The top six teams in the College Football Playoff rankings remained the same on Tuesday, including Ohio State, which stayed at No. 4 despite uncertainty about its upcoming opponents.
The Big 12, meanwhile, is still alive in the CFP race.
The Buckeyes (5-0) stayed ahead of No. 5 Texas A&M (7-1) and No. 6 Florida (8-1) after thrashing Michigan State, 52-12, last weekend despite being without more than a dozen scholarship players, including three starting offensive linemen.
“That certainly got our attention,” selection committee chairman Gary Barta said.
The top three spots in the rankings once again belong to Alabama (9-0), Notre Dame (10-0) and Clemson (9-1). It’s the third consecutive week the same four teams have been atop the rankings.
Earlier Tuesday, Ohio State learned that its upcoming game against Michigan was canceled because of COVID-19 issues within the Wolverines’ program. The Buckeyes need to play another Big Ten opponent this weekend or have the six-game threshold for reaching the league championship adjusted so they could face No. 14 Northwestern (5-1) next week in Indianapolis.
The Buckeyes, who have shown to be the Big Ten’s most dominant team this season, have now lost three games because of COVID-19 cancellations. If Ohio State doesn’t reach the Big Ten title game, it could be paired next week against No. 16 Iowa (5-2), which moved up three spots after its fifth consecutive win. In that scenario, Northwestern and No. 12 Indiana (6-1) would play in the Big Ten championship game? That’s if Indiana can play. The Hoosiers paused team activities Tuesday because of COVID-19 cases.
Barta is the athletic director at Iowa, and as part of that job, he will meet with his peers in the Big Ten on Wednesday for a regularly scheduled meeting. Barta said he doesn’t know the agenda of that meeting, and he declined to speculate, but it seems highly likely that Ohio State’s situation will be discussed.
The Big Ten A.D.s not only have to figure out what is fair to Ohio State and the rest of the conference, but they also must consider how best to protect the integrity and value of their league championship game. On top of that, they also figure to be thinking about what is the best way to put the Buckeyes in position to be picked for the playoff by the selection committee.
“I am going to go into it the way I try to go into everything, and that is, I’m going do the right thing, what I believe is the right thing for college football, for the CFP, and certainly as we have since the beginning of COVID-19, the right thing for student-athlete health and safety,” Barta said.
The Big 12’s slim playoff hopes received a boost, as Iowa State (8-2) climbed to No. 7, ahead of undefeated Cincinnati, which dropped one spot to No. 8 after not playing since Nov. 28. The Bearcats (8-0) again will be off this week instead of facing 24th-ranked Tulsa (6-1) because of coronavirus issues within their own program. Those two teams are scheduled to meet on Dec. 19 in the American Athletic Conference championship game and would have done so regardless of the outcome of this week’s regular-season finale.
Iowa State, the highest-ranked two-loss team, is set to face No. 11 Oklahoma (7-2) next week in the Big 12 championship game. A conference championship presumably would keep the Cyclones ahead of Cincinnati and possibly push them into the top four. Georgia (6-2) is ninth and Miami (8-1) is 10th.
Coastal Carolina (10-0) and BYU (9-1) traded spots in the rankings following the Chanticleers’ home victory over the Cougars. Coastal Carolina now sits at No. 13, and BYU dropped five spots to No. 18 following its first loss.
USC remains the Pac-12’s highest-ranked team, at No. 15, after it improved to 4-0 with a dominant win on Sunday against Washington State. Colorado (4-0), the Pac-12’s other undefeated team, made its first appearance in the CFP rankings at No. 21.
Louisiana (9-1), which beat Iowa State, 31-14, to open the season and has only lost to Coastal Carolina (30-27), moved up six spots to No. 19 this week. Louisiana and Coastal meet again in the Sun Belt title game on Dec. 19. Texas (6-3) re-entered the rankings at No. 20, and Missouri (5-3) made its debut at No. 25.
The CFP selection committee will release a new top 25 on Dec. 15, before the final rankings are unveiled Dec. 20.
—– COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS (Dec. 8) —–
1. Alabama (9-0)
2. Notre Dame (10-0)
3. Clemson (9-1)
4. Ohio State (5-0)
5. Texas A&M (7-1)
6. Florida (8-1)
7. Iowa State (8-2)
8. Cincinnati (8-0)
9. Georgia (6-2)
10. Miami (8-1)
11. Oklahoma (7-2)
12. Indiana (6-1)
13. Coastal Carolina (10-0)
14. Northwestern (5-1)
15. USC (4-0)
16. Iowa (5-2)
17. North Carolina (7-3)
18. BYU (9-1)
19. Louisiana (9-1)
20. Texas (6-3)
21. Colorado (4-0)
22. Oklahoma State (6-3)
23. North Carolina State (8-3)
24. Tulsa (6-1)
25. Missouri (5-3)