College Football Playoff rankings: Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, Florida State

Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan and Florida State, all with 8-0 records, claimed the top four spots Tuesday night when the College Football Playoff selection committee issued the first of its six weekly rankings as the 2023 season nears its tensest stages.

The only other unbeaten Power Five team, Washington (8-0), came in at No. 5, having followed a classic win over No. 6 Oregon on Oct. 14 with uneven wins against Arizona State (2-6) and Stanford (2-6). The slight slight of that No. 5 ranking, committee chairman Boo Corrigan told ESPN, owed to “a little bit of concern from the committee as it relates to the Arizona State game at home [a 15-7 escape] and the Stanford game on the road [a 42-33 win].”

Still the Huskies, whose bout Saturday at No. 20 Southern California (7-2) presents a chance for ascent, gained their highest ranking since the 2016 season, when they reached the playoff as the No. 4 seed and lost to No. 1 Alabama in a semifinal. “It’s initial,” Washington Coach Kalen DeBoer told ESPN of the ranking, soon adding, “I think some of that [concern] internally, just like many other teams, you’re in the grind of [the middle of] the season.” He pointed out how his team thrived in November last year, going 4-0 to wind up 11-2 in DeBoer’s first season.

When weighing the eight Power Five teams at 7-1, the committee presented a mild surprise. It tucked Oregon at No. 6 just ahead of Texas at No. 7, even though Texas has the utmost win of any team in the country, its 34-24 mastery at No. 8 Alabama on Sept. 9. Oregon might have the second-best win, its 35-6 dazzler Saturday at No. 18 Utah. Texas has only lost at a neutral site (Dallas) to Oklahoma (7-1), which was ranked ninth after Saturday’s loss at No. 21 Kansas.

Five more rankings await, the first four issued on Tuesday evenings and the final one on Sunday, Dec. 3, when the committee will choose the quartet for the final four-team playoff in the 10-season history of the concept. The playoff bloats to 12 teams beginning next season.

The national semifinals are Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, with the title game scheduled for Jan. 8 in Houston.

What scares some college football teams this Halloween? The number ‘2.’

The choice of Ohio State as No. 1 sustained a committee tradition of preferring bold early-season scheduling over scoring margins. The Buckeyes are the only unbeaten team with two wins against top-15 opponents: 17-14 in a nonconference game at No. 15 Notre Dame (7-2) on Sept. 23 and 20-12 in a Big Ten game against No. 11 Penn State (7-1) on Oct. 21. The No. 1 ranking is the first for Ohio State since 2019 and its fourth in the 10 playoff seasons, placing the Buckeyes behind only Alabama (24), Georgia (12) and Clemson (eight) in that category.

Florida State appeared in the top four for the first time since 2014, the first year of the playoff, when the Seminoles of quarterback Jameis Winston made the playoff at No. 3 and lost a Rose Bowl semifinal to Oregon. Two-time defending champion Georgia appeared in the top four for the 13th consecutive ranking, reflecting its 25-game winning streak.

Alabama (7-1), No. 9 Oklahoma (7-1) and No. 10 Mississippi (7-1) rounded out the top 10, which included three SEC teams, the most of any league.

The Pac-12, widely regarded as the best and most dynamic league in the nation so far, tied the SEC with six teams in the top 25. The Pac-12 had a block party between Nos. 16 and 20, placing Oregon State (6-2) at No. 16, Utah (6-2) at No. 18, UCLA (6-2) at No. 19 and Southern California (7-2) at No. 20. The SEC added to its top-10 tally of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi with No. 12 Missouri (7-1), No. 14 LSU (6-2) and No. 17 Tennessee (6-2).

The placement of No. 2 Georgia and No. 3 Michigan ahead of No. 4 Florida State and No. 5 Washington seemed a case of the old concept of the “eye test” over strength of schedule. While Florida State has a nonconference win in Orlando over LSU and Washington has its win over Oregon, neither Michigan nor Georgia has beaten a CFP-ranked team. Michigan has outscored its opponents 325-47 while playing a schedule ranked 111th in toughness, while Georgia has outscored eight opponents 324-118 while playing a schedule ranked 100th. Georgia’s routs of Kentucky (5-3) and Florida (5-3) nudged it above the Wolverines.

The NCAA probe of sign-stealing at Michigan had no bearing on the discussions, said Corrigan, the athletic director at North Carolina State. “As we went through it,” he told ESPN, “that wasn’t any point of our discussions during our time together.” He said the committee views it as “an NCAA issue, not a CFP issue.”

In the annual chase for the major bowl berth afforded the Group of Five, the sport’s second tier within its top realm of the Football Bowl Subdivision, two teams appeared. Tulane (7-1) held down No. 24, with its lone loss to No. 10 Mississippi, and unbeaten Air Force (8-0) took No. 25.

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20. Southern California (7-2)

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