The initial College Football Playoff rankings of the season had one surprise.
Alabama, Clemson and Michigan were expected to be in the top three. What was unexpected was one-loss Texas A&M being ahead of unbeaten Washington in the fourth position.
The Aggies, whose lone blemish is a loss at Alabama, sit at No. 7 in the Amway Coaches Poll. But their difficult schedule in the Southeastern Conference, including a win at Auburn, helped move them past the Huskies.
Washington has dominating wins against Stanford and Oregon and a narrow victory Saturday at Utah, but, despite being 8-0, are currently out of the playoff field.
“Texas A&M won at Auburn and beat Arkansas at a neutral site,” said selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt, the athletics director at Texas Tech. “In the committee’s mind, Texas A&M has played a stronger schedule.”
As for Clemson at No. 2 and Michigan at No. 3, a flip-flop from the Amway Coaches Poll and AP poll, Hocutt said the margin was very narrow.
“The two wins against CFP top 10 (teams) were something that stood out to us that nobody else within the CFP top 25 have,” Hocutt said. “The road wins at (No. 9) Auburn and (No. 22) Florida State and obviously the win at home against (No. 7) Louisville gave the edge to Clemson for that No. 2 spot. ...
“The separation was small,” Hocutt said. “Michigan has beaten three teams in our top 25, including a very good CFP ranked No. 8 Wisconsin team. Michigan has a great defense and has been very consistent as the season has gone along. Again, the separation between two and three was very small.”
One-loss teams Ohio State and Louisville were in the sixth and seventh positions with five weeks still left in the season. Wisconsin, Auburn and Nebraska round out the top 10, giving the Big Ten four teams and the SEC three near the top.
Also of note, No. 23 Western Michigan was one spot ahead of Boise State in the race among teams in the Group of Five conferences for a spot in one of the major bowls.
Tuesday's ranking is the first of six to be unveiled by the playoff committee. The top four teams in the final ranking on Dec. 4 will meet in the College Football Playoff.
The semifinals will be played at the Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl on Dec. 31. The championship game will be held in Tampa, Fla, on Jan. 9.