Alabama to 1, then Clem­son, Mi­ami, OU

Santa Fe New Mexican - - SPORTS - By Ralph D. Russo

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.

Alabama and Clem­son have met in the last two na­tional cham­pi­onship games, with each win­ning one. If they win out, there is good chance they could en­ter the post­sea­son po­si­tioned to make it three straight ti­tle game matchups.

The Crim­son Tide had been sec­ond be­hind Ge­or­gia in the first two se­lec­tion com­mit­tee rank­ings, but the Bull­dogs and pre­vi­ously No. 3 Notre Dame were beaten last week­end, open­ing up the top for changes.

Un­beaten Mi­ami jumped from sev­enth to third and along with Clem­son gave the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence two top-four teams for the first time in the four-year Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off era. Ok­la­homa moved up one spot. Un­beaten Wis­con­sin moved up from eighth and is the high­est-ranked Big Ten team. Auburn is the high­est-ranked team with two losses.

Ge­or­gia is sev­enth and Notre Dame is eighth.

Ohio State is back in the top 10 af­ter an im­pres­sive vic­tory against Michi­gan State, and Penn State is 10th. South­ern Cal­i­for­nia at 11th is the high­est-ranked Pac-12 team.

UCF climbed to No. 15, mak­ing the un­de­feated Knights the high­est-ranked team from a Group of Five con­fer­ence. The high­est-ranked con­fer­ence cham­pion from out­side the Power Five is guar­an­teed a spot in the New Year’s Six bowls.

Who’s in con­trol?

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 that 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.


Alabama of­fen­sive line­man Bradley Boze­man hoists wide re­ceiver DeVonta Smith as they cel­e­brate Smith’s 26-yard touch­down pass re­cep­tion for the goa­head score dur­ing Satur­day’s game in Starkville, Miss. Alabama is back at the top of the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off rank­ings.

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