When the College Football Playoff committee convened to formulate its first rankings of this season, there was no shortage of strong cases.
The top five teams in The Associated Press poll are all undefeated, and one of them is the defending national champion.
In the initial playoff rankings announced on Tuesday night, the critical top four spots went to Ohio State, L.S.U., Alabama and Penn State, leaving Clemson, last season’s champ at No. 5. All five teams are undefeated and in the top five of The Associated Press poll, where Clemson is No. 4 and Penn State is No. 5.
The top four teams in the final playoff rankings, to be released on Dec. 8, will go to the national semifinals on Dec. 28.
This is the first time since the playoff system was introduced in 2014 that the top four teams in the committee’s initial poll have all been undefeated.
But things will might not stay that way for long. L.S.U. travels to Alabama on Saturday for the most widely anticipated game of the season. It will be the first time the top two teams in The Associated Press poll have met in the regular season since 2011, when L.S.U. traveled to Alabama for a 9-6 overtime victory.
Penn State will have chances to solidify its case in coming weeks: On Saturday the Nittany Lions will visit 13th-ranked Minnesota, which is also unbeaten, and on Nov. 23 they will travel to Ohio State.
It may take considerable disruption over the final month of the regular season for a team from the Big 12 (unbeaten Baylor or once-beaten Oklahoma) or the Pac-12 (once-beaten Oregon or Utah) to make its way into the playoff.
The team that might be best equipped to make a jump is Oregon, — but the Ducks’ hopes largely rest with the team that defeated them in the season opener, Auburn.
If Auburn wins the rest of its games, that might do more than burnish Oregon’s résumé — it could also put a dent in the hopes of two contenders that will visit The Plains: Georgia this weekend and Alabama on Nov. 30.
The post College Football Playoff Rankings Put Penn State Over Clemson appeared first on New York Times.