Washington returns to top-four spots in latest College Football Playoff rankings

The Big Ten continued to dominate the top of the latest College Football Playoff rankings, with Ohio State in position to earn a semifinal bid despite not playing in the league title game.

Elsewhere, Florida State has a chance to represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl and Auburn could be the SEC team in the Sugar Bowl.

Teams have one more weekend of play to win over the selection committee as they vie for spots in the semifinals and elite New Year’s Six bowl games.

Alabama (12-0) remained at the top of the rankings for the fifth consecutive week, and Ohio State (11-1) was right behind the Crimson Tide. The Buckeyes are coming off an impressive 30-27 double-overtime win over Michigan.

Clemson (11-1) and Washington (11-1) rounded out the top four spots, with the Tigers and Huskies set to play in the ACC and Pac-12 championship games, respectively, this weekend.

The Huskies will take on Colorado on Friday night at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., in the Pac-12 title game. The No. 4 spot is the highest position in the rankings and a return to the spot Washington held in Week 11 before losing to USC three weeks ago and dropping to sixth.

Michigan (10-2) dropped two spots to No. 5 just ahead of Big Ten counterpart Wisconsin (10-2) at No. 6. The Badgers will face No. 7 Penn State (10-2) in the Big Ten title game Saturday in Indianapolis.

If Penn State wins the Big Ten championship, it seems unlikely the Nittany Lions will oust Ohio State from the No. 2 spot.

“They are not close in the eyes of the selection committee,” Playoff selection committee chair Kirby Hocutt said on ESPN when asked to compare No. 2 Ohio State and No. 7 Penn State.

Hocutt went on to say the gap between No. 4 and No. 5 is tight.

“I would say the separation at Washington at No. 4 and Michigan at No. 5 is extremely small,” he said. “We’ve said there is a lot to like about Washington over the course of this year … but the strength of schedule has been a concern and continues to be a concern for us.”

Among Group of 5 programs, undefeated Western Michigan moved up to No. 17 while Navy climbed to No. 19.

Ten of the 25 teams in last week’s rankings lost during the past weekend and nine of those teams were ranked No. 11-23. It led to a crowded group of three-loss teams jockeying for New Year’s Six bowl bids.

The College Football Playoff selection committee released its second to last rankings Tuesday. The final poll will be revealed live on ESPN at noon Sunday. The top four teams qualify for the two semifinal games, which will be held at the Fiesta and Peach bowls on Dec. 31. The winners will meet in the national championship game on Monday, Jan. 9, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

The remaining games that compose the New Year’s Six access bowl games — Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton — will select the highest-ranked remaining teams that fill their criteria. The highest-ranked conference champion from the Group of 5 conferences — American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt — also will receive a spot.

The selection committee is composed of 12 members: Hocutt, Barry Alvarez, Jeff Bower, Herb Deromedi, Tom Jernstedt, Bobby Johnson, Jeff Long, Rob Mullens, Dan Radakovich, Condoleezza Rice, Steve Wieberg and Tyrone Willingham.