November 7, 2017 at 9:12 PM
The top five remained unchanged in the College Football Playoff selection committee rankings released Tuesday night, but a new entry into the top 10 foretold a coming Saturday of unusual heft. When Auburn rose four places to No. 10, it meant that, somehow, six of the top 10 teams would square off against other top 10 teams, with No. 1 Georgia playing at Auburn, No. 3 Notre Dame playing at No. 7 Miami (Fla.), and No. 5 Oklahoma welcoming No. 6 TCU.
The 13-member committee, which meets each Monday and Tuesday near the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for the remainder of the season, made no alterations among No. 1 Georgia (9-0), No. 2 Alabama (9-0), No. 3 Notre Dame (8-1), defending national champion No. 4 Clemson (8-1) and No. 5 Oklahoma (8-1). All five won last weekend, and three of them — Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma — defeated ranked teams.
From there, TCU (8-1) rose two spots to take over the No. 6 spot that belonged last week to Ohio State (7-2), whose startling 55-24 loss at Iowa saw it plummet to No. 13. After that came slight commotion. Among the two Power Five unbeaten teams who have felt slighted, and whose schedules have gone derided, Miami (8-0) leapt from No. 10 to No. 7, while Wisconsin (9-0) budged from No. 9 to No. 8. For this inversion, the committee valued how Miami mastered, by 28-10, then-No. 13 Virginia Tech (7-2) on Saturday, set against Wisconsin’s 45-17 win at unranked Indiana (3-6).
Washington (8-1) gave the Pacific-12 Conference its first top 10 team of the season by rising from No. 12 to No. 9, and Auburn (7-2) became the lone two-loss team in the top 10, jumping from No. 14 to No. 10.
Atop of even the three top 10 matchups coming Saturday, two other top 10 teams will play ranked teams. No. 2 Alabama will play a ranked team at Mississippi State (7-2), which held down No. 16 for a second straight week, and No. 8 Wisconsin will welcome Iowa which, at 6-3 after its pulverizing win over Ohio State, debuted on the chart at No. 20. No. 9 Washington might have had a ranked opponent as well, but Stanford (6-3) fell off the rankings from No. 21 after its loss at Washington State (8-2), which jumped from No. 25 to No. 19.
Yet that wasn’t the steepest bolt upward. After a weekend seen as destructive for the Big Ten’s hopes of qualifying for the four-team playoff, Ohio State (7-2) and Penn State (7-2) remained next to each other, falling from Nos. 6 and 7 to Nos. 13 and 14, with Penn State tumbling after losing, 27-24, at Michigan State (7-2). The Spartans, in turn, rode that upset all the way from No. 24 last week to No. 12 this week, just behind No. 11 Southern California (8-2), which surged from No. 17. In holding down No. 12, Michigan State sits one slot ahead of the team it will visit this week (Ohio State) and two slots ahead of the team it just defeated.
If the Big Ten did suffer from having no team ranked higher than No. 8, and Wisconsin being widely questioned there, it also posted the highest number of teams within the top 25, with six, ahead of five for the Southeastern Conference (with three in the top 10) and four for the Big 12 and the ACC (with two each in the top 10). The Big Ten’s edge came from the team that crept in at No. 25, Northwestern (6-3), which has won three straight overtime games, and which joined Iowa as the only two debutantes in this second set of committee rankings.
Central Florida (8-0), the fifth and final unbeaten team in the Football Bowl Subdivision, again took the top spot among the teams from the second-tier Group of Five, who vie for a valuable New Year’s Day bowl bid. UCF sat at No. 18, its same ranking from last week, and four spots ahead of Memphis (8-1), whose lone loss came to UCF. Bunched around those two were teams that lost last weekend but managed to gain forgiveness and remain in the rankings. Those include Oklahoma State (7-2), which slid from No. 11 to No. 15 after losing to Oklahoma; Virginia Tech (7-2), which dropped from No. 13 to No. 17 after losing to Miami; Iowa State (6-3), which went from No. 15 to No. 21 after losing at West Virginia (but still holds wins over top-six teams Oklahoma and TCU); North Carolina State (6-3), which lost to Clemson and slipped from No. 20 to No. 23; and former No. 19 LSU (6-3), which lost at Alabama but stayed on the list at No. 24.