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Wayne Staats | | November 3, 2018

College Football Playoff rankings, predictions: Alabama leads at No. 1

Alabama still on top after test from LSU

The first College Football Playoff rankings of 2018 were revealed Tuesday night. Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Notre Dame lead the first of five preliminary polls before the ultimate selection show on Dec. 2. 

RELATED: First CFP poll features Alabama, Clemson at the top Complete Top 25

Here were our predictions for the first top 25 rankings released Tuesday night. Bolded schools indicate correct predictions. Italics means our prediction was off by one spot.

College Football Playoff rankings predictions

  1. Alabama
  2. Clemson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. LSU
  5. Michigan
  6. Georgia
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Kentucky
  9. Washington State
  10. Ohio State
  11. Florida
  12. West Virginia
  13. Texas
  14. UCF
  15. Penn State
  16. Utah
  17. Virginia
  18. Iowa
  19. Mississippi State
  20. Syracuse
  21. Texas A&M
  22. Northwestern
  23. Boston College
  24. Fresno State
  25. North Carolina State

College Football Playoff predictions: Semifinals

NOTE: This is how we think the semifinals will look at the end of the season

  • No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Michigan
  • No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Notre Dame

If you're an undefeated Power 5 team (or Notre Dame), it'll be almost impossible to be left out of the College Football Playoff — as long as there aren't five total undefeated Power 5 teams.

But there are only three of those teams remaining: Alabama (SEC), Clemson (ACC), Notre Dame. As long as they stay undefeated, expect some combination of those three teams to be safely in the field.

RELATED: Here's how Notre Dame can make the College Football Playoff

When it comes to unbeaten teams, the American Athletic Conference also has one remaining: UCF. But don't expect the Knights to make a serious push for the top 4, even if they go through another perfect season. It would take weekly chaos for that to happen, with the top 10 full of at least two- and probably three-loss teams. UCF is more likely to end up being the Group of Five representative in a New Year's Six bowl than playing in the semifinals — again.

RELATED: How the first rankings predict the CFP semifinals | Does strength of schedule matter?

Also, the selection committee has yet to select a two-loss team to make the CFP semifinals. In the last two years, the committee made notable selections: One-loss Ohio State and one-loss Washington instead of two-loss Penn State in 2016 and one-loss Alabama instead of two-loss Ohio State a year ago. Those were memorable because 2016 Penn State and 2017 Ohio State won the Big Ten Championship but didn't get in (Penn State beat Ohio State head-to-head, but was blown out by No. 6 Michigan; Ohio State lost by 31 to Iowa and SEC West runner-up Alabama went to the CFP instead). The big blowout margins of Penn State's and Ohio State's second losses played a major part.

So while there have been only four years of the CFP, until the committee actually does pick a two-loss team, it's safe to be wary of the committee going that way if there are strong alternatives.

College Football Playoff rankings: New Year's Six Games

NOTE: This is how we predict the games will look at the end of the season

  • Peach Bowl: Georgia vs. West Virginia
  • Fiesta Bowl: Kentucky vs. UCF
  • Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Washington State
  • Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Oklahoma
  • Cotton Bowl (Semifinal): Alabama vs. Michigan
  • Orange Bowl (Semifinal): Clemson vs. Notre Dame

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