Coach Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide will carry the No. 1 ranking into Saturday’s game against rival Auburn. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Top four unchanged in playoff rankings as big games loom

The College Football Playoff selection committee left the top four teams unchanged and moved Washington up one spot to No. 5 in the latest rankings released Tuesday night.

The Huskies claimed the position previously occupied by Louisville, which tumbled to No. 11 after losing by 26 points at Houston last week.

Alabama remained No. 1, Ohio State No. 2, Michigan No. 3 and Clemson No. 4. Alabama and Clemson won handily last week, while Ohio State and Michigan defeated Michigan State and Indiana by one and 10 points, respectively.

The selection committee will release two more sets of rankings this season — one next week and another after the conference championship games. The top four teams in the Dec. 4 rankings will comprise the playoff field and will be placed into national semifinals in Atlanta’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.

Two of this week’s top four teams, Ohio State and Michigan, both 10-1, will meet head-to-head Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, with the loser in peril of falling out of the top four and the playoff picture.

Alabama (11-0) and Clemson (10-1) also face rivalry games Saturday versus No. 13 Auburn and unranked South Carolina, respectively.

Aside from the top four, Washington is the only other team from the five power conferences with just one loss.

Rounding out the committee’s top 10 this week are five twice-beaten teams — No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 7 Penn State, No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 9 Colorado and No. 10 Oklahoma State. All of those teams moved up one spot from last week.

Wisconsin or Penn State could make a compelling case to be in the playoff by reaching and winning the Big Ten Championship game. Berths in that game will be determined Saturday.

Selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said on the ESPN telecast of the rankings release Tuesday that Wisconsin was solid this week at No. 6 and that there was “small separation” between the teams ranked from Nos. 7 through 10.

Louisville, which lost to Clemson earlier in the season, fell out of playoff contention with last week’s 36-10 loss to Houston.

The rankings — especially the top four — are of particular interest to the Peach Bowl, which will host the biggest game in its 49-year history Dec. 31 at the Georgia Dome: a semifinal matching the Nos. 1 and 4 teams or the Nos. 2 and 3 teams.

If Alabama remains ranked No. 1 on Dec. 4, it would play in the Peach Bowl because the selection committee’s guidelines call for the top seed to generally be assigned to the semifinal nearest its campus.

As the rankings stand this week, Alabama would face Clemson in the Peach. The Crimson Tide defeated Clemson 45-40 in last season’s national championship game and has won four national titles in the past seven seasons.

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