College Football Playoff rankings: Top four unchanged, UGA up to No. 8

The College Football Playoff selection committee continues to see Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State as the nation’s top teams, in that order.

The committee’s second set of rankings of the season, released Tuesday night, kept the top four unchanged from the week before.

Alabama (8-0) remained No. 1 after a 42-13 win over Auburn. Notre Dame (9-0) held on to No. 2 after a 31-17 win at North Carolina. Clemson (8-1) remained No. 3 after a 52-17 rout of Pittsburgh. And Ohio State (4-0) clung to No. 4 after its scheduled game against Illinois was canceled because of COVID-19 cases within the Buckeyes’ program.

The rankings leave those teams in the lead for spots in the four-team playoff.

Georgia moved up one spot to No. 8 after last week’s rout of South Carolina, but with two losses the Bulldogs have no viable path to the playoff. They are, however, the highest-ranked two-loss team and one of four SEC teams in the top eight.

Just outside the top four in the latest CFP rankings are No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 6 Florida and No. 7 Cincinnati. Texas A&M is ranked ahead of Florida on the strength of the Aggies’ win over the Gators. The top seven teams are the same as last week.

Rounding out the top 10 this week are Iowa State at No. 9, up four spots from last week, and Miami at No. 10.

Northwestern dropped to No. 14, down from No. 8, as a result of losing its first game of the season (to Michigan State). Undefeated BYU, ranked surprisingly low at No. 14 last week, moved up only one spot to No. 13.

The work of the playoff selection committee is complicated by the varying number of games teams have played amid the coronavirus pandemic. Ohio State, for example, has played less than half as many games as Notre Dame or Clemson and is now within one more cancellation of being ineligible for the Big Ten Championship game.

“The last time we had a chance to watch (Ohio State) was against No. 12 Indiana (on Nov. 21), but they just continue to lead an explosive offense under the direction of (quarterback) Justin Fields, averaging 45 points a game,” said Gary Barta, chairman of the selection committee and the athletic director at Iowa.

“There is a discrepancy sometimes between a team that has played eight or nine games and a team that has played three or four games. And frankly, it’s a problem. It’s a problem that is nobody’s fault. It was created by the pandemic. But the bottom line is the greater body of work that a team brings to the committee, the more the committee has to evaluate.”

For this week, at least, the evaluation regarding Ohio State came down to whether No. 5 Texas A&M (6-1) should surpass the No. 4 Buckeyes.

“When those two teams were put side-by-side (Tuesday) morning and (Monday) night, there just wasn’t enough there to put Texas A&M ahead of Ohio State,” Barta said. “Great discussion, but Ohio State came in at No. 4 and Texas A&M at No. 5.”

The committee will re-rank teams each of the next three weeks, culminating Dec. 20 with the ratings that will set the field for the playoff.