The chances for unrest, disagreement and rancor intensified Tuesday night, especially at Nos. 2-4 and Nos. 6-7, when the College Football Playoff selection committee unfurled its third set of rankings for the 2017 season. It elevated Clemson from No. 4 to No. 2, Miami (Florida) from No. 7 to No. 3, Oklahoma from No. 5 only to No. 4, and Auburn from No. 10 to No. 6.
All of that left Georgia toppling to No. 7, the furthest fall yet from No. 1 in the four-season-old concept.
Within that mix, the 13-member committee essentially asserted that if the season ended today, one conference would have an unprecedented two teams in the four-team playoff. It just wouldn’t be the conference everyone spent much of the season surmising. It would be that old round-ball loop, the ACC, and not the Southeastern Conference, as the ACC tilted toward a potentially colossal tussle in its conference-title game between No. 2 Clemson (9-1) and No. 3 Miami (9-0).
The ACC’s two-team placement in the top four actually became the third such spree at this time since this method of championship-deducing began in 2014. That first year, the third rankings, in mid-November, had Alabama at No. 1 and SEC brethren Mississippi State at No. 4. Last year at this stage, Ohio State held down No. 2, with Big Ten cohort Michigan at No. 3.
As with all six rankings of last season, Alabama (10-0) stood at No. 1 again in this latest top 25. The Crimson Tide edged up there from No. 2 when Georgia took a 40-17 mauling at Auburn. Handily, Alabama will play at Auburn on Nov. 25, a match with a fresh chance of especially lofty rankings.
In placing No. 6 Auburn (8-2) just above No. 7 Georgia (9-1), the committee clearly used an “eye test,” with one of the two so superior to the other just last weekend on a Southeastern field. Auburn’s inferior record earned forgiveness for the caliber of its conquerors — No. 2 Clemson and No. 20 LSU (7-3) — while Georgia’s signature victory, a 20-19 win at Notre Dame, took something of a dent when the Irish’s trip to Miami wound up looking like a trip to a shredder.
Following Miami’s 41-8 win, the two of them just about swapped places, with the Hurricanes up from No. 7 to No. 3, and the Irish (8-2) slipping from No. 3 to No. 8.
Notably, Alabama and Clemson, the combatants in the past two championship games, have occupied every single top four for the past three seasons, encompassing 15 rankings (six in 2015, six in 2016 and three in 2017).