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College Football Playoff rankings: Alabama claims top spot

Movement? It was more like shuffling Tuesday when the College Football Playoff rankings were released.

The top-four teams came out as expected. Alabama earned the top spot after beating Mississippi State Saturday. Oregon and Florida State were put in the second and third spots respectively–a clear message that strength of schedule will be a factor for the undefeated Seminoles. TCU dropped out of the top-four to the fifth spot.

Most telling though was the College Football Playoff Committee putting Ohio State in the sixth spot, leapfrogging Baylor. Clearly the committee was more impressed by the Buckeyes win at Michigan State than it is soured on Ohio State’s loss to Virginia Tech. It helped that the Hokies beat Duke on Saturday and that Minnesota remained in the top-25. Top-25 wins are important and the Buckeyes beat the Gophers on Saturday.

Still Ohio State, the Big Ten’s only hope to send a representative to the College Football Playoff, will need help. If the top-four wins out, all are likely to be selected. Then there’s the mysterious case of Baylor which finds itself ranked seventh despite having beaten No. 5 TCU. Head to head match ups are supposed to be a factor, maybe the biggest factor in setting up these rankings.

It’s as if the committee is looking at the two teams based on their losses. Baylor lost to 6-4 West Virgina. TCU lost to the Bears, which is some backwards, mixed up way is a better loss. That appears to be the way the committee is looking at it, albeit dumb.

Eventually it’s assumed that Baylor will jump TCU in the coming weeks. The likely thinking by the committee is that they can wait to do so after the Bears plays No. 12 Kansas State on Dec. 6. A loss would eliminate Baylor while a win would obviously strengthen their resume.

The biggest question that remains: Would a potential win over Wisconsin and its top-ranked defense in the Big Ten Championship be enough to give the Buckeyes over one of the five teams ahead?

After Notre Dame’s loss to Northwestern at home Saturday–its second straight–the Irish fell out of the rankings.

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen