After another chaotic weekend, two new teams took over the top spots in the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night.
Clemson (11-1) grabbed the No. 1 spot for the first time since the release of the final playoff rankings in 2015. The Tigers benefited from previous No. 1 Alabama’s loss to Auburn during Saturday’s Iron Bowl.
The defending national champions will play in the ACC title game Saturday against No. 7 Miami (10-1), which suffered its first loss of the season against unranked Pittsburgh on Friday. The Hurricanes dropped five spots after falling to the Panthers.
“The committee continues to be impressed with how balanced the Tigers are on both sides of the ball and how that’s translated into an impressive season-long body of work,” said committee chairman Kirby Hocutt.
Auburn (10-2) pushed its way into the playoff discussion and took the No. 2 spot after knocking off Alabama. It was the second time the Tigers defeated the No. 1 team in the rankings this season, previously defeated then-No. 1 Georgia on Nov. 11. The No. 6 Bulldogs can get revenge Saturday during a rematch with Auburn in the SEC title game. The winner is expected to earn a spot in the semifinals.
Oklahoma (11-1) moved up a spot to No. 3, with the Sooners continuing their march toward a third consecutive Big 12 title. The Sooners will be challenged by No. 11 TCU (10-2) Saturday during the conference’s first championship game in more than a decade.
Wisconsin (12-0) remains one of just two undefeated teams left in the country and broke into the top four for the first time this season at No. 4.
No. 5 Alabama (11-1) fell out of the top four in the playoff rankings for the first time since Nov. 11, 2014.
The Crimson Tide join Ohio State (10-2) on the wrong side of the playoff semifinal cut line. The Buckeyes, who moved up to No. 8 this week, will take on Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship Saturday. A win over the Badgers could force the selection committee to give serious consideration to Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer’s team.
UCF (11-0), one of two undefeated teams in the country, continues to be hindered by its relatively weak strength of schedule. The Knights moved up one spot to No. 14, sitting behind No. 13 Washington (10-2) and No. 12 Stanford (9-3), among others.
The Knights will host No. 20 Memphis (10-1) in the American Athletic Conference championship Saturday. The winner is expected to be the highest ranked Group of 5 champion and earn a spot in the Peach Bowl.
This is the fifth of six rankings released by the 13-member selection committee. The final poll will be revealed live on ESPN at noon Sunday. The top four teams qualify for the two semifinal games, which will be held at the Rose and Sugar bowls on New Year’s Day. The winners will meet in the national championship game on Jan. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The rankings will be used to help fill the remaining New Year’s Six access bowls — Orange, Cotton, Peach and Fiesta.