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College Football Playoff Rankings: Could Clemson, Miami both make playoff?

Sporting News logo Sporting News 11/15/2017 Bill Bender

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The third set of College Football Playoff rankings were announced Tuesday, and there will be two more before the final pairings are announced on Dec. 2.

Alabama (10-0) took over the No. 1 spot, with Clemson (9-1), Miami (9-0) and Oklahoma (9-1) filling out the top four spots, respectively. With three weeks left in the season, the shuffling is still in full swing.

MORE: Alabama, Miami jump in latest CFP rankings

Here are five things we learned from the latest set of rankings: 

Clemson and Miami?

No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Miami are right behind No. 1 Alabama, and that creates some interesting scenarios. Should Clemson be ranked ahead of Miami? Maybe not, but the Tigers will be favored in the ACC championship game. We will get to find out. That's good.

Here's a better question: If both teams take care of business in the regular season and the Tigers win a close ACC championship game, would that be enough to get both teams in? It's doubtful, but again, the Hurricanes haven't lost yet and they would have a chance if the two-loss pile-up continues.

The ACC championship game feels like a guaranteed play-in game. We can't say that with more certainty about any other conference right now. The beat goes in the ACC. 

SEC three-pack

No. 6 Auburn is sitting pretty. The two-loss Tigers are ranked one spot ahead of No. 7 Georgia after last week's blowout, and Auburn has momentum heading toward the Iron Bowl with No. 1 Alabama. Auburn and Georgia must win out to get in. 

Alabama, however, is an interesting spot. They are probably the one team in the FBS that can lose or sit out a conference championship game and still get in. It's an unlikely scenario, but given there are just six Power 5 teams with one loss or fewer it's not impossible. Plus, we're talking about Alabama here.

MORE: Iron Bowl is now most important game left in playoff race

Oklahoma, Wisconsin control destiny

After two weeks in the No. 5 spot, Oklahoma finally bumped into the top four and has a pretty good argument to be ranked ahead of the Tigers and Hurricanes, given victories against No. 9 Ohio State, No. 12 TCU and No. 13 Oklahoma State. The Sooners control their own destiny in the Big 12, and they have the head-to-head drop on those teams. 

No. 5 Wisconsin also controls its own destiny. The Badgers are ranked ahead of Auburn and Georgia, but it's likely going to take a perfect season. The Badgers need to beat No. 24 Michigan this week and No. 9 Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. A split there would give the committee incentive to look elsewhere.

Irish ahead of Buckeyes?

No. 8 Notre Dame is ranked one spot ahead of No. 9 Ohio State. That's not a big deal yet, but the committee will have a choice with those two down the road. If the Buckeyes win out, then they would have victories against No. 5 Wisconsin, No. 10 Penn State, No. 17 Michigan State and No. 24 Michigan. That, and a Big Ten championship, would be enough to jump the Irish and a few other teams. Of the teams outside the top six, the Buckeyes are in the best position to make a run given what's ahead.

That could lead to some heated arguments between Irish and Buckeyes fans — or they could just end up playing each other in a New Year's Day Six Bowl. Sporting News' Week 12 projections put Ohio State and Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl.

MORE: Week 12 bowl projections

USC still alive

The Trojans are the only Pac-12 team with any hope left, especially if they can get a rematch with No. 14 Washington State in the Pac-12 championship game. USC ends its regular season against UCLA and has a bye week before conference championship weekend. Some things the Trojans should be rooting for: Stanford over Notre Dame, Michigan over Ohio State, Ohio State over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game and Alabama to run through the SEC. That combination could make a little room for the Trojans — and they would still need a little more. They are in the mix, though.

Related slideshow: Best of the college football season (Provided by photo services)

California Golden Bears cornerback Camryn Bynum (24) gets a hand in front of the ball intended for Stanford Cardinal wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside (19) during the regular season game between the California Golden Bears and Stanford Cardinals on Saturday, November 18, 2017 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, CA 2017 college football season

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