Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame remained at the top of the College Football Playoff selection committee rankings Monday night, marking the first time in two seasons the top four was unchanged from the previous week.
Iowa stayed at No. 5 and Oklahoma State moved up to No. 6, one spot ahead of Big 12 rival Oklahoma.
Florida is eighth, Michigan State, which plays Ohio State on Saturday, is ninth and Baylor dropped to No. 10 after losing for the first time this season.
Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State seem to have control of their playoff hopes. If those three win out they should be in, with the final spot coming down to the Big 12 contenders or Notre Dame. Oklahoma State has the advantage of being unbeaten and has chances to pad its resume over the next two weeks with home games against Baylor and Oklahoma.
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Unbeaten Iowa would likely have to go through either Ohio State or whatever Big Ten East team beats Ohio State, so the Hawkeyes appear to be in good shape if they win out.
The highest ranked Pac-12 team was Stanford at No. 11.
What else you need to know about the third College Football Playoff rankings:
For the Capital One Orange Bowl, which will host a College Football Playoff Semifinal for the first time Dec. 31, if Tuesday’s rankings should stay the same through the final rankings Dec. 6, the game would feature either No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Notre Dame or No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Ohio State.
But Orange Bowl Chief Executive Officer Eric Poms knows a lot could change between now and then.
“Here’s the reality,’’ Poms said after Tuesday night’s rankings were revealed, “for some of these teams, the big picture really is, three big games to go. And those games are really for the most part conference games, and in the end, conference championship games. So the magnitude of those matchups is obviously greater than a lot of the games that are played in the earlier part of the year.
“I think people draw conclusions right now as to who is likely to end up in it, but you know there’s always some unforeseen results coming that could shake this.
“It’s exciting. I think it’s going to bring a lot of energy to the college football fan across the country, and in particular here in South Florida, knowing that there will be one of the semifinal games here. We like the buildup.”
Notre Dame or Oklahoma
The conversation started Saturday night and it could end up being the great debate of this season’s playoff rankings.
If the Fighting Irish (9-1) and the Sooners (9-1) both win out and finish 11-1, and things don’t get too messy in the other conferences, the chances are the final spot in the playoff will go to one them.
It has the making for an excellent debate. The Sooners would end the season with three big victories against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State. Notre Dame’s best wins would likely be USC, Stanford and Navy. The Irish’s loss was by two at Clemson. The Sooners’ loss was by seven to Texas. Notre Dame beat Texas 38-3, and the committee considers games against common opponents in its selections protocol.
“It doesn’t go away,” committee chairman Jeff Long said of OU’s Texas loss.
How much consideration will that be given? Who knows?
“It’s just really hard for us to look out and anticipate those things, so we don’t,” Long said.
The Sooners would have a conference championship. The Irish, of course, do not play in a conference. And there is no way to figure out how that would sway the committee.
Last season when Ohio State jumped TCU and Baylor in the final rankings to reach the playoff, some Big 12 fans claimed the Buckeyes were aided by brand bias. The traditional power got the benefit of the doubt, they said.
If it comes down to Notre Dame and Oklahoma, two of the most storied programs in college football, brand bias should not be a problem.
Pac-12 propped up
Many an obit was written for the Pac-12’s playoff hopes on Saturday night when both Stanford and Utah lost, leaving the conference with no better than a two-loss champion.
The committee’s rankings suggest the Pac-12 might not be dead yet. Stanford is right behind Baylor and Utah is No. 13. If the choice comes down to either Cardinal or Utes at 11-2 and Baylor at 11-1, the Pac-12 might have some hope.
Remember, Stanford would have a win against Notre Dame and Utah a victory against Michigan, which is currently No. 12 and still in contention for a Big Ten title.
Group of Five
Navy was the highest-ranked Group of Five team and American Athletic Conference rival Houston was No. 19. The Midshipmen and Cougars play on Nov. 27 in a game that should decide the AAC West division, a trip to the conference title game and ultimately which team gets the guaranteed spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game that goes to the top ranked champion from the American, Mountain West, Mid-American, Sun Belt or Conference USA.
Memphis, which has lost to Navy and Memphis the last two weeks, is No. 21 and the only other Group of Five team ranked.
Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan contributed to this report
College Football Playoff rankings
3. Ohio State
4. Notre Dame
6. Oklahoma State
9. Michigan St.
14. Florida State
17. North Carolina
22. Ole Miss
The College Football Playoff Selection Committee will issue weekly rankings each Tuesday, with the final rankings being announced Sunday, Dec. 6 (Noon EST). The playoff semifinals will match the No. 1seed vs. the No.4 seed, and No.2 will face No.3. The semifinals will be hosted at the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31. The championship game will be on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Ariz.