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CFP — Alabama Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers, LSU Tigers, Notre Dame Fighting Irish top four

For the third time in the ranking’s five-year history, the SEC sits atop the first College Football Playoff ranking of the season.

The Crimson Tide opened at No. 1 this season in the rankings released Tuesday night, matching its AP Poll ranking. Its SEC West foe, LSU, sits at No. 3.

Both teams collide in a battle of SEC titans and playoff contenders Saturday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Clemson plants its flag at No. 2, and Notre Dame at No. 4 rounds out the top teams this week.

The Irish are ahead of LSU in the AP Poll, ranking at No. 3 and 4 respectively, but the 13-member committee — with six new members this year — was a bit more impressed with LSU’s season thus far.

“LSU’s resume: They have six wins against teams over .500, and quality wins against Georgia and Mississippi State,” committee chair and Oregon AD Rob Mullens said. “Just the close loss to Florida. We’re impressed. Overall, their body of work was strong.”

Clemson has now been ranked in the top four of every CFP rankings release since 2015 — a streak of 19 straight.

The first two teams out are Michigan, ranked No. 5, and Georgia, ranked No. 6. The Bulldogs stumbled in the playoff picture after a loss at LSU two weeks ago but provided a message with last week’s win over Florida, ranked No. 11 in Tuesday’s release.

Ohio State opens at No. 10, falling after the 49-20 Oct. 21 loss at Purdue on Oct. 21. Penn State sits at No. 14, having lost back-to-back games this season to the Buckeyes and to Michigan State. The Big Ten’s final representative is No. 16 Iowa.

No. 7 Oklahoma is the highest-ranked Big 12 team, leading a list that includes No. 13 West Virginia, No. 17 Texas and the 24th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones.

Clemson is joined by ACC teams No. 19 Syracuse, No. 21 NC State, No. 22 Boston College and No. 25 Virginia, which rounds out the poll.

The Pac-12 is represented by No. 8 Washington State and No. 15 Utah.

The SEC has seven teams ranked, with No. 9 Kentucky, No. 18 Mississippi State and No. 20 Texas A&M joining the Tide, the Tigers, the Dawgs and the Gators.

Undefeated Central Florida, which made a case for itself to appear in last season’s playoffs and finished with a 13-0 record that included a 34-27 Peach Bowl victory over then-No. 7 Auburn, is ranked No. 12. It’s the same ranking UCF finished at in the final release of the 2017 rankings, tied for the highest by a Group of 5 team.

When asked about UCF’s equity built over the past two seasons and its position, Mullens said, “We only look at the games today, one through nine. They’re 7-0. They are the only team that hasn’t played a team with a winning record through nine weeks.”

Fresno State, No. 23, rounds out the Group of 5 representatives.

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