Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson, Ohio State again lead CFP rankings as top 7 teams remain unchanged

The top seven teams in the College Football Playoff rankings remained unchanged Tuesday, as Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State continue to occupy the top four spots.

The Buckeyes stayed at No. 4, despite canceling Saturday's game at Illinois following an increase in COVID-19 cases within the program, which included coach Ryan Day testing positive.

Despite having played only four games, Ohio State remains ahead of one-loss Texas A&M, which last week beat LSU at home, and one-loss Florida, which beat Kentucky at home.

Selection committee chairman Gary Barta said the committee discussed ranking Texas A&M ahead of Ohio State, but for now the Buckeyes and their potent offense led by quarterback Justin Fields are holding down the final playoff spot.

"When those two teams were put side-by-side this morning and last night, there just wasn't enough there to put Texas A&M ahead of Ohio State,'' Barta said.

The Buckeyes resumed team activities Tuesday and expect to resume play this week at Michigan State. They likely must play this week and next week to qualify for the Big Ten championship game.

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said during the College Football Playoff rankings broadcast that he thought Michigan, which hasn't met in person for two straight days because of a positive coronavirus test, could potentially avoid Ohio State next week by opting not to play, a move that would keep the Buckeyes below the six-game threshold needed to qualify for the Big Ten title game.

Herbstreit later apologized in a video posted on Twitter, saying he has "no evidence of that" and that his comments were "completely unfair to the University of Michigan."

The College Football Playoff has set no minimum number of games played to be eligible for the playoff. It's just going to be up to the selection committee to figure out how many is too few.

"There is a discrepancy sometimes between a team that plays eight or nine games and a team that's played three or four games and frankly that's a problem [in ranking teams],'' said Barta, who is Iowa's athletic director.

Alabama and Clemson stayed put after dominant wins, and Notre Dame learned Tuesday that it clinched a spot in the ACC championship game in its first season as a football member of the conference. No. 6 Florida, No. 7 Cincinnati and No. 10 Miami all held their spots this week, and Georgia moved up one place to No. 8 following its win over South Carolina.

Northwestern was the only team in the initial CFP top 10 to fall out, tumbling six spots to No. 14 following a loss to Michigan State, its first of the season. Iowa State is the only newcomer to the top 10, rising to No. 9 following Friday's road win against Texas, which fell out of the rankings. Iowa State is virtually assured of a spot in the Big 12 championship game, in which it likely will face No. 11 Oklahoma.

While the top 10 stayed mostly intact, there was some significant movement elsewhere. Oklahoma State rose eight spots to No. 15 following its home win against Texas Tech. Iowa moved up five spots to No. 19 following its home win against Nebraska.

BYU rose a spot to No. 13 after not playing last week. The Cougars, an FBS independent, are next scheduled to play Dec. 12 against San Diego State. Cincinnati also remains off this week because of COVID issues and next will play Dec. 12 against Tulsa, which moved up a spot to No. 24.

Defending Pac-12 champion Oregon fell eight spots to No. 23 following a road loss to rival Oregon State. Washington, which improved to 3-0 after a historic comeback against Utah, makes its CFP rankings debut at No. 22. The Ducks and Huskies are scheduled to play next week at Oregon. USC, which canceled last week's game against Colorado because of COVID-19 issues within its program, is the Pac-12's highest ranked team at No. 20.

Coastal Carolina rose two spots to No. 18 after improving to 9-0 on the season. The Chanticleers welcome ESPN's College GameDay this week for their game against 9-1 Liberty. Louisiana, which opened the season with a win at Iowa State, rounds out the CFP rankings at No. 25.

The CFP selection committee will release rankings Dec. 8 and Dec. 15 before unveiling its final list Dec. 20.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.