Georgia Tops Alabama in First College Football Playoff Rankings
Georgia topped perennial power Alabama in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season announced Tuesday night. The two undefeated Southeastern Conference (SEC) teams were placed in the reverse order that they appear in the weekly Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Here's a recap of the most important things we learned from the first College Football Playoff rankings of the 2017 season:
The SEC Still Rules
The SEC is often considered the strongest college football conference in the country, so it's no surprise that its two undefeated division leaders are ranked high in the CFP poll. For Alabama (8-0), this is well-worn territory. The Crimson Tide always seem to be in the thick of the national title chase. They have tests left against No. 19 LSU, No. 16 Mississippi State and No. 14 Auburn, but the odds are that they'll be battling for the SEC title in Atlanta on December 2.
For Georgia (8-0), this is the first time they've been No. 1 since 2008. The Bulldogs have posted impressive wins over No. 3 Notre Dame (7-1) and No. 16 Mississippi State (6-2), as well as blowout victories over Tennessee and Florida. Georgia's next big test comes against No. 14 Auburn (6-2) on Nov. 11, but it's hard not to think that the SEC title game won't be a knock-out contest between the Bulldogs and the Tide.
Notre Dame & Clemson Made the Top Four
Traditional power Notre Dame (7-1) made the all-important final four -- only four teams make the actual playoff in January -- despite a 20-19 loss to Georgia on Sept. 9. Convincing wins over No. 17 USC (7-2) and No. 20 N.C. State (6-2) helped. The Fighting Irish are always a ratings magnet and the committee would likely love to see them stay in the top four. They'll need to beat No. 10 Miami (7-0) and No. 21 Stanford (6-2) in November, though -- two very tough road opponents.
Defending national champion Clemson (7-1) is still in position to repeat, despite a huge road loss to Syracuse in a game where Tigers starting quarterback Kelly Bryant was lost to injury. Dabo Swinney needs his team to take care of No. 20 N.C. State this week and unranked Florida State next week to get back into the Atlantic Coast Conference title hunt.
Oklahoma's Early Win Over Ohio St. Meant Something
Despite losing to then-unranked Iowa State earlier this month, Oklahoma (7-1) stayed in the national title picture, ranking fifth in the first CFB poll. Much of that can be explained by the Sooners 31-16 win over Ohio State (7-1), who landed sixth in the poll. The Sooners now have to beat No. 11 Oklahoma State (7-1) this weekend and No. 8 TCU (7-1) next weekend. If they can pull that off, it could be enough to get them past Clemson into the top four.
The Buckeyes comeback win over No. 7 Penn State (7-1) helped elevate them to sixth. Ohio State must run the table impressively -- and hope for some help -- to assure themselves of a top four finish. It's Big Ten title or bust for the Bucks.
The Committee Is High on Penn State, Not Wisconsin & Miami
Penn State seemed to have blown their shot at a national title when they collapsed against Ohio State in Columbus, 39-35, last Saturday. Not so, according to the committee, which ranked the one-loss Nittany Lions seventh -- ahead of undefeated Wisconsin and Miami, who ranked ninth and 10th, respectively. PSU needs to take this good faith and win out, hoping the Buckeyes, Sooners and Irish fall -- all very possible outcomes.
Even the Horned Frogs of TCU placed ahead of the undefeated Badgers and Hurricanes. If Wisconsin can beat the four unranked opponents left on their schedule -- and top either Penn State or Ohio State in the Big Ten title game -- they'll have a signature win and a shot at a top four finish.
The Hurricanes have a slightly more direct path to the CFP; if Miami can notch wins over No. 13 Virginia Tech (7-1) this Saturday and No. 3 Notre Dame the following week, they'll likely vault into the top four.
The Committee is Not Impressed by the Pac-12 (or Central Florida)
Four of the Power 5 conferences -- SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 -- have at least two teams in the top 10 of the first college football playoff rankings. Not the Pac-12, though. :( Twelfth-ranked Washington (7-1) is the highest ranking school from the wide-open conference. Erratic No. 17 USC is the Pac-12's second-highest ranked team. Further down in the poll, No. 21 Stanford, No. 22 Arizona (6-2) and No. 25 Washington State (7-2) give the league good grouping, but it's hard to imagine any Pac-12 team making in the playoffs.
Still, the Pac-12 is more respected than the American Athletic Conference, whose lone undefeated team, the University of Central Florida (7-0), landed at No. 18. Unless a pandemic of upsets reigns over the next few weeks, the Knights could finish undefeated and still not rank in the top four.