Buoyed by its convincing win over Washington State in the Apple Cup, Washington reappeared in the top four this week of the College Football Playoff selection committee's rankings.
The Huskies, though, might not want to get too comfortable there. Not yet, anyway.
The Big Ten is still positioned to potentially get two teams into the playoff, which could be bad news for Washington.
Ohio State, coming off a 30-27, double-overtime win over Michigan, remained No. 2 this week. Clemson was No. 3 and can clinch a spot in the playoff with a win over Virginia Tech on Saturday in the ACC championship game. The Buckeyes will be watching from home this weekend, which could create a difficult decision for the committee.
No. 7 Penn State will face No. 6 Wisconsin in Saturday's Big Ten championship game, and things could get interesting if Penn State beats Wisconsin. Not only would the Nittany Lions add another top-10 win to their résumé, but they'd lock up the Big Ten championship and have a head-to-head win over Ohio State, a game that was played on Oct. 22 and not during the first few weeks of the season.
From the day the College Football Playoff became a reality, we've heard about the importance of conference championships, head-to-head results and schedule strength.
Granted, Ohio State would have one fewer loss than Penn State in the above scenario, but would the committee -- after applying the conference championship quotient -- be impressed enough, "unequivocally" so, with the Buckeyes that they would opt for Ohio State over Penn State, even though the Nittany Lions would own the conference championship and the head-to-head win over the Buckeyes?
Here's why unequivocally is in quotes: For a nonconference champion to get in over a conference champion, the committee's protocol states that it has to believe the nonconference champion is "unequivocally better" than the conference champion.
So even with a win over Colorado in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday, Washington is probably going to have to sweat it out until the final rankings are released Sunday. The Huskies' weak nonconference schedule could be what costs them if it's close with one of the Big Ten teams. Their nonconference slate was ranked 127th out of 128 FBS teams. Their three nonconference wins were over Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State.
Colorado would be a long shot if the Buffaloes beat Washington in the Pac-12 championship game, but one of their chief stumbling blocks would be Michigan. The Wolverines, who dropped to No. 5 in this week's rankings, beat the Buffaloes back in September and own three top-10 wins. In other words, don't count out the Wolverines.
The Big 12 remains on the outside looking in and will need an upset or two in one of the other conference championship games to have any shot at the playoff. No. 9 Oklahoma (9-2, 8-0 Big 12) and No. 10 Oklahoma State (9-2, 7-1 Big 12) square off on Saturday in Norman in what amounts to a de facto Big 12 championship game. Keep in mind that Oklahoma lost 45-24 at home to Ohio State back in September, so a scenario in which the Sooners would get in over the Buckeyes seems unlikely.
Another interesting development in the latest rankings is No. 12 Florida State being ahead of No. 13 Louisville, even though the Cardinals routed the Seminoles 63-20 during the regular season and are two games ahead of the Cardinals in the ACC standings.
Also, it appears that No. 14 Auburn is in the driver's seat to get a Sugar Bowl bid. The Tigers are the SEC's highest-ranked team behind No. 1 Alabama.