College football rankings: Tennessee, Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson open 1-4 in top 25

College football rankings: Tennessee, Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson open 1-4 in top 25

The first edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night with undefeated Tennessee taking the top spot in the four-team field. Coming off a dominant start to the 2022 season with a win over Alabama already on their resume, the Volunteers sit in first place as they make their debut in the CFP rankings as the playoffs open their ninth season of existence.

All but one team ranked No. 1 in the CFP’s opening season rankings ended up reaching the four-team playoff (Mississippi State, 2014).

Undefeated teams round out the rest of the top four with Ohio State, defending national champion Georgia and Clemson occupying the next three spots. The Bulldogs, looking to become the first back-to-back champions in a decade, face the Vols in a No. 1 vs. No. 3 matchup at 3:30 pm ET Saturday in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week.

CFP Chairman Boo Corrigan, NC State’s athletic director, cited the “explosive nature of their offense” as the reason Ohio State was ranked No. 2 ahead of Georgia.

Right behind those four as the top two outside the playoff field are undefeated Michigan and one-loss Alabama.

The primary surprise for most at the top of the list is the Crimson Tide, whose signature eight-game winning streak is a one-point victory over current No. 24 Texas. They are ahead of undefeated TCU, which has wins over no. 13 Kansas State and no. 18 Oklahoma State undefeated on its resume. That the Tigers were ahead of the Wolverines was similarly unexpected, though Michigan’s weak non-conference slate is a likely reason for its position.

“We are looking for a balanced team, attack and defense, and [TCU] was behind in some games. They could come back and win those games. But when you look at Alabama — in the wins against Mississippi State, at Arkansas, at Texas and obviously the three-point loss at Tennessee — as a committee, we decided to go with Alabama no. 6 and TCU no. 7,” Corrigan explained.

Unlike last season when Cincinnati opened at No. 6 in the CFP rankings and ended up becoming the first Group of Five team to reach the playoffs, the top Group of Five program in this ranking is Tulane at No. 19. That won’t create a scenario where the Green Wave can advance to the playoffs, but in the soon-to-be-introduced expanded 12-team field, Tulane would be in pole position to receive a bid as the top-ranked potential Group of Five champion.

Let’s take a look at the entire top 25 CFP rankings. Check out bowling expert Jerry Palma’s analysis, soon to be added below.

College Football Playoff Rankings, Nov. 1

  1. Tennessee (8-0)
  2. Ohio State (8-0)
  3. Georgia (8-0)
  4. Clemson (8-0)
  5. Michigan (8-0)
  6. Alabama (7-1)
  7. TCU (8-0)
  8. Oregon (7-1)
  9. USC (7-1)
  10. LSU (6-2)
  11. Be Miss (8-1)
  12. UCLA (7-1)
  13. Kansas State (6-2)
  14. Utah (6-2)
  15. Penn State (6-2)
  16. Illinois (7-1)
  17. North Carolina (7-1)
  18. Oklahoma State (6-2)
  19. Tulane (7-1)
  20. Syracuse (6-2)
  21. Wake Forest (6-2)
  22. NC State (6-2)
  23. Oregon State (6-2)
  24. Texas (5-3)
  25. UCF (6-2)

Analysis by bowl expert Jerry Palma

Despite not being in line with our prediction of the top seven teams in the CFP rankings, it’s hard to argue with the order in which the committee chose to place those teams. I felt those seven teams were grouped into two tiers, the top three (Tennessee, Ohio State, Georgia) and the bottom four (Clemson, Michigan, Alabama, TCU). Every order within those groups was justified.

Tennessee was awarded more wins against ranked teams than Ohio State or Georgia.

As such, I’m not surprised to see Alabama ahead of undefeated TCU, especially since Texas also finished in the rankings. It gave the Crimson Tide a win over a ranked team, and their loss is the best loss anyone could have right now.

One has to go further down the list before the real surprise comes. LSU at No. 10 appears to be tough. The Tigers did get a good win over Ole Miss at home, but they got drilled by Tennessee (also at home) and lost to unranked Florida State. Only No. 14 Utah has other teams with losses to opponents not on this ranking.

Need more college football in your life? Listen below and subscribe to the Cover 3 Podcast where we break down the initial College Football Playoff rankings for the 2022 season.

Regardless of where the teams are ranked this week, keep in mind that change is coming. These rankings do not act like the AP Top 25 or Coaches Poll. It is possible to win and move down or lose and move up (although the latter is less likely).

Take Illinois, for example. The Illini start at No. 16, but have a clearer path to the playoffs than the four two-loss teams ahead of them. To get there, Illinois needs to win out, which would include a win at Michigan on Nov. 19 and another likely against Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. I didn’t say it was an easy road, but how could the committee deny the 12-1 Big Ten champions with those wins? They couldn’t and probably wouldn’t.

Everything I just said about Illinois would be just as true if it were currently unranked — and that’s why it doesn’t pay to get too hung up on the early CFP rankings.

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