The SEC took the top two spots in the first College Football Playoff top 25 rankings released Tuesday night with undefeated Georgia at No. 1 and Alabama at No. 2 despite a loss.
The Bulldogs (8-0, 6-0 SEC) clinched the SEC East Division championship on Saturday with an easy, 34-7 victory over Florida and will host Missouri on Saturday (ESPN, 11 a.m. central). The Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1 SEC) lost at two-loss Texas A&M, 41-38, on Oct. 9. Alabama hosts LSU on Saturday (ESPN, 6 p.m.)
Michigan State (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) is ranked third after its 37-33 win over Michigan Saturday. The Spartans play at Ohio State on Nov. 20.
The No. 4 team is Oregon (7-1), followed by Ohio State (7-1) at No. 5 and Cincinnati (8-0) at No. 6.
Alabama was not projected by many college football analysts, including ESPN’s studio hosts of their rankings show, to land at No. 2 because of the loss to the Aggies, who lost to Arkansas and Mississippi State before upsetting the Tide. Alabama also struggled to win at Florida, 31-29, on Sept. 18, and the Gators are 4-4 and 2-4 in the SEC on the season.
But the 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee saw it differently, mainly due to Alabama’s high strength of schedule numbers.
“There was a lot of discussion on Alabama – where they’ve been, who they’ve played and who they’ve beaten, Mississippi and Mississippi State, and how well they’re playing,” said committee chairman Gary Barta, who is Iowa’s athletic director.
“But there was a lot of consensus for Alabama to be No. 2,” Barta said. “After that, we probably spent a few hours yesterday and this morning working through three to nine because there were so many different ways to approach it.”
Michigan (7-1) came in at No. 7, followed by No. 8 Oklahoma (9-0), No. 9 Wake Forest (8-0) and No. 10 Notre Dame (7-1).
The teams in the second 10 of the rankings were No. 11 Oklahoma State (7-1), No. 12 Baylor (7-1), No. 13 Auburn (6-2), No. 14. Texas A&M (6-2), No. 15 Brigham Young (7-2), No. 16 Ole Miss (6-2), No. 17 Mississippi State (5-3), No. 18 Kentucky (6-2), No. 19 North Carolina State (6-2) and No. 20 Minnesota (6-2).
The last five of the top 25 were No. 21 Wisconsin (5-3), No. 22 Iowa (6-2), No. 23 Fresno State (7-2), No. 24 San Diego State (7-1) and No. 25 Pittsburgh (6-2).
There will be four more CFP rankings released over the next month on Tuesday nights with the final one on Sunday, Dec. 5, before the two semifinal playoff games on Dec. 31 at the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, and the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Florida.
The national championship game will be on Jan. 10 in Indianapolis.