Tennessee, Ohio State, Georgia, and Clemson were the top four teams in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season released Tuesday night, four days before the Volunteers and Bulldogs square off on the field.
Michigan was fifth, followed by Alabama and unbeaten TCU.
Tennessee is No. 1 in the CFP rankings for the first time, starting ahead of a group of teams that have become regulars at the top of the selection committee’s top 25. The Volunteers have already beaten the Crimson Tide and LSU, which was ranked 10th.
Tennessee has been one of the season’s biggest surprises, starting the season unranked in the AP poll and jumping out to an 8-0 start for the first time since the Vols won their last national title in 1998.
”We’ve tried to enjoy the journey,” second-year Tennessee coach Josh Heupel told ESPN. ”Three years ago, it didn’t look like this.”
The committee began its weekly in-person meetings at hotel in Grapevine, Texas, on Monday and revealed the first of six weekly rankings.
The final rankings that set the CFP field of four are set for Dec. 4. The 13-person panel is led by a first-time chairman Boo Corrigan, the athletic director of North Carolina State.
Only one team that has been No. 1 in the committee’s initial rankings has not made the playoff, but only about half the teams in first top four managed to finish there.
Oregon was eighth followed by Pac-12 rival Southern California at ninth.
The highest ranked team from outside the Power Five conferences was Tulane at No. 19. The highest ranked champion from the Group of Five conferences earns a spot in New Year’s Six bowl.
The CFP semifinals are scheduled to be played at the Fiesta and Peach Bowls on Dec. 31, with the championship game set for Jan. 9 in Inglewood, California.
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