Penn State moves up slightly to No. 9 in College Football Playoff rankings

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Penn State moves up slightly to No. 9 in College Football Playoff rankings

Not even style points could provide Penn State with the boost it needed to get into the College Football Playoff.

After a 66-3 drubbing of Maryland last Saturday to close out its regular season, the Nittany Lions moved up one spot to No. 9 in the latest CFP rankings.

PSU (10-2) still sits directly behind Ohio State, which will take on No. 4 Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game on Saturday night.

Clemson is No. 1, followed by Auburn, Oklahoma and Wisconsin in the last College Football Playoff rankings before the semifinals are set by the selection committee on Sunday.

Alabama fell from No. 1 to fifth in the new rankings Tuesday night after losing to Auburn, and Georgia was sixth. Miami slipped after taking its first loss of the season last week from No. 2 to seventh, just ahead of Ohio State at eighth.

Each of the top four teams plays a conference title game this Saturday against another top-10 team, creating potential play-in playoff games. Clemson faces Miami in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship; Auburn and Georgia play for the Southeastern Conference title; Wisconsin faces Ohio State for the Big Ten title; and Oklahoma faces No. 10 TCU for the Big 12 title.

If the top four win out, the semifinals likely would fall into place: Clemson would face Wisconsin in the Sugar Bowl semifinal on New Year's Day by virtue of giving the top seed a regional advantage, and Auburn and Oklahoma would play in the Rose Bowl semifinal.

It is likely Miami would jump into the top four by beating No. 1 Clemson and winning the ACC and same goes for Georgia if it can win a rematch against Auburn. The intrigue would start if Oklahoma and/or Wisconsin lose.

The selection committee could be faced with an Alabama (11-1) or Ohio State (10-2) choice. The Crimson Tide's resume is no wins against teams currently in the top 15, but the Buckeyes have two losses by double digits, including a 31-point blowout at Iowa.

Penn State stays put in College Football Playoff rankings

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Penn State stays put in College Football Playoff rankings

Penn State's College Football Playoff chances remained the same Tuesday night.

The Nittany Lions are still a long shot.

James Franklin's team stayed put at No. 10 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings despite beating Nebraska last Saturday, 56-44, in its home finale.

The Nittany Lions close out the regular season this Saturday at Maryland.

Penn State (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) missed out on the Dec. 2 Big Ten title game after losing back-to-back contests to Ohio State and Michigan State. The Nittany Lions have since won two straight and seem destined for a New Year's Six bowl with the College Football Playoff almost entirely out of reach.

Speaking of such, Miami made a small but potentially significant move up to No. 2 behind Alabama in the CFP rankings, with Clemson slipping one spot to three and Oklahoma holding at four.

Wisconsin and Auburn remained next up behind the top four in a week when the top half of the selection committee's rankings were mostly unchanged.

Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Southern California followed in the same order as they did last week. Over the next two weeks, every team in the top nine will play another team ranked in the committee's top 25, including four games matching top playoff contenders.

The Crimson Tide will play at Auburn on Saturday to decide a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship on Dec. 2. The winner plays Georgia.

The Atlantic Coast Conference championship will match Clemson and Miami on Dec. 2, and Wisconsin and Ohio State play in the Big Ten championship.

Miami's move comes after rallying to beat Virginia last Saturday. Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said Miami is showing characteristics of a championship team.

"When you get down the way Miami did to Virginia two times, once in each half, and you have the poise and the ability to come back and win in a convincing manner, that is special," said Hocutt, the Texas Tech athletic director.

The Hurricanes (10-0) play at Pitt Friday and now seem better positioned to get into the playoff even with a loss to Clemson, depending on how things play out in other conferences.

Central Florida came in at No. 15 and Memphis is 20th, the highest ranked teams from outside the Power Five. The American Athletic Conference rivals could meet in the league title game in two weeks if UCF beats USF on Black Friday, setting up a game that would likely send the winner into a New Year's Six bowl.

How does this play out?
On championship Saturday, the selection committee gathers at the Dallas-area resort hotel where it holds its weekly meeting to watch games together. When the games are done, Hocutt and his crew of 12 experts dig into the results and put together their final, and only truly meaningful, top 25.

Will it be a late night at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine or will the committee members be able to uncork a bottle of wine during the second half of the ACC title game? A lot depends on Alabama.

The Crimson Tide could essentially eliminate two other playoff contenders in Auburn and Georgia. The Tigers have no shot if they don't win the Iron Bowl and the SEC title. Georgia at 11-2 with a loss in the conference title game could still have a flicker of hope to be the second SEC team in the playoff, but would need a lot of help.

At 13-0, the Crimson Tide would be seeded No. 1 and heading to New Orleans to play in the Sugar Bowl semifinal. Easy.

If Alabama loses the Iron Bowl or wins that and loses the SEC championship game, it means the committee will likely be ordering up a couple extra pots of coffee instead of a nice pinot noir.

The SEC champion is pretty much a lock to get in. But what to do with Alabama at 11-1 or 12-1? The Crimson Tide has been the most dominant team all season, rarely challenged on the field. Nick Saban's Tide, loaded with five-star recruits and future high draft picks, will always pass the eye test. Alabama's best wins now are against LSU and Mississippi State, both 8-3.

Alabama is the only team to make the playoff all three seasons. Is the committee prepared to leave the Tide out?

The next team that can help clear things up for the committee is Wisconsin.

The committee is not thrilled with the Badgers' schedule, but Wisconsin can get a marquee victory in the Big Ten title game — as long as Ohio State takes care of Michigan on Saturday. At 13-0 and with a conference championship, the committee can replace the ACC championship loser with Wisconsin in the top four.

Wisconsin can also eliminate Ohio State and its 31-point loss to Iowa. A Wisconsin loss to Ohio State — or Oklahoma losing to TCU in the Big 12 title game — opens to the door to consideration of two-loss teams that could bring Notre Dame and USC back into the discussion.

The committee could be weighing two-loss conference champions against one-loss teams with no titles. Last year Ohio State was the latter and got in on the strength of three victories against top-10 teams. No contender can match that without winning its conference this season, which could make the decision much tougher this time.

Penn State moves up to No. 10 in College Football Playoff rankings

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Penn State moves up to No. 10 in College Football Playoff rankings

Penn State is getting closer, but remains so far away.

The Nittany Lions came in at No. 10 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday night. Penn State moved up from No. 14 a week ago.

After consecutive losses to ranked opponents, PSU regained its footing last Saturday with a 35-6 home win over Rutgers. The Nittany Lions host Nebraska this Saturday at 4 p.m.

Alabama and Clemson are back on top of the College Football Playoff rankings, the ninth time over the last three seasons that the Crimson Tide and Tigers have held the first two spots in some order.

Alabama was the selection committee's new No. 1 on Tuesday night, with Clemson up two spots to No. 2. Miami and Oklahoma followed, joining the top four for the first time this season. Wisconsin was fifth and Auburn was up to sixth.

Alabama and Clemson have met in the last two national championship games, with each winning one. If it wins out, there is good chance it could enter the postseason positioned to make it three straight title game matchups.

The Crimson Tide had been second behind Georgia in the first two selection committee rankings, but the Bulldogs and previously No. 3 Notre Dame were beaten last weekend, opening up the top for changes.

Unbeaten Miami jumped from seventh to third and along with Clemson gave the Atlantic Coast Conference two top-four teams for the first time in the four-year College Football Playoff era.

Oklahoma moved up one spot.

Unbeaten Wisconsin moved up from eighth and is the highest-ranked Big Ten team. Auburn is the highest-ranked team with two losses.

Georgia is seventh and Notre Dame is eighth.

Ohio State is back in the top 10 after an impressive victory against Michigan State, and Penn State is 10th. Southern California at 11th is the highest-ranked Pac-12 team.

UCF climbed to No. 15, making the undefeated Knights the highest-ranked team from a Group of Five conference. The highest-ranked conference champion from outside the Power Five is guaranteed a spot in the New Year's Six bowls.

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