Arizona, ASU neck and neck in selection committee’s ranking

Given the current rankings of their teams, ASU coach Todd Graham (left) and Arizona's Rich Rodriguez could be headed toward a big showdown in Tucson on Nov. 28.

Ross D. Franklin

Arizona State and Arizona have not often been ranked at the same time, but history will show both were highly ranked at the start of a new era in college football.

The College Football Playoff selection committee’s first top 25 ranking was revealed Tuesday, with Arizona at No. 12 and ASU at No. 14.

In the Associated Press poll, UA ranks 14th and ASU 15th. That poll did not play a role in the selection committee’s process but can serve as a point of comparison. For example, both UA and ASU jumped Ohio State, which ranked 13th in the AP poll but came in 16th in the College Football Playoff poll.

The top four, which would play in the playoff if the season ended today: No. 1 Mississippi State, No. 2 Florida State, No. 3 Auburn, No. 4 Ole Miss.

UA (6-1, 3-1) made its present felt in a big way first with a Hail Mary win over Cal on Sept. 20 followed by a stunning upset of Oregon on the road. That win was easily the strongest mark on UA’s resume, as Oregon came in fifth in the poll.

Selection committee chair and Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long was asked on ESPN to address the selection process as it related to head-to-head results with Oregon’s ranking above UA while Ole Miss ranked above No. 6 Alabama, which it beat.

"You look at Oregon, they not only beat Michigan State but they went on the road and had a good win at UCLA," Long said. "I think their body of work, which we use a lot in the room, is better than that of (Arizona)."

The Wildcats have three remaining opponents ranked in the poll: No. 22 UCLA, No. 17 Utah and ASU.

Rankings reaction

ASU (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) has surged over the past month following a home loss to UCLA. It started with a Hail Mary win Oct. 4 at the Coliseum, ASU’s first there since 1999, and followed with wins over Stanford and Washington.

ASU coach Todd Graham said before the rankings were released he hasn’t given much thought to where ASU might end up or the selection process involved.

"We’ve just got to win the next six games," Graham said. "If we win the next six games we won’t have to worry about it. That’s really how I approach that."

ASU’s remaining schedule also features three teams ranked in the new poll: Utah, No. 10 Notre Dame and UA. Notre Dame took one of the more notable falls in relation to the AP poll, going from sixth to 10th, likely because it lacks a signature win.

The first installment of the weekly College Football Playoff rankings marks the official start of the new system to determine college football’s champion. The committee will update its rankings weekly, stating that its emphasis at the end will be on conference championships, strength of schedule and head-to-head results.

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