Tennessee, OSU, UGA, Clemson CFP’s first four

  • College football reporter
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2007
  • Graduate of Indiana University

GRAPEVINE, Texas — Undefeated Tennessee earned the No. 1 spot in the College Football Playoff’s initial Top 25 ranking on Tuesday, marking the first time in the program’s history it cracked the top four, followed by No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Clemson.

The 13-member committee ranked undefeated Michigan No. 5, and one-loss Alabama was No. 6 ahead of undefeated No. 7 TCU. Alabama had been ranked in the top three of the initial rankings in each of the past six years. Alabama has never been lower than No. 6 in the committee’s first ranking, as it earned the same spot in 2014.

Tennessee, which is averaging 49 points per game and leads the FBS in total offense, became the seventh different program to earn the top spot at any point in the playoff era. The Vols entered Tuesday’s initial ranking ranked No. 1 in ESPN’s Strength of Record metric with the best win in the country, against No. 6 Alabama.

Seven of the past eight teams that were ranked No. 1 in the committee’s first ranking have gone on to reach the CFP. The only exception was Mississippi State in 2014, the first season of the CFP.

At No. 8, one-loss Oregon was the Pac-12’s highest-ranked team.

Tennessee and Georgia will face each other on Saturday in a game that will have a drastic impact on the committee’s second ranking, and Ohio State and Michigan will ultimately face each other in their regular-season rivalry game.

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