Georgia is the leader in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll, but the College Football Playoff committee has a different view on who is the best team in college football.
In its first rankings of the season released Tuesday, SEC counterpart Tennessee was the No. 1 choice of the committee, ahead of Ohio State. The Bulldogs were slotted in at No. 3 and Clemson rounded out the top four.
Tennessee and Georgia will meet Saturday in Athens, with the winner an overwhelming favorite to be the clear-cut leader in next week’s release.
Likewise, there will eventually be more separation between Ohio State and Michigan, which came in at No. 5, after the teams meet Nov. 26 in Columbus in a game that should determine the Big Ten East winner and the conference’s playoff representative.
Alabama, already with a loss to Tennessee, and TCU, the only unbeaten in the Big 12, are sixth and seventh, respectively. Pac-12 leader Oregon is eighth. Southern California and LSU complete the top 10.
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No. 19 Tulane, helped by a road win against Kansas State, leads all teams from the Group of Five conferences. The highest-ranked champion from those leagues earns an automatic berth in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games, likely the Cotton Bowl. Central Florida, at No. 25, is the only other Group of Five school in the initial rankings.
The SEC, ACC and Pac-12 each landed five teams in the initial rankings. The Big Ten and Big 12 each had four teams in the rankings. The SEC still dominated the top of the rankings, though, with four teams in the top 10. The league’s fifth selection, Mississippi, landed at No. 11.
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The final ranking of the committee will take place Dec. 4, and the top four teams will earn spots in the playoff. History has shown that – on average – half of the first four in the initial release won’t make the field.
In seven of the eight seasons of the playoff rankings, 13 of the 28 teams in the top four from the first poll missed the semifinals. The only outlier where all of the initial top four made the playoff was in 2020, a truncated season due to COVID-19 that had fewer ranking releases.
The semifinals will be played at the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl on Dec. 31. The championship game will be played on Jan. 9 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.
College Football Playoff committee Top 25
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. Southern California (7-1)
10. LSU (6-2)
11. Mississippi (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. North Carolina State (6-2)
23. Oregon State (6-2)
24. Texas (5-3)
25. Central Florida (6-2)