For the first time in five-plus years of College Football Playoff history, LSU is No. 1.
Here are three thoughts on this week's release.
At first, No. 5 doesn't seem like a bad place to be. Alabama should feel a little lucky at this point, remaining a top-five team despite a win over then-No. 24 Texas A&M being their only victory against a ranked opponent. Nick Saban's team is clinging to the No. 5 spot thanks to dominant performances over unranked opponents and because its lone loss came against the College Football Playoff committee's No. 1 team.
But the Crimson Tide have an issue moving forward: They don't have many opportunities to improve their resume.
Alabama's final three games are against Mississippi State, Western Carolina, and No. 12 Auburn. A win over the Tigers would give Alabama a marquee victory. But unless LSU loses two of its final three games, the Crimson Tide will not play in the SEC Championship game.
The teams below Alabama, meanwhile, could all improve their resumes to overtake the Crimson Tide by December. Minnesota plays two more games against ranked teams (Iowa and Wisconsin) and will potentially appear in a conference championship game. Conference champions must be crowned in the Pac-12 and Big 12. Will the committee give the winning programs bumps for their respective trophies, and for the all-important "13th data point"?
Two years ago, Alabama snuck into the playoff as the No. 4 team after an 11-1 season that ended short of the conference title game. The Crimson Tide went on to win the national championship against Georgia.
This season, the path appears far more complicated.
Minnesota leapt nine spots Tuesday, jumping from No. 17 to No. 8 after its 31-26 win over No. 9 Penn State; the committee clearly rewarded the Golden Gophers for an impressive performance against a ranked team.
So what happens next week if Minnesota travels to Iowa City and comes home with a win over the No. 20 Hawkeyes? What about in three weeks, if the Golden Gophers cap an undefeated regular season with a win over No. 15 Wisconsin?
Few teams have as much to gain over the final three weeks of the season as Minnesota. The Golden Gophers started the season slow, eking out close wins over South Dakota State, Fresno State, and Georgia Southern, but they've come on strong over the last month.
Minnesota exercised game control in beating Illinois, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Maryland by an average of 31.8 points, and it's now proven it can compete with one of the nation's best teams in the Nittany Lions.
Chasing a perfect regular season, the Golden Gophers have become the most intriguing team in college football.
Aside from the SEC, no conference should be as pleased with Tuesday's rankings as the Pac-12.
The SEC has three of the top five teams. The Pac-12 boasts two of the top seven.
As was the case last week, the Pac-12 needs Oregon and Utah to win their remaining regular-season games. If both schools are 11-1 entering conference championship weekend, the Pac-12 title bout could be a de facto play-in game for the College Football Playoff.
A top-10 win combined with a conference championship victory should be enough to get either the Ducks or Utes into the final four. Remember this next season when anyone tries to write off a team - or a conference - after the first week.
|No. 5 Alabama at Mississippi State||noon||ESPN|
|Indiana at No. 9 Penn State||noon||ABC|
|No. 2 Ohio State at Rutgers||3:30 p.m.||BTN|
|Wake Forest at No. 3 Clemson||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|No. 4 Georgia at No. 12 Auburn||3:30 p.m.||CBS|
|No. 8 Minnesota at No. 20 Iowa||4 p.m.||FOX|
|No. 1 LSU at Ole Miss||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 13 Baylor||7:30 p.m.||ABC|
|UCLA at No. 7 Utah||8 p.m.||FOX|
|Arizona at No. 6 Oregon||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|