Oklahoma is No. 3 in the College Football Playoff selection committee rankings, putting the Sooners safely in position to be in the final four with their season completed.
The Sooners locked up the Big 12 championship with a blowout victory at Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Clemson is still No. 1 and Alabama remained No. 2. Both the Tigers (12-0) and Crimson Tide (11-1) head into their conference championship games Saturday needing just a victory to lock up a playoff spot.
“The committee debated long and hard about the No. 1 and No. 2 teams,” committee chairman Jeff Long said.
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The top seed gets to play closest to home, so for Clemson a semifinal game at the Orange Bowl in Miami is also on the line against North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. The Tar Heels (11-1) are No. 10.
Iowa is No. 4 (12-0) and Michigan State (11-1) is No. 5, setting up a playoff play-in game in Saturday’s Big Ten title game.
Hoping for an upset by the Tar Heels against Clemson or Florida against Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game is No. 6 Ohio State (11-1) and No. 7 Stanford (10-2).
The Buckeyes’ season is over. The Cardinal can win the Pac-12 championship Saturday by beating Southern California for the second time this year.
Whats happens if
▪ Clemson loses to North Carolina and Stanford wins?
The most intriguing possible debate for the selection committee. It would put Ohio State back in play and the committee would have to slice and dice the resumes of the Tar Heels, trying to make a huge jump after winning a title, the Cardinal, a two-loss conference champion with a top-10 win against Notre Dame, and the defending national champion Buckeyes.
▪ Alabama loses to Florida?
The SEC is out. The Gators dropped to No. 18 after losing 27-2 and an upset will almost certainly reflect poorly on the Crimson Tide, even though it nearly moved into the top spot this week.
Group of Five
The American Athletic Conference championship game between Houston and Temple should also send the winner to a New Year’s Six bowl game, probably the Peach Bowl.
The Cougars (11-1) will host the AAC title game and are No. 19 in the new rankings. The Owls (10-2) are No. 22.
The only other team from the Group of Five conferences – Mountain West, Sun Belt, Mid-American and Conference USA – is Navy at No. 23, which is also from the American.
In South Florida, the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl is expected to host Clemson if the Tigers defeat North Carolina in the ACC Championship on Saturday night.
Another possibility could be Clemson vs. the Iowa-Michigan State winner on Saturday.
But as often happens, upsets occur, which could change the OB’s slate.
The reason Clemson would likely be in South Florida’s semifinal is because the selection committee gives geographic preference to the top-ranked team. Clemson is affiliated with the Orange Bowl through the ACC, is closer in proximity to South Florida and just played at Sun Life Stadium on Oct. 24 (handing Miami a 58-0 loss).
Miami Herald sportswriter Susan Miller Degnan contributed to this report
College Football Playoff rankings
5. Michigan State
6. Ohio State
8. Notre Dame
9. Florida State
10. North Carolina
13. Ole Miss
17. Oklahoma State
20. Southern Cal
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.