College Football Playoff: Ohio State No. 2 in rankings

Credit: Elsa

Credit: Elsa

Ohio State is No. 2 again this week in the College Football Playoff rankings.

LSU is back at No. 1 for the second week in a row while Clemson and Georgia are back at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively.

None of that came as much of a surprise with all four winning last week.

Penn State, Ohio State’s opponent this week, is No. 8.

>>RELATED: Big Ten East title on the line Saturday as Buckeyes host Nittany Lions 

Among Ohio State opponents, Cincinnati is 19th this week after being 17th last week while Wisconsin is No. 12.

Michigan, the Buckeyes’ opponent next week, is 13th, while Minnesota, a potential Big Ten Championship game opponent for the winner of Ohio State-Penn State, is 10th.

The Golden Gophers were eighth a week ago after upsetting Penn State but slipped two spots with a loss at Iowa on Saturday.

The most intrigue leading into these rankings involved Alabama.

The reigning national runners-up beat Mississippi State on Saturday but lost record-setting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to a season-ending hip injury.

The Crimson Tide are ranked No. 5, same as last week, but may have reached their ceiling as they are unlikely to make the SEC title game thanks to their 46-41 loss to LSU a week ago.

CFP committee chairman Rob Mullens told reporters on a conference call the Crimson Tide’s ranking was not impacted by Tagovailoa’s injury yet.

“We do not project; we do not look forward,” said Mullens, who is the director of athletics at Oregon. “Our charge is to rank the teams based on their body of work through Week 12, and that's what we did. Obviously we'll watch the games moving forward and evaluate them after that.

“Obviously we spent considerable time talking about (Tagovialoa’s injury). Glad he's on his way to recovering, but Alabama had a convincing win at the end of the day. Understanding that he went out at the end of the second quarter, but it still was a convincing win, so it didn't impact the rankings this week.”

After hosting Western Carolina this weekend, Alabama finishes the season at Auburn. Those Tigers are No. 15 this week and provide another quality opponent (besides LSU) for the Crimson Tide, who have no wins over current top 25 teams.

>>RELATED: Ohio State prepares for epic showdown with Penn State 

A Pac 12 team appears most likely to benefit from Alabama being downgraded in the future as Oregon is No. 6 this week and Utah is No. 7.

“The committee spent a lot of time talking about Alabama and Oregon,” Mullens said. “Members talked about how dominant Alabama has been all season. They also said Oregon is explosive and they were impressed by Oregon's quarterback, but Oregon's only loss came to No. 15 Auburn at a neutral site, while Alabama's only loss was to No. 1 LSU.”

The Ducks, who lost to Auburn in the first week of the season, have clinched a Pac 12 title game berth while the Utes have a one-game lead over USC with two to play.

If USC beats rival UCLA this weekend, Utah can’t afford to slip up in the Pac 12 South race thanks to a loss to the Trojans in September.

That looms large with the committee, too, as Oregon’s 56-24 thrashing of USC earlier this month is the reason the Ducks are ahead of the Utes at this point.

“I think the committee felt like they're both excellent football teams,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said on the conference call. “I think the USC thing was probably got the most discussion when they analyzed those two. Oregon obviously defeated USC handily, and Utah lost. And Oregon's resume, including the loss to a good Auburn team in the last seconds of the game, and Utah really doesn't have anything like that. So that was the difference.”

Hancock spoke for Mullens, who has to recuse himself from the committee deliberations when the Ducks are discussed.

Meanwhile, the Big 12’s top team in the rankings is Oklahoma, which checked in at No. 9 this week after knocking Baylor from the ranks of the unbeaten. The Bears are 14th this week, and those two teams could end up meeting again in the Big 12 Championship game.

Mullens did not have much to say about Oho State other than confirming the committee saw its blowouts of Maryland and Rutgers as “convincing wins” the past two weeks.

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