Utah and Oklahoma moved up one spot each in Tuesday’s rankings, while Baylor rose two slots.
The No. 5 position is significant because if Georgia loses to favored LSU in the SEC title game Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Utah would be in prime position to move into the top four – and the playoff – if it beats Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game. But the winner of the Big 12 Championship game between Oklahoma and Baylor also would be in contention for the No. 4 spot if Georgia loses.
If Georgia beats LSU, the Bulldogs would make the playoff, and LSU would be expected to remain in the top four, too, likely closing the playoff door to the Pac-12 and Big 12.
The top three teams in the rankings are undefeated. Rob Mullens, chair of the selection committee, cited “schedule strength” as the reason Ohio State and LSU are ranked ahead of Clemson. He cited Ohio State’s defense as a reason for its slight edge over LSU for the committee’s No. 1 spot.
“Ohio State, with their impressive win over Michigan on the road, has four wins over Top 25 teams. LSU has three very impressive wins over Top 25 teams,” Mullens said on a conference call Tuesday night. “Both really have dynamic offenses. Both have good defenses. Ohio State’s (defense) is just a little ahead at this point.”
Georgia is the highest-ranked one-loss team, Wisconsin the highest-ranked two-loss team and Auburn the highest-ranked three-loss team.
Auburn moved ahead of two-loss Alabama largely because of the head-to-head result, Mullens said. “Alabama’s only two losses are to the Nos. 2 and No. 11 teams. However, they only have two wins over Power 5 teams with winning records, Texas A&M and Tennessee, both 7-5,” Mullens said.
The committee will rank the teams again Sunday, with the top four teams in that set of rankings comprising the field for the playoff. One of the semifinal games will be played in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 28, with the other semifinal to be played in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., on the same date.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS
- Ohio State (12-0) 2. LSU (12-0) 3. Clemson (12-0) 4. Georgia (11-1) 5. Utah (11-1) 6. Oklahoma (11-1) 7. Baylor (11-1) 8. Wisconsin (10-2) 9. Florida (10-2) 10. Penn State (10-2) 11. Auburn (9-3) 12. Alabama (10-2) 13. Oregon (10-2) 14. Michigan (9-3) 15. Notre Dame (10-2) 16. Iowa (9-3) 17. Memphis (11-1) 18. Minnesota (10-2) 19. Boise State (11-1) 20. Cincinnati (10-2) 21. Appalachian State (11-1) 22. USC (8-4) 23. Virginia (9-3) 24. Navy (9-2) 25. Oklahoma State (8-4)