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AP

Clemson takes top spot on playoff list

Profile image for Ralph D. Russo
Ralph D. Russo, AP

Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma and Wisconsin will enter championship weekend positioned to earn a playoff spot with just one more victory.

But a potential Alabama-Ohio State controversy looms.

Clemson moved up to No. 1 in the final College Football Playoff rankings before the semifinals are set by the selection committee Sunday.

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

"It's close separation from team No. 5 Alabama, 6 Georgia, 7 Miami, 8 Ohio State. Those teams are close," said committee chairman Kirby Hocutt, the athletic director at Texas Tech. "Very little separation in the committee's eyes between teams 5 through 8."

Each of the top four teams plays a conference title game Saturday against another highly ranked team, creating potential play-in playoff games. Clemson faces Miami for 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. 11 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 a choice between Alabama (11-1) and Ohio State (10-2). The Crimson Tide's resume has no wins against teams currently in the top 15 and it is done playing, but the Buckeyes have two losses by double digits, including a 31-point blowout at Iowa.

Can Clemson lose to Miami and get in? Looks like it, especially if Auburn wins the SEC, but it likely will require a loss by either Wisconsin or Oklahoma.

Central Florida, the only unbeaten team in the FBS other than Wisconsin, moved up just one spot to No. 14 after beating South Florida (10-2) last week in a dramatic and thrilling game.