Georgia tops the first CFP rankings, followed by Alabama, Michigan State and Oregon

Cincinnati debuted as No. 6 in the preliminary College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday night, while SEC powers Georgia and Alabama top the list as No. 1 and No. 2, followed by No. 3 Michigan State and No. 4 Oregon.

The Bearcats landed the highest ranking ever for a team of 5 teams, a place ahead of the No. 7 title they had during an undefeated regular season in 2020. But Cincinnati (8-0), which ranks No. 2 in both AP and Coaches polls aimed to become the first group of 5 teams ever to appear in the CFP selection committee’s top four. Cincinnati’s profile is reinforced by an away win on October 2 over No. 10 Notre Dame, who finished Fighting Irish’s 26 home win series. But Cincinnati is also the only American Athletic Conference team ranked by the selection committee, as neither SMU (7-1) nor Houston (7-1) perform.

“The committee has great respect for Cincinnati. The victory at Notre Dame was a really impressive victory,” said committee chairman Gary Barta on ESPN’s rankings. “But who else did they beat? Looking at the big picture, we feel six is ​​the right place for Cincinnati.”

A group of 5 teams has never appeared in the CFP, which was launched during the 2014 season.

“We are not talking about a ceiling (for teams). We are looking at what has happened so far,” Barta said. “And we see Cincinnati as undefeated now, with a big win in Notre Dame. I’m not sure there’s a ceiling there.”

Ohio State is No. 5, a spot behind an Oregon team it lost to Sept. 11 at Ohio Stadium. Oregon is the Pac-12’s sole representative in the initial CFP top-25, backed by the Ohio State victory (top defender Kavyon Thibodeaux did not play) and not injured by a road loss to Stanford on October 2 (offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead did not calls acting due to a health problem).

Oklahoma emerges as No. 8 despite being the country’s only 9-0 team. The Sooners have zero wins against opponents ranked by the selection committee and fought to beat Kansas, Tulane, Nebraska and others. Oklahoma, which has only missed the CFP twice in its history, will face Baylor No. 12 next week and No. 11 Oklahoma State on November 27.

The ACC’s playoff hopes rest on Wake Forest, which debuts at No. 9 on the CFP rankings, two days after its first ever top-10 appearance in the AP poll. Only two other ACC teams – No. 19 NC State and No. 25 Pitt – appear on the rankings.

Georgia did not surprisingly land the top spot, but Alabama with 1 loss comes just behind the Bulldogs ahead of three undefeated Power 5 teams. The Tide lost October 9 in Texas A&M, which is No. 14 in the preliminary rankings despite defeats to unranked Arkansas and No. 17 Mississippi State. The Mike Leachs Bulldogs are only 5-3 with close losses to two non-ranked teams (Memphis and LSU), but are ahead of two teams they have beaten, No. 18 Kentucky and No. 19 NC State.

“Immediately, Georgia was a clear No. 1, but there was a lot of talk about Alabama,” Barta said. “There was a lot of agreement that Alabama should be number two.”

Michigan State, who made his lone playoff appearance in 2015, debuts as No. 3 after a home win behind No. 7 in Michigan. The Spartans still have games against Ohio State (November 20) and Penn State (November 27), which are not ranked after dropping their last three games.

“Michigan State, they are still undefeated,” Barta said. “They have a big win against Michigan, they were behind (in that fight), they did not panic, and that’s how they ended up as No. 3.”

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III, who spoke on the ESPN broadcast, agreed.

“Our motto is ‘Keep chopping all the time’, and it’s unique for us to never stop fighting,” he said. “And that was what helped us get that victory.”

The SEC and Big Ten dominate the committee’s initial rankings, accounting for five of the top seven and 13 of the top 25 spots. The SEC has seven of the top-18 teams as Auburn appears as No. 13, a spot ahead of a Texas A&M team it visits on Saturday. Two FBS independents appear in Notre Dame and No. 15 BYU, while Mountain West lands two posts in No. 23 Fresno State and No. 24 San Diego State, both of which own victories against Pac-12 opponents.

Despite an 8-0 start, Texas-San Antonio does not appear on the initial CFP rankings.

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