In the Col­lege

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHUCK CULPEP­PER

Foot­ball Play­off Rank­ings, Alabama is No. 1.

The chances for un­rest, dis­agree­ment and ran­cor in­ten­si­fied Tues­day night, es­pe­cially at Nos. 2-4 and Nos. 6-7, when the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off se­lec­tion com­mit­tee un­furled its third set of rank­ings for the 2017 sea­son. It el­e­vated Clem­son from No. 4 to No. 2, Mi­ami (Fla.) from No. 7 to No. 3, Oklahoma from No. 5 only to No. 4, and Auburn from No. 10 to No. 6.

All of that left Georgia top­pling to No. 7, the fur­thest fall yet from No. 1 in the four-sea­son-old con­cept.

Within that mix, the 13-mem­ber com­mit­tee es­sen­tially as­serted that if the sea­son ended today, one con­fer­ence would have an un­prece­dented two teams in the four-team play­off. It just wouldn’t be the con­fer­ence every­one spent much of the sea­son sur­mis­ing. It would be that old round-ball loop, the ACC, and not the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence, as the ACC tilted

to­ward a po­ten­tially colos­sal tus­sle in its con­fer­ence ti­tle game be­tween No. 2 Clem­son (9-1) and No. 3 Mi­ami (9-0).

The ACC’s two-team place­ment in the top four ac­tu­ally be­came the third such spree at this time since this method of cham­pi­onship-de­duc­ing be­gan in 2014. That first year, the third rank­ings, in midNovem­ber, had Alabama at No. 1 and SEC brethren Mis­sis­sippi State at No. 4. Last year at this stage, Ohio State held down No. 2, with Big Ten co­hort, if not friend, Michi­gan at No. 3.

As with all six rank­ings of last sea­son, Alabama (10-0) stood at No. 1 again in this lat­est top 25. The Crim­son Tide edged up there from No. 2 when Georgia took a 40-17 mauling at Auburn. Hand­ily, Alabama will play at Auburn on Nov. 25, a match with a fresh chance of es­pe­cially lofty rank­ings.

In plac­ing No. 6 Auburn (8-2) just above No. 7 Georgia (9-1), the com­mit­tee clearly used an “eye test,” with one of the two so su­pe­rior to the other just last week­end on a South­east­ern field. Auburn’s in­fe­rior record earned for­give­ness for the cal­iber of its con­querors — No. 2 Clem­son and No. 20 LSU (7-3) — while Georgia’s sig­na­ture vic­tory, a 20-19 win at Notre Dame, took some­thing of a dent when the Ir­ish’s trip to Mi­ami wound up look­ing like a trip to a shred­der.

Fol­low­ing Mi­ami’s 41-8 win, the two of them just about swapped places, with the Hur­ri­canes up from No. 7 to No. 3, and the Ir­ish (8-2) slip­ping from No. 3 to No. 8.

An in­scrutable com­par­i­son fig­ured to hap­pen for those Nos. 2-4 spots. Clem­son (9-1) has an im­pres­sive ar­ray of wins, in­clud­ing two over ranked teams (No. 6 Auburn, No. 19 N.C. State). Mi­ami (9-0) has the two routs of then-ranked op­po­nents, in­clud­ing Notre Dame and Vir­ginia Tech (7-3), which fell off the charts this time. And Oklahoma (9-1) might have the best griev­ance within the thicket, as its vic­tims in­clude three of the top 13 teams: Ohio State, TCU and Oklahoma State.

No­tably, Alabama and Clem­son, the com­bat­ants in the past two cham­pi­onship games, have oc­cu­pied ev­ery sin­gle top four for the past three sea­sons, en­com­pass­ing 15 rank­ings (six in 2015, six in 2016 and three in 2017).

Wedged in the whole lot of them is No. 5 Wis­con­sin (10-0), which rode both the at­tri­tion up ahead and a pul­ver­iz­ing 38-14 win over thenNo. 20 Iowa into a three-slot rise. Of the top seven teams, the Badgers have the least im­pos­ing set of wins, with just one against a ranked team (No. 23 North­west­ern), but with a chance to add an­other com­ing Satur­day as Michi­gan (8-2) made its 2017 de­but on the list at No. 24.

Even with the Big Ten tem­po­rar­ily still on the out­side look­ing in, it did line the top 25 with a peer­less six en­tries. Be­hind Wis­con­sin at No. 5, No. 9 Ohio State (8-2) and No. 10 Penn State (8-2) made cu­ri­ous four-notch bolts, the for­mer af­ter a 48-3 win over then-No. 12 Michi­gan State, but the lat­ter af­ter a 35-6 win over un­ranked Rut­gers.

Both of those over­took South­ern Cal­i­for­nia (9-2), which stayed at No. 11 as it beat Colorado and clinched a Pa­cific-12 Con­fer­ence ti­tle game slot. It no doubt suf­fered from the gen­eral par­ity malaise of its league, which has no top 10 teams. Wash­ing­ton State (9-2) chimed in at No. 14 and Stan­ford (7-3) reen­tered at No. 22, while the com­mit­tee pun­ished Wash­ing­ton (8-2) for los­ing at Stan­ford by dock­ing it from No. 9 to No. 18.

From the Group of Five teams that bat­tle for the lu­cra­tive crumbs of a New Year’s Six bowl bid, the com­mit­tee upped their in­clu­sion to three teams. UCF (9-0) went from No. 18 to No. 15, and Mem­phis (8-1), with its lone loss to UCF, from No. 22 to No. 21. Boise State, which earned the cov­eted ma­jor bowl bid in 2014, came in at No. 25 af­ter hav­ing barged from 2-2 to 8-2.

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