One-loss Texas A&M is fourth, followed by undefeated Washington. The top four teams at the end of the season will advance to the semifinals, which this year are set for the Fiesta and Chick-fil-A Peach bowls on Dec. 31.
The Aggies (7-1) lost at Alabama 33-14 two weeks ago and have played four ranked opponents. The Huskies are 8-0 after last weekend's 31-24 win at Utah -- the team's second win this season over a ranked opponent.
"We had a lengthy discussion on the spot," selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said. "Washington is a well-balanced team and they had a good win on the road against Utah. But in the committee's mind Texas A&M has played a stronger schedule."
If the standings held through the end of the season, both the Pac-12 and Big 12 would be shut out of the playoff, thanks to two SEC teams getting bids.
The Crimson Tide are 8-0 heading into Saturday's game at LSU. Clemson is also 8-0 after coming from behind to beat Florida State last Saturday in Tallahassee, Florida. Michigan (8-0) beat Michigan State last week, but has played only one ranked opponent all season (a 14-7 win at Wisconsin).
Western Michigan, a 52-20 winner on Tuesday night, would advance to a New Year's Six bowl if it remains the highest-ranking Group of 5 team.