Georgia is No. 6 in the College Football Playoff selection committee’s first rankings of the season.
The committee placed these teams ahead of the Bulldogs in the rankings unveiled Tuesday night: defending national champion Alabama at No. 1, Clemson at No. 2, LSU at No. 3, Notre Dame at No. 4 and Michigan at No. 5.
Those rankings are merely the starting point for the 13-member CFP committee, which will re-rank teams each Tuesday through November. The group’s final rankings Dec. 2 will determine the playoff field, with the top four teams at that point securing berths.
Two key SEC games Saturday will test the committee’s early order: Alabama at LSU and Georgia at No. 9 Kentucky.
Although Georgia begins outside the top four, as expected, the Bulldogs are well-positioned to move up and qualify for the playoff if -- big if -- they can sweep their remaining regular-season games (Kentucky, Auburn, Massachusetts and Georgia Tech) and beat Alabama or LSU in the SEC Championship game at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 1.
The winner of the Georgia-Kentucky game will clinch the SEC East title and a berth in the conference championship game.
One interesting decision by the CFP committee Tuesday was ranking one-loss LSU ahead of unbeaten Notre Dame. Committee chairman Rob Mullens, the athletic director at Oregon, cited LSU’s “quality wins” over Georgia and Mississippi State and “just the close loss” to Florida.
“They’ve beaten six teams with a winning record,” Mullens said of LSU. “Within the FBS, no other team in the country has that many victories against winning teams. They’ve played a strong schedule. By comparison, Notre Dame has three such wins.”
The Nos. 1 and 2 teams, Alabama and Clemson, are undefeated.
Rounding out the top 10 behind Georgia are Oklahoma, Washington State, Kentucky and Ohio State, all of which have one loss.
Florida, which lost last week to Georgia, is ranked No. 11, followed by undefeated Central Florida at No. 12.
“UCF is an excellent team,” Mullens said. “However, they’re the only team in the country that has not played a game against a team that currently has a winning record.”
The CFP’s Top 25 includes three teams that have three losses apiece: No. 18 Mississippi State, No. 20 Texas A&M and No. 24 Iowa State.
“The committee looked deeply at the games these teams have played and was impressed with their schedules,” Mullens said.
Two of Texas A&M’s losses came against the Nos. 1 and 2 teams, Alabama and Clemson.
While the Associated Press and coaches’ polls begin their rankings before the season, the playoff committee holds off until the final week of October so that it can measure teams entirely by the current season’s performances, not by projections or past seasons.
The group’s final rankings in December will set the playoff bracket, with No. 1 facing No. 4 and No. 2 facing No. 3 in the semifinals, which this season will be played in the Orange and Cotton bowls on Dec. 29.
The national championship game will be played Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif.
This is the fifth season of the playoff, which in 2014 replaced the controversial Bowl Championship Series as college football’s method of determining its national champion.
Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury is one of six new members of the selection committee as he starts a three-year term.
1. Alabama (8-0)
2. Clemson (8-0)
3. LSU (7-1)
4. Notre Dame (8-0)
5. Michigan (7-1)
6. Georgia (7-1)
7. Oklahoma (7-1)
8. Washington State (7-1)
9. Kentucky (7-1)
10. Ohio State (7-1)
11. Florida (6-2)
12. Central Florida (7-0)
13. West Virginia (6-1)
14. Penn State (6-2)
15. Utah (6-2)
16. Iowa (6-2)
17. Texas (6-2)
18. Mississippi State (5-3)
19. Syracuse (6-2)
20. Texas A&M (5-3)
21. NC State (5-2)
22. Boston College (6-2)
23. Fresno State (7-1)
24. Iowa State (4-3)
25. Virginia (6-2)
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