Surprise at the top
Clemson #1 in initial playoff rankings

The second season of the college football playoffs is upon us, and Tuesday saw the committee’s initial rankings of the season. Once again, the intended 13-person committee is down to 12. Last season it was Archie Manning not participating due to health concerns, and this year it is Southern California Athletic Director Pat Haden bowing out. It seemed to work well last season, right?

Last season’s champion Ohio State, #one in every AP and Coaches’ poll this season, finds itself at #three in the initial CFP poll. It is Clemson at #one. The Tigers have a win over Notre Dame on their resume, one the committee chair Jeff Long specifically said made a difference in their determination. Another set of Tigers, LSU, sits at #two ahead of their showdown at Alabama on Saturday. As for the one-loss Crimson Tide, they are at #four, ahead of the un-beatens. Behind them is Notre Dame, with the loss to Clemson, at #five.

A quartet of undefeated teams follows with Baylor, Michigan State, TCU, and Iowa. Florida, with a loss at LSU, rounds out the top 10. Baylor has lost their star quarterback Seth Russell for the season with a neck injury. It will be freshman Jarrett Stidham taking over as he makes his first start this week at Kansas State. TCU is ridiculously low. They would be #one in my poll.

The Horned Frogs have been the most balanced team of any so far. Iowa is 8-0, and has two wins over ranked teams. The Hawkeyes will be favored in their last four games before likely getting a chance at Ohio State or Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

A pair from the Pac-12 led off the next 10, with Stanford and Utah, the likely matchup in the conference’s title game. Memphis finds itself at #13, with that 13-point win over Ole Miss looming large. The meat of their conference schedule is still to come, starting this week against 6-1 Navy. Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are next. OK State faces TCU this week. OU, who lost to Texas, has been rolling since then and could be a team to watch down the stretch.

Florida State is #16, and plays at #one Clemson on Saturday with uncertainty at quarterback.

Next come the two-loss teams: Michigan, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Northwestern. Mississippi State was #one in the first CFP rankings a year ago and is finding their stride this season behind the SEC’s best quarterback, Dak Prescott. Temple is #22 despite falling last week to Notre Dame, a game that gave the Owls more respect than they had found from their seven wins before that.

UCLA, Toledo and Houston round out the rankings, though it should be noted that Toledo then went out and was upset at home by nemesis Northern Illinois later Tuesday night. Houston is undefeated and coming off a 34-0 whitewash of Vandy last week.