- College football reporter.
- Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
- Graduate of Northwestern University.
Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, followed by Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State, while BYU debuts at No. 14 despite a 9-0 start to its season.
Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide are among four SEC teams appearing in the top-9 of the initial rankings, along with No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 6 Florida and No. 9 Georgia, the highest-rated two-loss team despite double-digit defeats to both Alabama and Florida. Clemson, which lost its only game to Notre Dame in two overtimes while playing without starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence, is the highest-rated one-loss team.
Although BYU appears behind three two-loss teams — Georgia, No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 13 Iowa State — Cincinnati received a more favorable initial ranking at No. 7, despite playing one less game than BYU. The Bearcats have league wins over SMU, Memphis, UCF, Houston, East Carolina and South Florida, and on Dec. 12 are scheduled to visit Tulsa, which debuts at No. 25 in the CFP rankings.
BYU’s original 2020 schedule featured games against six Power 5 opponents: Utah, Michigan State, Arizona State, Minnesota, Missouri and Stanford, all of which were canceled when the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC went to league-only schedules because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As an FBS independent, BYU revised its schedule and has wins over Boise State, Houston, Navy and Troy, winning all but one of its games by 17 points or more and outscoring its opponents 428-125 for the season.
CFP selection committee chair Gary Barta, appearing on ESPN’s ranking reveal show, indicated the committee is “certainly impressed by BYU,” but acknowledged, “schedule came into play.”
The Cougars have open dates both this week and next week, and have only one remaining regular-season game scheduled, Dec. 12 against San Diego State. BYU is No. 8 in both the AP and Coaches polls this week.
Two undefeated Group of 5 teams are ranked behind BYU in No. 20 Coastal Carolina and No. 21 Marshall.
Ohio State (4-0) is the Big Ten’s highest-ranked team in the CFP rankings, followed by No. 8 Northwestern, which is 5-0 and likely set to face the Buckeyes in the Big Ten championship game for the second time in three seasons. The Big Ten tied the SEC for most teams in the initial rankings with five, as No. 12 Indiana, No. 16 Wisconsin and No. 24 Iowa also appear.
The ACC placed three teams in the top-10 of the initial rankings, as Miami (7-1) debuts at No. 10 despite a 42-17 loss to Clemson. North Carolina, which hosts Notre Dame on Friday, appears at No. 19.
Oklahoma and Iowa State are the highest-rated in the Big 12, which also places Texas (No. 17) and Oklahoma State (No. 23) in the Top 25.
The Pac-12, the final FBS conference to kick off its 2020 season, has only two teams in the initial CFP Top 25 in No. 15 Oregon and No. 18 USC, both of which are 3-0. Two undefeated Pac-12 teams in Washington (2-0) and Colorado (2-0) are unranked.
The CFP selection committee is scheduled to release its rankings Dec. 1, Dec. 8 and Dec. 15, before announcing the final selections Dec. 20. Conference championship games and other contests are set for Dec. 18 and Dec. 19.
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