Clemson stays atop CFP rankings, while another ACC challenger rises

The perceived biggest roadblock to its College Football Playoff resume was cleared, but another potential test is building for No. 1 Clemson.

The Tigers topped Tuesday’s release of the second selection committee rankings, this edition coming on the heels of their dominating victory over Florida State in Week 10.

Clemson was joined by No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Notre Dame, which the Tigers beat 24-22 on Oct. 3 in Memorial Stadium.

Iowa and Baylor were the first two teams out at fifth and sixth, respectively.

With Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina — three opponents who have combined to win nine games — the Tigers have the easiest path to the playoffs for any of the current contenders. That slate ranks 114th via NCAA.org’s strength of schedule model using future opponent’s winning percentage.

The Hawkeyes, knocked for a schedule that doesn’t include the Buckeyes, Michigan State or Michigan, have the 105th SOS with Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska to play.

Where Clemson — beyond Saturday’s 23-13 win over No. 16 Seminoles, the win over the Fighting Irish and a six victories over teams who are .500 or better — can seemingly strengthen its bid to remain No. 1 is what may await them in the ACC Championship Game.

North Carolina debuted at No. 23 in the CFP rankings and with a win over Miami this weekend can clinch the Coastal Division and key a meeting in Charlotte with the Tigers, who have already won the Atlantic.

The Tar Heels are winners of eight straight since a season-opening loss to South Carolina, but with five two-loss teams ahead of them, North Carolina may not be getting enough respect.

Larry Fedora and Co. are coming off a 66-31 win vs. Duke have just one win over a Top 25 team — beating No. 23 Pitt 26-19 — but among those 7-2 teams ahead of them the Seminoles and No. 17 Mississippi State have yet to beat a ranked team.

Playoff Committee chair Jeff Long addressed Florida State’s ranking, saying "Florida State, you know, went on the road and played Clemson, and you know what, we felt that while they lost, they still have some quality wins, and they have a strong resume. They’ve played quality teams.

"I think when we look at — as we look at these rankings, we rank small groups of teams around each other, and when we got to Florida State, we still felt they were stronger than those teams that are behind them."

North Carolina, though, is one win away from getting a chance to prove its worth against Clemson — or should the Tar Heels stay hot, make the Tigers’ body of work that much more impressive.

Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney