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Joe Boozell | | November 30, 2016

CFP reactions: Clemson, Washington gain ground in latest poll

  Clemson moves up to No. 3 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings.

The second-to-last edition of College Football Playoff rankings are hot off the press, and for the most part, they turned out as expected.

The primary story: After Michigan’s loss, the Wolverines fell from No. 3 to No. 5; as a result, Clemson and Washington moved up a spot to No. 3 and No. 4, respectively.

It’s tough to argue with that logic. Strength of schedule and momentum are both supremely important, but as we get deeper into the season, just about all of these teams have played quality opponents. So it shouldn’t come as a shock that as it stands, the first four teams have a combined three losses among them.

Outside of Ohio State, each top-four squad will play in a conference championship game this weekend. Win, and it appears as though they’ll be in. It’s that simple. If Alabama, Clemson or Washington loses, however, the CFP picture becomes very, very interesting.

Sidebar: the Buckeyes must be feeling great right now. Ohio State will roll into the final selections fresh off a win against No. 5 Michigan while sporting an 11-1 record; for all intents and purposes, the fact that OSU won’t compete for the Big Ten championship is a boon to their Playoff hopes.

It’s hard to envision Ohio State falling all the way out of the College Football Playoff at this point, but is it possible for Clemson or Washington to leapfrog the Buckeyes? Perhaps. Then again, there’s no difference between the second and third seed besides uniform color. It would be wise to try and avoid Alabama, but would a Tiger win over Virginia Tech or a Husky win over Utah be enough to jump Urban Meyer’s crew? Seems doubtful – but if it happens, we’ll know the committee places a premium on conference championships.  

Moving on to Michigan, the Wolverines appear to be within striking distance of the semifinals, but the Big Ten title matchup between Penn State and Wisconsin puts them in something of a pickle.

On one hand, the winner would have a ton of momentum going into judgment day, and Michigan isn’t going to improve its stock by sitting on the couch this weekend. It would appear as though the Big Ten champion would have a superior resume to the Wolverines, who finished third in the Big Ten East.

At the same time, Michigan beat Wisconsin and absolutely throttled Penn State earlier this season; regardless of whether or not any of these schools reach the CFP, this will serve as an interesting case study for the committee. What does it value more: head-to-head results, or conference champions? Michigan and the Big Ten title winner will each have two losses, so it’s a crucial question. For that reason, you can’t completely rule the Wolverines out of the festivities. Improbable? Sure. But not impossible.

MORE: Who made the all-Week 13 team?

Elsewhere in the top 10, Colorado and Oklahoma switched positions. That’s significant. The Buffaloes moved ahead of the Sooners and have a grand opportunity on Friday; Colorado takes on Washington in the Pac-12 championship game, and its Playoff window is open ever so slightly.

What would need to happen for the Buffs to make it? Here’s where we’d start:

-They’d need to beat Washington decisively
-They’d need the Wisconsin-Penn State game to be one of the ugliest football games ever played; the worse the winner looks, the better
-They’d need to hope the committee values its conference champion status over its head-to-head loss to Michigan  

As for the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State matchup this weekend, in order for the winner to make the Playoff, all of the above things would need to happen – plus the Pac-12 championship game would need to be as ugly as the Big Ten title bout. That’s why the Buffaloes jumping the Sooners is so crucial.

We’ve watched all season long for a variety reasons, but chief among them is to crown a national champion. As that date nears, the stakes skyrocket.

Depending on your college football allegiance, this weekend is either going to make you very happy or very sad. Best of luck to all.

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