College Football Playoff rankings: New No. 1 Alabama leads the way, Clemson right behind
It was a wild and crazy week of college football, which meant when Tuesday's third College Football Playoff rankings were released to the masses, there would be plenty to unpack. The committee did not let us down.
First off, here's a look at the full rankings:
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Unsurprisingly, with Georgia stumbling in a big way against Auburn, Alabama has taken over the top spot in this week's rankings, although even the Tide weren't without fear in Week 11 as Mississippi State pushed them to the brink. This was fairly expected; the Tide still haven't lost this year, and that defense looks truly special.
Behind the Tide, interestingly enough, come last year's national champions, the new No. 2 Clemson Tigers.
Some folks might've expected the red-hot Miami Hurricanes at No. 2 (more on them in a second), but instead the ACC's leading squad is Clemson, a team coming off a third straight win after its loss to Syracuse in Week 7. The Tigers have four wins over then-ranked opponents, the most impressive ones being victories over Auburn (No. 6 in this week's ranking) and Virginia Tech, both of which likely factored into the committee's decision, especially after Auburn dismantled former No. 1 Georgia last week.
Georgia, for its own part, took a six-spot fall down the rankings thanks to that gigantic loss to Auburn. The Bulldogs' first loss of the year was a killer, came at a bad time and might end up costing UGA a spot in the Playoff. There's always little room for error when the stakes are this high, but there's never, ever room for blowout-style error.
Rounding out the top four, for now, are Miami and Oklahoma, two teams who just keep rolling along.
.@CanesFootball jumped 4 spots from 7th to 3rd this week in the #CFBPlayoff Rankings.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 15, 2017
That matches the largest jump by any team into the top 4 in the 4-year history the rankings (2014 Alabama, 2015 Oklahoma). pic.twitter.com/9GD6C5GjV2
The Hurricanes are the talk of the country after dismantling then-No. 3 Notre Dame (the Fighting Irish have since fallen to No. 8) 41-8 on national television. It was a coming-out party for Miami's worst kept secret, its defensive dominance, as well as a celebration of its ubiquitous turnover chain. Mark Richt has the Hurricanes playing great football right now and The U's swagger is undoubtedly back. All they have standing in the way of a perfect season at this point is two matchups with unranked opponents — Virginia and Pittsburgh — and a matchup with No. 2 Clemson in the ACC championship game on Dec. 2.
Which means, if Miami can avoid upsets and then find a way to top Clemson in what should be a great matchup, the Hurricanes could be in the driver's seat en route to a Playoff spot in less than a month.
And Oklahoma might feel like a top three spot is warranted after its third ranked win this year, and after hanging 100 combined points on back-to-back ranked opponents in Oklahoma State and TCU. It's hard to argue with any of the top four being where they are, but Baker Mayfield and the Sooners are playing inspired football right now. They get another chance to impress the committee when they face West Virginia to wrap up the regular season. Can they wiggle their way past Miami? It'll be close.
Elsewhere in this batch of numbered football teams, the two teams just on the outside looking in — Wisconsin and Auburn — both have to feel good about where they're sitting. This past week showed there are no safe teams in the country, which means even though they're stuck outside of the bracket right now, there's no reason to think one or more of the top four could stumble and lose its way.
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As far as Auburn is concerned, two losses will be a tough sell, but hanging close with Clemson and knocking off the No. 1 team in the country with a 23-point win are two great resume builders. And then there's the light at the end of the tunnel: the Nov. 25 matchup with No. 1 Alabama, followed by the SEC Championship. A team beating two different No. 1-ranked squads down the stretch, and then topping it off with a conference title, will have as strong an argument as any for their inclusion in the CFP.
A few other nuggets before we go our separate ways for Week 12? Certainly.
One fun team to keep an eye on is No. 15 UCF. The Knights are 9-0 with two winnable games remaining, and as long as they hang on to their seats the rest of the way and don't lay an egg, they should be ticketed for a big bowl game come this winter. Scott Frost has done a great job with that team this season, and he deserves a great deal of recognition for getting a top 15 ranking.
Here's an eye-catching stat:
This is the 1st time the ACC has ever had 2 teams in Top 4 of the same rankings release. https://t.co/YXeAw5PF40— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 15, 2017
Hypothetically, if Clemson and Miami play to a very close and entertaining finish in the ACC championship game, do they both still belong in the Playoff? If Wisconsin is undefeated, it might be tough to make that case... but not impossible.
Because if 2017 has taught us anything, it's that anything is possible in the world of college football.