The College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night with no changes in the top four.
Alabama is No. 1 with Notre Dame second, Clemson third and Ohio State fourth.
Those teams would play for the national championship if the playoff were up next — but it’s not.
Before the final rankings are formulated, the undefeated Crimson Tide are set to take on No. 7 Florida in the SEC Championship game on Saturday while the Fighting Irish and Tigers will face off against each other in the ACC title game.
Ohio State will play No. 14 Northwestern the same day at noon in Indianapolis.
Cincinnati remains in the top 10, but the unbeaten Bearcats slipped a spot to No. 9 after having another game canceled Saturday.
They are scheduled to play Tulsa in the AAC Championship game Saturday night, Cincinnati’s first game in almost a month as a result of games being wiped out by positive COVID-19 cases.
The final rankings will be released Sunday.
The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl are scheduled to host the national semifinals on Jan. 1 with the championship game to be played Jan. 11 in Miami.
In a teleconference after the release of the rankings, CFP chair Gary Barta conceded a schedule ravaged by the pandemic has made the committee’s job harder than usual.
Many of the top teams were idle last week, and some contenders have played twice as many games as others.
“It’s a vexing problem to compare tams that have played 10 or 11 games to those that have played five or six, but in my opinion the committee has done a good job working through that,” said Barta, who is the athletic director at Iowa.
After having three games canceled, including two in the past three weeks, Ohio State stands at 5-0 while Alabama and Notre Dame are 10-0, Clemson is 9-1, No. 5 Texas A&M is 7-1 and Nos. 6 and 7 Iowa State and Florida are both 8-2.
Asked why Ohio State is nine spots ahead of USC despite both teams having the same record, Barta noted the Buckeyes’ win over No. 11 Indiana and indicated the committee has been more impressed with the way Ohio State has won its games compared to USC.
“There’s not a top-25 win in those five games (for USC),” Barta said. “The other thing, three of those games are against teams that are under .500. In three of those games, USC was behind in the fourth quarter and had to — and good for them, they made the comeback — but I think this past weekend it was inside of 30 seconds that they had to make a comeback and win.
It’s important to win, but the committee watches all the games, and who you play is important and how you win those games is also important.”
Also appearing on the call was CFP executive director Bill Hancock, who confirmed the committee still intends for one of the semifinals to be played at the Rose Bowl despite current local regulations preventing any fans from attending the game, including players’ families, at this time.
That realty has led to speculation the game could be moved, particularly with the likelihood both participants will be based somewhere east of the Mississippi.
“Given the realities of 2020, we always reserve the right to make decisions as late as possible,” Hancock said. “For example, what happens if the state of California shuts down entirely and doesn’t allow any games. So we’re keeping our eye on the situation, but we are planning to play that semifinal at the Rose Bowl.”
He indicated the CFP is still hoping to see families allowed to attend.
“We have long-standing agreements in place, and I may be old fashioned, but I think it’s important to honor agreements,” Hancock said. “We are planning to play the game in California, and we’re hoping the state will fix the situation and will allow the families to be there.”
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