PLAYOFF RANKINGS: Washington takes over playoff position

Washington moved into fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings, putting the four remaining unbeaten teams from the Power Five conferences at the top of the selection committee's second top 25.

Alabama, Clemson and Michigan still hold the top three spots.

The committee's first ranking of the season caused a bit of a stir because the unbeaten Huskies were behind Texas A&M last week. The Aggies then went out and lost at Mississippi State to clear up the mini-controversy.

Ohio State is behind Washington at fifth.

''It was a small margin between No. 4 and No. 5,'' committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said.

Hocutt, who is the athletic director at Texas Tech, said last week that A&M was ahead of Washington because of the Aggies' superior schedule strength. That left open the possibility that Ohio State would jump the Huskies for the same reason after the Buckeyes pounded Nebraska on Saturday.

Hocutt said a big difference was A&M's only loss was to Alabama whereas Ohio State's one loss was to 10th-ranked Penn State.

''But more than anything it's the consistency that we've seen week in and week out with Washington,'' Hocutt said.

The Buckeyes are still in fine shape. Ohio State plays Michigan on Nov. 26 in a game that could decide the Big Ten's East division.

Louisville moved up a spot to sixth, followed by Wisconsin at seven and Texas A&M at eight and Auburn at nine.

CHAOS THEORY

If chaos is what you crave down the stretch of the college football season, these last few weeks are set to leave you feeling less than satisfied.

For sure, none of the teams in the latest top four are safe. Weird stuff happens. What mitigates the chances for real chaos is the firewall the top three teams, and to some extent Washington, has created. Alabama (vs. Mississippi State), Clemson (vs. Pitt) and Michigan (at Iowa) could all lose this weekend and still they would be fine to reach the final four if they win out and become conference champions. Washington would likely be in more trouble than the rest with a loss to Southern California on Saturday, but far from out.

The potential for chaos is also limited by the teams lurking behind No. 6 Louisville (8-1). All nine teams ranked from seven to 15 have already lost twice. There was only one 7-2 in the committee's top 15 at this point last season.

For years, the folks who supported and fought for preserving the BCS beat to death one particular point: A playoff would devalue the regular season. Well, they were right, but that's not such a bad thing. The pressure that comes with a system that is so unforgiving takes some of the drama out of late-season games, but the trade-off makes up for it. More teams are in the mix and more games matter. Losses are not quite so catastrophic, but they do create new possibilities and heighten tension.

And, of course, in the end the playoff produces a truer champion.

THE FIELD

Four of these nine teams will almost certainly make the College Football Playoff: Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Washington, Ohio State, Louisville, Wisconsin, Auburn and No. 16 West Virginia. Here's where they stand.

TOTAL CONTROL

Alabama

Clemson

Michigan

Washington

Ohio State

Auburn

Win out, get in the playoff. Simple. Barring a significant upset in the next couple weeks Alabama-Auburn and Michigan-Ohio State on Nov. 26 might as well be early round playoff games.

SOME CONTROL

Wisconsin

West Virginia

The Badgers and Mountaineers would be very much in the mix if they win out and win their conferences, but would still need some help.

NO CONTROL

Louisville

With the Cardinals' chance to win the Atlantic Coast Conference at slim to none, the best Louisville can do is win out and hope the upsets start piling up.

SORT OF STILL IN IT

Penn State

No. 12 Colorado

No. 14 Utah

No. 23 Washington State

Unranked Florida

The Nittany Lions need two losses from Michigan to reach the Big Ten championship game, but they do hold the tiebreaker on Ohio State. The Utes, Buffaloes and Cougars could all still win the Pac-12 at 11-2, which at least gets them a look if there are conference championship game upsets.

Don't laugh at the Gators. If Florida wins out it would be 10-2 with victories against LSU, Florida State and maybe Alabama to win the SEC championship. OK, yeah, you can laugh a little.

THE REST OF THE BIG 12

No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 13 Oklahoma State both have two losses and could win the Big 12, but there is no reason to think the Big 12 is getting a two-loss team in the playoff without some madness down the stretch.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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