TCU’s Horned Frogs staked their claim to a spot in the College Football playoffs Tuesday, grabbing the No. 4 position in the latest CFP rankings. The Frogs jumped three spots from the previous week’s No. 7 ranking.
“It’s going to be a challenge to stay here,” TCU coach Sonny Dykes said during ESPN’s rankings show.
Georgia was the new No. 1, rising from No. 3 after its dominant victory over previously top-ranked Tennessee on Saturday. Ohio State came in at No. 2 and Michigan No. 3, putting the nation’s four unbeaten teams at the top of the rankings.
Selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan, who is the athletic director at North Carolina State, said TCU’s six victories against teams with above .500 records were notable.
“I don’t think it was as much what Tennessee didn’t do as much as what TCU did do,” Corrigan said.
Tennessee fell to No. 5 and was followed by Oregon from the Pac-12 and LSU, which jumped three spots to seventh after the Tigers knocked off Alabama.
Clemson fell to 10th after being routed by Notre Dame. Alabama dropped from sixth to ninth after its second loss of the season.
This is the first time since the College Football Playoff rankings began in 2014 that neither Clemson nor Alabama have been ranked in the top six. There has never been a College Football Playoff without Clemson and Alabama, which have combined to win five of the eight CFP championships.
So. Are Alabama and Clemson done?
No, both still have a path to the playoff, but a lot is going to have to break their way — especially for Alabama.
First thing working against the Tide is there has never been a two-loss team in the College Football Playoff. But the SEC champion has never been left out of the CFP.
If Alabama could win the SEC, beating Georgia in the process, good luck keeping the Tide out. But the road to the SEC championship game for the Tide is blocked by LSU, which would have to lose both of its remaining conferences games at Arkansas and Texas A&M to clear the way for Alabama.
That’s assuming Alabama wins out. The Tide plays at Mississippi, which was 11th in the committee’s rankings, on Saturday and then Austin Peay before the Iron Bowl against Auburn.
Before writing Alabama off, take note: LSU is only a 3-point favorite at Arkansas this weekend and might be a single-digit favorite against a struggling but talented Texas A&M team.
As for Clemson, this is a long way from over. A 12-1 Power Five conference champion will always have a shot and the Tigers could still end up there.
The Tigers’ bigger issue could be winning a resume contest against one-loss champions from the Big 12, where TCU is still unbeaten, or Pac-12, which currently has four teams in the committee’s top 13 — Oregon, No. 8 USC, No. 12 UCLA and No. 13 Utah.
Plus, there is the question of whether an 11-1 team that doesn’t win its division, like Tennessee or the loser of Ohio State-Michigan, would get the nod over Clemson at 12-1 with an ACC title.
On top of all that, the Tigers have to win out against an improving Louisville team, rival South Carolina and likely No. 15 North Carolina and star quarterback Drake Maye in the ACC championship game.
After a run of six straight CFP appearances by Clemson was snapped last year, the Tigers are now staring at consecutive seasons being left out.