December 8, 2023

Ohio State took the No. 1 spot in the first College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night, while two-time defending national champion Georgia is right behind at No. 2.

Michigan, under NCAA investigation amid sign-stealing allegations, is No. 3, while Florida State is No. 4 and Washington is No. 5. Oregon is the top-ranked one-loss team in the rankings at No. 6, and No. 7 Texas is one spot ahead of Alabama thanks to the strength of the Longhorns’ head-to-head win over the Crimson Tide in September.

“We looked at it, the big win over Notre Dame, and the win over Penn State, and they have difference-makers on offense,” CFP chair Boo Corrigan said of the Buckeyes on ESPN’s rankings release show. “We looked at it; Ohio State deserved to be No. 1.”

With five undefeated Power 5 teams headed into the first rankings, the biggest question was how the committee would choose to separate them. Clearly, strength of schedule played a big role.

“As a group, the 13 of us in the room, we felt this was the order for the top four slots,” Corrigan said.

The Buckeyes have played a much stronger schedule to date than Georgia. They have two top-15 victories, over Penn State (No. 11) and Notre Dame (No. 15). Georgia has zero top-25 victories and a strength of schedule that ranks No. 100, according to ESPN metrics. The Bulldogs have only beaten two FBS teams with winning records.

Michigan has played an even weaker schedule than Georgia, ranking No. 111.

Those metrics will change in the coming weeks, however, as both teams will hit the hardest part of their respective schedules. Georgia has games against No. 12 Missouri, No. 10 Ole Miss and No. 17 Tennessee over the next three weeks. Michigan has No. 11 Penn State and No. 1 Ohio State remaining.

Once again, that rivalry matchup between the Buckeyes and Wolverines could have huge implications for the playoff. Corrigan also made reference to Michigan’s investigation on the show and what it might mean down the line.

“We really view it as an NCAA issue and not a CFP issue,” Corrigan said. “At this point in time, when we’re looking at it, we want to find the top four teams.”

As for Florida State and Washington, though the Huskies have the better victory (over No. 6 Oregon), they have struggled over the past two weeks against losing teams — needing late comebacks against Arizona State and Stanford to prevail. Like Georgia and Michigan, Washington has major matchups coming up that could help its strength of schedule, especially when compared to Florida State.

“It’s exactly that. It’s initial. As quickly as the season is going by, there’s a lot of football to be played,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said on the show. “We’ve done what we’ve had to do. And this next month for us is going to be a big month for us.”

The Huskies have No. 20 USC, No. 18 Utah and No. 16 Oregon State coming up.

“We’re in a different spot than we were a year ago. There’s a target on our backs,” DeBoer said. “We really have to rise up, and so far, we have.”

As for the Seminoles, they only have one top-25 victory, over No. 14 LSU. Playing in a league — the ACC — with only one other ranked team (No. 13 Louisville) has not seemed to have affected the way the committee views the Seminoles. Florida State and Louisville do not play each other in the regular season, meaning the Seminoles have zero ranked teams remaining on their schedule.

“There’s so much [involved], and we have three new committee members that are in the room,” Corrigan said. “The biggest thing is that we get it right and that we’re comfortable with where we are. Looking at Washington, there was a little bit of concern.”

As for the other undefeated team that is eligible for the postseason, Air Force (8-0) came in ranked at No. 25. But the Falcons are not the top-ranked Group of 5 school. Despite a loss, Tulane (7-1) is just ahead of Air Force, at No. 24.

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