College Football Playoff Rankings: Alabama opens at No. 1 with Clemson, LSU, Notre Dame in

The first College Football Playoff Rankings for the 2018 season are out, and there were a lot of close decisions to sort through. We will get to that in shortly, but first, let's start with the usual disclaimer.

After the obvious No. 1 in Alabama, the teams at 2-4 are all about the same -- in different ways. Clearly, LSU has played the best schedule of the three so far, while Clemson has been the most dominant. That dominance and a better record help give Clemson the nod.

Notre Dame has been dominant, too, since the switch at quarterback to Ian Book, but its schedule fade is clearly hurting the Irish at the moment.  The only team in the rankings that they have played is the team right behind them, No. 5 Michigan, and Syracuse at No. 19 is the only ranked team left on Notre Dame's schedule.  It looked like a much tougher schedule in September, but Stanford and USC have underachieved, and Virginia Tech lost its starting quarterback a month in a loss at Old Dominion. Northwestern, who the Irish face this week, may be the toughest team left, and the Wildcats already have three home losses, including one to Akron.

Head-to-head is still the factor getting the most respect. No team is ranked below a team it defeated unless that team has better record. That will help Notre Dame fight off Michigan, but there is a chance the Irish could get jumped by a different one loss team. It would have to come from the SEC, however. I am not sure that any of the others have a good enough schedule to make it happen. That said, I maintain that the CFP Selection Committee will never leave out a major undefeated team. If Notre Dame wins out, it should be fine.

Let's take a look at the entire top 25. Additional analysis follows.

College Football Playoff Rankings, Oct. 30

  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. UCF (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)

For those of you who thought the Pac-12 was dead, I give you No. 8 Washington State.  However, there is still not a lot of hope for the Cougars. If they get to 12-1 at the end, Wazzu will be the lowest rated one-loss team on the board.  But yes, I'm saying there's still a chance.

UCF debuted at No. 12, which is the highest ranking ever for a Group of Five team in the initial CFP Rankings. Memphis previously held that record when the Tigers started 13th in 2015.  The Knights are definitely getting more attention for their margin of victory than their schedule. They have the worst strength of schedule by far of any team in the rankings.  Of course, that will change soon because Temple, Cincinnati, South Florida -- and if UCF is lucky -- 11-1 Houston are coming. Last season, UCF finished behind every major conference school with fewer than three losses.  If that is not true this year, it would at least be a step in the right direction. 

No league is getting more respect than the SEC, which has five of the top 11 teams and seven overall in the rankings. 

If you enjoyed these rankings, you'll be in for a treat next week.  There are two top 10 matchups in the SEC this weekend -- both on CBS, by the way -- and Michigan plays Penn State.  Buckle up!

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jerry Palm started writing about sports on the Internet right after Al Gore invented it. He was the first to bring RPI out in the open and is one of the pioneers of predicting the March Madness bracket.... Full Bio

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