College Football Playoff rankings: Six things we learned

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The College Football Playoff selection committee released its third set of rankings Tuesday, and while there was plenty of intrigue over which team would replace Auburn in the top four, the 12-member selection committee also provided a bit of a surprise within the top two, as well.

Here's what we learned from the latest rankings:

1. The committee isn't afraid to be bold

Committee chairman Jeff Long emphasized that it was not the committee's job to send messages -- their rankings will do that for them. That's exactly what happened when they surprisingly moved Oregon ahead of Florida State and made TCU the fourth team in the playoff ahead of Alabama. Throwing schedules out the window, most who have watched the top 10 teams play the past two weeks or so could tell you that the Ducks are playing better than the Seminoles. The committee recognized that and wasn't beholden to the logic that FSU should stay at No. 2 just because it's undefeated.

That was also the case with the Horned Frogs, who emphatically beat another top 25 team in Kansas State while Alabama has had a few issues on the road. The Tide will have their chance to jump into the top four Saturday with a win against Mississippi State, but for now they are correctly behind a TCU team that is playing better and also has a better resume.

2. Pac-12, SEC West winners control destiny

The committee has ranked every Pac-12 team higher than they are in the AP or Coaches Poll every week, and that continued Tuesday. With Oregon moving to the No. 2 spot and Arizona State cracking the top six, it's pretty clear the winner of the Pac-12 will control its destiny and will be in if it wins out. Not surprisingly, that also appears to be the case for whoever wins the SEC West.

3. TCU-Baylor result won't matter until end

The TCU vs. Baylor debate was a firestorm by the time the committee released its rankings, and it only intensified once we all saw the top 25. While some expressed outrage at the Horned Frogs' placement ahead of the Bears, the committee noted TCU's body of work -- better strength of schedule, more top-25 wins -- and the fact that the Horned Frogs played better. Also, one little nugget was dropped by Long: "TCU's loss is to No. 7 Baylor, Baylor's loss is to unranked West Virginia."

Keep that in mind, especially when you consider TCU barely lost that game. However, the Bears can close the gap and appeared to do just that with their big jump following the win against Oklahoma.

"At this point in time I'd tell them, 'Continue to build your resume with the games you have left,'" Long said. "It's possible (to move ahead of TCU), yes."

With Kansas State among the notable games left on the slate, Baylor can end up leapfrogging TCU if it plays well. The pressure is on, though.

4. No Group of Five decision yet

Once again a Group of Five team was not in the top 25, providing little insight into who is in the lead for the bid to a New Year's six bowl. Long named specific teams -- Marshall, Colorado State, Boise State, Northern Illinois and East Carolina -- but no order was given. Since the Rams need help to even win the league, they're on the outside looking in to start with. There's still plenty of football left to be played, so the committee will probably wait until the last week to make a decision. That Long listed Marshall first might be good news for the Thundering Herd; it might just indicate that they've got the inside track to the bid.

5. Ohio State still has outside chance

The Buckeyes naturally moved up with their big win over Michigan State on Saturday and were justly rewarded by the committee with a big bump into the top 10. Most notably, Ohio State was ahead of all the two-loss teams in the poll. Keep that in mind if they do win out, and it's the Buckeyes against a two-loss SEC team for a final spot in the semifinals.

6. Still plenty of football left

November upsets are a part of the fabric of the sport, and with so many top-25 matchups remaining, there's a reason the top 25 can change dramatically. Baylor can close the gap with TCU, Florida State can still end up in the top two, Alabama is in with some wins, and more. Don't fret just yet if you're on the outside looking in. There's still time for some teams in the top 10.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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