 TCU (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) are both in their conferences titles games. However, something almost unthinkable would have to happen for either one to make it to the semifinals despite Hocutt saying that there is not much separation between the two-loss teams No.8 through No. 11.

“A very challenging discussion and conversation, but at the end of the day, the Selection Committee believes that we got the sequencing of teams correct between 8 and 11 this week.”

At No. 12 Stanford (9-3, 7-2 PAC12) is out of contention with three losses but will take on USC in the PAC 12 Championship. No. 13 Washington (10-2, 7-2 PAC12) is just behind the Cardinal and lost the head-to-head battle.

Once again, No. 14 UCF (11-0, 8-0 AAC) is the highest rated Group of 5 team moving up one spot from the previous rankings and they will take on No. 20 Memphis (10-1, 7-1 AAC) in the AAC Championship. The Knights are only one of two teams in FBS still undefeated. However, there does not seem to be much they can do to impress the committee enough to squeak into a Top 4. A New Year’s Six bowl will still be quite the accomplishment if they beat the Tigers, for a team who was 0-12 just two years ago.

The rest of the rankings are: No. 15 Notre Dame (9-3), No. 16 Michigan State 9-3, 7-2 B1G) No. 17 LSU (9-3, 6-2 SEC) No. 18 Washington State (9-3, 6-3 PAC12), No. 19 Oklahoma State (9-3, 6-3 Big 12), No. 21 Northwestern (9-3, 7-2 B1G), No. 22 Virginia Tech (9-3, 5-3 ACC), No. 23 Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4 SEC), No. 24 NC State (8-4, 6-2 ACC), No. 25 Fresno State (9-3, 7-1 MWC).

The College Football Playoff Top 25: Selection Show is Sunday, Dec. 3, Noon EST on ESPN.

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