To no one's surprise, Alabama was named the No. 1 team in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. Clemson and Michigan came in at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. But if there was an eyebrow-raising development, it was that 7-1 Texas A&M got the nod at No. 4, ahead of unbeaten Washington.

Alabama getting the top spot was almost a given, as the undefeated Crimson Tide are in the top ten of both scoring offense and defense and have won their eight games by an average margin of 29 points per game. Clemson certainly wasn’t far behind, as the Tigers already boast the nation’s toughest strength of schedule and victories over No. 7 Louisville, No. 9 Auburn and No. 22 Florida State. Michigan came in third based on the strength of a stifling defense that leads the nation in passing, scoring and total defense.

But the real surprise came at No. 4, where Texas A&M got the nod over Washington, in spite of a blowout loss to Alabama and only one win over a ranked opponent (No. 9 Auburn). Washington, meanwhile, ranks in the top ten of both offense and defense and is 8-0 for the first time since 1992. However, if history is any guide, Washington should still be well-situated to leapfrog the Aggies in the final poll when it matters. The CFB selection committee has routinely said they would give heavy weight to conference championships, a goal which would be a long shot for A&M but is very much within the reach of the Huskies.

Other key takeaways:

  • The SEC is in good shape to possibly get two teams into the playoff. The conference boasts five teams in the Top 25, including three with one or fewer losses. Assuming Alabama runs the table, there is a decent chance the second-place team from the SEC West could sneak in.
  • The Big Ten is in good shape, with four teams in the Top Ten. Barring a conference-wide meltdown, it’s hard to imagine the Big Ten champ—even one with a couple of losses—not making the playoff.
  • Louisville is in trouble. Although the Cardinals came in at No. 7, they have no quality opponents left this season to bolster their strength of schedule. Barring a collapse by Clemson that allows Louisville to sneak into the ACC Championship, the Cardinals could well go 11-1 and still find themselves on the outside looking in.
  • It’s Washington or bust for the Pac-12. If the Huskies should slip up somewhere, it’s not likely the Pac-12—with no other teams currently with less than two losses—could get a team into the playoff.
  • The Big 12 is an afterthought. The conference’s highest ranked team is 6-2 Oklahoma at No. 14. It’s difficult to see a two-loss Big 12 team making into the Final Four and the overall weakness of the conference makes it unlikely a one-loss Baylor or West Virginia could make up enough ground.

College Football Playoff Rankings

  1. Alabama (8-0)
  2. Clemson (8-0)
  3. Michigan (8-0)
  4. Texas A&M (7-1)
  5. Washington (8-0)
  6. Ohio State (7-1)
  7. Louisville (7-1)
  8. Wisconsin (6-2)
  9. Auburn (6-2)
  10. Nebraska (7-1)
  11. Florida (6-1)
  12. Penn State (6-2)
  13. LSU (5-2)
  14. Oklahoma (6-2)
  15. Colorado (6-2)
  16. Utah (7-2)
  17. Baylor (6-1)
  18. Oklahoma State (6-2)
  19. Virginia Tech (6-2)
  20. West Virginia (6-1)
  21. North Carolina (6-2)
  22. Florida State (5-3)
  23. Western Michigan (8-0)
  24. Boise State (7-1)
  25. Washington State (6-2)