• 32°

College football: Ohio St. holds firm to second place in rankings

By Ralph D. Russo

AP College Football Writer

Ohio State held firm at second in the College Football Playoff rankings, putting the Buckeyes in position to become the first team to be selected to the final four without winning its conference.

The second-to-last rankings were released Tuesday night and Alabama was No. 1, followed by Ohio State, Clemson and Washington. The Crimson Tide, Tigers and Huskies all play conference championship games this weekend and presumably would be in good shape to make the playoff if they win. The final rankings and playoff pairings will be released Sunday.

Unbeaten Alabama is probably in good shape to make the playoff even if it loses to Florida in the Southeastern Conference title game Saturday

Michigan dropped to five after losing to Ohio State. Wisconsin was sixth and Penn State was seventh. The Badgers and Nittany Lions will play for the Big Ten title in Indianapolis on Saturday.

•••

HUSKIES vs. WOLVERINES

Assuming the Buckeyes are a lock, and it looks good for them, and Clemson doesn’t get upset by Virginia Tech in the ACC title game, the debate for the committee when it gathers in Texas on Saturday night to watch games and discuss the only rankings that matter will be Pac-12 or Big Ten.

Can Michigan, or maybe the Big Ten champion with two losses, edge a Washington team that would finish 12-1 by beating Colorado Friday night in the Pac-12 title game?

“There is a small separation between these two teams,” selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said of Michigan and Washington. At one point Hocutt added that the difference between the Wolverines and Huskies was “razor thin.”

It looks like not only does the committee not mind putting one Big Ten team without a conference championship in the playoff, but it is also comfortable with two. Michigan at 10-2 has victories against both Penn State and Wisconsin.

PENN STATE’S PLIGHT

A Wisconsin victory in the Big Ten title game would eliminate the controversy. The Badgers lost to Ohio State during the regular season

Penn State fans, however, are already cranking up the complaints. The Nittany Lions beat Ohio State in October. Add a Big Ten title and Penn State is bound to feel slighted.

Conference titles and head-to-head results are essentially used by the committee like tiebreakers when teams are very close. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions are not in the committee’s eyes. At least not yet.

“The selection committee recognizes the head-to-head win, but in this particular case, it hasn’t been the distinguishing point in our evaluation of those two teams,” he said.

SUGAR BOWL

Assuming Alabama is in the playoff, the Southeastern Conference sends its next highest ranked team to the Sugar Bowl to face the Big 12 champion, which will be decided when No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 10 Oklahoma State play in Norman on Saturday.

No. 14 Auburn is that SEC team right now. Florida is 15th, so a good performance — even in a loss — against the Crimson Tide might get the Gators to New Orleans on a two-game losing streak. A Florida loss would leave every SEC team other than Alabama with at least four losses.

But the contract with the Sugar says the SEC gets the spot mediocre or not.

ORANGE BOWL

Louisville beat Florida State by 43 points in September, but the Cardinals have stumbled down the stretch and now the Seminoles are 12th and the Cardinal are 13th.

If that order holds — and there is no reason to think it won’t because neither is playing — and Clemson goes to the playoff as the ACC champion, then Florida State will represent the conference in the Orange Bowl.

Hocutt said Florida State has played one of the toughest schedules in the country while Louisville has beaten only one team with a winning record (Florida State). He said the Seminoles are playing better lately.

GROUP OF FIVE

The highest-ranked conference champion from outside the Power Five is getting a Cotton Bowl bid and at this point it looks as if it will be No. 17 Western Michigan if the unbeaten Broncos defeat Ohio in the Mid-American Conference championship game Friday night.

The next highest ranked Group of Five team is No. 19 Navy (9-2), which will play Temple for the American Athletic Conference championship on Saturday at home.

Don’t consider WMU a lock. Hocutt said the committee is still concerned about the Broncos weak schedule. But it looks promising for coach P.J. Fleck’s team.

Comments

Local

City officials differ on how, what information should be released regarding viral K-9 officer video

High School

High school basketball: Carson girls are 3A champions

Lifestyle

High school, college sweethearts marry nearly 50 years later

Local

With jury trials set to resume, impact of COVID-19 on process looms

Legion baseball

Book explores life of Pfeiffer baseball coach Joe Ferebee

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education to receive update on competency-based education

Business

Biz Roundup: Kannapolis expects to see economic, housing growth continue in 2021

Business

A fixture of downtown Salisbury’s shopping scene, Caniche celebrates 15th anniversary this month

Local

Slate of new officers during local GOP convention; Rev. Jenkins becomes new chair

Landis

Landis officials narrow search for new manager to five candidates; expect decision within a month

Lifestyle

Together at last: High school, college sweethearts marry nearly 50 years later

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Schools sorts out transportation logistics in preparation for full-time return to classes

High School

Photo gallery: Carson goes undefeated, wins 3A state championship

Nation/World

Europe staggers as infectious variants power virus surge

Nation/World

Biden, Democrats prevail as Senate OKs $1.9 trillion virus relief bill

Nation/World

Senate Democrats strike deal on jobless aid, move relief bill closer to approval

News

Duke Life Flight pilot may have shut down wrong engine in fatal crash

News

Two NC counties get to participate in satellite internet pilot for students

Local

PETA protesters gather in front of police department

Coronavirus

UPDATED: Eight new COVID-19 deaths, 203 positives reported in county this week

Crime

Sheriff’s office: Two charged after suitcase of marijuana found in Jeep

Crime

Thomasville officer hospitalized after chase that started in Rowan County

Local

Board of elections discusses upgrading voting machines, making precinct changes

News

Lawmakers finalize how state will spend COVID-19 funds