6:52 PM ET
Adam RittenbergESPN Senior Writer
- College football reporter.
- Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
- Graduate of Northwestern University.
Cincinnati debuted at No. 6 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday night, while SEC powers Georgia and Alabama top the rundown at No. 1 and No. 2, followed by No. 3 Michigan State and No. 4 Oregon.
The Bearcats landed the highest-ever ranking for a Group of 5 team, one spot ahead of the No. 7 designation they held during an undefeated regular season in 2020. But Cincinnati (8-0), which ranks No. 2 in both the AP and Coaches polls, had aimed to become the first Group of 5 team to ever appear in the CFP selection committee's top four. Cincinnati's profile is boosted by an Oct. 2 road win over No. 10 Notre Dame, which ended the Fighting Irish's 26-game home win streak. But Cincinnati also is the only American Athletic Conference team ranked by the selection committee, as neither SMU (7-1) nor Houston (7-1) appear.
A Group of 5 team has never appeared in the CFP, which launched during the 2014 season.
Ohio State is No. 5, one spot behind an Oregon team it lost to Sept. 11 at Ohio Stadium. Oregon is the Pac-12's lone representative in the initial CFP top-25, buoyed by the Ohio State win (top defender Kavyon Thibodeaux did not play) and not harmed by an Oct. 2 road loss to Stanford (offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead did not call plays because of a health issue).
Oklahoma appears at No. 8 despite being the nation's only 9-0 team. The Sooners have zero wins against opponents ranked by the selection committee, and struggled to beat Kansas, Tulane, Nebraska and others. Oklahoma, which has missed the CFP just twice in its history, faces No. 12 Baylor next week and No. 11 Oklahoma State on Nov. 27.
The ACC's playoff hopes rest with Wake Forest, which debuts at No. 9 in the CFP rankings, two days after its first-ever top-10 appearance in the AP poll. Only two other ACC teams -- No. 19 NC State and No. 25 Pitt -- appear in the rankings.
Georgia not surprisingly landed the top spot, but 1-loss Alabama comes in just behind the Bulldogs, ahead of three undefeated Power 5 teams. The Tide lost Oct. 9 at Texas A&M, which is No. 14 in the initial rankings despite defeats to unranked Arkansas and No. 17 Mississippi State. Mike Leach's Bulldogs are only 5-3 with close losses to two unranked teams (Memphis and LSU), but rank ahead of two teams they have beaten, No. 18 Kentucky and No. 19 NC State.
Michigan State, which made its lone playoff appearance in 2015, debuts at No. 3 following a come-from-behind home win over No. 7 Michigan. The Spartans still have games against Ohio State (Nov. 20) and Penn State (Nov. 27), which is not ranked after dropping its last three games.
The SEC and Big Ten dominate the committee's initial rankings, accounting for five of the top seven spots and 13 of the 25 spots. The SEC has seven of the top-18 teams, as Auburn appears at No. 13, one spot ahead of a Texas A&M team it visits Saturday. Two FBS independents appear in Notre Dame and No. 15 BYU, while the Mountain West lands two entries in No. 23 Fresno State and No. 24 San Diego State, which both own wins against Pac-12 opponents.
Despite an 8-0 start, Texas-San Antonio does not appear in the initial CFP rankings.