CFP’s first top 4: Tennessee, Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson

Clemson running back Phil Mafah (26) carries the ball in the first half during an NCAA college...
Clemson running back Phil Mafah (26) carries the ball in the first half during an NCAA college football game against Syracuse on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Clemson, S.C.((AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman))
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 7:20 AM EDT
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(AP) - Tennessee, Ohio State, Georgia, and Clemson were the top four teams in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season released Tuesday night, four days before the Volunteers and Bulldogs square off on the field.

Michigan was fifth, followed by Alabama and unbeaten TCU.

Tennessee is No. 1 in the CFP rankings for the first time, starting ahead of a group of teams that have become regulars at the top of the selection committee’s top 25. The Volunteers have already beaten the Crimson Tide and LSU, which was ranked 10th.

Tennessee has been one of the season’s biggest surprises, starting the season unranked in the AP poll and jumping out to an 8-0 start for the first time since the Vols won their last national title in 1998.

“We’ve tried to enjoy the journey,” second-year Tennessee coach Josh Heupel told ESPN. “Three years ago, it didn’t look like this.”

Heupel took over after Jeremy Pruitt was fired following a 3-7 season.

Only one team that has been No. 1 in the committee’s initial rankings has not made the playoff, but only about half the teams in first top four managed to finish there.

The committee began its weekly in-person meetings at hotel in Grapevine, Texas, on Monday and revealed the first of six weekly rankings.

The final rankings that set the CFP field of four are set for Dec. 4. The 13-person panel is led by a first-time chairman Boo Corrigan, the athletic director of North Carolina State.

Corrigan said there was some consideration for Ohio State and Georgia as No. 1, but Tennessee’s victories against Alabama and at LSU won the day.

The Buckeyes’ explosive offense and overall dominance gave them a slight edge on Georgia.

He said Michigan’s weak nonconference schedule (Hawaii, Colorado State and Connecticut) and Clemson’s 5-0 record against teams with winning records gave the Tigers the nod for the fourth spot.

“The wins at Wake (Forest), at Florida State, over N.C. State, over Syracuse, really did push (Clemson) over the top,” Corrigan said.

Oregon was eighth followed by Pac-12 rival Southern California at ninth.

The highest ranked team from outside the Power Five conferences was Tulane at No. 19. The highest ranked champion from the Group of Five conferences earns a spot in New Year’s Six bowl.

The CFP semifinals are scheduled to be played at the Fiesta and Peach Bowls on Dec. 31, with the championship game set for Jan. 9 in Inglewood, California.


Even before the rankings were unveiled Tuesday night, it was clear which teams still have a chance to play for a national championship.

A glance at the conference standings reveals 14 contenders, all in the Power Five. Sorry, there will be no Cincinnati-style interloper from the Group of Five this season for the selection committee to consider.

A conference-by-conference assessment of who is in the race and the paths to the CFP, with AP Top 25 rankings.


Clemson (8-0, AP No. 5)

The Tigers had their streak of six straight playoff appearances snapped last year, but are well positioned to get back, with no ranked opponents left before a likely ACC title game against North Carolina.