College Football Playoff Rankings: Iowa State jumps two spots to No. 7 as top six hold firm

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The third edition of this season’s College Football Playoff Rankings was released Tuesday night, and the first six teams in the top 25 were unchanged from last week. Alabama remains the top-ranked team in the nation with Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State filling out the top four. This as questions arise this week about whether the Buckeyes will be eligible for the Big Ten Championship Game or should be legitimately considered for the CFP given their short schedule.

Two more SEC teams, Texas A&M and Florida, are in the “last two out” positions. The Gators will play LSU this Saturday ahead of their tilt with the Crimson Tide in next week’s SEC Championship Game. The Aggies are in a difficult position hoping for a spot to open in the four-team field.

Iowa State was the surprise of this week’s rankings, jumping two spots to No. 7 ahead of Cincinnati and Georgia. The Bearcats have not played in the last two weeks, while the Bulldogs were not in action last week. At 8-2, the Cyclones are the highest-ranked two-loss team, ahead of five Power Five programs with one or fewer losses, not to mention undefeated Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina.

“The committee has been watching Iowa State these last few weeks. [We were impressed with] the win over the 20th team in Texas and then [Iowa State] took it to West Virginia this past week. … They’re in first place in the Big 12. It was really the committee’s respect for what Iowa State has done and not a penalty for Cincinnati,” said CFP Selection Committee chairman Gary Barta of the Cyclones’ ascension in the rankings.

Let’s take a look at the entire CFP Rankings top 25. Keep on reading for analysis from CBS Sports bowls expert Jerry Palm.

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 (9-2)
  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. NC State (8-3)
  24. Tulsa (6-1)
  25. Missouri (5-3)

Analysis by bowls expert Jerry Palm

The talk at the top of the rankings this week is more about what might happen to Ohio State going forward than what actually happened this week. The highest rated team to move up is Iowa State, which was ninth last week behind Cincinnati and Georgia. Most non-Georgia fans are fine with the Bulldogs dropping down a spot. They are still too high.

The Bearcats are suffering some from not playing and being unable to add to their resume. The last time Cincinnati took the field was Nov. 21 when it won at UCF, 36-33. Cincinnati’s game at Tulsa this week was canceled, so the Bearcats will host the Golden Hurricane in the AAC Championship Game on Dec. 19.

That game will be of interest to new No. 13 Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers moved up five spots after a thrilling 22-17 win over No. 18 BYU. If the Chants can finish off the regular season, which means winning at Troy on Saturday and beating No. 19 Louisiana in the Sun Belt Championship Game, they could be in position to qualify for a New Year’s Six game. Cincinnati would have to lose to Tulsa to make that happen.

The Big Ten has a real quandary now. Tuesday morning, Michigan had to cancel the game with Ohio State scheduled for Saturday, thus making the Buckeyes ineligible for the Big Ten Championship Game under the current rules. That opens the door for Indiana to step in, but right before the CFP Rankings were released, the Hoosiers announced that they were pausing football activities due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the program.

Four of the five Big Ten teams that have had COVID-19 outbreaks have been forced to cancel two games. Only Ohio State was able to keep it to one cancellation. If Indiana has to miss two weeks — and this Saturday’s game has not been canceled yet — the Hoosiers cannot play for the championship either. With Maryland also ineligible, the winner of this week’s Michigan State-Penn State game would be next in line. That should erase any doubt that the Big Ten will do whatever it takes to make sure Ohio State plays in the conference title game.

There is one other ranking to note. USC is up to No. 15, five spots up from last week. The CFP seems to be out of reach for the Trojans, but if they have more performances like the one they did Sunday night, a finish in the bottom half of the top 10 is possible.

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