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Unbeaten Iowa, surging Oklahoma debut in College Football Playoff top four

By
Doug G. Ware

GRAPEVINE, Texas, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Tuesday evening revealed a shakeup at the top of the College Football Playoff rankings, with two new teams making their first appearance in the top four.

Undefeated Iowa saw its dream season take a big step forward, as the selection committee slotted the Hawkeyes at No. 4 -- the last team admitted to the sport's playoff bracket -- in its Week 12 rankings, revealed Tuesday night.

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Iowa was ranked ninth in the committee's initial ranking on Nov. 3 and then spent two weeks at No. 5, the first team out of the playoff, before ascending to fourth Tuesday. The Hawkeyes finish the regular season at Nebraska on Saturday before, as Big Ten West champions, an appearance in the league's championship game.

One-loss Oklahoma also made its debut in the top four Tuesday, ranked third. Saturday, the Sooners will try to complete the regular season with a win at 11th ranked Oklahoma State in a rivalry game simply called "Bedlam."

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Unbeaten Clemson and one-loss Alabama remained at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.

The first two teams out of the playoffs are Michigan State and Notre Dame at Nos. 5 and 6, respectively. The Spartans leaped four spots from ninth last week after beating Ohio State, which fell from third to eighth. The Fighting Irish remained at No. 4 for two weeks before sliding two spots in this week's poll after a three-point win over a seven-loss Boston College.

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Baylor moved up to No. 7, Stanford to No. 9 and Michigan to No. 10. Oklahoma State, ranked sixth last week, fell to eleventh.

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The Big Ten and Pac 12 have the most teams in the top 25, with five each. The SEC and Big XII have four teams each and the ACC has three.

The selection committee will release one more ranking before its final ballot on Dec. 6 determines the playoff field. Several games this weekend have the potential to shake up the top four even more.

Ohio State travels to play Michigan in a game that could put the Buckeyes back in the playoff conversation, and a win for Notre Dame at Stanford could do the same for the Irish.

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One-loss Florida could also still make an argument for inclusion if it beats Florida State in the Swamp and then Alabama in the conference title game.

With a win over Penn State, Michigan State would win the Big Ten East and set up a title showdown with Iowa.

Alabama, ranked second, has a challenge this weekend at Auburn in the famed Iron Bowl. Considered a potential championship team early in the season, the 6-5 Tigers instead find themselves at the bottom of the SEC West.

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If the Crimson Tide lose to Auburn and Mississippi beats Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, the Rebels would win the SEC West and face Florida in the league title game -- eliminating Alabama from playoff contention.

Baylor, which still plays two more games at TCU and home against Texas, could also possibly get back into the top four by season's end.

It also appears that the Big XII will not be left out of the playoff, after the league's controversial absence in last year's bracket. It appears the Pac 12 will be this year's omission, unless 9-2 Stanford can beat Notre Dame and sneak in by virtue of other top 10 teams losing in the next two weeks.

College Football Playoff Top 25 (Nov. 24):

1. Clemson (11-0, ACC) 2. Alabama (10-1, SEC) 3. Oklahoma (10-1, Big XII) 4. Iowa (11-0, Big Ten) 5. Michigan State (10-1, Big Ten) 6. Notre Dame (10-1, Independent) 7. Baylor (9-1, Big XII) 8. Ohio State (10-1, Big Ten) 9. Stanford (9-2, Pac 12) 10. Michigan (9-2, Big Ten) 11. Oklahoma State (10-1, Big XII) 12. Florida (10-1, SEC) 13. Florida State (9-2, ACC) 14. North Carolina (10-1, ACC) 15. Navy (9-1, American) 16. Northwestern (9-2, Big Ten) 17. Oregon (8-3, Pac 12) 18. Mississippi (8-3, SEC) 19. TCU (9-2, Big XII) 20. Washington State (8-3, Pac 12) 21. Mississippi State (8-3, SEC) 22. UCLA (8-3, Pac 12) 23. Utah (8-3, Pac 12) 24. Toledo (9-1, Mid-American) 25. Temple (9-2, American)

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