Tennessee, Ohio State, Georgia and Clemson lead first College Football Playoff rankings

Tennessee is atop the first set of College Football Playoff rankings.

The Volunteers lead Ohio State, Georgia and Clemson in the top four of the inaugural 2022 CFP rankings released Tuesday night. Tennessee (8-0) is in the top spot because it has two wins over teams ranked in the top 10.

There are six teams at 8-0 at the top level of college football and they occupy six of the top seven CFP spots. And there will be no more than five undefeated teams after Week 10. Tennessee travels to Georgia on Saturday in the biggest game of the season to date. This top four is going to change next week.

Michigan is just outside the top four at No. 5 while TCU was at No. 7 behind one-loss Alabama.

That Alabama loss came to Tennessee on a last-second field goal. And the committee really likes LSU. The Tigers are the top two-loss team at No. 10. LSU was blown out at home by the Volunteers.

Oregon and USC are at Nos. 8 and 9. No Pac-12 team has made the College Football Playoff since Washington in 2016. If either of those two teams finishes the season with one loss and wins the Pac-12 title, the conference will have a great shot at having a team in the playoff this season.

ACC leads the way with 5 ranked teams

The ACC’s five teams in the first set of rankings are the most of any conference. Outside of Clemson at No. 4, the conference has North Carolina at No. 17, Syracuse at No. 20, Wake Forest at No. 21 and NC State at No. 22.

Each of the other four Power Five conferences has four teams in the rankings. With Ole Miss at No. 11, all four of the SEC’s teams are in the top 11 spots while the Pac-12 has No. 12 UCLA and No. 23 Oregon State.

Who will make the playoff?

The 2022 season is the ninth season with a playoff and at least one team from the top four in the first set of rankings has gone on to make the playoff at the end of the season. And outside of the inaugural 2014 season, at least two of the teams in the top four of the rankings have gone on to make the playoff.

Given that past history, it’s fair to assume that someone from this initial top four will make the playoff and our bet is that it will be either Tennessee or Georgia. Whoever wins Saturday will have a clear path to the SEC title game and the chance to (likely) play Alabama for the conference championship. At 13-0 or 12-1, the winner of the SEC East will be in great shape.

Tennessee is also the seventh SEC team to open the College Football Playoff rankings in the top spot. Only Clemson (2015) and Ohio State (2019) have broken the SEC’s grip.

Does TCU have a gripe?

TCU fans can easily claim that the team should be in the top six and ahead of Alabama. The Horned Frogs have wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma State on the way to their 8-0 ranking and haven’t had the close calls that Alabama did in its wins over Texas and Texas A&M.

But it’s not worth expending too much energy over. TCU has a viable path to the playoff with an undefeated season and a Big 12 title. The Horned Frogs could be in some danger of missing out on the playoff if they finish the season 12-1. But the committee has shown a strong preference for conference champions, and it’s fair to wonder if TCU would get the nod as a 12-1 Big 12 champ over an 11-1 team from the SEC or Big 12.

That’s still a long way away. These rankings are going to significantly change over the next few weeks. And that’s why the significant discussions about them won’t happen for a while.

College Football Playoff 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. USC (7-1)

10. LSU (6-2)

11. Ole Miss (7-1)

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. NC State (6-2)

23. Oregon State (6-2)

24. Texas (5-3)

25. UCF (6-2)

KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE - OCTOBER 29: Bryson Eason #20 of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates as he runs off the field following their win over the Kentucky Wildcats at Neyland Stadium on October 29, 2022 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
Tennessee is at No. 1 in the first College Football Playoff rankings. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)