Alabama, Clemson head first college playoff standings

With four weeks left in the regular season, the first College Football Playoff Rankings of 2016 were released Tuesday night with Alabama taking the No. 1 spot followed by Clemson, Michigan and Texas A&M from 2-4. Undefeated Washington checked in at No. 5.

As for these first rankings, there are a few surprises -- just nowhere near the top.

We will get to those surprises in a moment, but first, let's start with the usual disclaimer. Nothing in these rankings is meaningful in terms of where teams may be ranked at the end of the season. It is possible that the current top four teams could win out and still not be the top four teams at the end. Even if they are, the order may change. This isn't like the top 25 polls where you usually hold your position unless you lose.

And, of course, there’s a local twist this year: the title game will be held in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

"It's surreal to see the road to Tampa Bay's College Football Playoff National Championship begin to take shape with the release of the first rankings,” said Rob Higgins, Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.

“The potential match-ups of who may play for a national title in less than 70 days in our hometown are truly incredible."

Here is the top 25 as voted on by the committee. Analysis from CBS Sports playoff and bowls expert Jerry Palm can be found below.

1. Alabama (8-0)
2. Clemson (8-0)
3. Michigan (8-0)
4. Texas A&M (7-1)
5. Washington (8-0)
6. Ohio State (7-1)
7. Louisville (7-1)
8. Wisconsin (6-2)
9. Auburn (6-2)
10. Nebraska (7-1)
11. Florida (6-1)
12. Penn State (6-2)
13. LSU (5-2)
14. Oklahoma (6-2)
15. Colorado (6-2)
16. Utah (7-2)
17. Baylor (6-1)
18. Oklahoma State (6-2)
19. Virginia Tech (6-2)
20. West Virginia (6-1)
21. North Carolina (6-2)
22. Florida State (5-3)
23. Western Michigan (8-0)
24. Boise State (7-1)
25. Washington State (6-2)

You should not be surprised to see a one-loss team (Texas A&M) ahead of a major conference undefeated team (Washington). There have been only three weekly rankings in the first two seasons of the CFP in which all of the unbeaten Power Five teams were atop the rankings. Those were the first two of 2014 (Mississippi State and Florida State) and the final one last year (Clemson). In fact, the only time there have been three major undefeated teams at the top of the rankings was the first one of last season, when Clemson, LSU and Ohio State topped the list. At that time, there were still eight Power Five teams without a loss. "Undefeated" doesn't mean much to the committee.

In fact, the committee ranked the undefeated teams in the only justifiable order. Alabama has the best schedule and has been largely dominant. Clemson's schedule isn't far off from that of the Crimson Tide, and the Tigers have the best road win of any of these teams. In basketball terms, Michigan is what we would call a "home court hero." It has a weaker schedule overall than Alabama and Clemson, and it is very home heavy, although there are a couple of wins against teams in the top 12.

Washington's strength of schedule to this point isn't Baylor-level bad, but it is way behind the other teams on this list. The win at No. 16 Utah is good, but the Huskies' nonconference schedule was pretty bad and Stanford and Oregon have let them down some.

The one-loss teams are relatively easy to parse through also. Texas A&M and Ohio State have played similar schedules and each has at least one big road win, but the Aggies lost at Alabama and the Buckeyes lost at Penn State. Louisville's schedule so far is considerably weaker, and the Cardinals only win of note is their destruction of Florida State.

(© 2016 WTSP)


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