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Alabama goes to top in playoff rankings

By Ralph D. Russo

AP College Football Writer

Alabama and Clemson are back on top of the College Football Playoff rankings, the ninth time over the last three seasons that the Crimson Tide and Tigers have held the first two spots in some order.

Coach Nick Saban’s Alabama team was the selection committee’s new No. 1 on Tuesday night, with Clemson up two spots to No. 2. Miami and Oklahoma followed, joining the top four for the first time this season. Wisconsin was fifth and Auburn was up to sixth.

Alabama and Clemson have met in the last two national championship games, with each winning one. If they win out, there is good chance they could enter the postseason positioned to make it three straight title game matchups.

The Crimson Tide had been second behind Georgia in the first two selection committee rankings, but the Bulldogs and previously No. 3 Notre Dame were beaten last weekend, opening up the top for changes.

Unbeaten Miami jumped from seventh to third and along with Clemson gave the Atlantic Coast Conference two top-four teams for the first time in the four-year College Football Playoff era.

Oklahoma moved up one spot.

Unbeaten Wisconsin moved up from eighth and is the highest-ranked Big Ten team. Auburn is the highest-ranked team with two losses.

Georgia is seventh and Notre Dame is eighth.

Ohio State is back in the top 10 after an impressive victory against Michigan State, and Penn State is 10th. Southern California at 11th is the highest-ranked Pac-12 team.

UCF climbed to No. 15, making the undefeated Knights the highest-ranked team from a Group of Five conference. The highest-ranked conference champion from outside the Power Five is guaranteed a spot in the New Year’s Six bowls.

WHO’S IN CONTROL?

There were complaints from Miami and Oklahoma fans about being stuck behind Clemson. Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt, the athletic director at Texas Tech, said Clemson’s six victories against teams with winning records gave the Tigers the nod.

He added that the impact of Clemson’s loss to Syracuse (4-6) has been mitigated by injuries hampering Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant in that game. Bryant came into the game with a sore ankle that hobbled him and missed the second half with a concussion.

He also pointed at that Miami not having a road win against a winning team worked against the Hurricanes and that Oklahoma’s loss to Iowa State (6-4) at home was weighing down the Sooners a bit.

Argue about the order all you like but here’s the bottom line: Clemson and Miami will play in the ACC title game on Dec. 2, and barring a big upset or two before they get there, it’s a playoff play-in game.

Oklahoma can rest easy, too. The Sooners should be fine if they win out and are Big 12 champions.

And now Wisconsin has to be feeling better, too. If the ACC teams take care of each other, that should clear up a spot for the Badgers if they can keep winning.

Auburn gets a crack at Alabama and, if it wins the Iron Bowl, another game against Georgia for the SEC title. So the Tigers don’t have to worry anybody but themselves.

Georgia can still win the SEC by either paying back Auburn or beating Alabama. The Bulldogs’ path is clear.

After that it gets complicated.

Notre Dame can finish 10-2 and add victories against Navy and Stanford to a resume that is already solid with wins over USC, Michigan State and North Carolina State. But the Irish are going to need some upsets — maybe more than some — to jump back into the top four.

Then there is Ohio State. The Buckeyes can still win the Big Ten, and knocking off Wisconsin in the title game definitely gives Ohio State hope. But with two losses, including a lopsided one at Iowa, the Buckeyes could find themselves being compared to the losers of the SEC or ACC title game.

Still, considering how bad that debacle in Iowa City was two weeks ago, the Buckeyes have to like their situation.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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More college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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