No one in the Alabama camp is surprised that Alabama was the top seed in the initial College Football Playoff poll announced Tuesday evening. But none should be giddy, either.
There was one surprise as the CFP selection committee announced the top four teams in its initial rankings in that Texas A&M – its only loss to Alabama by 33-14 – was in the fourth spot. Three of the nation’s four undefeated Power Five conference teams were the top teams – 1. Alabama, 2. Clemson, 3. Michigan. All are 8-0. Most had expected Washington, also 8-0, to be the fourth team.
But there are several reasons for Alabama not to be too excited about the top ranking. First of all, this is the first CFP poll, and there will be five more. Even more cause to be cautious is that Bama still has four more regular season games, and two of them are very difficult.
Alabama takes on LSU in Baton Rouge at 7 p.m. Saturday. Alabama is 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference games, and the Tigers are 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the conference. Moreover, waiting at the end of the regular season is a resurgent Auburn team that is 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference.
Get through that, and the Crimson Tide would still have to win the SEC Championship Game.
In each of the past two years, Alabama lost an early season game to Ole Miss, but was able to win out to make the College Football Playoff field. At this late date, a loss is more likely to knock the Tide out of the running.
Auburn was the second biggest surprise of the initial CFP rankings, coming in at No. 9. Also in the SEC, LSU, this week’s Bama opponent, is 13th. In between is Florida at No. 11.
Also surprising was Penn State coming in at 12 (higher than most expected) and Louisville being only No. 7 (lower than expected).
Here is how the CFP had it 1-25:
1. Alabama, 2. Clemson, 3. Michigan, 4. Texas A&M, 5. Washington, 6. Ohio State, 7. Louisville, 8. Wisconsin, 9. Auburn, 10. Nebraska, 11. Florida, 12. Penn State, 13. LSU, 14. Oklahoma, 15. Colorado, 16. Utah, 17. Baylor, 18. Oklahoma State, 19. Virginia Tech, 20. West Virginia, 21. North Carolina, 22. Florida State, 23. Western Michigan, 24. Boise State, 25. Washington State.
Alabama is the only team to make the CFP final four teams in the first two years of the system. In 2014 Bama was the top-ranked team with a 12-1 record, followed by Oregon at No. 2, Florida State No. 3, and Ohio State No. 4. Bama fell in the semifinals by a touchdown to Ohio State, which defeated Oregon for the title. Last year Alabama was the No. 2 team behind Clemson with Michigan State third and Oklahoma fourth. Bama defeated Clemson, 45-40, to win the title.
Although it is politically correct to say that the traditional polls have no significance, it is reasonable to suggest that the members of the CFP selection committee are atuned enough to college football that they have looked at the Associated Press and Coaches polls.
The AP poll had it Alabama, Michigan, Clemson, Washington. The Coaches reversed two and three, making it Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, Washington. Both polls had Ohio State, Texas A&M, and Wisconsin in the 6-8 spots. The AP had Nebraska ninth, Florida 10th, the Coaches Florida ninth, Nebraska 10th.
Alabama is one vote short of unanimous number one in both polls, Michigan getting one vote in the AP rankings, Clemson one from the Coaches.