Alabama has time and the No. 1 spot on its side

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Updated: November 21, 2017

9:03 PM ET

Time is running out for the two-loss College Football Playoff contenders not named Auburn to make their moves.

The latest committee rankings suggest it might already be too late.

It’s not simply that undefeated teams Alabama and Miami now lead the rankings, as the Hurricanes leapfrogged their future ACC championship game opponent, Clemson, for the No. 2 spot. The committee also showed that it views both Alabama’s and Miami’s profiles in a very favorable light. Mississippi State, which gave Alabama all it could handle two weeks ago in Starkville, vaulted two spots to No. 14, ahead of undefeated UCF. Virginia Tech, which Miami beat by 18 on Nov. 5, re-entered the rankings despite needing a goal-line stand to beat 4-6 Pitt at home.

Alabama seems increasingly likely to remain in or just outside the top four even with a road loss to No. 6 Auburn in the Iron Bowl. A win against Auburn and a loss to No. 7 Georgia in the SEC title game would virtually assure the Tide of a top-four spot. Selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt repeatedly said Tuesday that not much is separating the top five teams, but it would be hard to see the Tide tumbling if they fall short against a team — Auburn or Georgia — that the committee holds in high regard.

TCU’s prospects are even dimmer. Other than perhaps UCF, no team should have a bigger beef with the committee than the Frogs, who beat Texas Tech on the road by 24 despite not having quarterback Kenny Hill or several other key starters. Hocutt is Texas Tech’s athletic director, but TCU’s win didn’t sway the committee to move the Frogs, who beat Oklahoma State on the road, any higher than No. 12.

USC would really need a chaos scenario, including No. 8 Notre Dame losing this week at No. 21 Stanford, to have any chance at the top four. Washington State also can win the Pac-12 with two losses, and the Cougars would have five wins over teams currently ranked by the committee (USC twice, No. 17 Washington, No. 19 Stanford and No. 23 Boise State). But Mike Leach’s team likely would have too much traffic in its way.

The Big 12 once again should feel a bit nervous about these rankings. Oklahoma has wins over Nos. 9, 12 and 19, two of them on the road, yet sits behind three teams that each have only one win against the current top 20. Would a conference title that includes another top-12 win over TCU be enough to punch Oklahoma’s playoff ticket? It absolutely should. But the committee might debate one-loss OU vs. one-loss Miami.

Wisconsin remained at No. 5 despite arguably its most impressive win over previously ranked Michigan. The Badgers’ profile still includes only one win over a currently ranked team (No. 22 Northwestern), but beating Ohio State should be enough to punch their playoff ticket.

The committee kept 11 teams in the same spots after Cupcake Week, and UCF might have been the most disappointed, as the Knights linger at No. 15 despite a 10-0 record. Although Scott Frost’s team will earn a New Year’s Six berth if it wins out, it might not ever approach the committee’s top 10, even if it beats 9-1 South Florida, which is not ranked by the committee, on Saturday.

The penultimate rankings next Tuesday will be much more revealing, especially if Alabama falls on the Plains. But the top five — and really top seven — look at rigid as ever, which isn’t good news for those on the outside.

Article source: http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/21506655/alabama-crimson-tide-no-1-college-football-playoff-spot-their-side