College Football Playoff Rankings: Top four teams are Tennessee, Ohio State, Georgia and Clemson


They sing “Rocky Top” atop the first College Football Playoff standings.

The rankings, released by the 13-member CFP Selection Committee on Tuesday, contained some slight surprises, starting with Tennessee earning the nod to No. 1. Georgia, La reigning national champion ranked #1 in the latest Associated Press surveythird in the CFP ranking.

Between the SEC East rivals, ready to face off on saturday in a titanic showdown, came Ohio State. The Buckeyes are tied with volunteers at No. 2 in the AP poll; all three teams are 8-0.

Recognition by the CFP committee represented the last feather in the hat of Tennessee coach Josh Heupel, who in January 2021 took over a program in relative disarray after three years under former coach Jeremy Pruitt. After a 7-6 result last season, Heupel has the Volunteers in position to make the playoffs for the first time, which replaced the Bowl Championship Series in 2014.

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Asked on ESPN after Tuesday’s revelation how quickly he plans to become a national championship contender, Heupel replied“I don’t know if we put a timeline on that, and I think that’s one of the things that has made our players buy into what we’re doing. We never set a cap.

Of his expectations for Tuesday, Heupel said: “We didn’t know where we would rank, but we thought we would be somewhere near the top. Ultimately, one of the things our players have done here is we’ve tried to enjoy the journey. Take a few moments to pause, reflect and enjoy what our players have built here. They built this.

“Three years ago it didn’t look like this,” he continued. “But it’s a proud tradition, a massive fan base that loves the Power T, and they’re excited about the way our players are playing. Embrace it.”

With Tennessee, Ohio State and Georgia widely expected to land in the top three — not necessarily in that order — much of the plot heading into Tuesday night’s reveal centered around which program would be inserted into the crucial fourth slot. Ultimately, only the top four will advance to the playoffs to determine the national champion.

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That round went to Clemson, another 8-0 team, ranked fifth in the AP poll. Michigan, which is fourth in that poll, was ranked fifth by the committee.

Michigan still has a date with Ohio State on its schedule, which means the Wolverines could have a chance to fight their way into the top four if they beat the Buckeyes, assuming the two programs continue to win going into their regular-season game. .

Alabama, 7-1 after a last-second loss to Tennessee last month, was awarded sixth place by the committee. That left TCU, the only other 8-0 team among the Power Five programs, in seventh place.

Oregon (7-1), Southern California (7-1) and LSU (6-2) round out the top 10, in that order.

In giving the Volunteers first place, CFP Selection Committee Chairman Boo Corrigan told ESPN that their wins over the Crimson Tide and at LSU “really sealed the day for Tennessee.” Tennessee is also coming off a 44-6 win over the then No. 1. 19 Kentucky, and it may have helped the Volunteers’ cause that they’re ranked No. 1 in ESPN’s record strength.

Ohio State’s biggest win came then-No. 13 Penn State on the road last week, and the Buckeyes also boast a quick victory over Notre Dame. They lead Football Bowl Subdivision teams in average point differential (32.0), and they’re second in points per game at 48.9, just behind Tennessee (49.4).

Putting Ohio State ahead of Georgia, Corrigan said, “I think the explosive nature of their offense at Ohio State – [quarterback] CJ Stroud, [wide receiver] Marvin Harrison Jr. – the win over Penn State, how they came back to win this game, again, very close. Two well balanced teams, but at the end of the day the committee decided we would go with Ohio State.

Corrigan, the North Carolina State athletic director, added that the committee’s decision emerged from “13 different voices in the room” and noted that some were advocating for Ohio State and Georgia get first place.

Seventh in the AP poll, TCU beat four teams ranked in the top 25 at the time — Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas — and its four road victories all came against strong opponents. Clemson has won three teams ranked in the top 25 by the AP and CFP committee: Syracuse, North Carolina State and Wake Forest.

Michigan, who recently defeated Michigan State in a game that made national headlines for the violence that broke out among the opposing players in the stadium tunnel after the end of the match, routed then-No. 10 Penn State last month. In September, the Wolverines beat marylandwhich is now 6-2.

Here is the full ranking of the selection committee:

9. Southern California (7-1)

22. North Carolina State (6-2)

In addition to Corrigan, the PCP selection committee includes: University of Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart; Tom Burman, athletic director of the University of Wyoming; Rick George, athletic director of the University of Colorado; Chet Gladchuk, athletic director of the Naval Academy; former coach Jim Grobe; Warde Manuel, athletic director of the University of Michigan; Will Shields, former Nebraska offensive lineman and member of the College Football Hall of Fame; Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor; Virginia Union University track and field official Joe Taylor; former Penn State offensive lineman John Urschel; former Notre Dame linebacker Rod West; and sports journalist and Montclair State University associate professor Kelly Whiteside, the only woman on the committee.

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