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Two Tigers top initial poll; Iowa rated ninth

Two Tigers top initial poll; Iowa rated ninth

Big Ten has four others in committee's Top 25

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

NEW YORK (AP) — Clemson, LSU, Ohio State and Alabama are the top four teams in the first College Football Playoff selection committee rankings of the season.

Notre Dame was fifth and Baylor was sixth Tuesday night.

Iowa was No. 9, and three other Big Ten teams made the rankings: Michigan State (No. 7), Michigan (No. 17) and Northwestern (No. 21).

Clemson, LSU and Ohio State are among 10 unbeaten teams in FBS, nearly quadruple the number there was last season when the committee started ranking teams. Alabama and Notre Dame each have one loss.

Memphis was the highest ranked team from a Group of Five conference at No. 13.

Last year the top four teams in the first playoff rankings were Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Mississippi. Only the Seminoles reached the playoff. Ohio State, the eventual national champion, was 16th in the first rankings.

Takeaways from the first playoff rankings:

PLAYOFF RANKINGS

Seven of the top nine teams in the first CFP rankings are undefeated.

CLEMSON

Rank: 1Record: 8-0

LSU

Rank: 2Record: 7-0

OHIO STATE

Rank: 3Record: 8-0

ALABAMA

Rank: 4Record: 7-1

NOTRE DAME

Rank: 5Record: 7-1

BAYLOR

Rank: 6Record: 7-0

IOWA

Rank: 9Record: 8-0

LOVIN' 'BAMA

The committee really warmed up to the Crimson Tide.

Alabama lost to Mississippi in September and then Florida pounded Ole Miss in Gainesville. But the Tide landed in playoff position, while Florida was 10th and Ole Miss was 18th.

"Alabama from our point of view had a stronger schedule in the games they have won," said selection committee Chairman Jeff Long, the athletic director at Arkansas. "They have three wins against teams with better than .500 records. They're close even though they may be separated by a number of ranking spots."

If you think Alabama is positioned to simply win out and get in the playoff, think again.

Ole Miss is still in control of the SEC West race, so Alabama will need the Rebels to lose just to reach the SEC championship game. At 11-1 with no conference championship, Alabama is likely to get jumped by teams that do win conference titles, including whichever team wins the SEC.

The committee is told to emphasize conference championships, especially when teams have similar resumes.

The committee showed last year it does not lock teams into positions. Florida State dropped while not losing and TCU was third going into the last weekend of the season and finished sixth, despite blowing out Iowa State.

WAITING ON THE BIG 12

The Big 12 has four teams (Baylor, No. 8 TCU, No. 14 Oklahoma State and No. 15 Oklahoma) in the top 15, and they all play each other in November.

Long said it was difficult to judge the strength of those teams because their big games are still to come. The good news for the Power Five conference that got left out of last season's final four is all of those teams are in good shape to get in the playoff if they win out.

The bad news is one loss by the Big 12 champion might be too much to get into the playoff.

Baylor, again, played a terribly weak nonconference schedule, and Oklahoma State did the same. TCU's best nonconference opponent was Minnesota, which is struggling.

If you're looking for this season's Ohio State, which went from 16th in the first poll to making the playoff, Oklahoma is a good pick.

If the Sooners can sweep TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State down the stretch, they would have a strong late statement.

MEMPHIS MOVES

Memphis has a shot to get into the playoff. It's still a long shot, but it is not totally unrealistic, especially considering the respect the committee gave to other American Athletic Conference teams.

What do the Tigers need, other than a perfect record and an American Athletic Conference championship?

Ole Miss winning the SEC would help a lot. Memphis' victory against the Rebels resonated with the committee.

"The victory over Ole Miss and Ole Miss's subsequent victory over Alabama really helped move Memphis into that consideration," Long said. "They have two other wins against teams with better than .500 records, so that stood out at us at this time."

Temple and Houston not getting upset. The Owls came in 22nd in the committee rankings and the unbeaten Cougars were 25th. Memphis plays both in November and could get Temple again in the American championship game.

TUESDAY'S TOP 25 GAME

NORTHERN ILLINOIS 32, No. 20 TOLEDO 27: QB Ryan Graham led NIU on two fourth-quarter scoring drives, Westside graduate Christian Hagan kicked four field goals and the Huskies ended Toledo's unbeaten season.

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